Thank goodness for tile

I guess Harry was worried about me today. While I was at the medical center (all day!) taking care of some pre-op business, he had a BIG accident that wasn’t quite solidified.

Suffice to say, I came home to an atrocious smell and found a gigantic pile of mess in the dining room.

Thank goodness the entire downstairs is tile. Otherwise, I’d be ripping up carpet and throwing it on the front lawn instead of typing this right now.


After a long day at the hospital, this wasn’t what I would have liked to find.

Poor Harry. He’s always had a nervous stomach. His tummy gurgles a lot, and he’s had some issues with his backside off and on. Some sort of doggie IBS, I guess. He’s high-strung and can be quite grouchy, and the retired neighbors who walk up and down the sidewalk in front of our house multiple times a day really set him off.  Maybe he needs more time lounging on the couch. That’s relaxing.

He’s a nervous traveler, too.

He’s famous for stealing food when no one is home. He has a big appetite. 

I found this when I came home one day a couple of weeks ago. Harry had gone into the pantry in my absence to look for a snack. He lucked out, and found about 2 dozen rice krispie treats within reach. Score!

He picked the wrappers clean. There wasn’t a speck of krispie to be found in all that mess.

He was full, but ashamed. He wouldn’t even look at me.

He knew he’d been bad, but he just couldn’t help it.

His sweet tooth is a powerful force.

Curiously, he never gets sick after his thieving.

He’s eaten an entire loaf of whole grain seedy bread from Whole Foods more than once. I’ll never forget the infamous Christmas cookie incident, in which he unwrapped and consumed 2 platters of homemade cookies that were intended to be gifts.

When we adopted him from the SPCA four years ago, we had no idea that he’s psycho. They don’t seem to advertise that at the SPCA. But he is psycho.

He loves the water.  The day we brought him home from the SPCA he jumped right into the kiddie pool.

He was so happy when we built him a real pool, and he swims a lot.

He swims alone, with the kids, and with his friends.

No matter the weather, he will swim. If there’s a leaf in the pool, he won’t rest until he fishes it out. Same goes for bugs.

He and Snoopy spend a lot of time in the pool together. Good times.

Harry has a major oral fixation. He has to have something in his mouth all the time. Preferably a tennis ball. We have about 100 tennis balls in the house and in the yard on any given day. That boy is crazy for tennis balls. If we throw two balls in the pool at the same time, he’ll put them both in his mouth. At once.

I told you he was psycho.

He loved this jolly ball so much we ended up having to hide it from him. It was hard plastic, and just big enough that if he held it in the right spot, he couldn’t see where he was going with it in his mouth. He crashed into a lot of walls, and people, before we hid the jolly ball.

He loves to carry his collar in his mouth, and shake it like a small animal destined to die a slow death at his hands. He usually ends up whacking himself with the metal ID tags, but he’s gonna kill that collar.

Sometimes he can’t find his collar or a tennis ball, so he’ll grab whatever is handy.

The bath mat will do. And if he can’t find something to put in his mouth when we get home, he will go crazy looking for something, anything. Scraps of paper, dirty socks, kitchen towels. Nothing is off  limits for Harry.

He’s also really lucky that Macy loves him so much. She picked him out, and he is definitely her dog. He sleeps in her room, and no one commands his attention like her. Well, except for maybe a tennis ball.

He loves her a lot in return.

Here she is showing him a cascarone (Mexican confetti egg).

She organizes a birthday party for him every year, and sometimes there’s entertainment, like the cascarones. He wasn’t too interested in the confetti inside, but he did eat the eggshell.

His nickname is Mr. Chin, because he will rest his chin on anything. The windowsill is a favorite spot for Mr. Chin. 

Sometimes he looks like he’s going to dislocate his neck, with some of the positions he settles in, but he always manages to go to sleep, even if his head is twisted.

He’s crazy, but we love him. Even when he leaves a huge pile of nastiness on the floor.

Mommy calling cards

I’ll admit it right here, live on the web, in front of however many people are reading my blog today: I’m not 100%  into the whole suburban mommy thing. Thankfully, my kids are old enough now to (A) be in school all day Monday through Friday, (B) no longer need constant supervision, and (C) no longer follow me into the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, I love and adore my kids, and I think parenthood is a noble and under-appreciated profession, but child-rearing isn’t my whole life, and I like to have some time away from my kids every day.

My favorite thing in the world is to be home alone. I know, I really should set my sights higher.

I crave peace & quiet. I get overstimulated like a small child when there’s too much noise, too many voices, or too many electronic devices running at the same time. I have been known to go to my room for a self-imposed time-out during times of chaos. Which is pretty much every day at my house. I’d like to blame it on the stress in my life from the whole cancer thing, but the truth is, I’d be that way if the words “malignant tumor” weren’t part of my life.

Like many suburbs of big cities, ours is a bubble. Everyone around here is affluent, successful, talented, well-educated and better-than-average looking with kids who are nothing if not gifted and talented. A gas-guzzling SUV is de riguer. A minivan works, too, but sedans, not so much. Nobody cleans their own house (except for me, because I’ve never been comfortable having “the maid” in my house when she and I both know perfectly well that there’s no reason I can’t mop my own floor), and everyone is overscheduled and overworked with overprocessed hair (myself included; I seriously have no idea what my real haircolor is but I know that it gets darker all the time).

