Sunday, August 30, 2009

been a while has been a few days since I have posted. That's because there has been pretty much nothing new. I have slept pretty well over the last few days - ambien assisted. I have slept so well this weekend that I am going to need to focus on getting up for work tomorrow. I have been pretty fatigued; but, the extra sleep over the past few days has helped.

Various side effects/symptoms are still around but not unbearable. I still have some rash on my upper chest and shoulders. It itches; but, not enough to be a big bother. I do have some irritation in my eyes - constant watering, crusting up when I go to sleep (I need to use my fingers to pull them apart), kinda itchy. I've been using some OTC eyedrops. I'll need to talk to Dr E when I see him Wednesday.

My side is still a little stiff but not really painful. The incisions are now completely healed. My discharge papers indicated that I could continue to have some pain for several months after the surgery - it has been about a month now. I still need to be careful about trying to lift too much with my right hand. If I need to lift to shoulder level, about a gallon of milk is all I can handle.

I feel like I am eating reasonably well. But, I still continue to lose a little weight. Back in February, I was around 260+ and had been for quite a while. This morning, I am 216. I am down to the last notch on some of my belts. Without the health issues, that would be great. But, I am not supposed to be losing weight. I guess I need to buy a bunch of Dove Bars!!

I get my second infusion of Alimta on Wednesday. Beforehand, I will talk with Dr E about my various side effects/symptoms to be sure there is nothing he thinks I need to worry about.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Well...I have been quite sleepy the last few days. Last night I slept around 10 hours or so. And, was still very tired all day. Took about a 90 minute nap when I got home from work.

I suspect that this may be fatigue from the new chemo. Side effects were supposed to be rash (got it), nausea (don't have it), leukopenia or shortage of white blood cells (don't know) and fatigue (might have it).

I have been trying to eat as much as possible. But, I'm still down a pound so far this week. I guess I may need to get some Dove Bars!!

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Sunday, August 23, 2009


I hesitate to bother writing about this weekend. Pretty much not much interesting.

We started Saturday going to the Farmers Market. Got our usual stuff. was really hard to get up early this week. I sure could have used a lot more sleep. Later, we ran errands. By the time we were done, I was totally pooped out.

We spent the evening watching the White Sox - they won. I think I dozed off a couple times.

Both Friday and Saturday were not good nights for me sleeping. I think the rash/skin itching is my main problem. Last night I woke up three times and put anti-itch cream wherever I could. It helped me get back to sleep. But, I woke back up all itchy in about an hour or two. That doesn't make for very good sleep. I've already taken an ambien and hope it will help me to sleep much better tonight.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Friday, August 21, 2009


Today I made it back to massa-a-a-a-age. Great. I had planned on next week until they told me that Chelsea had a opening this afternoon. So, I grabbed it.

I had been a little apprehensive about right side (surgery side) even though Dr Birdas had said it would be OK. As it turns out, it really felt good. As she massaged the right side of my back, I could feel the muscles loosen up.

I had 3 massages accumulated since my annual membership adds one each month. It had been a while what with the trip and med problems. So, I booked another for next Thursday. I'll save the final one for later.

I hadn't slept well last night. When I got home a little early, I decided it would be a good time for a nap - about a 90 minute nap. I woke up to the fabulous aroma of her mom's pepper steak. It was delicious. So...Jill cooked two nights in a row - stuffed peppers and pepper steak.

Now, I have leftovers for work. I got going so late today and didn't have time to assemble a lunch. I don't like the Monday and Tuesday soups at the restaurant downstairs at the office; so, these leftovers should hit the spot.

Hopefully tonight we'll figure out some kind of anti-itch cream so I can sleep better.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Well...tonight the itchy skin kicked in. I've been just putting up with it because it was minor; but, tonight I had to use the halobetasol propionate cream prescribed by Dr Forkin a few weeks when I had sores on my fingertips. I'm not sure what that chemical is; but, I hope it relieves the itching.

Most of the rash is on my upper chest. is also on my neck and head behind my ears. This was one of the potential side effects of the Alimta. And...of course...I get any skin-related side effect. Hopefully, the cream will help and I can get back to sleep.

I got Dr Birdas' clearance to resume getting massage. So, I'll start next week.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

lung surgery follow up

Today I met with Dr Birdas to get feedback on my pleurodesis (surgery on my right chest). Very happily, it seems that he feels that everything went very well and that I am healing as expected. The pain that I am having on the right side is what he would expect - and, it might last a little while longer. The two incisions are healing very well.

