Monday, July 11, 2016

I WAS STABBED 5 OR 6 TIMES AND LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since my last blog post. It's been more than a year since I posted about buying some furniture. We still have it, but haven't reupholstered it as we wanted to. That will still have to wait.

Earlier this year during my annual physical, my GP noted that my PSA had risen again from the previous year. At that time, the PSA had risen also, he noted this then and wanted to make sure we watched this number. For those who are unfamiliar with PSA, it stands for Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and is a blood test that is commonly used to help predict the presence of prostate cancer. It refers to a protein first identified in 1979 that is made only by the prostate gland. After some discussion, he strongly suggested that I see a Urologist to further investigate this number. I figured the Urologist would look at the number and say lets watch it, but he was more for an aggressive approach, which meant doing a biopsy on the prostate gland. This is done through the rectum. Not an appealing prospect.

At this point, I must digress. Prostate cancer has a history in my family. My uncle (mom's brother) had Prostate cancer which eventually metastasized and killed him. This was years before more modern methods were available for treatment. Also, my 2nd cousin on my dad's side, who is a year younger than me, had his Prostate removed when he was 46 due to cancer.

Obviously, from my history, I could not ignore the numbers. However, the prospect of having a biopsy done was not appealing due to the methodology and the possible side effects. A prostate gland biopsy is a test to remove small samples of prostate tissue to be examined under a microscope. To perform the biopsy, a thin needle is inserted through the rectum (transrectal biopsy), through the urethra, or through the area between the anus and scrotum (perineum). A transrectal biopsy is the most common method used which was the method used on me. The tissue samples taken during the biopsy are examined for cancer cells.

I scheduled the biopsy with much apprehension due to the possible side effects and the potential results. The day of the biopsy soon arrived and went off with no issues other than the indignity of having something being shoved up my butt!

It wasn't but a few days and the Urologist called to schedule an appointment to review the results. I tried to keep positive thoughts in my mind, telling myself that there was no way I could have cancer and that my number was the result of something else going on. The power of positive thinking? We (my wife and I) arrived at the Urologists for the results and found that I was positive for Prostate cancer. I was characterized as having stage 1 Prostate cancer with a Gleason Score of 6. The Urologist caution us against panicking. He explained that this was a very slow growing cancer and that we had time to think about my options. He presented me with a book on Prostate cancer to read, suggested several web sites to consult, and an appointment to discuss options in about 3 weeks. He also encouraged me to seek a second opinion and was willing to help me find another Urologist if I wanted.

Even though I knew this diagnosis was possible, it was still mind numbing. It took me about a week to finally wrap my head around it and started reading about the options for treatment. Basically, treatment consists of either removal of the prostate gland, radiation, or do nothing. My Urologist was recommending complete removal of the Prostate based on my age. Whether you do the removal or radiation, there are also variations of each that need to be considered. Each one had it's own set of pros and cons. As I know from my wife's experience with Breast cancer, the decision(s) can be tough to make. There is a lot of information out there and not all of it is reliable or easily understood. In my mind I had decided which direction I was leaning....but had not made up my mind completely.

My appointment arrived for the consultation. The Urologist was curious if we had made a decision about my options. Since we had time to make this decision, my wife and I decided we would seek a 2nd opinion in regard to the diagnosis and options. My Urologist suggested 2 different doctors, one at UVA and the other at Johns Hopkins. We chose the latter based on Hopkins reputation in the Prostate cancer field. Since they were med school associates at Hopkins he was able to contact him directly to schedule the consultation quickly.

We drove up to Baltimore on the day of the consultation. Location and parking were fairly easy which lent itself to less anxiety. Always good. The Urologist's assistant met with us prior to meeting him to gather additional information from what we had previously provided. In addition, she requested that my Urologist have the biopsy slides sent to their expert for interpretation/confirmation of the diagnosis. The doctor came in for the consultation not long after we were done with his assistant.

