Can I get that overnighted, please?

I like funny t-shirts. I like snarky, funny t-shirts even better. Or is it redundant to say “snarky” and “funny?” Are there people who don’t think snarky is funny? If so, I have no use for them. Trevor’s grandma, Petie, had a cute little needlepoint pillow on her couch in the sitting room of her Salisbury, North Carolina, home that says “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.” I’ve always ascribed to that point of view.

I don’t have a picture of Petie’s pillow, but found this one by using the Google. Now I’m wondering why in the world I don’t own one of these pillows? It would make me smile every time I spied it. It’s the little things, people.

While looking for an image of that cute little pillow, I found this: 

For those of you who are uninitiated into all things Red Sox, that foxy number 46 is my boy crush, Jacoby Ellsbury. He now wears number 2 on his jersey, though looks no less foxy. That’s JD Drew crouched next to him, close enough to whisper in Ell’s ear (lucky bastard). I’m sure they were discussing some serious strategy, or maybe making fun of Dora (aka Alex Rodriguez) who is such a tool and deserves to be made fun of at every possible opportunity.

But I digress.

Here’s the real reason for today’s post (although it could easily become all about Ells. Last season was a long, dry boring one for me because Ells was hurt. Not just hurt, but rehabbing in Arizona, so not even in the dugout and available for close-ups or slow pans by the ever competent NESN camera guys. It was a long season indeed. But Ells is back and ready for action and hopefully lots of on-screen time.)

But seriously, back to the real reason for today’s post.

Look what I found.

Just what I’ve been looking for.

But wow, what bad luck to have found it so close to the Resurrection, instead of during the long months of walking around with a chest flat enough to play quarters on, with no explanation. Ok, that is some seriously bad sentence construction, but you get the drift. I’ve had a freakishly flat chest for a long time, and have longed for a shirt that tells the world that change is underfoot. Or, undershirt, as the case may be. I got that chance with my “cupcakes” shirt, but I can’t very well wear that every day. I hate doing laundry, and wearing my cupcakes shirt every day would require a lot more of that chore.

So I probably need the “under construction” shirt, too. Although, can someone please explain to me why the shirt is modeled by a guy???

Now that is just weird.

But I still want the shirt. Wonder how fast I can get it?

The Big Dig

Yesterday was yet another trip to the medical center, for one last pre-op visit to Dr Spiegel before reconstruction. I really need to think of a catchy title for the surgery, something like Boston’s big construction project, the Big Dig. Come to think of it, there are some similarities between the Big Dig and my surgery: both relate to the Central Artery and Tunneling (in fact, the official name of the Big Dig is the CA/T Project). Both are complicated, involve lots of people, and take a mighty long time to complete. But unlike the Big Dig, which replaced the 6-lane elevated Central Artery (I-93) with  a 3.5-mile long underground tunnel, my surgery won’t cost $22 billion. Hopefully. My insurance company, which has been mighty nice so far, might just stroke out about that figure. 

The Big Dig sounded like a great idea and was intended to be a tremendous boon to an already kick-ass city. But mismanagement, scandal, and skyrocketing costs quickly dominated headlines, and my second-favorite city had a big mess on its hands. Congressman Barney Frank quipped, “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to raise the city than depress the artery?”

Say what you will about Barney, but that’s a good line.

But back to the update on the doctor visit. This was Trevor’s day to meet the lovely Dr Spiegel, her ultra-energetic PA, Jen, and her trusty nurse Sonia. My friend Laura, who is a nurse practitioner in the liver transplant unit at Methodist, met us there, too. Dr Spiegel wanted to brief my caregivers on what to expect post-surgery, and Laura kindly offered to help out. In her white coat and super-stylish glasses, she brought a nice element of professional gravitas to the occasion. She told Dr Spiegel that she’s done some match-making for me and picked out an anesthesiologist she likes and trusts, and Dr Spiegel agrees that Dr Ashmore is the guy for me. Laura and Sonia recognized each other right away, then she and Jen hugged and high-fived, happy to be collaborating on my case. It’s good to have connections.

The visit itself was pretty uneventful. I like uneventful at the doctor’s office. Dr Spiegel  went over a few basics with us but since we were pretty much up to speed on everything, there weren’t any new developments. I’m finished with all the pre-op testing (bloodwork, blood donation, x-rays, EKG, CT-scan), and just need to watch the video consultation on Dr Spiegel’s website to get a more detailed overview of the procedure. I’m not saying I’m scared to do that, but after watching a video on youtube of an actual surgery, on an actual person, I’m not in a big hurry. Ick.

