I had it coming . . .

Last night my wife and I were watching a disc we got from Netflix.  I was sitting in my recliner, with a cat sound asleep on my lap, when she got up to go to the kitchen.  Seeing her heading that direction, I held up my empty coffee cup and asked if she’d mind getting me a refill – so I wouldn’t have to wake the cat.

She wanted to know what she should put in it, and I responded with “something hot, brown, and wet.”

Then SHE asked me if I meant Zoe Saldana or Halle Berry.

I really should have just said “coffee”.  Besides, even if they were willing, neither one of them would fit in my coffee cup.

My unusual bone tumor . . .

I have written before about the fact that I have a history that includes a fight with a bone tumor back in 1980.  I recently wrote a summary of the events that led to that diagnosis, because my lawyer in the fight with Social Security thought that it would be helpful to our fight.  After some reflection, I decided to post it here, as well.  Hope you find reading this to be helpful in understanding me . . . .


Vernon Pope’s Bone Tumor Discovery

This is a factual summary of the events leading to the discovery of a bone tumor in my left femur in October of 1980.

The story begins on September 17th. I was active duty in the United States Army, assigned to Ft. Eustis, Virginia, training to be a helicopter mechanic. On that day, I awoke with the rest of my unit at 0500 hrs. (which was normal for all normal duty days). At the time I awoke, I was not aware of anything amiss. I sat up, spun on my bed, and placed my feet on the floor, feeling normal. The very moment I stood up, I felt a searing pain I have struggled to describe ever since. The best estimate I can give to what that pain felt like is imagining what it might have felt like to have my whole left leg doused in gasoline and set fire. I screamed so loudly that half of the men in my barracks came running to the room I shared with 5 other trainees.

Very quickly I was questioned about what was wrong, and it was decided that I needed to get to the nearest medical aid station immediately. Two of my fellow trainees created a fireman’s carry chair and hauled me to the aid station. The medics on duty checked for sprains, broken bones, charlie horses, and other usual suspects, without discovering the cause of the pain. By the time the examination was concluded, the First Sergeant of my unit was also on location. The medics gave me some non-prescription pain killers and said they didn’t know what was wrong. They sent me back to the barracks on 24 hour bed rest – and specifically instructed my First Sergeant that if I was not feeling better by noon I should be admitted to the main base hospital for further testing.

The First Sergeant took me to the hospital at 1205 hrs. that same day.

The following days were a series of tests, x-rays, and other exams. Nobody who examined me ever suggested that they felt my pain was other than real, but no evidence was found for a cause with any test the hospital at Ft. Eustis was capable of performing. On October 8th, I was put in an ambulance and transported to Bethesda Medical Center for a full-body bone scan, with and without contrast.

On October 9th I was informed that the bone scan had revealed a shadow on the left femur that had not previously been seen on x-ray. I was scheduled for a biopsy of the site of the shadow for the following morning.

The doctor who performed the surgical biopsy deserves some mention, I think. He was Col. James W. Blunt, Jr, MD. He was the Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at Ft. Eustis at the time in question. He was also the Hospital Commander, and the highest ranking Orthopedic Surgeon in the United States Army.

I went into surgery at 0700 on October 10, 1980. I was back in my room after recovery by noon. At 1300 I was informed that I had a bone tumor – eosynophilic granuloma (please forgive me if I misspelled it – I am not an oncologist), and that I would be permanently disabled.

I want to call attention to a few facts of this narrative. First – that I experienced extreme pain all of the 23 days before we knew what was causing it. Second, there actually was a very real problem. Third, that the same sensitivity to changes in my body is why when I experience a migraine headache now, it isn’t something I can medicate and still go on with a normal day.

Home Improvement victory . . .

Actually, this is a post about two different things, but I’m starting off with something we’ve spent nearly a year working on.  You see, last July we decided to repair the doorbell on our house.  We went to Home Depot, looked over several different bells, and selected what we wanted.  We even got a new button and transformer, so that whatever was needed was already available.  After that, all we needed was to find someone who would install it.  We thought that would be the easiest part.

HA!  The first couple of people we talked to couldn’t do it.  We tried calling contractors, who said the job was too small for them to mess with.  We tried calling a commercial electrician corporation (literally, they have divisions that do HVAC, commercial electricity maintenance, and more) – they also said it was too small a job for them, even though they have been doing our HVAC service for 4 years.  We talked to every handyman we knew – they wouldn’t mess with it.

Finally, my wife was in the parking lot of a locally owned hardware store, buying organic eggs from a farmer we’ve bought from for a few years now.  He happened to mention that he used to be an electrician, and she asked him if he might be interested in doing this job.  No, but if we really wanted to find someone good who would do it, just go inside the store and ask one of the clerks who they would recommend for it.  She did, I called.

Last night we heard the doorbell ring for the first time. Yes, it is installed and working.  Here is the weird part – that job that nobody wanted to do?  It used all of the parts we bought, and cost us $35 in labor.

Next – today is my daughter’s 29th birthday.  Priscilla, I hope it is a happy one, wherever you are.

Neither her mother nor I know – last we heard she was somewhere in the deep SW USA (Arizona or New Mexico) but she hasn’t contacted either of us.  I know she doesn’t think much of our advice most of the time, but seriously, I would be more concerned if she never disagreed with us.  Just don’t be dishonest with us.

Cranky customer 3.0

As I said last week, the driver who picks up our trash dropped our bin 20 feet from the sidewalk after getting our trash.  So, I called and left another message on the voicemail of his supervisor.  However, since I have not yet received a response to the new message, I decided a more direct approach was in order.

