Earth Day Hope

Wherever there are birds, there is hope.”

~Mehmet Murat ildan

And of course this is just one of the many birds who have brought hope to my terrace here in Atenas, Costa Rica – A Keel-billed Toucan in my Cecropia Tree (link to my Keel-billed Gallery). There is hope that the big rich nations are waking up to global warming and their long-time destruction of our planet. And there’s hope in the battle against my destructive cancer. Below is my update of activities that finally make it possible to begin Radiotherapy Monday.

Second Covid Shot this Morning

Quick and painless. I walk into the temporary vaccination clinic ahead of my 8 AM appointment, paperwork done quickly with shot even quicker and I was out of there before my appointment time. 🙂 I walked home, having taken a taxi to the clinic. With my knee no longer hurting I’m back into walking more and hopefully every day during radiation, though I will have to wear the big wide-brimmed hat they tell me! I must avoid sun during radiation.

Tomorrow Morning Stitches Removed

Tomorrow (Friday) morning at 9 AM I see my Ophthalmologist in San Jose who will remove the two stitches from my left eyelid and supposedly this is going too help me use my left eye for longer periods of time without an eye patch. So far I’ve gone up to 6 to 8 hours at a time without covering it. Reading tires it out more than general activities like kitchen work or even a little TV. I seldom watch more than an hour a day, if that much. For Earth Day I found a special on the internet streaming channel Curiosity Stream for wonderful nature documentaries and signed up for a year at just $10 or $2 more than one month of Netflix here. I will probably drop Netflix again. Seen all their documentaries I care about and the rest is mostly junk.

Got off subject there! 🙂 I assume the eyelid will stay partly closed now when the stitches are removed since she did something to make the top and bottom grow together at one corner. But, FYI, my left eyelid will never blink again or fully close.

Radiation Starts Monday

This coming Monday, 26 April, I get my first radiotherapy in San Jose and daily Monday to Friday for six weeks or through June 4. They were not comfortable with all these other overlapping medical appointments plus needed the time this week to prepare for my targeted treatments. She is studying all the reports on both of my left cheek surgeries, the earlier “skin cancer” one and the big one March 15 including biopsies, etc. to help her target all remaining bits of possible cancer. My future is sort of in her skilled hands. 🙂 Dr. Bonilla is both an oncologist and radiologist and my surgeon says the best here.

I’m still bargaining with hotels near the radiation center but hoping for the Best Western with four nearby restaurants and hope to schedule that today. I plan to spend Monday to Thursday nights there and back in Atenas Friday-Sunday nights. I will be giving regular updates from San Jose starting next week which I hope will be interlaced with some nature reports also! 🙂

¡Pura Vida!

More Raintrees

Looking out of my living room front window during a hard rain today (so glad rainy season is here!), the big tree is a Strangler Fig Tree with an unknown smaller one beside it plus a strangled one and then on this side is the tall, skinny Ylang-ylang Tree still growing up through the canopy of the larger trees. And all much wetter than the photo shows! 🙂 See also my May 11 “Rain Trees” post for a different look at wet trees! 🙂

My Front Window View in the Rain with the street a temporary river! 🙂

Plus I’m “A Marked Man” for Radiation

Continue reading “More Raintrees”

The Healing of Nature

“Nature itself is the best physician.”

~Hippocrates

I missed getting photos of the beautiful Squirrel Cuckoo, Brown Jay, Chachalacas I saw, and the Toucan my neighbor saw in my tree, but here’s 3 snaps from this morning that bring me back to my reason for retiring in Costa Rica – NATURE! 🙂

Rufous-naped Wren
Nance Tree blooms rapidly fading.
Variegated Squirrel

Come to the woods for here is rest.

– John Muir

¡Pura Vida!

And my radiotherapy MRI & CT Scan have been postponed to later in the week. Dr. Bonilla called and said she felt I needed to rest after the eye surgery. 🙂 Amazing sensitivity!

Don Carlos

The honorific title of “Don” (“Doña” for older women) started in Europe for royalty and leaders of honor in Spain, Italy and Portugal, while today in Latin America it is a term of respect and endearment for senior adults. Since I started my cancer treatments, most of the different doctor offices call me Don Charlie, Don Charles or now my oncologist office lady always calls me Don Carlos. It is kind of nice to have the respect shown and helps to keep you from feeling sorry for yourself. 🙂 Respect for the elderly in Cosat Rica is everywhere!

Report on Today’s Two Doctor Appointments

Like with so many doctor appointments, both gave follow-up appointments with the biggest being with my Ophthalmologist who is doing minor outpatient eye surgery on my left eye this Friday right after the dentist appointment. It is one of her standard procedures to partially close the eyelid that won’t blink or close on its own. It will be down to a kind of permanent squint so the eye doesn’t dry out and water so much like now AND most likely I will no longer need to wear an eye patch! AND I will be able to see with both eyes (particularly helps depth perception). Both eyes are still 20/20 vision so I still don’t need glasses, though over-the-counter reading glasses (magnifying) is okay and sometimes needed for someone my age. I’ve especially needed them while reading with one eye only the last couple of weeks. And maybe the best part, her special ophthalmology operating room is in Ciudad Colon on the Atenas side of San Jose, meaning a shorter drive! 🙂

It was important to squeeze this in before radiation starts to avoid more damage from the radiation. It is like they are rebuilding my body.