The one topic we did need to cover, though, was the infection. I wanted to bring it up in a way that seemed breezy and conversational, as opposed to, “How the sam hell are you going to keep this bloody nightmare from recurring, lady?” I was pretty sure that wouldn’t go over too well.

I’m not the most diplomatic person, and I tend to say what I really think, even if it’s not pretty or may be hard to hear. It’s a blessing and a curse. Believe it or not, I actually do put a lot of thought into what I say and how I say things, but because I’m pretty direct, sometimes things come out a bit, um, harsher than I intend.

Sorta like, “Are you outta your mind??? You’re not really going to wear that are you?” or “Clearly that person has neither friends nor a mirror; why else would one go out in public looking like that???” as opposed to “Have you thought about what to wear?” Those kinds of niceties take a bit of work on my part. My instinct is to just blurt out whatever needs to be said, and let the chips fall where they may. We’re all grown-ups, right?

Right. Except I really don’t want to tick off the nice lady with the very sharp scalpels. That would be bad. So I fumbled around and probably sounded idiotic by saying, Um, so, uh, like, how worried do we need to be about the um, you know, infection? You know, like, um, during the uh, reconstruction?

She smiled knowingly, and if she’d been sitting closer might have patted my hand and said, there there.  She reminded me that my case isn’t exactly normal, and I tried not to tell her that “normal” is pejorative and listened to what she had to say.

She has a plan, of course, and it sounds like a good one. Usually, in cases of infection, she would wait to do reconstruction, to be sure the infection is truly gone. But in my case, which again is not normal, we need to get in there sooner rather than later and clean up the mess,  i.e., excise the damaged tissue and replace it with some new, fresh meat. And by meat I mean my own flesh. Fresh flesh. Yum.

The plan is to work on the infected side last, and she promised to take her time and wash it all out thoroughly with 6 liters of antibacterial solution. That’s way more than usual. She’ll have separate fields of instruments, and once the instruments touch the infected area, they’ll be classified as contaminated. Remember the scene in the movie ET at the end, when the little guy was dying, and the family home was a warren of plastic sheeting populated by feds in Haz-mat gear? I’m having visions of the Haz-mat suits. But hopefully no aliens. Although I do kinda like the polka-dotted kiddie pools in this scene.

So we’re on track, on schedule, and presumably ready to go. She estimates the surgery will last 8 hours, not 12-15 like I’d originally heard. Of course, we won’t know what we’re dealing with until she actually gets in there and starts cutting and scraping away, but I’m going to be optimistic.

Meanwhile, I’ll be thinking of a name for my own personal Big Dig (if you have ideas, send them em!), and can’t wait to post before and after pictures like this:

Except, I won’t make you look at the before pics, because they’re pretty gross, and that would just be mean.

Can somebody please shut off my brain?

For the last several nights I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night with questions to ask Dr Spiegel today about my upcoming reconstruction. I like how “upcoming reconstruction” sounds so formal and important, and perhaps a teeny bit ostentatious. As opposed to the reality of a terrifying, bloody mess. But I didn’t have it together enough to put a pad & pen by the bed to actually write the questions down, and now I can’t think of them (anyone have any suggestions? Lemme know. I know there’s stuff I’m supposed to be asking her about but can’t for the life of me find that stuff).

My brain must be working overtime, especially at night, when it should be resting and refueling so it’s ready to assist me with my two most basic tasks: impressing Payton with my trivia knowledge while we watch “Cash Cab,” and helping me answer questions from Macy like, “If a banana is a fruit, where are its seeds?”

I hate those kinds of questions. I really should know the answer. It’s there somewhere, deep in the recesses of my brain, but it’s buried by all this cancer ca-ca. If my brain were being depicted by a pie chart, there would be normal-sized pieces of pie for the kids, the home front, our schedules, tennis, world peace, and such. Then there would be a gigantic piece for cancer ca-ca. 

I hate that the cancer ca-ca takes up such a big piece of the pie. I like pie. But I don’t like this pie.  If only the pie chart were about pie, instead of all that other stuff. That would be a really good pie chart.