So, this morning I was waiting when the driver pulled up on the street south of our house.  As he walked up the sidewalk to get the bin, I limped down the stairs of our front porch and we had a chat.

I explained that I’m disabled, and the woman (he called her a young lady) he talked to is my wife, and that she was home sick the day he talked to her a couple of weeks ago.  Not only does she work, but sometimes has to go out of town; so, I have to be able to put the bin where I can get it.

He was very polite, and agreed to get it from where I have been putting it, and just as importantly to return it to there.  I told him that eventually my doctor wants to do a hip replacement, and that after he does I’ll start putting the dumpster over where he suggested.

Over all, I think it went very well.

Another Cranky Customer update . . .

It would seem that our discussion with WCA isn’t concluded yet.  Last night I took our trash dumpster out and put it where I usually do.  This morning my wife actually watched the driver take the dumpster down the sidewalk, empty it into his truck, and then park it in the LEAST ACCESSIBLE PLACE IN OUR YARD.  It isn’t even close to the sidewalk this time.

Yes, I have called the Joplin office again.  I had to leave another message.

Cranky Customer update…

Well, I had to wait until late afternoon Thursday to get the call back from the WCA “supervisor” – but it turned out to be worth the wait.  The entire conversation lasted only 2 minutes.

First he asked my name, to be sure he called the right number.  Then he asked what the problem was, and I quickly described what was going on.  I concluded by saying, “I’m disabled, and he’s wanting me to more than double the distance I have to take that dumpster.”  At that point, he cut me off.

His reply?  “I’ll have a talk with the driver on that route, and inform him that your dumpster is fine exactly where you’ve been putting it.”  No more problem.  I guess we don’t need a new trash service after all.

Not customer service oriented . . .

This rant is brought to you by WCA, the national chain of waste collection (trash hauling) “professionals”.

Last week, when my wife was taking some time off to manage stress from work, she answered the door when a WCA driver knocked.  We’ve been getting our trash picked up by WCA for a couple of years, but not by any choice of ours.  They bought out the company we chose, who had always given us good service.

The driver wanted us to change where we were putting our trash for pick up.  I was sleeping, and my wife was unprepared for the confrontation, so she just guessed that it would be alright.

It isn’t.

I try to take care of the trash as much as I can, because my wife already does enough, and the city doesn’t want us putting the trash to the curb until the night before pickup.  Also, the city insists that we return the dumpster to behind the house by noon of the day of pickup.  So, I have been using the driveway to move the dumpster because it is easier on my leg.  The ground between the garage and the side-street is uneven and has no walkway, sidewalk, or driveway.  Being disabled, that is a major consideration.

So, last night, I put the dumpster out where I have since we bought the house.  This morning when the driver came by, he moved it down the public sidewalk to the corner, more than doubling the distance I have to drag it back.  When I tried to call the company, the local number they acquired when they took over our old service had been disconnected.  Now we have to call their office in JOPLIN, MO, just to address a customer service issue, and they don’t publish an 1-800 number.

I called anyhow, and the receptionist asked me how they could help.  I described the problem, and she transferred me to a “supervisor”.  I got his voicemail.  There is no telling when he’s going to hear the message, let alone respond.

I think it’s time to get a new service.

Well, I think it is about time . . .

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog about my frustration at my primary care doc at the VA trying to push me onto statin drugs for my cholesterol.  In her comment on the blog, my good friend Anita pointed at the Mark’s Daily Apple website ( marksdailyapple.com ) and said it is her Paleo Diet guru.  I’m also on the Paleo Diet, but hadn’t seen this site, so I went to take a look.

My chief frustration with the site (at least at first glance) is that it is typical of sites that specialize in fitness – they don’t have anything to say that doesn’t include a fair amount of healthy exercise.  If I want to use his program, I need to be able to follow the program.  But, after a bone tumor in my left femur in 1980, the femur can’t handle that sort of activity.  The permanent limitations I was given back then included: No walking over 1 mile per day TOTAL, No jumping of any kind (like parachute jumps), No pushing pulling or lifting over 30 pounds.

Every time I have ever exceeded those limits, there has been a price to pay.  Stress fractures around the site where the bone tumor was have ensured that a week on crutches each time was the minimum price I’ve paid.  I actually have a pair of aluminum ones in a closet that I’ve used for years.

But – I had an idea today.  My doc asked me on that last visit if I’d thought about getting a hip replacement.  I half laughed and said I might get it someday, but when I do we’d have to replace the whole femur because of the bone tumor that caused all this trouble.

It may be time to do that.

Why?  Because I’m actually only 53 years along.  If I do get a hip/femur replacement, I would have to do physical therapy, and then I’d be free – FREE – to start exercising in earnest again.  Keep in mind – before the tumor I was a candidate for the US Army’s Special Forces training.  A hip replacement before this summer could mean that I’m able to start training for a half-marathon by the time I’m 55.  I can almost get excited just thinking about it.  If I also get the migraine headaches under control, I might even be able to go back to work, part-time at least.

It is something tempting to think about.  Especially since I just had a short phone call with the Veteran’s Choice program, and they are setting me up with an appointment for a primary care doctor HERE IN TOWN.

Talked with the lawyer . . .

My lawyer called back this morning, and we talked over my concern and the response I wrote up to the doctor.  She approved everything I wrote, with the caveat that this may still initially cause trouble with Social Security over not complying with “doctor’s orders”.  Still, she feels that because it’s a matter of spiritual/religious faith, ultimately we’ll prevail.

It’s currently 56F degrees here, looking for a high in the low 70’s – so I shut off the heater and opened up the windows.  It’s SO NICE to have that option now!