What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

Bushy-Tailed Tree Rats

Filed under: Cars!,The House — dave @ 8:29 am 2013/09/20

We only have a single-car garage, which typically doesn’t have room for even a single car, so parking a car or three on the street is pretty much normal at our house. Just down the street from our property there is a walnut tree between the curb and the sidewalk, not far from where the 528e is usually parked.

A couple of days ago I saw a squirrel run out from under that car, and something made me think that he hopped down from the underside of it… I didn’t give it much thought it at the time, but this morning, while driving that car to work, I heard a little ‘thump’ as I was slowing for a stoplight, then saw a green walnut go rolling along the curb into the intersection. Great.

Looks like I need to do some inspecting and see how many more nuts that bushy-tailed tree rat has squirreled away in my car. And how much damage he’s caused in the process.

The In-Between Time

Filed under: Medical Adventures — dave @ 12:50 pm 2013/09/12

It’s been a while since my last update, so I suppose I’m way overdue for another. Actually, this post was started weeks ago, but it never seems quite finished, and instead of just finishing it, I find myself going back to it again & again and revising big chunks of it. Even the post title has probably changed a half-dozen times… Probably not the most efficient way to get the job done, but… It may have ended up a little on the wordy side too; just a warning. Good thing I don’t charge by the hour or by the word.

My last post ended with the results of my second PET scan in late June. While the procedure was a little rough, it yielded some good news; we had gained some serious ground on the cancer in my jaw, and we were ready to roll into the next phase of treatment, radiation therapy. Those treatments weren’t much more fun than the last PET scan, and even now, seven weeks out from my last treatment, I’m still feeling the lingering side-effects. The positive side of this in between time is that I haven’t even seen the inside of a hospital, clinic or infusion center since July 25 (happy dance!) My next appointment is for blood work and a third PET scan on September 18, followed by a visit with my oncologist to go over the results. It’s been really good to not be picked on for a while after about 17 weeks of being poked, prodded, gouged, scanned, pumped full of toxins and and being irradiated by a linear accelerator. Recovery from the radiation seems to be much slower, but I’m finally starting to feel closer to normal (whatever that is; I think I forgot.)

To recap what has happened since that last scan…

Ride The Booster

Filed under: Geek,Space,Travel — dave @ 7:25 am 2013/08/05

Stuff like this fascinates me. The video is made from actual footage from cameras that rode along on two different shuttle flights, and shows the view from one of the booster rockets. The sounds I think are artificial (added after the fact by Skywalker Sound) but still add a lot to the effect of the video.

Hat tip to Break.com (for this one, and lots of other entertaining posts!)

YouTube link

BMWotD — e36 Compact with M50 Six

Filed under: BMW Of The Day — dave @ 11:27 am 2013/07/26

It’s been a while since I last posted a BMWotD, and I’ve got a few of them stashed away on my local drive, so time to play some catch-up.

This one was listed for sale on the Minneapolis CraigsList earlier this month, and had (un)fortunately sold before I saw mention of it on the 318ti.org forum recently. Looks to be a nicely executed swap on a very clean car. Loving the interior on this car too. The asking price may have been a little on the high side, but the fun factor combined with the clean factor plus my favorite color would’ve made it hard to pass up. Good thing I didn’t have the chance to deliberate whether to take a shot at it.


Some Serious Progress

Filed under: Medical Adventures — dave @ 1:43 pm 2013/07/24

Another very tardy update; the last few weeks have been, um… eventful.

Four weeks ago I had my first sit-down with Dr. McGraw, the radiation oncologist. There was a bit of a snafu in the scheduling, as he would’ve preferred to have seen me after my PET scan (which was done the following Thursday morning; more on that later) so he didn’t have a full game plan for treatment. He also said that he would be passing my case over to one of his partners because he was being deployed with the Air Guard and would be gone for the next three months. He did however take the time to explain things pretty well, so Yvonne & I were thankful for that. Knowing what he did of my case (two things you don’t want to hear from a doc; “I’ve been reading up on your case; it’s very interesting.” and “Wow, I’ve never seen [i]that[/i] before!”) he thought that a course of 18 daily radiation treatments over a span of three weeks ought to do the trick to completely eradicate the cancer from my jaw.

The treatments would be aimed at my jaw, and should only affect that immediate area; the side effects didn’t sound like much fun (and haven’t been) but he didn’t think it would interfere much with life & work (they haven’t, much) and should be effective. The daily thing was kind of a surprise, but he explained that doing smaller doses daily is far easier on the body than larger doses spaced further apart. I think I can accept that; I won’t enjoy it, but that pretty much goes without saying.