My Uncle Wilford (my mom’s older brother) used to say he liked two kinds of pie: hot and cold. Me too. And I hope Uncle Wilford is having a piece of both right now, at a beautifully set table on a puffy white cloud with his two sisters, my mom and Aunt Margie, sitting beside him. All the pie they can eat. And no pizza. Uncle Wilford said he didn’t like pizza because he was older than it. Funny guy. Miss him.

But back to the cancer ca-ca. It fills my brain stealthily, easily, and constantly. I’m usually pretty organized, but it infiltrates. I tend to keep a good handle on the various comings & goings of the members of this family, and rarely do I drop any of the balls I juggle on any given day. Not bragging, just saying. I’m usually up to whatever this life of mine throws at me.  But I’ve been dropping balls lately, and I don’t like it.

Macy was invited to a birthday party recently, and I forgot to add it to the calendar, and she missed the party. Oops. Then I looked right at the calendar to assess the day’s tasks but still forgot to take Payton to his weekly hitting lesson. Drat. Then there was the test I forgot to make sure Macy studied for, and she got a bad grade. She typically doesn’t get bad grades, so it was upsetting for her. Her teacher sent home the study sheet for the re-take, which Macy dutifully put on the fridge with a magnet. I saw it there but it never even registered in my brain, so we didn’t work on it. At all. And then, the re-take was upon us. Macy remembered as we were walking out the door to go to school. Damn, damn, damn. I dropped another ball. I was tempted to advise her to just tell her teacher it’s my fault, and that I’m too busy with all this cancer ca-ca. But I didn’t. I hung my head for a minute, cursed myself out under my breath, kicked a stray tennis ball on the garage floor, then reminded myself that it’s one test in the 3rd grade. Well, technically two tests, since she failed the first one and had to re-take it, but again, let’s stay on point here and recognize that it’s no big deal. I wrote her teacher and note and fessed up, told her it was my fault and that she & I both know that if it were solely up to Macy, she would have aced that test. Her teacher wrote back and said pfffft, don’t even worry about it; as you can tell from the attached progress report, one test isn’t going to bog her down. She will survive, and so will I.

Thank you, Mrs. Motal.

From the time I wrapped my head around this wretched diagnosis, I’ve been determined to do all that I can to ensure that cancer doesn’t become me, doesn’t define me, doesn’t defeat me. Cancer may win a skirmish here and there and may make me feel really crummy; it may open the door for a nasty infection that brought on another epic battle; it may deposit more grey hairs and new wrinkles; and it may cause me to miss a thing or two on the master schedule. Cancer will most certainly cause me some sleepless nights. But cancer will not defeat me. 

Things that used to scare me

When I was a kid, I was afraid of two things: the seeds & pulp in a halved cantaloupe, and going over bridges. I have no earthly idea why the cantaloupe scared me, but it did. I remember watching my mom cut the fruit in half and dig out the seeds & pulp with a big spoon then flip the gunk into the sink to go down the disposal. Creepy.

The bridge thing started early. We used to go to a local park a lot as a family when I was a kid, and there was an old, wooden bridge with wide planks (maybe even railroad ties?) and a shallow stream running underneath. The wood was worn, and there were spaces between the planks, between which the stream could be seen. I held my breath all the way across, every time.

I’m not afraid of the cantaloupe seeds & pulp anymore, but bridges…a little bit. The Ship Channel Bridge in Houston gives me the vapors, and driving from Houston to New Orleans includes a series of loooong bridges over mysterious-looking bodies of water. I’m not crazy about the concrete jungle flyover freeways around here, and the Beltway going toward I-10 West has a pretty high on-ramp that gets my heart beating a little faster. I don’t have to hold my breath anymore, but I’m still just a teesny bit uneasy about bridges.

I was reminded of the cantaloupe thing the other day as I cut into one and cubed it up to serve with dinner. I chuckled to myself at my childhood self and fears, and in my head, felt some pride at only having had two little fears. Monsters under the bed never bothered me, nor did the amorphous Bogeyman. I didn’t need a nightlight, and don’t mind things that go bump in the night.

When my kids were tiny, I was a little bit afraid of becoming the victim of a violent crime. The idea of leaving those precious babies motherless unnerved me. Then my own mom died, while my kids were still pretty tiny, and I quit worrying about violent crime and began to fear cancer.

Little did I know that not even 5 years after losing my mom to stupid, wretched cancer, my newest, biggest fear would materialize.

