07/7/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – More Medical Adventures

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

As many of you know, I just had my own adventure in the hospital. Sunday before last, after a couple of days of mounting pain, I woke up at 1:30 am and told Garry it was time to go to the ER. It was my appendix. We went to Renown and wonderful people helped us there – I knew when it happened I had two choices… go or die. I have not had insurance since Garry fell so ill. There was not enough money and I put him first. But there was no way I was going to leave him now so we went.

Dr. Malone was very friendly and did immediate tests. He came back and said the bad news was that my appendix was incredibly inflamed but the good news was that it had not burst. It was very close. I also had sepsis — a bacterial infection that had reached my kidneys. Emergency surgery was undertaken and they began to nuke me with antibiotics I’ve never heard of.

Last Tuesday I was discharged and sent home with a wound drain. I will see the surgeon on the 14th to have it removed and to test me for sepsis again. I’m confident all of this is okay now but getting on my feet has been slower than I thought. A couple more days should do the trick. As ill as Garry has been he has taken care of me, changing my dressings and making sure I eat to take the antibiotics. When this started, I did not eat for 5 or 6 days and my body was beginning to shut down. God was watching out for me though once again.

The bills for this medical adventure start arriving today. Don’t know how we will manage but we’ll set up some kind of payment plan and limp along I guess. There is nothing else we can do at this point.

Garry takes a class next Monday on a new treatment being added to his chemo regimen starting next Wednesday. Treatments will now go from two hours to four or five. The class is to brief him on side effects that may appear because of the treatment.

The last two years have been hellish for us but we are fighters and will never give up. In those dark hours of the night when fear comes to me, I feel God by my side and it gives me the strength to fight another day. I am certain Garry can still beat this. Thank you for all your prayers, donations, and kindness.

06/22/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Not What We Expected

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Garry goes in to have the bile duct stent removed tomorrow morning and we foresee no issues with that procedure. The PET scan, however, was another matter. Here are the results and they are the opposite of what we expected:

1. Bilateral pulmonary metastases are larger and more numerous since January 2020, consistent with disease progression.

2. Nonspecific patchy areas of hypermetabolism within the liver, more focal than expected. While they may be physiologic, consider MRI to evaluate for hepatic metastatic disease.

3. Linear uptake in the anal canal and in the perianal region. This is likely inflammatory, and there is a suspected blind-ending perianal fistula. Recurrent/residual malignancy is also possible but considered less likely.

What this means is that the cyberknife evidently got rid of one tumor but there seem to be others in the lungs. There is also a possibility it has spread to his liver. Because of pain in the anal area, there will also have to be major surgery to remove the tumor and finalize the procedure down there. None of the above is good news but Garry took it in stride. Much better than I did. I go from being incredibly angry at his doctors, to terrified and crying in private.

Friday, Garry had to have a COVID-19 test. He went one place for blood to be drawn and then had to wait in a car line to get swabbed. He was only allowed to have water that day. That evening, he had an aphasia episode, or what we call chemo brain. He could not find the right words to speak with which is similar to a stroke but not as serious. However, it was enough to terrify me. It only lasted half an hour or so. The doctors here said it was due to not getting enough electrolytes. However, Garry’s white blood and red blood cell counts have been low since the beginning of May and we were not told about that. His hemoglobin is low too. But the doctors won’t do an infusion of blood right now. They just said if it happens again to go to the ER. It’s infuriating.

Adding insult to injury, Aetna decided to claw back all payments to an anesthesiologist who was out of network and we got hit with another bill for 1k.

Garry is very tired, but his counts are beginning to rise. He will speak to the oncologist Monday before his next round of chemo. Looks like our fight is far from over and it was a shock because the doctors had said how great his numbers were and that he was in remission. Please pray for Garry — he needs it now more than ever.

I would ask that, if you can, please give whatever is possible. Garry’s GoFundMe account is here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

So many have given and are praying for my husband. I can’t thank you enough. I’m trying to stay strong during all this and my faith is sometimes all that keeps me going.