Since I’ve never seen an episode of Desperate Housewives, I can’t say that my little bubble is similar to or different from from Wysteria Lane, but some of the stuff I see around here makes me think, you couldn’t write a more outlandish script if you tried.

Like the mother of the first-grader who’s in the principal’s office multiple times a week (the kid, not the mother) for bad behavior who asked the teacher to please call her (the mother) next time the kid was about to be sent to the principal, so she (the mother) could come pick the kid up from school. Apparently the mother “feels bad” for her child because his life is so rough, and it’s not his fault he has such bad behavior, he just doesn’t like to go to bed at night so he stays up until he passes out in front of the TV at 1 a.m. Every night.

True story.

Or the principal who nixed plans to have a fundraiser to benefit the family of a child with cancer–a child who had been attending that school until too sick to come anymore–because it might hurt the feelings of kids who don’t have cancer.

Another true story.

Now, don’t assume that all this goes on at my kids’ schools, because I know people in other neighborhoods whose kids attend other schools. And I wouldn’t rat out my own kids’ schools (unless it was a really, really good story). Suffice to say that these are examples meant to convey a sense of an overall picture.

I did camp out — literally, as in spend the night in the parking lot — to ensure that my kids got a spot in preschool, but not because it was the preschool to attend, but because it was the only one with an opening, and I really, really wanted to hand my toddler off to someone qualified for a few hours a week. And yes, I did willingly buy a plane ticket and fly in from North Carolina to camp out at that very preschool (and waited in the cold rain) before we moved back, to make sure Macy had a spot at the same preschool Payton had attended before we moved away.

But I was never really one of those mothers. I looked like the other suburban mommies, I did indeed quit my job and surrender my paycheck to raise my kids, I do drive a gas-guzzling SUV, and I pay a ridiculous amount of money for organic milk to avoid those pesky hormones & antibiotics that my generation consumed.

My kids just aren’t my whole world. They are a big part of it, and if there was a pie chart depicting the parts of my life, the part labeled “kids” would be the biggest. By far. But there would also be a part of the pie for tennis, book club, cooking club, and friends; in other words, I have other interests outside of my progeny.

So imagine how hard I laughed when one of the pop-up ads on my web browser was hawking “Mommy calling cards.”

Have you seen these?

If you have a set, you  might want to stop reading now, because I’m fixin’ to rip on them pretty hard.

It’s not bad enough that this poor woman, and apparently lots of other women, identifies herself as Lillian’s mom and Matthew’s wife, but the card itself screams MOMMOMMOMMOMMOMMOMMOM all down the side. That MOMMOMMOMMOM screaming is the reason I need to hand my kids over to someone else and take time-outs, and now the mommy calling card is not only endorsing but promoting it?

How about this one? Really cute design, I will admit; I really like the smiling fish and the cool blue color, but my first thought was, since when did we get to the point of having to hand someone a card and beg them to be our friend?

Am I making too much of this? Because it seems pretty ridiculous to me.

A quick Internet search turns up all kinds of options for mommy calling cards. Tons of cute designs and fun colors. And I am a sucker for good stationery. I adore heavy cardstock, genuinely appreciate embossed invitations, and have no problem spending good money on paper goods.

But these seem crazy to me.  Really crazy. 

This one not only identifies the breeder as Elizabeth & Gabriella’s mom but also has a convenient place to mark the dance card, as it were, and force the recipient to commit to a playdate right here! right now!

You can even have photo cards, to be sure the person you hand it to knows exactly what your kid looks like. Or in case you’re worried that your Olivia or Mackenna will be confused with the other one in her playgroup.

While I do admit that Lindsey Walters is a cute little girl who likely comes from a very nice family, I can’t for the life of me imagine myself seriously handing someone a card hawking my kid.

If Payton were to make make it to the Major League and had a baseball card, I would for sure hand those out to any and all interested parties, but that’s a long time in the future and a big uncertainty. Which is another thing that disqualifies me for Suburban Mommy of the Year; my pesky realistic impression of my kids’ abilities. Some of the baseball parents we’ve met at the fields seem a lot more confident than me that their kid will be the one that hits the big time. Even though the odds are a little sobering: as in about 1 in 200 players. So 0.45 percent of all boys playing high school ball. Not very many. Payton’s Little League has something like 800 kids total, from t-ball to majors. So 4 boys in the entire FCLL, but half the parents up there think there kid is the best thing since Ted Williams. Payton genuinely believes he’ll make it, despite the odds (and more importantly, despite his tendency to depend on his innate ability rather than work hard at honing his craft). And I encourage him wholeheartedly to go for it, pursue that dream and aim high. There’s nothing that would please me more than if it happened for him. But I also tell him to study hard and have a back-up plan, just in case it doesn’t work out.

Because some kind of cosmic force is indeed in effect right now, shortly after the Mommy calling card pop-up ad appeared, I came across a website that offers snarky versions, for the not-so-perfect moms. 

Like me.

Ok, I admit, this one is a little harsh, even for me.

Hush now, I know some of y’all think I’m the queen of harsh, that I invented snarkiness and that I live to mouth off.

That’s not entirely true.

This one is a little kinder. A little gentler. Yet gets the idea across.

I admit, I like the bumper stickers that say “My kid could beat up your honor roll student” or however they word it. I wouldn’t put one on my own vehicle, but I snicker every time I see one. Bad mommy.

