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! 🙂
. . . and so am I, almost! I’m redder or pinker now on my face from the radiation 🙂 and also ripe at the point of being almost finished. Today, Tuesday, I lack only 2 more radiation treatments, meaning I’m finished by noon Thursday! Yay! Starting Thursday afternoon I’m home to stay for at least 5 weeks before I have a trip planned. And hoping I have some taste and swallowing ability back by then (the lodge food is said to be excellent!), though my doc says to not count on the taste totally returning that soon. She says it can take up to 6 months for some people to have it totally but gain it little by little, week by week. Since my radiation was only on the left side of my mouth, maybe I will get it back sooner. Hoping! 🙂
The red berries are on the big tree at the hotel that had been yellow berries for weeks but now red, ripe and ready for the birds and other creatures! The blue or black berries below are in a yard I walk by everyday to and from the clinic and Walter, my driver, says they are sweet and if people can pick them before the birds and animals, they add them to dishes for sweetness or just eat as berries.
Well, that second adjective is probably not used correctly, but I like alliterations! 🙂
By the end of the third week of radiation I am more tired than ever. And none of my food has a taste or very much of one. Over the weekend a neighbor brought me a spicy soup that had more flavor than most things now. And this is perfectly normal as radiation progresses. But they say in 5 or 6 weeks after completing treatments I will regain my taste. And I’m also sleeping later and later every morning with even nap in the day.
The photo was made by the technicians (their photo coming tomorrow) of me right after I completed the treatment Friday and put my shirt back on but no mask or eye patch! Just the one-sided smile! 🙂
I promised somebody I would show what my daily process of a few minutes looks like, as pitiful as I look shirtless. One of the young technicians made these three (requested) shots of me screwed to the table for the radiation treatment. I show up each morning by 11:45 and I’m walking back to the hotel by 12 noon usually. Quick and mostly painless (though the mask is really tight on my face). It appears more scientific than human, but believe me, the staff are all so friendly and nice and do their various jobs very proficiently. And they all shift to English when I walk in, though not their native language. Amazing! And I use my elementary Spanish with them as I am able, though not necessary here like at the public clinics and hospitals.
One outside person told me that this clinic is equal to Mayo Clinic in the states for Radiotherapy. I feel like I’m in very good hands. My radio doctor will conference with me every Tuesday until finished and work with me on any side effects, etc. And a nurse is always there plus other doctors always in the building. A very professional place that in fact does remind me a little of being in the Mayo Clinic with my brother Jerry, just not as big! 🙂
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.
UPDATE: 23 April – She did not remove the stitches today. She first said she would remove just 2 of the 3, leaving one to help protect from radiation. But because she used nothing for pain, I flinched and she said she would not remove them at all for now, saying I have a “low tolerance for pain” and I think she has a low sympathy level! 🙂 She was also very painful to me at beginning of surgery. So now she will wait until after radiotherapy and try again in June. Hmmm. 🙂 Permanent stitches? — But the Good News: both eyes are doing very well and she is pleased with the surgery results. I’m already using my left eye more than 6 to 8 hours a day, so progress even if I have a low pain tolerance! 🙂
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! 🙂
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! 🙂
Yesterday, Tuesday, 23 March, was my big meeting with Dr. Hernández, post-surgery (though I had one earlier visit to remove the drainage tube). Here’s what we did and discussed for over an hour. And by the way, all the doctors here take as much time as needed and never rush you, yet they are very punctual with appointments, meaning that most allow an hour or more per patient for consultations. Compared to the states, better service for a fraction of the cost.
Removed the Bandages
Though we actually talked first, this was one of the reasons for this post-op visit included in the price of the surgery.
He is a young surgeon proud of his ability to provide “scarless” facial surgery by closing up the incision with “internal stitches” that I don’t understand, but there were no stitches for him to remove, just the bandages over the line that still shows right now, but will not later as it heals.
Sorry that my “selfie” doesn’t show it better, but he cut me from in front of and above my ear all the way down my neck to nearly the chin, all on the left side.
Then if it doesn’t gross you out, he peeled back the left cheek skin and cleared out all the tumor he could find, including the whole salivary gland and a part of my facial nerve, then put my face back together again. He said that when the swelling goes down, I will look younger on the left side because he stretched the skin tighter or smoother. 🙂 Like an 80 year man cares! 🙂
The Biopsy Report
He shows or explains everything to me on his large-screen computer monitor including photos of the actual tumor whole and when sliced to show what was inside. Then I receive a 3-page printed version of the biopsy including photos (only 1st page at right) but this version is en español which I roughly understand but he promised to send me an English version soon. Expats are more trouble as patients! 🙂
As expected all along but confirmed by this biopsy, it is cancer – invasive epidermoid carcinoma (translation of Spanish “carcinoma epidermoide invasor”). This is the same diagnosis as the skin cancer removed from my left cheek in 2019 by MOHS surgery which is supposed to assure one that all the cancer is removed. So much for MOHS! 🙂 Dr. Hernández said it is possible that a “root” or even a tiny piece of the original carcinoma on the surface was left in the cheek and it grows fast or matastisizes into the tumor that was not found earlier because of staying home for the coronavirus It was a large tumor, 4.5 X 3 cm.
Radiotherapy Follow Up
For the second time, a surgeon believes he “got it all” but that can never be guaranteed and the closest to a sure way is to follow up with radiotherapy. Thus I already have an appointment this Friday with “the best radiation therapist for head and neck” in Costa Rica, another female doctor who is “the best.” She works for 21st Century Radiotherapy, the only private company doing radiation. (None of the private hospitals do. They send patients to this company.) The only other radiation treatment available in Costa Rica is with the Social Security or Public Health at Hospital Mexico, where I had my angiogram. It would be “free” with my national health plan but Dr. Hernaández says they are too slow and could take months or a year to work me in while this private company can get started within a month or6 weeks which he says is essential for a spreading cancer. And of course that is a private doctor speaking. 🙂
But he also said that Dra. Bonilla would know if public health could get to me soon enough and she might be able to work that out, otherwise I will use my “MediSmart” medical discount card for up to 50% off the regular charge at 21st Century. But we are still talking thousands of dollars and me with no insurance. So Friday will be the next big decision time on this latest adventure.
I fully expect to deplete my saving a bunch more (Getting low already!) and have the radiation done with the private company, but will explore every reasonable option with the public health radiation. So another report Saturday on that! 🙂
And About the Eye and the Mouth
I have an appointment with the Ophathamologist in two weeks to discuss a surgical procedure she has done before that partially closes the eye lid and may allow me to have more use of my eye , where now I just keep it covered all the time. It will not bring the blinking back but possibly more use of the left eye.
The mouth will improve somewhat in time – months – but never back to totally normal. I might regain some muscle use on the left side to help with eating and maybe a less exaggerated lopsided smile. We will see! 🙂
And another little amusing side effect, I just learn that when I wrinkle my brow, it wrinkles only on the right side! 🙂
As Doris Day sang when I was a kid . . .
Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
And the feature image is another shot of my favorite Triquitraque Flowers still blooming! 🙂