If only there was a simple solution to cancer


I’m not sure who was happier last weekend, my wife, our big dog Rodney or me.

My wife was happy because she was at the beach without me and the kids around to annoy her. She goes with a group of friends each spring. I’m not exactly sure what they do, but they were all smiles in the pictures they posted on Facebook. That’s good enough for me. A happy wife equals a happy home.

Even though my wife was out-of-town, Rodney was happy because he was still getting walked regularly.  My doctor’s recommendation that I get up off the couch more often suits our energetic dog just fine.

And despite having to exert myself more often, I was happy because I apparently get to keep my gall bladder.

For the past two-and-a-half years I’ve had recurring pain centered on the upper right side of my abdomen. Two other doctors failed to discover the cause but the third, the digestive specialist I’ve been seeing, proved to be the charm.

After putting me through a few medical procedures about which I’d rather not divulge specifics (you’re welcome), he suggested I get more exercise. He also recommended that I stay away from foods and refreshments that contain high fructose corn syrup, advice that seems to be making for a happier digestive system.

He offered that advice at the end of one of our appointments. It almost seemed like an afterthought, but it turned out to be a key piece of my pain puzzle. I started paying attention not only to anything that smacked of corn syrup in my diet, but also to anything that looked remotely like a sweetener, even plain old sugar.

My attacks are now less severe and don’t last nearly as long as they used to. In fact, I haven’t even had one for more than a week. That’s an amazing turnaround considering the pain was an almost every day thing for longer than I care to remember.

The pain has lessened so much that my doctor is recommending against having my gall bladder removed.

I live by the general principle that there is a simple solution for most problems and that the worst case scenario is likely the last thing to consider.

In the case of my apparent gall bladder pain, it took more than two-and-a-half years to track it down, however the principle still seems to apply. At any rate, limiting sweeteners is a simpler solution than surgery.

I just wish that mantra always held true.

We are hardly alone, but my wife and I have lost too many friends to what is rightly called a scourge – cancer.

I found out about the latest when I took a look at Facebook this week. An old high school classmate had passed away. I found out about her death just a couple of days after I learned of the cancer death of a former co-worker.

To be honest, I barely knew either one. But they both share a connection with others whose deaths have struck closer to home.

They each touched my life in some small way.

And that’s something else I can be happy about amid the sadness and anger over the lives cancer cuts short.

I know where they keep the motherlode of Girl Scout cookies


Last week, I stopped watching “Star Trek” long enough to venture away from my TV to run an errand for my wife.

She wanted me to leave the warmth of home and bundle up on what will probably be one of the last truly bone-chilling days of this winter.

I shouldn’t have been happy about it, but I was. The errand involved a harbinger of spring, namely Girl Scout cookies.

The cookie season rolls around at this time of year as surely as baseball players enter spring training, daffodils begin emerging and our dog Rodney renews his daily barking match with his nemesis – the neighbor dog on the opposite side of the backyard fence.

After dragging my puffy, down jacket out of the closet for perhaps the last time this season and leaving the TV to fend for itself, I hustled our Girl Scout daughter into the car. My wife wanted us to meet our daughter’s leader to fetch the cookies our neighbors, co-workers and friends had ordered.

The only thing was, I had no clear idea where I was going.

My wife’s directions took us down a long, winding road that seemed to lead into the middle of nowhere. It was such a long drive that our daughter got bored with obsessively flipping from radio station to radio station to find the perfect song. She silently stared out the passenger window watching the cold, grey landscape pass by. The clouds seemed eerily close and swollen with the promise of more snow.

Just as I was beginning to worry about a slick drive home, I finally spied the semi-trailer my wife told me to find. It was parked at the end of the road and looked as though it had long ago been abandoned by the big rig that had left it there.

I soon found that looks really can be deceiving.

Our daughter’s leader arrived a short time later. She looked around before stepping out of her car, as if checking to make sure she wasn’t followed. Then she slowly walked toward the trailer. I didn’t notice but I’m pretty certain she must have knocked on the side of it in a certain way or softly whispered a password that wasn’t meant for my ears. In any case, the trailer’s door slid open revealing the motherlode of all Girl Scout cookie stashes.

I might be kidding about the long drive and all the cloak and dagger stuff but I really did stumble upon what apparently was the Eastern Panhandle’s entire supply of Girl Scout cookies. That trailer was brimming with cases and cases of my favorite Thin Mints and Savannah Smiles, plus Do-Si-Dos, Trefoils, Samoas and Tagalongs.

I was cheerfully told by the woman whose job seemed to be to stand watch over the stash that the neighbors know when the cookies arrive when the trailer shows up. She chuckled as we collected our daughter’s cookie order.

The presence of that semi-trailer may be an open secret, but the last thing I’m going to do is publicly reveal where it’s located.

But now that I know where the Girl Scouts park it, you can bet I’ll be looking out for its arrival next year.

And not just because I have an insatiable craving for Thin Mints. It’s because that trailer, at least to me, has joined baseball and daffodils as another sign that spring is on the way.

You don’t want to know what our clothes smell like


To say that my family celebrated my wife’s birthday this week is overstating what actually happened.