Here’s the modern suburban mom’s version of Sophie’s Choice, conveniently laid out on a snarky card. Hee hee.

And I make no promises about little risk of mycobacterium.

One more thing to worry us

Because breast cancer survivors don’t have enough to worry about, now there’s this: the FDA reported that women with breast implants have a small but slightly increased risk of developing anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare disease typically affecting 3 out of 100 million women.

While ALCL is rare, it seems that women with implants may have a “very small but increased risk of developing the disease in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant.” ALCL is a cancer involving cells of the immune system, which scars the fool out of me.  Scarier still is that this immune system cancer can appear anywhere in the body. ALCL is not breast cancer, but it can show up there, or anywhere else. Thankfully it is very rare: 1 in 500,000 women a year in the United States, and it’s even more rare to develop ALCL in the breast (3 in 100 million). Whew!

And while all women with implants could be at risk, whether their implants are for reconstruction or recreation, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on breast cancer survivors who have implants.


Really?? After surviving breast cancer, enduring reconstruction and getting on with life, we also have to worry about this? You’d like to think (at least I would) that as a cancer survivor, you’ve suffered enough (I know I have). But apparently there’s no end to the the amount of suffering spewed by the dreaded cancer.

I’m so sick of cancer.

One of my bookclub buddies, herself an 11-year breast cancer survivor, just had to make a quick run to Alabama to visit her “surrogate mom” at the lake who appears to be losing her cancer battle.

My beloved aunt is recovering from surgery last week to remove part of a stage IV glioblastoma. I don’t even need to tell y’all how bad a stage IV glio is. Get well soon, Thea Sophia.

I saw a story on the Today Show about a 3-year-old girl who had a mastectomy (yes, you read that right, she was t-h-r-e-e years old) for a rare but early-striking form of breast cancer.

My tennis teammate and dear friend who endured diagnosis and a double mastectomy and has completed 5 of her 6 chemo treatments is battling hard, and she is an admirable warrior. This stupid disease has changed her body and robbed her of tennis for all these months. It’s forced her to live way outside of her comfort zone and to learn lessons she’d rather remain ignorant of, all the while still driving carpool, making dinner, overseeing homework, and keeping the household running. The battle has taken a lot out of her, but she still has a lot of fight left in her. And she looks amazingly beautiful in her sassy headscarf. Chemo may have taken her hair and has tried to commandeer her brain, but it can’t take away her smile and her fortitude.

I miss my mom every single day, and every single day I curse the wretched disease that took her life, too young and too soon. I could write all day and all night and not run out of things I miss about her. Stupid cancer.

Then there’s my own cancer battle.

I’m not a candidate for implants myself, since the post-mastectomy infection that snaked through my chest wall took its pound of flesh from the right side. I thought I was getting the short end of the stick by having to endure a much more complicated surgery and recovery than that required for implants. Perhaps I was wrong. Although who knows what the FDA will find as risky for breast cancer survivors who opt for different reconstruction methods. We can’t win for trying.

The good news is that I do indeed have a surgery date (gulp). My impatience, which I blogged about on Monday, paid off, so all those naysayers out there who were going to tell me that good things come to those who wait can shut it. Thank you.

Sonia, Dr Spiegel’s nurse, called me Tuesday morning to tell me that Dr Spiegel and Dr S had a meeting of the minds and found a date that works for both of them. Gulp.

It’s March 2nd.

Texas Independence Day. My cousin Ross’s birthday (hey, cuz). Also celebrating birthdays on that day: Dr Seuss, Sam Houston, and Reggie Bush. Oh, and my new boobs.

No less than what she deserves

While packing Macy’s lunch this morning, I was picking the seeds out of each cube of watermelon (because that’s what gives meaning and adds fulfillment to my life as a suburban at-home mom).

I told her that it’s ok to eat watermelon seeds; that you won’t grow a watermelon in your belly. She used to believe that, when she was really little. Sometimes I miss those days.

Besides, the seeds of a seedless watermelon are so tiny they’re barely noticable. Not like the hefty black watermelon seeds of my childhood. I’d like to see kids these days try to have a seed-spitting contest with the new generation of seeds.

But back to the conversation with Macy.

She didn’t pause for even one second to ponder the incredible gift of fortune that is hers, simply by being born into a family whose matriarch set such a high standard of child-rearing and lunch-packing that her descendant (that’s me) is seriously picking seeds out of watermelon cubes at 6:45 a.m. on a Thursday. Nor did she remark upon the bounty of produce that is available in Texas in January. She knows not of seasonal fruits & veg.

She did not bow her head momentarily in thanks for the numerous gifts that are hers, just by chance and birthright.

She wanted to know one thing: if you did grow a watermelon in your belly, would you poop it out or barf it out?

Because I’m so busy picking seeds out of watermelon cubes and endlessly matching orphaned socks warm & fluffy from the dryer, I didn’t have time to go to med school or get an advanced degree in child psychology or pursue a curriculum of horticulture. So I don’t know the answer to her question. I’d guess both.

In an effort to instill my daily dose of guilt into my kids’ life, I told her it must be really great to have someone make your lunch every day. Breakfast, too, for that matter. I could get used to that. (Except, let’s be honest: I’m pretty picky and would likely end up re-doing it anyway, while trying to avoid making eye contact with the gift horse.)

I asked her this: when I’m old and gray and have no teeth, will you pick the seeds out of my watermelon for me?

