Monday, October 16, 2017

The Grossest Thing Yet

I have mentioned the lovely hematoma that developed after surgery. It stuck around, being a pain in my left breast. (I’m so clever.)

Last Monday, I noticed what looked like a blood blister on one end of my incision. It looked like a blood blister because it was a blood blister. It was yucky. I checked it daily and by Wednesday evening, I decided I’d call the doctor the next day.

I called on Thursday at 8am, and talked to the receptionist and she put me on the schedule that day for 9:30. I went about my morning at work.

At 8:45, I went to the bathroom and as I was heading back to my office, I thought, “That’s weird. I’m not hot but it feels like I’m sweating.”

I reached under my shirt (because I’m all dainty like that) and swiped at what I thought was sweat. My hand came out bloody.

I went back to the bathroom, moved my sweater aside and saw that I had a huge blood stain on my shirt. Because I was alone in the bathroom, I pulled up my shirt to see if I could see where the blood was coming from. The blood blister had not burst. I couldn’t see the source of the blood.

I decided I was not waiting until the 9:30 appointment time. I told a couple of people I was leaving and headed to the doctor, with a minor detour to Walmart to buy a shirt and bra that were not bloody. Ick.

I got to the doctor’s office about twenty-five minutes early. I showed the receptionist the blood stain on my shirt and was ushered back to an exam room immediately. Ha.

I was then informed that the surgeon was on vacation and the nurse practitioner would be in to see me in a few minutes. I was told to take off my shirt and bra and put on a gown.

It was during the disrobing that I saw the source of the blood.

My nipple. It was so gross!

The nurse practitioner showed up and did a quick exam. She noted that the blood that was seeping from my body was not old blood but new blood and so that was a cause for concern.

You think?

She told me she wanted to refer me to the surgeon who covered for Dr. B when he was out. This doctor was in the next town south of us; about a twenty five minute drive. She thought he might want to go through the original incision and take out the hematoma. It was red, warm to the touch and very hard.

She and the nurse left the room to make some calls. I was told to not put my shirt back on just in case the surgeon wanted pictures. Nice.

They came back less than ten minutes later and said I should make my way to Auburn, where Dr. J was waiting to see me. They asked me if I had someone who could drive me.

I’d called my mom while they were making their own calls. She’d mentioned a dentist appointment in town. I told them I’d call my husband and see what we could do.

I left with the name, number and address of the surgeon in Auburn.

I hadn’t made it out of the building when my phone rang. My mom was calling to say she’d cancelled her dentist appointment and she was on her way to pick me up. She’s definitely earning her Mother of the Year status.

Upon examination, the new surgeon declared that he wanted to do surgery that day. He said he wasn’t sure where the blood was coming from but it had found the path of least resistance for exit. Blech.

I was prepped for surgery, we waited and then waited some more because I’d had a honey bun and some tomato juice at 7:30 that morning since I didn’t KNOW I’d end up having freaking surgery that afternoon.

We also had to wait because I was an ‘add-on’ to the schedule and the doctor already had to do a gall bladder surgery and a bowel surgery. Shudder.

The surgery itself took about a half hour and I was home by 5:30 that afternoon.

And honestly, it feels so much better now. The hard hematoma is gone (though there is still a bit of swelling around the incision…) and I’m on the mend.

Tomorrow we’ll see if they’re willing to start chemo five days after surgery.

I will say, though, that bleeding from my freaking nipple is definitely the grossest thing I’ve experienced so far. Tom, because he’s a funny, funny guy, said I could nurse a vampire baby. Ugh.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chemo Class

I had an appointment yesterday at the cancer center where I’ll be getting chemo treatments for the next, oh, five months.

The appointment was with the nurse who will be administering the chemo. She’s very nice, seems to like her job, was incredibly kind to all the patients in the room where I meeting with her.

She went over all the side effects associated with the chemo I’ll be receiving (Adriamycin/Cytoxan for the first four treatments over eight weeks and Taxol for the last twelve treatments, for inquiring minds…)

Oddly (or not) the side effect that bothers me the most is diarrhea. I mean, yeah, we all poop but…ugh. The thought of having uncontrollable diarrhea is quite distressing.

In fact, this is on my mind way more than the more common side effect of hair loss. I don’t mind sacrificing my hair in hopes of gaining decades with my girls, husband, family and friends. Nope, the hair will grow back. And as of right now, I have no plans for getting a wig. Heck, most days, my own hair drives me crazy enough that it ends up in a ponytail about two hours after my morning shower, whether I blew it dry or not. So, no wig, unless it comes pre-ponytailed.