And the oncology surgeon just checked the incisions and swelling which is visibly going down now, but can take a month or more. This skin is less and less sensitive in that area. But it could take up to a year before back to “normal.”

¡Pura Vida!

Another Gauntlet of Doctors

This happened the week before my cancer surgery and now it has started again two weeks before the beginning of my radiation treatments – tiring – hard to keep up with – but necessary!

1. Today, First of 3 Dental Appointments

Those who have experienced radiation know that you cannot have any dental work done after radiation for a long time, especially no tooth pulled because the radiation does something to keep the hole from a pulled tooth from healing. Hopefully none will need to be pulled! 🙂

  • Today (Monday) – teeth cleaned and checked out with two tiny cavities found visually that she will fill this Friday. She also ordered a panoramic X-ray of my teeth from the Dental Radiologist one block away where I went next to make my appointment.
  • Thursday – Teeth X-rayed when I will take the resulting X-ray back to Dr. Karina for her to study and see if there are other problems we should take care of before radiation.
  • Friday – I return to Dr. Karina for the two known fillings and anything else she finds on the x-rays.

2. Tomorrow, Tuesday – Appointment with Ophthalmologist

This is Dr. Raquel Benavides whom I saw in the hospital and Dr. Hernandez (my oncology surgeon) recommends to see if anything can be done to help my eyelid that will not close now or blink. He thinks she can “stich” the eyelid mostly closed to a sort of squint so that I will not have to keep it covered and can still see with it. Hmmm, I’m not convinced of that yet but maybe she will convince me or have some other solution other than an eyepatch. I’ll find out tomorrow and expect almost anything to come after radiation is completed.

3. Tomorrow, Tuesday – Appointment with Oncology Surgeon

This will be my 3rd “follow-up” or “post-op” visit to the surgeon, Dr. Christian Hernández. He wants to check on the healing of the long incision and the swelling on my left face and neck. Plus he said he wants to hear what the Ophthalmologist says. 🙂 He must not have a mouth specialist friend who can fix one-sided smiles! 🙂 He encouraged me earlier to go ahead and shave on the left side, but because it is tender and sensitive I only lightly run the electric razor over the left cheek and even more lightly on the left side of my neck which is more swollen and more sensitive. So I am not back to normal yet, skin-wise. The pain is less now in the ear and jaw, but still some and I’m now taking an over the counter acetaphetamine locally popular called Panadol.

4. Wednesday – Seeing my Dermatologist as Pre-scheduled

The last time I saw him, Dr. Roberto Gamboa, was when he sent me to Dr. Hernández to take care of the tumor which I will now have to tell him came from that skin cancer he removed in MOHS surgery which is supposed to mean they got it all. Well . . . cancer roots go deep! At that last visit he also treated a little skin cancer on my upper lip which was a black spot on my lip in some of my cancer selfie photos. (I was putting a very expensive anti-cancer medication on it once a day for 20 days.) That scab is gone now and supposedly the little cancer there. Of course he will be checking for any more and he often burns bumps off my skin with nitrogen. He is also my “traveling buddy” who likes nature lodges all over Costa Rica like me. He is the one who recommended Bosque del Cabo Lodge where I’m going the first week of July and earlier got me hooked on El Silencio Lodge I’ve visited twice now! Hopefully he finds no new skin cancers this visit. And maybe the best thing is that he is located in nearby Alajuela rather than far-away San Jose! 🙂 A much quicker and easier drive!

5. Next Monday – MRI at the Lindora Campus of Hospital Metropolitano

This MRI is for the Radiotherapists to help them target the cancer cells in my head, especially in the nerves since the cancer was in the left facial nerve. The best thing about this is that it is in a suburb on this side of San Jose, Lindora, and secondly in the only hospital that takes my Medismart Card for a big discount, as does the Radioterapia Siglo XXI I’m using and thus they are sort of Medismart partners. 🙂 It will take only about an hour with a little less than an hour each way traveling, so not as tiring as going to San Jose.

6. Next Tuesday – CT Scan and Mask-making at Radioterapia Siglo XXI

I assume that the MRI and CT Scan show different things that they need, thus I’m getting both in preparation for the radiotherapy. Both of these will be in San Jose at the Radioterapia Siglo XXI building where I will spend a lot of time the next month and a half.

7. Begin Radiotherapy in San Jose

This is the long-haul treatment of cancer, radiotherapy 5 days a week for 6 weeks and they guarantee that you will be tired at the end – enough so that they encourage you to plan no activities for the following 4 week or in my case, the month of June. It will take place in central or north-central San Jose at Radioterapia Siglo XXI, the only private radiation company in Costa Rica with only one place for the public healthcare patients to get it at Hospital Mexico. I chose to pay for private because it could be quicker, with often very long waits in the public healthcare system and because my oncologist strongly recommended it because of the size of the cancer.