She said: If you don’t have any teeth, how are you going to chew? Will I have to do that for you, too? Why not just get dentures?

Why not indeed. 

Blogging is like…

Blogging is like having children…you don’t have to be very smart to do it.

I’m making this wildly judgmental statement based on the itty bitty amount of research I’ve done since becoming a blogger.

That tag, “blogger,” still sits a little uneasily with me. I don’t feel like a blogger, and most days I’m pretty sure that what I have to say isn’t particularly important or interesting to very many people. But once I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the tender age of 40, I realized that there were some people who wanted to keep up with the latest on my situation, and that it is completely impossible to convey such news without blanketing and broadcasting. Thus, a blog was born.

It started out as rudimentary thing on Caring Bridge and grew into this.  While this is certainly a step up from Caring Bridge, I still don’t consider myself a blogger. Not that I have blogger’s block (as evidenced by my rambling posts), nor do I suffer insecurity. I simply consider myself a small fish in a big pond. I recently had a little look-see on the blogging scene. Took a peek into what’s out there, and wow, there’s some bad writing, boring topics, and strange people. I’m still a small fish in a big pond, but hopefully this fish writes well about cool stuff and isn’t too strange.

The amount of stuff I don’t know about blogging is vast. It’s humbling and overwhelming but also ripe with potential. Sorta like life. And really a lot like tennis.

“Really a lot” is one of my favorite phrases. Makes me want to watch Broadcast News again (the movie, not Katie Couric).

That’s the kind of thing you can do with a blog — blab on & on about your personal favorites, or complain about things you hate the most.

Top of my list today of things I hate: science fair projects and inappropriate advertising.

Not together, necessarily. Although maybe some kid could do a science fair project on how inappropriate advertising affects people. That kid could start by watching Sports Center, as my kid does every day of his life, and see what kind of filth and scum pops up in 30-second bites around the real stories.

Just this morning, right after a nice human-interest story on James Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steeler who has been called “the most violent man in the most violent of games,” was an ad for the new Matthew Perry sitcom. The ad featured a woman complaining to Matthew Perry about losing her underwear in his apartment, or some such nonsense. It may be a great show, and maybe this is a riveting storyline, but does it really have to be on Sports Center at 8 a.m.? Can’t they just run another Viagra commercial instead?

Another inappropriate advertising incident (or IAI, for short) that comes to mind: while watching America’s Funniest Videos on ABC Family network, my kids’ retinas were burned by the commercial for the new Ashton Kucher-Natalie Portman movie about hooking up. I’m not going to pander to this media monster by adding a link; if you want more info about this utter waste of acting talent, you are on your own.

Looks like a triple scoop of wildly judgmental rants today.

Need I reiterate that this supposedly family-oriented program on a supposedly family-oriented network was rudely interrupted by a grossly inappropriate ad?

Probably not.

And yes, I did contact “ABC Family” to complain. I’m sure they are busy writing me an apology letter contained in a Hallmark card with a gift card to my favorite restaurant accompanied by a bouquet of flowers with a mylar balloon that says, “I’m sorry.”

Moving right along.

Science fair projects make the list because the 6th grade boy who lives in my house came home from school yesterday with some rude news: the science fair project he thought was optional is indeed very much required.

Cue the frantic scrambling and keep your ears peeled for the screeching to a halt of any carefully-laid plans for the evening. The timing of such everyday calamities never ceases to amaze me. Macy and I were just getting ready to clean out her leopard gecko Cinko’s tank, a project I had been putting off far too long. Just as we were gathering up cleaning supplies and girding ourselves for this task, the calamity du jour erupted on the scene.

It took 3 adults, a trip to Hobby Lobby, a pack of D batteries, and lots of beer to deal with the science fair project snafu, and that shamefaced boy was up way past his bedtime, but we got ‘er done. I can say with absolute certainty that his project would make a Tiger Mother shake her head scornfully at the lazy and slovenly habits of my kid, but that’s ok. Those Tiger Mothers freak me out a bit anyway. But if you feel the need, you can read all about it here:

On second thought, that looks kinda messy, so try this instead.

I told you I’ve been studying up on blogs.

It does help to have an in-house IT guru (thanks, Trev).

I have a lot more to say about Tiger Mothers but will save that for another day. Because today’s topic is…

Um, I’m not really sure.

It started out as one thing but morphed into something else. That happens here a lot.

Oh yes, now I remember: things I hate.

Or was it things I’m wildly judgmental about things about which I’m wildly judgmental? (hey, this blog has some pretty nifty features.)

Or was it how stupid science fair projects are and how they should be banned outright from all the public and private school systems in the world?

I have no idea.