Based on what he saw from the biopsy results and my age, he also recommended complete removal of the Prostate. While radiation was an option, the issues doing radiation on someone my age are numerous. 1st, once the radiation is done, it cannot be done again in the future if the cancer returns. 2nd, since radiation causes damage to the surrounding tissue, Surgeons are very reluctant to remove the Prostate after radiation therapy. This makes your treatment options in the future rather limited. While side effects for radiation are similar to the removal option, both occur for either method. With removal the chance of the cancer coming back are basically zero. Obviously, this doesn't eliminate other forms of cancer. At 56, I still have potentially many years to live and realized that this would be the best option. I was originally leaning towards a targeted type of radiation available, but realized this was not the best option for my age.

It was not long after the consultation that Hopkins called to confirm the diagnosis after they had reviewed the biopsy slides. Next up was making a final decision for treatment options, as once you start on one path for treatment it is difficult to start on a different one. Traditional removal methods for the Prostate used to condemn you to a future of incontinence and impotence. With the advent of technology, robotics, and advances in cancer research, more modern methods for Prostate removal are available. Hopkins is considered the leader in this field and offers numerous ways. I decided that Hopkins would be the place to have the surgery performed.

The surgery method was to be "Robotic Nerve-sparing Prostatectomy" performed Laparoscopically. By definition, the prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. The prostate is just in front of the rectum. The urethra runs through the center of the prostate, from the bladder to the penis, letting urine flow out of the body. The traditional surgery would slice right through the nerves that control the bladder and the sexual function of the penis. Not a very desirable outcome for one of the slowest growing known cancers. Explains why many men choose not to do anything. Typically, they are in their 70's, 80's or older. The benefit for removal at that age is not very high. Not an option for me.

Surgery was scheduled for July 5, 2016 at 7:30 am. I would need to report to Johns Hopkins at 5:30 am. Pre-Op prep would require a bowel prep regiment that does not need to be spelled out here. We spent the night in Baltimore, at a local hotel less than a mile from Hopkins, to save us the 1 1/2 hour drive the morning of. We arrived on time and I was in the operating room by 7:30 am. According to my wife, I was in the operating room only about 2 hours, but in recovery about 5 hours.

Take the pain meds! There is a reason for this. You will be in pain. By the time I reached my room, I was starting to feel sore. Laprascopic surgery is performed through small incisions. Including the hole they installed a drain through, there were 5 other incisions (stab wounds as the nurse described them) ranging in size from 1/2" to the largest at 2" in my abdomen. Important to try and stay ahead of your medication as by the time you start feeling sore again, it's too late. I alternated between Oxycodon and Tylenol initially and then Advil.

My Insurance company had approved an overnight stay of one night. It would seem that this is standard for this type of surgery and it would prove to be my case also. By the next day, I was feeling well enough to walk and move around pretty freely. I was released after the drain was removed with only the catheter still installed. This gets removed 10 days after surgery.

This morning, my Urologist called with the results of the pathology on the prostate gland. He was able to remove the prostate with clear margins, meaning it was still self contained within the gland. The actual Gleason Score was now a 7, up one point from my initial diagnosis, but not significant since I am now cancer free.

I guess the moral to this story is to visit your doctor on a regular basis and pay attention to the numbers. Several years ago, I was at my accountant for our taxes. He greeted us with a question: When was the last time I had been to the doctor? I looked at him quizzically, as this was not your typical question from your tax professional, whereupon he proceeded to tell me that he had Stage 4 Prostate cancer. He had not been to the doctor in 14 years. He finally went after the symptoms he was experiencing were too difficult to ignore. I relayed to him that I had a family history of Prostate cancer and was checked annually. Our taxes were completed on time as always. He passed away on April 15.








Wednesday, March 11, 2015

MCM Sleeper Couch and Chairs auf Deutschland Estate Sale Find

100% of the credit for this Mid Century Modern find goes to the boss! She is always on the lookout for Mid Century Modern pieces of furniture and decor. She spied this set in the online ad for the sale. The sale started on Saturday, but due to some other obligations, we didn't make it on Saturday. The wife lamented not going later in the day. I suggested that she call the Estate Sale Company, since they listed a cell phone number in the ad, which she then did. Surprise! The set was still available. The Estate Sale Company suggested we arrive promptly the next morning at 9:00 am when the doors opened. 

