Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: Begin the Begone

stilton’s place, stilton, political, humor, conservative, cartoons, jokes, hope n’ change, 2021, New Year, Kathy, cancer, Daughter J, health, hospital, leukemia

Traditions are meant to be broken, which is why I'm going to eschew (gesundheit!) my usual "Year in Review" post about 365 days of disastrous politics in 2021. And they were disastrous, with Joe Biden and his merry band of Constitution-loathing liberty-rapists doing their best to destroy everything we hold dear. But I'll waste no further time reflecting on those mendacious bastards nor the wretched sway-backed horses they rode in on.

Instead, I'll give you the only thing that I really can - which is an "end of year" medical update on the Jarlsberg family.

For starters, we had an interesting day on Thursday. Following her latest round of chemo, Kathy needs to go into the hospital every 2nd or 3rd day to have a blood sample taken, after which she gets a transfusion of blood and platelets as needed - a process which will continue until her body can start making those things itself. When we went in today, Kathy’s blood test presented us with a new first; rather than just having a low platelet count, she had no detectable platelets at all

This is not a good thing for two reasons. The first is that if you do any bleeding, it will quickly become a dangerous or even life-threatening event. The second is that pretty much any damn thing will make you bleed. Flossing, a stubbed toe, too vigorous a sneeze, clenching your butt (seriously, they warn you not to), clapping your hands, etc. Basically, you’re a water balloon in a cactus garden.

This being the case, our oncology contact person told Kathy “you’re not going home today” and “we’re going to wrap you in bubble wrap and keep you in a bed” after which they rolled her off in a wheelchair. Did I mention that just walking is too dangerous? Yeah, just walking is too dangerous.

So Kathy was admitted to the hospital and they soon got an intravenous line into her and, by the time I left, she’d already received one bag of platelets which will hopefully be enough to seal the hole they made in her arm just to put the platelets in. Medicine is funny that way.

Her white blood cell count was also preposterously low, though I give our contact person an “A for effort" in trying to put a good spin on it. While a normal white blood cell count should be between 4.5 and 11, Kathy was told “two days ago you only had a 0.1, but today you’re up to 0.7!” (Cue the sound of a lame New Year's Eve party horn). Put another way, Kathy has no immune system working right now, which is another reason for her to stay someplace clean and soft and surrounded by doctors with no risk of tripping over empty scotch bottles on the floor.

Considering all of this, Kathy’s mood is pretty good. It’s never fun to be in the hospital, let alone when you’ve just been told that it’s because you might not survive a day OUTSIDE the hospital, but at least she wasn’t feeling terrible (nor great, but "not terrible" isn't bad these days).  And unlike most times she’s been checked into the hospital lately, she won’t be getting bags of poison pumped into her. Rather, she’ll just be getting things intended to make her healthier, safer, stronger, and 

The goal is still for her to have gall bladder surgery when possible, then hopefully a crucial stem cell transplant when possible. It’s those “when possibles” that are a moving target, but we intend to get there.

Daughter Jarlsberg continues to recover quite nicely from her “giant thing-ectomy.” Yesterday ("a day without a doctor visit is like a day which I can’t even imagine") she had a 2-week follow-up appointment and the doctor was well pleased with how she’s coming along. He also pulled out half the metal staples from her long, long incision and the rest should come out two weeks from now. Or sooner if she doesn't stop picking at them.

Daughter J is still sore, but no longer needs to use a walker to get around. She’s had a backache, though, because her muscles are having to relearn how to balance without that 30-pound weight on her front side - her center of gravity is in a whole new position!

But one way or the other, we’re all staggering toward 2022 as a family, hoping that it will go easier on us than 2021 did. In the meanwhile, best wishes to you and yours and very sincere thanks for your continuing support, good wishes, and prayers!

Holiday tip: after burning your 2021 calendars, don't forget to sow the ground with salt!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Home for the Horrid Days

Christmas, chemo, Bob, sickness, C.Diff, diarrhea

As my dear friend Johnny Optimism says, "things could always be worse." After which, for Johnny, they always get worse. And there's a little of that going on at stately (well, sickly) Jarlsberg manor just now.

Going back a few days, Daughter J's surgery was successful and the surgeon removed a 30-pound cyst from her abdomen. That's three 10-pound bags of potatoes for anyone math-impaired (I'm looking at YOU Elizabeth Warren, AOC and, what the hell, every Democrat except Joe Manchin). "Bob" was removed intact and posed for a precious (and impressive) baby picture which you can see right here if you're the medically curious type. 

Daughter J now has a long abdominal incision held together by dozens of metal staples. Daughter J herself is being held together with hydrocodone.

At the time of the surgery, Daughter J's mom was still stuck in a different hospital. Kathy's 3-day chemo visit turned into a 10-day visit with additional chemo because her leukemia, like a bad party guest, apparently doesn't know when to leave. Then as a bonus, Kathy got diarrhea which kept adding days to her hospital stay (it's hard to get well when your immune system has been decimated by chemo).

On Saturday, I left Daughter J with her aluminum walker and opioids to visit Kathy. She still had the trots and everyone who came into the room wore a plastic apron with sleeves, a face shield, gloves, and a mask. But surprisingly, we were told that Kathy could come home that very day! Yay! And so we packed up and got Kathy (quite weak from treatment) back home.

