Friday, November 3, 2017

First Snow

Mom, maybe we can sled before school.

Ok, first clean all the Legos off the floor of the playroom so that I can bring the 8-foot ladder in and to get into the attic, because I can't get in there because all the Legos are in the way. Then we can get all the snow gear down, you can sort through all the stuff and find your snow gear and get it all on. Then you can go out to the back shed and get the sleds out, but watch out for dog poop because you won't be able to see it because of the 6-inches of snow.

Mom, when do we need to leave for school?

About 9:15 because it's a 2 hour late start. 

Wait, we start at 9:45? 

Yes. That's 2 hours past the normal start time. 

MOM! We can't start at 9:45! That's when recess starts!!! We can't start school with recess!
 
Well, you'll need to address that issue with your teachers. Why can't you start school with recess?

Because it'll be indoor recess because of all the snow, Mom!

Oh. Right. Of course. 

But we're gonna play outside when we get home, right Mom? 

Yes. As long as you clean up the playroom so I can get the ladder in and get the snow gear out of the attic. 

There is a perpetual hole in the bucket, Dear Liza....
 
 
 



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Not Into It

Halloween is here, and I'm not into it this year.

I'm not into decorating.

I'm not into carving pumpkins.

I purchased two pumpkins, but I'm not into carving them. The boys can do it if they want to. They don't want to. I'm not into it. I suppose they'll end up being thrown into a part of the woods on our property. Perhaps in a few seasons, we'll have a Great Pumpkin patch.

I'm not into getting their costumes ready. Even though I purchased stuff for their costumes, I'm not really into it. Nathan's going as a cat. Again. And Isaac hasn't completely decided but is leaning towards a vampire. We'll see.

I feel like I should be happy. That I should be thankful. That I should be decorating to make the boys happy and help them feel like "normal" kids. Even though the only "normal" in our house is a setting on the washing machine.

It's been a full month since I had my chemo port removed. Ample time to recover from that minor surgery. But the emotion. The angst. The frustration. The worry. The fear. The guilt. The sadness. I'm still processing all of that. And the incision, while mostly healed, is still pretty tender.

And last week sucked. Perhaps the worst week I've personally had in a long, long time.

It started out great: I did some grading from home on Monday morning, like I usually do after my husband and the boys are out the door for school and work. I then went to a noon power yoga class at Poser Yoga Studio. (Thanks Jenny for the great class!)

On Tuesday I was able to help out last minute by volunteering at the book fair at the boys' school. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to help kids and be around books. Because: BOOKS! Right?! Oh, and that warm feeling you get in your heart from volunteering and helping others.

Wednesday is my regular volunteer day at school, I usually go in and collate the folders that get sent home to parents. It's a great thing for me to do because I don't have to think about the myriad and intense health issues my family has been dealing for the past five years. But this past Wednesday, I unexpectedly started my period. While at school. But it was one of those, it is? Is it not? Seriously? You've got to be fucking kidding me type of things that all women experience, at least every once in a while. Well, I suppose that explains my emotional state the past couple of weeks. Fuck. And I had no tampons. Because I didn't expect it.

The reason I didn't expect my period is because when I went through chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2015, the chemo caused me to go into what's called "medical menopause." This happens in most young women (I was 42 at the time--still "young" in cancer land). Chemotherapy is successful in killing cancer cells because cancer cells are considered "rapidly-dividing cells." We all have cells that are considered "rapidly-dividing" our skin cells, our hair, our finger and toe nails....

And that's why our hair falls out when we're going through chemo...because to chemotherapy, fast-growing cells are fast-growing cells: the chemotherapy doesn't discriminate and can't tell the difference between a cancer cell and a hair cell. 

So, medical menopause hits me, which is a total fucking bonus because god knows when you're going through chemo you really REALLY don't want to be dealing with your goddamn period. You know what I'm sayin? Seriously. Praise be for medical menopause, you guys.

Anyway, so it turns out my ovaries didn't completely shut the fuck down because apparently I'm one fertile bitch. Seriously? Because in what goddamn universe is it a good idea for me to have another baby? Not the one I'm living in. Fuck that. Kids suck the life out of their mothers. 

The first time I got my period after chemo was a total surprise. Like, I had no idea, it wasn't even on my radar because I'm in Tucson on vacation with Stacie, staying at Ventana Canyon, sleeping on the 12,000,000 thread count white cotton sheets. I'm just thankful that when I sat up, shit didn't go down like the elevator scene in The Shining. You with me? 

Since then, I've gotten my period about every six months. But really, I don't pay attention. Can't that shit stop already? I kinda like not having a period and no hot flashes and sex with my husband whenever I need/want to. Goddamnit. There goes my body betraying me again.

On Thursday, after what I'll politely call the Before School Psycho Menstruating Mommy Meltdown, I had a heated text exchange with my incredibly patient husband, in which I informed him of all the errands I needed to run that day. Then in an attempt to reset and be kind to myself, I took a long hot shower. And in it, the last gigantic glue-scabs from my chemo port removal last month came off. Thank the sweet Baby Jesus for that. But goddamnit it was nasty. Seriously. It was as big as my pinky nail and made me gag a little. It looked like the biggest booger you've ever seen. So gross. 