Being diagnosed ahead of the curve, i.e., at a young-ish age, is a surreal experience. I remember well the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I got the phone call on April 26th to say that the biopsy indicated a malignancy. I’ll never forget Nurse Sharon telling me that Dr Dempsey needed to book some time on my calendar, which turns out to be a nice way of telling me to come and see them the very next day so they can hand me a diagnosis that will change my life.

When that fateful call came, Macy and I were shopping for a birthday gift for my cousin, and I had to pretend that everything was ok because I didn’t want to alarm my little girl. Trevor was out of town but en route home, and after I got the call we kept missing each other as he boarded a plane or I was in the car with the kids and not able to speak freely. We resorted to exchanging texts to convey the most horrible of news.

The kids and I went on to my cousin’s birthday party, me with a big secret but determined to put on a happy face and not ruin the celebration. It seemed torturous at the time to be unable to talk to anybody about what I’d just learned. In hindsight, however, it was probably a good thing because it gave me time to process the steaming pile of bad news I’d been served.

It took a couple of days before I really wrapped my head around the fact that I had breast cancer. The more people I told, though, and the more times I actually said the words, “I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer,” the more real it became. Before long, the awful reality had set in, and I transitioned from shock to action.

Dr Dempsey has a rule of not accepting a patient’s decision on which surgery option–lumpectomy, single mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy–until at least 3 days after she delivers the diagnosis. I made up my mind pretty fast, but waited until 3 days had passed before I called to tell her. I’ve never regretted the choice I made.

The bottom fell out of my world, and many things changed with my diagnosis. My fear of cancer was one of those things that changed.

I don’t know how it happened or why, but I stopped fearing cancer. Maybe because it became such a huge part of my life, it lost some of its scariness. Maybe by being forced to confront it, and the myriad ways it had infiltrated my life, I became braver. Or maybe I just got sick to death of the damn topic. The more I learned about it, the less scary it became. Knowledge truly is power.

And while cancer is still scary, it doesn’t scare me. Going head-to-head with the beast has taught me an awful lot about myself. Most of it good. I know I can endure a lot, I know what’s really important, and I know that should the disease mount a counter-attack on my battle-weary body, I’ll be armed and ready. Not scared, but ready.

Other than the shooting…

With the exception of being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, I’ve always had a pretty  healthy countenance. Ok, I know that sounds like the old joke, “Other than the shooting, how’d you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” And now, with the flu, the joke’s on me.

Being sick, or being diagnosed with cancer, makes one appreciate one’s good health. For schizzle. Again with the annoying cliches, but somehow we don’t know how good we’ve got it, until it’s gone. Whatever “it” may be. In my case, it’s good health.

Even after my diagnosis and surgery and epic battle with the infection, people would universally remark upon how healthy I looked. As if the stereotypical look of a cancer patient or infection warrior has to fit into a preconceived box. I suppose that’s the very essence of stereotyping: it exists for a very legitimate reason, and the reason is that it is true.

Follow me? It makes sense to me, but it may also be the cockamayme ramblings of a fever-induced, Tamiflu-fueled insanity. Temporary, I hope.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: cancer is not a gift. Anyone who thinks it is either (a) doesn’t have it; (b) has it but is whacked-out on narcotics; or (c) is a lying sack of you-know-what. It’s a disease, pure and simple. It’s a malfunction at the cellular level. Something changes in the DNA that alters the way the cells behave. In breast cancer, in particular, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes — they keep cancer tumors from forming. When these genes undergo change, which can happen for a variety of reasons, they no longer cause cells to die at the right time, and cancer is more likely to develop.

I’m not sure how someone can understand that and still think that cancer is a gift. There’s nothing, not one thing, in gene mutation that even hints at slick, shiny  wrapping paper and silky bows.

Because I’m a realist, I don’t expect people to bump up against cancer–whether with the bomb being dropped directly over one’s house or simply knowing someone who’s been diagnosed–and drastically change their lifestyles. In my case, my lifestyle didn’t need much changing. I ate healthfully, exercised pretty much every day, played as much tennis as humanly possible, chose organic and turned my nose up at pesticides. Granted, I could have cut down on the volume of champagne I consumed, but I felt like that fell under the “live life to the fullest” category.” Sounds good, right?