Also note, Spectrum (our Internet provider) is having severe issues, so I am on and offline for the last few days. That is the computer. not me and I will post as I can.

06/3/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – The Near-Future And A Request

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

There are two parts to this post…

As many of you know, for the last year-and-a-half, my husband Garry has been battling Stage IV colorectal cancer. He is now in a semi-remission and his numbers are good. He just had gallbladder surgery and a stent put in his liver duct. It is a side-effect of the intense radiation and chemotherapy he has undergone, but he is doing really well and there were no complications.

Garry will have a PET scan on June 18th. If it shows that the chest tumor and the colorectal tumor are dead, they will most likely reduce or cease the chemotherapy which will be a blessing. Garry will be able to rest and recover from the constant fight against cancer. Since his numbers are so good, there is an excellent chance the tumors are now dead. Fingers crossed.

The next step after they cease chemo will be looking at two future surgeries. One to repair his ostomy hernia. The more substantial and serious one will be to remove the colorectal tumor itself. He could be down three months after that surgery. It is a complicated and serious procedure but we have known that in the end, it would probably be necessary. Prayers are appreciated in all of this.

That brings me to the second part of this post. We are still up to our necks with medical bills and this will add to that battle. Much of this is covered by Medicare but not all of it and it is the excess that is strangling us. We are really struggling since my business has been seriously impacted by COVID-19 and all the political nonsense going on. Right now, I’m down to a handful of clients and that income was used to pay the bills. I know many, in not most, of you are struggling too, so I don’t ask this lightly.

I would ask that, if you can, please give whatever is possible. Garry’s GoFundMe account is here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

We have come so far and it would be ironic if the medical bills were what took us down. I don’t think that will happen but I am asking for help here if you can.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has helped us. It means the world to us and we could not have gotten through all of this without you. Your prayers have kept us going and this is a fight we will win.

05/15/20

A Transformative Experience

By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American

My grandson, James, is up here at our house in the country.  He was asking lots of questions about various things on the property, pointing to a pair of upright four by four support posts that at one time had been covered with metal roofing.

I mentioned while pointing to the metal roofing material that had been stacked on the ground next to the fence, that the shed got damaged when a tornado passed close to our house.  We’d been extremely lucky the tornado only took off a couple of sections of metal roofing from the shed; that it could as easily have hit our house and done lots of damage.

The idea of a tornado passing through our property kicked his mind into overdrive as I watched him trying to put all these ideas into a completed thought.  I then explained that the tornado that had barely touched down at our property, that very same tornado made its way over to where the freeway is; again I was pointing in the general direction of the freeway for James to be able to follow the story.

I asked if he remembered being in my truck going into Buffalo on the service road that goes next to the freeway.  I explained that the tornado had destroyed three huge transformers and torn them from off their supports right next to the road and that the electric company had to come out and repair all the damage.

“Wow! The tornado broke the transformers?” Looking at his expression let me know he was thinking of a completely different kind of transformer, those featured on television shows where one moment it’s a pickup truck and seconds later it’s turned into a giant fighting machine standing tall, shooting lightning bolts or rockets out of its extended arms.

I could see an additional explanation would be required as I pointed to the electrical transformer attached to the pole next to our house.  “That’s the kind of transformer that got destroyed; only they were much larger.”

James might not have understood how I could be as confused about something as simple as a transformer, heck; any kid knows what transformers are, just look at what’s available at the toy store.

This exchange reminded me of my son William when he was about the same age.  We’d been planning our vacation and invited Lucy’s dad, Bob Spitler, to go along.  He lived on the other side of town and was about to leave when a terrible thunderstorm moved through knocking out power to his house.

He called letting us know he’d been delayed while waiting for the power company to replace a broken transformer.  Upon hearing this William started bouncing off the walls in excitement.

“Gran-Bobby has a transformer in his backyard!”  Nothing we could say changed his mind, “Gran-Bobby has a transformer in his backyard; Wow!”  Visions of twenty-foot tall superheroes and villains stomping on trees as they marched across his grandfather’s back yard knocking out power lines to the house were running rampant in William’s mind.

