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Health Update: First Consult With Surgeon

For background: I had a pulmonary embolism in February 2023, as told in these articles: Part One, Part Two

The bleeding I had already scheduled a colonoscopy to look at (which was going to happen in May) got my colonoscopy moved up, and it happened last week as told here.

So, today I saw the in-system colorectal surgeon. It’s not great news.

We will certainly have to remove a length of my colon and intestine. I had hoped that would not be the case. But at least after this, I’ll have a whole new set of “I haven’t got the guts” puns available.

Ideally, I’d get reconnected during that surgery, but my blood supply may not allow it. Which would mean a (hopefully temporary) ostomy bag, but it may not be possible to reach through the fat of my abdomen to hook that up. We wouldn’t know if those could be done until in surgery, and if neither could there’s no good solution. Like, that might mean my death. So for those of you who have accused me of being full of shit, be aware that’s come back to bite me in the ass.

And the surgery really needs to be all-and-done within 2 months, which is not enough time for me to lose enough weight to change the odds on those. Also, the surgeon strongly feels the need for imaging — CAT scans and MRI — so we can determine what stage my cancer is at. So the various doctor’s offices are seeking a facility that can accommodate me. That may well not be in Oklahoma, which means a road trip… with a thrombosis (blood clot in leg), which would make such a trip slow (with frequent stops), and extra-exhausting.

So, yeah, the fact that I am more obese than the health care system is set up for may be the death of me. If so, prepare for a headstone with a giant raised middle finger on it.

These factors mean the surgeon in the health care system I’ve been using isn’t sure his team can handle my case. I may need to transfer my care to the OU health system, which has more facilities and colorectal surgeons. I am likely to be intubated after surgery and placed in an ICU, and OU has better options for that.

I have yet more doctor visits this week, including an oncologist, and after those my surgeon and PCP and oncologist will talk, and form a plan for next steps, which is very likely to include transferring my care to OU, which will mean another round of consultations. The good news is, I now have great excuses of getting out of anything else I don’t feel like doing this week. “Oh, I WOULD clean the gutters, but you know. Cancer. Maybe next week.”

Also, the ongoing need for blood thinners complicates things. The surgeon also made it clear no matter what we do, the process will be “pretty high risk,” which obviously isn’t good news. I remain in high spirits, but admit that weighs on me. But I’m a gamer, I know the odds aren’t everything. I’ve rolled a crit when I needed it before, I’m not giving up on the idea I will again.

I’ll continue to update as new info comes in.

The main way to support me right now is the Bundle of Holding deal offering multiple Pathfinder 2nd ed adventures, which runs through Wed March 22nd. Of course, you can also join or increase your pledge level at my Patreon, or make a direct contribution at my Ko-Fi.

Health Update: Stubbing Your Toe When You Have Cancer

So, let’s start with a short summary of my recent health issues:

In December 2022 I got a respiratory infection.

In January 2023, that became pneumonia.

I had a pulmonary embolism in February 2023, as told in these articles: Part One, Part Two

That brought up a lot of trauma linked to my cPTSD, as told here.

The bleeding I had already scheduled a colonoscopy to look at (which was going to happen in May) got my colonoscopy moved up, and it happened last week as told here.

The biopsy came back on the almost-certainly cancerous polyps, and it’s official. As of March 2023, I have cancer.

We’re working on a plan of care. The medical bills are already piling up, and given I now need to do a slew more testing, see a passel of additional doctors (and there may be a partridge and a pear tree involved in the process at some point,) and then eventually undergo surgery complicated by the conflicting requirements of having to stay on blood thinners through August (or I might die), getting the tumors removed immediately (or I might die), and definitely not being able to have surgery while on blood thinners (or I might die), the cost is going to rise.

Right now my main plan for raising money to cover those bills is this great offer from Bundle of Holding. (The Bundle runs through March 22, 223) It’s a set of amazing adventures by veteran, fan-favorite adventure-writer Ron Lundeen, who was a Paizo Developer and Managing Developer, and now works at Wizards of the Coast. I’ll highlight just two of the adventures — The Skaldwood Blight takes PCs from 1st to 20th level (and includes all the monster stat blocks you need in the adventure itself), and Night of the Skulltaker has a solo edition, which you can play by yourself.

Plus, of course, buying the bundle or spreading that link around helps me pay for my medical care.

So, having brought people up to speed — what’s the deal with having cancer and stubbing your toe?

Well, the general point is that having huge, life-changing, potentially lethal problems come into your life doesn’t in any way reduce the odds you’ll have one of life’s more minor annoyances come along as well.

So, imagine you have cancer. That’s terrible and obviously eats up a lot of your mental bandwidth And then if you stub your toe, that still hurts, and is likely to have you jumping around cursing like a cartoon character because, yes, malignant rebel cells of your own tissue are trying to trench-run-against-the-Death-Star your ass from the inside, but some motherfucker put an ottoman right where your foot was going.

