El Dorado Cantina

July 21, 2014
El Dorado Cantina is a month shy of its grand opening, yet it's already a gem. I was eager to try it after such promising reviews. I had read it is next to Sapphire, but I didn't take it literally. I should have, because it is indeed in the same building but with its own entrance. The restaurant is upscale and our group of four were cozy in a booth.

We started with house margaritas and cold cervezas. We were quickly brought chips and three types of salsa: mild, tomatillo and habanero. All were fresh and delicious. We couldn't resist the tableside guacamole ($12). It did not disappoint!

Moving on to entrees, we tried the carne asada burrito ($12.50), carnitas tacos ($7.50, seafood enchilada ($13.50) and Milaneza ($17.50). Everything was fresh and tasty. We were all very pleased.

They are currently offering specials (ladies dine for free on Wednesday 9:30-10:30pm) and happy hour ($1 tacos 3-6pm); hopefully, they will continue. It's been a long time, since I've had an enjoyable sit down meal in a Mexican Restaurant. You wouldn't expect a restaurant of this caliber given the location, but it delivers. I'm already planning my next visit.

Next time, I won't be such a slacker, and I'll be sure to get some photos to share.

El Dorado Cantina on Urbanspoon

Exhausted

July 11, 2014
Can I get off the roller coaster now? It's been a crazy few days. We met with oncologist that believed that my mom was stage IV instead of stage III B, she was unsure of the type of cancer and planned to start chemo next week. There would be four rounds of treatments which would be 4x/week with three week breaks in between. Leaving that appointment left us confused and feeling defeated. We knew we had to looking into getting a PowerPort implanted. So, we stopped in Dr. Chung's office to see about that and to have her incision looked at, because it opened up that morning. Dr. Chung was in surgery, and advised us that it may be infected. He instructed us to go the ER and he would put her on the books for surgery the next morning to treat the infection. If infection was present then a port could not be put in nor could she start chemo until it was completely gone. This was devastating. I pleaded that it didn't look infected, but something was indeed wrong. He said, he'd come by the ER to examine it.

Thankfully, blood work revealed no sign of infection and he was able to determine that this was a false alarm. Such a relief. Surgery was cancelled and mom just has a wound that needs to be packed two times a day. Fortunately, I have experience. Unfortunately, it's another snag in a mountain of problem solving, schedule arranging, etc.

We met with a second oncologist yesterday, for another opinion. We much preferred his approach and appreciated that he does not put the cart in front of the horse so to speak. He wants conclusive results rather than making assumption. Her pathology report is not complete. Findings indicate she has lung cancer, however, the type is unclear. It's about 80% that it is NSCLC. This doctor has asked for it be reviewed again by colleagues to see if they can get 100% certainty. It's important because treatment varies between NSCLC and SCLC. He has also ordered a biopsy for lymph nodes in my mom's groin. This will help determine the stage, as well as the type. Activity showed up in this area on the PET scan, it is unusual to do so for lung cancer. It is possible that it is due to another type or it could be benign. Time is of the essence, but knowing exactly what she is up against will only improve the success of treatment. So, I don't mind slowing down a bit to let due diligence take place.

We should have answers and a treatment plan by this time next week, at the latest. We can also admit my mom into the hospital and fast track the whole thing if her breathing continues to be a problem. It's our call, and time will tell.

In the meantime, I'd like to get my mom home for a couple days. I hate that she feels like a prisoner, but it's been what's best. I know once chemo begins she'll be stuck for some time so it's very important that she can find a way to recharge before the next hurdle. Going home, might just allow that.

The Week From Hell

July 7, 2014
Last Monday, my mom had a mediastinoscopy to biopsy her lymph nodes. The procedure went well, the surgeon was able to get good samples. During surgery, a frozen section was tested for cancer and it was negative. When I met with the surgeon, afterwards, he seemed to think it was infection and not cancer. I knew we weren't out of the woods, but it felt so promising. I knew it would come as a great relief to my mom, I couldn't wait to tell her.