On Friday I made the 75-minute drive to Silverdale because I needed to get off the Peninsula. I had lunch with an old friend who has been a nurse for decades and doesn't sugar-coat shit. When she sat down across from me at the table, she said something about how I looked like hell. Because I did. No sleep for 3-4 consecutive nights. Thanks period.

Saturday was soccer, and it's always a treat to see Isaac play. But it's super stressful, too, because watching Nathan while in a large open space, with lots of people and a few dogs can be tricky. Fortunately, one of Isaac's teammates...his mom, who is lovely, brings their large and very sweet dog, so Nathan was covered, and I felt like I could breathe a little. Thank you, Katie.

On Saturday afternoon, I said no to a spontaneous dinner with a good friend who's birthday was yesterday. I was too tired. I listened to my own needs. I went to bed early. I know she understands, but I still have guilt about not going. The fear of missing out.

Sunday was a stay home family day. This is part of our routine. We play Wii. We have dinner as a family. And we talked about the fact that there are no Halloween decorations at our house this year. And I know the boys are disappointed. And I know it doesn't feel like Halloween. And I'm sorry. But I'm tired of being the only one who decorates. I mean, the boys help, but there's a lot of pushing rope, you know what I'm saying?

And this week, the schedule with school is crazy. All day Monday, complete with a field trip for Nathan. No school Tuesday. Because Halloween is like a holiday up here. But when I was in school, we'd get time off for the Tucson Rodeo, so it's all good. But still. Then Wednesday and Thursday we have 1/2 days...and all three days, there are parent-teacher conferences...which I'm also not into. I mean, we had Nathan's IEP meeting a couple of weeks ago. It was a short one, as far as IEP meetings go. Any time you walk out of an IEP meeting that's less than two hours, it's good. Right? On Wednesday, we'll meet with Isaac's teacher, and it's only 20 minutes, and I know he's doing well academically.... But still. Not into it. Friday is a full day. But in an autism home, the change of schedule and the holiday tend to throw us all off.

And this week, these memories have been popping up in my Facebook feed. It's been five years since we took our older son over to Seattle Children's Hospital and checked our then 6-year-old into the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit for 11 days because he had become incredibly violent. Looking back, I know it wasn't his fault that he was so aggressive; it was the anti-seizure drug he was on. Depakote. That shit is the devil. I'm thankful that we've made the changes to his meds that we have. But, fuck me, keeping on top of his meds and the changes and trying new drugs, both the ones that are mass produced in a lab and the ones that are grown in the ground, is a lot of work. I used to chart everything...but I let it go a long time ago.

So today, I'll get my shenanigans together and I'll help the boys with their costumes and I'll throw something on and I'll pick Randy up at the college and then we'll go downtown to trick-or-treat. Because that's what we do.

Whether we're into it or not.

For our kids.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

My Chemo Port

From the inside, sometimes I still feel it.

I can always feel it if I rub my hand over it.
My chemo port

I feel it every single time I do my lymphatic massage, which I do twice each day. 

Sometimes I can see it when I look down and to the left, my eyes sweeping over it, and I have a rush of varying emotions run over me.

Oh, THAT goddamned thing.

It's a constant reminder.

I can see it when I look in the mirror.

It's kinda cool.

I hate it.

It's on my left side, about three finger-widths below my clavicle. My collarbone. I didn't do so well in Anatomy and Physiology because that was the first summer Randy and I were dating. Mmm-hmmm...A&P.....

Anyway!

But, clavicle, I got that!

So I've got this piece of plasticy-rubbery-hard-bumpy thing under my skin. It's horrible and wondrous. It's invasive and life-saving. 

It's a brilliant pain in ass.

In Cancer Land, it's called a "chemo port" or a "port-a-cath." My particular model is the Bard Power Port. It even comes with a snazzy rubber bracelet that I wore, (it broke; not made for long-term usage, apparently) just in case of emergency, so that the first responders know they can tap my chest to administer IV fluids or draw blood, instead of trying to find a vein in the heat of the moment type of thing. I also have a small plastic card for my key chain. And another plastic card, the size of a credit card, that stays in my wallet. I added my name in permanent marker. Because if some shit goes down, it's pretty fuckin important that health care professionals know there's some foreign shit embedded in my body and it's supposed to be there.

My port sits under my bra strap, which totally sucks. Because sometimes it hurts from my bra strap rubbing on it.

As great as my surgeon was in her removal of the lime-sized lump in my right breast....

I'd rather have the port placed a little to the left. Or right. Just not under my bra strap. It hurts. Pretty much every time I move, including circle sweeping my arms over my head, which is tolerable because there's no impact. Hitting the bag? Yeah. Hasn't happened since before surgery. Well, maybe once or twice. But strapping down the girls with two sports bras would put a lot of pressure on the port. So kickboxking has been outta my routine for too long. There's a lot of rage in me that needs to come out in a healthy way. Exercise is one way. So is hugging. Hugging my kids. We're all as gentle as we can be with it. I've taken my fair share of accidental head shots directly to my port, and it hurts. When I'm physically hurting, my family can tell you that I'm not pleasant to be around. I turn into the Mommy Monster...not that I'm proud of this. But it's my reality. 