As I shared in an earlier post, I am now planning to travel to San Jose each Monday and return to Atenas on Fridays, staying in a hotel near the therapy location. Even though someone else will be driving, I dislike the long, high-traffic drive that at peaks can be 2 hours between Atenas and San Jose. As long as I feel like it, I will even add a tour or two each week to something of interest in San Jose like some wonderful museums and parks plus history and architecture that interests me and may give photo ops, though many museums restrict photographs. Otherwise I will be pampered with all meals, room cleaning, Wifi, and hotel gardens to relax in between treatments. I will try to turn radiation into a relaxed and colorful, tropical vacation in the center of Costa Rica! 🙂

¡Pura Vida!

1st Covid Shot – No April Fool’s Joke!

Today (April 1) is the day that our local Atenas Public Clinic & Social Security had scheduled me for the Coronavirus COVID19 Vaccination at 1 PM and I got it right on time! I earlier asked the radiation doctor if the vaccine would be any conflict with what they will be doing and was told “no”, thus continued as scheduled.

In Costa Rica they started vaccinating with healthcare workers and first responders, then the many here in their 100’s, the 90’s and 80’s, just now getting to us who are exactly 80 year olds this week. So when I got to the clinic they sent me around back to a storage building that had been converted into a vaccination clinic and joined about 10 or so other 80-year-olds waiting for their vaccination too. Quick and totally painless. One of the easiest shots I ever received and a guy nurse did it! I had earlier said that girl nurses give more gentle shots, but not over this guy! 🙂 And we are getting the Pfizer type here in Atenas if that matters to anyone. They brought the shots in one at a time in a little hand cooler from the big freezer, quickly jabbed me, and asked me to wait 5 minutes for any reaction – none! My arm is not even sore! 🙂

In a Storage Building Behind the Clinic
Covid Vaccination Clinic

My vaccination card showed that I had the first shot today and that my second one is scheduled for 22 April. I asked if I could get my second shot before beginning radiation on the 19th? The poor guy went all over the place trying to find someone with the authority to change my second appointment. Finally he told me that he was sorry, but I would have to reschedule it through the Clinic by calling them (en español). I handled all of the above in my limited español, but I never do good on the phone, so I will see if Radioterapia can call them and reschedule it as an official medical person speaking Spanish.

My New Vaccination Card with only Covid on it.

Front, folded
Inside, opened

On the way home I stopped by the Farmacia for some more stick-on eye patches (I’ve internet-ordered some better black cloth ones), got some groceries before all shuts down for Easter and then grabbed a Grande Nachos from Donde Bocha and on home. I ate my nachos and then a neighbor stopped by with two desserts for my Easter Weekend and now the day is nearly gone! 🙂 And that is what a big day is like for an old man retired in Costa Rica! 🙂

¡Pura Vida!

Radiation – The Next Adventure

For the last few days or so everything has been a “moving target” for me with an initial consultation with the radiation doctor explaining everything medically and checking me out and now we are putting a plan together with her staff and on the calendar, plus I’ve arranged to pay for it. And oh yes, this doctor is a specialist in radiation to the head and neck! 🙂 Hopefully my surgery neck swelling will soon be gone and the tender scars on my left face and neck healed better than they are now. I’m still sore and sensitive with only minor internal pain that I treat with Ibuprofen. They prefer these surgery “irritations” gone before they create new ones with radiation! 🙂

Below is their 3-step plan AND

“My Plan to Make it Fun.” 🙂

Continue reading “Radiation – The Next Adventure”

Got My Vaccination Appointment!

They have been calling people for Covid Vaccination Appointments by age, starting with the many people here in their 100’s down through the 90’s and 80’s until they just got to me at age 80 for an April 1 appointment! Yaaaaaay! BUT . . . will it make a difference that I’m about to start radiation? I don’t know! But I will find out tomorrow when I discuss everything with the logistics person at Radioterapia Siglo XI. I hope there is no conflict, but with my second shot due during my radiation treatment, I’m wondering if they will conflict. If so, we will do whatever is necessary and get it when we can. Just another little bump in the road! 🙂

I know that people much younger than me in the states have already gotten both shots and they are just getting to my first shot here. Why? Because rich countries like the U.S. can get anything that money buys quicker! You are approaching 200 million people vaccinated in the U.S. and little Costa Rica just passed 300 thousand. I just read that another 300 thousand doses have arrived this week so we will slowly catch up with a very efficient system that had healthcare and other first responders first, then everyone else by age, oldest first. We all get it from our local public health clinic, with all shots provided by the government.

National Geographic Joins Tik Tok with First Post a Costa Rica Video

That’s according to this article in Tico Times Online. “National Geographic launches TikTok with video of Costa Rica” To view, click on the second video in this article. The first video is a Tico Times promo video. 🙂 You’ll know the difference! 🙂

National Geographic photo of Green Macaw, Manzanillo, Costa Rica — Yes, I have a similar photo from the same place, just not as good as Nat Geo’s! 🙂

You can be sure that Nat Geo knows where to find nature and adventure! 🙂 And of course Costa Rica is the best place in the world! 🙂

¡Pura Vida!