Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Scene

DSCN1857Double-decker bus ready to shuttle tourists down a busy London street? Nope. Renovated “coffee shop” in downtown Asheville, NC.

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My Grandma: Bi-Lingual Gang-Whisperer

If this story rings a bell, it is a remix of one of my favorite posts of all time. It fits perfectly with the daily prompt: “Born to Be With You”.

NOWHERE TO RUN

frying pan Claremont College

I remember clearly the day she chased me around her house with a frying pan waving wildly in the air and a homicidal snarl fixed on her lips. I have no doubt that she would have bashed me in the head had she caught me, and I might have been dead right there at the ripe old age of seventeen. I can see it now; a white chalk outline on her worn gold carpet, blood spatter on the aqua-colored walls.

And as the police were questioning her, she wouldn’t be crying hysterically or berating herself for losing her temper. No, she would secretly be checking to make sure that the plastic on her beloved satin couches had protected them from blood stains and wondering who in the world was going to clean up the awful mess. She hated cleaning. What was my crime? I had called her “senile”.

That was…

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Houston, We Have Mosquito Bites!

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Well, today I’ve decided I might actually live. It was touch and go there for 48 hours. I had the beginning of my breast reconstruction surgery Wednesday at 10am, during which I had tissue expanders placed under the pectoral muscles.

Apparently my veins have gone into hiding since having chemotherapy, even though I received my meds through a port in my chest. So, needless to say, starting my IV was fun. The nurse tied a tourniquet, slapped me around a little, and gave up without a fight. “I’m not even going to try. Luckily we have someone from radiology here today training us on how to start an IV with ultrasound. I’ll have him come in.” Thank God for small favors. The IV guru arrived with trainee in tow, and he decided to let her have a go at it first. Fail. He pulled the six foot needle back out and started over. I could feel my needle-phobic husband trying his hardest not to pass out in the corner. After 20 minutes or so, we had a successful stabbing.

Next, the nurse anesthetist came in to give me some medicine to “help me relax.” This always cracks me up because, for me, this translates to “see you next Tuesday.” I don’t take medication very often, so it works fast and dirty. I barely remember getting into the operating room. After that, lights out, see ya later. I woke up after what seemed to be 5 minutes in the recovery room with the nurse trying to wake me up. The surgery had actually taken about 90 minutes.

I started to get a little queasy in the recovery room, but I was given some Zofran and all was well. Until…I rode in the car. The minute I stepped in the house, I had to rush to the bathroom to be sick. I went to bed thinking that I just needed some more rest, but it wasn’t to be. My head hurt and I vomited for the next 24 hours with an empty stomach. I couldn’t even keep water down. So, needless to say, that prescription for Vicodin sat untouched on my bedside table.

My husband called the doctor, but apparently they were having a phone issue, so the answering service kept coming on. But they never paged the doctor. Eventually, by sheer luck, the office assistant called to check on me and I got a prescription for anti-nausea meds. They are addressing the phone issue today; it’s not a good idea for the doctor to be unavailable after surgery.

Anyway, when I woke up this morning and managed to get some Tylenol and caffeine on board, I felt almost human. I went to the doctor, and after he told me that my hair was a mess (he’s a piece of work!), he took the bandage off to reveal my brand new Barbie mounds. He managed to get 180 cc’s of saline in each side during surgery. Thankfully, knock on wood, I’m not having intolerable pain thus far. A friend who had this done 5 years ago said that it felt like she had ground glass under her skin every time she moved. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to that. The only thing that may get irritating is the edge of the right expander, which looks like a little unicorn horn sticking out. This should fill in when he adds more saline.

Next up, I will get my stitches out April 8, and then the filling process can begin in earnest. The doctor said that the radiated side has a lot of scar tissue and is tighter, so we may have to fill every 2 weeks to allow the skin on that side to stretch and catch up.  My husband is going for something the size of cantaloupes. I’m thinking a smaller, firmer fruit will suffice.

Oh, and please remind me the next time they ask if I’ve ever had a problem with anesthesia to shout a resounding “YES!!”

 

Today Is B-Day

No, I won’t be landing on a beach in Normandy. Well, maybe, depending on how much morphine they give me. I hope it’s warmer there…

I’ll be hurrying over to the hospital in about an hour so I can wait for two hours with some other starved and dehydrated souls before surgery. Today will be the beginning of my bionic boob journey. “We can build them better, stronger…”

My tissue expanders will be inserted today and filled with 50-100 cc’s of saline. After I’ve healed for a couple weeks, I’ll go in weekly to get a “splash n go” until my mosquito bites become navel oranges.

