Kevin's Dead Cat

After surgery sliced off an entire tumor and 1/3 of my tongue, plus six weeks of radiation therapy, I've been re-learning how to eat, drink, and talk with my newly re-constructed tongue and coping with side effects. But the cancer came back and I don't know what's going to happen next.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I don't want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Home Sweet Home

So James drives me home, and the first thing I see is the case of wine I ordered before I went into the hospital! I'm sooo happy!

Took a much needed nap right away, and started returning email. So here are some general announcements:

1. Since I'm recuperating so fast, the information embargo is lifted. Go ahead and bring the cancer up in casual conversation, because it's gone-daddy-gone. But you should refer to me as Wolverine or (Dr. Blackwell's favorite) Wild Thing.

2. I won't be at the bar tomorrow night for the Hawks' return from the road. But I'll be thinking of them. Go to Cole's Wednesday night and watch a great L.A. band at a great L.A. bar.

3. I'm taking bids for rights to photos of my surgery wounds. The photo shoot is Thursday night at my place, so if there are any artists who need tracheotomy shots, needle bruises, skin graft scars... and more, you'd better hurry and place your bids. Exclusive rights to North America (James) and Eastern Europe and Scandinavia (Agnieszka) are already locked in.

4. I have no more synthetic drains, pipes, or tubes left on my body, Blackwell took them all out since McNicoll told him how much fun it was to change my tracheotomy tube without anesthesia. Those crazy guys. If you have really sick surgery questions (and as my friends I know you do), just post it to the blog. Right now, no solid food, I have to re-teach my tongue to do things like talk and swallow (I can hear all you guys at the bar giggling right about now).

Thanks again to everyone who e-mailed James while I was out. Give him a pat on the back and a large pepperoni with bell-peppers (or a sausage with black olives) next time you see him. I'm considering hiring him on as my press rep.

Talk to you soon.


Could someone give me a lift home

Dr. Blackwell just ripped off all my sutures and stitches and replaced them with pickled herring. I'm waiting on Dr. McNicoll to give me the big kiss-off. Men can be so cruel.

No cab fare offered, so could someone pick me up from the hospital.

See you soon. Laura
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Monday, August 30, 2004

Dr. Smart-Ass

Tonight may actually be my final night in captivity. Dr. McNicoll and I had a long, frank talk about how discouraged I felt after an especially bad evening checking out of ICU (actually he read through my almost 2-page memo since I couldn't talk).

He nodded his head, and said real innocent-like, "let's try something different." Whips out his scalpel and snips my current treachostopy device out (without telling me what he was going to do until it was too late and I was already on my back...just like a man).

But after coughing up a lung all over his steel-rimmed glasses, he slid and stapled on a new, sleeker, far trendier trache-tube and asked me to say something. And I did. I hadn't spoken since the day of the operation.

But then I had a lot of visitors this afternoon, and talked myself right into a sore tongue, swollen to almost twice its size (not really). Doc said if I can get the survival techniques down, and I breathe all day with the new hole on my throat, I can go home tomorrow night!

So I'm resting all day, avoiding, conversation makers, and practicing my feeding tube techniques.

So sorry if you were really looking forward going to the hospital, but I didn't want to be there.

Laura's talking too much

Well, she's doing so well that they capped off the tracheostomy and now
she's talked so much she's worn herself out. The doctor says she may be
able to go home tomorrow if she is able to show him that she can do all
the necessary self-care techniques they've shown her. She's excited
about going home but nervous, too. She's had a lot of visitors today and
she's afraid she's talked so much that the the doctor will think she's
too tired to go home. She's looking forward to going home-- she needs a
shower and some new clothes. She's stopped talking now and is resting,
watching the gathering storm(?) of protesters in New York. She says she
sounds weird when she talks, but it sounds good to me.

Take care,
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Out of Intensive Care

Laura keeps getting better every day! She's moving out of the ICU to her
own private room on Sunday night (and her blackberry seems to be working
again, so you can email me or call Information at the Kaiser hospital
for the details).

Take care,
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Laura's awake!

