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How it all started…

I am not a medical professional by trade.  In fact, my entire career has been in software support, development, Information Technology and Document/Content Management.

Soon after marrying my wife, we learned that she had a thyroid disorder called Grave’s Disease named for Robert Graves who described the condition in 1835.  This required my wife to have her thyroid irradiated to destroy it using a radioactive iodine (iodine is used by the Thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormone(s)).  Since the iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland, it kills it before the radiation has a chance to dissipate, destroying the gland.

Having Grave’s Disease and, since she no longer had a thyroid, constant thyroid hormone level issues we were unable to conceive or if she did conceive it was very unlikely that she could carry to term.  Because of this, we took steps to prevent what could only end in heartache by me getting a vasectomy.  Honestly, this wasn’t a huge sacrifice as we agreed that in our current financial situation as a young couple we could not afford to have a growing family and her health was of significant importance to me (both then and throughout her life.)

For 20+ years, we both enjoyed relatively good health.  Gaining weight, losing weight, diabetes for me, high blood pressure (as a result of the Grave’s Disease) for her; however, nothing that was unmanageable or eminently life threatening.  Sure, we both learned new medical terms and means of caring for our typical nor quite common conditions.

My wife always had in the back of her mind that there was likely to be something quite a bit more serious, just around the corner.  After graduating from college, she had to move back home to care for her grandmother who was dying of ovarian cancer.  She had already lost another relative to pancreatic cancer.  Her parents were relatively healthy, after a fashion but passed from this Earth a few years before.  Her mother had, when she was younger, a portion of her stomach and small intestine removed due to ulcers (which today might not have been the remedy at all) and unknown to any of us, because she hid it so well, she had severe emphysema and heart issues likely caused by her years of smoking before her stomach issues.  She died from complications of a broken hip, emphysema and her heart issues. Her father, who had a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease soon had to live with a tracheotomy, catheter and a feeding tube.  He had severe cataracts which he had been fighting with for years and with the tracheotomy difficulty communicating; however, her brother took care of him night and day until his eventual passing peacefully at home.  So, with so much cancer and other issues my wife had plenty of reason to be concerned.

In September of 2014, my wife went to a gynecologist who was recommended by our General Practitioner since her previous doctor had decided to focus on the obstetrics side of the business.  The doctor found nothing of any serious concern.  My wife had raised the concern about her grandmother’s ovarian cancer and asked if she could be tested.  The doctor insisted that it was a very rare cancer and that the test involved (a CA-125 blood test…more about this later) was unreliable.

In October of 2014, my wife and I went on a vacation.  During this vacation, she began to have digestive difficulties.  We both attributed it to the rich food or possibly even a wheat insensitivity.

Upon returning, by Thanksgiving, she had been through a series of good and bad days. Shortly after Thanksgiving, she began to throw up.  She thought it was nothing, but, I insisted on taking her to the local ER that had just opened up.  They checked her out, did a CT scan, an ultrasound (checking the pancreas), and didn’t find anything of concern and sent her home with some pain medication and medication to alleviate the vomiting saying that it was likely to be a stomach virus that just isn’t showing the other common side effects yet (fever, chills, diarrhea, etc…)  She improved for a time.

Shortly after Christmas, she woke me up in agony.  This time she asked me to take her to the ER, which for her means that it is really bad.  They did more tests, another CT scan, another ultrasound, etc…  They told us that they were going to call an ambulance to transfer her to a hospital for observation and due to the amount of pain medication that they had to administer.  It wasn’t until quite some time later that we learned that this was not the entire truth.  Upon admittance to the hospital, the gastroenterologist that was on call visited her, had some X-rays done and said that there was just some hardened stool in the small intestines.  They would give her magnesium citrate to swallow and that would soften and move it through her system.  She would go home the following day but she was required to see him for a followup endoscopy and colonoscopy to see if there were any other contributing factors.

We did as we were instructed.  I took her for the endoscopy and colonoscopy and when she came out the doctor told me that he hadn’t found anything of any concern.  A small polyp and a couple of small gastric lesions on the stomach (ulcers), but nothing serious.  We were both relieved.

A few weeks later, my wife was feeling horrible.  We demanded to see the gastroenterologist again and he looked at the images and his report (never even looked at my wife or touched her) and told her to take over the counter medication to reduce acid buildup and sent us home.

