The Luck Of The Irish

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and Justin and I went downtown to Lou’s for lunch and to drink some green beer. Lou’s and the entire area were packed. Justin knew the bartender so we got good service with our drinks. Lou’s is right across the street from the Intrust Bank Arena where the NCAA Tournament was being played. Getting food was impossible. So we had beer for lunch. Not the first time that has happened. Of course Justin forgot to grab some cash when we left the house so dad had the tab. I did not care. I had not seen him in a month and I was just glad he was home for the weekend. We needed to talk. He leaves Monday.

Last night I went with my good friends Lindsey and Deann to the tournament. The games were great and the conversations were even better.

Lindsey, Deann and I

We watched KU hold on to beat Seton Hall and then saw the shot of the night to end the Michigan game. A last nanosecond three for the win.  Exciting! I would describe the shot, but I am sure you saw it.

I was a Michigan fan for the night. I had them picked in my bracket to defeat Houston. Not that it probably mattered since my bracket was officially busted. I had picked Virginia to win it all. Damn.

The Michigan player who took that shot must have been feeling the Luck of the Irish this St. Patties Day. Maybe he had been at Lou’s earlier drinking green beer listening to the bagpipes?

Deann and Lindsey

All I know is that I also could use a change of luck. As the saying goes if it weren’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all. I am even part Irish. The Sheridan clan came to America years ago from Ireland. I have a little Leprechaun in me. Please no short jokes. I have heard them all.

If I am ever able to capture a Leprechaun at the end of a rainbow I would not be interested in his pot of gold. Rather my wish or change in my Irish Luck would be for better health.

In December I was experiencing pain in my ribs. I went to my primary care doctor and x-rays were taken. He reviewed and showed me the x-ray. He pointed to a dark spot on the x-ray in the area where I was having the most pain. He said that what we were looking at was a tumor.

You could hear a pin drop in that room when those words came out of his mouth.

No one said a word, but everyone in that room was thinking the same thing and knew what that news might mean.

With many advanced prostate cancer (PC) patients a natural progression for the disease is that it metastasizes into the bone. The hips, spine, and ribs are three of the disease’s favorite places to travel.

Most of stage 4 PC patients will have their cancer eventually metastasize into their bones. Prognosis at that time is very bad. Most die within just a few years.

That is what was racing through my mind as well as everyone else’s.

The doctor told me that I needed to see my oncologist ASAP.

It was getting close to Christmas and my oncologist was on vacation. I finally got a call from his office while I was in Houston the day of the Tiger’s bowl game. The game sucked. Enough said about that.

They wanted me at the hospital that afternoon for a CT scan. Sorry folks no can do. We scheduled the scan for the day after we got back.

The CT scan confirmed the tumor. I was told that I would need surgery, and I was given the names of several surgeons. I made appointments with a few of them for interviews.

Now this is where it actually got fun. I interviewed the first doctor on January 9th. That was a blast. I would gladly see him again and pay the $40 co-pay just to laugh. That was 30 minutes of my time well spent.

The first thing he told me was that he had gone over my history and he commented that I had been through a lot the last few years. WHAT…WHAT did he just say. He had been over my history. He knew what I had been through. I liked him.

My experience is that does not happen that often. Hell, it took a couple of visits with my PCP before he stopped asking why I was on the medications I was taking. Dah, doc I told you the last time that I have cancer. Read the damn chart. Finally I got pissed. He remembered me the next time.

The surgeon asked about my work. He asked what was my favorite cop show? I told him Barney Miller.

He told me that was funny because his favorite medical show was also a comedy, Scrubs.

He then started rattling off Scrubs dialogue that he had memorized.   “Everything comes down to your poo! From the top of your head to the bottom of your shoe, we can figure out what is wrong with you by looking at your poo!” He was a funny guy.

