Friday, July 26, 2013

We've Moved...

I have a new blog and a new book. I know, what a coincidence.

But I'd love to see you over at my WordPress blog. Here's the new site: http://rickbettencourt.wordpress.com/

Hope to see you soon!

Over and out...

Rick

P.S. Bandit says hello!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Need A Job?

Hi all!

Long time no write...

If you haven't heard about my new job search blog, and career advice and personal development website, check it out. Stay current on information to not only find a job but be better at the one you may already have.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Rick


Monday, June 04, 2012

WritingWellNow.com

Well, I'm not officially retiring BanditTalks but...

It's been a long time, since starting with the trials and tribulations of my personal life, back in 2005.  I have other things to share and started a new blog called WritingWellNow.com which speaks to my passion for writing.

I've been quite busy the last couple of months working on a couple of new short stories and the seemingly never ending edits to the book.

WritingWellNow.com is a site for tips and tools on writing. Check it out.

Over and out (for now)...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's Been Awhile

So after the last couple of soap opera posts I want drag things out.  This is what's happened since:

Chris' dad passed away.  We found him dead, alone, when we went for our weekly visit - mid-February.  Very traumatizing...it wasn't a pretty scene.  Chris is faring well.  He has his good days and his bad. Last night was a particularly bad one.

On a happier note, we just got back from Florida.  We visited last week, enjoyed the sun and the roller coasters at Busch Gardens.  Here are a few pictures from our trip.

Coquina Beach, Florida

At the Condo

Rick Walking the Beach

Rick and Chris at Busch Gardens

My Favorite Dish:  Calamari Salad at Ezra's

Country Singer, Eric Von 
Animal at Busch Gardens

Pals Since Birth: Cheetah and Dog Playing
That's about it.  I'll try and post for regularly.

Rick

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Part III: The C-word (Final)


In case you missed the first two blogs on this topic, read part I here and part II here.  This is the last installment.
------------

The afternoon of receiving news I could have cancer, I was scheduled to go back to work.  Yet I could barely focus enough to drive myself home let alone sit through meetings and ponder system documentation.

I didn't want to call Chris and get him worried.  I drove in silence.

I let my boss know I got some bad news; there'd be more news to follow.  He was  very supportive.

I went home, hugged Bandit and then sat in front of my computer.  I researched prostate cancer on the Internet.  Bad idea!  Did you know that lower back pain and prostate cancer could mean that it has metastasized to the bone which substantial decreases the chance of survival?

I was dying.  It was clear.

When Chris came home, I told him the whole story.  He held me and we cried. 

I couldn't believe this was happening to me.  All the healthy choices I had made in life yet everything about it just didn't sound good.  Besides my dad died of cancer, as did my uncle and my cousin.   I assumed it was just my time.  While I had planned on living a long life, maybe I just wasn't meant to.

Things seemed different:  I appreciated the simple things; the stuff I previously found annoying I now found meaning in.  I Facebooked  words of gratitude.  I had had a good life.  If now was my time than so be it.


The weekend met with little sleep.  As I laid in bed, eyes searching through the darkness, each ache in my lower back I felt to be the cancer eating away at my bones.   I was nearly sick to my stomach with worry.

I got a blood work up on Monday.

On Tuesday I met with the oncologist to finally see what was going on with my bleeding issues.   Coincidentally the nurse was an old friend ; she helped lighten my mood and had me laughing about old times - working as bill collectors for Sears. Those were the days.

The doctor reviewed all my blood test results, spanning the last five years, and then ordered more.  He told me my PSA level, back from the day before, was only 0.85 which equated to about a less than 1% chance of having  prostate cancer.   Good news at last?  Perhaps all this was nothing after all. 

I left slightly encouraged.

The next day I was back at the urologist for  the scoop up the penis.  He was looking for any abnormalities in my bladder and kidneys.  Uncomfortable kind of puts it mildly.

"Are you really going to fit the entire thing up my…"   I said looking at the long tube.

He laughed.

"I've been told I'm well-endowed but this is crazy."  At least I still had my humor.

The procedure didn't take long, less than two minutes.  It felt like someone blew up my bladder like a water balloon and then put in a little bit more for good measure.  It's gonna burst! I thought.

"Everything looks pristine," he said yanking the 2 foot probe out from within. 

I thought the twenty-seven liters (at least that's what it felt like) of saline inside me was going to come out with it.

