Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

I am blessed to have our daughter Blondie, her boyfriend and his sister, our son Curly, my husband and Spider with me for a festive dinner late on Christmas Eve.

Our daughter Brownie and Airman 1C will be on their own at his duty station. I am excited for them as they have been married almost two years and finally have a place of their own.

I wish you all (well anyone who reads this) love, laughter and peace in this holiday season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Crows, crows, crows

Every day around 4/dusk, hundreds and hundreds of crows pass my office window. It is something of a joke among my coworkers - there are lots of references to "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock. It is an amazing sight and lasts about 5 minutes. It is kind of spooky, too.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Emptying the nest plus Apples to Apples

Our son Curly left today on the train to a nearby city. Only two hours away. There is a curious feeling in my heart. Hope that things work out and he is able to start college for winter quarter. And already I am missing his smile and his wacky humor. Plus he is my DVR remote operator – now I have to do it for myself. WTH? Who will I watch the food channel with? Who will read me news stories from Fark? Mostly I am happy that he is beginning his adult life at last.

Brownie and Airman are settling into his new duty station. There is no on base housing available so they will be looking for a place to live in the small town nearby. When I spoke to Brownie earlier today she was piling on the layers of clothing to keep warm, such a change from Texas! Only eight hours away – maybe I will rack up some frequent flyer miles.

I may be the last person to hear of the Apples to Apples card game. It is my new game passion. Blondie and her boyfriend introduced it to us after their trip to Reno. We played the game with all the kids at Thanksgiving. So much laughter and conversation arose from the cards played. See the link below for more information from Amazon. If you have the chance to buy it and play at Christmas I promise hours of fun!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friends - One of God's Blessings

I have been sitting here trying to put into words the joy I feel right now. Moving and then the whole breast cancer ordeal made it difficult to make friends or to keep in contact with old friends. I am also skittish – my family and I were burned so badly by a “friend” that keeping to myself seemed to make sense. I felt the lack of friends fiercely though.

God has His own timing and He led me through that lonely time. One by one old friends have been restored to me and I am so grateful. I have also been able to reach out and take the hand of a new friend.

AlaskaWoman was the first. We found each other on line and have kept up a daily sharing of our lives. We began the habit of listing each day what we were grateful for and it makes such a difference. Sitting down to look for the good in our lives improved our lives. I love AlaskaWoman for her self – the girl she was in high school and the woman she is now.

Red is my new friend. She is Caramel’s mother. Red has been so generous to me, gently helping me over my shyness and wary attitude. She is inspiring and fun. We share shopping, movies and musicals. Simply put, Red rocks!

This weekend as I sat cuddling with the Pirate and watching TV, there was a knock at the door. In walked one of my best friends ever! I had not seen Photogal in several years due to issues in her life and mine, with a whole country between us. Our hug was healing. We fell into conversation as if only days had passed. We have seen each other through some of the darkest days of our lives. I am thrilled that Photogal is on this side of the US now. It’s like a part of me has been brought back to life.

I hope that I each of these women know what a blessing they are to me. I hope I am a blessing to them also. Words are not enough to explain how I feel about these women.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Part 5

Big hospital room dimly lit. Oh hey, there is my friend. She is arguing with a nurse. Something about if they don’t leave me alone I can never rest. The nurse goes away. I go back to sleep.

I wake up and say, “Hi”. She gets me some food and I think she feeds me. Back to sleep.

I am awake now more than asleep. They give me the diabetic meal plan and I complain. They don’t change it. I am too tired to argue. My IV pole holds several large bags – they change them every few hours. Lots of antibiotics flow into my veins. I sleep.

Finally, I am better. I have walked around with the IV pole and done my duty in the bathroom. I am going home.

Home, back in bed, I break out with the mother of all yeast infections – it is everywhere! Add another med to my growing list.

Back to work and I feel shaky and out of it but I persevere. Gradually I regain my strength and my wits. A couple of weeks go by and guess what? It is time for radiation.

The nurses and technicians are very friendly and matter of fact. That helps as I lay there with my poor scarred boob out for the entire world to see. The set up takes the longest, the radiation no time at all. They give me creams and lotions to apply and say to put it on three times a day. Sure, I will just grease up at work and ruin all my clothes. NOT. I apply the lotions twice a day. My breast turns red and brownish. It is uncomfortable but not too painful. I wear my loose bra and take Advil. I am tired but not nauseated. Praise the Lord!