Patience, or lack thereof

Tammy, my lymphedema specialist who I love and adore and
look forward to visiting, asked me a simple question yesterday:
When’s your reconstruction? I told her that the two surgeons’
offices (Dr S and Dr Spiegel) are supposed to be coordinating their
schedules and issuing a surgery date this week. I told her this
Monday afternoon, which for all intents & purposes, is this
week. In fact, this conversation took place in the afternoon of
this week, therefore in the far reaches of said time period. I
thought it was perfectly reasonable to expect to hear back from
those docs with my surgery date. After all, they’ve had since
Thursday to work on it. That’s plenty of time. Giddyup. She laughed
at me for being impatient. Good thing I love
and adore her, or else that might have made me mad. She’s gotten to
know me well in the last several months, and we’ve become friends.
She has educated me on the human lymph system and has schooled me
on how to (hopefully) continue unleashing a wicked forehand
(repeatedly, with great force, and multiple times a week) without
ending up looking like the “after” picture in the lymphedema
textbook. She knows I’ve been to a second surgeon and have decided
to venture forth toward yet another surgery, and I thought she knew
that I’m a very impatient patient. I don’t even know why the word
patient, meaning a person who requires medical
care, has be a homophone to the word meaning “the bearing of pain
or difficulty with calmness.” And I might even quibble with that: I
can bear pain & difficulty with calm, I just want to get
through it fast. Anyone who’s been a patient knows it’s hard to be
patient. If you haven’t learned this first-hand, trust me. I know
of which I speak. Lots has been written about patience. Everyone
from Shakespeare to Guns ‘N Roses has addresses this fragile human
condition. My favorite allusion by the Bard to the patience
principle is in Othello: “How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” I feel like Shakespeare
has been peeping in my windows again. I could show him color photos
of a wound healing by degree (but won’t gross y’all out by posting
them here). I have a bar graph, too, showing the wound dimensions
and how they changed, by degree. I’m serious about the photos and
graph. Alexandre Dumas, perhaps the most famous French writer of
the 19th century, knew enough about patience to utter this: “All
human wisdom is summed up in two words — wait and hope.” I’m good
with the latter, not so much with the former. And if it takes
patience to gain wisdom, forget it; I’m out. Not that I’m
particularly impulsive, but once I make a decision and set my
course of action, I’m ready to get to it. Now, not later. Leo
Tolstoy wrote that “the two most powerful warriors are patience and
time.” Egads, I’m double-hosed. We’ve all heard time & time
again that patience is a virtue. I don’t quibble with this ancient
wisdom, I just don’t happen to possess that virtue. I’m sure Dr S
is still laughing at me begging him to let me go home from the
hospital the day after my mastectomy. I was ready to get outta
there and get on with my life. Not so fast, lady. Ben Franklin
wrote that “He that can have patience can have what he wants.” I
always though he was kind of a smart-ass. And why can’t I have what
I want without being patient? Where’s the Burger King motto in all
this? I want to have it my way, and my way is now. Right now. St.
Augustine was probably very patient. He too linked patience to
wisdom: “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Whatever. I
understand all these ancient guys speaking about patience: the
world moved at a much slower pace back then. They’d probably flip
their wigs if they knew of the modern world and all its speediness.
Imagine those guys seeing a bullet train, or the Autobahn, or even
Loop 610 in Houston, and not even at rush hour. What about a
conveyor belt flanked by factory workers, producing goods from
digital watches to cars in a hurry? Or drive-through food or pizza
delivery? I don’t think any of the pizza chains offers “30 minutes
or it’s free” anymore, but still, when I order a pizza online, Papa
John has it ready in 2 shakes of a lamb’s tail. (such a cute little
expression, right?) The point is that these esteemed writers,
thinkers, and movers & shakers can blab all they want about
being patient, and I will listen (impatiently) and consider what
they say (as I rush off to do the next thing on my list). But I
still want it my way, which is now. 

Is there a Hallmark card for that?

I ran into my OB-GYN yesterday. That’s always kind of weird. Remember when you were a kid, and you would see one of your teachers outside of school? Not in a Mary Kay Letourneau kind of way–that’s creepy–but maybe bump into them at a restaurant or the grocery store. It always struck me as strange to see them out & about in the real world, because they were so confined in my mind to the classroom.

It’s sort of the same thing running into one’s doctor out & about in the real world.

So there we were, playing tennis on a Sunday morning, and through the fence of the court I saw my OB-GYN walking toward the gym. I’ve seen her at the club before, sweating away on the step mill or the recumbent bike. We’ve exchanged pleasantries and then I’ve gone my way and left her to her workout.

But I haven’t seen her since she found the lump in my right breast in March that turned out to be malignant and led to me having a mastectomy and getting an infection and going through some crazy stuff on this “cancer journey” and changing my status from regular person to survivor. It was kind of important to me to say something to her.

But what to say?

What’s the right thing to say to the person who essentially introduces you to your cancer? Is there a Hallmark card for that? I’m guessing not.

After she wrote my orders for the mammogram in March, the scenario could have had 2 different outcomes: either the mammo comes back clear and she sees me at next year’s well-woman exam; or the mammo comes back scary and she refers me to a specialist.

I’ve had a mammo every year for the last 5 years, a bit ahead of the recommended guidelines. Not because I like tests or crave extra attention, but because my mom died of a reproductive cancer, so my OB-GYN, who is married to an MD Anderson oncologist, has always been  especially pro-active with me. To me, that’s a sign of a competent person: I didn’t have to say, hey since my mom died of uterine cancer, what extra steps do I need to take to ensure my health? I never had to ask because she was on top of it. 

Thank goodness she was.

When my mammo came back scary, she called and told me and referred me to Dr Dempsey for a biopsy. I love her for that, because Dr Dempsey was the exact-right, totally perfect surgeon for me.

From there, Dr Dempsey referred me to Dr S for plastics and Dr Darcourt for oncology, and my OB-GYN was out of the loop. She called me a couple of times after she got the pathology report from the biopsy to check on me and see if there was anything I needed, but I was knee-deep in researching this beast, having tests run, scheduling all my appointments and keeping my regular life going that I never called her back. Then the infection took hold, post-surgery, and my life was topsy-turvy, to say the least.