So why was I the one to get cancer, while people who treat their bodies much less kindly go on to live long, uncomplicated lives? I have no idea. Was my diagnosis handed down from on high, with some mystery contained therein for me to interpret and then carry out? Doubtful. Was it my destiny to contract this blasted disease and then come out the other side a mouthpiece for the Cause? Maybe, although I’m not there yet. Was it random bad luck, in that the great karma wheel stopped spinning and I was the one in eight? That sounds more likely.

No matter the reason, the disease did come calling, and the infection did set up shop, and my life did change. Some of the change was for the better: I’ve learned a little bit of patience, how to let go (sometimes), I’ve become pretty well-educated in a fascinating topic, I’ve learned how to blog, and I’ve made some new friends.

That’s not all bad.

A wild goose chase

Disclaimer: I’m not dogging Walgreens. I love Walgreens. I spend a lot of time there. I’m just reporting the facts.

My doc called me in a prescription of Tamiflu, and my Walgreens was all out of it. So the pharmacist, who I happen to know quite well by now, called a little before noon to tell me he was transferring it to the Walgreens at Highway 6 & Williams Trace, a few miles away, and that it would be ready in a couple of hours.

Meanwhile, I was dying a slow, painful, cough-ridden death, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I dragged my sorry carcass to the garage, got in the car, and drove to my Walgreens, to get the prescription and take it to the other Walgreens myself. I couldn’t wait another couple of hours. Remember me, the impatient patient?

It took an enormous amount of effort to accomplish this, and I shudder to think at how frightful I looked. I did change out of my jammies, but hadn’t brushed my hair in two days. Couldn’t care less. Just wanted to get the drugs into my ailing system as fast as humanly possible.

My buddy the pharmacist says, Oh I must have just missed you. I left a message on your answering machine at home to tell you we transferred the Tamiflu to the Walgreens at Lexington and 1092, not Williams Trace.

Good thing I didn’t head straight to Williams Trace.

He advised me to go straight to the Lexington store and look as pitiful as I did in his store. He thinks he’s pretty funny.

So I dragged myself back into the car, drove to the other store, and hauled my sorry self to the pharmacy counter, holding my breath in hopes that they did indeed have my drugs and that they were ready.

Have them, yes. Ready, no. That’s ok, because it gave me time to do a little Valentine’s Day shopping. By the time I stocked up on candy for my Valentines and Propel for myself, my drugs were ready, and I kid you not, I ripped into them right there at the counter (after I paid) and sucked the first dose down then and there. Kinda reminded me of when I dry-swallowed a Xanax at the Taylor Swift concert a few weeks after I had my mastectomy. True story.

Desperate times, and all.

I came home and crashed out for nap #3 (all in the same day, egads), and am only now starting to feel marginally better. I still have a fever, and the nagging cough is still nagging me. The body aches are better but the headache is still plaguing me, no doubt a result of the nagging cough.

Tomorrow will be better.

Repeat 1,000 times.

I’ve succumbed

After dodging germs and avoiding family members like they had the plague (well, actually, they did), it’s happened.

I’ve succumbed to their onslaught of germs.

I hate being sick.

I really, really hate it.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a terrible patient. Not in the
sense that I’m high-maintenance, needing fresh-squeezed juice and cold compresses, but in the sense that I’m horribly impatient and will do just about anything to get better faster–vaseline slathered on the bottom of my feet? I’ll try it. Drinking tea made from crushed twigs and eye of newt? Brew it up, I’ll choke it down.

The one thing I am loathe to do, however, is get in bed. In the daytime. While the sun is shining. Can’t explain it, but that just seems wrong to me. It goes against my grain. Yet here I am, on a perfectly sunny day–the first nice day we’ve had in a while–in bed. In the middle of the day. Still in my jammies from last night.

I got up long enough to drink a cup of coffee and eat some peanut butter toast, and to hopefully shake off the fiery ball of phlegm I felt forming in my chest when I went to bed last night. No such luck. That fiery ball invited its friends over, and the overcrowding is making me cough. The coughing reignites the fiery ball and it burns, baby.

This was not part of my plan.

Sunday is my day to get things done and to get a jump-start on the week. I know, that’s backwards; most people use Sundays as a day of rest, to recharge from the week that’s passed. Not me, I prefer to charge ahead and get the week off to an early start. I usually kick off my Sundays with tennis, then once fortified with 3 sets and a couple of beers, continue on making lists, doing laundry, running errands, and cooking for the week ahead. Lately it’s been all about soup. It’s been cold, really cold (ok, cold for Texas; those of you reading this while enveloped by real winter can laugh at me, but it has been cold here), and for me that means it’s time to make soup.