When I saw my surgeon back in March, for my 2-year post-op check-up, she apologized to me, again, for it's placement. The lumpectomy and the port placement occurred on the same day. Yes, it's been over two years since my lumpectomy. March 20, 2015. So it's actually just over 2-1/2 years. I'm not counting or anything...

It's been in so long because my Medical Oncologist said, basically, since a triple-negative tumor is not something to fuck around with in a young woman, and since the research shows that the recurrence of my type of cancer is pretty high, she wanted to leave it in for 2 years after all of my treatment was complete. I finished chemo in September 2015. I finished radiation in November the same year. So, I'm at the two year mark. Right?

Anyway, it's not like my surgeon had a choice. I know she didn't say, "I'm going to put this right here just to be a pain in the ass!" It's just the way my body works. It's my Anatomy & Physiology...A&P...if you will.

It's nasty and I try not to rub it. Because, really, you don't want to rub my port. It's not hot.

And when I sleep on my stomach, I can kinda feel it...the pressure from the mattress. Not ok.

Kinda like this...
Our bodies also change shape throughout the day, depending on how much water, salt, or food, we consume...if we choose healthy or unhealthy foods...how much we exercise...or sit on our asses. And sometimes, when it feels like it's going to jump out of my skin like an alien, all I can do for myself is drink water, because I know water helps my body on a cellular level.

Sometimes, when I interact with people who are not particularly kind, I kinda feel like it's going to jump out of my chest and land on their face. You know, like Aliens do.

For the past 2-1/2 years, every 6 weeks, I have to get it flushed. This means I go to the Cancer Center, check in, get my hospital bracelet on, go back to and check in with the chemo nurses. I sit down in a small room, she scans my bracelet and asks me my name and birth date. We gotta make sure I'm me. Then she sets up a sterile field: gets the syringes full of heparin and saline and she gloves up and she places her face mask and gets the needle with the long tubing and she sticks the needle in my chest into my port which has a catheter on it that goes directly into my heart valve and that's where the chemo went in and the blood will come out.

Breathe. Because the technology and science that is used to help cancer patients is pretty fuckin cool. And I'm thankful to the researchers and the patients and families went before me and mine.

And then the nurse does whatever she does, but I'm not looking, you with me? Because there's a goddamned needle in.my.chest. (but not like Uma Thurman) and I'm done with that shit. Look away! To the right where you won't see! Breathe. In. Out. She talks. I listen. We chat. Relax. Just. This. Channel The Bride. Because, really, after all I've been through as a cancer patient, getting labs is not that bad, physically. But, the process of getting to the Cancer Center and having labs done is a mind fuck for me. So I do my best to draw strength from various channels.


The week I have labs, I feel it all the fucking time. All. The. Fucking. Time. Coming out from the depths of my soul, out of my skin. Alien.

It's way worse than that huge fucking zit in the center of your face when you were in high school that you were convinced the boy you had a crush on since middle school was going to see it and then projectile vomited on your shoes when he saw it. It's like that. But worse because you have no control over when, exactly, you'll be popping this zit. 

And those weeks, I hate my chemo port. Loathe.

They're looking for an increase in my white blood cell count. They're making sure my vitals are ok--that I'm not anemic, they get a complete blood cell count, and they may do a tumor marker test. They don't do a pregnancy test. I asked. Chemo threw me into menopause...kinda a bonus...because Jesus knows a girl doesn't need to deal with her goddamned period when she's going through chemo. The nurses said I will probably not have another period. Again, kinda a bonus.....I'm not complaining. A person's sexuality is compromised when they travel into Cancer Land.

When they poke me in the chest with a needle, I'm kind to myself on those days. It's stressful. Before I leave my house, I put a thick dollop of lidocaine cream on my port, then cover with plastic wrap. For reals. And by the time I get poked, my skin is numb. It makes the needle stick less painful physically. But the mental fuckery is the same. And when they take the needle out and I get back out to my car, I always treat myself a nice piece of chocolate. Seattle's Best. Or Ghirardelli. I've reached a point in life that Hershey's ain't gonna cut it.

Sometimes when they flush my port, I get a weird taste in my mouth. It's common. Or I feel a little salt water in my nose. It doesn't drip out, it's more like when you get a bit of water when your swimming...that slight burning sensation...it's gross. I know. Believe me. I. Know. 

One time, when we were homeschooling him, I had to take Nathan with me to get my port flushed. He did great. Given everything he's been through...the countless times he's had his blood drawn for the docs to know his med levels...the multiple EEG's...the MRI.... He's actually incredibly comfortable in medical facilities. He stayed close, but was not shy about hitting the snack cart they have in the infusion area. Yes, you may have a bag of Ritz Bits. And a granola bar. And a hot chocolate which was too hot to drink. Yes, absolutely you may get another pack of Ritz Bits for your brother. You're a thoughtful person, child. The nurses were very welcoming and kind to him, which, of course, put both of us at ease. He didn't watch the nurse stick the needle in my port.

