Sunday, March 27, 2011

Catching up with the cat: Visit to inlaws provides added inspiration in midst of GF Strong rehab

This is going to sting a little for some of you I imagine.
I'm a cat lover now.
It was never the plan. It just happened. Carol-Ann told me early on (I think it was right after "Hi, my name is Carol-Ann") that her cat Figaro was a keeper no matter what, and I slowly began to bond with her old gal. Consider this: Figaro and I are both slow moving, we both don't like people scratching our bellies and we both hang on Carol-Ann's every word.
A dog lover from an early age, I quickly became one of the guys I used to mock.
So, when you consider that we moved Figaro to Carol-Ann's folks' when this whole Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour-back surgery rigmarole started in November and I hadn't seen her since then, Saturday's visit to Ron and Verna's was a big, emotional deal.
Figaro is dealing with her own medical issues now, with a weepy eye. Carol-Ann and her folks are taking her to a specialist on Friday. Figaro is 13 years old now, so using anaesthetic on her isn't ideal, but it may have to happen to figure out what's going on.
Other than the eye, though, she looked good. She purred like usual, her fur looked normal. I have to admit that seeing her gives me a little extra jump to get better.
I do feel like I'm improving. We had just started practising steps here at GF Strong this week, and I successfully managed four outside and two inside at Ron and Verna's.
I had to stand for several minutes while learning to play bridge on Friday, too. And Dr. Robert Lee and Dr. James Boyle, our spine and plastic surgeons, respectively, at VGH signed off on me using a manual wheel chair, instead of a power one, which will help with my overall endurance.
The week ended much better than it started, when I was far too wobbly while cooking my pork chops on Tuesday. (Pork chops good...mobility around the kitchen not so much, but I did learn a lot from my OT, Erin, about vegetables.)
Hopefully, I can parlay all that into a good week next week and get closer to going home with Carol-Ann and, of course, the cat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Bif Naked with love: My buddy meets my doctor and it's all about the shenanigans

Yesterday might have been the wackiest day in hospital or rehab. And, considering that I haven't been home since late November, that's a pretty good statement.
My buddy Bif Naked (shameless name drop) came by G.F. Strong to visit. She does that a few times a week; she's been integral in my recovery. My doctor team stopped by to check in, I introduced them to Bif (using her given name Beth) and didn't think too much of it.
My doctor team is headed up by Dr. K. It's just Dr. K, because no one seems to be able to pronounce his last name. He's Russian, but came to Canada 20 odd years ago. And he's stylish, even debonair (the first time I think I have used that word in copy, although it doesn't often come up in sports reporting). He's got these snazzy ties, and they always have a pocket handkerchief to match. The belt and the shoes are always the same colour.
To Steve-it-down, you could easily see  him hanging out with classy Igor Larionov, the former Vancouver Canuck centre. Dr. K would seem to be much more Beethoven than Bif Naked.
Sure enough, who searches out Beth and I in the lobby at GF but Dr. K. He explained that he didn't recognize her at first, but thinks she's a great singer and knows her music. Beth, without skipping a beat, replied, "Well, from Stevie, I'm starting to learn your 'music' and I like what you're doing."
It was that kind of day.
I ran into one of my first physiotherapists, Jackie, for the first time this visit. Jackie's a treat, once you figure her out.
The first time I met her, I thought it was going to be a standard chat. I eased back onto the bench, my arms behind me. She was stunned, "That's your posture? Really? This is rehab. This isn't some summer camp." All we did for the next 30 minutes was posture and she hammered me the second I feel out of form. We met for 40 minutes later in the day, and we did posture again. And when she told that she had a free 30 minutes again later that day, I told her that I would meet her, and I wanted to work posture. (My posture is still horrible, due to inactivity and surgeries, but it's much, much better than it was thanks to Jackie.)
And you know what? As soon as she figured out that I was willing to do the work, she was willing to do the work for me. I needed a new walker -- Jackie had it for me in two minutes. I wanted to learn transferring from a wheelchair to a car so I could go on a weekend drive -- Jackie was meeting me in the parking lot five minutes after I asked.
So, sure enough, I bumped into her yesterday. It wasn't "Hey, how been...I heard you had another surgery..." or something like that.
"So....[you're using] a power chair...what's with that?"
I laughed so hard. It was so Jackie. (Later on, she politicked hard to get me into a special balance class, which is also so Jackie.)
Also yesterday, Carol-Ann and I met with our radiation-oncologist, Dr. Morris, for the first time since November. He said that we wouldn't be finishing off our final five scheduled radiation sessions. He wanted to have some blood tests done, and would get back to me.
Today, I'm a little freaked out about my occupational therapy class, since I having to make pork chops and corn. The mobility is one thing, but I'm much more a BBQ guy than a kitchen guy as well.
Maybe I can bring Bif by as a distraction.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crush the Can with humour; trip to Giants' game has pal Kenward bringing up Moose Jaw fiasco