I couldn't believe the change in our fortunes as Daughter J began heading (slowly, with the walker) towards the den for a reunion with her mother. And then the phone rang.

It was the hospital. "We just put the pieces together and realized that we might not have mentioned that your daughter must not get anywhere near your wife!" Because Kathy didn't just have diarrhea - she had (and has) C.Diff, which is a magical hospital-acquired bacteria that is wildly contagious, hard to get rid of, and can cause people to have whole sections of their colon removed or just kill 'em outright. Which would have been nice for me to know when I was in close quarters with her at the hospital and packing all of her stuff (C.Diff is easily passed by touching something that an infected person has touched). 

At special risk of infection (and having a funeral where everyone is snickering about death by poop) are people over 65 (me) and people who have just had surgery (Daughter J). So my two women needed to stay well-removed from each other as they toddled around with their walkers.

But fortunately and somewhat heroically, I could still take care of both of them...right up until about two hours ago, when I suddenly began vomiting violently without even having used Clan MacGregor as an emetic. Our home resonated with the sound of "ARRRRRRK!" but it was not the herald angels singing. And yes, I've been taking care of myself, but when the Devil has you in his crosshairs, there's only so much you can do.

This is not an opportune time for me to be sick, nor for our house to be quarantined and thus keep additional caregivers out. So I'm hoping I just have food poisoning and not something which will infect anyone else in my household (and which will hopefully pass quickly).

Because "hoping I just have food poisoning" is pretty typical of what passes for holiday optimism in the new normal around here.

"The barf bags were hung by the chimney with care..."


Huzzah! I made it through the night with no recurrence of vomiting nor any other symptoms of illness. So apparently all I had was my latest lesson in humility and gratitude - a reminder that things really COULD be worse. All the chores that have recently felt like hard labor will today feel like a gift because I can do them. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Tizzy the Season

The only thing better than a hospital Christmas tree is pretty much anything else
I'm not even going to try to be clever about this update (and I'll pause for a moment for some of you to express shock that I thought I'd been clever in the past) because I'm parceling out my remaining neurons the way unreformed Scrooge resisted doling out farthings, shillings, and ha'pennies.

Medically speaking, this is a big week for the Jarlsberg family. Either today or Tuesday (probably), Kathy will be sprung from the hospital after completing another grueling round of chemo. She will come home to recover and regain strength, while needing to return to the hospital every 3 days for an infusion of platelets and red blood cells that her body won't be able to produce sufficiently for a while.

Meanwhile, at 7:30 am Tuesday morning (we arrive hours earlier), Daughter J will have the surgery to remove the vastly oversized ovarian cyst that has become problematic (to put it mildly). The surgery will take at least two hours and is the subject of much nervousness around here, as the cyst has cleverly wedged itself into tight quarters with lots of important viscera that are scalpel-averse. Following the procedure, she'll remain in the hospital for two or three days and then come home to recover further for 4-6 weeks. During which time she'll probably be thinking about tattoo designs capable of disguising a long vertical scar. 

My job during all of this will be to shuttle the women between hospitals, visit during visiting hours, wring my hands in waiting rooms and, once everyone is home, fetch the bedside commode for whomever most needs it at the moment.

Overall our moods are pretty good, but we're looking forward to future Christmases that are considerably less stressful. Until then, this is another very sincere request for your good thoughts, positive vibes, and prayers to help get us through all of this. It's worked so far, so we don't want to mess with a good thing. And as always, thank you for being there for me and my family!


I'm culling a number of seemingly outdated or abandoned email addresses from my email list. If you stop getting emails from me (you should always get an email alerting you to new content here), then please click on the sign-up link to add your address again. Thanks!

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Holly And The I.V.

December has arrived, there's a bite to the air, and on the radio Bing Crosby is crooning "I'm Dreaming Of A Medically Invasive Christmas."

Or at least, that's sort of how it feels around the Jarlsberg household at the moment. We've done an itty-bitty bit of Christmas decorating, but 90% of our stuff (including the tree) is going to have to wait until next year. 

In general, things are going fine here. Kathy is feeling the best and strongest that she's felt in some time, which makes it likely that at today's doctor visit she'll be told that it's time for another round of chemo to nip that "feeling good" thing in the bud. Seriously, we'll find out if she'll be having a 3-day round of chemo later this week or if it will happen the week after. 

A few weeks after she completes that chemo, she'll likely have her gall bladder removed, and a few weeks after that get her stem cell transplant. Which will be a very big deal and which I'll talk more about in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, daughter Jarlsberg is scheduled for her watermelon-ectomy (removal of a giant ovarian cyst) early next week. We don't know yet how much overlap there will be in medical procedures, hospital stays, and at-home recoveries, but it's likely to be a juggling act. If necessary, there are friends and family members who've offered to help out. Which is much appreciated even though they're probably all teeming with the omicron virus or whatever infectious new variant from Hell we can thank Tony Fauci and the Wuhan Institute of Breaking the Whole Frigging World for.

Still, we've never been more aware of all the things and people we have to be grateful for and that's a pretty good place to be on the Christmas spirit scale.

But please, more surprises!

johnny optimism, medical, humor, sick, jokes, boy, wheelchair, doctors, hospital, stilton jarlsberg, transplant team, advent calendar, christmas, holiday