"Next week we'll do the biopsy and the following week we'll have the results for you," he went on.  "Your PSA is excellent.  Things are looking good but we really won't know conclusively until…"

"I'm sorry doc, I really have to pee!"  I never had to go so bad in my life.


More waiting but a little sounder sleep and a tad less anxious.

The oncologist called:  the results from an extensive blood analysis came in.  I was on the cusp of having Von Willebrand disease, an asymptomatic coagulation disorder - nothing dangerous.  This would explain my nosebleeds.  But what about the blood in my...?


Finally the biopsy day came:  I had to take the entire day off.  I was given a Valium and a Percocet  prior to going.  Chris took the morning off to be with me, and to drive my high-as-a-kite ass there and back.

It hurt!  Like a mother_____!  And that was with drugs. It felt like someone went up inside me, grabbed a hold of my prostate with their  fist  and then squeezed.  Then just as it cramped into the worse Charlie horse you could imagine…12  long needles, up the butt...one... at... a...time. 

"How you doing Mr. Bettencourt?"

"Ar-argh,"  was all I could get out.  I was biting my sweatshirt.  Tears and drool spotted the table's  paper lining.

The medical assistant, a tall guy in green scrubs and a goatee, began to describe to my doctor what he was seeing  through the scope.  "Calcification, look here.  This is what you were feeling on the right side of the prostate."

Some sort of calcification...isn't that what my primary care originally said it was?

Promising yet not conclusive.

Waiting once more, this time for the results.  Another full week.

Lastly the day had come:  I had an afternoon lunch time appointment with him.  I slotted the rest of the afternoon to be off, just in case the news was bad.  I wouldn't be able to go back.

Chris met up with me.  We held hands in the examining room waiting, once again.  Chris, with his new iPhone, fiddled around to find something to calm me down.  Knowing I like Bette Midler, he thought he'd find a song on Pandora to comfort me.  However, the app selected The Rose.  It just didn't seem appropriate.  The volume was on full blast.  He couldn't figure out how to shut it off.

"And the soul afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live."

Here I am waiting to get news whether or not I'm dying and I'm hearing one of the saddest songs in recorded history.

Finally the door burst open.  It was the doctor.  The first words out his mouth were, "you're fine!" 

I couldn't comprehend.  I was still pissed about hearing The Rose which Chris had finally been able to mute.

The doctor went on, "no need to pussy foot around with hellos and delay any further.  Your results are good."

"What?"  My neurons were still trying to process. 

"No cancer," he explained.

Chris gave a smile.  And we then sat listening to Dr. Geffin going over some multi-page analysis.    

While he mumbled on about testing scenarios and benign this and benign that and calcified ejaculatory ducts.  I thanked God.  I was truly grateful (and still am) for having a wonderful life.

I wasn't dying, not now anyway.  Maybe I will live to be 80 or 90 or even 100.

Waking out of there, I knew life to be so much better than it had been just the month before.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Part II: The C-word


I don't mean to drag things on or to sound like an episode from the Guiding Light.  All I want is to tell these series of events as I saw them, as I went through them.  Yes, I'm alive.  And I'm doing fine.  But it took a bit to know all that.  So, onto part II…this is how I experienced it.
---------

When we arrived in Boston on Sunday it had snowed.  Luckily it wasn't enough to haul out the snow blower.  My mood wasn't very upbeat and I wasn't up for shoveling.  With a broom I brushed off the front steps, enough for us to get the luggage in and for the mailman, in the morning, to get up the stairs.

From the office on Monday at 8 am I called my primary care.  "Hi, Mr. Bettencourt.  What can we do for you?" the receptionist asked. 

I couldn't tell her what was really going on.  "Um, I've had a little blood in my urine…"  Lie.   "Some back pain and the nose bleeds continue."  A month earlier I had been in for horrific nose bleeds that lasted up to twenty minutes and left me dizzy.

"He's free at 1," she said.

Dr. Smith wasn't overly concerned.  "A lot of men get blood in their semen.  It's usually calcification in the ejaculatory ducts but since you also have had back pain, for over a year now, we'll send you to a urologist to rule out anything serious.  It could be a kidney stone but we'll do the right thing and get you looked after.  And for the nose bleeds we'll get you a complete blood work up from a hematologist.  Still no bruising?"

I knew bruising was a sign of leukemia.  "No," I  said. 

My blood  tests from the end of last year indicated a slight slowness in my clotting time, which he thought was most likely brought on by too much fish oil and supplements, and not enough iron but he wanted a full blood work up to be conclusive.

After leaving his office I felt less concerned.  That was until I went to see the urologist.