I did sit down after all the brouhaha to write her a note to say thank you for finding the lump and saving my life.  That’s just the way my mama raised me, to write a thank you note to someone who had extended you a kindness or given you a gift. I especially like the gift part, but the kindness part is good too. 

This one was a strange note to write, though, and I found myself at a loss for words. That doesn’t happen to me very often.  I don’t remember what I wrote but probably scratched out something along the lines of “thank you for finding the lump that saved my life.” Whatever the words were, they were a feeble attempt to convey a mountain of gratitude and I sure wish I had had just the right words to let her know that she really and truly has made a difference in my life. 

So when I saw her from the tennis court yesterday, I didn’t even think about it, I just hollered her name and ran toward her. We were right in the middle of  a game and not at a good stopping point, but this was important, so I didn’t care, and neither did my tennis friends.

She asked how I was and I told her the truth: I’m good.

I’m good.

There wasn’t much to say after that; we had covered the important stuff.

She said she was really glad to see me, and to see me playing tennis especially. I said, me too. I thought I would want to say so much more, but we really had covered the important stuff.

GG in Houston

In this photo provided by the office of Rep Gabrielle Giffords, Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, stands with his wife as she looks from her bed at the Santa Catalina Mountains while on an outdoor deck at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011.Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) left the University Medical Center in Tucson to come to our fair city. Welcome, Gabby! She checked into the esteemed TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston’s Medical Center.

I say this like I know her or anything beyond what’s being reported in the mainstream media, and I do not. So don’t go asking me for personal details or to get you an autograph or anything. After my trip down there Thursday, I don’t have any plans to trek to the med center again, and besides that poor woman needs some privacy. She’s likely to be very tired after her trip from AZ to TX.

In the photo above, which was kindly provided by Giffords’s office, her husband, Mark Kelly, is by her side as she enjoys the beautiful scenery of the Santa Catalina Mountains while on an outdoor deck at the Tucson hospital on Thursday. Not that I’m complaining, but no one ever wheeled me outside in my bed in my multiple hospital stays this summer. But that’s ok, because really, who wants to be outside in Houston in the summer? And there aren’t any mountains to gaze upon anyway. After the terrible ordeal she went through, I’m glad Giffords got to go outside, after more than 2 weeks in a hospital room. She earned that trip, plus a whole lot more.

In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard, Giffords was critically injured at an event she was holding in Tucson on January 8th. She was going about her business, doing her job as a public servant and was shot by an idiot-jerk-birdbrain-fool-imbecile-jackass-whackjob whose name I won’t mention because he and his ilk don’t deserve one more second in the spotlight.

That idiot-jerk-birdbrain-fool-imbecile-jackass-whackjob killed 6 people and injured another 13, including Giffords. The fact that one of the 6 people killed was a 9-year-old girl named Christina-Taylor Green makes me so mad I can’t even express the right words here. My fingers are flying across the keyboard, yet nothing of sense materializes, because how can we make sense of something so horrendous, so tragic, and so unnecessary?

This darling girl, who is the same age as my own darling girl, sounds like she was a fantastic addition to the human race. She had recently been elected to her 3rd-grade student council, and was at the “Congress on Your Corner”event at the local grocery store in Tucson, hoping to get up close & personal with her congresswoman.

Her mama says she can’t even put into words the depths of their grief, and the horror of “being robbed of our beautiful little princess.”

Christina-Taylor was the only girl on her Little League baseball team. We’ve had a girl on Payton’s baseball team a few times, and it really livens up the game. I’m a big fan of girl power in any form, and seeing a girl on a team with all boys does my heart proud. Little League and the world in general suffers a big loss with Christina-Taylor’s death.

She came from a baseball-loving family. Her grandpa, Dallas Green, managed the Phillies. Her daddy John supervises the group that scouts new talent for the Dodgers. I bet that little girl was fun to watch on the field. And I just hate that she’ll never again don her uniform and step up to the plate.

What a waste.

While this post started out as a welcome to Giffords to Houston, it’s taken another form and morphed into a memorial, if you will, to Christina-Taylor. She sounds like someone Macy would hang with, who I would enjoy having in our home.

I’m going to make y’all suffer through the wrenching story told by Christina-Taylor’s friend and neighbor, Susan Hileman, who took Christina-Taylor to the event that ended her young life.

This 58-year-old didn’t have any grandchildren yet and befriended Christina-Taylor. They hung out, played Pickup Sticks, and did the kind of things that my cousins do with my daughter. (Christina-Taylor cheated at Pickup Sticks, by the way, according to Hileman, which is another touching yet heartbreaking insight into this multi-faceted little girl.) They went to the zoo together, and if there was a movie Hileman wanted to see, she’d ask Christina-Taylor, “If I buy the popcorn, will you keep me company?” Sounds like what my dad says to Macy as they plan their movie dates.

As Hileman picked Christina-Taylor up for the “Congress on Your Corner” event, she asked Christina-Taylor’s mom, “Does she really want to do this with me? Is there something else she would rather be doing?” Roxanna Green replied, “Any place she goes with you, she’s happy.”