Now, logically, I know that the embarrassment of pooping my pants during a bout of diarrhea will fade but it just sounds so very awful. I also know there are meds I can take which should minimalize the duration and severity of diarrhea. I just keep thinking about having to go during the twenty minute drive home from work where there are cornfields and, well, more cornfields. Unless I decide to put a spare roll of toilet paper and some wipes in my car, I don’t think I’ll be pooping in any cornfields. Those leaves are pretty rough.

I know that poop can be cleaned up but ick. It’s just all so gross and demeaning.

Alas…if it happens, it happens. The only way to get to the end of treatment is to go through it. Baldness, poop and all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Toothy Tale

Olivia had an appointment with her dentist last week for a cleaning. This led to another appointment in November for a couple of fillings. Yes, we do brush her teeth, yes, she uses a fluoride rinse and still…cavities.

She also has a tooth that’s been lose FOREVER, so long, in fact, that the permanent tooth is coming in BEHIND the one that won’t fall out.

See this chart?

It’s the tooth on the bottom left that has a number 8 on it that’s being stupid and not falling out to make room for the permanent tooth. The baby tooth has just sort of fallen over and refuses to move.

Last night when I got home from work, she informed me that a new tooth was loose. The newly loose tooth was the one right behind the insane one, the one with the number 6 on it on that chart above.

This tooth had already been crowned at one point in O’s long-lasting relationship with her dentist. She pushed it a bit to show me that it was loose and we went about her evening routine of me yelling at her to write her spelling her words, her yelling at me that she IS writing them and then me hissing at her to prove it and write the stupid words!

Ahem. That was a bit of a derailment. Sorry.

Since it was Monday, we headed to my mom’s. Alyssa plopped herself in front of the television to watch the season premiere of season 4 of Z Nation. I sat at the kitchen table with my mom and one of her sisters.

Olivia stayed with us and ate some strawberry shortcake and complain about her newly loose tooth. She showed it to my mom. My mom wiggled the tooth a little for Liv, made it bleed, grossing Livie out when she (Mom) showed Liv the blood.

Olivia insisted on rinsing her mouth out and then, five minutes later, she handed me her silver tooth. Ick.

She showed my mom the space where the tooth had been and a bright white new tooth was already right there, ready to take the crowned ones place.

She was so excited to go home and show her dad and to put that tooth under her pillow for the tooth fairy. She woke up at five this morning looking for the baggy her tooth had been in.

The tooth had been replaced by cash and a note from the tooth fairy.

Bless my sweet girl, she loves those notes from the tooth fairy more than she cares about the money. She didn’t even count it. She tossed the $4 on the counter and unfolded the note, scanning it and then looking up at me in wonder was she read the note.

I love Olivia’s imagination. I love that she believes in magic and the tooth fairy and even if she is a little skeptical, she wants so badly to believe that I let her.

She’s still got eleven baby teeth to lose…yikes and yes, gross. But I will write those notes for the next eleven if I get to see that look of joy and awe on her face each time she reads one.

Oh yes, by the way, having eleven baby teeth to lose at almost eleven years old means she’s dentally delayed. Alas, she and her sister got that awesomeness from me. I was always severely dentally delayed. Whatever. At 46, who cares, right? And now that Lyss is 14 and about to be relieved of her braces, she doesn’t care either.

Here’s to going broke all in the name of the tooth fairy!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Apple Fest

On Saturday on our way to the grocery store, my mom invited me and the girls to join her in a visit to a nearby town that was having its annual Apple Fest.

It sounded like fun so the girls and I said, “Let’s do it!” and plans were set.

When we got home that afternoon, I informed Tom of our Sunday plans and he mildly wondered at the last-minuteness of it all.

I thought about it for a few seconds and then mused, “Well, you know, I probably only have two more good weekends before things start going downhill again. I mean, I start chemo in nine days and who knows how it’s going to affect me? So we have this weekend and next. And since the weather is so beautiful, why not?”

He wasn’t actually looking for a reason not for us to go, he just worried about me tiring myself out. But I’m feeling so much better today and even last Monday and I wanted to enjoy the time with my mom and my girls.

It was CROWDED. I swear, there were more people there than are usually at Cedar Point on a Tuesday in the middle of summer. But like I said, the weather was great and it was a festival in October, why not be out and about?

The bees were out in full force too.

We shopped the booths (I bought a jar of ‘smelly jelly’ that is scented with lavender, I’m putting it by my bed.) We looked at awesome slouch hats that my mom thinks she can make for me once my hair falls out.

We watched a forty-five minute musical show with high school students that was amusing (at times) and about three songs too long.

