Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gov. Mitt Romney is being criticized for something he did 25 years ago. The headline claims he strapped his dog to the top of his car as his family left to go on vacation. Actually he strapped the dog carrier containing his dog to the car.

It sounds like fun to me and got me to thinking about all the ways I traveled when young that would not be accepted today.

The best was riding in the very back of the pickup truck. We sat on the let-down door of the bed of the pickup with our legs hanging out. The ones on each side could hold on to the door chain but the ones in the middle had nothing. When we went over bumps, we would go flying up into the air, especially the middle ones. That was great.

If the door was not down, we rode sitting down with our backs to the cab of the truck. Not so much fun.

With cotton in the truck, it made for a soft ride. The more cotton in the truck, the higher up we would ride and the more fun it would be.

People laugh about dogs enjoying sticking their heads out into the wind. Children are the same way.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I have been reading a lot of books lately about climbing and mountaineering. This has been a pleasure of mine for decades. I first started reading these books when we were at LSU and I would check them out of the library.

The first book I ever bought was a used copy of Annapurna by Maurice Herzog, about the first ascent of Annapurna in the Himalayas. It was the first 8,000 meter peak to be climbed. I can see the battered book in my bookcase as I sit here.

I have several books by and about Sir Edmund Hillary. He came to LSU to give a lecture once when we were there. I carried a copy of one of his wife's books and he signed it. Later she and one of their daughters were killed in the crash of a small plane near Mount Everest. Of course it is unknown to him, but Sir Edmund and I later parted over political differences. He is a big Labour supporter and I am National.

One of the hazards of high profile mountaineering is that it is high risk. They lose a lot of friends on mountains. It is also a hazard of reading these books. You get to know someone and then they get caught in an avalanche, their rope breaks, they get hit by a rock, or they do something stupid and they die.

I read a book by Goran Kropp Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey. He is one of the few climbers that I actually liked. He survived the disastrous 1996 season on Everest where five climbers died in one day. He made it to the top although he was climbing by himself.

Then he fell and died climbing in Washington state.

It is a puzzle even to me why I read these books. I have never tried climbing and I don't personally like these people.

They are selfish. They leave their wives, girl friend, and children, to go off on an expedition lasting months. (And they often have simultaneously a wife and a girl friend.)

On the mountain it is a hard life. Most often cold, a cold so intense we can't really imagine it. It is wet. They run out of food. They get hurt. All these things, yet they keep climbing.

At home they live a debauched life. They go to parties with blankets in the backs of their cars because they know they will be so drunk that all they can do later is crawl in the car and go to sleep. The smoke of marijuana is thick in their hotel rooms.

Maria Coffey, who lived with Joe Tasker, tells how, after he dies on Everest, she is sent his personal things and finds he has had a girl friend in London all along.

On the English expedition to Annapurna the climbers, including Dougal Haston, wonders whether they want Tom Frost along. He is such a strange man, an alien to them, because as a Mormon he doesn't drink or run around on his wife.

When someone dies, it doesn't seem to affect them the way it would an ordinary person. The climb continues. After all, they tell themselves, he would want it that way. Perhaps they never truly let anyone in their heart just so it won't hurt so much when they are killed.

They don't have much understanding of other people lives. Lou Whittaker, director of the Mt. Rainier Climbing School, and twin brother of Jim Whittaker, first American to climb Mt. Everest, recounts a story in his autobiography. He has a hot tub in his back yard. He and his wife are in it when his teenage son and his girl friend come by. He persuades her with the son to join them. I have forgotten to say that they are all naked. He seems proud as if he has liberated her.

If I were her mother, I would be so mad. Can this be considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor?

Despite my puzzlement, I continue to buy these books and enjoy them. It is another world, one very different from mine. One I would not want to be in. I don't like their lifestyle and I hate to be cold.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I don't remember much more about that day. I made Julia go home. There was no need for her to sit there and watch me sleep.

We had made sure that the nurses knew that I could not talk. When I pushed the button to call for the nurse, they did not ask me what was wrong. They just came down.

Unfortunately when the nurses changed at 7 the next day, that instruction must have gotten lost. About 9, I pushed the button because I was in pain. The speaker came on and the nurse asked what I needed. I tried to say "pain" but it came out a very weak "ai" so nothing happened.

Julia came back at ten and I got my medicine then. For those that know Julia, of course, she thought she should have spent the night and never left me and it was all her fault.

The only speaking I could do was just vowels sounds. That did not work at all so Julia and I wrote notes. That is right, I wrote Julia a note and she would write me on back. Then we would laugh about it but she would do the same the next time.

The doctor came, gave me some instructions, and we left to go to Julia's. Late afternoon Anne showed up. I had told her not to come, it wasn't necessary. It wasn't necessary but I can tell you it was like the calvary showed up. It was so wonderful to see her. Janice called me on my cell phone and said she was bringing me some potato soup. A long while later she said she had knocked on the doors and no one let her in. It turned out she had gone to my house in Henderson. She brought the soup and I ate a little.

