Wednesday, October 31, 2012



That is the headline today here at our household.

And there is much rejoicing!

Let me back-fill the story over the last few days. They had been running tests down at VMSG since we took her down Monday evening, the most important was the CT scan. This morning was the first time we saw the results, as we both took the day off work and drove down to be with her prior to her scheduled surgery this afternoon. The surgeon showed us the hulk-leg in 3d from any angle....(modern medical technology is just amazing!). They still weren't sure exactly WHAT the mass was, but it was plain that there was a HUGE mass of something inside the thigh muscles, which were acting like a balloon containing said mass. The speculation was that it was a tumor of some sort (of unknown size and type, it could have literally been the size of a pencil eraser according to the surgeon) that had started bleeding, and the leg muscles contained it and the leg just ballooned out until the pressure was enough to stop the bleeding. The big surgical danger was when they opened it up to see just what was in there, the moment they relieved the pressure in that balloon it could start bleeding profusely, and she could bleed-out before they had a chance to find the source. Also of great scary possibility was that the tumor-type was a blood-vessel cancer (can't even say the name of that one, but suffice to say it sounds very scary!). If that was the case (and they wouldn't know until days after the surgery) then the final outcome would be very bad, as it is microscopic and already in the blood and spread throughout the body, and no matter what they did today it would come back somewhere else.

Here is what the leg looked like as of Monday afternoon (it has now been like this for going on 7 days). This picture doesn't do it justice as to the 'hulkiness' of the leg (to touch it is's HARD).

So the plan going into surgery was to open it up and see what was in there, and IF there was a way to remove the mass they would, however if at any time it started to bleed-out they would tourniquet the leg and amputate it, if that was even possible. Because that all depended on where the bleeding was from and if they could slow it enough (while adding massive amounts of blood to keep her alive). It was a very scary prognosis....but we both were visualizing her coming out of this and back home. I was very afraid that there was no way to save the leg (she hasn't had feeling in the foot for days now...the massive 'hulk-leg' syndrome has now been that way for 10 days). I was totally prepared for them to take the leg to save her life...she is such a fiesty little girl that she would have been a 3-legged terror, and I would have been thankful. Jeannie held out hope that they could save the leg and her life...and out-visualized me (THANK YOU JEANNIE!!).

We got the call from the surgeon about 3:30 this afternoon that she was out of surgery. They saw the mass appeared to be a HUGE clotted area of blood, and very carefully started sucking it out, looking for the source. They removed over 400ml of blood/clot, and found what she thought was a "Fatty tumor", along with one or 2 other possible tumor-things. They took biopsies of all and those will be back in a few days...if they are all benign (SP?) then we are living on cloud-9. But for now our little baby is out of surgery, and she has a drainage tube in her leg so they can monitor in case anything starts bleeding again. I know both Jeannie and were SO very happy to have this news...our little baby girl is going to come home in a few more days (they will keep her probably at least 3 or 4 more in the ICU).

HAPPY HALLOWEEN by the way! I know it's been on our WAY low on our priority list...we had pumpkins sitting outside, but if we had bad news then we were going to pull them inside and turn out the lights and hermit-up....knowing we would not be very good Halloween hosts for the kiddies. But after receiving our joyous news I quickly mowed the lawn (it had been neglected for 2 weeks now), scooped out the pumpkin guts, and we both carved them up. I thought it as funny that we both had the exact same motif this year: HAPPY PUMPKINS!

We truly will have a wonderful Halloween here!

And one final shot of our little PG taken a week ago Saturday (later in the day is when she started limping and the current dilemma began). Here she is 'helping' me as I am working in our back-yard/jungle. She loves it up there, and we are so happy that she will have more chances to play in the dirt!

And so....we wish you a happy Halloween, we WISH you a Happy Halloween, we WISH YOU a happy Halloween, and a HAPPY HALLOWEEEEENNNNN!