Friday morning they took Laura off the respirator and she was breathing
on her own by 1O am--earlier than expected. Thursday night they had told
me they would have to keep her unconscious all day Friday, but she was
doing so well that they let her wake up a little. Still, she slept most
of the day.

Today, Saturday, she is wide awake and able to communicate by writing.
She still is taking a lot of pain medicine and sleeping on and off. Her
recovery is on, or even ahead of, schedule.

She may be moved out of ICU Sunday afternoon, or Monday at the latest.
I'll update this blog as soon as I know. You can also email her
blackberry and I'll send you her room number (once I know it), or you
can call Information at Kaiser Sunset starting Sunday night.

Take care,
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Laura's Awake!

Friday morning they took Laura off the respirator and she was breathing on her own
by 10 am--earlier than expected. Thursday night they had told me they would have
to keep her unconscious all day Friday, but she was doing so well that they let
her wake up a little. She was able to sleep most of the day on Friday.

Today, Saturday, she is wide awake and able to communicate by writing. She still
is taking alot of pain medicine and sleeping on and off. Her recovery is on, or
even ahead of, schedule.

She may be moved out of the ICU Sunday afternoon or Monday. I'll update the blog
as soon as I can. Laura's blackberry service has been a little inconsistent today
(hence the somewhat late update). In case you can't reach that address, you can
reach me directly at . Email me and I'll give
you her room number and any other information I can. You can also try calling Information
at Kaiser on Sunset Blvd for her room number.

take care,

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Laura's doing great!

We were able to see Laura in the ICU around 7 pm. She's stable, doing
really well, but sedated so she can rest. The doctors and nurses all
say the surgery was a success. She'll be kept unconsious for at least 24
more hours (as of 7 pm Thursday). While she can have visitors in the
ICU, it's not recommended as she needs lots of rest. She will probably
be moved to a regular room on Sunday or Monday. I'll post any new
updates as soon as I have them.

Laura's left me in charge of her blackberry for now, until she's able to
do these updates herself. Go ahead and email any questions to that
address. I'll do my best to answer all of your emails.

Take care,
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Surgery is over!!!

Laura's surgery is over and everything's gone really well. We haven't
had a chance to see her yet--she's still in recovery. In an hour or so
she'll be moved to the Intensive Care Unit for 2-3 days. Tonight she'll
be under sedation to help her sleep (relatively) comfortably. More

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Laura's Surgery: Phase One

The first part of Laura's surgery is over. They were able to
successfully remove the tumor with no problems. Now the reconstructive
surgery begins and will take a few hours. I'll update you again soon.

Thanks everyone, for your concern for, and support of, Laura through all

Take care,
A guest of Kevin's Dead Cat

PS "Vote Kerry"--The last thing Laura said before leaving for surgery.
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Signed the last few authorizations, and spent a couple of hours talking to Dr. McNicoll this morning. Still freaking out, getting a little more frightened about how I'm going to feel when I wake up. Not his fault. He was actually very reassuring.

There are a few additions/changes to what I've written previously:

I check-in at 6am Thursday, get prepped for surgery at 8am. They have to stick tubes and stuff in me. I will have a tracheotomy hole on my throat, a feeding tube up my nose, an IV out of my right arm, and something else out of a vein on the back of my right hand.

Surgery all day, recovery will be about 2 hours, and I'll be on a respirator in ICU for 2-3 days. That's because of the swelling in my mouth from surgery.

I can have visitors the next day, but I won't be able to talk. If you visit me while I'm in ICU, it will look a lot worse than it actually is, so prepare yourself.

On the 3rd or 4th day, I'll have a private room, and I'll be encouraged to walk around. If I heal quickly, and there are no surprises, I'll be sent home on the 6th day.

A nurse will come by my apartment once a day to check on my stitches and feeding tube, which will come out a week or so after I come home.

On Sept. 8th, I have my post-op appointment, and my stitches may already be out by then. If I can drink water, they'll take out the feeding tube, and I can try broth and other liquids.

