Why I’m the better man than you.

And “you” know who you are. I’ve known you since I was 18, my husband since he was 5. You were in my wedding. We have many friends in common. When my husband died I heard nothing from you. Nada. Nor did his children, the oldest, btw, who you knew since birth. You were still stinging, apparently, from a class reunion during which he mentioned your high school nickname. A nickname that everyone knew. He may have gone overboard with a riff worthy of Robin Williams – may he rest in peace – (and believe me, he heard about it when we got home), but you and I both know he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was mortified that you were hurt and tried over and over to make amends. You, on the other hand, have always been on the spiteful side. As anyone who has ever worked for or dated you can attest.

A few months ago I was helping my good friend with her catering business and I happened to work the Chamber luncheon. You walked in, took one look at me, and walked away. I was the invisible help. Whatever.

Tonight you tried to ignore me again and it worked until you were on your way past us a second time and my mom spoke up. You couldn’t ignore her. Then, you looked me in the face, feigned surprise and said “oh yeah. Sue”. Really? wtf was that? oh yeah? STILL not a mention of my loss, no inquiry of the children, my mother in law? me? You did see fit to share that you are “happy” and “actually had a good round of golf today”, to which I did not reply “fuck you”. So. I am the better man.

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What are the odds?

I’ve never been much of a gambler, other than the occasional scratch or powerball ticket.  No interest in casinos.. all the lights and smoke and noise .. bah. I used to joke that I used up all my luck in high school anyway.  I don’t put a lot of faith in karma, fate, etc etc. Life is just what is.  Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it sucks but it’s the same for all of us.

I’ve been thinking a lot about odds lately though.  For instance.. what were the odds that my sister would die while I was undergoing cancer treatment? Probably not that high, but she did.  Afterwards I kept after my husband that we needed to update our wills, put our affairs in order “because you never know”.  But really, what were the odds it would happen twice in one family?  Apparently pretty  high since he died less than a year after she did.

What were the odds that a lump that was not there in the morning and actually clearly visible in the evening could be anything but a cyst?  It was cancer.  What were the odds it could happen again?  Greater than I thought.  Yes, cancer has struck my house again. This time it’s my dog.

Comet

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Comet came to us 11 years ago as the result of a bet with a 13 year old soccer player and her extremely warped coaches.  My daughter played on a travel team in a defensive role. Not really in a position to score.  She had been asking for a dog. Clearly we were not dog people. We were cat people.  Dogs were expensive and smelly and just a lot of work in general.   On our way to a tournament one weekend I said if she scored she could have a dog.  She didn’t believe me. Her father backed me up.  What were the odds she’d score?  They got significantly higher when she told her teammates and coaches about our bet.  Early on in the game we noticed a disturbing trend.  The whole team was feeding her the ball.  She not only scored, she got a hat trick.  We were the only parents not cheering. Actually there may have been some unsportsmanlike language from the vicinity of our canvas seats on the side line.

Well a bet is a bet and a promise is a promise, so I went to the local humane society with my list of conditions.  From my daughter the dog had to be black and white (like a soccer ball).  My husband wanted a male and it had to be at least a year old, no puppy.  I said it had to have blue eyes.  The odds of finding a dog that fit all that criteria were pretty low, right?  First trip to the shelter, 3rd cage to the right in the big dogs room there he was, bouncing up and down like a demented Tigger on crack.   Shit.  Wait, but what’s this? Oh.. he’s been adopted. Too bad.  Feeling certain it would never happen I told the staff to let me know if his adoption fell through and no, thank you. I don’t want to look at the other dogs. He’s the only one that I was interested in.  Two days later I got a call.  His new owner had returned him.  Sigh

So I went and got him and I’d like to say it was a perfect match and he was a great dog.  He was a dick. From day one.  The first thing he did was take a dump on my bedroom floor. Then he decided the recliner would work very nicely as his command central.  He would run away constantly. You’d see him hauling ass up the road, down by the river, running victory laps around the house. I started lying when neighbors would call to report a sighting. I’d tell them it couldn’t be my dog. My dog was right here.  There were times he was so bad I would cry because I didn’t think we could keep him but I knew he wasn’t likely to be given too many more chances.  I understood we were the third attempt.  On the advice of the staff at the humane society I bought a crate. I felt bad putting a full grown dog in a crate but after a while  he got used to it and would put himself in time out.  He hung out with me in my office. He was starting to grow on me.