Good news - he says that there is no problem with me going back to getting massages. Obviously, need to tell them about the surgery and the usual precautions. So...probably tomorrow...I will call and make an appointment.

He said it would also be OK if I want to start cutting back on the oxygen. But, he wants me to have a portable oxygen saturation device. He had suggested a nurse come to the house every few days to measure. But, I suggested that it might make more sense for me to just buy a portable O2 saturation device since I can get one for around $70. Apparently, he thought they were two to three times that cost. was pretty much good news.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

offer of help

Today, I exchanged a few emails with someone who has a co-worker who was just diagnosed with brain cancer and who started chemo and radiation today. I was able to offer suggestions re: how she could help her friend - listening, offer transportation/companionship during treatments, prepared dinners for her friend and husband, etc. Reading her emails, I became aware that my personal experiences could be applied to another situation - like the person's co-worker. This validates the fact that a medical website has asked to publish my personal blog. It certainly does provide the circumstances where others are able to use my experiences to figure out their challenges.

Today, my normal skin reaction appeared. I almost always have a skin reaction of some kind. My upper chest, left neck, chin and some forehead have developed a bit of raised rash. So far, I have used the cream from Dr Forkin and it seems to help. Tonight, I used another moisture cream to see if it helps. We'll see.

Nothing else significant today. Tomorrow, I get a chest xray and see Dr Birdas - the surgeon who did my pleurodesis. Hopefully, he will tell me that all is progressing as expected. Even though I continue to have pain in my right side, that is actually listed in my checkout papers as an expected thing for a couple months.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Well...not much interesting today. Woke up slow and got into the office a little later than normal. Spent the morning reading news. Had a little pain in my right side and took a pain med after lunch. That's about it. Maybe something more interesting to write about tomorrow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Feeling a bit of melancholy today. I learned yesterday that Ms Barbara Croissant died recently. Ms Croissant was a big influence on me - even though I haven't seen or heard about her for many years.

She was one of my Language Arts teachers at Joliet East HS. And, as the sponsor for the It's Academic competitive trivia team, it is safe to say that she started my strong interest in trivia - an interest that continues today. I never made the team for a televised competition. But, I did accompany them once to the studio as an alternate. It was lots of fun.

Along with a couple other teachers, it would be accurate to blame Ms Croissant for most of my interests in literature and, of course, writing. I remember her well for often pushing and challenging me to keep doing even better.
She will be missed and long remembered by many.

Now, re my health, I am having minor problems today. Nothing too serious. I took an ambien last night and did sleep OK. But, today I am having quite a bit of pain in my left heel. Don't know what that is all about. Had similar pain when I was taking the Tarceva - so maybe it is chemo-related.

I also had an rough time at Sams right after lunch. But, I think that was caused by huge temperature swings. 92 outside - freezing in O'Charleys (had to get sweat shirts for both of us) - back out to 92 - into Sams which was warm. I didn't get far before telling Jill I would meet her back at the car. Kicked on the AC in the car and felt mostly better after a few minutes.

Now that we're back home, I am just relaxing while I do a little laundry. Should be a non-eventful evening.

While doing laundry, I am experiencing pain in my right side. It has become significant enough that I just took a couple vicodin. Hopefully, that will ease things and I will be a little better.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Slight Ugh

Woke up this morning feeling kinda Ugh! Stayed up late to watch the White Sox - they pulled it out with a HR in the 10th. Only slept so-so. Definitely going to take an ambien tonight. Got up early to get to the Farmer's Market.

To treat myself, I got Doyle blackberries (the absolute best), blueberries and a few peaches. First, had the fruit with my Cheerios. Then, I decided I wanted more fruit - it was really good. We had some heavy cream in the frig - so...more fruit in a bowl covered with heavy cream. Mmmm. I'm a happy boy!!

Today might definitely be a nap day. But, we'll see what the day brings. I have a little chest pain. But, I've been trying to avoid the vicodin. I'll take it if I must. If I take the vicodin, Jill must doing the driving. But, I don't like using pain meds unless I really need to. I won't drive if I've taken the vicodin within a few hours. Not safe.

I'm feeling good about work right now. I made it in four days last week. Only day I missed was the Dr E and chemo Wednesday. I have been making good progress on my new business blog. Yesterday, I completed an OK write up for a cart concept. I'm sure it'll get better as I write more. If I am up to it, I'm going to try to do three or more next week.