By the way, I decided to have them take the skin graft from my thigh, not my ass. So the scar count is one on my throat from the tracheotomy, a big J- shaped one on the left side of my neck, one up my left forearm, and the last one on my thigh. Plus the weird looking tongue.

The next posting will be from James when I get out of surgery.

Once again, the hospital is Kaiser at 4867 Sunset Blvd. Parking is around the corner at 1549 Edgemont.

I guess the next time you hear from me, I'll be cancer-free. Cross your fingers. Thanks again to all of you for being such wonderful friends.


Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


I donated my 2nd bag of blood, and met w/the internist, anesthesiologist, and two other doctors this afternoon for details on my surgery day.

It will be an all day event, check in 6:00am at the Kaiser hospital @ 4867 Sunset Blvd. They will wheel me into recovery after the surgery is over, then monitor me in the Intensive Care Unit until I get my room for the next 5 days. They will keep me unconscious the first night because
of pain and swelling after the reconstructive surgery.

I will have a private room w/cable TV (Comedy Central, yes; HBO, no). My Blackberry is allowed, so I can e-mail and blog from my hospital bed.

Everyone I spoke to said something about how surprised they are to see someone as young and healthy as I am for this type of surgery (hey, imagine my surprise!). Like: "Are you sure you don't smoke like a chimney, drink like a fish, and suffer from high blood pressure or some
kind of heart disease???" Yeah, I've been getting that a lot. If I had a nickel for every time someone raised a ruckus over my blood pressure...

Worst-case-scenario paragraph starts now:
I may have a tracheotomy hole on my throat, and a titanium jaw when I wake up. They may even need to keep me unconscious for two nights after surgery. In that case, I won't be able to eat or drink for 2 weeks. Then I will have a feeding tube hole on my belly.

I'm going to silently freak-out now, then do about a half hour of yoga. Thankfully, I won't be talking to another doctor until my pre-op w/Dr. McNicoll next Wednesday.

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Introducing Dr. Keith Blackwell

Went to UCLA Medical Plaza this morning to meet with Dr. Blackwell. Like Dr. McNicoll, a very nice man who talks entirely too much about worst-case scenarios. If you're squeamish, do not read the next paragraph.

He described how I may wake-up with a titanium jaw if the cancer has spread that far, or if they need to get farther down my throat and split my jaw at the chin to open it up. So call me "9-iron" because that's what a lot of golf clubs are made out of. He doesn't think I'll have any problems breathing, but I may also wake up with a tracheotomy hole on my throat. And I thought they couldn't freak me out more than they already have.

Nine more days and counting. Tomorrow I meet with the internist and anesthesiologist.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Viva Las Vegas

So here I am at one of the cafes in Paris LV, having coffee (not green
tea, or papaya juice), and taking very little bites of a lemon pound
cake (instead of the usual yogurt w/flaxseed oil). I'm taking a vacation
from my cancer.

A friend is spending her birthday in Vegas, and Ali, Andrew, and I drove
from LA last night. We're actually staying at the Monte Carlo, but after
a restless nap I decided to venture out at 7:00 in the morning. Andrew
is playing blackjack and Ali is sleeping off the gambling and drinking
he started as soon as we were checked in.

I already lost $20 at the crap tables, but there were cute guys there
flirting with me, so who cares?

I don't really plan on gambling very much this trip. Armed with my
bottle of Tylenol 3, I plan on eating and drinking my way through the
weekend. As soon as Ali wakes up, we're headed for the Bellagio Buffet.

Amy, the birthday girl, flies in today. But I'm flying out tomorrow
morning so I can catch my brother's birthday party.

More relatives are flying into town. Some were already planning on
coming to LA, but a couple came because of the surgery. I'll probably
have more people in town for my cancer than for my wedding (no, I'm not
getting married any time soon, Mom).

Twelve more days until slice and dice. It's taking more effort to keep
it together, which is why I REALLY need to get away. Everyone keeps
assuring me that I'm doing fine, so I guess I am. But like I said, the
bad moments are getting more frequent.

It's been raining in Hanoi for nearly 2 months now. I hope that by the
time it clears up I'll be well enough to fly there.