About an hour or so later Bob showed up and we were able to leave on our trip.  William made sure to sit next to his grandfather wanting to hear all about the transformer and how it got broken, how it got fixed and how come he’d never told him he had one in his backyard.  It was a great way to start our vacation, one of those delays that you can’t complain took away anything simply because we didn’t get started on time.

Having a conversation with a five-year-old can be a transformative experience.  You can take my word on that.


t-f-stern-1Self-Educated American, Senior Edi­tor, T.F. Stern is both a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer and, most recently, a retired self-employed lock­smith (after serving that industry for 40 plus years). He is also a gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since January of 2005.

05/11/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Post Surgery

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Garry was in the hospital over a span of five days. Turns out it was not a bowel obstruction, but his gallbladder. The stones had migrated to his liver duct which measured a whopping 2 cm. If they had gone further they would have entered the pancreas and that would have been even worse. The doctor said the gallbladder membrane was so thin it was getting ready to fall apart which could have caused sepsis.

Garry had two procedures over two days. The first to remove the stones from the liver duct. They implanted a stent that will be removed in 6 to 8 weeks. The next day, the gallbladder was removed. Both procedures went very well. Garry’s pain is gone and things have pretty much returned to normal. He is home and resting now.

Thank you for all of your prayers as we go forward with this.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

05/7/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Surgery

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Everything was fine until it wasn’t. Garry had chemo on Monday and his markers are still great. Then he started to get a stomach ache… a bad one. He also could not go to the bathroom. He figured it was just gas and it seemed to get better later in the day. Wash and repeat on Tuesday. Both nights he could not sleep and Tuesday night, nausea started. We were both up all night and I didn’t like the greyness of his color.

He got his pump off Wednesday morning. I told him to talk to a doctor, nurse, or anyone that would listen about the pain. The oncology nurse recommended that he go to the ER and get a scan for a bowel obstruction immediately.

He was so weak he had to come home and sleep a couple of hours first. We then took him to the ER. I had his medical bag, water, masks, and gloves. We got inside and they would not let me go with him. I left him with the supplies and went home more than a little upset.

They did a CAT scan and it was gallstones. They kept Garry there last night and he will have surgery today or tomorrow. This may have been a side effect of the chemo and the ostomy. But it was serious enough they wanted to get it done and over with. The doctor did not want to put it off. Hopefully, Garry will be back in a day or two. He was much better this morning and the pain was gone.

The surgery was unexpected but thankfully it is not one of the more serious ones on his possible list. Thank you for all your prayers and I’ll keep you updated.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

05/6/20

Seeing Different Sides of a Memory

By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American

My grandson wanted to look at photographs that had been stored away in some old albums.  There were images of my folks, their townhouse in Houston, my children at various ages along with pictures of my sister and more images of various dogs and cats we’d learned to love over the years.

While turning one of the pages in the album there was a Houston Police Department ‘photo-op’ showing my old walking beat partner, Donnie White, and me receiving a Police Chief’s Commendation.  Lots of memories came to the surface; but interestingly, a line from Charles Dickens’ book,  A Tale of Two Cities, jumped out first.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

The department was going through changes and had prioritized Community Policing, a nice way of saying, No Policing; the city wanted public relations at almost any price. I was assigned a new partner and we had little in common other than we wore the same uniform.  We were given a walking beat; if memory serves, it was about six city blocks.  Somebody working in our office had picked out a location for us to park our patrol car and even had special signs erected showing it as ‘Reserved for Police’.  It was up to us to do something positive, create goodwill among those within our assigned beat.

One of the first things my new partner and I noticed was the location they’d picked out to park our patrol car wasn’t well thought out.  We knew most of the time we’d be using it to transport shoplifting suspects from Foley’s Department store to the city jail.  That meant that if we used the spot picked out, we’d have to walk these prisoners two blocks to get to our police car.

We let our supervisors know that it would be much safer for everyone if they’d change the location and reserved a parking spot right there next to Foley’s.  We went much further in our ‘suggestions’ as we made an in-depth study of nearly every aspect pertaining to traffic flow, parking, and safety issues within our six-block area.