Soon it is over and I am free from intense medical treatment for the first time in over a year. Scary shit. If I am not seeing the doctor every week, how will I know that I am ok?

Now it has been a couple of years and I am still ok. For me, as for many others, there is Before Cancer and After Cancer. I’ve graduated to 6 month visits with my oncologist. I have what seem to be permanent hot flashes. I am fat but losing weight. Life is better. God has kept me around for some reason and I work at trying to do His will.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Part 4

What came next was chemo brain… a documented condition which leaves you in a pleasant fog but also quite the stupidest person in the room. Not so good if you are a working woman. I was very blessed in that my manager was understanding and flexible throughout my treatment. My company stood by me in this fight. I had a laptop to be able to work from home, Friday chemo day half off and compassionate coworkers.

I had a big button made for me by a friend which said “Warning - Chemo Brain”. Someone could talk to me and I would nod and understand, then as soon as they walked away I forgot what they wanted. I learned to write everything down – something I had never had to do before. Complex problems brought a blank look to my face. Figuring out simple things was a challenge. I have always had a good mind, my manager used to call me Radar from the show MASH. I was always ahead of the game. Now, sometimes I am ahead but I still have my blank faced look from time to time. It is frustrating and embarrassing. I who love words, the way they can fit together and form exquisite thoughts. I have worked hard to regain my nimble mind and for the most part am successful.

Chemo infusions were made bearable by going to the hospital with my daughter Blondie and her friend Caramel. We would chat and talk and then go somewhere good to eat. We were upbeat and sometimes too noisy. So many patients were grim, sober in their illness. I don’t blame them. My chemo did not leave me retching over the side of a bed, pouring with sweat. I had it good, if chemotherapy can ever be called “good”.

I lost some hair but not enough to be bald. Next time I will shave my head though. It will just feel better.

I finished my chemo without anything dramatic happening.

While I waited the 6 or 8 weeks to begin radiation, I did fall ill. I contracted Legionnaires Disease from the HVAC system in the old building where I worked. Healthy people who are exposed to these bacteria do not always become ill or are able to fight it off with just antibiotics.

Since I was immune compromised from the chemo, I did not fight it off. It came on very sudden. I collapsed in the ER with a 104 degree temperature. That is the last thing I remember for several days.

My husband was told that I would most likely die and to prepare for my death. My daughter Blondie had to fight me for hours to keep the oxygen mask on my face. In my delirium I saw big, nasty teeth in the mask and was sure that I was being attacked. If she couldn’t keep the mask on me the doctors would have to intubate me. Once intubated, my chances of death were increased even further. Thank the Lord above for a determined daughter. I was not intubated.

I came to awareness slowly. To this day I have just fuzzy pictures in my head for most of the time I was hospitalized.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Twenty Wishes Update

List of wishes in no particular order with plan to make them come true (if I have one yet)

1. Closer relationship with God: pray nightly with rosary

2. Write a blog that expresses my creativity and experiences: Already have a blog, now learning how to make it great

3. Rent an apartment with bedrooms for everyone and washer and dryer, dishwasher: Set up savings for first last etc.

4. Buy a home of our own

5. Collect all the family recipes from my youth and make cookbook: look through recipe box and boxes in attic

6. Rent a huge house with a fireplace at the beach for Thanksgiving and invite everyone I love

7. See my adult children launched successfully: Continue to support their endeavors

That’s all I have so far!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Part III

I could feel the chemo drugs slipping into my arm, like a cold, wet weight. The feeling traveled down to my belly and grew. My months of nausea and diarrhea began then.

At my next treatment, the veins on my arm were still elusive. I decided to have a port placed in my chest. The port was inserted during a short outpatient surgery. Although I was given twilight sleep, I felt the implantation as a tugging and pushing. I was groggily aware of the whole thing. I was not happy. I was afraid of the port and somehow certain that the surgery had been improperly done. I wanted to stay overnight for observation but that was not permitted by this particular surgeon. I don’t know now if it would have helped me or not.

I again spent days clutching an ice pack to the new surgical site. I worried and obsessed over it. Although it was checked and found to be implanted properly, it took a couple of months for me to become comfortable with it.

If I had it to do over I would still choose the port. Chemotherapy was much easier using the port. Each visit required a blood test which was easily done by accessing the port and then leaving it in place for use during the chemotherapy infusion. No more worries about finding veins.