After a time we couldn’t imagine not having him in our family. For the cost of some kibble, chew bones and a comfortable bed he has been a constant source of amusement.  He is terrified of cats, thunder, fireworks and the sounds of gunfire. He has a fondness for UPS brown. He barks like he wants to rip your throat out when you drive into my dooryard, but if you come in the house, invited or not, you are  his best friend and he will offer to show you where the best snacks are kept. He loves to ride in the car, even though 99% of his car rides end at the vet’s or kennel.  He has never put the two together.  If you put an item of clothing on him, he freezes and will not move until you take it off.  He doesn’t run away   anymore, but if he finds himself loose he will do one quick lap around the house and then throw himself at the door to be let back in.  When my husband died, he gave up his comfy bed and started sleeping across my bedroom doorway. He seemed to sense I needed him there.  My new bedtime routine is to move his bed from it’s usual spot in my office to outside my bedroom.  We sleep in a row with my little dog, Clover,  in her spot near the bed.

Comet’s tumor was found much like mine.  Not there one day and hard to ignore the next.  My long time veterinary clinic would not see him though I begged. I was leaving for Texas in a few days and he was to be boarded. While I understand a lump is not an emergency, I am a cancer survivor.  We don’t ignore lumps.  When I returned from Texas I made an appointment with a new clinic and they have been wonderful.  Sure this was just a fatty tumor, they biopsied it and got concerning results.  Surgery revealed a much larger mass than suspected and they could not get it all without causing muscle and nerve damage.   Pathology report came in yesterday and it is, indeed, cancer.  Good news, it is not the kind that metastasizes normally. Bad news, they did not get it all so it will likely grow back.  I’m taking a wait and see approach and for the moment he is doing great.  He had his stitches out today and carried on like they were killing him. Such a drama king.

While history tells me the odds are not usually in my favor, they have been in his and I’m betting on him to be around for a few years to come.

Don’t ask

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Oh, I don’t mean you. You can ask me anything.  Don’t Ask is the red banner I imagine has been placed prominently across my medical file and/or employment files at my local hospital.  I had my 6 month check with Oncology yesterday and all is well on the cancer front, though apparently I am working on an ulcer. Maybe.  Or more likely my body is just reacting to the absolute clusterfuck my life has been for the past 18 months or so.   While discussing the possible causes of the stomach pain I’ve been having (yes.. I “went there” and anyone with a past diagnosis of cancer knows exactly where “there” is) and how I’m not sleeping much these days, I mentioned my husband had recently passed away.  It was exactly a year ago since she asked how my summer was going and I reported that my sister had just unexpectedly passed away.   Her face.  I almost felt sorry for her.    I was told I am doing “remarkably well” whatever that means.  Am I supposed to open a vein every time I tell someone new?  Wear widow’s weeds?  Image

As I was leaving she mentioned again how remarkably well I seem.  I told her I had no choice and she said “you can always crumble”.  I told her “not yet”.  Besides I got shit to do. I’ll schedule a break down for another time, thank you.

Last week I had a job interview.  The first step was a telephone interview with all of those ridiculous getting to know you questions.  Then I got to do it again face to face.  Things were going well until the interviewer asked “what is the biggest personal challenge you have had to face in the past year and how did you handle it?”  So, I told her.  Tissues all around.  This could go either way.. a pity hire or a big red banner across my file that says. Don’t Ask!   I’m okay with either.

I used the kitty graphic because those crazy eyes are exactly how I feel these days but the graphic below speaks to me.  I hope it speaks to you too.