And we can breath again. It's been a very trying last 2 weeks or so.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Fast lane

Have you ever noticed that you can be cruising along in the middle-lane of life, minding your own business, enjoying things, and suddenly it's as if you are thrust into the fast-lane? That's what it feels like for us just now. It all started a week-ago today, though we didn't' know it at the time.

I was working in our back-yard...which has been a multi-month project of mine. You see, our back yard had been taken over by nature. It's a multi-level affair, and I've had the upper-reaches boarded off to the dogs for a few years now. I've also had the sprinklers turned off, hoping against hope that would do the trick and kill the evil invader (here-after known as the dreaded Morning Glory Vine from HELL). This vine was apparently planted on PURPOSE by the previous owners, and I've been fighting it on and off ever since we moved here in 2002. You see, this vine grows up, over, around and inside everything in it's path. It will smother any other type of tree or bush, wrapping it's way up branches in a candy-cane spiral until it's at the tippy-top, then it will spread out blanketing the poor under-growth so it doesn't get any sun. IF you pull on this vine, it simply breaks off at the ground. However, as it grows it continually dips back into the ground, forming ever more root-balls of death. You can rip, pull and shred until there is not a sprig left in sight, and 3 months later it has returned full force from the hidden root-balls.

Anyway, I digress, as the evil VINE FROM HELL isn't the topic of today's post, but it does have a minor part. As I mentioned earlier, I was working the yard last Saturday, and had taken down the doggie-barricade on the steps. PG (the Alpha of our 3 four-legged babies) goes up the steps and spends the day up there with me, reveling that she is trodding about in the forbidden zone. This has been our ritual for about 3 months now, as I have been spending one day each weekend trying to turn the jungle into a dirt-hill. (when I say it was a jungle, you have no idea how jungly a yard can get....but I'll tell you, I had to have seven endangered bengal tigers relocated as I razed the yard inch by inch).

And yet I digress again. SO. Last Saturday...working in the now nearly entirely dirt yard, finishing up the last octagant (if quadrant is one section of 4, then I think octagant should be one section of 8, even if it's not a real word). PG was enjoying herself, lying in the dirt watching me work as usual (her big contribution has been to drop a poo somewhere in the as-yet untouched areas so that I get that lovely surprise when I start clearing that area's always such a joy to get fresh squishy dog poo on you!) ANWYAY, later in the day I had noticed that she wasn't up there with me...she does get bored watching me work all day and will wander off to find a sunbeam to lie in...the life of a dog in our house is one to be coveted for sure. When I did see her later she was limping.

She was getting around on 3 legs all the rest of the afternoon/evening...but we had no idea what happened...but with 3 aging dogs (all three are approx 12 years old now), it seems somebody is always limping around here and there. This was her left rear leg, and other than the fact that she wasn't using it, there didn't appear to be any earth-shattering pain or anything associated with it. It's like she hardly noticed it, and it was life as dinner time when you make even the slightest clink of the bowls she hobbled right quick to the kitchen.

By Monday morning PG was still limping around. I was getting ready for work at O-dark-thirty as usual, and I had just gotten Jeannie up by coaxing her out of bed with a super-tanker of coffee...and as I was saying my good-byes to the babies I noticed her leg was swollen. And by swollen, I mean like incredible-hulk type swollen. It was HUGE! And I'm not kidding when I say it was twice the size of the other rear leg! I told Jeannie, and she promptly got her to our local vet as soon as they opened and dropped her off for the day as we both must work. During the day they did X rays, blood-work, poked and prodded, and whatever else they do. Nothing. No real clue as to what was the problem, other than her leg was HUGE, and hard...not quite ceramic hard, but FAR firmer than her other leg..and it was quite warm to the touch. And still she wasn't wimpering or bemoaning her fate, other than she was panting a lot.