In my first few days back from the hospital for my embolism, I got a rash on my unmentionables. (Okay, I guess technically I just mentioned them, but the closest I am going to get into details here is to go with euphemisms that give me plausible deniability, like “snarglies,” or “The Soggy Bottom Boys.”) That required careful diagnosis, because you can pick stuff up when stuck in the hospital for several days. Ultimately it was ID’d as just one of those insignificant indignities human bodies visit upon us sometimes. Apply Doctor’s Snargly’s Unmentionable Cream twice a day, and it’ll clear up.

I mean, fine.

Now during this time, I was still having trouble just breathing, and even adjusting my position in bed was exhausting, I was trying to recover from the most horrifying medical experience I’d ever had while following complex and sometimes conflicting rules of aftercare to make sure I didn’t have a stroke, and logically the tiny additional discomfort and inconvenience of a rash, even in a no-fly zone, should barely have registered on my quality-of-life meter.

But instead, I kept redlining.

This rash felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back, and kept breaking it every few hours for days, like some kind of Batman villain that was a one-trick-back-breaking pony and needed 52 variant covers of camel-back-breaking to convince fans it was a new major plot development and the camels wouldn’t all be fine within 12 issues, and you should buy 14 of each variant because someday they’ll be worth big bucks like the first Superman comic and won’t everyone look stupid when you prove all your hobbies weren’t useless wastes of money but actually savvy investing and hey at least you have physical objects in exchange for you money if even the Camelbreaker was a stupid villain but it’s not as bad as buying NFTs with Crypto and everyone said Frank was smart when he told us how much money he’d made doing that last Thanksgiving and anyway it wasn’t your fault the cream of wheat casserole you brought to that family meal was cold by the time it got served and Frank just brought a bucket of fried chicken from a drive-thru and Aunt Karen had kept that warm in the oven so it was still delicious when everyone dug in and screw him.

Okay, that analogy may have gotten away from me, but you get the point.

So the rash cleared up (thanks Doctor Snargly!), and I got a cancer diagnosis, and surely that was going to be my number one medical concern for the foreseeable future, right?

And, big-picture, it is.

Small picture, I got an ear infection. It’s painful, and annoying, and not only stuffs up my ear so it’s hard to hear, it also makes it impossible for me to wear my hearing aids (hurts too much) so I really, really can’t hear well. And now it’s spread to both ears. Which means it’s just me locked inside my skull with the wailing alarm of my tinnitus and throbbing pain and…

Camelbreaker II — This Time It’s A Haystack. (Yeah, I know, it’s still a dumb analogy. But at least this time it’s shorter.)

I’ve dealt with dozens of ear infections in my life. I know this is temporary, I know how to treat it. (Prescription ear drops… which gets tricky when you need them in both ears since the applied ear needs to be kept tilted up and you can’t do that to both ears at once and yes, I can do one ear and then the other but the doctor says to keep the ear I just applied drops to tilted up for at least an hour and now it’s two hours for the two ears and the drops are twice a day so that’s four hours and also I have to elevate my legs above and beyond times when I am sleeping no less than twice a day for an hour each time and I can’t do that until I lay flat on my back so that’s 6 hours a day that requires me to be a specific position and that’s 42 hours a week OH MY GOD I NOW HAVE A FULL-TIME JOB LAYING IN WEIRD POSITIONS IN BED AND I DON’T EVEN HAVE AN ONLYFANS PAGE TO POST ANY OF THIS TO!)

But it’s harder, now. My personal endurance and calm are already frazzled from recovering from the pulmonary embolism while dealing with the cancer diagnosis. Things like stubbing my toe don’t normally take a big part of my physical or mental reserves, but the total amount of psychic and biological energy these minor ailments require isn’t reduced just because I have cancer. So, suddenly, cold sores, hangnails, papercuts, and other ailments that Doctor Snargly makes strong-smelling, oily creams and salves for have gone from taking a tiny amount of my current reserves, to eating up a big chunk of the tiny amount energy I have left.

Now, normally I wouldn’t have a rash and a double-ear-infection back-to-back like this. This may just be bad timing, or it may be the stresses of the embolism, hospitalization, difficult recovery, and suffering through (most of) a colonoscopy with no anesthesia or painkiller wore me out so I got sick more easily. Or, of course, my entire immune system may be compromised, and it may only get worse from here.

I have a strong support system, and remain confident that ultimately this will all just be fodder for my autobiography. But for now?

It turns out that when you have cancer, stubbing your toe is a bigger deal than you’d think.

Methods of Support
So, a lot of people have offered a lot of support, and I deeply, deeply appreciate it. Currently my primary plan is this Bundle of Holding offer, which runs through March 22. In addition to buying the bundle if that’s your thing, you can boost and share it on social media, which is a huge help. I may end up needing to turn to extraordinary measures, such as a GoFundMe, but I won’t be doing that until I know for certain I have to.

If you want alternative for offering support, I won’t refuse it. You can join or increase your membership tier at my Patreon, or if you prefer do one-time support through my Ko-Fi.

Thanks, folks.