Then he made a comment of how true that statement was in medicine. I was wondering if he wanted a poo sample. He did not. I was relieved. HAHA

We talked about the surgery and as we talked he let me know that he was probably not the person for this particular type of surgery. He was a general surgeon and he said that I needed a thoracic surgeon. Whatever the hell that was. He did explain to me the issues and what would be done. It did not sound very pleasant. He gave me a name and made a call to set up an appointment so that I could see the doctor ASAP. It helps to know people.

So a couple of days later I saw the thoracic surgeon. I was wearing my usual attire which consisted of a MIZZOU hoodie and a Cardinals t-shirt.

He saw the t-shirt and we started talking baseball. He had sharpened his skills (you like that) for three or four years at Washington University in St. Louis. I liked the guy.

He described the surgery and explained that a few ribs would most likely be taken out as well as some surrounding tissue. He would reconstruct the area with some sort of fake ribs. These fake ribs would then keep what is in my chest cavity in place and not leak out of the hole where the ribs were.

I think he was going to use something like a little McCulloch chainsaw to cut them out then weld them in there or something like that. I do not exactly remember. Christy could not be at that appointment. That is her job to remember and understand this stuff. All I remember is that he was not sure if I would be able to play softball this summer. I no longer liked this man. He was all business. Not as funny as the poo doctor.

Then he got even more serious. He told me that he believed that the tumor in my rib was the spread of my cancer. He said that he wanted me to have a bone scan to see if I had any additional tumors. He said that he suspected that I did. He said that if the bone scan found any additional tumors that he would not operate. He said if more were found that surgery was not going to help me. He felt that more tumors would be coming.

I told him that I wanted to get things started as soon as possible, because the last week of February we were going on vacation to Hawaii. I wanted to be fully recovered.

He then told me that I would not be going to Hawaii if I had the surgery now. I told him that I would not have the surgery if it was going to stop me from going on vacation. I told him that everything would have to be put on hold until we returned. He asked that I have the bone scan soon, but understood my desire to wait on the surgery.

He then asked me if I was having any pain in my ribs on the left side of my body. I looked at him and paused for a moment and then told him no. That was a lie.

I saw the surgeon on January 11th. I had recently started having some discomfort in the ribs on my left side. It was just a slight nuisance discomfort. Nothing like what I was having on my right side.   I had been keeping that a secret. No one knew. Not even Christy.

I told him no because I did not want Brutus to win. I did not want Brutus to keep us from going to Hawaii. Let me tell you about Brutus.

Last fall we had a “Name Kev’s Cancer” party at Erin’s in Olathe. I was growing tired of saying the word cancer or calling it my disease. It needed a name. Christy came up with “Brutus.” I loved it. I thought of the Popeye cartoon and his nemesis Brutus. Brutus was big and ugly just like I envisioned cancer. Popeye was always able to save Olive Oyl from Brutus by eating his spinach. Hey I like spinach, and I like girls. Perfect.

Christy did not know about the cartoon. She tells me that she did not grow up a mush brained TV addict like I did so she did not know who Popeye, Brutus, Olive Oyl or Wimpy were. Poor child. She came up with Brutus by looking up names for dogs.

So around the family whenever I start talking about Brutus they know what I am talking about. Now you do as well.

I was concerned that if I told the doctor about my left side that he, my oncologist, wife, kids, mother, friends, the dog would want me to cancel the trip and get this resolved. The problem with that in my mind was that I did not know where that might take us. I was concerned that this might be my only opportunity to take this trip. In a worst case scenario things might go bad. I was going to Hawaii. So for once I kept my mouth shut.

The scan was scheduled and he would contact me when he had the results. I got to thinking about that scan. I was convincing myself that what was causing pain and discomfort in my ribs was not cancer. It just had to be something else and therefore that scan was going to be a waste of time.

I later called the doctors nurse and canceled the scan. I told her that I felt that the scan was not going to find anything.

I then told her that if the doctor was right that I did not want to know before going on vacation. I did not want that hanging over our head. I wanted to have some time away and not think about troubles.

I told her not to call me that I would call her. Maybe then I could get away with not having the scan at all. Not a chance. Christy made me call the nurse a week before we left for Hawaii to get the scan scheduled. Damn.