Following the appointment that morning I was also fitted with my Hannibal mask. They don’t call it that, but I will because that’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw it; it’s a form-fitted mask that helps to keep my head stationary during the radiation treatments, and also allows the techs to mark it up with reference points so they can be more consistent from one treatment to the next (which is better than marking me!) It’s made of a plastic mesh that starts out flat and becomes pliable when warmed up. The techs draped the warmed mesh over my face, then fitted it to a u-shaped plate that clamps to a hard plastic headrest. This isn’t mine, but looks an awful lot like it:

Since the tumor is on my lower jaw, they also want to keep my mouth from moving, so I was fitted with a mouthpiece, which is similar to a football bite-guard except it has a flat plastic piece in place of the part that would normally form fit around the lower teeth. After the initial fitting, the bite-guard was attached to the mask; the two combined, with the mask clamped onto the headrest, with me in a supine position on the table made for an extremely unpleasant confined feeling.

They did a quick CT scan of my head that first Tuesday, and in the few minutes that it took I nearly gagged on the stupid mouth guard. The bite guard obstructs my tongue’s movement, and that combined with the way the mask fits around the bottom of my chin made swallowing really difficult. And that combined with laying flat on my back on the table made for a few moments of near panic. I made it through the CT scan, and was so glad to finally be released from the thing I failed to say anything about that. Later I assumed that at some point we would take some time to get the mask & bite guard to fit better… Wrong assumption.

During our visit Dr. McGraw mentioned that he wanted to use that mask for my second PET scan in order to get more accurate results; I was still hoping that there might be some adjusting we could do with it, but when the nurse trotted that thing out on Thursday morning it was pretty clear that wasn’t happening. They got me ready and slapped that puppy over my face & told me to relax, the test would take 20 to 25 minutes. That’s when I nearly lost it.

I was to have nothing but water for six hours before the PET scan, and part of the prep involves drinking a thick sugary goop. That made for a bit of sticky gunk in the back of my throat that was hard to swallow. Add to that the bite guard in my mouth and the part of the mask wrapping under my chin and it was extremely hard to swallow. I’ve never considered myself to be claustrophobic, but I’d never been this restricted before (having my arms strapped to my sides didn’t help that either.) I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it five minutes, much less twenty-five minutes, so I grunted and kicked and did whatever I could to communicate to the nurse that it wasn’t gonna fly… She pulled the mask off and I nearly hyperventilated, so happy to be able to breathe again!

I explained the difficulty I was having, so she went to ask about adjusting the thing; she came back saying the word was ‘no’ on adjusting, but the doc relented on the mouth guard, and she pulled it off of the mask. The mask was still somewhat restrictive, what with the part that wrapped under the chin, but I somehow made it through the procedure by praying, reciting what I could of the 23rd Psalm (sure felt like the valley of the shadow of death!) and counting. The PET scan operates by making scans of small sections of the body, as if it’s a great big meat slicer (that thankfully doesn’t actually cut anything.) From the counting I determined that it took around three minutes for it to scan a section of my body; then the table I was on would move forward six inches or so, then it would scan the next section of my body. I lost track of how many times it moved, but if my one-second counts were accurate, it was about three minutes between each move.

Even with the counting and praying, there were still a few moments where I was this close to bailing out; swallowing was difficult, breathing was difficult, I was getting a kink in my neck from the plastic headrest, and having my arms & legs strapped down was just a bit too much. But I did make it through. Later on I realized another factor that made the earlier PET scan so much easier; Dr. Bleeker prescribed a sedative for me to take in preparation for the test. I think the mask would still have been a problem if I’d had the sedative on board, but I have no doubt that would’ve helped.

Later that same afternoon we met with Dr. Bleeker to go over the results… The PET scan basically measures the glucose uptake of cells in your body. To do that, a radiotracer is injected into the bloodstream; for cancer detection, the radiotracer used is FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose) tagged to glucose. Cancers absorb glucose differently from normal tissue, and the PET scan is able to detect those differences; in reading the PET scan, a radiologist reads the scan results and grades the “glow” of an area in SUV (Standardized Uptake Values). When I had my first PET scan back in April, the glow in my jaw was a 10; following chemotherapy it was 3. Considering the fact that normal or benign tissue has an SUV of 2.3, I’d say we’re heading in the right direction.

I started writing this post about three weeks ago, and am just now finishing it up. I could go on, and tell more about the radiation therapy, but I think I’ll just post this and start a fresh post on that topic. Pretty sure I can finish it in less than three weeks. ;)

Godspeed, Ken

Filed under: Faith & Worship,Medical Adventures — dave @ 5:37 pm 2013/07/12

A good friend — Ken — found an end to his earthly suffering today, losing his battle with mesothelioma.