I picked her up on my way home from work, and had a nice chat with the vet. There were several theories on the table, none more probable than any other at this point. We brought her back on Tuesday and again they did whatever they could, but the results were the same. So we brought her home with a few new prescriptions and directions to put a heating pad or hot towel on it for a few minutes every now and then. Well, by the time Friday rolled around her huge leg was HUGER! WAY HUGER! So Jeannie got her back in for the day again, and this time they had contacted a specialist who lives up north and he drove down and checked out our little baby. He also had no real idea, the ultrasounds showed some pockets of fluid, but overall there was nothing they could find as the matter, and none of them had ever seen anything like this.

So far we're in for $1150 and their best guess is that she was bitten by a Brown Recluse spider. They had shaved her leg on Friday, and it's bruising pretty good now in the swollen areas. There isn't any smoking gun as to an area that was the site of the bite (if there was a bite, they still say it could be a blood-clot or a tumor, however neither of those scenarios really hold water with the symptoms she is showing).

And as to how I feel like I'm in the fast lane, along with all our running-around for PG, on Friday I went in for a lovely 4 hour appointment with a periodontist. This is the guy who uses things like scalpels and such. I've been fighting some pockets in my gums for years now, and it was time to get it fixed. I was somewhat apprehensive after my pre-op appt, as one of the 2 prescriptions he gave me (for my recovery) was Tylenol 3. I'm no rocket-scientist here in the drug-prescription arena, but I know you don't get codeine for just anything. And THEN, in case that wasn't enough on my plate, on Saturday (this morning to be exact) I had an appt with a dermatologist. A few weeks ago I had FINALLY went in at Jeannie's urging to have some blotches looked at. He had taken 4 biopsies, and they were 4 for 4: basal cell cancer (NOT the scary kind).

And so, yesterday (Friday) while PG is at the vet waiting for the specialist, Jeannie drives me up to San Luis Obisbo for my oral surgery. He gave me some kind of sedative (via IV) just prior to the start...and then for the next FOUR HOURS I was in that chair, listening to the radio, trying not to freak out as I received shot after shot after shot (he did one quadrant at a time, so I'd get all the shots for that entire quadrant at one time).  I have not yet googled this surgery, mostly because I don't really want to know too much detail for a while yet. But the gist is he lowered my gum lines to a manageable level for my home care (brushing/flossing). I had gone to him in time that there is no risk of losing teeth at this bone-loss is just beginning and hopefully this will nip that in the bud. But I will tell you that even with a sedative it was one HELL of a long procedure...I could hear him cutting away the gums even though I couldn't feel them...and it was only the sedative that kept my mind from totally freaking out. And even as I lay there I kept thinking about my poor little PG, who quite honestly might be in danger of losing her leg, or her life.

Jeannie picked me up after the surgery, and I was pretty woozy and not at all pleased as the Novocain for the earlier quadrants had worn off and my entire mouth hurt. We stopped and picked up PG on the way home, and she was just as chipper as could be, despite the fact that her leg looked like a holiday ham, and was so swollen that she can't even hold it up any more...her foot is sticking almost straight down and hits the ground with every hobble-hop she makes. And not a peep out of her. I am SUCH a wuss!!

And then to make my life a trifecta of joy, this morning I got up and went for my skin cancer appt. He was very good, and gave me shots of pain killers in each spot (there were 5, and I hate to tell you, those shots HURT! Of the 5 cancers he was removing, only 2 are in an area that gets sun (on my arm). The rest are all in pasty white skin that hardly ever see's the light of day. My back, abdomen and chest to be exact. Once the injections were done he began, and from then on it was a piece of cake as compared to having your gums cut up and re-arranged (or whatever). The only disconcerting part was that after all the scraping and such, he uses an electrical device and cauterizes them so they not only stop bleeding, but kills off any remaining traces of the basal cell bad-guys that might have been missed. That is an odor you won't forget too soon I can tell you.

And so...I came home from that, and all day Jeannie and I have been doing our very best to help PG...we have ice-packs and wet towels frozen in the freezer, and every hour or so I take them and wrap up her hulk-leg in them as best I can, and I lie with her on the floor (or she will jump up and run)...we do this for 15 minutes at a time (I have a timer set). We're praying we can get the swelling down some, the vet says she has little to no feeling in the fat foot at the end of that holiday ham for a leg right touches down on the ground as she's hopping around, and it's toes-first... and then bends un-naturally backwards...much like Sydney was doing 2 years ago when she was paralyzed and learning to use her legs again.