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Hypochondria.. another fun side effect of cancer

hypochondriac

So, I’m done with cancer, but is cancer done with me?  On Thanksgiving night I pulled an abdominal muscle.  The pain went all the way through to my back. I knew I pulled a muscle. I felt it.   For the next 10 days I would feel the pain if I stretched or turned the wrong way. It would sometimes be worse in my upper abdomen, sometimes in my back or rib cage.  It would stop me in my tracks at times and a deep breath could bring me to tears. There’s not a whole lot that can be done for a pulled muscle so I never tried to get in to see my doctor.  I just suffered silently (ha!!).    Okay in the interest of full disclosure I may or may not have mentioned to my family that I should probably go to the ER, if I screamed suddenly they should just ignore me, and that I likely had a few cracked ribs, but I’d probably be okay.   They got off easy… I was treating myself to much more dire internal commentary.  What was that tearing feeling?  An abdominal aneurysm?  Wait.. is my liver enlarged?  If I do have a cracked rib.. why?  Bone mets?  Am I being paranoid?  Wouldn’t a brain lesion cause paranoia?  I also was sure I had gall bladder disease and maybe biliary colic (what’s biliary colic?.. I have no idea but it sounds impressive).

As of  today, I think I will probably pull through. I can only feel the pain if I force it.  I’m sure I’ll pull another muscle with all these crazy contortions I’m putting myself through to see if I can reproduce the pain proving it was indeed a pulled muscle versus needing immediate surgery for some kind of internal injury.

p.s.. hypochondria is a recognized medical condition.  So I’m only a little crazy.

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Waiting to exhale

I finally got the call back from my mammogram. This wasn’t just any mammogram.. it was the first one post diagnosis.  I don’t recall ever having to wait more than a week for results before.  Usually my doctor would call in a day or two to say all is well (or not..in the case of last year’s) and then I would get the generic pink form letter from radiology confirming.  I knew that my doctor(s) got the results a week ago. Still, I hadn’t heard a peep from anyone.  I called the cancer center yesterday and left a message which was finally returned this morning.  All clear.  I was too happy to ask if it was common practice to make a breast cancer patient wait for results of her mammogram.  I know they are read the day of the test or the next day at the very latest.

No one on my team of medical experts has used  the words “cancer free” yet. Or even “no evidence of disease”.   Since these are the same people who had no problem making me hold my breath for over a week I’m going to assume they just don’t see the value in putting cancer patient’s minds at ease, so I’ll say it. Cancer Free!  

Just a quick post from sunny Texas!

Here on vacation with the boy and his missus who are awesome hosts as always.   The weather has been gorgeous! I was worried that my chemopause would make the heat unbearable but that hasn’t been the case.  It was only really hot one day and by evening was beautiful.  Apparently there is a Nor’Easter brewing at home. So sorry to be missing it.

I dutifully wore the compression sleeve while flying and had no problems at all. Maybe I wouldn’t have anyway, but why risk it? I’ll wear it on the flight home as well.

I am now able to cross one more thing off my bucket list. I got my tattoo on 6th Street in Austin on Monday.  I used a very scientific method to choose the parlor/artist. I picked the building with the friendliest looking storefront.  It was amazingly clean and bright.  I’m not sure what I expected but I felt like the whole process was more sterile than my medical treatment at times. The artist, David, was covered in tattoos and piercings (of course) as was the rest of the staff.  He was great, explaining every step, offering to stop if it hurt too much, and fast!  He sent me off with better skin care instructions than my radiation oncologist. Go figure! Just goes to show you should never judge someone by their choice of body art.  If you are ever in the Austin area, looking to get some ink (doesn’t that sound badass?) visit Affinity Tattoo and ask for David.  He won’t even question the fact that you are a 50 year old conservatively dressed woman with her husband and son along for support getting your first tat. No judgment.

p.s. it really didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel good, mind you, but I wouldn’t call it painful.  Maybe biopsies and endless needle sticks have desensitized me to pain or maybe I was just too excited to be getting the tattoo but it wasn’t bad at all!

As for the rest of the bucket list.. I’m working on it and while my bucket list isn’t all that long, my fuckit list grows daily.

Check out the chemo curls!  Still not long enough in the front to cut and style, but it’s getting there!

I went with the forget-me-nots. The skin looks angry and red, but that didn’t last long at all and it looks great now! Didn’t he do a great job?