My soup kick has been good but repetitive of late. I’ve made several pots of vegetable soup. I was inspired by my friend Amy who brought me some yummy vegetable soup a few weeks ago, and it was so good that I tried to recreate it. Her version was inspired by her sister’s housekeeper’s recipe, and it was good. The first version I made to replicate it was the best. I need to stick to that one instead of trying to change it up.

The second time I made it, I added tomato sauce and substituted tiny star-shaped pasta for the diced potato, thinking my kids might eat it. The stars were so cute and inviting, but the incredibly picky duo said nope, not intrigued nor even a little bit tempted.

The next time I made it, I used whole-grain gemelli pasta instead of stars. Oh, and I added okra, too, because I really like okra. I think it separates the men from the boys. After all this research, I’ve concluded that the potatoes are the best in this soup and the okra kinda gets lost among all the other veggies.

Sundays are usually bookended by tennis and soup, not sickness. Come on…I can’t make soup from bed.

A cast of characters, minus one

I’ve had this snazzy little grouping of prescription drugs on my kitchen counter for months now. Yes, the lids are pink, because my Walgreens had them for the pinkwashing that comes every October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Cute, huh?

These are the drugs I take every day, like a little old lady. My old standbys. The usual cast of characters.

There are the two big stars sharing top billing, Bactrim and Minocycline. My darling antibiotics that course throughout my body twice a day, every day to kick some mycobacterium butt. I would be lost without them. Or perhaps I would lose the all-day morning sickness feeling without them, but that’s just wishful thinking. Maybe I’d be dead without them, who knows? There was a time when I was almost sure I was dying from them, but I got over that.

Next we have the Florastor, the one thing that besides coffee that keeps me upright every day. I’m forever indebted to Susan Christopherson for turning me onto this probiotic that helps restore peace and order in one’s digestive system after said system has been under attack by the slash & burn tactics of an antibiotic regime. There have been a few times over the last 6 months of living under this regime in which I’ve either forgotten or willingly neglected the Florastor, and I paid dearly for that mistake. It’s not a prescription, but is kept behind the pharmacy counter for some reason. I don’t have to show my driver’s license to buy it, though, so I guess you can’t make meth out of it.

There’s the Ferrex iron supplement, since I’m a bit anemic and because I need uber-healthy blood vessels to harvest during reconstruction. Because I don’t eat any meat, I need a little help getting my iron; I get some from all the dark, leafy greens I eat, but not as much as my carnivorous friends ingest. My sweet, Peruvian oncologist can’t for the life of himself understand why someone would willingly forego meat. He shakes his head and looks at me a little funny every time it comes up, and he tends to bring it up every time he sees me. I’m done expecting him to compliment me on my plant-based, cancer-fighting diet. It didn’t help much, anyway, so I guess everyone is free to go on ahead and eat a big-ass, nasty, extra-rare steak. Might as well add some fries, or a loaded baked potato. You can see how far the healthy eating thing got me. Harumph.

Then there’s Tamoxifen, my daily cancer-battling bad-ass. It makes sure that there’s no estrogen flowing to feed any remaining cancer cells. While the side effects are troublesome (early menopause, hot flashes, leg cramps, decreased fluid in the joints, to name a few), I like the idea of starving those bastards. Tamoxifen is my first line of defense against recurrence. It makes me feel like I’m doing something every day to keep this beast from re-entering my life. It’s a daily pill that I’ll take for 5 years, then reassess to determine if I should stay on it or switch to another, similar drug.

And today I stopped taking it.


That scares me. More than a little bit. But since Tamoxifen can promote blood clots, it’s counterindicated with surgery. So I stop taking it for 3 weeks and hope that nothing goes haywire with my bloodflow. No clots, no bloodletting, no drama. That sure would be nice for a change.

Although I’m subtracting one prescription from my snazzy little grouping, I still feel like a little old lady whose life revolves around her meds. Ya know the old wisecrack issued when someone asks what time it is, and someone else smarts off, “Why? Ya gotta take a pill?” In my case, the answer is yes, smart ass, more than one pill. So zip it and get me a big glass of water so I can choke these guys down. While my life may seem to revolve around my meds, I refuse–I mean, dig in my heels and refuse–to get a plastic pill organizer. I’m all about accessories, but not that. 