So I call and the nurse wants to know when we get back. I tell her that we will be back February 28th or maybe March 1st. So she tells me to be at St. Francis Hospital radiology department at 8:00 A.M. on Friday March 2nd. Hey I am still on vacation that Friday and I do not want to be at any hospital that early. She said 8:00 A.M. Damn.

When this process first started my oncologist wanted me to have chemo after the radiation treatments were over. We agreed that I would have chemo treatments in like September or October. I was later able to dodge chemo by going on a zytiga/lupron cocktail of drugs. Lovely stuff, NOT!! Anyway chemo was supposed to be for 18 weeks so when looking over the calendar it was supposed to end the first part of February.

I told Christy that we needed to take a trip. We talked about the one place we each most wanted to go in our lifetimes. Mine was Alaska. Hers was Hawaii. So Hawaii it was. Now we did discuss it for maybe a few minutes. I had to admit that Alaska in February might be a little cold. We will do Alaska another time.

We arrived in Hawaii on February 21st. We had a great time. If you have not been there I would recommend that you go. Take a raincoat.

I ask that you not wait until you are sick or have an incurable disease. I have to admit that if it were not for Brutus we would not have taken the trip. It was a trip that we had talked about someday taking in the future. For me the future is now.

I was in Missouri last October and I went to dinner with one of my college roommates and his wife. Greg told me that he was a little envious of me in that I had just gotten back from a trip to the Pacific Northwest and we were making plans to go other places. I was trying to do what he would like to do.

Greg, just do it. People let’s get off butts and make living a priority.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions are searched for.

-Dr. Maya Angelou

This quote sums up my feelings about the trip. Unfortunately the problems still exist. When we returned from paradise they had to be confronted.

We had flown out of the KCI Airport and when we returned we were able to take Cammy off of Erin and Steven’s hands and take him home with us. The kids would then drive down and spend the weekend with us.

Got home March 1st and who knew a two year old could wear you out so much. I loved it.

March 2nd I went to the hospital and had the dye shot into my body at 8:00 A.M. They told me to return around 11:30 for the scan. I had to wait for the dye to be taken into my bones before the scan. I went home and got Cammy and took him to the office. He is a babe magnet. Better than a puppy. They loved him there. We were wearing our matching Hawaiian shirts.

Took him home and went back to the hospital. There they put me into the machine and the fun began.

When finished I was taken out of the tube and I walked over to where the tech was looking at the pictures.

In the images I could see a large black mass on the right side of my body in my ribs. The unfortunate thing was that I could also see a smaller black mass in the ribs on my left side.

Another tumor! Damn!

I guess I would not have to tell anyone about the discomfort on my left side. It was easy to see in the picture.

The surgeon was right and I was wrong. Imagine that. I was still glad that I did not have the scan done before the trip. I now had to go see my oncologist.

Dr. O first started off my visit talking about my most recent lab results. The numbers were looking good and I was due for another Lupron shot the beginning of April. He told me that a person in my position should be on continuous hormone treatments. I should stay on Lupron until the cancer had developed an immunity to the drug.

This was going to be a lovely meeting.

I told him that I would not do that. That I was going off Lupron and that there was no way I would take that drug continuously. He said that for me the standard of care was to stay on continuous Lupron. The standard care for whom? Obviously not me. I do not like Lupron Sam I am. I told Dr. O that when the numbers start to go up and reach a certain level we can once again discuss Lupron, but I was done for now. He asked if I would be willing to stay on the drug for at least six more months. I said nope. I should have told him that I was tired of buying Adele CD’s every time I went to Target or Walmart. Damn hormone therapy. Next item on our agenda please.

We then moved onto the pleasant topic of the possible tumors. He started talking about surgery, radiation, and more drugs. I was thinking stop, stop, and stop! This could not be happening, but it was.