Alyssa got a wooden ‘flute’. It’s a recorder and she told us no fewer than five times how much she HATES it when people call recorders flutes. Ha. Poor misunderstood flute player.

Olivia got a mermaid necklace that she immediately put on and declared that whenever she wears the necklace, she’s a mermaid and when she takes it off, she becomes human again.

Alyssa told her that doesn’t make sense since she was walking around on her TWO FEET while wearing the necklace.

I told the teenager to give the ten year old a break and stopped to buy some caramel corn.

Unfortunately for me, the long-ass line for the caramel corn was not worth it because the caramel was slightly scorched. Just enough to make it less delicious than it might have been had it NOT been burned. Though on the bright side, I bonded with a mom of three who was in line behind me for the caramel corn. Her kids were probably six, five and three. And they were driving her crazy with their tussling. I turned around when she told them to stop acting like hooligans.

I told her, “I have to remind my two to stop being lunatics on an almost constant basis.”

She laughed and said, “I just want them to pretend I’m a good mom while we’re in public.”

I commiserated with her. “I tell mine all the time to stop making me be mean to them.”

Anyway, for all the downs there were way more ups and I’m so, so glad we went. Even though Olivia complained about 80% of the time and Alyssa complained the other 20%.

I did inform them as we walked the fifty-two miles to the car (did I mention that it seemed like the entire population of Chicago descended upon Kendallville yesterday?) that next year, Gram and I are going along.

They both argued vehemently that they did NOT complain that much and why would we punish them so much as to make them stay home with their Dad?

As much as I love those two, I admit to doing a lot of eye rolling when they’re not looking.

But hey, yay apples.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Homecoming - Freshman Edition

Alyssa is taking in all the fun that is high school. I’m pretty sure she’s enjoying marching band even if there is the occasional grumble about football games and uniforms and ‘dinkles’ (the UGLY white shoes the band members wear when they’re marching.)

She decided pretty early on that she was definitely going to the homecoming dance and managed to convince most of her friends to go with her as a group. There were probably five girls who met outside the school last Saturday night.

A few weeks before the dance, I asked her what dress she was going to wear.

She said she didn’t know.

We looked at her current dress collection and she told me that the pictures her friends were sending her were much more fancy than anything she had in her closet.

So…we had to go shopping.

Unfortunately for me, she didn’t decide that none of her ‘non-sparkly’ dresses would do before I had my surgery.

So eleven days after surgery, my mom drove us to town and we started looking for dresses.

I declared that I absolutely was not up to going to Fort Wayne and tackling the mall. I was still in some pain and the bruising and swelling on my left side were still very much in attendance.

We started Kohl’s. There was nothing there that even came close.

Alyssa didn’t know exactly what she was looking for but she knew Kohl’s didn’t have it.

We decided to leave the tiny town of Angola and headed to the similar sized Cold Water, Michigan, only about a twenty minute drive north.

We went into Younkers, a store similar to Kohl’s and yep, their stock was similar too. Nothing in the line of sparkly semi-formal dresses for the teenage set.

As we drove away from Younkers, I saw another shop tucked away a few door down. It was called Sassy’s Closet. I know, very cutesy, but we decided, what the hell, let’s stop and see what it’s all about.

It was a consignment store. There were a bazillion dresses in that store, all probably worn once and then given away/sold to Sassy for resale.

We hit the jackpot!

This adorable little dress right here?


I know!

It fit her perfectly, she felt beautiful in it and finding it meant I could be done shopping. Win, win, win!

The afternoon of the dance, Lyss let me curl her hair and put a loose Dutch braid in at the top, pulling back her shorter layers.

Then she did her makeup and nails, put on a necklace and bracelet.

We discussed shoes for all of five seconds, at the end of which she told me tersely, “Mom. I’m not wearing heals.”

Okay, fine. Whatever. Be smart and save your feet the torture.

The dance started at 8pm. We left the house at about 7:15 to meet some of Alyssa’s friends at the park to take pictures. Everyone was so lovely and sparkly.

She reported that the dance was a lot of fun. Apparently, a senior with a stuffed monkey who waited outside with Lyss and three friends for a fourth (fifth?) friend to arrive paid for all their tickets. Now that’s a big spender. His date was already inside waiting for him. Alyssa declared she was going to pay him back for her ticket.

After the dance, Lyss spent the night with her friend Amelia, which meant I didn’t have to stay up late and wait for her to call me to go get her. That’s another big win in my post-operative book.

I love that she’s getting to have these experiences, that she’s embracing everything that’s coming her way. I love that she’s got really good friends, does well in school for the sake of doing well and is still sometimes very much my little girl.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

In All Fairness - Doctors Are Human Too

Each time I’ve told the story of my diagnosis, from the day I mentioned my breast pain to my family doctor to the day I went to my gynecologist, I feel kind of bad for my family doctor.