My work week was packed with catching up.  I tried not to check my BlackBerry while on vacation but doing so meant more to get up to speed on.  Luckily the next few days kept me busy enough to forgot about my health.  Also, I wasn't particularly excited to see if there was still blood.

The urologist's office managed to squeeze in a lunchtime appointment for Friday. 

I was reading a short-story in the New Yorker when he came in.  At the time, I found this all to be an inconvenience.  I hated waiting, despite the story being good. My attitude was a bit carefree; I had work to get back to. 

We exchanged greetings. He was pleasant and had already read my self-evaluation.  I respect a man who's prepared.

"So I'm a little confused," he said.  "I'm getting conflicting messages.  Blood in the urine, blood in the ejaculate.  No blood in the urine."

I had lied to his receptionist as well.  What am I supposed to tell her, "I shot a wad of blood all over the sheets?"   At the time, I couldn't come (no pun intended) up with a word like semen or ejaculate to describe my condition.  Behind closed doors - though the walls were paper thin as evident by my knowledge of the next door down's patient's prostate being the size of a baseball - I was able to divulge everything.

He examined me. 

I've never made a good bottom, despite the small width of a doctor's finger.

This was much more exploratory than my yearly physical.

We cleaned up.

I felt like I just had sex.

He sat me down.  I'm not sure exactly what he said but it went something like this:  "To be honest, I don't  like what I feel.  It feels like prostate cancer but we won't know until we do a biopsy."

Cancer.  That was all I heard.

"I'd also like to rule out anything in the bladder and kidneys so we'll need to do a scope."  He continued on…

I didn't hear what he was saying.

Cancer.  Did he say cancer?  Is this really happening?  I went cold, similar to how I felt two nights ago when we nearly burnt the house down.

He mumbled on, something about waiting a week or two for lab results.  "I never  give a results over the phone.  We'll schedule you now for a follow up visit  a week after the biopsy."

"Cancer?"  Really?  And the back pain, is it in my bones?  "Could it have metastasized to my back?" I asked. 

"Well we'll run a PSA test.  Your last one, three years ago, was in normal range.  Let's just take one step at a time."

One step at a time?  I already had myself buried and in the ground.  

Friday, March 09, 2012

Part I: The C-word


As I alluded to in the last post, it hasn't been a very good year.

Two days after almost burning the house down (The Incident), I went to the doctor and got some bad news.  But before I go there let's step back to a week, before the fire debacle and prior to that horrific appointment - to our Florida vacation.

"It's so nice spending time here," Chris told me as he dusted the chest of draws then stood back admiring the new trinket we picked up at the Salvation Army.  "You'd never know we paid $2.99 for it." 


"It looks good," I said not bothering to take my nose out of my Kindle. I only had a few more page left of  Water for Elephants.  Beside the ice pack felt good on my aching back, a persistent problem for the last year - I didn't want to move.

 "Aren't you glad I talked you into getting this place?" He was referring to the condo.

"Um, wasn't it me who chose this one?  You wanted that older style unit, the one with a view of a street and tiny little backyard."  I pointed to the golf course out our bedroom window.  "Even though we don't golf I'd much rather look at the greens."

He smiled.

It was a persistent joke. Who could take credit for a decision - be it big or small?  Of course the condo purchase was mutual but the chide makes for a little fun.   Usually it's me on the losing side of this little game.  For instance, after being forced  to do something I don't want to - watching AMC's The Walking Dead is a good example - I eventually come around to loving it.  In the middle of a particular heightened scene, I often say, "I'm so glad I talked you into watching this show."   My stance is usually met with a flippant, "mmm-hmm."

Anyway, I digress.  Back to the vacation. 

"So where do you want to go for dinner?"  I asked putting the Kindle down and adjusting the ice pack.

"I don't know.  You want to go to Ezra's again?  I have another LivingSocial we can use." 

We bought three or four $25 gift certificates for $5.  We gave some away but still had a couple leftover.

"Yeah, sure!  It's a tad pricey but what better way to spend our last night here.  You know  I love their calamari salad."

"Should we make reservations?  It might be busy on a Saturday night." 

We went the prior Monday and had the entire place to ourselves.  It was nice; we got to know the general manager and staff quite well.  But a quiet night at Ezra's was an anomaly.

Let me make a call."  I grabbed my BlackBerry, their number in my contacts. 