I’ve known members of Ken’s family much longer than I’ve known him, so it feels like I’ve known him forever. In reality though it’s only been about 15 years or so. Ken is a few years my senior, and has been retired longer than we’ve been acquainted. He’s not exactly an official mentor, but he has mentored me on many levels, usually unintentionally. Such a great guy; quiet, humble, honest… Seems like they don’t make men like anymore, or at least not as often.

Ken’s mesothelioma diagnosis came long before I was diagnosed with DLBCL, but we somehow ended up on the same rotation for chemotherapy; I counted him as my chemo-buddy. Mesothelioma is a much different and more aggressive cancer than DLBCL, and his fight was simply for a little more time; there is no cure, and the chemo only slowed its advance until it outsmarted the drugs. He had explored lots of treatment options in the last few months at Sanford Cancer Center and at Mayo Clinic, but the doctors said there was little more they could do for him and he wouldn’t likely see Christmas. I really hate it when they are that right.

The last time I saw Ken was two weeks ago this Sunday; Ken was admitted to the hospital a week earlier, and Yvonne and I stopped to visit, staying much longer than we had intended. I’m glad we had that time with him. Ken looked good that day, alert but a bit sleepy from the drugs helping to control his pain. The cancer had spread to his abdomen and had formed several tumors which were collecting fluid and causing a lot of pain. He and Harriet were so grateful for and hospitable to every visitor; the embodiment of graciousness. The strange thing was that only three weeks earlier at our last chemo session he looked great and was in no pain at all. That was five weeks ago, and today he’s gone. I just can’t wrap my head around that.

But Ken was well grounded in his faith in Jesus Christ, and there’s no doubt he’s in a better place now, free of pain and worshiping at the Throne. It’s hard though, knowing I won’t see him again, and knowing how difficult this will be for his family. Still, I envy him just a little… But I know it’s not my turn yet; God still has a job for me here, so I wait patiently for him to call me home, and try to become what he wants me to be.

BMWotD — 1988 M6

Filed under: BMW Of The Day — dave @ 4:26 pm 2013/06/12

Hot on the heels of the 635CSi I posted about a couple of days ago comes this beauty; a 1988 M6. Same form factor as the other car, same color, but a few differences that make all the difference…

Gorgeous 1988 BMW E24 Shark! 95K Miles!

For sale: One gorgeous rare classic 1988 BMW M6 E24 chassis coupe with only 95.500 miles.
VIN: WBAEE1417J2561198. Rare car new was $59,000!
This one is a beauty in “ZINNOBERROT” red over tan leather hides with heated electric leather seats, 17″ BMW “style 5″ wheels [OR 17″ Racing Dynamics], cold a/c, cruise, performance chip, short shift kit and more.
Offered here at $16,988. Phone calls please to 650-307-2251

The M-systems logo is the big deal on this one, because that tells of many other goodies lurking just below the surface that really set this car apart from other e24s. The interior on this one isn’t exactly my favorite, but it’s something I could live with, especially for the pleasure of hearing the music produced by that engine. I’m told that the e24 isn’t terribly nice for tall people to sit in, but that’s something I’ve not experienced first-hand so I have no idea, but I’d sure like to find out.

This car is offered for sale by Evan at BimmerBrothers; BimmerBrothers sells a lot of older BMWs, and their reputation is a mixed bag. It all depends on who you talk to. Some people are extremely pleased, but others… Don’t even get them started. Again, not knowing first-hand, I think the bad rap might be ill-deserved; selling used cars is one thing, but selling old used cars is another entirely, and if everything isn’t exactly as it was described in an ad, the buyer gets a bee in his bonnet about it. I think Evan et al do their best, but miss some details.

Still this is one of their cars that I wouldn’t mind testing them on. Not now though, especially at $17k. Really not now.

BMWotD — 1988 635CSi

Filed under: BMW Of The Day — dave @ 9:44 pm 2013/06/09

Here’s an e24 that I wouldn’t mind owning, for sale on CraigsList in Bloomington, MN. A 1988 635CSi with a 5-speed, in red. It’s an ’88, which means it’s equipped with the 211hp M30B35. It hit’s all my happy spots, with one exception; even though the ad is a little short on details, if it had a black interior, I’d probably be looking for a way to sell a car or two.

1988 BMW 635 CSI – $5000 (Bloomington, MN)

1988 BMW 635 CSI – red, grey leather interior, 5 speed stick, 144,000 miles, stored winters, no rust, new tires, many new parts over the years, very nice condition…

Fear & Wonder

Filed under: Medical Adventures — dave @ 11:07 am 2013/06/07

The first biopsy that was done to remove the tumor from my jaw had relatively few adverse side effects (other than a day or so of feeling like I was clopped in the mouth by a horse), but I wasn’t so fortunate following the second biopsy. One of the things the surgeon warned about was possible injury to the mental nerve, which passes through the mental foramen — a passageway just below the area where the tumor was excised — and then branches out to provide sensation from the skin of the chin and the lower lip.