No new side effects yet from the new chemo - Alimta. Still some residual fluid in my coughs. Seems normal but I will ask the thorasic surgeon when I see him Wednesday.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Friday, August 14, 2009

No sleep I am back on the steroids and I can't sleep. I have been up since about 1:30am and it is now 3:48am. So, I slept about 90 minutes.

I tried playing a little solitaire - no help. So...I decided to move to the LazyBoy downstairs. At least I won't bother Jill down here. I guess I was wrong about needing an ambien.

I figured I wouldn't be taking enough of the dex to bother my sleep - wrong. I'm still going to set an alarm and try my best to get into work by 9:30-ish. We'll see what happens.

Still haven't noticed anything else from the Alimta/chemo.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

1st day after Alimta

First of all, I am back once again on dexamethasone - the steroid I have been on several times. At least this time I just take 2 the day before my infusion and 2 the day after the infusion. I will get an IV dose on the day of my chemo. Hopefully, I won't have lots of the usual steroid side effects that I have had before. Apparently, the dex is to reduce skin rash and other possible side effects.

I also get an IV of anti-nausea med while I get the chemo. Not sure if I need it. Better safe than sorry.

Now, the Alimta which is what they call a folate antimetabolite. This is another targeted chemo that stops production of 3 enzymes needed to feed the cancer cells. Dr Einhorn feels that I have had positive response from other treatments and it is worth trying this chemo. I will get 4 or 6 infusions spread out 3 weeks apart.

I need to start a multivitamin to get enough folic acid. That's right - I need to start since I have never taken a multivitamin regularly. During each infusion, I will receive a vitamin B12 shot.

Possible side effects include nausea, skin rash, leukopenia (shortage of white blood cells), and fatigue. Let's hope my body doesn't invent new side effects.

So far, I can't say that I really have felt much other than being a little tired yesterday afternoon. I fell asleep right after we got home about 4:30pm and slept until 7pm. 2 tomorrow.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1st Alimta

Saw Dr Einhorn today and he started me on a new chemo - Alimta. This one is supposed to have very minimal side effects - we'll see!! Based on my history with chemos and such meds, I pretty much get significant versions of just about any side effect that is possible.

Once we got home about 4:30-ish, I sat back in my LazyBoy to watch TV. I fell asleep - really sound sleep. Didn't wake up until just after 7pm. Imagine my surprise.

After dinner, Jill and I took a walk. Went about twice as far as my previous longest walk. Not quite sure about the actual distance. But, I know that it wore me out.

I haven't taken any pain meds (vicodin) yet today. I need to decide whether to take the vicodin or an ambien to help me sleep. In any case, I hope to get a good night sleep even though I took a pretty long nap. Plan to go into the office for a full day tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

cruise medical issues

This experience is very similar to what happened to our tablemates on a Caribbean cruise last February. Very important to consider insurance issues - particularly if you have any known health issues.

Titanic-sized medical bill surprises couple
Chest pains land cruiser in ship's infirmary — and with a bill for $1,200

By Anita Dunham-Potter
Travel columnist

updated 2:51 p.m. ET, Mon., Aug 10, 2009

Susan and Larry Smith were looking forward to their first-ever Cunard cruise across the Atlantic onboard the fabulous Queen Mary 2. But the fun stopped for the New York City couple the moment Larry had chest pains along with gastrointestinal malaise.
The Smiths immediately sought treatment at the ship's infirmary, where the ship's doctor ran an EKG and some tests. Fortunately Larry's heart checked out okay, but he was dehydrated and was given intravenous fluids and was kept in the infirmary for an hour of observation.

Larry's tests ruled out any infection, but the doctor couldn't figure out why Larry had become so dehydrated. Therefore, no definitive diagnosis was reached. The next morning Larry felt much better and the cruise continued. A few days after the visit to the infirmary, the Smiths got another unpleasant surprise: a bill for medical services totaling $1,200. The amount was immediately charged to their shipboard account.
The Smiths were shocked. "It didn't seem like a lot of treatment for $1,200. It was as much as my cruise fare," said Susan Smith. Even worse the couple foolishly believed that their health insurance would be accepted onboard the ship. It wasn't. Fortunately they did have travel insurance (purchased through the cruise line) that covered medical issues.
Insurance doesn't travel well
What many people don't realize is that all cruise ships of foreign registry are considered to be entities operating outside the United States. And, as the Smiths discovered, domestic medical insurance coverage doesn't travel the same way aboard ship as it does within the United States. Sometimes, coverage doesn't extend to
foreign travel at all; other times it just works differently. For example, co-payments may be higher than usual or your reimbursement may be limited.

