Friday, December 30, 2011

Endoscopy results in

I had the endoscopy today.  I don't have the written report, but the Gastroenterologist told me afterwards that I have a stricture in my esophagus caused by something pressing on it.  Probably the tumor.  Normal diameter for an adult esophagus is 2-3 cm.  At the stricture, the diameter of my esophagus is 1 cm.  So at least we have an explanation for the problem.  I think that they took some tissue samples to biopsy from the duodenum (the upper part of the intestine that a colonoscopy does not get), but I was still coming out from under the anesthesia, so my memory is somewhat fragmentary.  The doctor also discovered that I have a thrush infection in my esophagus.  No idea how long it has been lurking there.  I am on an antifungal to try to eradicate it. 

Most likely will have a stent put in to open up the esophageal stricture next week.

Going home?

My paternal grandmother, Helen Fauster Cullen, died in 1994.  After her death, my parents sent me a number of items from her estate.  One of them was a beaded evening bag which her husband, Seth, had sent to her when he was in France, serving with the US Army during World War 1.

Sometime this past year I was going through my dresser and happened upon the purse, which was tucked under some sweaters.  I pulled it out, took it out of the plastic dry cleaning bag and discovered my grandfather's dog tags from World War 1 along with the identification tag of a German soldier:

One side reads (I've put "_" where I can't read the lettering):

Joh. Brandl
Genes.Kp. No.355
BAY.P.I.R 15. G.V.KP1.
1.K. 1211.NR.39

The other:

1.K.NR.1211 *NR.39

I showed this to my friends, Barbara and Joseph, and Joseph remarked that the scoring in the middle of the tags was so they could break the bottom tag off and send it in, while keeping the upper part on the body.  The Americans took care of that problem by issuing two tags for each soldier.   
I have no family stories that go with Joh. Brandl's tag.  It was a huge surprise to find it after all these years.  My grandfather, Papa Seth, died when I was 7 or 8, so I never talked with him about these sorts of events.  The only story that I have from that time comes from a letter:
When my Great Aunt Bebe (Bernice Cullen Sullivan) died in 1981, I went back to Paulding, Ohio, for the funeral.  Aunt Bebe was Seth's only sister, and she lived in the family house, across the alley from my Grandmother.  They were very close.  I had the opportunity to go through boxes and boxes of photographs, clipped newspaper articles, and letters that had been saved by Bebe's (and Seth's) parents.  In the letters, I found a few written by Seth to his mother and father while he was in France during the Great War.  My most vivid recollection from the letters is that he wrote about how he rode on the running board on the outside of an ambulance, so he could tell the driver where to go at night. The ambulance could not use its lights because the illumination made it vulnerable to a German attack.  I gathered up the letters Seth had written and gave them to my grandmother, thinking she would save them.  She did not, and they were gone by the time she died 13 years later.

Seth Cullen (l)  and unidentifed friend WW1
I wondered if this tag needed to go home and whether it could be reunited with  the family of Joh. Brandl after  all these years.  I asked my online lawyer friends at Delphi Forums what they thought, and several had good ideas.  Scot suggested contacting the German consulate.  I discovered that although there had been one in Seattle, it was now closed.  So, I emailed the German embassy in Washington, D.C. this week asking what I should do with Joh. Brandl's  tag.  This is the response I received this morning:
Dear Mrs Cullen,

on behalf of the German Embassy I thank you for your request regarding the identification tag of Mr. Johann Brandl.

I recommend to contact the following government institution:

Military History Research Institute
Zeppelinstra├če 127/128

D-14471 Potsdam

Phone : +49 (0)331/9714-0

Fax : +49 (0)331/9714-507


Or visit their website at:

Best regards

Klaus Schepers

B├╝roleiter MilAttStab

Botschaft der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Washington

2300 M Street, NW, Suite 300

Washington, D.C. 20037

Tel.: 001-202-298-4299

Fax: 001-202-298-4321

I've emailed the Military History Research Institute and am awaiting their response.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going Bovine

I dislike posting unless I have an answer to the question, but I will make an exception here.  For a period of time I have had trouble in keeping food down.  It was sporadic and, to me, unpredictable.  I would swallow and somewhere along the way it would get stuck.  I'd would begin coughing and it would either free the obstruction or bring it back up, and I would swallow again and it would go down.  I thought that I was becoming a cow, occasionally chewing her cud.  But over time it has become worse and late Sunday night after returning from visiting my kids in Minneapolis for Christmas, I found that I could not keep down even one bite of mashed potatoes and pot roast.  It was rather concerning as I had a hearing on Monday and I didn't want to be there light headed, but even Monday I could not keep the banana bread down unless I nibbled it--so not enough time to finish before the hearing began.  Same thing during lunch break with a chicken pot pie.  So I subsisted for the rest of the day on butter rum Lifesavers.

I emailed my oncologist late Sunday night about this and spoke with my daughter about it after I got out of the hearing.  She thinks that the mediastinal tumor may be growing and pressing in on the esophagus.  I emailed her thoughts to Dr. Martins, and he responded Monday evening that he agreed with Sarah and will be scheduling a endoscopy asap.  If this proves out, I will have a stent inserted into my esophagus to open it up.  In the meantime, I will dine on soups and smoothies and try to chew my cud contentedly. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Checkup Time

I saw my oncologist last Thursday.  Man, I hate those 7am appointments for a blood draw!  All these years and I am still not a morning person.  But the news was pretty good.  The abscessed lesion on my back that was removed earlier this month, was not cancer.  Hooray!  Just some other skin disorder.  My blood counts were normal in every particular and despite my grumbling about the swollen node in my neck, Dr. Martins doesn't think it has grown any.  So there you are.   He says I have an indolent tumor.  Happy to have that.  Let's hope it goes to sleep.  For a long time.

And if you haven't seen this presentation, please check it out.  Color coding for cancer surgery.  It's 16 minutes but well worth your while.  Among other things, you will learn why surgeries are scheduled so darn early.  And I thought lawyers were the hidebound traditionalists!

Off to Minneapolis this Friday for a quick holiday visit with my children.  Season's best wishes to all of you!

Sunday, December 04, 2011