My CANCER Adventure Book

Mostly my real time journal and blog posts plus photos and other information that is meant to be inspirational for someone else going through cancer, especially my specific Parotid Tumor Cancer with 68 pages and 87 photos, including a few of my nature posts during that time. 🙂

I also emphasize the value of nature in healing for me. And the title “True Grit” is explained in the book and on back cover, kind of funny! 🙂

You can see a free electronic preview at Or click the cover image below:

Me in front of Radiation Machine on book cover.

You can also browse through all my nature photo books while in the bookstore or click on Bookstore on the menu bar above.

¡Pura Vida!

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!

Report on Surgery

It is Wednesday afternoon and I got home about noon today from Hospital La Católica in downtown San Jose, our big, busy congested city and National Capital, about an hour and half drive in reality, though most people say about an hour. 🙂 I have no car and thus use my regular drivers here for the hospital trips.

Total Parotidectomy

A parotidectomy is the surgical excision (removal) of the parotid gland, the major and largest of the salivary glands. The procedure is most typically performed due to neoplasms (tumors), which are growths of rapidly and abnormally dividing cells. Neoplasms can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). ~Wikipedia

Note that this was the official surgery but the growth extended into the lymph nodes in my neck which were also removed. And I came home with a drainage tube coming out of the left side of my neck.

The best specialists for my problems

I am convinced that I had the best cancer surgeon for this job in Dr. Christian Hernández who specializes in only cancers in the head an neck. He also used a super gerontologist for my pre-op exams and then when we developed a side-affect with the severed nerve he brought in a lady ophthalmologist who may be the best in the country to help with my left eye problem which I will try to explain below.

A Nearly 7-hour Surgery

He said more than 6.5 hours or nearly seven hours and was very tedious going the full length of the left side of my face. He did the kind of thing you might expect from a younger doctor, while explaining it to me he pulls out his cell phone with brilliant blood red photos of what he found in the parotid gland, pointing out a section of the facial nerve that was surrounded by tumor and could not be saved. (No, I don’t have the photo to show.) Then he followed the tumor down to the lymph nodes which he said is a common occurrence. He believes he removed every bit of it but can’t say for positive that it is or isn’t cancer until the biopsy report next week.

A Bad Photo of what I look like right now

Face after removal of salivary gland & lymph nodes.

Cancer? Probably – Know with Biopsy Next Week

He has seen enough of these to believe it is a cancer and one of two types, but will not know for sure until the biopsy report he will explain to me next week. And if what he thinks it is the additional treatment will not be chemo but radiation therapy called radioterapia here. Thus I will know more specifics next week. In the meantime it is what it is.

How do I feel?

Is what everyone asks and it almost seems like a “loaded question” to me, but I will still try to explain. With that long a surgery I was in and out of sleep all day Monday and into the night when I think I became more aware of things and that my left eye would not close. The only pain I’ve had thus far has been what feels like a “sore throat.” Pain medication has kept me from hurting.

Tuesday I slowly got back to “normal” or at least eating soft food and having bodily functions. I felt pretty good when they wheel-chaired me to the adjacent office building to see the ophthalmologist though she did a couple of things to my eyes that hurt a little, she was finding out that the only nerve in my eye that seems to be not functioning is one of those that helps control the eyelid and we may be able to work with other nerves to get it to close naturally again.

The other problem is the facial nerve controls the left side of my mouth and smile, so Dr. Hernández said I now have a “Texas Smile,” with the lips turning up only on the right side, or maybe a one-sided smirk? The surgeon says that some mouth exercises may help left the left side of my smile and help with managing the food in my mouth which I now can’t control on the left side, making it slower and more difficult to eat! Got to fix that! 🙂

And of course the left side of my face is swollen now and for a few more days.

But I’m generally in good spirits and hopeful for a more functional recovery of everything. And I will keep you posted on this blog.

¡Pura Vida!

Staying Positive When Cancer Comes

Since I was a high school boy when Mom gave me that book The Power of Positive Thinking for Young People by Norman Vincent Peale, I have made being positive a part of my life philosophy and really a part of my personal faith in God and the act of following Jesus.

It is kind of like happiness, it is inside you and you actually decide to be happy or not I believe. Then when bad things happen or come to your life, you make the best of them and keep on living. That is what I did for 20 years of a very difficult marriage while she was never happy and I was always happy in spite of the situation. Likewise with those overlapping years of a special needs child with autism and another rebel child. One survives by staying positive and finding the good things and opportunities, even within the bad!

Now don’t jump to conclusions – I’m not announcing my imminent death by cancer! 🙂

What has been for several years little skin cancers all over my body may have grown deeper roots or a separate and totally different cancer may have come that is more complicated.

New Adventure Started February 11

Not sure what to expect, I kept a journal of what was happening on one of the “static pages” or non-blog-post pages of my website and called it FIRST RAMPANT FEELINGS ON POSSIBLE CANCER. Kind of long.

The Latest Diagnosis

All those appointments and diagnostic tests lead to this current summary diagnosis with more detail in the online journal:

  • I have a tumor inside the salivary gland between my left ear and left eye that has grown fairly rapidly to around 3 X 4 cm now.
  • Though the needle biopsy indicates it is almost certainly a type of cancer only removing it will tell us for positive. Outside chance of no cancer. Prayers appreciated! 🙂
  • Surgery is scheduled for 15 March at Hospital La Católica in San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Dr. Christian Hernández Mena is my oncologist and surgeon – terrific in every way!
  • After surgery, a full biopsy is done, and the exact type of cancer determined, I could be receiving radiation and yes going bald! 🙂 More reports after surgery!

My Blog and Travel Plans Continue

I had to postpone my March trip to Tambor Bay, but hopefully by the time of my planned May return to Arenal, I will be able to travel just like always if radiation schedules don’t interfere! 🙂

For any readers who are also facing cancer, I want to recommend the following website and encourage you to stay positive and continue life as I will with the same kind of travel and nature blog posts right here at Retired in Costa Rica!

How to Keep a Positive Attitude With Cancer

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.”

—Dalai Lama

¡Pura Vida!