Between her work schedule, my work schedule, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, our daughter’s dance classes, Girl Scout meetings, rehearsals for her middle school show choir and the latest Apollo theater musical and our son’s trumpet playing schedule, driving lessons, piano lessons and various evening meetings, it’s little wonder we haven’t had time to take a breath and blow out any candles.

I even had to briefly put off booting up Netflix for my daily “Star Trek” fix so I could pop online to order birthday flowers.

The horror!

Needless to say, the demands on our time are extensive and I haven’t even mentioned our animals.

Take our dog Rodney’s manic insistence that he be taken for hours-long walks all over our neighborhood and beyond.

My wife has to take him immediately upon returning home from work in the evening. If she doesn’t there’s a distinct possibility he could do significant damage to our house. He spins around so fast and barks so loud, it’s a wonder he hasn’t whipped up a mini-tornado and reduced our house to splinters.

And then there’s the extra laundry we’ve lately had to do courtesy of our ornery cat Skitty. She’s taken to relieving herself ON TOP OF OUR DRYER!

There’s nothing that adds to that warm “fresh out of the dryer” feeling like cat urine seeping through the lint trap.

You might think the change in Skitty’s bathroom habits is an unusual thing for a normally fastidious cat, but she has a lot to contend with, too. Namely, the long-standing “live and let live” truce between her and Rodney has been broken.

I feel bad because it’s my fault. I’m the one who made the decision to take in another stray a few months ago.

We call her “Little Cat.” We tried calling her a couple of different names, but “Little Cat” seems to have stuck and she has become Rodney’s “Best Friend Forever.” Between the two of them, they’ve been making Skitty’s life miserable.

Skitty has always made herself at home on top of our dryer. We took to feeding her there to keep Rodney from hoovering up her food. Now, however, she seems trapped by a younger cat and a giant dog who don’t understand that she doesn’t want to play when she jumps down from her perch. She just wants to visit the litter box we keep in the basement.

I generally know when Skitty has attempted to go to the bathroom when I’m startled by a flurry of activity and a lot of hissing. The poor cat can’t even pee in peace.

I can’t blame her for not relishing the thought of running what amounts to a gauntlet. But we are going to have to find a remedy for her and soon.

That’s because I’m planning a belated birthday dinner for my wife Sunday evening. It’s the only time of the week when we are usually obligation free.

The last thing I want is for it to be ruined because our clothes smell like a litter box that hasn’t been changed in a very long time.

Exercising would be easier if the starship “Enterprise” had a different paint job


My doctor seemed to have an epiphany last week.

It happened during my most recent visit to his office. I had scheduled an appointment because I had questions stemming from all the tests I underwent last month.

I thought we were going to talk about putting an end to my penchant for kicking back in my favorite chair and streaming “Star Trek” on Netflix while my wife is at work and the kids are in school.

To my way of thinking, it was a pretty safe assumption. After all, between all the poking and prodding and general anesthetics that rendered me happily oblivious to the more intrusive poking and prodding, he discovered my liver was slightly out-of-whack.

His almost off-hand comment about my liver spurred me to do some intense research.

On my laptop.

While reclining in my chair.

With one of my favorite “Star Trek” episodes streaming on our flat screen TV.

A Google search indicated the best treatment option doesn’t involve any special medication or surgery. Instead, all the websites I looked at suggested I get out of my chair for longer than it takes to get to the refrigerator.  And, if I somehow find myself reaching for our son’s stash of frozen Hot Pockets, to choose fresh fruits and veggies, instead.

But rather than put my treatment plan in the hands of the internet, I showed up at my doctor’s office because I wanted to hear it from him.

Our discussion, however, took an unexpected turn. He almost immediately asked if I was still having pain on the right side of my upper abdomen, just below my rib cage.

When I said yes, he looked at the results of the scans a previous doctor had me undergo some two-and-a-half years ago and asked if I still had my gall bladder. He said the scans suggested it be removed.

I replied that, indeed, I did, but not for lack of trying to get rid of it. Not just one, but two previous doctors dismissed the idea. I began seeing my current doctor, a digestive specialist, because the pain has refused to leave me in peace.

Now, just when I thought my liver was the source of all my trouble, a bad gall bladder diagnosis seems to be back on the table.

I left my doctor’s office that day with yet another test scheduled. If it confirms what he suspects, then I will have a decision to make – namely, whether to continue living with the pain or to have one of my original parts removed.

Generally speaking, when things break they must either be fixed or discarded.

Take our old crock pot, for instance. Last week, I had to throw it in the corner of the basement where we keep the rest of our broken junk. It had developed a crack in its stoneware.

I don’t remember when that old crock pot showed up in our kitchen. We’ve had it for years, but I’m surprisingly unsentimental about it. Probably because it made the chili I like to make this time of year look uncomfortable. It was white with swirling lavender flowers stamped around its base.

We have a new crock pot now. I picked it out myself. It’s jet black with silver trim like the muscle car one of my friends used to drive back in high school. I don’t know that my chili will cook any better in it, but it should at least look better than ever the next time I decide to rev up a batch. That crock pot is sleek.