So it's out. I saw my surgeon on Wednesday September 27th. At the hospital. In the OR. Not in her office. Because I need to be kind to myself and I don't want to feel the tugging and the pulling and the slicing. Put me to sleep. Thank you. And thank you for waking me up.

Thanks Stace for getting up at o'dark o'clock and being at my house at 5:30 AM so I could check in at 6:00 AM at OMC. You are my rock. I love you.

Thanks boys for getting up at 4 am on your own because of your own anxieties. I get it. I didn't sleep either. Maybe about 4 hours. I love you both.

We told them the night before. And, in their short lives, (they are 11 and 8-1/2) with all that they deal with and have dealt with, particularly in the last two years...this isn't just getting a chemo port out. There is no "it's a routine thing" in my home. Not after my chemo and my radiation and their Dad's diagnosis and hospitalization in Seattle and let's not forget Daddy's seizure and his radiation and his chemo and all the autism and Nathan's countless seizures. And Isaac's broken arm. All of that is, nay WAS, in that chemo port. 

Isaac said to me, "Mom, maybe when your chemo port comes out you won't be so cranky." I love you too, I. You should be thankful I didn't thump you on the forehead. Troll.  

Thanks, Stef, for the hug and holding my hand in the pre-op area of the OR. I'm so thankful that you were my nurse when this goddamned port was inserted in March 2015, and that I got to see you just before it was removed in September 2017. I know you get it.  

It is out of me. I am thankful I no longer have a piece of plastic, embedded under my skin, with a tube attached to it that runs directly to my heart valve. I am thankful for the science. 

Please, Universe, never again.

I have stitches. And glue. And I'm gave myself an opportunity to rest as much as possible for the remainder of the week after my minor surgery. It was a quick in-and-out. A routine thing. I know. It's a little exciting for my family to have "a routine thing" so we all just rolled with it. 

And were doing our best to take care of each other and ourselves. 

Thank you Randy Anderson for having an amazing job, with stellar benefits, and for working so hard and smart and being so incredibly dedicated to me and our family and our life together. 

I love you.

The past nearly 4 weeks has been good. Basically, the reason it came out in September instead of November was that the test results of my bi-lateral MRI with contrast I had in August came back and my boobs are stellar. There is no evidence of disease. We have a new medical oncologist at the Cancer Center, and he was basically like, "look, you can get it out now, or you can wait till November. I completely respect whatever decision you make." We agreed that I'd think about it. And I meditated. And slept. And had long conversations with my husband. And I went back to the fact that when my medical oncologist said, "Tell me how you feel about your chemo port," my response was "it's horribly inconvenient" which I then translated to "it's time for it to come out."

Last night, I was fortunate enough to be invited by my friend Carrie to the OMC Cancer Center annual fundraising dinner, where a woman paid $4,100 for a painting and a case of wine from a local winery. (thank you, lady, for your contribution to saving lives. seriously.) I had the opportunity to listen to the powers that be at my local hospital talk about the new facility that's being built to serve more cancer patients here on the Peninsula, supporting rural health care because 1 in 3 of us will be diagnosed with a cancer in our lifetimes. 
Me, Carrie, and Holly


I also got to see my friend Holly, who's a breath of fresh fuckin' air. Thanks to both Holly and Lindsey who told me that my writing is important and valuable and that you appreciate what I do.

And, I took the time to personally thank the commercial loan officer of Key Bank (where Carrie and Holly work) for providing the $20 million loan to OMC for the cancer center. Thanks Stan. I appreciate the huge commitment from you and your employer.

And, since I happen to have experience as both a cancer patient and a cancer caregiver, yes, I'm more than happy to serve on any advisory boards for said facility. Because my family is now one of those families that has experience and knowledge that can be shared to help others in my community.

The incision that my surgeon made is healing. She used stitches that will dissolve. And a lot of glue, which is nearly gone. My pain isn't bad...more like a discomfort when I move suddenly or repeat movements with my left arm. Because my bra strap rubs on the dried glue/scabs and it's nasty.

And while this chapter of my life is, please Universe, coming to a close, I still have anxiety about cancer. Because, basically, as a survivor, every time there's a new ache or pain, it's automatically a cancer. Stub your toe? Cancer of the toe. No shit. And from talking with other people who have been through it and survived, it's common. My son complained to me about a headache the other day, and I immediately jumped to "inoperable brain tumor" because that's the kind of mind fuck cancer creates. Turns out he needed to eat and drink some more water. If only all of life's ills were taken care of so easily as to eat strong foods and drink more water.

When I was growing up, my Dad told me on more than one occasion that if you have good health, you have everything.

So, here's to your health. I hope it's your everything.




...but more like this.


*Written over the course of the past 2-1/2 years

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Birthday Breakfast

Had you been listening: 


Isaac: "Mom it's Nathan's birthday so I don't think he should have to feed Abby."


Me: "That's a nice idea, but he still has responsibilities. When it's my birthday, I still have to feed you guys. I don't just get excused from things."


I: "But, Mom he's the Birthday Boy!" 


Me: "And I'm the Birthday Mom! If you'd like to feed Abby as a gift to your brother, you may do so. Otherwise, Nathan's responsibility is to feed Abby breakfast."