The unassuming exterior of this restaurant, nestled in a strip mall,  hides some of finest food imaginable.   The wasabi vinaigrette  on their calamari salad is fantastic.   For an entrée I knew I had to get the grilled skirt steak; I hadn't had it since our last visit in the fall.

Crystal, the hostess, couldn't fit us in till seven.  We've only been there a handful of times yet she knew us by name:  "Is this Rick of Chris and Rick?" she asked.  She was happy to have us back.

With some time to kill before enjoying some of Bradenton's finest food, one thing led to another.  And in the pinnacle of our fun...

There was blood.

My blood. 

"Oh my God!  Are you okay?"  Chris asked.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

WritingWellNow.com

I've started a new writing blog.  Check it out at WritingWellNow.com.

BanditTalks - my personal journal - isn't going away.  Now you just have more options.

Till later...

Rick


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Part III: The Incident (Final)


This is the last installment of The Incident. Click here for Part I and here for Part II.  But wait there's more!  It's been a crazy year.
------------------------

After hitting the keypad's panic button, I grabbed the land line phone.  ADT will certainly be calling, I thought. 

"Chris!  Chris!  Get out!"  I said.   But the screech of fire, enh...enh...fire! added to the already overbearing siren from the smoke detectors made me wonder if he could even hear me.  Where was he?

"Chris!"  I said one more time before heading out the door to the garage.  I couldn't  hear the phone from inside.  I opened the bay while trying to get a dial tone on the phone.  Why is the phone not working?  Of all times!

"Call 911!"  I heard Chris yelling, still inside.

I assumed ADT would be calling emergency services for us. (I later realized that was a bad assumption on my part; hence my looking for a replacement service - another story.)

Pacing around out front, still trying to get the phone to work, I remembered Bandit being tethered to a chain in the backyard.  I thought about the chimney being so close to the upstairs' furnace and the gas line: What if the fire gets to the gas?  It'll explode...raining down balls of flames? Poor Bandit!  I ran in the back to get him.

As I was hitching him onto his leash - I must've grabbed his lead from the kitchen without thinking - I was finally able to get a dial tone.

"911, what's your emergency?"  The operator asked.

"I have a chimney fire."

By the time the fire engines arrived Chris had emerged from the house - dressed and nursing a burnt finger from trying to open the scalding fireplace screen.

A swarm of emergency vehicles converged and tried to wedge their way down our tiny street.   A police car's strobe threw a scatter shot of blue across the neighborhood.  An ambulance blocked the top of the hill.  Parked beside the house, a ladder truck's engine hummed and added a stream of red to the light show.  My neighbor peered out her bedroom window.

I told a man looking in charge, from shine on his badge, what was going on and he and another guy went inside. 

About five minutes later the fire chief, as I learned, came back out.  He stood on the front porch and asked who owned the house.  Chris and the EMT sat on the granite steps.  I was caught up in Chris refusing to go to the hospital: "I'll be fine.  I'll just ice it,"  he told the EMT.  The police officer beside them jotted down their conversation.   My mind felt like it was swimming in pancake syrup, a slow ooze of thoughts bubbled here and there.  My hands shook so bad I swore they were sending out Morse code. 

"Who's the owner?"  The cop looking up from his notepad repeated for the chief.

"Oh, I am."  I said as did Chris.  "We both are."

The fire chief slipped past Chris, left the EMT to examine his finger.  He walked down the two-step.  God, what's he going to tell me?

"Your damper broke, trapping the smoke in the house.  Luckily, the fire was contained to the pit.  There's just a lot of smoke - no fire damage," he told me.

I let out a sigh of relief.  "Thank God."

"We opened all the windows," he went on. "The fire's still going but is fine.  Just let it burnt out tonight.  It's perfectly safe."

I went to Chris, put my hand on his shoulder.  I wanted to cry.  I watched as the firemen took out an industrial fan.  They placed it in the garage, on the interior landing and with the generator from the truck began to draw out as much smoke as they could.

Next, I was prevented from collapsing into a puddle of relief by an interruption from the fire chief who wanted to take me inside and show me the damper. 

I followed him upstairs and on the hearth sat the guts of the metal contraption.  He proceeded to tell me that it had crumbled and fell inside the pit when they tried to open it.  He pointed to a busted nail.  "They should have installed this side with the same screw that's over here," he said pointing to latch's opposite end.   "It snapped from metal fatigue...from over the years."

I didn't care.  It could have been fastened with toothpicks and thread; as long as there was no fire damage, I was happy.  I smiled.  I thanked him for the fifteenth time.  I walked him down the stairs, asked him if he wanted a water.  A soda?  A bottle of champagne?  I was so appreciative that I would have withdrawn from my 401K and sent his daughter to college if he asked.  