There’s not enough hand sanitizer in the world…

Every person in my family is sick. But me. 

Trevor has some nagging cough/congestion/fever thing that’s been dragging on for 12 days. Payton has the same thing and has been home from school since Monday. We were already going through a lot of hand sanitizer (when Macy was tiny she insisted it was called “san hanitizer” and half the time I catch myself inadvertently calling it that).

Then last night Macy woke up vomiting at 3 a.m. with fever and sore throat.

Hang on a sec, let me find a mask. Hey, apparently there are lots of fashionable choices. Hooray!

This one is particularly fetching, especially for a guy.

This one might scare the germs away. I like that idea.

How about this one? For the pig-lovers in the world. Swine flu? No, thanks.

Or maybe this one. More scaring, fewer germs.

This one is kinda nice. Reminds me a bit of Eric Estrada in CHIPS.

But this one is my favorite. A peaceful, zen germ-fighter.

Hi-yah! I’m going to check into a hotel.

Another trip to the med center

It was supposed to be the first match of the new tennis season. I was paired up with my running buddy, we the defenders of the Witches’ Open 2010 title, were scheduled to play at Houston Racquet Club, a beautiful club that is heavily wooded and shrouded in tennis tradition. It’s one of my favorite places to play an away match.

When I re-signed with my Alley Cats team for the spring season, I knew I probably wouldn’t get to play the entire season, since I need to get this reconstruction done. But for me, a few matches is better than no matches, and after my post-mastectomy, post-infection absence and convelescence last season, I’m happy to be upright and on the court. You hear people say that a bad day on the court is better than a good day in the office. True, but that adage rings even truer for those of us who have stared an ugly disease in the face. The fact that my game is better than ever is icing on the cake. Or fuzz on the yellow ball. Or whatever.

But alas, the weather gods conspired against me. We got another blast of Old Man Winter, and as if the frigid temps and gusty winds weren’t enough, it rained and sleeted, and the season stalled before it even began. This South Texas girl is tired of winter. “south Texas” and “winter” do not go together. And my tennis days are numbered–again. Barring any weather delays, I’ll play three matches before going under the knife in a few weeks. I don’t even want to think about how long I’ll be out–of the game or under anesthesia during surgery!–but I’m realistic enough to know that the season will be over before I’m ready to play again. Sigh.

So instead of playing tennis, I was a dutiful patient and headed to the medical center for more pre-op testing.

I hate going to the med center, and I hate testing.

Ok, let me rephrase: I appreciate that one of the world’s best medical facilities is a 20-minute drive, down a toll road no less, from my house, and that I have a vehicle that gets me there, cash in my pocket to valet park, pro-active and organized doctors who have a plan for me, and health insurance to cover the frightful expenses. And an added bonus, one of my BFFs works at Methodist in the med center, so I get to see her in her white coat and definitely in her element. That is very cool to see.

So while I hate going there and hate everything about the testing, I am grateful. That counts for something, right?

Everything about hospitals and testing bugs me. I’ve ranted about it before so won’t rehash but let’s suffice to say that everything from the smell to the idleness of waiting my turn just bugs me.

Today was relatively easy in the grand scheme of medical testing, though: just 7 vials of blood for lab work, an EKG, and a chest x-ray. The new Outpatient Services facility at Methodist is beautiful: spacious, well-lit with banks of windows showcasing stellar views, comfy chairs, quiet rooms for those of us with sensory overload, knowledgeable staff and supremely trained nurses and technicians. The phlebotomist who stuck me got the needle into the vein on the first try, something I very much appreciate.

I still hate it, though.

I was happy that I remembered to take Dr Spiegel’s orders with me, since I’ve had them for a couple of weeks.  I would have been really mad if I’d gotten all the way down there in the cold rain to be told I had to go home and get the orders. Score one for me.

I checked in and chose a soft beige leather chair. I barely had time to settle in and fire up my kindle before a tour guide called my  name and asked me to follow her to the business office to once again show proof of ID and insurance. After a quick “skim this, sign this,” it was into another waiting area, this time closer to the procedures area. It’s akin to moving from the waiting area to the exam room at the doctor’s office. Even if you have to wait awhile in the exam room, you’ve at least progressed along in your journey.