Have you ever have one of those busy days when you never had a chance to read the paper or turn on the news, where someone reminds you to reset your clock for daylight saving's time? Well, we set our alarms to wake up at 7:30 am not realizing that we sprang forward that night. We woke up on time, or what we thought was 7:30 am. We soon realized something was amiss when we looked at our cell phones and the time was an hour later! Needless to say we arrived at the sale at around 9:15 am. 

Joy! Joy! The set was still for sale! We sat down on the couch and immediately found them very comfortable and much to our liking. We had come mainly for the couch, but found the chairs to be to our liking also. As it was the 2nd day of the sale, the price was half off the original price. Since we decided on taking the entire set, we were able to negotiate an even lower price. 

The condition was typical of an older piece of  furniture. It looked well cared for, but had the usual fabric stains and wear expected. The wood is either birch or maple and that was in good shape too. Eventually, we plan to have the cushions recovered and the wood reconditioned or refinished depending on a professional evaluation. 


Now we had to figure out how to get it all home as we own what we call our vehicle, a Mazda 5, a mini mini van. Not a major hauler of large items! Shockingly, we were able to fit all of the pieces in the car with the seats down and the legs removed from the couch. 


The family who was selling the set was pleased that we were keeping the set together. They had purchased it many years ago in Germany when they were stationed overseas. They did not recall the maker and I have yet to find any labels or makers marks. I'm all ears if anyone has any ideas or know who the manufacturer was.


One of the reasons the boss was interested in this couch was it's ability to convert into a sleeper! 


The seat cushion part rotates on a set of tracks at the same time expanding the length of the couch.


Where you add the seat back cushions to make a bed! How cool it that!


The matching chairs have the typical Fagas straps and clips which I'll will buy in the near future as I have some other chairs that need re-strapping also.




BTW, anyone want to buy a sectional?





Friday, November 21, 2014

Flashback 1966! Exciting Road Test of Volkswagen's New Fastback!

Yesterday, I posted some Road Tests from the March 1966 issue of Mechanix Illustrated featuring a Chevrolet Caprice and a Mercury Cyclone. These beasts suck down fuel like it was cheaper than water...oh, wait, it was! Power and size didn't always matter to everyone as the following road test of a VW Fastback will attest. Our reviewer, Tom McCahill pulls no punches as usual and has a wonderful way with words. Well worth a read, and don't forget to read the ads too.







Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mechanix Illustrated Snapshot into the Past

As part of that group called the "Baby Boomers", I particularly enjoy looking at old magazines from the MCM era of the 1960's. A while back at an Estate Sale, I picked up some old issues of Mechanix Illustrated from 1966 that have some fascinating articles, ads and pics.



As a self professed Gearhead, I always gravitate to reading the articles about the cars from that period. In the March 1966 issue, Tom McCahill files a glowing report about the 1966 Chevrolet Caprice. This beast comes equipped with a 427 cu in big block motor. The car delivers some surprising performance for a car of this period. Needless to say, I would gladly take a 427 in my full size Chevy. Enjoy reading as Tom McCahill pulls no punches and provides a rather entertaining perspective.

  

Mimi, where are you now? My bowling style could use your training aid. Love the oufit.....


Mario, you the man! 


Do you think if I sent in the 15¢ I could still get the 16 page pocket catalog?


For you Ford fans, here is Tom McCahill's review of a Mercury Cyclone also with a big block motor. Tom's descriptions and sense of humor is priceless.......





Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paint Burning a Hole in my Pocket......

Summer just disappeared too fast this year. I had high hopes to complete numerous outdoor projects. Although I got a fair amount of them completed, life got in the way and didn't allow me to finish all of them. One of them was to paint the Salterini wrought iron furniture I've picked up at Estate Sales over the years. I had gone through all of the left over spray paint I had accumulated and decided that some of it was destined to find a home on some of these pieces. The 1st piece painted was a table that might or might not be Salterini as it was bought with a couple of the Salterini chairs I have. Sorry, no before or after, but here is the result:


I just love orange! This came out better than I imagined it would. 

