Friday, September 28, 2007

For Everything There is a Season

When we moved to this area we looked at a lot of houses to find just the right home for us. Two things primarily impressed us about this house. For Cheryl it was the kitchen and the huge amount of counter space. For me, it was a tree. When we pulled up to the front of our home for the first time, I was impressed with the sight of the large, multi-trunk tree at the corner of the driveway. It had character.
The trunk that was closest to the driveway wrapped one complete turn around the trunk next to it and branched out over the driveway. (I couldn't find a picture that still had that trunk in the photo.) The builders of this home even accommodated the unusual growth by building the corner of the driveway out and around it. After moving in, I quickly discovered I had to be careful backing out so as not to hit it.
Our tree, which was already very large, quickly grew much larger. Every year I needed to hand trim branches as they drooped too close to the sidewalk and made it difficult for passersby. Technically it was probably multiple trees that grew close together, but we just called it “our tree.” Our tree covered the entire front yard and over the whole driveway. It provided shade during the hot summer and a place to hang lights at Christmas. We loved our tree.

About seven years ago we noticed some cracks in the large trunks and became concerned that a strong storm could knock it down. We called a ‘professional’ to have a look. He said it was still OK, but recommended we cut it down because it was a Hackberry which he called a “trash tree.” What??? Trash? Well one person’s trash is someone else’s treasure and that tree was our treasure. His price to cut it down was VERY high. We thanked him and sent him on his way. We did have another fellow out to give us an estimate to cut it down – his price was very, very low. But our heart was not in that and we just had him trim it some and he did a good job. The next year we noticed that our tree began to leak sap all over our cars. Each year it got worse. Then, through the power of the Internet, we discovered the “sap” was the “honeydew” from aphids feeding. Yep, sap that had passed through the aphids. I bought some ladybugs to try to control them – didn’t work.

Two years ago the portion that had the trunk that wrapped around the other trunk, died. Just like that. Earlier that spring I had noticed a fungus at the base that was white and black. I just scrapped it away. We cut the top off but left the trunk because I thought it might be supporting one of the branches of the trunk next to it. Last Spring we were standing in the drive and my youngest daughter leaned against the trunk and it broke off at ground level. The base was like sawdust. Yikes.

Over the years the cracks in the trunk had been getting larger and we kept debating about having it cut down. But we loved that tree and couldn’t bear to do it. But last year, after that trunk broke off we called the fellow out who had done the trimming. I was going to have our tree cut down. But when he arrived, I just couldn’t do it. We had him do a major trimming of all the lower branches and also trimmed it out away from the house. Basically, he lifted it up, thinned it out, and trimmed all the way around the crown. Again, he did a good job. Cheryl kept saying some day we would be sorry when the tree fell on our cars or on the house. But she loved it too and understood my reluctance.

A few weeks ago I noticed the portion closest to the driveway was looking a little puny on top. The leaves were sparse and looked sick. Then I noticed the dreaded gunk around the base of the trunk.
Upon examination, it was around the ones next to it too. When I showed it to Cheryl, she took her car keys to scrape at it and her keys sunk right into the trunk. YIKES! I knew it was now time. I couldn’t put it off any longer. It had to come down. I called, my tree guy who came out that evening, gave me a price (much higher than the price from several years ago) and he came back with his crew the next day. They arrived about 9 a.m. Three large trailers full of cuttings and seven hours later, the tree was gone.
The only evidence was a lot of sawdust everywhere and stumps cut off at ground level.

I couldn’t help but make an analogy to my disease and some other types of cancer. Outwardly everything looks good. For a long time the tree really did look healthy and even the day it was cut down it still looked pretty good. People walking or driving by and glancing at that tree had no idea. It looked very healthy. But it was what was going on at the base, in its “marrow” that told the true story. There was a fungus, a disease, a cancer eating away at the core of that tree. Perhaps if I had treated the disease sooner, or with a different type of medicine, I could have saved it. Maybe, maybe not. But it is too late now. Choices were made and there is no going back. That tree brought shade, beauty and pleasure for many years. Now it is gone, but the good memories remain. The yard looks very different, but it is time to move on. No more aphid poop dripping on my car.


So, what is going on with me? A recent X-ray shows the pneumonia is gone. That was a strange episode. I see Dr. Netaji, my hem/onc doc next Monday.
The next big drama will be on Saturday, October 6th. I will have major dental surgery. The periodontal guy I saw had this fancy new type of X-ray machine that immediately transferred the pictures directly from the receiver inside my mouth to the laptop computer. Never had to take it out to develop film, just repositioned it around in my mouth. Amazing. The pictures were so sharp, bright and clear that for once I could actually see everything he pointed out to me. Before whenever a dentist showed me X-rays I would just wisely say, “hmm-hmm, oh yea,” and pretend I could see what they were talking about. But this time I really could. He put the laptop on my lap (how thoughtful) and zoomed in on the pictures and showed me exactly what he was talking about each time.
Anyway, the infection is still wide-spread, even though it feels much better. I have had trouble there ever since a botched set of root canals were done 8 years ago. I was on codeine for two weeks that first time and couldn't eat on that side for almost two years. It has been one infection after another. The root canals were redone (the first posts actually went up through the roots into my gums causing pain and infections), had surgery once before on the roots, but not this extensive. On the X-ray I could see where the root canal on the third tooth from the back got botched and the drill file went out through the side of the tooth (of course I remember when that happened). That repair job is deteriorating so he is going to seal it from the outside once he has everything opened up. Anyway, the bone has deteriorated, and my sinus cavity above has collapsed (or grown?) into the root area of the teeth and is all infected. He showed me where the sinus cavity should be, with a good buffer between the teeth, and how it has bowed right down into the roots and just above the bottom of the gum line. He thought I should be in much more pain than I have been. He is going to remove the last molar (upper left) where most of the problem is, but still do surgery on the roots of the next four teeth too. He will be doing a bone graft and somehow doing something to clean out the infection in the sinus cavity - I didn't quite understand that. My mind must have shut down at bone graft. It will take two and a half to three hours.
Today I got a letter telling me how much this will all cost. I guess I am helping him pay for that fancy X-ray machine. The bill will be almost $5,000! Oh, but I get a 5% discount if I pay by cash or check – not credit card. Isn't that nice? I have already spent several thousand dollars up there over the last 8 or 9 years. My wife always said I should have sued that first dentist and for the first time I think maybe I should have. I just hate it when folks sue every time you turn around.
I innocently asked if I should have a substitute teacher ready to teach my Sunday School class the next morning. He laughed and said that would be a good idea because I would still have packing in my mouth. Hmm. He said he won't be doing anything until he consults with my hem/onc on every aspect of what he will be doing, including all the meds. He said the standard antibiotics he normally would give might not be strong enough for me. Sure enough, he called yesterday and changed the antibiotics to a stronger one. I will also have blood tests next week to make sure my platelets are still up.I actually think I would rather go through chemo again than have this surgery. However, if it works and finally clears this up after all these years, I guess it will be worth it. For years I had wanted to pull this tooth and the one next to it, but every dentist I went to strongly discouraged it. Now that the bill came in, I am wondering if it wouldn't be best just to pull that whole row and put some artificial choppers in.

As always, your prayers and well wishes are greatly appreciated.

2 comments: said...

As a patient with CLL, I find that Dr. Lorraine Day's 10 step program has at least reversed the number of white cells from 20,000 to 13,200. I also use primrose with GLA, since there is a study I found on the internet that shows it kills luekemia cells.

David E said...

Great anologoy about the tree!!!