I know she has been fed. I don't know who stepped up. Bc I'm not that responsible today. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Another Test

I'm having another test today.

An MRI with contrast.

They're looking for cancer.

Again.

Because in February, I had one good scare, and the result of that was that based upon the report from the Radiologist, my Chemo Doc ordered an MRI with contrast, for August.

August has always been a difficult month for me, for lots of reasons. But the biggest reason being that on August 16, 1988, the summer before my junior year in high school, I was riding my bike and hit by a truck that dragged me about 15 feet on the asphalt. I am fortunate and thankful that I suffered no breaks or sprains. I didn't hit my head, and this was before there was a push for bike helmets. I recognize how lucky I was (and am). But the road rash that was created ran down my right leg, from my upper thigh, all the way to my ankle. The therapy and healing process was excruciating, both physically and emotionally.

Before today's MRI, I know they are drawing labs from my chemo port, because I still have that mother lovin' thing in, and then they are going to inject me with some bullshit that, if I have cancer, is going to cause the cancer cells to light up.

I know I'll go in and get topless, remove all jewelry, absolutely no metal on my body, and then I'll put on a gown with the opening in the front and I'll lay on my stomach, with my face down in a cradle, and the tech will probably be a female tech and she'll be responsible for placing my breasts into the dedicated breast coils, which are also known as holes, and that I have to be touched by yet another stranger and she'll wear rubber gloves that will probably be pink, because god forbid you ever forget that you're a breast cancer patient. And absolutely nothing about this is fun, or sexy, or makes me feel like a woman. It's actually super stressful, and a little bit humiliating.

And then they'll insert me and the table into the MRI machine. Maybe they'll let me plug my phone into their system, and cue up my own music, like the cool techs when I had the PET scan with contrast right after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we all listened to U2's Songs of Innocence.

Maybe the liquid bullshit they're going to inject me with will not seep out and run down my breasts like it did for a sister breast cancer survivor who shared her experience a long time ago, before my own MRI with contrast was ordered.

So knowing this was coming, I've spent the last several days taking the best care of myself as I possibly could. Building strength and positive energy. Surrounding myself with people who love me and whom I love very much.

Wednesday I took Isaac for a check-up and x-rays on his arm. He's been out of the cast for a couple of weeks, and in a removable splint. The x-rays showed that the arm is mostly healed. Mostly. Basically there's a little lip on one of the bones and he has some restrictions with his arm for another couple of weeks, but doesn't have to wear his splint. He is permitted to swim and play soccer, but he's not permitted to hit or block with his right arm at Hapkido. And absolutely no wrestling with his brother, because his brother weights more than twice what he does.

See what I did there? Doctor's orders, until the next x-ray, which is currently slated for Sept 19, absolutely positively, no wrestling with your brother. I'm the only one who can raise my voice and yell at them to stop wrestling, which creates a tremendous amount of stress and puts a lot of pressure on me. Dr. Dean said, no wrestling. Jesus, you don't need to start third grade with a brand new cast, child. Mommy for the win.

After the doctor's appointment, we went downtown for pizza and ran a few errands, including finding a cool sketchbook for him. It had been a really long time since I have been able to spend some quality time alone with Isaac, and it was much needed by both of us.

Thursday I took the boys to the lake for the first time all summer. Randy needed to rest his voice from his procedure on August 2. On our way out 101, we watched a bald eagle launch off of an anciently tall tree and take flight, soaring over us and allowing the boys to watch it through the panoramic moon roof in the Highlander; a good omen. We met up with Momma Christine and her boys, and we were there for about 5 hours, catching up on the important things and making plans for the future. My boys have been wanting to swim out to the log and jump off of it for the past couple of years, so whenever we go to the pool, we've been working on jumping off the diving board and swimming to the side, which is level one. And the Olympic Platform Diving is the Boss Level, just so you have an idea of what we're dealing with here. There's a large range of levels for diving, but I won't go into that here.

Anyway, thank the Goddess for Momma Christine always having a safety net because she had life vests, and the boys felt ok to swim out to the log and jump off with life vests. Totally reasonable. I swam out there with them, in my new Wonder Woman swimsuit, which was a gift from Kate and Emily, and I pulled a flotilla of rafts with four boys who swam-floated...you know, like you do...and Momma Christine. She provided the life vests, I provide the transportation out to the log; that's the definition of teamwork.

It's empowering to be that strong of a swimmer in a glacier-carved, and fabled bottomless lake which really and truly is cold enough to take your breath away. I know now why the Master swimmers don wet suits when they swim in this lake. Not that I swam across it, I'm not at that level, but swimming out to the log a couple of times, and jumping off the log, and helping the boys to climb up that log and jump off that log...took a lot of my energy, or perhaps I gave a lot of my energy. Regardless, it was an invigorating and empowering experience. All of it. We even had our first ever stop at Granny's Cafe for ice cream on the way home. Yup. First time ever. It was delicious and even had two pleasant surprises of bumping into old friends while at Granny's.