The thing is, it might be a while before I can enjoy a bowl of chili without any second thoughts. I’ve been staying away from red meat as much as possible. It seems to be one of the foods that triggers my pain.

Assuming my doctor is right about my gall bladder, though, I could eventually be able to eat what I want with no thought to the immediate digestive consequences.

But getting rid of it is a decision for another day. Right now, I’ve got tear myself away from the television and go for a walk – a task that would be easier if the starship “Enterprise” had a floral paint job.

Why “Star Trek” is going to have to take a back seat


At the risk of sounding like a tedious old bore who can’t stop talking about his aches and pains, I feel like I should revisit them, anyway – mostly because I’ve been making such a big deal about all the medical tests I’ve had to endure.

In any case, I have to find a new audience for my complaints. My colleagues at work are starting to give each other that “there he goes again” look every time I get wound up.

I started confiding in them to give my family a break. My wife has been giving me that same look when I seek sympathy, and I think our kids have started finding excuses to leave the room when I broach the subject.

I’ve been so desperate to find somebody to listen to me whine that I tried confiding in our cats.

They ignored me.

I probably should have expected that. Cats are nothing if not haughty.

Our dog Rodney has been a good sport. But he IS a dog. And dogs are easily bribed.

When he looks at me as if to say “please stop whining”  when we are out for a walk, I throw him a bacon-flavored treat and go on complaining about the pain I’ve been having on the right side of my rib cage.

Tasty dog treats only go so far, though. When we arrive back at the house, he stops begging for the next morsel entirely and starts straining on the leash, presumably to get away.

I tell myself he just wants to get back to annoying our cats. But the truth is, he’s probably had enough of me.

Basically, it comes down to this –  it seems that I can no longer rely on youth to maintain the good health I’ve always taken for granted. The tests that were performed this month indicate that I have a slightly overweight liver.

In hindsight, I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. It seems my liver  is just taking cues from the rest of the overweight me.

I’ve yet to get specifics from my doctor on what to do about it. That comes next week. But if the internet is to be believed, I’m not going to be streaming old “Star Trek” shows on Netflix quite as often.

A Google search suggests that I get off my rump rather than spend leisurely afternoons exploring strange, new worlds while the kids are in school and my wife is at work.

In fact, I’ve already started. The walks I take with Rodney are more frequent and brisker. I’ve also joined the stair-walking club at work.

I’m also trying to watch what I eat more carefully, which should please my wife. She’s been after me for years to take better care of myself.

But if she thinks I’m going to stop whining, she’s got another thing coming – especially if my doctor bans “Star Trek” from my daily routine.

Why I’ve been remiss


I’ve been more distracted than usual lately. That may not seem particularly remarkable. According to my wife, my focus on day-to-day tasks has never been stellar. But even I have noticed a turn for the worse. I’ve let deadlines slip and my “honey-do” list seems to be getting longer and longer and longer.

I could blame the arrival of 2015. The year isn’t even a month old and I’m pretty sure I’ve already reached my medical deductible, not to mention the limit of my dental insurance.

I showed up at the dentist’s office at the beginning of January, got comfortable in his chair and then had the uncomfortable experience of watching bits of a bad tooth come flying out of my mouth. My dentist had to grind that tooth down to a nub in preparation for a crown. It was like watching sparks shooting from a metal grinder. If you ask me, my dentist seemed a little too enthusiastic.

But that experience was just the beginning.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been compelled to undergo a series of medical tests that seem designed to shred my dignity.

I’ve been obliged to drink foul substances and required to recline in various positions at the hospital, where I’ve been irradiated and poked and prodded with various instruments. And that was when I was awake. I don’t want to know what happened while I was happily unconscious.

I should know in the next couple of weeks whether my condition warrants more poking and prodding and general anesthetics.

If all that weren’t enough, my eye doctor has been calling. Apparently, I’m overdue for my annual exam.

It’s as if 2015 is saying, “Welcome to your 50s, Mr. Snyder,” as it giggles behind its hand.

I know I should just be thankful I’ve made it this far, that I have the privilege of sitting around at work commiserating about various aches and pains with the other guys my age and boring the pants off considerably younger colleagues.

But the truth is, the complaints associated with getting older aren’t the real reason why I haven’t given my obligations the attention they deserve.

That honor belongs to Netflix. The streaming video service is giving me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite old TV shows.

Specifically, Netflix is indulging my obsession with “Star Trek”. I’ve been re-watching all of the old shows from “The Next Generation” to “Enterprise”, leaving my wife dumbfounded. I’m sure she thought she was out of the woods when the final series went off the air ten years ago this spring. But she didn’t count on Netflix.

She will soon have reason to celebrate, though. I only have one more season of “Deep Space Nine” to watch and then my “Star Trek” binge will be over and I will have run out of excuses for not attending to my rapidly expanding “honey do” list.

Unless, of course, I find something else to binge watch.

Come to think of it, the new season of “Game of Thrones” begins this spring. Now is probably a good time to refresh my memory.

I could use a little more distraction between all those trips to the doctor.