A couple of weeks later, my wife was worse and her belly was quite swollen.  We again demanded to see the gastroenterologist.  He again never looked at my wife nor touched her.  He said that he never looked into the small intestines (where the blockage was), which rather infuriated me.  He said he would order a pill endoscopy.  A pill sized camera would be swallowed which would take photos all the way through her system.  That would show him if there is anything in the area of the small intestines which a scope cannot reach.  We signed the papers for the orders and went home to wait.  A couple of weeks later, no reply.  I called and was told that insurance had denied it due to lack of explanation or justification.  I was told the doctor would appeal.  Two weeks later, I called again and they said he had yet to appeal.  I then demanded that all of her records be provided and we would see someone else.  I picked the up and we were able to get an appointment the same day with a different doctor.

This new gastroenterologist reviewed all of her records and kept asking for ‘the rest’.  We told him that this was all there was.  He asked where the lab reports were for the ascites?  We both asked him what he was talking about.  He told us that the ER had identified ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen) which is one of the reasons they transferred us to the hospital.  We told him there wasn’t any labs done on it.  Finally, after almost 2 hours, he came over to my wife and examined her.  He finally said that she was, “VERY ill”.  He wanted us to go to the adjoining hospital to get a new CT scan and for us to wait no matter how long it takes for the results and he would call us.  At 11:30pm, he called and said that it was what he thought and that we needed to go to the ER and she would be checked into the hospital.  He would be by in the morning to explain what was going on.

We went to the ER and they saw us immediately.  Her vitals were taken, blood drawn, etc…  An ER doctor comes in and breaks the news to us.  Ovarian cancer.  We were obviously devastated. The doctor and the nurses left the room for us to come to grips and then returned and moved her to a room.  I stayed with her and we cried all night.

That was the beginning of the journey….

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Insanity – Cameron Jace

I’ll be honest, I knew nothing of Cameron Jace…never heard of him, never seen any of his work when one day I received an email from an ebook service that I subscribe to that described one of his books that was on sale (OK free) and the description intrigued me…since the price was right I went and “purchased” it.  I didn’t get around to reading it for quite some time but finally did just before the holidays.

According to Mr. Jace’s web site, he isn’t a professional writer but likes writing stories that he always wanted to read but couldn’t find already done. There’s really not much more I can tell you about the author…which bothers me as I tend to like to know at least something about the author I’m reading so I can get an idea of how their background and experiences have molded their writing.

Insanity is the first book of a series of books that he refers to collectively as Insanity; however, I think a more accurate title would be the Wonderland Wars….but, we’ll see.

Years ago, I purchased and absolutely adored a computer game called American McGee’s Alice.  It tells a very dark tale of Alice (as in Alice in Wonderland) who accidentally set fire to her home as a child which resulted in everything and everyone she loved to be destroyed or killed.  She gets institutionalized in an insane asylum and is eventually called back to a much more dark and twisted Wonderland.

The reason I mention this game is because Mr. Jace’s stories have a striking resemblance to the concept (but not execution).  In Insanity, Alice Wonder is in an institution for having killed her classmates on a school bus.  There she meets Professor Pillar, a serial killer (a-la Hannibal Lector) who believes that she is “THE” Alice and that he is The Caterpiller from Wonderland.  Together they are trying to stop a Wonderland monster that is in the real world who is brutally killing people, leaving a sewn up grin on their faces.

The story is at turns bizarre, humorous, educational and dark…very much like the real Alice In Wonderland books.

Honestly, I could not put the book down (a rarity for me).  Once finished, I actually wrote a review on Amazon.com…which I seldom do and have never done so for a freebie.  I have since purchased the collection for the first 3 ebooks and will likely buy books 4 and 5 (I think that’s as far as it goes so far).   Honestly, I was afraid to start book 2 since often books that may have been intended to be one-off frequently doesn’t translate well into a series, completely changes the characters or changes the sense of wonder…..so far, I’m happy to report that book 2 “Figment” is every bit as much fun as book 1 although perhaps a bit darker.