Friday, a power yoga class with a young woman who led a beautiful class and included Warrior II, side angle, triangle, and even fallen triangle, providing power and strength in the shoulders, legs and core. These poses helped give me a strong foundation, as well as courage and strength to head into today's MRI. It was one of those classes that the instructor says what you needed to hear, at that particular moment, and left me feeling empowered and thankful that I was able to take this time for myself.

Saturday a 2-mile walk with an old friend along the Olympic Discovery Trail, through the woods with the green summer canopy overhead, and eventually out to the Strait. It had been entirely too long since I was able to walk with her, and we were able to catch up on important stuff, and making plans for the future. We enjoyed the view of ocean, the sound of the surf, and smell the fresh salty air. We figured out we'll be friends seven years come January, when I started at the dojang. We marveled at the unique health changes, and challenges, we've each gone through during that time.

I came home from that walk and cleaned out both freezers, throwing away a lot of long-forgotten processed foods. The extra freezer was growing a few glaciers and so I took it outside and hosed it out. You know...like you do.... And vowed that this really does need to be the last time for this because defrosting a freezer drains a lot of my energy that can be spent doing other things that are healthy...like sewing or writing. Or playing video games with my kids, like we did on Sunday as a family.

Today after my MRI, my friend Florence and I are having lunch. She is meeting me at the hospital, before the test. Speaking from experience, it's really nice to have a friend be there before and after. Seeing a familiar face of a person who loves and supports me and my family makes all of this a little easier.

Distractions and support are important.

Because today there's a test.

I'm hoping that this August is easier for our family than the previous two have been. And the ones in years past have been.

I'm cautiously optimistic that when Randy and I go see the new-to-us Medical Oncologist on Thursday for the results of today's MRI with contrast that the doc says something like "your boobs are both totally awesome!" but that's not very professional. So I'm hoping he says something similar to the news my husband got a couple of weeks ago, when the Lady ENT said "there's no evidence of cancer."

That would be really lovely.

And hopefully turn my attitude about August around. 




Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 14, 2017

Wake up on a beautiful Pacific Northwest Summer morning with a mission: Get the warts on Randy's vocal cords removed. We set the alarm for 6 am in order to check in at First Hill Surgery Center at 7:15am. According to Google Maps, the hotel is a four minute walk; it's literally around the corner and less than a block to the Surgery Center (which is not the same place as First Hill Medical Center, where he had his tonsillectomy and neck dissection last summer). We had plenty of time to get dressed, get me a coffee, and get there.

Randy wasn't able to have anything after midnight. No food. No water. No gum or mints. They really don't even like you to brush your teeth, just in case you swallow a little bit of your own saliva and/or toothpaste. They aren't fucking around.


On Thursday afternoon, the day before surgery, we headed over to the Emerald City, after our Kid Sitter, Ms. G., arrived to take care of the two-legged children and the four-legged child. She's awesome and incredibly brave because she agreed to spend the night at our house. She's been with us for a while; she volunteered a lot of her time for us last summer when Randy was going through his cancer treatment. The boys worship her. We are so thankful for her. We can't leave our trolls with just anybody. As a mom of a child who has seizure disorder who is medicated twice daily with three different pharmacological drugs, two of which are given to control seizures, and one of which is given to induce sleep, we're pretty particular about who we let provide care for our boys. And this was the first time we'd left them for an overnight with a sitter in our home. Last summer, when my husband was going through tonsil cancer, and the summer before when I was going through breast cancer, the boys stayed with our close friends, Momma Christine and/or Momma Bonnie and their families. So, leaving the boys at home with a sitter for us to go to the city for an overnight with a surgical procedure the next morning, given Randy's health history and the fear that he was going to seize in the operating room, and if he did that meant he was spending the night in the hospital, so it could be that she was going to be with them for two nights...this was a big fuckin' deal.

The drive east from Port Angeles was perhaps the longest drive I've ever had going towards Seattle, and not simply because it was summer and surgery was looming. Living on the Peninsula means having to drive. But this was different. We caught the Hood Canal Bridge open for marine traffic, and there was an accident at the intersection just before the bridge on the Jefferson County side. Seriously?! So it was a double whammy, at the same spot, before even leaving the Peninsula. Through all of it, Randy did a great job driving.

Ferry ride to downtown Seattle
The ferry ride across the Sound was beautiful, and perhaps even a bit chilly with the wind. After the boat pulled into the dock in downtown Seattle and we disembarked, I drove Randy and me to the hotel fairly quickly, considering city traffic always sucks. After checking in to our room and letting the kids know we had arrived at our destination, (we called them on the phone, no, really) our dear friend Jeff picked us up and we went out for Mexican food. Then we went to Full Tilt for ice cream (I recommend the flavor Ube (proun. ohh-beh). Because if you can't eat anything after midnight, you may as well stuff as much in as you possibly can! Also, you only live once, so you may as well try the freaky ice cream that's made out of a purple yam which is popular in Fillipino dishes. No shit. It was delicious. It was way better than the Vegan Myan Chocolate bullshit that Jeff and Randy each got. Whatthefuckever, you guys. That shit was nasty. Goddamned hippies. Eatin' vegan ice cream.