Recovery is typically an hour or two. Time passed, and I still could not see her. I was told she was too groggy. Another hour went by and I still could not see her. I was beginning to worry, she's a diabetic and hadn't eaten since 8 o'clock the night before and it was now after 2 o'clock. Finally, her nurse came to talk to me. I gave her history about difficulty coming out of anesthesia and asked her to check her blood sugar. A little while later, I was told by someone else her blood sugar was ok. A couple more hours went by before they finally let me see her. Her oxygen levels remained low and she was being admitted for observation overnight. After two more hours a room was ready, when they moved her for transport the shift put pressure on her lungs and it felt like an elephant was on her chest, that coupled with the chest and back pain was a red flag for a heart attack. They now had to rule out any cardiac issues. My mom and I knew it was her lungs and not her heart (she was just cleared by the cardiologist before the bronchoscopy), but they had to follow protocol.

She was moved, but couldn't eat until she was cleared for cardiac. Of course, the kitchen closed by the time she could eat. She drank apple juice to spike her blood sugar. Respiratory did breathing treatments every four hours and then every two. Every hour someone came to check vitals or request a blood draw. We were refusing blood draws. My mom's veins are shot (just to get the IVs in they had to gas her before the surgery). They refused to draw from the IVs so we weren't going to let them torture her without very good reason. After refusing three times, they finally took the hint. Whoever says one gets rest in a hospital is completely out of their mind. My mom might have gotten five hours max by ten the next day. I had no more than 3.5 if you strung every cat nap together.

By mid-morning her oxygen was stable. Her surgeon came to see her, the incision looked good. He said he'd call her pulmonologist and she may go home with oxygen, but she should go home. Once she finally ate, she perked up a lot. It was wonderful to see. As time passed, the rotation of different departments checking on her continued on the hour, until we asked to be discharged. Then, everyone disappeared. My patience grew thin, we called the nurse and he said she would be staying overnight per the doctor making rounds.

Umm, no. He never said any such thing to us and they were only treating her with breathing treatments. We could do those at home, where she could actually rest; so I saw no reason to stay. I wanted to talk to the doctor. I needed a good reason for her to stay.

We waited. And waited. I had enough. This time I was told we needed clearance from the Physical Therapist. It was the first step toward discharge. We met with him earlier in the morning, but we waited. And waited. Two hours later, my patience was gone. I called for the nurse. Turns out we weren't waiting for the PT, she was cleared this morning. I was furious. He called the doctor and came back to say we'd be discharged in 40 minutes, the doctor had to write his notes. An hour, 10 minutes later we were finally cleared to go. I was so annoyed, but happy to be free.

I thought a good night's rest would do my mom well. She didn't feel as good as we hoped. She was weak. Breathing was a chore. This continued. Then, her incision began to drain. We were never told this was a possibility so I called the surgeon's office. He called back and said to dress it, and come into the office on Thursday if it was still draining.

Thursday, we found ourselves at his office. The seeping had turned to gushes when she'd cough or blow her nose. He said it wasn't normal, but also nothing to be concerned by so long as it didn't show signs of infection. Thankfully, it has remained clean. Though, it's still currently draining. He said eventually it will stop. I never thought eventually wouldn't last this long, but it has. While there, my mom asked if the Valley Fever results had come back. They tested her blood at the preop appointment. They didn't, but surprisingly he had the pathology report from the biopsy. We went over it there and then, rather than waiting for our appointment on July 8.

Four lymph nodes were tested. The first three were negative for cancer. The fourth was positive. We received the news we feared the most, she was diagnosed with stage III B non-small cell lung cancer. Life as we know it changed in that very second. We were taken by surprise, we thought she had dodged the cancer bullet, but here it was square in her chest. He apologized for getting our hopes up, and later confirmed that it was inoperable and chemo and/or radiation would be the course of treatment. He suggested an oncologist that has an office upstairs, I jumped at the opportunity, when he offered to help get us an appointment. He physically walked us up to her office. He's been really great, if you need a Thoracic Surgeon in Las Vegas, I highly recommend Dr Arnold Chung (even if he is a Cubs Fan).

We meet with the oncologist on Wednesday. We will seek a second opinion. And we want to explore all options. My mom's health isn't great right now, so I fear it won't be a fair fight. I will support whatever she decides; she has no control over her cancer, at the very least she should be in control of her plan for treatment. Initial research indicates she is a candidate for clinicals so I'm hopeful, but also realistic. Her quality of life is most important. She is in shock, and every day is a battle to breath. However, she's finding strength in Addison's arrival. That baby is a blessing in more ways than one.