I vomited a few times during treatment but the real bane of my existence was the nausea and diarrhea. The horrid feeling that any moment I could vomit was unrelenting. The diarrhea was persistent. I worked fulltime for 90% of my treatment and making it to the bathroom without embarrassment was an hourly trial. My oncologist gave me all the medications possible to mitigate the symptoms and for that I am very grateful. I cannot imagine the dire straits I would have been in without her help.

What came next was chemo brain…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Part II

It has felt good to get this all out. Clear out my brain for new and happier things.

I spent days with ice packs clutched to my breast. Any bump or jostle caused me pain. Accidental brushes against my husband’s arm or body were jarring and scary. I developed a bubble around myself augmented with pillows whenever possible. I still sleep with a pillow around my chest. My husband while understanding, is irritated by this. In his defense, I have been cancer free for a couple of years. I hope to let go of my bubble by this summer.

After several weeks it was time to talk with the oncologist. She is a lovely woman, knowledgeable and friendly. I felt at home with her and her staff right away. She suggested a gene test of the tissue in order to better target my breast cancer with chemotherapy. We had this done. We talked about options: chemo and radiation, just chemo, just radiation. I chose chemo and radiation – let’s kill any remaining damn cancerous cells.

The day arrived to begin chemo. There was trouble accessing my veins – it took forever and was painful. Finally the line was in and the cocktail of chemicals poured into my body. The setting was calm and welcoming despite the underlying tension and fear. The nurses brought lunch bags of food and warm blankets. Around me were women silent and women chatting and women knitting and women sleeping. No hair, wigs and close cropped heads. Cool, chic business women with high heels and briefcases, charging in to tackle this task. So many women affected by cancer - everywhere - I was stunned.

I sat in my treatment chair, wondering what would happen next.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I have heard it said “write about what you know”. I know breast cancer.

Cancer has always been a specter in my life. My mother, Betty died of colon cancer when I was 16 years old. Most of her eight siblings died of one type of cancer or the other.

One morning I woke up with pain in my right nipple. It felt like I had been nursing a baby. Not a bad pain, just noticeable. This happened for several days and so I shared it with my husband. He said, “It is probably nothing but knowing you, you’d better get it checked out. Otherwise you will obsess about it.” He was right.

I went to my doctor, he examined me, found nothing but said what my husband had said. “It is probably nothing but knowing you, you’d better get it checked out. Otherwise you will obsess about it.”

Next step was a mammogram. I brought my oldest daughter for support. I was asked twice that day for more mammogram views. Next they asked me if I would have an ultrasound done on my breast. I said “Certainly, is there something you are seeing?” The answer to that was yes, but we can’t yet tell what it may be. It is probably nothing.

Ok, suck it up. Don’t freak out yet. A fabulous woman does the ultrasound, she is careful and thorough, reassuring. Over and over she ran the cool slick liquid under and around my breast, stretching it, pushing. Finally, she stopped. She told me that there was something hidden there in the area under my breast, close to my chest wall.

The next step was a needle biopsy. They gave me the option of coming back another day… I told them that now was good for me. I took a Xanax; they waited for it to take affect and then began. I had heard that this procedure was painful. I held tight to my daughter’s hand. Outside of a slight prick I felt nothing. I did hear the loud snap of the device as it collected the breast tissue. My daughter was fascinated by the process.

They gave me some pain medicine and some tiny ice packs to fit into my bra and sent me home. They were the best, kind and gentle but honest. They told me it would be several days to find out the results. I was in shock. I now freaked out a bit… I was sure it would be cancer but held out a slim hope for a benign result.

Much of what follows is hazy, shrouded in denial and pain and confusion. Accuracy in dates is not what I have to give you. I can share my feelings and the events I recall.

The call came. It is cancer. I don’t know where I was. I think that later that day we went on the candy rounds with my nephew for Halloween.

Next was the selection of the surgeon. I had a recommendation from the breast care center. I spent time online looking and found that I was already at the best place for my care. All of my surgeries and treatment took place in the same hospital complex.

The surgeon explained all that would happen to me, my options and her recommendations. I chose a lumpectomy. In the end she took out about one-third of my right breast. Having the lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy was not particularly painful and I am a huge baby when it comes to pain.

Recovering from the lumpectomy – now that hurt badly and took far longer than I anticipated. The weather was horrid and cold and wet and our power went out several times for hours during my recovery. A very good friend visited from far away but the visit was disastrous. I had expectations that were not in anyone’s power to meet.