Almost there....
We left the hotel early Friday morning, well before 7 am, because when you're stopping for a coffee in at Starbuck's, you know...like you do...you know it's gonna take a goddamned year...even at that ungodly hour....and headed up to the Surgery Center to check in.

After checking in, my husband and I walked through the vast waiting area that had semi-comfortable looking couches and chairs. I chose a pair of large, high-backed blue chairs with a narrow, but plain wooden table in between them, set down my 16 ounce white chocolate Americano, sat down, and pulled out the lap top. Because I'm not gonna just sit there for 90 minutes, and it's rude to leave and go shopping or some bullshit when your husband is in surgery. Right? Besides, the only thing open, besides Starbucks, is McDonald's (never!) and Bartell Drugs (later, when he's through surgery and in recovery. Because: chocolate.).

Anyway, so he goes back and they prepped him and then the nurse came to get me in the waiting room so I could keep him company. We met the anesthesiologist who was very kind and very thorough in reviewing Randy's health history. Based upon our conversation with him, he wasn't entirely sure Randy had a seizure last summer...but we all agreed there's no point in speculating about something that happened over a year ago. We both felt comfortable with the anesthesiologist putting Randy to sleep for this surgery.

Then the Lady ENT came in. I've only ever met her via FaceTime when Randy goes over to see her, so this is really the first time we've been in the same room and met formally. And she is lovely. And she's smart. And she's just gonna laser some warts off of my husband's vocal cords. She does this kinda thing a lot.

I head back out to the waiting room. And wait. And write. And dork around with my phone. And get up to pee like 12 times because my anxiety is so high. And they have free Starbucks in the surgery area waiting room, but I'll drink my water thanks.

And about 90 minutes later, the Lady ENT comes out. She's sad. Disappointed. She had to stop the surgery.

Wait. What? You didn't laser any warts off? I mean....

No, I'm sorry I didn't. Your husband has a very narrow passageway, and I need a smaller scope in order to access his vocal cords.  

I thought....

I know, I thought so too. I tried several times, with several different scopes, but was unsuccessful.

I know the real estate in his throat is limited because of the breathing tube the anesthesiologist has to use. Was that a factor?

Partly. However, but most of it is because of you husband's anatomy. It's narrow, and so I need a scope that is basically a smaller gauge so that I can get to the papilloma on his vocal cords.

Ok. So...?

So I had to stop the surgery because had I continued, I would have done harm.

Thank you for following the Hippocratic Oath. Is he ok?

He's ok. He's in recovery and you can see him soon. I'm so sorry. In my twenty years of practicing medicine, this is the second time this has happened. I feel badly that I wasn't able to help him in the way I anticipated.

Wow. So, it's a pretty rare thing?

Yes.

But of course it happens to my family.

I know you guys have a lot of medical issues. And I'm sorry for everything you have on your plate. Please know I am as disappointed and frustrated as you are.

And as he will be.

I'll need to see him on Wednesday for the post-op.

Why? You didn't really operate.... I mean, not to be disrespectful.

No, you're right.

I mean...for us to get to the city and be here today took a lot of coordination for our kids. I know you know we have a child who has epilepsy and autism, but our 8-year-old has a full arm cast because he fell off the monkey bars and broke both his radius and ulna the week before school was out for the summer.

Oh no!

Yeah. And he's in arts camp next week, and he's really looking forward to going. So for us to be here on Wednesday for a post-op when there was no op.... Do you really need to see him? Or can we take a step back from this and perhaps have a conference call instead?

Yes. There's, you're right, there's no need for you guys to make all of the arrangements you have to and travel when really it's going to be such a quick visit. We can talk on the phone on Tuesday. I'll have my office call you this afternoon to set up a time.

Thank you so much. For everything. Really.

You're welcome. He'll be in recovery for about an hour and then you can go back and see him. I'll stop by and talk with both of you before releasing him, but he probably won't remember a lot of what we discuss, because of the anesthesia.

Ok. Thank you, Doctor. I very much appreciate your compassion and dedication to my husband and my family. Thank you for your support.

It was everything I could do to not hug her.

So instead, I went pee for the 100th time, and then left the Surgery Center. I made a quick stop at Bartell's for some smoked almonds for me to eat on the way home, and some chocolate (for the kids! And me. Because I needed to do something nice for myself, so I chose chocolate. Duh!). I grabbed most of our stuff from the hotel room, walked it down the street to the parking garage and left it in the Highlander, then back to the hotel, grabbed the rest of our shit, checked out, had a wonderful interaction with a blind woman on the street, and went back to the Surgery Center, who was calling me to let me know that Randy was waking up. Dammit, sometimes I have awesome timing!

Anyway, when I went back to see Randy, he was pretty loopy from the anesthesia...you know...like you are...and he wasn't particularly happy. Which is totally understandable.

Once he was feeling like he could get going, I asked for a medical pass for the ferry so we could be assured that we would get on the next boat home, we got our shit together, which included lots of packets of saltine crackers and a couple of vomit bags, I got the Highlander, drove back to the Surgery Center and met him and the nurse in front of the building, because they wheeled him out in a chair, which is standard. I asked what they do with people who don't own a car, the nurse said they usually call a taxi or take a bus. Jesus. Can you imagine getting out of surgery and getting on a bus? I'm thankful we have a reliable and comfortable vehicle to drive home in.