We've since been in the ER twice. Both times we've left the house since returning home from the hospital have led to time at the emergency room. It gets to the point that home breathing treatments aren't effective. The ones in the hospital seem to help, and the oxygen makes the lung pain ease up and allows her to catch her breath. The odd thing, though, is her oxygen levels never dip low enough to indicate she even needs the oxygen. The ER doctors are at a loss. They want to run tests to rule out various conditions. But she's had so many tests with contrast, etc. That have all come back fine; we refuse. Especially, since we know what's wrong, now, the lung cancer. But the diagnoses hasn't been helpful in getting her feeling any better. We've ok'd chest xrays to check for collapsed lung or pnemonia and both came back clear. So, the doctors discharge us and say to return to the ER, if needed.

We've been anxiously awaiting today, hopeful, that we could get in to see her pulmonologist. Her appt isn't until Wednesday, but we feel it's urgent that she receives specialized care. I don't feel her primary or ER doctors are equipped to help at this point. As of now, it looks like we're stuck til Wednesday. Her doctor is in ICU this week, no other doctors in that office can see her, I had my mom try another pulminologist in the hospital she had her surgery but no luck there either.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping my some miracle he'll squeeze her in today or at the very least, we can avoid any more trips to the ER.

Wordless Wednesday: Grub at Slaters 50/50 Huntington Beach

July 2, 2014
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July, Already?

June 30, 2014
I suppose it's true that the years fly by faster and faster as you age. I'm learning this more and more; this year has flown (I know I said it last year and the year before, but damn, it keeps picking up speed). How is it possible that Christmas is less than six months away!?! The days are already getting shorter and summer just got here.

We hit a few milestones this month. As of June 14, we've had the apartment for a year. The gate and the speed bumps are still the biggest annoyance. The neighbor's dog in the houses across from us can be a bother, more so the owners than the dog. They let him bark for hours on end. The windows in the apartment are the worst feature. They are anything but energy efficient. They let the heat and the cold in, and when there is wind, I joke that we have a windchill factor indoors, because it whips through strong enough to make the verticle blinds fly about. Aside from that, it is fabulous. It's a breeze to clean, maintenance requires only a simple phone call and voila - it's fixed. We love the Silverado Ranch area, at first we were unimpressed with the food offerings but they've improved tremendously over the past year and more great places are coming soon.

On June 27 it had been a year since we turned over the keys to our house. We miss the hot tub. We miss the pool, but not the maintenance. We miss our large patio and grill, but not the tree that dropped seeds, leaves and bark 51 1/2 weeks a year. We do not miss the ants. I do not miss spending an entire day cleaning house or the back aches or achy feet after doing so. I do not miss carrying dirty laundry downstairs and clean laundry upstairs. I do not miss $450+ electric bills in the summer. I do not miss the neighbors' dogs pooping in our yard. I do not miss the guilt of forgetting to feed the fish in the pond. I do not miss cutting grass, tending to the landscaping or dealing with frozen pipes or ponds. I do not miss having to deal with whatever might break. It always took a lot more than a simple phone call to get it fixed.

It's probably needless to say, but we did decide to sign another 13 month lease at our apartment. We'll be staying put in the Silverado Ranch area until August 2015. We'll see what comes next.

One last milestone is that June 22 marked our eleventh year of living in Las Vegas. I still love it here. Though, I admit I need to leave and seek adventures elsewhere to remind me how good we have it. I take conveniences for granted and I've grown more cynical, but once stepping foot in another city, another state, or another country, I'm reminded that no where is perfect. The pros far outweigh the cons of life in Vegas, and as much as I yearn for new experiences. There is no place else that feels like home. I am right where I belong.

Flashback Friday: Monte Carlo Fire

June 27, 2014

Brookyln Bowl: Soja

June 26, 2014
They've captured the highlights of Brooklyn with this venue. It also seems like the corrected the flaws of local venues to produce one helluva place to catch a show. Awesome set up, TV's are everywhere so you don't miss a thing. Only complaint is the line at the main bar moves a bit slow. I always wish venues would offer a beer line only, but they never do...

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We saw Soja, it was a Tuesday night show, but the floor filled quickly after the opening act. We saw the opportunity for our group to upgrade to the VIP booths upstairs when we noticed availability prior to show time. We negotiated a fair price (if we didn't meet our food/beverage minimum, we could've moved to the bowling lanes after the show until we met it - I thought that was nice); got our bracelets and took over the booth and then bellied up to rail once Soja took the stage. Service was attentive. We couldn't get enough of the Drunken Palmers. Great show, venue and good time!

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