We got the proprietors of the businesses to review our suggestions and had them submit their approval on letterhead stationery that identified each business as being positively included in our Community Policing efforts.  In short, our supervisors considered our actions worthy of a Chief of Police Commendation.

“It was the best of times…”

Not too long after being carried through the streets of Houston on our supervisor’s shoulders, lifted up as heroes along with being handed the keys to the city… wait; that never happened…

A month or so later we noticed the limousine used by the Lamar Hotel was parked in the fire zone directly in front of that hotel.  We issued a parking ticket and didn’t think much about having done our duty.  We issued it a parking ticket almost every day for about a week, that is until our immediate supervisor approached us; asking that we ignore that particular vehicle since they, our supervisors, were having to void out the parking tickets. The owner of the Lamar Hotel was a member of the ‘good old boys club’ and didn’t appreciate being ticketed by some lowly patrol officers.

It’s difficult to explain my reaction to their ‘request’; it simply took off from there.  The department called it ‘insubordination’ and did their level best to get my partner and I fired.  I ended up with a 40-day suspension, without pay.  I suppose that was warranted since I really did tell all of the supervisors, to include three assistant chiefs, where they could put their ‘request’.

“…it was the worst of times…”

During my ‘spare time’, if that’s what it could be called, I didn’t sit around the house feeling sorry for myself.  Instead, I used locksmith skills I’d picked up from my friends at Reed’s Key Shop to begin earning a living.  I beat the pavement, so to speak, obtaining customers; visiting small used car dealers that were plentiful and always in need of a reasonably priced locksmith.

Within a very short time, I’d replaced my police paycheck with more than enough to pay regularly occurring bills.  After a bitter Civil Service fight, I was re-instated as a police officer and, at my request, transferred to a completely different assignment and began working night shift patrol.  That meant I could be a fulltime locksmith in the daytime and a police officer at night.

I used to joke that I got my four hours of sleep every day whether I needed it or not. This arrangement lasted until I completed my twenty-year hitch with the Houston Police Department and I became eligible to receive the retirement package I’d earned.

“It IS the best of times…

04/20/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – COVID-19

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

An update is in order. Things suddenly went off the rails here when COVID-19 came into play. Garry had been set for two surgeries… one for the hernia around his ostomy and the other being the major surgery to finish the removal of the colo-rectal tumor that is now apparently dead. When the virus popped up, all elective surgeries here in Reno came to an end, postponing Garry’s two procedures for the near future.

Garry is still in remission as far as we know and other than the intermittent exhaustion that puts him in bed, he’s doing well and is in good spirits. He’s still on chemo every two weeks. After visiting with the cancer doc today just before chemo, it was decided that another PET scan will be done in June. At that time, instead of just reducing the chemo itself as they did last time, they will most likely either stop chemo or reduce the frequency of it. Garry will also at that point be talking about his surgeries again with the surgeon. All in all, it’s good news although the surgeries are the scary part here.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

We are still facing the debt issue. We just lost a fight with Aetna on one bill that made no sense at all. But in the end, we will get through this. It’s a fight we will win in the end… we may be very broke, but Garry will win his fight against cancer and that is what matters.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers, well wishes and financial support. Now, more than ever, you are helping us beat this monster and we thank and love all of you for it.

04/11/20

Call Me Theo

By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American

Before getting started…I thought I’d written and saved this story from long ago, but for some reason can’t find it in any of my files… Today a friend wanted to know what T. F. stood for, True Friend or Truck Farmer.  So, here goes…

Back in the mid to late 1970s while working downtown as a police officer, one of our daily assignments was to stand in front of the Harris County Court House around noontime so we could escort felony prisoners that would be offloaded onto the sidewalk.  We’d then remove their handcuffs and put our handcuffs back on them, take them upstairs to have their Miranda Legal Warning read to them by a county court judge and then take them back down to the street, exchange handcuffs once more and load them back into the paddy wagon to be returned to the city jail.