I should not have tumors in my bones now. Yes at some point that most likely will happen, but not now. The cancer should not spread while my numbers were going down on Lupron. At least that is the theory. My numbers were going down indicating that the cancer was slowing down. It should not be spreading. This could not be happening and it must be something else. Maybe they are benign tumors. Maybe it is a totally different cancer. I do not know but if in fact I do have PC tumors in my bones that would be very bad news.

You see it is suppose to take several years for that to happen. Then when it does you have to face the reality that you might only have a short time left.

Brutus had escaped my gland and had infected my lymph nodes and gotten into my lymphatic system and maybe into my bloodstream. Brutus was circulating my body looking for a home. It loves the red blood cells inside bones and will often become a homesteader there. But this was not supposed to happen now. My scans from 15 months ago showed none of this. If this is true then I have a very, very aggressive cancer. I cannot think that this is true. I do not want to think this is actually happening.

Dr. O was also stumped. He agreed that this should not be happening while on treatments, but that in some cases it does. Damn.

I asked him if he thought that what was showing up on the scans was a spread of my cancer. He said that he did not know. Damn.

He said that we needed to find out and the only way to do that was to have it surgically removed and biopsied. He wanted me to have surgery. He said that they would be unable to do a needle biopsy and surgery was my only option. Damn. Damn.

No Dr. O there is another option, and that is to say “fuck it” and take my ball and go home.

You see I have not had the best of luck when it has come to medical advice. Yes I have confidence in the people I have chosen, but they are people. They make mistakes.

Let me tell you about my first doctor and provide you with a little Kevology.

When this process first started Dr. Richard Little (not his real name) told me that I was stage one and what I had was very curable. Well DICK!! was wrong. I so wanted him to be right. I fired DICK!!

I was told after surgery that they had gotten all the cancer. That doctor was wrong. Again I so wanted him to be right.

Today I want so badly for my doctors to be wrong.

I no longer consider myself a patient of any of my doctors. Yes I am a cancer patient, but I am not their patient. I am their employer. I no longer blindly take their recommendations. They tell me what they think and I make a decision on what will happen. What I feel is right for me.

The problem I run into is that my medical team cannot agree on what should be done. I get different advice from each doctor. My oncologist and urologist seldom agree on my treatments. I listen to each and then make a decision. Sometimes I split the baby down the middle by taking pieces of advice from each. Neither is happy.

I did follow DICK blindly at the start of this process. I thought that the doctors knew best and had all the answers. I admit that I also liked what I was hearing, and that was I did not need surgery. Under DICKS guidance I waited over a year to have surgery. That was a big mistake that I hope does not cost me my life. Always get a second or third opinion. When something does not feel right get more answers. Maybe another day I will go into more detail about that experience with DICK!! and his misdiagnosis.

Dr. O did not want to take a guess or give a probability about what was in my ribs. He just said that we needed to find out and if it was the spread of my cancer then we had some treatment options.

When he said “I don’t know” I thought about the ball team I was putting together. The conversation should have gone like this:

Dr. O: I don’t know.

Me: You know my third basemen?

Dr. O: Who?

Me: No doc, Who is our first basemen.

Dr: Who is on first.

Me: That is what I am telling you doc.

Dr: What?

Me: No doc, What is our second basemen.

Dr: I don’t care.

Me: Doc! Pay attention! I Don’t Care he plays short.

I could go on but I won’t. Sometimes I feel stuck in a vaudeville act. Or wish that I was.

One thing I do know about baseball is that many hitters guess at what pitch they think the pitcher will throw. Doctors are like guess hitters and Brutus is on the mound.

Of course the hitter and doctor are making educated guesses, but still guessing.

The early stages which would be like Class A or AA baseball in which Brutus might not have that many pitches he can command. You can sit on the fastball in fastball counts. Doctors can handle Brutus.

When he advances to AAA (stage 3) or the show (stage 4) he becomes much more difficult to hit. He has many more pitches and gets you off balance. Doctors have a much more difficult time in identifying his pitches.

