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McGuire's Musings: Laughter - The best cure for what ails you

April 19, 2013

Well, I was sitting around minding my own business one day when my wife, whom I refer to as "Dr. Linda," scheduled a colonoscopy for me last fall after a blood test showed that I had a low blood count.

As you recall in this little saga I call my life, we had done the Disney vacation thing in Orlando, and my colonoscopy was scheduled after that. If you don't know what a colonoscopy is, I'll just say the good part is they knock you out for it.

So, I finally woke up from my short nap and was offered a snack of toast with jelly by the excellent staff at the short procedure unit at Punxsutawney Area Hospital.

I felt pretty good eating my delicious piece of toast with grape jelly, at least until Dr. Ted Kaufman, the surgeon who performed the procedure, came in to chat.

Dr. Kaufman came in and told be the bad news: That I had colon cancer and my colon was partially blocked, and the blockage appeared to be
cancerous, which would require surgery.

Hold the phone — he first wanted me to have a little procedure called a barium enema.

There is absolutely no way I can prepare anyone on how to deal with that little procedure.

Let me just say that there's another part to this called the prep kit, which is a horrible-tasting drink prior to the procedure or surgery.

For the barium enema they don't knock you out, and the most fun is that they bring a gang of people in to watch the technicians perform their magic with a rubber hose.

One person came in and said "Good morning, and how are you doing today?"

How am I doing? How do you think I'm doing?

Not well, with no less than 10 people standing around watching a view of my hind end, and a very uncomfortable hose — other than that, it was a wonderful experience.

I've said this, and I'm sticking to it, that this year, for Christmas stocking stuffers, I'm getting everyone a barium enema — it's the gift that keeps on giving.

One procedure that I did like was when they set up epidural
anesthesia, which is the most popular method of pain relief during surgery.

Epidural anesthesia is regional anesthesia that blocks pain in certain areas.

Let me tell you, it does work. You're in your post-op hospital bed, when, all of a sudden, pain arrives, and you push the big green button for another dose of morphine.

From where I sit, that was a pretty good idea and helps to keep you happy until they remove it following surgery.

Luckily, everything went well with my surgery, and I went home in about seven days.

Let me thank everyone for all of the great care I received at Punxsutawney Area Hospital.

All I know is I couldn't figure how I was going to survive at home without all of the nurses and other staff who kept me feeling really well — and the big green button.

When I woke up from surgery the first thing I said was, "This doesn't look like heaven to me."

And it wasn't; it was the ICU unit at Punxsy Hospital.

The one thing that caregivers tell you is to get plenty of rest.

If that is the case, why do hospitals everywhere wake you up at 2 a.m.?

All in all, the staff took great care of me while I was in the hospital for surgery.

If I never saw or tasted a liquid diet again, it would be too soon.

The doctor wanted me to gain some weight and eat well while I was in the hospital.

Well, I said, give me something to eat other than broth, and I might help you out with my list of goals.

Following my surgery for colon cancer, there was one lymph node that wasn't quite right, so I was scheduled to have chemotherapy after I had a port put in.

The port is inserted under the skin by a surgeon or interventional radiologist in a minor surgery that takes about an hour.

Let me just say that I'm not real fond of needles of any kind.

Which brings me to the swinging and swirling world of Oncology at Dr. Jose Silva's office at Punxsutawney Area Hospital, which is part of West Penn Allegheny Hospital in Pittsburgh.

I'm not saying this because my wife works there, but Ginny Haines, Karen Burkett, Janice Lunger, Dr. Silva and my wife, Dr. Linda, have been wonderful to deal with, especially with the needles that I hate so much.

On occasion, when they stick a needle in me through my port, it's not as bad, especially when one of them holds my hand through the procedure.

I have to say it hasn't been that bad, and there's always someone else who has it worse than me.

They do wait on me hand and foot, but I actually contribute to the chemo room atmosphere myself.

One thing that my sons, Joe and Mike, have gotten from me is a great sense of humor.

I've used it from time to time in the chemo room to help entertain the others who are also receiving treatments.

You would think they could pay me an entertainment fee, since
I do make chemo fun for the others.

This week is six treatments down and six to go, somewhere around the halfway point.

There are many things I'm grateful for; the top one is that throughout this process, I've been able to go to work every day, which makes
treatments more bearable because I don't think about it the whole time.

One thing that has changed is that I'm a cancer survivor, and not just a reporter who covers Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society.

No offense, but I really didn't need to learn about this up close and personal.

I want to thank all of the different churches and congregations in Pennsylvania and Ohio who prayed for me throughout this ordeal, especially the prayer group from First Church of God in Punxsutawney.

The one side effect from my chemo drugs is that my hands and other extremities tingle, which feels like pins and needles and occurs whenever I touch cold metal or something that is cold.

However, I haven't let that stop me from participating in the opening day of trout season last Saturday, and I continue to look forward to turkey season next week and to take pictures for the Punxsutawney Fire Department, no matter how cold or wet it gets outside.

I'm grateful that I was able to return to work so quickly and that the weather is warming up.

I did learn one thing from trout fishing this past week — the fish aren't fond of having razor-sharp hooks stuck in their mouths, which is kind of like having needles stuck in you every other week.

Just so everyone knows, I have passed all of my blood tests, and I didn't even study for them.

Now I'm ready for another week of chemo, which means another week of stand-up or sit-down comedy for the other patients.

Larry McGuire is a reporter for The Punxsutawney Spirit. He may be recovering, but his sense of humor was never in need of a surgical fix.

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