As they drove to the event, the two friends talked about what they might ask Giffords. Once they arrived and parked, Christina-Taylor asked Hileman if she had the keys. Apparently that was her job, because Hileman sometimes forgot and left her keys in the car.

Hileman had planned to take Christina-Taylor to lunch and to get their nails done after meeting Giffords, and would have her home in 3 or 4 hours. But that plan changed drastically and irrevocably.

I’m struck by how many times I’ve turned my children over to a friend or relative for an outing, much anticipated by both parties. I send them off without a second thought on my part or a backward glance on theirs. These connections, these events, these outings are what join us together as friends & family, and what weaves together the warm & fuzzy fabric of our existence.

Instead of an enjoyable and enlightening outing, Hileman and her young companion entered Hell. They were next in line to meet Giffords, and Hileman was telling Christina-Taylor that she could be the next Gabrielle Giffords, when gunshots rang out.

Hileman instinctively threw her body in front of Christina-Taylor’s to shield her from danger and was shot in the thigh, belly, and chest. She remembers seeing a hole in her new skinny jeans, but can’t remember any pain.

She does remember falling to the ground with Christina-Taylor, looking into the wounded girl’s eyes. Hileman had been shot and was bleeding, but was only concerned for Christina-Taylor. “Don’t you leave me, Christina-Taylor. Don’t you die on me,” she said as the two friends clung to each other.  A woman who arrived on the scene to help reportedly applied pressure to Christina-Taylor’s wound and asked, “Who was with this girl? Who is this girl?” Hileman answered, “She is my responsibility.”

Nine-year-olds don’t carry ID. So nobody but Hileman knew who Christina-Taylor was, and in the chaos of the crime scene, imagine the frantic moments before Hileman spoke up and claimed Christina-Taylor. That sweet girl was Hileman’s responsibility, and a big part of her world.

And now the rest of the world does indeed know who Christina-Taylor Green was. Sadly, it’s too late.


While brushing my teeth and inspecting the bevy of brown spots on my face (thanks, crazy hormones), I noticed something that made my heart pound, my stomach drop, and my blood run cold. 

Not to be overly dramatic here, but I was scared. Only for a second, but really and truly scared.

I saw a small dark spot on my jammies top, right near my personal “ground zero” or also known as my right chest wall, site and host of the Mycobacterium Olympics 2010.

My first, terrifying thought was that fluid had leaked from my skin at the site and soaked a spot on my shirt.

Not a good thought.

Turns out it was a small piece of fuzz from a red blanket, but it was in just the right location and was just enough darker than the pink jammie top to look like a wet spot.

It’s been 5 months since my last hospitalization for this wretched infection, yet it still has the power to scare the tar out of me and render me speechless, breathless & frantic for a moment at any given time. There has been (knock wood) absolutely no sign of said infection for those 5 glorious months, but it still freaks me out.

I’ve joked before about having PTSD — post-traumatic stress disorder. Now I’m thinking it’s no joke. Then I see this article, from the Telegraph online. Kismet? You betcha.

The article starts with a catchy lead (y’all know I’m a sucker for a good lead): “The debilitating disorder is often characterised by agitation, anxiety, depression, nightmares, flashbacks, and mood swings. It is more often associated with soldiers returning from battlefields who have been shell-shocked by their experiences.” 

Ok, I admit when I read it, I thought “flashbacks” meant “hot flashes” for some reason. Perhaps because I was suffering from one (hot flash, not flashback) at the moment I read that sentence, and my brain went a little wonky from it.

But here’s the important part: a new study (I also love new studies) has found that women diagnosed with breast cancer have an effect similar to PTSD. Researchers site the effect of diagnosis combined with all the unknowns (surgery? chemo? recurrence? etc) equaling a good chance of developing PTSD. They studied 331 women in a Greek hospital and found that 45 percent showed signs of PTSD. What they did not disclose, however, is how they came up with 331 as their sample size. Inquiring minds would like to know. That seems like an odd number to me, no pun intended. The findings were presented at the Impakt Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels. Now not only do I wonder about the 331 women, but also who in their right mind would spell the name of their conference incorrectly? Impakt? Really? Or is that how “Impact” is spelled in Brussels? Why doesn’t the article tell me these things???

Last year there was a similar study done on the possibility of PTSD in heart attack victims. Seems 1 in 6 heart attackers (16 percent of those studied) suffered from PTSD, while some 18 percent of them exhibited symptoms.

Those kinds of statistics confuse me. Does it mean that 16 percent of the total group studied had full-blown PTSD, while another 18 percent of the same group just had some symptoms? Regardless of the answer to that question, it’s interesting (to me, anyway) that the percentage of breast cancer patients suffering PTSD was so much higher than the percentage of heart attackers who suffered.


I’m not a researcher and am not involved in any groundbreaking studies, but I’d guess it’s not just breast cancer that renders its victims full of PTSD. What’s really scary is that women still show signs of  PTSD even if their “cancer journey” is complete, with successful treatment and remission of the dreaded disease.

Uh oh. So it’s not enough to accept the diagnosis, endure the surgeries and/or treatments, decide on reconstruction, and monitor our health ad nauseum. We also have to slay the disease, but live with the resulting monkey on our back.


They also found that women still suffered PTSD and had a poorer quality of life three years after diagnosis and treatment.

Double suck.

I’m imagining fast-forwarding to 2013, when let’s assume for the sake of this argument my infection is a thing of the past and I’m cruising through life with new girls. Euphemistically speaking; I’m not ditching all my friends and finding new ones. I like ’em all too much to ditch ’em.

