Quick Dad Update

I do not have cell service back where Dad is recuperating, so I wanted to jump on here to let everyone know that he seems to be doing well after his procedure (a lumbar puncture to drain some cerebrospinal fluid) — or at least as well as you would expect someone to be after having a huge needle stuck into their lower back.  He had a post procedure physical assessment and they technicians indicated that there seemed to be some improvement.  He has to remain horizontal until 3p.  Not sure what happens after then (presumably, they’ll send us home).

Thanks for your thoughts for my father.  I have to say, this has been something of an odd experience for me — I’m not used to being on THIS side of the hospital bed!  :-)


..and the answer is…

Today I met with my oncologist to get the results of my CT scans (from Monday).  I was scheduled to meet with the physician’s assistant and, as MaryBeth and I sat in the examining room, we agreed that if Dr. Kauh came in (instead of Edie, his assistant) it was a sign of bad news.  I had noticed that we were ushered back into the examination room quicker than usual today (not that I’m one to read into such situations) and then when Dr. Kauh walked in; well, MB and I simultaneously sort of groaned and I said that it couldn’t be good news.

Dr. Kauh assured us it WAS good news.  My bloodwork was generally good, though, certain aspects of my bloodwork were either higher or lower than the normal ranges, but nothing that caused Dr. Kauh concern.  The results of both my chest and abdomen CT indicated that there were no detectable changes from my April scans, indicating that there was currently no evidence of metastatic cancer. 

Quoting from Randy Pausch’s day to day blog: “Meaning that – for now – there’s no detectable sign of cancer in my body. I am still a looooong way from winning the battle, but every day I don’t lose is a day closer to achieving long-term victory.”  (I don’t know why people say that I tend to display evidence of “hero worship” regarding Dr. Pausch…I mean, it’s not like I quote him all the time, right?)

This is good news.  I now am free from hospitals again until the middle of August.

In other Hamburger news, though, as I write this, I am in Sarasota, FL with my father and step-mother.  It turns out that his doctors now believe that his difficulty walking (and possibly his difficulty breathing) might be attributable to normal pressure hydrocephalus.  Tomorrow, my Dad will be having a lumbar puncture to drain some cerebrospinal fluid to see if that relieves the pressure in his brain.  It is our hope that by doing so, he will have less difficulty with mobility and that his breathing will improve.  If the procedure is successful, the doctors will assess my Dad for having a neural shunt put in place which, while it won’t CURE the NPH (the shunt does not address the underlying causes for the NPH), will help with the symptoms.

As I have said in the past, please keep my Dad in your thoughts!  


Stress Maybe?

Yesterday was not a banner day in the life and times of Merle Hamburger; in wasn’t necessarily bad, but there were some parts I would readily have preferred to do without.  In particular, as I have mentioned to several who have asked, the last couple of weeks have been fairly stressful.

Today, I will be getting my first REAL follow-up CT and the potential for bad results really hit last night.  I had mentioned, in an earlier post, of a metaphor that MaryBeth had used to describe how she felt about my cancer.  For those of you who missed it, she said she feels like there is a time bomb in the room and we cannot see the timer (or as pictured above, the timer has no hands).  The bomb might never blow up, or it may have already blown up and we’ll just get confirmation on Thursday (a friend reminded me that my CT today will merely tell me what has already happened — there is nothing I can do to change its results).

I have mentioned this metaphor to several folks; some get it better than others.  Most commonly, someone will say that we ALL have ‘time bombs (just many of us don’t know it).  I think there in lies the difference; my time bomb is the great, big, huge elephant in the room.  There is no question that it is there, the only question is if it will go off or not.  For other people, they are unaware if they have a cancer bomb, or a heart attack / stroke bomb; etc.  It might be there, but it might be hidden or under the counter.  My bomb has a big neon sign with arrows pointing to it.

We’ll find out Thursday.

A quick update about my family.  My sister is home from the hospital and recuperating well.  My dad, not so much.  In addition to his difficulty breathing, it has become increasingly difficult for him to get around (to simply use his feet).  An MRI suggested that his neurologist follow-up with him because of potential water on the brain (hydrocephalus).  Over the past several months, his ability to move has been limited, in part by his breathing, but possibly in part because of pressure exerted on the brain because of his hydrocephalus).

Tomorrow, my Dad will have a lumbar puncture / tap to drain out some of the cerebrospinal fluid to see if that helps reduce the pressure on his brain (and restore functioning to his feet).  I may decide to hop in the car this afternoon and drive on down.  Please keep my Dad in your thoughts.

Until Thursday (if not sooner).


Healthy Hamburgers?!?!

I was speaking with my cousin, Martin, the other day.   Martin (of The Hamburger Company) suggested that I needed to extend these blog posts to include health updates of other members of the Hamburger clan; Martin — this one’s for you.

What does it say about the state of Hamburger health that I am one of the more healthy members of my family?  Actually, I really only have news about my father and my sister.  As I have reported previously, my father has been having quite some difficulty with breathing in the last several months.  (Paraphrasing from Juan Sarmiento — who would have been my surgeon if I had had my Whipple here in Atlanta — not breathing is incompatible with life.)

For those of you just tuning in, my father had surgery last May to remove a portion of the right lobe of his lung in an effort to battle lung cancer.  In recent months, though, his doctors noticed spots on his scans that were “suspicious.”  Unfortunately, those spots have grown and were biopsied earlier this week.  I’m sorry to say that my father’s lung cancer is back.  Even though it was not unexpected, I am still deeply sadened by the news and feel, as I am sure many of my friends did when I was dealing with my cancer, unable to provide any substantive solace to my father.  I spoke with him today and I found myself repeating the same platitudes that I abhored people professing to me.  As of right now, there is no definite treatment plan, but I would like to ask that all of you who have been sending me thoughts and prayers to please direct some towards my dad.

A picture of me, my sister, Marjie, and my brother, Sid, at Hamburger Hannukah.  (Not pictured is my other brother, Isaac, who was not able to attend the festivities.)

In other Hamburger news, my sister, Marjie, apparently felt jealous of all the medical attention my father and I were getting.  This past Monday, she went to the emergency room because of gastrointestinal difficulties (let’s just say things were running through her) and she was pretty dehydrated.  After a number of tests, poking, and prodding, the doctors believe she has ulcerative colitis (feel free to click the link to read more).  While her family breathes a collective sigh of relief that the problem is not more serious, my sister is still stuck in the hospital until she is able to eat food again and not have it run through her.

What does it say about my family that I am one of the more healthy of its members?

As for how I’m doing? Well, tension continues to mount as we get closer to June 15.  I continue to stay present; given how busy I seem to be, I don’t think I’m letting my concern about the results from this next set of scans prevent me from doing stuff and living life.  I like to think that I am being realistic when I consider the possibility that these scans might reveal that MY cancer has returned.  If that is the case, my family and I will deal.  If not, then we have a respite until August (when I’ll have my next set of scans).

It’s odd to think that it was just over a year ago that I started my initial treatment for cancer.  In fact, June 4, 2008 was day 3 of my pre-surgery chemo and radiation.  As my karate instructor’s wife, Sang Le, mentioned yesterday, “What a difference a year makes!”

Until next time…