Even with complete medical coverage, you can't just hand the cruise line your insurance card. You will usually have to pay your treatment costs up front and file for reimbursement after you return home. That's what the Smiths did. Their insurer accepted the claim but explained it could take up to three months to receive reimbursement. The Smiths were relieved to be covered at all.
Could the Smiths have avoided the $1,200 out-of-pocket expense? Maybe. If they had purchased third-party travel insurance, they could have received upfront financial assistance and they might have gotten their money back more quickly.

Third-party insurers usually provide primary coverage, i.e., the insurance company pays the traveler directly for any medical claim. Most cruise lines also sell insurance policies, but these usually provide secondary coverage, which means that you must file your claims through your regular medical insurance carrier, then seek reimbursement from the cruise line's insurance company.
Cover the gaps
Medicare beneficiaries should always purchase travel insurance when they cruise, because they do not have Medicare coverage outside the country. Another very big gap is medical evacuation and transportation services, which are seldom covered by medical insurance policies.

According to Medjet Assist, an Alabama-based evacuation operation, domestic air medical evacuation services average $10,000 to $20,000, while international transports can exceed $75,000. If you travel more than once a year, consider buying an annual policy; both MedjetAssist and Travel Guard offer this kind of policy, which can be purchased for as little as $185 a year.
Cruising is exciting, but it can turn into more of an adventure than you planned if you discover that you aren't covered for the unexpected. So check your insurance policies and fill in the gaps with supplemental coverage.

James H. Allen

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Anniversary is our 35th wedding anniversary. Who woulda thought we would both make it. Our goal now is to make it to 36. We don't exactly have "long term" goals anymore.

Happy Anniversary to us!!!

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Saturday, August 8, 2009


Uneventful Saturday. Got up to go to the Carmel Farmers Market. Bought our usual - sweet corn, cupcakes for Jill, blackberries for me.

Spent the rest of the day just relaxing. Gotta do that sometimes. Dinner at Famous Daves and we'll spend the night watching the White Sox.

Nothing significant health wise. I have some pain in the side and I am taking the pain meds to help with it.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Back to the office

Not a particularly eventful day. Paula left early in the morning to drive home. Shortly after, I left for the office.

I was pretty tired today. Seems like if often forget to take an ambien early enough and I don't want to take it too late since it typically knocks me out 8 to 9 hours. So...didn't take one. The result, I woke up several times during the night - meaning a so-so sleep.

But, I made it in and just did what I could to stay awake. At the office, nothing unusual. Talk about some performance issues. Interviewed a candidate at lunch. Got updates on a couple items. That's about it.

So, the day was simply pretty normal.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thusday 8/6

Today started with me waking at about 6:30. But, I knew I wasn't going into the office because I decided to stay home to spend time with my sister, Paula, who came to visit for a few days. So...I went back to sleep for a little while.

Once we got going, I took Jill and Paula to a Mystery Book Store in our area. Then, we did a little shopping at a decor accent & cooking store. Great gift shop and I like their cooking access dept.

We went for lunch at Logan's Roadhouse. Jill really likes their burgers and I got a great sausage gumbo - even ordered an extra take-home bowl for this weekend.

We plan on stir fry for tonight - I love to stir fry. We needed to pick up a few things - sauce and chicken - to add to the stuff we already had. We just finished cutting up everything and I will start up the stir fry in a little while.

Son of a gun - I make good stir fry. Jill helped with some slicing - she cut up the chicken cuz I don't really like doing that. As usual, we could have fed an army. There were three of us. will be great leftovers.

Now, we'll sit back to relax and watch some great mindless TV. Whatever others say, I like certain mindless TV shows. Burn Notice, Bones, Poker (how mindless can you get?), The Closer. you know what happens when my mind wonders.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Last night I took an ambien for the first time in a few weeks. Didn't take any vicodin. I haven't been sleeping through the night for a few nights. Well...I did sleep through the night last night. In fact, I had difficulty waking up. I had set the alarm for 7:30 but didn't end up dragging out of bed until 8:30. I called Cindy to let her know I would be a little later than the last couple days.

Once I bumped around (literally) for a little while, I managed to shower and head to the office. Having caught up on most other things, I got started on my business blog. I made a couple changes to the site - updated the disclaimer paragraph. And, I did a short blog about starting a small business. Next, I will get started on selecting concepts to highlight and will begin writing the blog entries.

