Thursday, March 21, 2013

All along we've been very lucky to have had our health for the most part.    We have been aware that my days aboard are numbered with the advance of symptoms from post polio syndrome, but still we have moved slowly and were looking forward to a few years in the Pacific, perhaps the grand finale of all our years of cruising. We were getting ready to close out our time in Palau and move on to Papua New Guinea , the Solomons and Vanuatu, places that have been high on our cruising list for years.    But, as John Lennon sang, Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

Jim began to get some ear infections and what looked like a stye in his eyelid, but after several visits to the Palauan docs all he could get were antibiotics and was told he had a plugged tear duct.    The small bump became a big lump and was obviously not going to go away. 

 After the girls left, Jim flew to Manila to see the doctors at St. Lukes Medical Center and have the thing removed.   We thought, in, out and back in a few days, but things didn't turn out that way.   The lump was pronounced a tumor right away and a CT scan showed it was deep in and around his eye ball.   They removed it, tested it and after several days of waiting Jim was told it was cancerous.  So he had more meetings, a PET scan to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else, which it had not, but the prognosis was that he would have to have more surgery and radiation and St. Lukes did not seem comfortable in providing those procedures.    Fortunately we have had DAN (Diver's Alert Network) travel insurance for several years now and they paid for Jim's flight to Manila and (hopefully) the procedures done there.    They also agreed that at this stage it was better for Jim to get back to the states and see the doctors at the Seattle VA hospital.    Jim contacted them before he left and they opened up the case for him immediately and got the thing rolling.    Jim was sent to Dr. Isaac Bohannon (female) who is a great doctor, one who actually listens to him and answers all questions.   Jim was told that most likely he was going to lose the eye, but later, after an MRI, the doctor could see a barrier between the remaining tumor material and the muscles so she opted at this time to keep the eye.   Good news.    Jim went in for surgery on Feb 26 which took 6 hours as the doctor painstakingly removed tumor material, cleared margins, removed bone around the eye socket and rebuild the bone with titanium mesh.

 Through all of this the doctors and staff have been top notch, all the way.    Not only is Jim getting the best of care, but it is all free.   They even provided a hotel room for the first couple of days before Jim was admitted.  I got to stay in some pretty nice digs, the Fisher House, which is there for families of vets undergoing treatments.  

 The Fisher House makes life very comfortable for families with a beautiful facility, 1st class rooms, a large galley, tvs and the day I was there, a florist came in to give flower arranging lessons which joined in on and made the little basket with anthuriums and the glass terrarium you see in the picture.  They never charge for anything.

Although they said they did not see any more cancer cells in the material sent to the pathologist during the surgery, there was more found in the bone samples and so now Jim has to undergo radiation.   He has to wait for 6 weeks after the surgery (around the second week of April) to begin 6 weeks of radiation which is not going to be fun at all.   But we are so glad the doctors are being thorough, aggressive and careful.    Fortunately this is not the kind of cancer that is likely to spread, however it could come back in the same spot and the next time Jim would most definitely lose his eye so we are in complete compliance with whatever the docs want to do.  Furthermore, Jim will need another small surgery to tighten up his lower eyelid which droops now and a rigorous schedule of doctor visits.  She wants to see him every 6 to 8 weeks for the first year or so, then back off a bit to every 3 or 4 months, slowing down a bit until the 5 year mark.    This puts a big crimp in the sailing schedule and we are trying to see how we can work around that now.

We are staying in Ferndale, just a few miles from our daughter, Kelly.     We kept our tin can trailer so it was just a few hours and we had it set up in a park.   Home Sweet Home.   Getting  to see Kelly and visit with old friends is a real plus, but we do miss the boat and are anxious to get back to Palau.  We hope to be back there in July and continue on our way.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all the interesting update. Although we are sorry to hear the most recent and sure do send you all the good wishes for a speedy recovery and clearance from cancer for a few more decades to come. Yours is the second update from boater friends with cancer. Tony on Amber Nectar had his kidney taken and Thank God seems to be in the clear now.
    Again best wishes to you all and please keep us in touch with you.
    Hope you will be sailing sooner than you expect with clear bill of health.
    Happy Easter all from crew on Lady Ann, anchored with Langkawi and long overdue for a haulout and bottom paint.