After again firing up my kindle and peeping out the room-long windows at the grey, misty cityscape, I settled in for yet another indeterminate wait. After about half an hour, an older couple came in and sat behind me. I could see them out of the corner of my eye and could hear murmers of their conversation.  I did not, however, make eye contact. I’ve learned the hard way to treat my fellow patients the way I treat fellow travelers on a plane: don’t look right at them or give any indication of interest in their life story.

Mean? Maybe. But I’ve never claimed to be Miss Compassion, and while I’m sure there are sob stories that are sobbier than mine, I don’t want to hear them. I have no room in my life for the problems of strangers. Now, before you write me off as aloof and uncaring, let me state for the record that I will render aid if necessary. If an elderly woman walks off without her sweater or umbrella, I will chase her down and return her belongings. If the granny with a double knee replacement drops her pen while filling out yet another medical form, I’ll reach it for her. I’ll hold the elevator for young mothers with strollers and errant toddlers. But don’t ask me to take an interest in and listen to your sob story. Not gonna do it.

I was trying my best to tune out this couple behind me in holding pen #2 but despite my efforts, I noticed the man becoming more and more agitated about how long he was going to have to wait. I was tempted to advise him to pipe down and settle in, since he just arrived, and really it was only 9:15 a.m. He was upset about not knowing exactly how long this was going to take. Outpatient Services is first-come, first-served. Open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Come early and be prepared to wait. Duh.

Does anyone ever know how long “this” is going to take, whatever “this” happens to be? If you’re at the med center for outpatient testing, you’d better plan on being there awhile. Looking around, I noticed that everyone else had a book, magazine, soduku puzzle, knitting, laptop, and even a portable DVD player to pass the time. Everyone but the man behind me, who coincidentally was the only one asking how long “this” would take.

His wife tried to shush him, and I tried to tune him out, but he got louder and more upset. He tried to talk his wife into leaving, telling her he didn’t think he could stay any longer for the procedure.

Then he started to cry.

Yes, a grown man started to cry about having to wait for a medical procedure. I don’t know what he was having done, but I do know that they don’t even do anything scary there: cardiology testing, x-ray, and lab work. I know for a fact that other floors contain other scary options, but the 17th floor is pretty tame.

His wife tried to shush him some more in a way that made me think of little kids being told to stop their crying before they were given something to really cry about. She told him to dry it up, he told her he couldn’t, and she told him that yes he certainly could. After they went back and forth a bit, she hollared at him: “James Langston, you stop that right now!” And he did. Tough love in action. Right on!

Mr. Langston coerced his wife into asking one of the tour guides who walked by how many people were ahead of him for testing. She took his name and went to check. He blubbered a bit more, then she came back to report that there were three people ahead of him (one of which was me, thank you very much). That set him off anew, and he was caterwaling pretty good by this point. The tour guide shuffled off to straighten the magazines or restock the pamphlets or something, anything, to get away from James Langston and his weeping.

I’ve spent more than my fair share in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and outpatient testing areas lately, and no matter which facility I happen to be in, I can’t help but notice that every other patient is a lot older than me. As in, there’s no way they still have small kids at home, and I’m almost certain they aren’t juggling the kinds of things I am. Packing lunches? Nope. Overseeing homework assignments’ completion? Don’t think so. Ferrying kids to and fro, from school to sports to lessons to playdates? Uh, no. Worrying about getting out of there in time to not be last in line for carpool pick-up? Not today. Rushing to the store to pick up juice boxes and Fruit by the Foot? Negative. I’m betting these geezers don’t even remember that they ever did such things. (Ok, that was harsh, but it felt good to get it out. I’m done.) It’s just one of the many things that sucks about being a resident of Cancerland, and being a young resident blows especially hard.

Still in holding pen #2, I read the same page of my book 15 times without comprehending a word. I wasn’t trying to be nosey but I couldn’t help but wonder what James Langston was so afraid of, and why no one had thought to give him a Xanax. James Langston could have used one, for sure. If I were a more compassionate person, I might have offered him one of mine. But I’m not, and I guard my stash very carefully.

Just as I was about to start to feel a wee bit sorry for him, though, he grabbed a nurse and begged her to take him next.

And she did.

Crybaby James Langston leapfrogged to the front of the line, leaving the rest of us in his dust. He’s either the biggest baby or the shrewdest patient. I have no idea which.