We caught the ferry in the nick of time, and were both starving, but ferry food wasn't happening, and so we stopped for something at Central Market in Poulsbo. The soup bar was a welcome sight. So were the fresh flour tortillas for tacos the next night. Nothing like meal planning on the fly. We'd talked, and Randy felt like homemade re-fried beans was something he could swallow without a lot of pain.

The ride home was largely uneventful. It was a beautiful day. Traffic was pretty light, considering it was a Friday afternoon in the middle of summer, and we were heading out to the Peninsula. The boys and the dog were happy to see us, and we were happy to see them! Ms. G. said they did great. The boys and Ms. G. all loved their chocolates!

So we're on for this week. But I'm not telling you when, exactly, because I suffer superstition. And I'm  hoping that since this is the third time we've scheduled this surgery, and they say things come in threes....

Also, I have no details worked out yet. I have things brewing, but nothing is for sure. Child care. Dog care. Overnight in the city. Again. The A Team is on high alert, and for them, I have eternal gratitude.

I'm trying to see the good...but this post has gone on entirely too long. And I'm Jabbed Out!



Bus ad; when's WA DOH & AG going after Big Sugar?


You can always tell the tourists, because they look up.

YMCA

No idea what these buildings are, just a cool shot.

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Biggest Fear

"Momma, what's your biggest fear?" my son asked me one morning as I was cleaning up the kitchen after a breakfast of waffles, topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

I stopped, heart pounding in my ears, he must be reading my mind. In some cultures, people with epilepsy were thought to have psychic abilities and became shaman. My son is incredibly intuitive so this is not a concept I've easily dismissed.

Of course, some cultures believe that epileptic seizures are caused by which craft and malevolent spirits, and this is also something I've not taken lightly. Sometimes I have to conjure up amazing spells to get him to not have a meltdown. And I reckon that all parents wonder if their child is possessed at least once in a while.

"Well," I said, swallowing hard and stalling for time, trying to fight the urge to cry, since I've been so preoccupied this past week with my husband's vocal cord surgery. "I have a lot of worries. But really I only a couple of big fears."

He continued to look me in the eye, and because of his autism, eye contact doesn't come easy for him. I knew he was serious. 

I went back to rinsing the dishes, water running, buying time, fighting back tears. Because what do I tell him?

That my biggest fear is that my breast cancer will return?

That his Dad's tonsil cancer will return?

That something will happen during his Dad's upcoming surgery that will negatively impact our lives forever?

That he'll have another seizure on the operating table?

Will the highly trained, very skilled, and wonderfully caring Lady ENT slip and whoops Daddy doesn't have the ability to talk again? Ever.

That we'll be in a fatal accident going to or coming home from the surgery in Seattle?

That my son's epilepsy will end up causing his death? In his sleep? Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy is a real thing. And it really scares me. Really really fucking scares me. Easily top five in my worst fears.

And then there are the state of the world fears.

The fears that some people see my son as a burden on the system. Because he has intellectual disabilities, he's seen as "less than," and somehow not deserving of love and acceptance. Will they come take him away? Lock him up in a camp with other people who are seen as "less than"? As a person of Jewish decent, the whole "camp" thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe that's why I haven't ever registered my kids for camps during the summer. 

We've had internment camps in America before. We locked up the Japanese during World War II. What's to stop it from happening again? What's to stop them from taking the people who are autistic? Or epileptic? Or people who live with any disability? Or people who have had cancer? Or have a different skin color?

Will he be thrown away by a society who now thinks that a college education, and having an intellect, is bad for America? What does that mean for my career? For my husband's career? What does it mean for our health insurance? And didn't the Senate vote take place today? My entire family is a pre-existing condition. Did it pass? I heard they didn't have enough yea votes going in...but I don't know the outcome. And it's important. Because eventually, my kid will probably end up on Medicaid. Right now, under the Affordable Care Act, we can keep him on my husband's insurance until he's 26. Thank you, Mr. Obama, for that one. Thank you for not permitting insurance companies to charge us more because we have so many pre-existing conditions and putting life-time limits on how much money my family will have to spend on all of what we deal with. Thank you.

The fear that all of that could be gone is truly terrifying for me.

Dishes in the dishwasher. Counters and table wiped down.

"What are your worries, Momma?" he asked.

"I don't know, honey. What are your fears?" I asked him.

"I'm not afraid of anything Mom," he said with confidence.

"Well, that's great, Nathan!" I said in a supportive tone.

"But, Mom, what do you worry about?" he asked again. I know he's persistent. His brain gets stuck in a loop and he will continue to ask the question unless I answer him.

"I'm worried that...the garden needs to be watered. Would you like to come outside with me and help me water the veggies?"

"YEEEESSSSS!" He yelled. "MOM! WE NEED TO CHECK MY BROCCOLI!" he continued to yell, in a very excited way. He loves broccoli. Being outside, connecting with the food he chose to grow in his raised garden bed, the water, the sound of the birds, the sun shining. All of this helped calm both of us down.