Let’s imagine that my “cancer journey” is complete in 2013, except I still take my daily Tamoxifen and see my oncologist every 3 months and get body scans quarterly. I am, for the most part, done. But I’m still going to have PTSD? And a crappier quality of life?

The researchers, from the Panteion University of Athens, warn that doctors should watch out for the signs of the condition when they are treating patients with breast cancer. Those Greek people are smart, gorgeous, and all-around awesome, and everyone on Earth would be wise to listen to and emulate them.

They warn: “Knowing that breast cancer patients are susceptible to PTSD, it might be necessary for the field of medicine to create a plan in assisting cancer patients that takes into account the entire spectrum of a patient’s experience with the illness.”

Emma Pennery, from the  British charity Breast Cancer Care, said: “The principle that women, and men, will have an ongoing risk of anxiety and depression following a diagnosis of breast cancer is well known, and there is a range of national guidance in the UK which covers the role of health care professionals in providing ongoing emotional support to patients. ”

I’m curious about that “range of national guidance” and wonder if it will make it across the pond. I certainly haven’t gotten any national guidance in all this. That said, if some form of it came my way, I’d probably scoff at the bloated, partisan jibber-jabber as something dressed up to look valuable but in reality is just an oily politician’s idea of pandering to me and those in my shoes.

But that’s probably just the PTSD talking.

Introducing the New Dr S

There’s a new Dr S in my life. I’m happy to introduce Dr Aldona Spiegel. 

She’s purty.

And smart.

She’s younger than me and has 3 kids, ages 6, 2 and an infant. She’s tall, slender and blonde. And she’s a renowned surgeon. If I didn’t like her so much, I might hate her a little.

But she’s gonna build my new boobs, so I love her.

We had a fantastic consultation today. Every aspect of her office, from the atmosphere to the staff, is first-rate. Beautiful waiting area, pleasant receptionist, warm & friendly nurses, a big Mac (computer, not burger) in the exam rooms, a fantastic physician’s assistant, a comprehensive bound photo book of before & after pictures of her patients, and of course the lovely doctor herself.

According to her website, “Her goal is to provide not only the most advanced breast restoration procedures, but also a caring and supportive environment—allowing each woman to complete a successful rehabilitation from her breast cancer battle.”

I like that. I’m especially intrigued by the idea of rehab from my battle. Sounds good.

How about this: “Dr. Spiegel is committed to providing superior, patient-focused care and preparing the next generation of surgeons to meet the highest standards of excellence. This vision combines a dedication to advanced research, exceptional education, and the development of new, less invasive treatments and procedures.”


She trained in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital and did her fellowship in reconstructive microsurgery and specialization in plastic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine where she was served as Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Spiegel has trained with leading reconstructive surgeons around the world, developing and improving upon techniques to help minimize the aftereffects of breast cancer on a woman’s body.

This just keeps getting better and better!

Here’s where we get into the medical mumbo-jumbo: “Dr. Spiegel’s clinical expertise is in advanced breast reconstruction techniques and microsurgery, particularly in the area of surgical reconstruction with reinnervated autologous muscle-preserving perforator flaps, including the DIEP Flap, SIEA Flap, SGAP Flap, TUG Flap, and the TAP flap. Dr. Spiegel also specializes in Lymphedema Procedures, advanced Implant and Latissmus reconstruction, and has pioneered Sensory Innervation procedures which have the ability to reestablish sensation to the breast resulting in the most complete form of breast restoration. In addition, she is interested in all aspects of aesthetic surgery and is committed to women’s health issues in plastic surgery.”

Sweet. She is the total package.

The only complaint I have is with the panties. 

They were made of paper. And small. Really small. I spent a few seconds staring at them before thinking, one size does not fit all.

Egads. Cue the humiliation. Again.

Luckily, I’ve been humiliated in a doctor’s office before, so I’m ready for it and ok with it. I slipped on my pretty blue paper panties and the matching blue paper gown and prepared to meet my new savior, Dr Spiegel. I’m so glad I’m past caring about meeting a beautiful and successful doctor while wearing the most unflattering paper garments ever.

She answered all my questions, most importantly the one about weight gain. I’m good, I’m fat enough and don’t need to gain any more.

Whew, that’s a relief. I was getting pretty tired of drinking beer & eating chips. Now that I’ve bulked up, I am free to return to my normal, healthy eating. She said she would prefer to have a bit more building material, but she can work with what I’ve got, so I don’t have to worry about applying for a new zip code for all the junk in my trunk.

Now that’s a relief.

She’s planning my reconstruction, and it’s going to be pretty great. I’m actually starting to envision an end to this long, bumpy road. As much as I detest the idea of another hospital stay and recovery, I’m looking forward to closing the book on this chapter of my life. It’s such a cliche, but it’s true. Reconstruction is a big, scary step. I totally understand why some women never do it. And if not for the infection and the mess it left behind, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to do it myself.

But the infection did leave a nasty mess, and it continues to wreak havoc, and the best way to end that madness is to excise the tissue (again), and replace it with new tissue and a new blood supply.

It means a long surgery, a night in the ICU, and several additional nights in a regular room. Ugh, yuck, and ick. But, it will all be worth it when it’s done and I can say I’m truly on the other side of this wretched business.

Stay tuned.