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          Thursday morning, 12-27-01, about 10 days since my last update.  Everything is going very well with me and I feel really good.

          I'm now up to 3 Neurontins a day, as prescribed.  The pain in my toes rarely becomes a problem, and when it does I simply take a 600mg Ibuprofen and all is well again in no time.  The numbness in my left thumb and forefinger is decidedly less noticeable, but still ever present.  

          The Neurontin seems to cause some fatigue, as usually about an hour after I take it, I need a nap for a couple hours.  Of course, this keeps my sleep schedule pretty weird.  I'm up for a few to several hours, then sleep for about two to five hours, then up again.  I don't really mind it, but sometimes it's a little inconvenient, that's all.          

          My legs, feet and toes are almost back to normal size now.  You can hardly tell the difference unless you're looking for it.  If I press on them somewhere with a finger, it leaves a little dent, so I know I'm still retaining some small amount of fluid.  But they feel strong and I can detect sensations in them again like cold wooden or tiled floors and sharp objects and the rug beneath my feet.  It feels good.  I'm getting around quite easily these days.

          I drove twice more since my last update.  I took Casey to the movies and we saw "The Lord of the Rings" last weekend.  I liked it a lot, though it was really long.  The movie itself was about  three hours long and the commercials and everything else (like buying popcorn and soda) kept us at the theater about four hours total.  The ending left us hanging, just like the book, so we have to see the next 2 movies.  Casey's never read The Hobbit trilogy, so she was a bit disappointed with the ending being a huge cliff-hanger.  I told her to read the books to find out what happens next.

          The other time I drove, we went to Best Buy to get a new Microsoft Office Keyboard.  I upgraded to Windows XP and discovered that some of my stuff just plain doesn't work with it anymore.  In particular, the keyboard's NUM pad wouldn't work anymore.  That's something I use extensively, and there are no new drivers for it at the Memorex web site, so off I went in search of a XP compatible keyboard.  

          I can live with my flatbed scanner being down till new drivers are released from UMAX (or till I get tired of waiting and get the bug to buy this new one from Visioneer).  And I can live with the Web Cam being down till I get THIS new one (Logitech's site says they will not be supporting the old Cam with new drivers, suggesting instead that I buy a new Logitech Cam).

          Anyway, the keyboard itself is wonderful!  I really do love it, especially compared to my old one from Memorex.  Not only are the keys much nicer as far as the 'feel' when typing, but it has some really cool features like lots of hot buttons and a left handed scroll wheel.  I'm actually glad I had to upgrade it.

          To give me something to do with all this time on my hands, I've been working on a new menu interface for the rest of my site.  It uses Java to make it more interactive and interesting.  It's still very much in an experimental stage, but you can see it HERE and check back from time to time to see it progress 'till I'm happy enough with it to deploy it site-wide.  One of the things I want to do is get the TV screen to hide when there's no mouse over any of the buttons, so that's what I'll be working on next.  I'm also thinking of starting over and doing the whole thing with Flash instead of Java.  Like I said, it's all still very experimental.

          I'm still growing the beard and mustache, which is still looking kinda scraggly, but also still filling in.  Casey took an unannounced, candid picture of me, if you want to see for yourself.  If you're not already sitting down, now might be a good time - BEFORE you click the link. 

          My chemotherapy was supposed to start today, but mom got caught in a blizzard of a snowstorm way up North while visiting her family (yes, they're my family too!) and my sister, and mom's my ride these days.  So I rescheduled it for January 8th at 2:15 PM.  The Rituxan drips were about four or five hours, and I noticed as I sat there that others were getting some other type of  treatments that seemed to last about as long.  I suspected at the time that it was chemotherapy.  Anyway, depending on how long it takes, it could be a long evening for us.

          Mom sent the payment to the insurance company by registered mail, and I got a receipt back that proves they received it.  The money still hasn't come out of my account for it and I'm a little worried about that.  Why?  Well, this morning I took the last of two of the drugs that I take daily.  One is Allopurinol (the generic of Zyloprim), and the other is Furosemide (the generic of Lasix).  I need to refill these prescriptions today, and don't know if the insurance company recognizes my "back again under the insurance umbrella" status yet.  I guess I'll find out in a few hours and edit this.

       --Begin Edit: 
          Right after I wrote this and posted it, my Oncologist's office called and said that they got the information that I'm no longer covered by my insurance.  I told them it's a very confusing situation that I really don't understand all that well, and that I'd have my sister, Candy, call them about it.

          So I called Candy and told her about the doctor's office needing some info and the prescriptions needing filled and gave her the info about getting the receipt that the payment from me was received on 12-14-01, but as of today, 12-27-01 the money still hasn't transferred out of my bank account.

          She started making phone calls and learned that they had the paperwork we sent with the check, but couldn't seem to find the check itself or the positive status of the payment and subsequent reinstatement of coverage.  The accounting department is on the hunt for it.

          Meanwhile, she suggested that I get just a few day's worth of the drugs to keep the cost down and, with any luck, it will all be straightened out by the time I run out again in a few days.  I'll save the receipt for her to straighten it out with the insurance company after they get the present situation straightened out.

          I'm telling you what:  When I get elected King of the World, the insurance companies are in DEEP trouble!!  Make no mistake, they are going DOWN in flames when I totally revise the health care system!
       --End of edit.

          We had the holiday party here as planned.  Unfortunately, my sister Candy had to work the day before Christmas Eve and she lives several hundred miles away, so she couldn't make it.  We talked on the phone though during the party and she was here in spirit.  My sister Trudy was sick and didn't want to pass it around, especially to me because of my weakened immune system, so she didn't come either.  It just wasn't the same without them, but we made do.  Lots of other family showed up and we ate a huge amount and the kids opened presents and everyone had a good time.

          The next day, I went to my cousin Pari's as planned for another holiday party with another side of the family.  My 80 year old granny was there, who I love to death and she looked really great compared to the last time I saw her, which was earlier this year when my dad died and I came home for the funeral.  

          At that time, she was living by herself in an apartment, despite my advice to her that she should move into a retirement home where she would be around people her own age to talk to and play bingo with and stuff like that.  Also, they have medical staff and equipment there which is good because she's had several heart attacks and breathing problems over the years, and I worry about her being all by herself most of the time.  

          A doctor finally interceded and made the decision for her, insisting that she must move into the retirement home because she needs nearly 24/7 care at her age and condition.  

          Now that she's there, she says she likes it a lot.  There's lots of people her own age to talk to about the 'old days' that they all lived through, so they have a lot in common, and they have lots of activities like Bingo and sing-a-longs and field trips to interesting places, so they get out too.

         Anyway, I had a great time visiting with her and the rest of my family on that side.  I decided not to tell her about my cancer because I'm afraid it would just break her heart and spirit to know about it.  I don't know if it was the right decision, but it seemed to be at the time.  I told her I'd visit her in a few days at the retirement home.  Maybe I'll tell her then - I just don't know.

          So that's about it for now.  I feel really good, though a bit tired, the holidays were lots of fun visiting with most of my family, my new keyboard is cool, and we even got a little tiny bit of snow the day before Christmas Eve, so we had a white Christmas after all!

          Next: Y2K+1

Buck