But, that will probably start on Friday. My sister, Paula, came to visit and I think that I will plan to spend much of tomorrow with her. Lots to catch up on.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Let me say that breathing is definitely NOT over-rated. Neither is symptom relief.

Since having the talc pleurodesis about 11 days ago, things have really taken a positive turn for me. With something like 1 1/2 gallons of fluid drained from my right lung (the one with the adenocarcenoma), I am feeling so much better. Sure, I still have some dull pain in my side/back. And, I am still coughing to clear congestion.

But, I can breath. My portable oxygen level is dialed down to 1.5 versus the previous 3 to 4 just to feel like I was getting enough oxygen. I am now able to get back into the office for a full day. I have more appetite. It is a real pleasure.

So...there is obviously something good to be said for symptom relief. Even though the surgery didn't do anything in terms treating my lung cancer, it was a huge benefit in terms of how I feel.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Back to work

Well...I made it back into the ofc today and handled almost a full day. I left around 4pm. When I woke up, I decided that, even though I had a little pain, I wouldn't take any pain meds until I got to the ofc. No sense driving under the influence. I got in about 9am and felt fine - even better after a couple pain meds.

Spent much of the day catching up on a few things and updating people on my status. It can get to be a little repetitive; but, I realize that they just want to know because they care - yeah, right ;-).

I also caught up on paperwork approvals, bill paying and a few emails I have ignored for a little while. I didn't realize how many medical bills I had to pay. How could I be surprised about that?

Had a cup of coffee. My first cup in something like 6 maybe 8 weeks. Sure tasted good! And, I had a good lunch - sandwich and yogurt. When I got home, we went to Shapiro's Deli for dinner. Happy man!!

So...I plan to get back to the ofc tomorrow. It will be nice to dig into some real biz activity.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bandage off I decided to wash up and to take off the bandage/dressing. The incisions seem to be healing fine. There appear to be two incisions - each about an inch. I can't see them closely except by reflection in a mirror. But, Jill says that the incisions are dry and aren't draining. So, I decided to skip putting on a new bandage. When I was released, the RN said the main reason I would put on a bandage would be to protect my clothes.

I did have a little pain (more of a dull pulling in my side) this AM when we went out for breakfast. Took pain meds when we got home and it seems to be OK for now.

Julie, Penny and Michael just left for the return drive to St Louis. We had a very nice short visit. This was our first time to meet Michael. He seems to be a nice guy.

Earlier, Jill and I went out to get a few groceries. I'll count that as one of my walks. I continue to do well. Breathing is much better than it has been in a while - probably more than a month or six weeks. I still have an occasional cough - but not really too much.

The way I feel right now I am pretty sure that I will give it a try to go into the office. Hopefully, people there will recognize me! It has been a while.

Take care and be well. - JimA

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Saturday, August 1, 2009


Well...not that things are perfect; but, I feel like I'm getting better each day.

Julie, Penny and Michael got here late last night - about 11-ish. Haven't seen them for a few weeks and this is our intro to the boyfriend. We stayed up chatting for a little while.

I slept very well. Didn't wake up until around 6am. And, I went back to sleep. Jill and I got up around 7:30 to go to the Farmer's Market. Jill got sweet corn and some bakery. I got my first doyle blackberries of the year - the best blackberries in the world!! Nothing like a small mixing bowl with 1/2 Cheerios and 1/2 blackberries. The absolute best. Geez, I am so glad that I have an appetite back.

Walking the market was good. I started my "short walks" yesterday afternoon. At the house, I just walked a short distance - maybe 40 or 50 yards. The market was probably a little more.

This afternoon we plan to take the kids to PF Changs. I want to get the hot & sour soup. It was the first "real food" that I could eat once I felt that I could eat out again. The soup has lots of stuff in it and has a nice kick.

This afternoon we will probably kick back to watch the White Sox.

Health wise, I am doing pretty well. My breathing is good - can't take really deep breaths yet - but I'm getting there. Using the 1.5 O2 setting is working out fine.

The pain in my right side is dulling. I am taking the pain meds. But, I'm trying to keep it at minimum levels. I take two before bed; but I keep it down to one other times. I'm contemplating trying my first showere today. Will need to remove and deal with dressing whatever wound is left.

Since I haven't done much lately, I get tired pretty quickly. But, that should improve over time. I have follow ups with both Einhorn and Birdas during the next couple weeks. I'm hoping for a break - just give me a couple weeks to recover before hitting me with whatever is next. Cross your fingers.