Thursday, December 18, 2008

On Becoming a Septuagenarian

'I was born for a storm, and a calm does not suit me.'
- Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the US

Some folks have noticed that I haven't been keeping up this blog very regularly, and asked if I intend to keep doing it.
To them, I acknowledge -and explain- my laxity as well as my intention to resume blogging from time to time.
After all, there is certainly no scarcity of timely subject matter.
Nor have I become bereft of thoughts and opinions on such subjects.
No surprise there!
So, here goes:

Today is my 70th birthday, which makes me a full-fledged septuagenarian!
That 50-cent word literally means 'one who is between the age of 70 and 79, inclusive'.
Seen another way, I've just entered my 8th decade.
But, being older really ain't so bad, especially when you consider the alternative!

And, a less desirable alternative now seems to have been avoided, thanks to the fortuitous early discovery of a serious medical condition that required major abdominal surgery two weeks ago.
Without burdening readers with too much unwanted detail, let's just say that my bile flow from my liver was being impeded by a growth on my pancreas.
Had that condition gone untreated much longer, it would have done me in.
But excess bile in the bloodstream does leave a tell-tale clue; jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin.

So, after multiple tests, procedures and a better diagnosis, a world-class, pancreatic surgeon agreed to perform a 6-plus hour surgery to rearrange my internal plumbing, remove objectionable parts, and allow me to recover and maybe even -eventually- enjoy life as an octogenarian!
This surgery was performed on Monday, December 1 at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.
Details for those interested -and with the stomach for it [pun intended] - can be found by Googling 'Whipple' as an established, fairly radical operation.

The surgery required hospitalization for an additional week, and walking the halls the very next day, before coming home for several weeks of physical recovery.
After 2 weeks, I'm pleased to report good progress, thanks to lots of rest, divine Providence, and the loving care of my wife, Joan, plus the good thoughts and wishes of many friends and relatives.

Next, comes another evaluation complete with tests, plus my first session with a leading Oncologist at Virginia Mason.
Although the surgery was considered successful, because some evidence of cancer was found, and prudence dictates that a protocol of chemotherapy and radiation be undertaken.
Likely, this stage of treatment will begin after mid-January and continue for about 5 weeks.
Such a protocol is considered more of a preventative nature, because of the chance that some malignant cells may have already packed up and are trying to set up residence in some other part of my body.
For those interested in learning more about pancreatic cancer, Googling 'pancan' will produce all the information -and then some- that one would want to know.
This website also offers to mail packets to those requesting them.

So, assuming all goes as hoped, about March 1, I should be good to go again, although likely to require more frequent follow-up exams the rest of my life.
While I would not recommend undergoing such an operation without need, there may be a few unanticipated advantages from having it, like losing 20 pounds, eliminating my former cholesterol problem, and greatly reducing the effects of my Type 2 diabetes.
All of this assumes I'm a good boy and watch my food intake more carefully, by eating more, smaller meals that emphasize proteins over carbs and fats, and getting regular exercise.
That sounds pretty good to me, especially considering the alternative!

One activity that has interested me these last few weeks are the 2 books written by our President-Elect, who has inspired such good expectations -both in the US and worldwide.
While it will be difficult to deliver on all of the goals he has in mind, at least we will begin to seriously focus on them.
So, I hope folks will be patient with President Obama as he takes on a job that has to be the most difficult in the world today!

Now, I've begun reading "American Lion", Jon Meacham's biography of our 7th President, Andrew Jackson.
An early excerpt neatly states our condition, that certainly still exists today:

And yet, Meacham hastens to add, while the personal shapes political culture, it does not preclude the pursuit of principled policies. Jackson, he argues, agreed with Adams's "central point: politics is brutal because it engages the most fundamental human impulses for affection, honor, power and fame. Great principles and grand visions are ennobling, but at its best politics is an imperfect means to an altruistic end."