And so this is our life at this very moment...I'm on a bunch of pills for now, PG is on a bunch of pills for now, the other 2 babies are on pills...and we have no idea how this will turn out for PG...though we are sure hopeful the swelling will just suddenly go down and everything will be ok. But for now it's all quite worrisome....being a parent is hard!

Right now it feels like I'm doing 55mph in a 70 zone...everything is a blur as life whips on by me, and I'm trying not to crash into anything or cause a crash. I hate this feeling...and on top of that, I haven't heard anything about the Antarctica project....and I don't know what that means. OH, and the furnace crapped out the other day, so we had the furnace guy out on Friday morning (in case there wasn't enough going on)...Jeannie got PG to the vet early and got home just in time for his arrival, and then I came home at 10:30 for my trip up north for surgery....she was a real trooper on Friday, that's for sure! The furnace guy said the main circuit board gave it up and has it on order...we have no idea how much THIS will cost, but it doesn't matter...we kind of need the furnace. And yes...we need more bills. But Jeannie has really been something thru all this...(she only partially bit my head off once last week) but I know it's killing her...she is a money-worrier (goes with the territory I guess...she's an accountant).

But you know what? It can ALWAYS be worse. And so, we are trudging along doing our best. Holding our little family together, watching money pour out of our checkbooks like water....but knowing that all in all we are still quite blessed. And that's the part I try to focus on. Right this very moment my mouth feels like Aerosmith had a party in it and tore it to ribbons...couches thrown out the windows, lamps shattered against the walls, carpet torn up, stuff like that....or maybe like a small bomb went off in there, and it hurts pretty much everywhere. For breakfast this morning I had the joy of cold coffee and a cold bowl of gruel (oatmeal)...I'm not allowed any hot food for 24 hours after the surgery. And as that wasn't quite enough I now have 5 burned-blobs on my body that also are crying for attention.

And yet I'm thankful...because it could be OH so much worse. But I will tell you this: getting older is a bitch! Don't do it I say! Nancy Reagan had it right..."just say NO!" I must not have been paying attention before...but I am now. NO MORE! I"m not getting ANY OLDER from here on out! And neither is Jeannie or the babies!

There...everything is better now (well, except for poor PG...that fight is still ongoing). You just have to know when to put your foot down I guess.

As for me, it's time for a beer. And maybe a bike ride tomorrow. For now I need to go ice down PG's big leg again for a while. She is so amazing, she awes me. We will pull ourselves out of our funk, of that I'm pretty confident.

So I say go do something fun! Life can turn on you in an instant! Enjoy every moment!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

From A to Z

 About  a year ago I was reading one of my companies newsletters (I work for Lockheed Martin), and one of my sister-divisions had won a big contract. A HUGE contract. It's to provide support for the Antarctic Project (Operation Deep Freeze). I recall after reading that bit that I emailed my manger and told him if they ever ask for help, I'm IN! careful what you wish for...last Wednesday I found out they are indeed asking for help, and on Thursday we had a meeting where we found out the details for all who were interested, and on Friday I submitted my resume to my department head (who then submitted it to their Program Manager for review). IF they have any jobs that call for my skills (electronics), I would expect they will be contacting me pronto. At that time they will discuss what the job is and the terms. If I accept then they will quickly arrange for a full physical and dental screening. This is to weed out any people who might have issues and need to return to the states for care...they try to avoid that as it's pretty expensive to evac people from the "Ice".

IF I am selected, it would be roughly a 4 month tour...mid-Nov thru Mid/late Feb, which coincides with the Antarctic summer. It's then that the population swells with researchers all trying to squeeze in their studies in the short summer, and my company needs to fill lots of positions to keep the place alive and running during the summer heydays.