Starting Day 5, Part III at G.F. Strong, the Vancouver physical rehab centre, and have to admit that I'm feeling a little wonky. A good chunk of that could be that I was out last night for two periods at the Vancouver Giants-Kelowna Rockets' game.
After a bout with Solitary Plasmacytoma cancer and eight back surgeries, I'm still not ready for much excitement. We did watch the game from the stands, rather than the Giants' suite like last time with Carol-Ann and I, so that's a step. I was still worn out by the second intermission and wasn't the least little bit on getting caught up in the crowd afterwards, either.
En route to the game (I went with Carla "Solitary Plasmacytoma hater" McAloney, allowing Carol-Ann a hall pass to hang with her buddies) I got a text from Joey Kenward (somewhat shameless name drop) who was in Moose Jaw to celebrate the final days of the rink there, the Crushed Can.
Jo-Jo, being Jo-Jo, had to remind me of my most recent visit to the Can. (That's what the somewhat shameless name drop was for.) It was 2006, the Giants were wrapping up a four-game sweep of the Moose Jaw Warriors, and I had food poisoning and I had it bad.
It could have been worse. Once the symptoms started coming on after a questionable helping of chicken wings, I went straight to the team doc, who gave me some meds that seemed to work a little. (I knew to do this after failing in that regard after getting food poisoning during a Canucks' 2004 playoff game in Calgary. You really haven't been sick until you've been sick in a public washroom with drunk hockey fans. And that's all I really need to say about that.)
I did manage to pull off what I thought was a fairly entertaining pre-game radio interview. The rink had a pronounced dip in the middle, so from the pressbox on the north side you can't see the top eight rows of seats south side. Jo-Jo had always explained to me as "If the bus driver gets in a knife fight in row 15, I can't tell from the press box. I was getting to that part of the story and realized I couldn't use Joey's version, so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"If strippers were performing an act in Row 15, I wouldn't know from the press box."
Yeah, stay classy.
With all that, I wasn't out the woods from the sickness, though. By game time, I was probably stumbling around worse than I do now. (My walking, albeit with a walker has improved drastically of late.) After the game, when I went to get quotes, several players started chanting "Chicken Wings, Chicken Wings." They had obviously heard. Team captain Mark Fistric hadn't heard or had heard and didn't care because he picked me up in a bear hug, started carrying me around and said, "You're my're my dawg." (I'm a big dude now, but I was a bigger dude then. The fact some 19-year-old kid could do that scared me.)
By the time I finished my stories, I couldn't step up for long periods, so I had to crawl my way down the stairs and out of the stands.
Fast forward to today, I'm feeling as well as I've felt in months. I still get frustrated with how wobbly I am, but I'm trying to be patient. (I'm supposed to cook on Tuesday and stand for several minutes without any asssistance, and that's scaring me.)
We're on the Spine Floor this time, after being on the Brain Injury and Neuro-muscular floors on our past two trips, which means we get a whole new team of doctors, physios and occupational therapists. Everybody seems to be as ultra professional, just like the teams we've had here before.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Youth was serving: fresh-faced plastic surgeons lend hand in cancer comeback

Maybe they grow plastic surgeons real young around here. Or maybe they practice face lifts on each other.
Or maybe I am firmly an old fart.
Whatever the reason, my eighth surgery, a "flap," to help close the wound in my back, has made me aware of how many apparent young phenoms work in plastics at VGH. We've met a handful of surgeons leading up to and following my operation last Tuesday and, to be honest, I was continually left making Doogie Howser references. Of course, I made them only to myself and Carol-Ann, since this group probably never saw the TV show, which was in production from 1989-93.
In interest of full disclosure (my old favourite line makes a return), the treatment we've received from the plastics (as they are called)has been top shelf. They were very good about letting us know their A plan and their fallback strategy in case things didn't work initially.
Luckily for Carol-Ann and I, their idea came together on the first go. In fact, Carol-Ann says that plastics surgeon Dr. Boyle told her, "Things couldn't have gone better."
To Steve-it-down, the doctors took parts of my trapezius muscles and folded them to fill a void in the middle of my back, which was created by three infection washout surgeries. The infection was a result of needing a back reconstruction surgery just days after completing my 20th radiation treatment, which was due to a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumor camping out in my T-2 vertebrae. (My good friend Carla McAloney says that I don't have to mention the Solitary Plasmacytoma every blog. I say, "What does she have against a Solitary Plasmacytoma?" Or maybe
she doesn't appreciate new readers, ones who haven't heard about my Solitary Plasmacytoma? Or maybe doesn't like big words, like Solitary Plasmacytoma? Oh, Carla.)
Our spine surgeon, Dr. Robert Lee, tried to get the wound to close, but the combination of radiated skin and nothing behind it to stitch to made it impossible.
For what it is worth, this likely the most pain I've been in since the early stages of the Solitary Plasmacytoma (Take that, Snarla). The plastics say it's completely normal.
I should go back to GF Strong for a third try at rehab later this week hopefully.