 

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is one if not my favorite author of all time. His books are witty, intelligent, funny yet with serious undertones, pure fantasy….yet, very much grounding in reality.  He can turn phrase that is at once hilarious but poignant at the same time.  This is the third (or second if you count The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic as one book) of collection of books (at the time of this writing number around 40 books and comics) based on a fictional world known only as the Discworld.  The Discworld is a flat micro-planet which rests on the back of four massive elephants which stand on the great world turtle, A’Tuin (whose sex is unknown…but that’s another story).

Pratchett was born in 1948 in Buckinghamshire, England.  Growing up, he wanted to be an astronomer and collected Brooke Bond Tea cards on astronomy. This eventually led him to space-based science fiction.  At 13, he published his first story in the school magazine which was later published commercially at age 15.  At age 17, he began his first job in writing working for the Bucks Free Press writing, among other things, children’s stories published under the name Uncle Jim.  One of these stories eventually led to the characterizations in his story, The Carpet People (not a Discworld novel).

In the 1980’s, Pratchett became the press writer for the Central Electricity Generating Board covering the nuclear power stations all the while writing his first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic which was published in 1983 and gave up working for the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1987 shortly after his fourth Discworld novel was published Mort.

He has been extremely proficient writing not only the many Discworld novels, which in itself contain several childrens or young adult stories, several children/young adult books not related to Discworld and several other fiction and non-fiction books.

In 2007, Pratchett was misdiagnosed as having had a stroke.  It was later discovered that he has a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, posterior cortical atrophy in which parts of the back of his brain began to shrink.  While his speech and motor skills have been affected, his cognitive abilities have not been impacted and he continues to write by dictation to his wife.

Having given so much joy to many lives including mine, I continue to wish him well.

Equal Rites, being the third (or second) novel in the Discworld stories and being an early work unfortunately show.  Don’t get me wrong, Pratchett’s wit and shear joy are present; however, the characters are slightly different than they are in the later stories.

The story begins by the death of a wizard who, upon passing, transfers his powers to the newborn child of a rural blacksmith. The wizard made a mistake though, he had thought the child was a boy…it was a girl!  On the Discworld, girls become Witches, boys become Wizards…girls do NOT become Wizards, it just doesn’t happen.

Granny Weatherwax, the local Witch, realizes that there’s not much she can do to help this young female Wizard, Esk.  Granny knows what she must do….well, she always knows, even when she doesn’t, that’s part of being a Witch, and takes Esk on a long journey to the seat of all wizardry on the Discworld, Ank-Morpork and the Wizards at Unseen University.

This story is a great introduction into what a Wizard is and what a Witch is in the world of Discworld and what it means to be one or the other.  In this story, Equal Rites is both an allusion to Women’s rights  and to the commonality of rites between the Wizard and Witches on Discworld.

If you enjoy this story, by all means read the rest of the Discworld novels, too many to list individually here.  I will likely review them over time.

 

 

Apologies

For those of you following my blog, you may have noticed that I have not posted anything for several days.  It is neither than I have nothing to write about nor have I lost interest.  Unexpectedly, my wife required surgery to her upper spine and frankly she takes priority.  Fortunately, she’s now home and doing extremely well so I should be able to write more frequently.

Caught in the Act – Lori Foster

This was my first Lori Foster novel and frankly, I wasn’t expecting much….boy was I wrong.  While I would not categorize this as the “Great American Novel”….it is a very entertaining read.  The romance is and relationships between not only the main characters but the families and friendships are fully formed and begs for additional books. 

If you like this book, read the Men to Rescue books:

  • Treat Her Right
  • Mr. November
  • Fallen Angels

House of Dark Delights – By Louisa Burton

This is a fascinating and completely engrossing book.  I’d say novel, but, although there is an overall storyline, it’s made up of several vignettes spanning centuries with the a single grounding element, the titular House or more precisely a hidden chateau in the French countryside.

The book, although an excellent read, also has the steamiest sexual encounters I’ve ever read on the verge of being pornographic and ranging from beautifully passionate encounters to scorching multi-partner sex scenes that despite their circumstances are still incredibly sensual and leave a very lasting impression.

This is an incredible read, something worth keeping at your bedside table for those “special nights”.

If you like this book, read the rest of the series:

  • Bound in Moonlight
  • In The Garden of Sin
  • Whispers of the Flesh