Sometime Julia decided we should stay at my house instead of hers. Since I would stay downstairs and they would stay upstairs we needed a bell to ring if I needed one of them. Anne brought out George Rodney's cow bell, the one he rang at Mississippi State football games. I never needed to ring it.

I spent most of my time sleeping. I didn't need that much pain medicine but when I did take some, I took one tablet instead of two and that put me to sleep.

Anne went to the grocery store to buy food for me but I only drank stuff. It hurt so very much to move my mouth. Also I had very little control over food in my mouth. Things would get lost if they went to the right side. I had little feeling or control over there.

Anne went home the next afternoon. Julia left on Friday and just came down during the day. I needed very little help but I loved having someone here to talk to.

Julia was wonderful to me as usual. I don't know what I would have done without her.

The next two weeks are a blur. I mainly slept and suffered. My mouth felt awful. Many times not painful, just swollen, etc.

I went back to the doctor at one week. He said things were looking good, that I was about a quarter healed. he had said it would take a month to heal but somehow that did not really register to me. But I found that to be true. It was a rough month.

He asked if I wanted any more pain pills. He had prescribed 40 tablets for me and I was allowed 12 a day. I had taken a total of 9. He encouraged me to take more.

I appreciated this. I have read so many articles about doctors afraid to prescribe enough for their patients' pain relief. I have nothing against pain medicine; I just don't like to be so out of it and I take them when I really have to. But any time I am in real pain, I do want to have pain relief.

I drove myself to the next appointment, two weeks out. He said I was 50% healed. He said I could drive if I was not taking pain tablets and again asked if I needed more.

I took the pain tablets infrequently for a month but never used up the original prescription.

I do not need chemo or radiation. I am okay for now. I will just have to go to the doctor every three months because we must carefully watch my mouth from now on.

My speech is not normal now and I don't think it ever will be. I am understandable, except occasionally on the phone. My problem is that part of my tongue is somewhat numb. Also on some letters where my tongue goes against my teeth, my new narrow tongue doesn't quite close up the air and I hiss the letters.

All in all though, I am alive and, very likely, I will not die from this. I have my life back and the loss of part of my tongue can be handled. I am lucky to live in this time period when something can be done about cancer and lucky that I did not suffer more than I did.

I am still weaker than I was but I think time will take care of this. I am back doing the Leslie Sansone walking exercises. At one time, I was doing 4 miles a day. Now I only do 1 mile, but I will build up my time and length as the weeks go by.

Friday, June 15, 2007

About two years ago I got a sore spot at the back of the right side of my tongue. It hurt when hot or cold or just about any food touched it. I started to eat everything on the left side of my mouth. The size of the spot would come and go.

I went to the doctor who sent me to Dr. Studtmann, an ENT guy in Jackson. Dr. Studtmann said that it was called a leukoplakia, which simply means white spot in Latin. He said that if it changes in size it is probably not cancer. A biopsy confirmed that it was not cancer.

I began to go to see Dr. S every six months.

In April when I went he did a biopsy. It hurt. It hurt so much that I didn't think I was going to be able to make it home. When I got here, I searched and found some pain pills from a long ago dental procedure and took that. After a while, the pain subsided.

At my appointment with the doctor the next week, he said the biopsy showed cancer. He was puzzled and not inclined to believe it. He said it did not look like a cancer and, in particular, it did not feel like a cancer. He said cancers are hard; this is soft. He had his partner also examine my mouth.

He made an appointment for me to go to the Imaging Center to have a CT scan of my mouth and another appointment with him. He also said he was going to have the biopsy slide examined again.

Mother died the night before those two appointments. I cancelled them and made more appointments for the following week.

When I got to see the doctor, he said it was cancer. They had re-examined the slides and compared them with a previous okay slide. There were definitely changes, definitely cancer. He scheduled surgery for May 14. He said it would be extremely painful but he would prescribe me good drugs.

I worried a lot between the biopsy and the final diagnosis of cancer. After the diagnosis I did not worry. Uncertainty is something I can't handle. I had bought a copy of the movie The Queen to watch if I ever got really nervous and worried about things. Julia and I finally watched it two weeks after my surgery and we watched it because she wanted to see it. So I think I handled it pretty well.

The absolute worst part was telling the girls. And the worst part of that was after I reassured Beth that I was going to be all right, she voiced what they probably both were thinking. She said she had been told that before, that everything would be all right. She was talking about George Rodney and his illness. It broke my heart but I understood.

Anne and I had scheduled a trip to Florida to help Beth with wedding preparations. We went ahead and made the trip. It was great and we had a good time.

On Monday Julia took me to the hospital. In the prep room an aide took my wedding and engagement rings off for the first time in years. It felt odd.

I can't remember anything until I woke up in my hospital room. Julia was there. My tongue felt huge. It was swollen and actually was huge. My whole mouth was sore and hurt. The doctor had said it was okay not to eat but it was imperative for me to drink. It was agony to drink. I used a straw to get the liquid to the back of my mouth but each swallow was agony. I tried to take some sips every thirty minutes.

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