Next on the list was one of the Salterini Cantilever Rocker Chairs I have. This chair had been repainted by a previous owner at least once, maybe even twice.



1st step was to scrape/sand/wire brush all the loose paint off:




Hard to believe, but that is a teenager doing some real manual labor! 


We spent a good amount of time trying to get down to the bare metal where possible. In the end, we got off the really loose stuff and sent it to the painting area. Here are the results:



I still have 3 more of these chairs to paint. With chilly weather setting in, I won't get to the others until Spring.

Prior to doing the painting I found a place that for around $ 150 a chair, you can have these chairs stripped and powder coated your choice of colors. Is it worth it? Maybe if I win the Power Ball Lottery....

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vintage Family Heirloom Lawn Boy Mower

Family heirlooms are great to have. Especially when they come from a close family member. In my case, I inherited my dad's vintage 1980 R7070 Lawn Boy 2-stroke walk behind mower. It predates the Ralph Nader safety equipment. It does not have the cutoff bar that makes the engine shut off when you to walk away from it. Basically, it consists of a deck, engine, wheels, and handle. I've been told that this model is a classic mower that will never die. This mower has had the wheels replaced numerous times, and the coil pack a couple of times. Usually, that is the only thing that wears out on them.



Anyone with a sharp eye might notice an extra piece at the base of the handle, near the back right wheel. Yes, that is a vice grip. Sadly, I had a slight failure of the handle bracket due to age and use while mowing the lawn yesterday. Without this extra equipment, I wouldn't have been able to finish mowing the lawn.



Fortunately, Ebay came to the rescue with a used replacement in good condition as this part is no longer in production or available through the normal mower part outlets. $20 later and I should have the replacement later in the week.


I think $20 is better than buying a new mower any day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MCM Kitchen Dinette Set and Chair Glides

A while back, the wife and I were out at a local consignment shop dropping off some items to sell. We spotted a really cool vintage 1960's laminated kitchen table and chair set. The wife had been looking for a while to replace our 17 year old kitchen table and chair set with a 60's vintage set, but it was priced way too expensive. So, on we went. Back again a month later and the set was still there. We gave it a longing look but passed it up again. Fast forward to the next month and the set is still there. The shop's policy is that items have to be cleared out after 30 days. If it is still there, it's supposed to be donated. I asked the ladies why the set was still there as they were surprised to see the date on the table. They promptly called the consigner who told them to donate it. We made an offer of $50 which was quickly accepted. Here's the result....


The table also has a matching leaf. 
 

The chairs are extremely comfortable and very cool. We sold our old set for $50 at our yard sale, so it turned out to be a fair trade. 

One of the reasons we couldn't see spending the money originally asked was that the chairs will eventually need to be recovered. We couldn't justify the expense of the table and chairs knowing the potential cost. The recovering of the chairs will be done some time in the future, but more immediately the chairs needed new feet.


The nylon pads were worn out and the previous owner had tried to band-aid them with felt pads. Not a great solution. I started my search for them at the big box hardware stores, but came up empty. Had to figure out that the replacement parts are called chair glides. Once I figured this out, it was easy to find replacements on-line.





One thing about doing projects like this is the importance of having the right tool to do the job. That seems to be a common theme on any of the projects I undertake with this one being no exception. When I ordered the glides, there was a recommended tool to remove and replace them. I hemmed and hawed about ordering one, but in the end, spent the $20 for the tool. Well worth the investment, even if I don't use it again.


Used in conjunction with a hammer, the tool removes the glide and then is used to seat the new glides on the legs. What could have involved a lot of screaming and aggravation without the tool, turned into an easy job of replacing all of the glides on all of the chairs in roughly an hour.


 The feet on the table need to be replaced also, but I haven't found a suitable replacement yet. If you look at the second photo, you might notice a deck of cards holding up one of the legs. The feet have a longer collar than any I've found on-line. Any suggestions for a supplier are welcome......