Having recently returned to work, everyone was kind and welcomed me back, telling me how great I look (I still have hair…for now) and how great it is to have me back.

One particular co-worker who happens to also be a patient of my family doctor, Dr. T, asked me, “Aren’t you so mad at Dr. T?”

I thought about it.

I realized that in the telling of my story, I’m putting him in a bad light. I mean, I usually say something like, “Back in late June, I was at my family doctor’s office and mentioned the pain in my left breast. He felt around a bit, through my shirt and bra, declared he didn’t feel anything, said that I’d had a clear mammogram in April and told me we’d just have to see if the pain went away on its own.”

That sounds bad. That sounds almost negligent.

But it’s also not fair to Dr. T.

When my co-worker asked me if I was mad at him, I realized that no, I’m not mad at him.

See, I was there that day to talk about pain in my stupid left foot. I mentioned the pain in my breast (again left side…hmmmm?) almost as an afterthought, just before he walked out of the room.

When I went back to my gynecologist a few weeks later, I was there specifically for the pain in my left breast. It was not an afterthought, it was not a, “Hey, by the way, while I’m here…” moment.

My gynecologist, Dr. W, took me more seriously than Dr. W because I was taking myself more seriously this time. And let’s be honest, gynecologists do tend to understand women’s health/bodies better than your average general practitioners.

And heck, my stupid tumor was so deep that the radiologist who came in to insert the wire that would guide my surgeon in removing the tumor couldn’t even find it at first. I told him he had to push really hard to see it. Dr. W has very large, strong hands and had to push really hard to feel ‘thickening’. Even he never actually felt the tumor. He just didn’t like the feeling of the thickening which is why he sent me for the ultrasound the very next day.

I really can’t blame Dr. T for not feeling that thickening several weeks before Dr. W did, especially when he was trying to feel it through several layers of fabric.

We all do the best we can, even doctors.

I was VERY lucky. I was persistent (because my pain was persistent and wouldn’t be ignored) and I followed my instinct when it was screaming at me that something was wrong. I went from Dr. T to Dr. W not because I thought Dr. T was incompetent, but because I thought Dr. W might have more experience with this sort of thing and in the end, I was right.

And again, I was so, so lucky that we found the cancer so early that it’s still stage 1 and hasn’t moved beyond that one very deep and yet very painful self-contained tumor.

I’ve had such amazing medical care in the wake of my diagnosis that I can’t find it in myself to be angry at one doctor who was probably very busy, might have been distracted and who’d been kind of blindsided by the mention of pain when I wasn’t even there to discuss that particular pain.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Once Again - My Hero

Today is our anniversary. Tom and I got married (maddied? MADDIED!!) fourteen years ago today. We stood in front of our closest family and friends and promised to love one and other in sickness and in health and blah blah blah.

And here we are, fourteen years later, loving each other in sickness.

Can I just say how amazing this guy has been these past six weeks since we got my diagnosis? He has been a rock; a laundry washing, dinner cooking, dishes doing, yard working rock. He’s continued to do everything he already did around the house and yard and has taken on about 90% of what I once did around the house. (Please note I didn’t add the word yard to my own sentence. I’ve never been one to do much yard work in our 14 years of marriage. Please don’t judge me too harshly.)

The first few days after my surgery he was very much on top of making sure I took my pain meds. By Friday, when I’d decided I wasn’t taking the prescription pills anymore because they made me feel worse than the pain of surgery, he respected my decision and just continued to offer food and a constantly full pitcher of water.

Each time I’d wake from a snooze, he’d be nearby, asking if I needed anything.

There were a few times I’d wake up from a nap in the recliner and find Tom on the couch, snoozing too. I find something comforting in the fact that he wanted to be near me even while I slept the morning away.

He’s gone to doctor’s appointments with me and waited over an hour for a fifteen minute appointment. This is a guy who HATES waiting for other people to deign to present themselves to you. He’s done this because even though he hates waiting, he doesn’t want me to have to wait alone. He waited in the hospital through two surgeries and endured countless visits with my dad because, well, he wanted to be there for me.

While getting a cancer diagnosis sucks, I feel so lucky to have this guy by my side as I face treatment. He’s being strong when I can’t. He’s making dinner when I need to rest. He’s paying the bills while I sit on my butt and heal. He’s loving me through it all and I can’t possibly ask for more than that.

And we have all the faith in the world that this is a blip in our lives and we’ll find our way back to loving each other in health instead of in sickness.