VIEW FROM THE RIDGE
OK, I get it. The general thought on any issue is that about 5 percent or less of people will complain to the powers to be and the other 95 percent will sit on their hands and grumble among themselves. So when several of my friends wondered why I had not written anything lately, they suggested that I bring everyone up to date on what ever progress I am making in recovering from the surgery and radiation. To be honest, I still am reluctant to write about myself, but the fact is – that is the only place my mind has been for the last six months. It has been 8 weeks since I last wrote, 8 weeks since we left Portland and our last visit with the doctors. And that is where we are back to today as I write this – back in Portland, back to the doctor.
Over the last eight weeks there have been some improvements in some areas of my health, none in others. Two or three weeks after we left Portland and returned home I caught a cold. That was one of my fears, that I would catch a cold and not know it because of the already existing head congestion and stuffiness. Therefore, when it became obvious, it was near terminal. Well, not really but it sure felt like it. The doctors put me on 500 mg of antibiotics three times a day and 65 mg. of Sudafed three times a day for 10 days. That meant adding a two o’clock pill taking time to my daily schedule, like I needed something else to worry about. Well, that got rid of the cold, but there was something still blocking my nasal passages and I was still having difficulty breathing through my nose. Difficult as in virtually impossible.
Sleep has been fitful to put it mildly. Lacking the ability to breathe through my nose means sleeping with my mouth open, which leads to a dry mouth and throat and the tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth. Since saliva acts as a preventative against tooth decay, I have been advised to use a fluoride rinse three times a day. There have been nights where I was up more than I slept. I use a saline flush to try and clean out my nasal passages four or five times a day. It has, for the most part, not been successful. But even when it is, the congestion and stuffiness returns within an hour or two. The drainage has decreased significantly, but is still present. The frustration of trying to breath and not being able to is wearing on me. It dominates my every waking moment, making it difficult to concentrate on other priorities, almost impossible to think ahead. And that, my friends, is what brings us full circle back to Portland and the surgeon.
It is not that things have gotten worse. It is that there has not been any progress in getting better. It has been eight weeks and I expected to see some improvement. So today, July 13th, we saw Dr. Gross and he also was concerned that things had not improved at least some. He cleaned out a bunch of gunk and scoped both sides. He said that both nasal passages are healing nicely, that the right side (non-surgery side) is not responding as quickly as he would like, but that happens sometimes. The radiation my have affected it more than they would have liked. But it will get better, in time, and in its own good time.
As for the left side, where the surgery and radiation took place, it also is healing nicely, there is no evidence of any new growths, but there is scaring and some of that scaring is growing together, which narrows the air passage. Add drainage from somewhere in the sinuses and you have blockage. Therefore we are now beginning a two week regimen of antibiotics and steroids to clean out the sinuses. Four weeks from now we will be back here for a CAT scan of the sinuses and an exam to see where we are and what progress, if any, has happened. At that time they will determine if I will need to have sinus surgery in addition to some minor surgery to deal with the scar tissue that is forming.
On any appointment the nurse weighs you before taking you to an exam room. Being a numbers person, and curious to boot, I asked her what the difference in weight was since my last visit. She looked on the computer, whipped around with a startled look on her face and said “10 lbs. in 8 weeks! Are you trying to lose weight?” I told her no, but I wasn’t fighting it either since I still have some reserve that I could do without. I’m down to 172 and will not worry about it until I hit 165; then we’ll level off.
Eating has definitely been a problem. While some of my taste sensors have returned, it is not perfect. Lack of appetite has been a concern and I find my self eating at least something because I know I have to. Skipped meals have happened on occasion, but usually I force myself to eat. Once in a while I actually enjoy it, but it has been rare.
Then there are the energy and stamina issues to deal with. But since there is no energy, there is nothing to deal with, right? I wish! When we first got home, I could barely play 9 holes of golf, riding in a cart. It took about four attempts before I got where I could play 18 with a cart. Now I can either play 18 or walk 18 but I can’t do both. The last two weeks I have played well on the front 9 scoring in the high thirties, only to run out of gas on the back 9 and shoot mid to high forties. Yesterday Jeri and I played nine holes before heading for Portland. I shot 39, and was glad we were done, because I was not capable of playing another nine. I have been able to do some work around the yard and farm, but after about an hour, I am done and need to go back to the house for an hour or two. This does not concern me because the doctors have told me that it would take a year or two to recover from the surgery and radiation. It has only been eight weeks, so, as hard as it is, I need to be patient. I also know that I need to push myself in order to gain strength and stamina, but I also have to be smart about it and not push too hard. That ain’t easy for a type A personality.
It has not been easy watching other people do things for me. It is a humbling experience and it makes me feel old. Oh, wait, I am old! Well, it makes me feel older than I am. The last two years, before all this happened, I felt really good, was playing the best golf of my life and felt 10 years younger than I am. Now, I feel 10 more than I am, or maybe just as old as I really am. Hard to tell.
I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and his frustration with a physical ailment. I am not worthy to have my name on the same page as Paul or Job, but I am able to relate to what they also had to deal with as far as physical limitations are concerned, and how humbling these limitations can be.
2Co 12:5-10 So I will boast about this man (Christ) ---but I will not boast about myself, except the things that show how weak I am. If I wanted to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will not boast, because I do not want any of you to have a higher opinion of me than you have as a result of what you have seen me do and heard me say. But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan's messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: "My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak." I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am not where Paul was as far as being happy and content with the present circumstances, but I think I am getting close. I may be weak now, but I am looking forward to being strong again in Christ. Thank you all again for your prayers and thoughts. Jeri and I treasure all of you.