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

Thursday, August 12, 2004

An afternoon at Kaiser

I donated my first pint of blood for the surgery yesterday. It only took 10 minutes to harvest this big bag... I nearly passed out looking at it, and I was already lying down. I also took a second set of chest x-rays and picked up my films from Dr. McNicoll's office so I can bring them with me to UCLA when I meet with Dr. Blackwell next Wednesday morning.

I donate my 2nd pint of blood and meet with the anaesthesiologist and internist next Wednesday. They'll go over all I need to do/know directly before zero hour. Then one more meeting with Dr. McNicoll (pre-op) the afternoon of the 25th, and then report to the hospital at 6:00 a.m. on the 26th.

I made some cream of watercress soup, enough to last me until the surgery (watercress is supposed to be bad for carcinomas). I'm still drinking a lot of papaya, cantaloupe, and carrot juice, and learning to love it. Lost 3 more lbs., even though I had some waffles at Roscoe's last weekend. It was worth the pain. Thank God for codeine.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Surgery Date Moved-up!

I love Dr. McNicoll!!!

I received a call from his office just now telling me that he was able to move up my surgery date from Aug 31st to Aug 26th. He found a colleague from UCLA to perform the reconstructive surgery. So Dr. Lueg is out and Dr. Blackwell is in. I'm meeting with him at UCLA on Aug 17th. Dr. McNicoll is still taking out the tumor, but Dr. Blackwell is doing the reconstruction on my tongue and the skin grafts on my arm and leg.

So I could possibly be home from the hospital September 1st. We still don't know if I will need some sort of radiation treatment after the surgery, but I'm trying to remain hopeful. Cross your fingers.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Healthy Living

So I'm mixing Flaxseed Oil with my yogurt; juicing every red, yellow, and orange fruit and vegetable I can carry home; and eating a hella-lot of watercress. I go to bed at 10 p.m. so I can wake up early enough to do yoga before work, then pilates and free weights after work. I want to be as healthy and physically strong as I can be before going into surgery, because I'll be laid-up for weeks afterwards, and physically I feel like it's working (I just know this procedure is going to take a lot out of me).

The thing is, I went to Whole Foods Market (for the first time) to get the Flaxseed Oil and watercress, and I was surrounded by all these healthy-just-out-of-yoga-class-low-body-fat freaks buying incredibly healthy things to put in or on their bodies. Am I really turning into these people I used to avoid? Will I ever have a $6 Burger at Carl's Jr. again? Will I ever want to? I'm the girl who used to eat french fries with caramel sundaes!

James joked that I'll be healthier after the cancer than I ever was before the cancer. What I don't want is to turn into a health food evangelical. I always found those people kind of annoying, like they're making all these efforts (not having a burger combo 3 times a week, no leftover pizza for breakfast, and a large Diet Coke with everything) just so they can go into the ground with confidence. I never imagined being like that.

I'm sure that to a certain degree, I will be living a little healthier when this is all over. But, as my dearest friends, help me this way: If I ever start giving unsolicited advice on healthier eating and exercise, PLEASE TELL ME TO FUCK OFF.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Dr. McNicoll rocks!

Dr. McNicoll called this afternoon. Turns out he's been trying to move my surgery up by checking with his colleagues at UCLA Medical Center. But there's this big head & neck conference in Washington, D.C. next week that everyone is flying to. That's why everyone's schedule is so tight.

But he asked how aggressive I wanted him to be as far as scheduling surgery sooner, since he could tell from our last appointment how much pain I was in. He's even checking for cancellations every day, since some pop up when a patient catches a cold or something. How great is he?!!!

We talked for a while about post-op. He's very nice, but each time I talk to him I discover a new reason to freak out. For instance: I'm going to have a feeding tube down my throat 7-14 days after surgery since I won't be able to swallow. After I leave the hospital a nurse will stop by my place once a day until the tube is taken out. What a pain in the ass. Maybe I should have one last big meal with a side of painkillers before the operation, since I can't eat solid food for two weeks.