Tag Archives: life

The Captain vs The Big C – Round 3! AKA, the shitty third movie in the franchise

“Round three?” you ask. “What was round two?”

That was 13 years ago, in 2010. It was a serendipitous find, as it was found by accident. A short story about that one: I was having teeth pulled on a regular basis – radiation to your head and neck destroys your salivary glands, and without that spit bathing your teeth 24/7, your mouth ends up looking like a particularly aggressive hockey enforcer or a tweaker, although for very different reasons.

In any case, part of my treatment was going for hyperbaric dives, to force blood into the areas where the teeth had been pulled. This is done to speed healing and to try to prevent bone death (osteonecrosis), another thrilling gift from radiation treatments.

As part of the dive process, you’re required to have a chest xray periodically. And one day, there it was: a shadow on my right lung, in the upper lobe. What followed thereafter was a CT, then a PET, then a CT-guided biopsy where they punched a 20 foot needle into my chest (guesstimate) and pulled out a sample. Cancer. In I went for a wedge resection: they remove the nasty, cancer-laden blob, sewed me back up, and I didn’t even have to go through radiation and chemo, yay!

Fast forward 13 years: I head to my pulmonologist for a routine followup. As usual, he breaks out his stethoscope and listens to me, front and back. Out of the blue, he asks, “When was the last time we had a CT of your chest?”

“Beats me, I don’t keep track of that shit. I got people for that,” I typed.

“I’m going to order one and we’ll see you back in a month.”

He order the thing, I go hop on the table for 15 minutes, then I go back to his office. Since the report had already hit my patient portal, I knew it wasn’t good.

“PET time!” they said. Not in a cheery way, of course, because what kind of psycho would do that? But very calmly, very matter-of-fact, which is good, because that’s how I like my potentially bad news.

PET time: several nodules, one glowing like a supernova, except instead of exploding a zillion years ago, it came up within a year or so from my last chest CT. That one was large enough to see clearly, and other spots were, as they like to say, too small to differentiate. I.e., w have no fucking idea if those are (fuck) cancer too, but we’re pretty damn sure that one spot is. To confirm, another chest biopsy, CT-guided.

Now, the biggest difference between the old one and the new one is that the new one is in the center lobe of my right lung, very near the medial pleural – that is, pretty close to my heart. I already knew the biopsy was going to be malignant, and so it was. Once again, it hit my patient portal first, so I knew when I went back to see my lung dude that we’d be ramping up the Fuck Cancer Dog and Pony Show.

After making the rounds of the thoracic surgeon, the medical oncologist, and the radiation oncologist, and after discussing things with my family, I opted for surgery. They’re going to yank that middle lobe entirely in a couple of weeks. The good news is that they may not have to flense me like a damn whale this time – the first surgery left me with a scar that runs from near the top of my right shoulder blade, down along it, across my side, and then up to just below my right boob. Healing from that was a nightmare. Not for the incision itself. It as all the muscle that was cut through to get to the lung.

This time, there may be robots! Or at least one robot, which they may be able to get between my ribs versus having to take a circuitous detour like trying to get back to Russia from Crimea (which is Ukraine, in case anyone is confused about that) since the Kerch bridge was damaged.

If they cannot, alas, it will be another slice and dice, and uncomfy and all that other crap. Fuck you, cancer.

It was caught supremely early, though, and basically by luck. I’m not sure if my lung dude heard something he didn’t like, or if it just occurred to him that we should probably get a CT, but the guy is a life saver and I’m happy I drive to the end of our little earth here to get to him. The hospital network he works for must think so as well, because they made him Chief Medical Officer for his particular specialty at their new campus. Well deserved.

So that’s where we stand right now. As usual, fuck cancer and the horse it rode in on.

I hope to be back posting more content in the near future.

Hello, sports fans

It’s been awhile, yes. A big thank you to Damian, who noticed I had a script kiddie “hack” the site – not a hack per se, just a defacement, like a tagger on a building wall more than anything else, but annoying. If you’re running WordPress, you need to update to 4.7.2. This is pretty much their equivalent of a hair on fire announcement.

“WordPress 4.7.2 is now available. This is a security release for all previous versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.”

