I would really rather write about something other than my health in this blog. So before I give up the good news- bad news update permit me to share a personal story.
One reason Judy and I became Divemasters was to dive with our grandchildren. Children can be certified as young as 10 but have limits and can only dive with their parents or Divemasters. Shortly after the doctors told me life’s rug was about to be pulled out from under me, I learned that the parents of our oldest two grandchildren, Spencer (13) and Alanna (12) were going to allow them to be certified on the family vacation in February on Maui. It seemed damned unfair that I would miss out on their first dives.
I have a Mic-Key button, which is a low profile feeding button that goes through the belly to which I attach the feeding tube. My concern was that the increase in pressure as I went deeper would force seawater into my belly around where the button goes into the stomach. I could use a dry suit and am dry suit certified but do not own one and they are not very practical for Hawaii. And heck, given my prognosis, it doesn’t make sense for me to buy more dive gear.
Another concern was whether I could get a regulator into my mouth as I can hardly open it after all of the surgeries and radiation treatments. My throat was swollen, I could not swallow, I was in pain, and experiencing some nausea. Mostly I was very fatigued. I spent most of my time sleeping.
But I had to try, right? So I covered the feeding tube button with a waterproof vacuum bandage and then I wrapped Saran Wrap 5 times around my torso to keep out as much water as possible before putting on my wetsuit. Just putting on my wet suit exhausted me, but I geared up and jumped from the boat into the water. Once in the water I was weightless; I conserved my energy. I made 4 dives with my grandchildren. I did not go deeper than 40 feet and had no ill effects from the dives at all. My biggest difficulty was getting the regulator into my mouth. My jaw muscles have atrophied and I have difficulty getting a toothbrush between my teeth. A nerve was severed during a surgery so I can’t smile. I had to wedge the neoprene between my teeth with my fingers and then hold the regulator in my mouth with my hand most of the time.
At 40 feet, I would have had no difficulty making an emergency ascent had anything gone wrong; it was perfectly safe. I wasn’t going to drown in front of my grandchildren. Those dives were the first time I had felt really alive for months. I still tear up thinking about my last dives being with my grandchildren.
The above photo is of 3 generation of Chambers divers. Besides Judy and me are our daughters Jolie and Jana, and grandchildren Spencer and Alanna. It was a wonderful experience.
Okay, now the update. The good news. Upon returning from Hawaii, I was put on weekly maintenance chemotherapy. The chemotherapy is working; my tumors have gotten much smaller, the swelling is down, I can swallow sips, I am in less pain, and have less fatigue. I am driving myself around again and feel like working for a couple of hours each day. I may be in a sweet spot as the worst side effects, including peripheral neuropathy, have not started yet.
The bad news. My bride of nearly 46 years was having some pain in her left hip and having some shortness of breath that I didn’t know about. So when we got home from Hawaii, she got checked out and was told she has stage 4-lung cancer. She has cancer in one lobe of her left lung, left hip, and a hot spot on her neck. Like me, there is no cure but maintenance chemotherapy can help her have a normal life for “many years”, according to the doctor. Her chemotherapy is only once every three weeks. The only real side effect of treatment for her will be some fatigue; but she is so active, that may just bring her down to normal.
We both have plenty of grit, but our family was just adjusting to my illness and is now reeling from the news about Judy.