He didn't want any water, nor did he want any bubbly.   

I wasn't thinking clear.

It took a good week, and a dousing or two of Chris' thorough housecleaning but the smoke odor finally went away.  I didn't mind it though.  The smell of a camp fire can be comforting.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Part II: The Incident


 The story you are reading is true but rest assured we are all fine.  Here is part two...
---------
The walk was short.  I can't recall exactly but I think we just traipsed along the river way, over toward the school and then reversed course back.  Albeit quick, upon entering the house Bandit still ran for his water bowl .  We could walk to the end of the driveway and back, and out of habit, he would still scurry in and get a drink.  He loves his routines.

Chris was no longer downstairs.  The dance music was off.  I noticed a glass of wine waiting for me.  With meal preparations on autopilot, he was apparently attending to other things.  I could hear the clunk of the washing machine above.

At the kitchen counter, I checked the mail left out for me.  His already opened, neatly folded and pushed to the side.  I grabbed the envelope opener from the junk draw and rifled through my small pile:   Mortgage statement, oh joy...another damn credit card offer...and what the heck kind of non-profit is this?  I guess they have to send me a shiny penny to ensure I'll open it.

When I got upstairs, Chris sat on the floor in front of the fireplace.  He folded a pair of sweatpants with his eyes on the television.  Bandit had already settled in my chair.  "Nice fire, huh?" Chris asked.

Courtesy of DesignBlahg
I step into the great room -- why the builder chose this room over the garage to be lower than the rest of the second floor I don't really know.  The fire snaps; the pine smells nice.  "Very nice,"  I say.  I notice he's watching HGTV.   David Bromstad's biceps catch my eye.  Chris knows I have a little crush on this interior designer.    

"I'm going to get my comfy clothes on,"  I said watching Bromstad bend down to pick a swatch of material.  "I'm in for the night."

Dinner was excellent, the cabernet splendid - another offering from our favorite little wine shop down the street.  Then back in the great room, in my recliner, watching another round of  home renovation shows with Bandit on my lap I hold the clicker in my hand.  Damn, no more Color Splash.  I flip through the channels, onto FoxNews  (my gay card having been revoked long ago.)  What did the stock market do today?  Sometimes I act like such a Republican.

Chris sat at the computer in the office.  I could see him as I reclined back in my chair.  I reached over to the marble end table, grabbed my glass and  took the last sip of wine.  Bandit a bit annoyed that I disturbed him, looked up  wanting his ears rubbed a bit more.

Suddenly, a loud metallic-like snap and a bang occurred.  Startled, my feet jerked.  Bandit  jumped to the floor and ran downstairs. 

"What the hell was that?  Chris said from the office.

The fire billowed.  I jumped from the recliner.  I went to the fireplace.  "I think it came from the chimney.  But everything looks okay,"  I said, Chris now by my side. 

"That was loud," he said.

"The fire looks fine.  It might have just been the metal chimney liner expanded and contrasting from the temperature differences. "

Chris furrowed  his brow but seemingly satisfied with my theory headed back to the office. 

I settled back into my chair, called for Bandit to rejoin me but he never came back up.  More State of the Union crap.  Enough!  I think Obama gave a good speech.  Let's be done with it.  I click back to HGTV.  I'm definitely not a Republican.

Then, an alarm shrieked. 

My body got cold. 

I slammed the recliner back down and leaped over the fireplace.

Where's it coming from?  Then to the hall I met Chris.  He yelled something to me but I couldn't hear him over the piercing signal. 

I ran over to the third floor steps and got about halfway upstairs.   The master suite was engulfed in smoke.  "Holy shit!  Get out!  Get out!"  I could barely hear myself scream over the alarm as I bolted back down, two steps at a time.

At the landing I yelled again, "Chris !  Chris!  Get out!"    I ran down the small hallway and met up with him by the great room.  "Get out!  The upstairs is on fire!" 

Something about getting Bandit he said to me and I ran down to the first floor.  "Bandit!  Bandit!" 

The alarm seemed even louder downstairs.  

He was huddled in the corner, below the table in the breakfast nook. 
 
I opened the back door, in front of the table.  He came out from underneath.  I put him on his lead and he dashed outside.

I could barely hear Chris yelling, still upstairs.  "Call 911!  Call 911!"

To the burglar alarm pad I went and pressed the panic button. 

The Daily Puppy