So, thanks to Damian, I cleared out that defaced post and got this here blawg, plus the others I maintain, updated.

Speaking of updates, what’s been happening at the ranch? A bunch of things, bleeding over from the suckage that was 2016. Last year was rather a horrible one from every single angle: professional, personal, ranch. I was sick off and on most of the year, and late in the year I found a big lump on the right side of my neck. Those of you who have followed me know that the cancer back in 2005 was on the left side of my neck. This thing ballooned up so big that it finally burst – or, as the doctors say, “spontaneously drained”. There’s a very hard lump in there, surrounded by infection. At this time, since I have kept draining it (which is disgusting) it is much more contained at the moment, but still painful.

After five months, we are now heading toward surgery to remove it. Tomorrow. We’re not entirely sure ow long that will take, since even with multiple types of scans,  they can’t quite tell how large it is or how deeply it goes. We’ll see tomorrow – well, they will, and they’ll let me know afterwards. They have a 23-hour “observation period” which means I will be stuck in hospital overnight, dangit. No day surgery for this one, because, as I mentioned, there’s no way to tell how deep it is or how much they will have to cut if the pathologist says there’s something there and the margins are not clean. That means I’ll be hauling my laptop up and leeching off the hospital’s wifi, which should be at least marginally better than the sucktastic ISP I have now.

So what happened in 2016?  Pneumonia a couple of times, for one. General grue some others, including when my sister came back to the US for a visit, bringing whatever German germs they have over there. The garden was a disaster, since one of the times I was quite ill was around Memorial Day, when things are starting to go full blast in the gardens. I was sick for a couple of weeks, managed to keep the bees fed, and that was about it: everything else spiraled out of control for the most part. We had no significant harvest as we’ve had in years past, and only a handful of tomatoes.

(Insert four days here, as I did not finish this post on the eve of surgery on my neck. Surgery: done. Recovery: continuing. No hospital stay: hooray!)

At the end of the year, I go this lump thing going, and in the bee yard, I lost 20 – yes, 20 – hives.  I think some of that was due to the incredible weird weather we had deep into the year. In October, we were still seeing temps in the 80s, the queens had not been shut down by their respective bees, so they wanted to swarm and had to be split. I suppose I could have just continued to pile brood boxes on them, but I don’t think it would have made a difference in how things turned out: there simply would not have been enough bees to cover all of the brood as the 80-degree days suddenly snapped to low 70s and the overnights to 40-ish, in exactly the same way a swarm or split would not have enough bees for the same thing.

Another problem: absconding. I hesitate to call it colony collapse disorder, although at least three I know fit the conditions: plenty of food and pollen, no masses of dead bees, and the queen left behind with a tiny group of young bees. As in plenty of cases I’ve read about, there didn’t seem to be any problems inside the hive at all. They were healthy, not overly burdened by mites, beetles, or other pests, and then one day they were just gone. One, in fact, disappeared in the course of a day: I’d checked the hive the day before, and the next day, poof! No bees.

It’s disheartening, to say the least, when you’ve busted your ass on 100+ degree days taking care of the hives only to find them gone. A few of the hives had dwindled to almost nothing and were holding their own, but eventually got robbed out by other, stronger, hives. That, too, is strange: the strong hives had plenty of stores, so didn’t need the piddly amounts that were in the weaker hives, and in one case, didn’t have anywhere to really store that excess anyway. It’s an odd life, taking care of bees.

One thing I tried in late 2016 was in-frame feeders. They take the place of one or two frames in a hive body, depending on what size body you’re running in the yard. These have a cap and ladder system that is supposed to allow the bees to go down and gather up the syrup the frames are filled with and crawl back up without drowning. I know a lot of people use them. They’ve had great success. The migratory keepers use them a lot. What I got? A bunch of drowned bees in some, and in other hives, a ton of drowned bees. I pulled every single one out of the hives. While they are convenient, holding a gallon (or two) of sugar syrup to reduce the number of times you have to make syrup and refill, the tradeoff in dead bees did not work for me. If I have to hump 50 jars out for feeding when it’s necessary, then that’s what I’ll do. Lesson learned, in that those types of feeders are not for my beeyard.