LONG ago when I was a young Navy lad I tried and tried to get to McMurdo Station for a 1 year tour of duty. But it seems government is government no matter how stupid it seems. You see, every job in the Navy has a numeric code assigned to it. I was in a VERY small rating (job category), and even though I did the SAME EXACT job as 2 other Navy ratings, their codes were on the list for Antarctic duty, and mine was not. Try as I might, I could never get an exemption. And quite honestly, I NEVER thought the chance to go Antarctica would come up again.

Of course, IF it comes to pass that I get to go, it will be all thru the holidays... and we had plans. But I look at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Jeannie doesn't quite see it that way...though she certainly understands that we think totally different on many things. She would rather (and I quote) "jump off Diamond Head crater" (in Hawaii) than go to Antarctica...(because at least it would be WARM in Hawaii). I have no idea why I think it would be SO TOTALLY AWESOME to go down there (not sure about the FOUR month part...I'd think a few weeks would be ok too)...but it is what it is. I've met a few people who did tours there when I was in the Navy, which is most likely what sparked my interest I assume.

There are 3 stations that we support down there: McMurdo Station, Amandson-Scott South Pole Station (at the ACTUAL South Pole!!!!) and Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. To get to Palmer Station you fly thru the southern tip of Chili, and if you are going to either McMurdo or South Pole stations you go thru Christchurch New Zealand. I've always wanted to see New Zealand this is an opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone. And hey...they would be PAYING me to go! Oh, I almost forgot...there are also 2 research ships down there that we also I could also be assigned to one of those...which would most likely be pretty cool too (REALLY cool....the summer temps average between 0 and 10F...though it has gotten up into the 40's before). And obviously, the South Pole Station is always colder than the other 2, being as it's literally sitting on top of almost 2 miles of ice at an altitude of just under 9000', where-as McMurdo and Palmer stations are roughly at sea level.

Of course, there isn't a heck of a lot to do down there I gather (I've been told there are a few bikes though!)...but I've done 7 years on tiny ships after I got out of the Navy (they were USNS Surveillance ships, staffed by civilians)....including a few missions out of Tromso Norway which is way above the Arctic Circle, (where it's dark 23.5 hours a day in the winter) spend nearly the entire 3-month mission inside the ship. Of course, Jeannie and I weren't married at that time....and leaving her and the babies for 4 months is my primary reason NOT to go. But she is supporting me in this (partly because I will be making some extra money, and partly because while I'm making that extra money I won't be SPENDING any of it, thus effectively making even MORE extra money)...and partly because she knows how excited I am about this opportunity. It's certainly bucket-list material!

I'd expect to be hearing from them SOON if there's a matching there is much to do between now and flying. For those who pass the physicals and are accepted, they arrange airline tickets to either New Zealand or Chili depending on where you are working at. From there you are kitted up with your Extreme Cold Weather Survival gear (arctic-parka, bunny-boots, long underwear, super gloves, etc etc). That is all on loan need to give it back when you leave. And there are a TON of restrictions and rules...I've been browsing thru them and I'm slightly overwhelmed. But it will all be worth it if I get to go.


Oh my gosh....I get all tingly just thinking about it!

I've never crossed the equator before....and this would be going WAY past the very bottom of the planet! And I'd actually get to see penguins NOT in a zoo just wandering around! And Orca's maybe. I'm betting after a 4 month trip I'd have MANY HUNDREDS of penguin pictures. Oh look's a Penguin. And here....another penguin. And over here, guessed it....more penguins. And yes, even MORE penguins. I wonder if anybody ever gets tired of watching penguins? I'd think it would be like watching Bald Eagles...I spent 2 years on the island of Adak Alaska LONG ago where there are bazillions of Bald Eagles...and I NEVER got tired of watching them.

And so....guess what else is going on? I'm TOTALLY not giving a rats butt about the cycling thing right now! Not even a LITTLE bit! Does that make me a bad person?