When breast tissue is removed, fluid races to the breast. This is partially for healing purposes. I was told that it was best for the fluid to be reabsorbed by the body. Unfortunately for me an excess of fluid built up and my breast ballooned to a very, very painful state. I went back to the surgeon’s office and my breast was drained using a needle and a suction jar. The relief was instantaneous and made me cry. This happened twice and then my breast began to heal.

More on my journey tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Writers Block

Talk about frustrating! I had no sooner started this blog than I was overcome with writers block. I can't decide what to put in and what to leave out... I searched out a resource to help me and I have been successful in finding a very good one. Blogging in Pink: A Woman's Guide

I found it here:

I am reading it now and will be back soon with my new efforts.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Twenty Wishes

I am going to let this book Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber change my life. The premise of the story is to make a list of 20 well thought out wishes and then act upon them. Seems simple but it is very powerful.

As I approach 50 years old, I see that there are things I may never have the opportunity to do. It has felt like I am on a treadmill that has no off switch. I have a good job that I enjoy with a fair wage and no one else will pay me as well in this economy. But, like so many we struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck.

So how on earth am I to wish for things that seem impossible?

First off I can put my trust in God, work at it not scaring the daylights out of me, and pray a lot. My relationship with God could use some work.

God is totally not to blame. He is there, I am not. To be where He is has been a desire of mine, so I will make that my first wish. I will have to think on how to phrase it…

I will update as I progress.

Link to Amazon with book information:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Self Improvement - Take 2

My complete lack of pictures and posting may have led some of you to believe the hair-coloring did not go well.

You would be correct in that assumption.
(That is supposing there are any of you out there)

Blondie tried very hard – it was not her fault. I picked out an all-over hair color with highlights. Too tricky for DIY. My skunk line is blurred somewhat but the highlights look just like my gray hair.

If by gray hair I mean white hair. Not blonde hair.

Just gotta laugh. No pictures until I can get it cut and fixed - At least all one color.

And by the by, the temperature here is a flip-flop melting 102 degrees. Summer here is rarely over 80 degrees.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Self Improvement

As I get older there is more upkeep required to just stay even. My natural hair is peeking out, no, blazing a skunk line down the center of my head.

It has turned drab and boring. The color on my hair is reddish littered with gray.

Not the professional hair I need for work.

My darling Pirate went out today and bought new hair color for me. I decided on it by using Now they don’t know me from Adam but they sure have a cool site.

Tonight Blondie will color my hair while we watch our favorite shows on the DVR. I am one lucky lady. If all turns out well, I might even let a picture of my head appear here!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some Snippets of Life

After my first post I got writers block or rather OMG-what-was-I-thinking. I have not written for public consumption in ages…The last time was a help file for a product that never was released.

No, the help file was *not* the reason for product failure!

I decided today to just write. I will get better as I stretch my writing muscles. And if I don’t, no one has to read it!

We are a military family now. Brownie speaks glowingly of her husband on every phone call. Our son-in-law Recruit will finish Basic in about 2 weeks and move onto his technical school. We are so proud of him! Recruit has taken on a huge challenge and met it with enthusiasm, skill and determination. Brownie had a big surprise when Recruit arranged for a beautiful bouquet to be delivered to her! I have nothing but kudos for Recruit.

Brownie has had her own challenges as well but I am very pleased with how she has coped! Living across the US from us with Recruits parents has been a bit lonely for her but she has rallied and forges ahead with plans for the future with Recruit. She is learning to be a military wife and I know she will do a fabulous job!

The weather here is hot. H O T. Makes me long for a pool. Maybe I will buy a kiddie pool… Hmm….

Friday, July 10, 2009

My first post! History in the making!

So, the other day I inherited a Sidekick Slide from Blondie. Up to this point I have used phones for :::wait for it::: making phone calls and telling time. Every text message sent to me required a tortuous 20 minutes to reply as there was no keyboard. I frequently said, “If you want to tell me something, call me!”

Now before you burn me at the stake, I will gladly admit that cell phones have brought good things to the world. Cell phones to me are a huge improvement over the yellow kitchen phone with the thirty foot phone cord I used in my youth. Hmm, as I write this I wonder, should I just say cell? Is cell phone redundant?

Anyway, as soon as I learn to stop putting callers on hold by accident and remember which end is right side up, I shall begin texting in earnest. Blondie, Brownie and Curly have no idea what is in store for them now! Picture me grinning evilly!