This year, I’ll be rebuilding the beeyard. I picked up four nucs from Jester’s down in Mims – almost two and a half hours from here, one way, and it was funny driving back two and half hours with the back of the car humming. All of those are doing great, as they should. Nucs, for those not in the know, are smaller versions of hives. They usually have five frames, with brood, honey, and pollen. The queen is in the box with her bees, and when you get them home, ideally you should swap them over into regular hive bodies. When I returned home that day, it was late and starting to spit rain, so they hung out in the nucs until the next day when I hived them. They didn’t seem particularly bothered by the delay, and I had to add second brood boxes already to all four of them. If you need bees, you’re a small keeper, and you live somewhere that isn’t too far away, give Jester’s a call – I’m pleased thus far with this group that I have, and I can’t wait to see how they perform once spring arrives.

I also ordered 15 packages from Rossman to rebuild the beeyard.  It’s a fairly big expense, but not an overwhelming one, and will get us back up to the numbers I want faster than dealing with splits would, especially since I don’t have a huge number of hives to work with relative to splits.

For the gardens: I have flats in the barn under the lights, and they are all up. In a couple of days, I’m hoping to have this neck thing not hurt so much so I can do the next round of flats. I also sowed carrot, radish, and beet a week or so before surgery, and was planning to do a successive round of those today, but that’s going to have to be pushed back as the flats have been. My goal this year is to have better succession planting and thus better management of what’s on hand and growing throughout the year. It would also help to not be seriously ill this year, and I’ve decided I’ll just have to start wearing a mask if I have to be out amongst large groups of people. In fact, my sister warned me yesterday that there is some kind of nasty flu-like thing making the rounds out in the world, and my brother in Orlando is ill, and says there’s something down there, too. So, masks it is. I’d rather look silly than be down for the count for three weeks and not be able to tend things normally.

For the log/online life: I got off facebook at some point in the middle of last year, and at the end of the year, I deactivated my account. That has freed up a lot of time, removed some stress and pressure, and in general has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I maintain my author page via an account I created just for that purpose: that account has no friends, follows no groups or people, and never will. It’s just there to give me entry to the page I set up, which is not updated on a regular basis right now – because really, do you see established authors hanging out on facebook all day long? No. They are either there to post once in awhile, or they have assistants to take care of their social media. Seriously, the next time you’re on any of the social media stuff, start a timer and see how long you’re on them when you finally exit. It’s astonishing how much of a time sink they are. If you have other things you need to do (write words, repair the sink, do a workout) use social media as  reward – set that timer for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever after you’ve done the task you want/need to do, and when the timer goes off, you’re done. Close them out and go do something else. Maybe one of these days, people will once again appreciate the nature of long form exchanges, like this, instead of 140 character bites or the inanity (“I had nachos!!!”) of most of what people post on social media. Life is too short to watch bad movies, read bad books, or waste years of your life on social media.

One of my goals this year is to post regularly here – ideally, I’d like to do that daily, even if it’s just an image from wandering around the gardens or bees. Notice that I did not say resolution, but goal. I’d like to make it into a habit, and I suppose this post is the beginning of making that habit.

Speaking of habits, I stumbled across a gamified (how I can’t stand that word) habit creator/to do application. It’s over at Habitica.com – it’s free and it’s fun. Some of the functions are not things I’m using (battling monsters with friends, for instance) because I simply want the to-do portion of it. I do still like Todoist, but I find Habitica the one I turn to more these days.

And now? Time to get back to doing some work – work work, as I’m not quite ready for the other work for the gardens and bees just yet. I’m getting there, though.

Hope your new years are falling into place for you, my handful of readers.


Things that happen out in the country, if you happen to live there: sometimes, your satellite ISP sucks. After sending a rather blistering note to them night before last, amazingly, things have been much better on the uplink side than they had been. Since everything for my actual work was taking so very long to get done during that little episode, I’ve missed a day on this. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it (“You can’t even keep posting for three days in a row, loser!”), I’m just going to accept that some things are beyond my control and rely on other people Getting Shit Done. Now that those other people have, I can move along here.