So right now I am up to bat and Brutus has gotten a couple of quick strikes on me. I am trying to get into his head and I yell out that he pitches like a girl. He is not happy. I am guessing that he will throw something off speed to the outside of the plate.

I dig in waiting on the curve. I am going to Altuve that pitch deep into the seats. Altuve is one of my favorite non Cardinal players. I gotta root for the short guy.

I step out and just like the Babe and Hamilton ‘Ham’ Porter I point to center field letting Brutus know where I am planning on launching his pitch.

I dig in and move closer to the plate. The windup, the pitch, and I am now leaning out over the plate. Brutus is pissed and so he did not throw me his curve. He threw a high and tight fastball. I cannot get out of the way in time and the pitch hits me in the ribs. Hurts a little, but I do not show Brutus that it hurts. I take my base letting Brutus know that I will later get another at bat.

My medical team will now get their chance to bat. I hope they guess right this time and can knock me around for the score.

Dr. O sends me back to the thoracic surgeon. I have learned that this type of surgeon specializes in the organs within your chest. This doctor’s primary specialty is lung cancer.

Dr. TS tells me that he has talked with Dr. O and that Dr. O wants to be very aggressive in finding out what exactly is in my ribs. He will operate even though another tumor has been found.

The doctor will first check with a radiologist to see if there is any chance that they might be able to get a needle into the bone for a biopsy sample. If they can try then we will do that to avoid the surgery. If the needle biopsy is positive then he will not operate. If negative he has to assume that they missed the target and surgery it is.

I can tell that he thinks my cancer has spread and he would rather not cut me open. He will do it because Dr. O has to be 100% certain what it is.

He is going on vacation so the surgery will be scheduled for the first week of April. I guess since I made them wait six weeks they can make me wait two more. I really am in no hurry. Hopefully the needle biopsy can be done next week.

That gives me a few weeks to think this over. I am not sure I want surgery. What if it is something else and the surgery was not needed at all?

If it is cancer will I gain a benefit from treatments now or would later make that much difference? What will my prognosis be with and without surgery? These are the questions I will soon be asking Dr. O. I have about ten days to give a final answer on the surgery.

You see I do not want to be like the pig in the farmer’s joke. You know the joke right? Okay here it is.

A man notices a three legged pig running around the farm so he asks the farmer what was up with that pig. The farmer explains that was a very special pig almost like a member of the family. He had warned them when their house was on fire and they all got out alive. He said a pig like that you do not eat all at once.

I feel like that pig. This would be my third surgery in twenty months. When will they stop? What might they want to cut out next? I do not know. I do not think they know either.

I am confident that this is nothing. The tumor or lesion or whatever they want to call it will turn out to be nothing. I am concerned that to prove that I am okay they have to cut me open, another mutilation.

I hope at some point my Irish luck will change and we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I just hope that it is not the light from the proverbial train.

I will post, or I should say Erin will post when we have the answers. I wanted to wait until everything was done, but I have been getting to many questions about how I am doing.

Hope this helps.   It has helped me.

Kevin

3 thoughts on “The Luck Of The Irish

  1. Kevin..
    I can’t imagine going down the road you have traveled in the past few years, but I love reading your posts that include humor and your honest feelings about Brutus! While reading, I have tears when thinking about all the emotions you are experiencing, along with Cristy, Justin, Erin and Amy! I’ve always loved your family and know they’ll be there for you every step. Keep writing – love your updates! Glad you made your trip to Hawaii. Praying for you and your family.

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  2. Well seeing as how there are alot of dumb IRISH jokes here is one that ended a persons dumb joke. What is balck and blue and upside down in the Irish sea? The person who told a stupid Irish Joke. HA. Take care. 🙂

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  3. Kevin,
    I love you my friend! Love your honesty and passion. When I was going thru Brutus (it’s great that you’ve named the beast) treatment, people would comment about how brave I was. I didn’t see it. I was just trying to focus on what needed to be done. After reading your post, I now totally understand their brave comments. You are brave my friend. Thanks for sharing your experience. Sharon

    Like

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