Update to “Shock”

ET (“Evil” twin) used “leukemia” as a generic term for a blood/bone marrow cancer. Leukemia is (I guess) a bone marrow cancer causing abnormal production of white blood cells. ET’s bone marrow is producing abnormal red blood cells. Since the repeated tests are not showing a worsening of the problem, her doctor is going to wait 3 months before doing more tests.

So, the waiting continues. Waiting is better than the test results getting worse.

Feb 13, 2012 at 4:11pm

It’s funny how certain dates and times get imprinted into one’s memory.

February 13, 2012, at 4:11pm was when my wife’s doctor called on the telephone to tell my wife the results of my wife’s breast biopsy.

Cancer. In both breasts.

A flurry of tests, followed by surgery, after which the doctors staged her cancer at “stage 3C”–bad but still curable.

Fifteen months of tests, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and then breast “reconstruction”. The quotes are there because reconstruction doesn’t do anything except allow her clothes to fit okay. A similarity would be a person and a statue of that same person.

Except for my wife needing to take a pill each forming for the past 10 years, we have gone back to almost normal. It is almost normal because each year she has to visit an oncologist. That visit reminds us of 10 years ago. There is also the waiting for the oncologist to call my wife to tell us the results of all the yearly tests. So far, the calls have told us that all is still well. The nickname for this time period is “scanxiety”.

The need for the pills will be ending soon, so all that will be left will be the scars and the scanxiety. I’m not sure if the worry will ever go completely away.

Things Did Work Out

Today, I was out running along the city parks’ running-walking-biking-riding trails. It felt good to be breathing hard and sweating a bit.

Around quarter after 9 am, I stopped for a few moments and thought about how much my life has changed, how far I’ve come in 37 years and how thankful I was that things did “work out”.

Halloween, 37 years ago, around 9am, my fiancée and I were brought into her doctor’s office. It wasn’t the exam room, but the doctor’s actual office. Around 9:15 in the morning, the doctor walks in, sits down and begins with, “I’m afraid I have only bad news.”

He was right. It was bad news. He told us that none of the available treatments had slowed her ovarian cancer and there was nothing left to try. He knew that my fiancée had completed her pre-med program and had been accepted to medical school, so they “talked technical” for a few minutes. He then went on to tell us that he felt it was time to consider hospice.

I remember her slowly nodding her head and me holding my breath until I felt like I was going to explode.

When my fiancée was in hospice, she kept making me promise that I would keep on living and also insisting that things would work out.

After thinking about “that day”, my thoughts returned to today and I thought about my wife of 31 years, our 22 year old daughter, our careers, our retirement and “life in general”.

My fiancée was right. Things did work out.

All Sorts of Stuff

The past few weeks have been an interesting mix of emotions and they all converge.

My mother’s house was sold a few weeks ago.  So, the final chapter is being written in “mom’s book of life”.  I still have a 25 square foot store room full of her stuff to sort through.  I was in a hurry to get the house cleaned out so the remodeling contractor could get in there and do their work, so some stuff that I wasn’t prepared to deal with is in storage.  Once I get done with that stuff my “mom’s book of life” will be complete.

I have retired effective November 1.  My last day at the telephone company was yesterday.  I drove my 1950 CJ3-A Willys Jeep to work on the first day I worked at the telephone company and 26 years later, I drove the same Jeep on the last day of my working at the company.  It was a nice piece of symmetry.

I was hoping to retire on October 31.  It would have been a sweet memory to go with the older and more somber memory of my fiancee entering hospice.  But as I mentioned earlier, I had to move it because of insurance benefits.

October 31, at just after 9am, I stopped and remembered my fiancee.  “I’m afraid I have only bad news……”, was how the doctor started his conversation about hospice and end of life care.  Someone walked by my cubical at that very moment and asked if I was having second thoughts about retiring.  I said no, but they didn’t believe me.

I opened up with them a bit and told them of cancer stealing my fiancee, how my wife’s stage 3B breast cancer is still gone, but could come back and how we have saved an amount of money equal to 25 years of my salary.   I ended my little tirade by asking them, “Why should I let work take me from my wife?”

I think they understood.

My wife will retire in May and then we will be free to spend our life together.  At that time she will be 58 and I will be 57.  Hopefully we will have a long time together.


On my first day of retirement, I ran 4 miles, I swept the floors of the house and washed the clothes.  Now it’s time to decide what I want to cook for dinner.

Rambling post

I’m working from home today.  I’m doing component level circuit prototyping and the workplace has no such facilities.  So, with the O-scope lit up, a DVM, and a protoboard on the bench, I’m putting together a simple (small) triggered burst mode oscillator that will be triggered by a tiny GPS module’s pulse per second output.  The end result is that when it is plugged into a telephone, one will hear a beep every second.  The trick is that the beeps from multiple units in different locations will start at the same instant in time.  Feed the beep into a phone, call a telephone number in a distant city, compare the beep start times between a local unit and what comes out of the phone and one can measure the transit time of a voice across a telephone system.

With the advent of digital telephones, the network is a minor part of  the equation.  Different phones take different amounts of times to do their job and different brands of phones working together can sometimes do unusual things.  What I’m doing here will measure everything from the speaker’s mouth to the listener’s ear.  Maybe that’s why it’s called mouth to ear delay. Hmmm.

I haven’t done much of this kind of work in probably 30 years.  It’s nice to see the process hasn’t changed much and that many of the familiar components are still available–556 timers in particular.  It’s nice to see that the old protoboard still works.

Once I decide my hair brained idea will work, I’ll put it onto something more substantial, hope nothing weird happens in the move, and build another one.  If my experience holds true, the prototyping of such a simple thing will take an hour and getting it into a nice looking box will take the rest of the day.  A packaging engineer, I am not.

On a sadder note.  31 years ago this week I descended into a hell from which I’ve only partially escaped.

I was at home, admiring my just purchased semester’s worth of graduate school engineering texts when the telephone rang.  The caller identified herself as a nurse in the emergency department at the hospital where my fiancee worked.  She plunged on, telling me my fiancee had collapsed and was being sent into surgery.  Seemingly forever later I arrived at the hospital and after even more forever of a wait, the surgeon came out and used many scarey words.  The worst ones were “cancer”, “advanced” and “very difficult road ahead”.

Four months later her nightmare ended. She was almost 22 and I was a very angry and lost 23 year old. After 31 years, I still wonder “what if”.

The reason I say partially escaped is that my wife of 25 years had many of the similar words used about her.  Stage 3 breast cancer.  After a year long flurry of treatments she now visits the oncologist every 3 months. So far, the news is good.  I hope it stays that way.

My fiancee had been accepted to medical school and I’m absolutely certain she would have made it.  My wife is an engineer.

Brains and beauty.  Twice.  Three times if you count our awesome daughter.  I suppose I’ve been lucky.