I also had a doctor visit yesterday – a new gastro doc, since my regular doc’s rather large practice and my insurance company are on the outs and have been for almost a year. Much as I love my doc, the fees for self-pay at a specialist’s office are incredible. That means setting up with a new one to deal with what has the classic symptoms of pancreatitis, with no one willing to actually say so. Which I suppose is fine: even if they’re not willing to make a 100% diagnosis on it, we’re still changing my diet anyway to help with the flareups – since I have no gallbladder, it just makes everything worse.

What that means, eating-wise, is lots of low-fat/no-fat foods, more vegetables, less dairy, way less caffeine (sniffle), and various meds for when the flareups hit. I had one in November that landed me in the ER, and another in December. For the latter, I just went back to my primary care doctor, who is a peach, and he gave me scrips for the same meds the ER doc did. While this whole thing is not something I can control 100%, I am taking the steps to minimize any instances, because I have to tell you, the pain is excruciating, the vomiting is copious, and it’s an all around nightmare. In my case, the vomiting meant dry heaves, and in that first round, I started heaving and could not stop until the ER folks got me hooked up to an IV with both fluids and some amtiemetics (read: stop puking/nausea meds). I would recommend, as I’ve done with this whole cancer business, that you avoid it if at all possible. I also managed to lost somewhere between 15 and 17 pounds in the past two months thanks to that. The doctors are frowning on that part, and I’m having trouble taking in enough calories in any given day – nothing new, but bad in this case – to keep the scale hovering between 100 and 103. It’s a work in progress.

To close this out for the day, and to end on a better note, there’s nothing like a dog to show you unfettered worship and love.

Until tomorrow, peeps: keep being awesome. Or, if you’re not awesome yet, keep working on it.

Letting the new year in, quietly

I’m not a fan of large crowds, and especially not large, drunk crowds, so I spend my New Year’s Eves at home, chilling out, reading, and watching football. This year was no different.

Redneck neighbor guy apparently scraped together some pennies this year to invest in fireworks, as there were random pops of things going off well before midnight. Loud noises like that are things that scare the big dog, so he winds up close to me, regardless of where I am (including in the bathroom).

The puppy ignores all that, but also is always by my side – he’s very loyal.

So, we plopped ourselves on the couch (and floor), watched some football, and then watched The Boondock Saints, recommended to me by my little brother. Not bad.

Beyond the random firework noise, which was minimal, we had a nice quiet entry into the new year. That’s the way I prefer it.

*I tried to post this last night, on the 2nd, to stay with my goal of posting every day, but naturally my ISP – a satellite company I will not name – crapped itself on the uplink side. Those images up there took eight and six tries, respectively, to upload, and I won’t even go into the timeouts all over the place. I finally sent them an email (via my phone, because even their customer page wouldn’t load) asking them WTF was going on, and this morning on the 3rd seems to be better – although it’s storming here at the moment, and they’re not very good about staying up during rain. Or fog. Or sunshine. Or anything. We’ll see if it stays that way after I return from my doctor’s visit and a run to the store.

Starting over

The tomatoes got zapped.

This is not for a lack of trying to keep them alive, though. It was simply too cold and the plants far too stressed from the weirdo weather we’re having this “winter”. It got down to 27F by Saturday morning, and while they looked not too bad when I uncovered them that morning, in the bright light of an 80F day today – I told you the weather was weird – they are unrecoverable.

I will say that the makeshift covers to mimic a greenhouse environment were not terrible, however. It kept them safe from the first round of freezing two weeks ago. I’d like to either get my actual greenhouse situated somewhere on the property, or get a design finalized that will make it far easier to pull the covers on and off of the tender annuals here at the ranch – for us, that’s tomatoes and peppers. The second round of freeze was harsher than the first. But, a valuable lesson learned, and ideas for better covering of the rows are on paper and I’ll be looking into the best way to do this – most importantly, the best way it can be done by one person (me) who has issues raises one arm over shoulder height and needs something that is not completely exhausting.

The brassicas – broccoli and cauliflower – didn’t seem to care all that much, covered or not. But the heads were a tad smaller than in the usual spring season; again, a product of the wildly fluctuating temperatures.

Above: broccoli along with cheddar and graffiti varieties of cauliflower. Most of that was sent home with my sister.