No, I’m not making this absurd ritual up.  There was a safe prisoner zone in the lower level of the County Court House, but it was reserved and could only be used by the Harris County Sherriff’s Department and strictly off-limits for the City of Houston police officers.  Yeah, we had a wonderful working relationship as you can see.

Think about it this way…we had a felony prisoner (homicide, robbery, burglary, rapist or who knows what) that was in a safe place (the city jail), but some fool (supervisor of higher rank) decided that we should take that felony prisoner outside the jail and drive him through downtown Houston in the paddy wagon with several other felony prisoners and offload them onto the sidewalk in front of the courthouse.  This meant letting them out of the paddy wagon where there was minimal to non-existent security available, taking their handcuffs off and trading them for the ones belonging to a police officer standing there on the sidewalk.

What could possibly go wrong?  But that’s not why I’m writing this today…

Aside from this insanity, there were a collection of odd women, groupies if you will, trolling for police officers like they were band bunnies or something.  They’d start conversations hoping to engage a police officer, flirting or whatever until such time as all the prisoners had been taken upstairs.

One day, while awaiting my turn to take a felony prisoner upstairs, a young woman got up in my face, going on about just about anything.  She handled my name tag, physically touching it as she read the name, T. F. Stern.  Then she asked, “What’s the T. F. stand for?”

Not sure where my answer came from, but sarcasm is a standard file in my personality, as I responded, “It’s supposed to be T. B. Stern but they got it wrong”.

“So what’s the T. B. stand for?”

“Theophanous Bastardo Stern.  Some of the folks call me The Old Bastard, but my friends just call me Theo.”  As I said, I’ve no idea where this stuff comes from; but the young woman huffed a bit and walked away feeling insulted.

On the other hand, one of the other police officers who’d been standing there in front of the courthouse almost lost it, trying to contain his belly laugh.  From that day on he called me Theo.  It would have been a shame to lose a story like this simply because of a bad filing system.

03/5/20

Update On My Husband’s Cancer Treatment – Surgery

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

The good news is they still think Garry is in remission. But the doctors have continued chemo because they say they don’t have an adequate baseline of comparison with the cancer clinic in Oklahoma. Garry will be requesting his records again to go to the surgeon and cancer doc here so they have a better handle on what has gone on previously with his case.

The cancer doc has reduced the chemo a further 20% but it is still occurring every two weeks. They have also stopped Avastin as part of chemo because it stops the healing process. Garry has to be off it for at least six weeks prior to surgery. We took him off his blood pressure medications because we thought that was what was making him so tired all the time and his bp was too low. His bp is now normal but he is still exhausted. It is probably a result of cumulative chemo.

We met with the surgeon last week but he does not want to do anything until he gets Garry’s records. Garry will see him next Thursday. At that time, they will do an MRI, as well as a physical and camera examination of the tumor. He does have a large hernia around his ostomy now and it is not a normal one. The doc says he wants to see if he can reverse the ostomy but when he gets in there, I’m sure he will find it is permanent.

Garry will definitely have the hernia surgery. It is also likely he will have to have the rectal tumor removed because of discharge, bleeding, and pain. That is a harsh surgery that will have him down for almost three months. It’s also a dangerous surgery so prayers are appreciated if we have to go that route.

If you want to help Garry out, you can give at GoFundMe. You can donate here. You can also donate on PayPal. My email there is [email protected] or you can use the PayPal link on the upper right side of NoisyRoom.net to get there. If you would like to donate some other way, email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you instructions.

To give you some insight into what gives on the financial end, we paid over 22k in medical bills last year out of our own pocket. We paid almost 11k in additional insurance charges and another 8k to move back to Reno. Without your donations, we would not have made it and frankly, it was a miracle that we did make it. God was looking out for us. We are still 10k in debt and are trying to handle that before we do the surgeries. If you can give, we would really appreciate it as this is a major struggle for us now.

Garry will get through this and I still have faith that the cancer will be eradicated and he will live many more years. We always rely on our faith and take it one step at a time. It’s just that the next step is a doozy.

Thank you to all of you. You give us the strength we need to keep fighting this every day. And you are helping us win this fight.