The first oral surgeon did a decent job of staying clear of that nerve — he probably held back a bit after realizing it wouldn’t be possible to dig the whole tumor out once he got in there… But ever since the second biopsy, my lower lip has had that weird tingly feeling like you get when your foot or hand is in a weird position for too long and “goes to sleep”. It feels weird, but it at least works as it should; no problem with muscle control, only sensation. When I eat, it’s hard to know if there is something stuck to my lip, so I tend to keep a napkin handy to make sure there’s nothing embarrassing going on with food on my face!

The really weird thing is that it’s like there are some wires crossed in the nerve bundle; when I brush my teeth and the brush moves past my lower lip near the area where the teeth were removed, it feels like I’m brushing my chin too. I get a similar sensation when licking my lips; when my tongue moves left to right across the inside of my lip, it feels like something is moving right to left across the front of my chin. And when I drink a glass of cold water & allow the water to swish down between my lower lip & gums, I get a cold sensation on my chin, like the water is dribbling down my chin. Almost like a dribble cup that follows me around everywhere!

I brought the problem up when I last met with Dr. Stanos three weeks ago, but he had nothing to offer other than he’d never heard of that before. I really hate it when the professionals say things like that; tells me that this is the way it is, and unless it somehow heals itself, I’ll just have to learn to live with it.

It also reminds me of how fearfully and wonderfully we are made, and how even with the advances in technology and medical science, there is still so much about the human body that is still a mystery. I have to laugh at the people in the science community who play like they have it all figured out and there is nothing that we as humans can’t conquer. They play like they know the origin of everything and how it evolved to the point we know today, and we just need a little more time or more sophisticated tools to figure out how to cure all things. In reality we humans are just pikers compared to the Designer of these wonderful things. Modern medicine is wonderful stuff, but in many ways it’s little more than hacking; we know enough to mess with or fix a few things, and enough to be dangerous, but it seems there is far more that we don’t know than we do. Our vast knowledge store is just guesses at how things came to be. Only God knows the bigger picture of how he created all things and how they all work together.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
I Cor. 1:25

I Don’t Smoke, Don’t Chew, & Don’t Go With Girls That Do…

Filed under: Medical Adventures — Tags: , , , — dave @ 3:46 pm 2013/05/29

When I first learned that I had cancer on my jaw, the oral surgeon made a point of telling me that what I had was not squamous cell carcinoma, but rather non-Hodgkins lymphoma. At first I didn’t quite get why he was making that distinction, but after thinking about it and doing some research on it, it made sense; squamous cell carcinoma is the cancer usually associated with the use of chewing tobacco. And I suppose, being an oral surgeon, that’s typically the type of cancer he sees when there is a tumor in that area of the mouth.

But I have never used chewing tobacco — I’ve always thought it was a disgusting habit, and was never even tempted to try it. I did try smoking, once upon a time (after “borrowing” a Lucky Strike or three from Dad’s packs) but that was enough to keep me from making a habit of it. I still have trouble grasping why any kind of tobacco use holds any appeal to anyone. Nasty habits.

I also remember wondering early on whether people would assume that the cause of my cancer was chewing tobacco; maybe people have thought that, but I haven’t given it much thought. Then last week a guy I was chatting with asked if I had ever dipped; nope. So I explained the difference between the two types of cancer, and the fact that mine is special (I guess) because it’s pretty random in who it hits and where. Typically lymphoma is found in the lymph nodes (hence the name) and often in the bone marrow, but Dr. Bleeker said this is the first time he’s seen it in the jaw like mine. I hate it when medical professionals say things like that.

When I was doing some Googling about squamous cell carcinoma, one page I bumped into (and bookmarked) that caught my eye was the story of Curtis and his ordeal with squamous cell carcinoma. Most memorable of course are the photos of his surgery; downright gruesome. His cancer was on the inside of his cheek, but also affected his jaw; getting rid of the cancer and reconstructing the area looks like it was a major ordeal. I doubt (and hope & pray) that my reconstruction doesn’t get that involved, but those photos should be shown to any kid even thinking about using chewing tobacco.

I’m sure that some tobacco users will point to a story like mine — that someone who has never smoked or dipped can get cancer — and brag that they’ve been smoking/dipping for decades without consequence… Some people just refuse to learn from others’ mistakes I guess.

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