A new season is upon us, and it’s time to get back to poring through the seed catalogs, trying to restrain myself from ordering one of everything. One of my goals this year (because I don’t make resolutions) is to post every day to the blog in 2017, even if it’s just a post about the weather conditions. Everything I’ve read on forming habits says that the goals should be attainable – that is, not huge goals, but smaller chunks of the larger, ultimate goal – and not reliant on someone else’s involvement to get to the goal or reliant on circumstances that may never come.  The goals should also not necessarily be on the actual final goal, but on the processes/steps that lead to it, to avoid the dreaming brain from visualizing that ultimate goal from being done, which sends the brain signals that it isn’t necessary to pursue it. This one goal will force me to write something every day, which I hope will feed over into my actual fiction writing as well. It isn’t so bad getting into the mood to write up something once you just get the fingers moving.

I’ve also started a new project that will involve weekly postings to another blog: another attainable goal that does not rely on anyone else, and also involves a deadline, which will require me to get it done.

All those things I studied on for the past month also said setting new habits and/or goals is also easier to do if you announce your intentions to someone/anyone. I’m not certain who reads this here blog anymore, but I am hoping 2017 will be a return to longer-form writing instead of people zipping through useless, inane facebook posts or 140-character shorthand tweets. I have not been on facebook generally at all for over a month now, except to update the pages I am maintaining. I’ve found it to be a great relief not to be sucked into that time pit, and life is better for it.

Read more. Think more. Do more. This is my hope for my fellow travelers on this orb for the year. And it is also my hope for myself.


Necessary things

Not Needful Things – that is, of course, a book by Stephen King doing what he does best. No, “necessary” things. The things that must be done at some point, regardless of how you feel, regardless of all the other things you have on your list of things to do, but not entirely regardless of the weather. Today’s necessary thing: mowing, at least the north and east sides of the property. It’s hot. Very hot. The heat index is 100+F. It’s quite dry. It’s very dusty.

But it’s necessary to get it done. In the same way it’s necessary to check the new bees every day to see if they need to be topped off with feed so they don’t starve. In the same way it was necessary to go out to the chickens twice a day when we had chickens at the ranch.

Today, two hours buzzing around on the tractor earlier, and 3/4 of the mowing is done. Tomorrow I’ll knock out the remainder, which includes the western part of the property and the beeyard (for which I don my suit, and must look quite the spectacle). Then we’ll be done for another week or so, and perhaps by then, the pneumonia will finally be kicked the curb and stop interrupting the flow of my life.

Cold before the warm

It’s sort of like calm before the storm, except better because after this little bit of cool weather at the ranch, we will hopefully be turning to spring for good. Not that cooler weather isn’t welcome – minus the freezing bits – but that little voice in my head is already yammering about splitting hives and transplanting from the flats, which are growing very nicely under the lights in the barn.

On another note, this ad keeps popping up during my surfing, and if you don’t look directly at it, and just catch it out of the corner of your eye, it really does look like a dick pic. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. Seriously, advertising people, did you not think this through at all? It has bonus negative points for having Doctor “There’s nothing I won’t endorse for money!” Oz on it.

Looks like a dick

And for your parting gift

As my handful of readers know, I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday (congratulations, Manning – please retire before someone takes your head off and you die on the field) and did my thing where I rate the ads. Side note: someone on twitter asked why people watched the  ads and made comments about those but not through the rest of the year. This should be obvious to the questioner, but apparently is not: the ads for the big game are supposed to be better and funnier, even though sometimes they fall flat. Good ads are noticed during the year, but there are far fewer of them, and most of the time, they are not funny in the laugh out loud sense.

The day after – and no hangovers here, as I can’t drink any more – was business as usual. Tuesday, however, started off poorly and rapidly got worse: after getting up in the morning, I went back to bed for a “nap” that was more like a coma, and slept until 5:30 that evening. Tremendously out of character for me, as those who know of my insomniac ways are aware. A few hours after being up, I once again went back to be and slept through to the next morning.

All seemed to be fine Wednesday, although I did take a nap that morning, for just a couple of hours instead of all day.

Thursday. That was the day the body marshaled all it forces to tell me something was wrong just after noon, by signaling a horrific pain in my left shoulder and an even worse one in my right upper chest. The  shoulder could be from anything, really – I had been to the NOC pulling some servers and racking another. The chest, though, is an entirely different story. Given my weirdo history, anything involving the chest generally rewards me with an immediate order for a chest xray, as it did in this case.