Well...there's not much else to say at this point...wish me LUCK! Life is an adventure...go for it, and live DANGEROUS...that's what I say!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The next generation that the devil has been exorcised from the peleton, it's time for the next generation to do their thing. But my thoughts on it are this: not much has really changed. For one, there's still enormous amounts of money and fame for winners. Nothing has changed on that front. So, how about the PED's? The biggest problem I see is that they WORK. Like it or not, agree with it or not, they simply WORK. That much has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. And with that knowledge in hand, the young athlete (in any endurance sport) will have a choice to make. To cheat or not to cheat. Sure, that's an easy distinction for us spectators. But maybe not so much for the athlete doing the work...who maybe sees a very small difference from all the other things they are currently doing that ARE legal (supplements, altitude tents, etc).

I can't say how hard that decision was/is, because I'm not in their shoes. But just looking at the evidence thus-far provided, and the nearly total peleton participation in years past, it would seem making that decision hasn't been all that hard. And sure they're all extremely sorry AFTER being caught. It's easy to say 'everybody else was doing it and I had to if I wanted to be competitive'...and then to beg forgiveness and say you are so sorry, blah blah blah. But not necessarily so sorry before that...not sorry enough not to do it in the first place.

Maybe to dope or not to dope is an easy choice for those who are naturally at the very tip-top of the game, whether genetically or through enormous amounts of hard work and discipline. But how about those who are destined to be the also-rans? Doing what they love, yet with a strong desire to win....but not quite able to notch that big one that makes a career or gets you noticed by the pro teams. Nothing has really changed on the blood doping's out there, it's available, and it works. Yes, it's detectable by testing, but yes, it's also OBVIOUSLY hard to detect if used (and I use this term very loosely here) 'properly'. It would seem a given fact that nearly the entire peleton has been doing just that for at least 15 years now, and possibly still. How would we know? It's not like the testing program has been much of a deterrent thus far.

And so we have the NEW peleton. PED free. Or not. Just the name alone is quite the lure to someone....performance enhancing. THAT is a powerful name when you are talking about world-class athletes, always looking to be just a tiny bit better than their competition. And let's face it...most of these athletes are just kids. Certainly at the beginnings of a pro career most are barely of legal age to drink here in the US (if that). Sure it's easy to play the morality/ethics card and say that it's black and white...doped or clean. But if that comes down to win or lose, therein comes the gray area and the decision is much harder.

I'm afraid for the next generation of pro cyclists...because they are all just human beings. Mostly kids who have one way or another arrived at the European peleton ready to do battle. There is no such thing as a level playing field...and I'm not talking doping here either. In any timeframe of any sport there are those who are better than everybody else. And if there is a way for the underdogs to slightly level the playing field in their favor, they will be sorely tempted. I think that's just basic human nature. If somehow we could magically be absolutely SURE the entire peleton was PED free right this very moment, well... that would be awesome. But how long would that last? Due to the nature of people, and the basic fact that the PED's do exactly what they promise, it's only a matter of time before they creep their way back into the fold. And once one person starts using, I believe it would cascade from there until most everybody has the choice to keep-up or go home. And we'll be right back where we were (are?).

I certainly don't know how to stop it. All the testing seems to be a good idea. But it simply hasn't been working very well, and the athletes are light years ahead of enforcement, as has been proven. Lifetime bans for a first offense sound like a great idea...but ONLY if you can promise that there will be ZERO false positives....which I don't believe is possible.

So...where are we now? Is there currently the same pressure to dope in the peleton that there was 15 years ago? Maybe...maybe not. I'd like to think not, but we have no real way of knowing. And even if there is less pressure, I just don't think it will last very long. The PED's currently available are just too good. They TRULY offer better performance. It takes mental giants to say no and continue to say no under these conditions. But sadly, the athletes are just people from all walks of life. Look around....people make mistakes all the time. That's what makes us human...we're fallible. I think very few can resist the temptation in the long run to roll the dice for a chance at money, power and fame. I wish this 'new' generation of cyclists lots of luck, because I think they're going to need it. 

And my final question is this: how do we know the winner is clean?