I woke up at about 3:30 this morning with a combination of hot flashes (which I rarely get) and nerves. I think I’m more nervous about this surgery than the double mastectomy. I’ve been feeling really good lately, and I’m not looking forward to being in pain and having to take antibiotics. I have to keep telling myself that at least there’s a better consolation prize this time around.

Well, I’m off to get ready. I’ll keep you posted.

Pizza, Cake, and a Giant Rat

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Today was my daughter’s 6th birthday celebration. For more than half her young life, she has chosen to spend her special day with a giant, buck-toothed rat. It’s really rather strange when you think about it. On any given weekend across America, hoards of children dance around this character while terrible renditions of 80’s rock blare over the speakers, their words replaced with bad rodent puns.

And the parents….poor suckers. They shell out upwards of a hundred dollars to party with the rat. What does this buy you? Some greasy pizza, an 8-inch “cake” (which is basically 2 pieces of Twinkie cut in a round shape and slathered with artificially colored cool whip), and a front-row seat for songs like “Overkill” by Men At Work. Really? That’s disturbing on at least two levels. First, what the hell kind of music is this for kids? And then there’s the whole extermination..rat…killing theme. Can you say nightmares?

Ahh, but you also get tokens. These golden coins allow you to play arcade games with the sole purpose of earning tickets. And then…you can trade the tickets in for fabulous prizes which more than justify the expense of the party. I scored some green vampire teeth and a roll of SweeTarts for a mere 237 tickets. You can’t get that at some lame house party!

Seriously though, I was thrilled to be at this party, at Chuck E Cheese or anywhere else. I can’t remember for the life of me what we did for her last birthday. It was the same week I was diagnosed with cancer, and although I felt I was handling it extremely well, the whole thing is an empty space in my brain. I plan to savor every birthday from now on, rats or no rats.

Did I mention that the have beer now at Chuck E Cheese?

Why Not Living Might Kill You

PUN OF THE DAY: I WONDERED WHY THE BALL KEPT GETTING BIGGER AND BIGGER, AND THEN IT HIT ME…

Today marks the one year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis.  On March 20th last year, I anxiously awaited my biopsy results, sore and bruised from the whirlwind of procedures I had endured the day before. My little delusions fell one by one like dominoes throughout the day. Maybe it’s not cancer. Wrong. Well, ok, maybe it’s not invasive. It is. Ok, maybe it’s not in the lymph nodes, just in the breast. Sorry. I remember when the walls finally came tumbling down and I had to call it a day. Even the most hardcore optimist has to face reality at some point.

Four months of chemotherapy and 28 radiation treatments later, I’m here, still standing, and still running. Physically, I’ve fared better than many. I have no obvious residual effects from the myriad of drugs and poisons injected into my body, other than a touch of menopause which may or may not be permanent.

I have written many times during the course of this year about the emotions that surface when one faces a serious health crisis. In some ways, breast cancer has been a good thing. It has taught me to never take anything for granted. Not time, not memories, and especially not those whom I love most in this world. It has stripped away the vanity that I used to hide behind and forced me to find more authentic ways of dealing with the world. And it has caused me to dig deeper and find more courage than I ever thought possible. Nothing will test your mettle like going out for the first time with the faintest covering of white peach fuzz barely covering a shiny, bald head.

Some people who blog about cancer talk about having lost their way and given up their identities, especially the women. I believe that there is a lot of truth in the idea that cancer is the result of stuffing down emotions and desires, of sacrificing the self in service of others. Of losing passion and giving up dreams. Eventually, the mind rebels against the oppression and demands attention, which is manifested in the body.

In that spirit, I would like you to watch the TED talk above. It’s ostensibly about failing to find passion in your career, but it hit me in the solar plexus as I listened to it. It’s really about listening to your dreams and never settling for an average life. The speaker is wonderful. He’s funny, insightful, and riveting. You’ll be reeled in after the first few seconds.

For myself, I hope and I pray that this is the first of many anniversaries to come.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

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My grandmother always used to say that she loved flying because her problems seemed to vanish as she soared above the clouds. She once flew from Miami to San Francisco and back, never stepping foot outside the cabin, just for the sheer joy of the journey. I smile when I think of her. She embraced life without fear, shooting straight from the hip and drinking in every moment with unabashed enthusiasm. I know that she’s looking down on me and wishing she could kick me in the ass. “Stop thinking about your life and get busy living it!” I’m a work in progress.