Verdict: pneumonia. Usually,  I get aspiration pneumonia, which is the type you often get if you have issues swallowing properly or fully and food or drink winds up in your lungs instead of your belly. Thanks to the (fuck you!) cancer rounds, this is my typical problem. There’s no real way to tell which type this is, but it doesn’t matter all that much as the treatment is the same: heavy duty antibiotics, which I picked up yesterday and will take for the next week. Fun times!

That means rest and light duty for me, but I still need to check my flats in the barn and check the feeders on the bees. I also need to prep for the upcoming season by ordering bee supplies, keeping watch on the girls to detect swarm activity, and so on, and this is very difficult when every breath burns and feels like someone is stabbing you with a dull knife. I shall, as always, carry on, because there is Shit that Needs To Be Done, and I’ll survive, as usual.

We’re forecast to have another evening right around freezing Saturday night into Sunday morning, with perfectly balmy temps after that. Those will be the days the girls start gearing up for spring and will be the danger times for swarms. We had the first swarm emerge last year toward the latter half of February – when honestly, we, or I, was not expecting anything of the sort. That’s a lesson learned: the bees don’t care about schedules. They care about the environment, both inside the hive and out. The only good thing so far about the swarm issue this year is that in my couple of examinations on the nicer days, I’ve noticed no drones. No drones = no mating partners for queens, although I have no idea if this makes a difference to them or not. Hopefully it does.

One of the hives (#9) has a ton of bees in it, or did when I last opened it. It might be good for not one but two splits from it, which would be awesome. That, however, also needs to wait on weather moderation and the availability of drones. If it gets warm and stays there, those splits might be done sooner than later.

In other news, the seedlings are emerging in the barn under the lights, and we’ve had no hitches in anything otherwise. Except the pneumonia thing. Thankfully, modern medicine is ON IT.

Stay well, folks, and I promise the next entry will have some pictures for your viewing pleasure (and a little teasing if you happen to be in one of those places frozen solid for four months out of the year).

Let’s do the time warp again

This day, the first day of the new year, has been an odd one. I was up well past the turn of the year, until almost 3 AM. My oldest dog got me up at 4:45 so he could run out and do some business. We all went back to bed, but were up again just before 8 AM. Since then, it’s been nonstop work, either outside (and I’ll have a separate post about that) or inside. No naps, except for the dogs, and it’s about 7:15 in the evening right now but it feels like late evening. Very late evening. Like “this would be a good time to call it a day” evening and go to bed. But it’s far too early for that, and I still have to eat again today as I’ve only had two so far: my usual to start the day, and then this for the new year, as is traditional.

Beans and rice and cornbread

Beans and rice and cornbread, with diced onion and ham. It doesn’t look like much – the soul eating baby could probably eat three of these – but it’s about what I can handle. I managed almost all of it. The leftover, sans onion, went to the dogs. We could all use a little luck for the new year, I think.


Being your own guinea pig

I am a tinkerer, in various arenas. That includes on myself: testing which way to sit while working that entails the least aching, pain, or nerve sensation in the left of my neck, for instance. Trying to which position allows me to raise my left arm the highest. Taking meds on schedules, but in different combinations, to minimize the gut-related things that an ever-present side effect from having to crush up everything I swallow (by the way, some of these things are horribly bitter, just as an FYI). Tasting something to see if my mouth freaks out about it as if I finished radiation treatments yesterday versus ten years ago.

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been walking the treadmill twice a day, and generally at least once a day if I’ve also had to work the bees. I made some notes about things like energy levels, how my guts felt, and so on. I’ve spent the past couple of days not walking, but have worked with the bees to prep for the upcoming cooler weather. Comparing the two systems, I’ve come to this conclusion: walking helps. It helps quite a bit, as it happens. So, tomorrow, I will return to the walking routine for at least one session per day, depending on whether or not the bees need attention, and if the better feeling/energy levels kick up, I’ll get in two a day regardless of the bees.

And now, back to the list making for next year’s seed order. The time is almost upon us to set up flats in the barn under the lights and wait out a couple of months of winter.