Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's official

I am deformed. The way I stand and walk indicates it, but the X-rays confirm it. I have a deformity of the tibia, at the ankle, rare to North Americans, but more common in Asians. (Mom, is there something you haven't told me?)

I do like India a lot. And I love Indian food. And I love Chinese food. And Thai food. Hey. Hey!?

So, my ankle doc (among the best in Chicago and that would be confirmed by the fact that I had an 11:20 appointment today and saw him for 2.5 minutes at about 2) says I'm deformed, and, on top of that, I have arthritis. To fix my deformity, he would need to lift up my ankles on the outsides with a piece of bone from my hip. He's done it a lot; it's called valgus distal tibial osteotomy, but all I can find on the Web about it is written in doctor speak. And that is not my language.

Anybody ever heard of it? Had it? Want to share about it?

Really, this only confirms that my body parts are nothing more than a warped jigsaw puzzle. (See the post about Mr. Potato Head.) Now if I were older, my treatment would be a snap. Fuse the ankles; walk like a Penguin. But heck, I walk like a Penguin now. Ask Bob. My adoring husband who frequently makes fun of my walk (OK, and I his, but what's his excuse?). Now he will need to find a politically correct name for duck-like walk.

Because it's official. I'm deformed. And you can't call anything by it's real name.

(And the good news: my CEA levels are still normal. Not so sure about my DNA, though.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

O Ye Jigs & Juleps! Sacraments

I'm going to read the book O Ye Jigs & Juleps! that Kate gave me for my birthday. In this installment, I read the first chapter, Sacraments. The book is said to be written by 10-year-old Virginia Cary Hudson. According to the book flap, Virginia was 10 in 1904 when she wrote the essays for a "very understanding teacher" in her Episcopal boarding school. The chapters include Sacraments, Etiquette at Church, Gardening, Education, Everlasting Life, Spring, The Library, Personal Appearance, An Afternoon's Stroll, China and Religion.

Because the book is believed to be written by a Southerner, a Southerner should surely read it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Catching up

Tomorrow is my birthday! And really nobody has noticed. I mention it over and over and do get a few takers. Like Kate, my co-worker, who gave me one of her prized possessions, a book: O Ye Jigs & Juleps! by Virginia Cary Hudson, supposedly written in 1904 by a 10-year-old. I have my doubts. But it is still fun. Stay tuned for more later on the book.

Audrey rushed out and bought me a bottle of wine yesterday, which I surely appreciate. And will duly drink this weekend. Bob has something up his sleeve because he has suffered the consequences of ignoring my birthday already. Not a peep from my mom, who usually sends me a card a week in advance. Or my older sister, who never sends her cards on time. Or my younger sister, who I know loves me. Or my two brothers, one who used to send everybody cards but got tired of not getting cards in return, so it's understandable, and another who has bigger fish to fry with kids, grandkids, trips, cabins, and on and on.

I would like to point you to my birthday two years ago when my life was hanging in the limbs, and then to last year, which should have alerted me to what was to come.

But I am not bitter. I would rather be ignored than taking a dirt nap (as Val at work's father calls it).

And this is my quick whiny post and now I have other things to do. I hope you have a great day.

(I was going to catch you up on all I had been doing but I got lost in my own misery.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Livering it up

I walked in the the oncologist office today feeling plump, healthy, and happy. The miniature Asian nurse (who takes my vitals, including weight) and I talk about my fat. "Do you exercise?" she asks. "Yes, almost every day." "Do you eat ice cream late at night?" she asks. "Rarely; almost never" (Bob finishes it off before I can get to it). "I do sneak a Bit o' Honey or two" (probably why I have no teeth). "Do you eat pasta?" she asks. Guilty. I'm a carb freak.

"Well, it gets harder as we get older," she proclaims. So within five minutes of my visit, she has called me fat and old. But I forgive her because she's adorable.

The doctor, also miniature, comes in. He's an old grouch, but I think he likes me so he smiles occasionally in my presence. "How do you feel?" he asks. "Terrific!" I answer truthfully. "Except that your nurse just called me fat and old."

He ignores this. As he does most things I say. Pity too because I try so hard.

Then I ask him if a lot of his patients die. "Some do. Some don't," he says. (That ole rascal, such an encourager.)

"But you're doing good," he says. I dismiss the compliment. Really, I'm not doing anything. Just staying alive.

Then I ask him some question about cancer returning, etc., etc. The fear all cancer patients live with, at least in the backs of their minds. I feel so good right now, though, the question was really just a flippant, "How 'bout those Sox?"-type question. Nothing serious.

Then he lays it on me. "Well, you've only got two and a half more years before you're clear. Most cancers return by four and a half, five years." I know this, of course, but still, I was thinking I was already in the clear. Not really, but sort of. And I can't help but remember Leroy Sievers who died recently. He had colon cancer, was fine four years, then got brain cancer.

But my doc says, colon cancer, if it comes back, most likely shows up in the liver, which is, I think, the organ that removes all toxins. And wine, I believe, is a toxin.

Or is it? Could it be, a preservative? I should probably find out before the weekend starts.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dear Nora Ephron

I finally read your book about women and aging, I Feel Bad About My Neck. It's really about you and aging, but that's OK, you have the best perspective. Truth be told, I listened to it. Because I commute to work in the stressful city of Chicago about an hour each day. And I go to the gym. So I have time to listen to books while I'm doing other things.
I laughed out loud a few times; it's been a week or more, so I can't remember exactly what made me laugh. Since then, I've re-"read" the first in the series Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope. And started on Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. And that, by the way, is thanks to you. I frantically scribbled down some of your favorite books when you talked in your book about how you can lose yourself in books. I was actually surprised that Wilkie Collins was a real person. That doesn't speak well of me I guess, but I thought he was fictional. I finished "reading" a long, long book by Dan Simmons called Drood (I picked that up after "reading" Charles Dickens unfinished book The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and Wilkie Collins was the narrator. But I thought, since Drood is a new book, he was fictional. Wilkie even talked about his book, Woman in White, all through Drood. But for some reason, it didn't hit me that it was a real book and he was a real person.
When you said you loved it, I decided to find it on audio book. It wasn't easy, as it is not available at my local library and I do not want to actually buy audio books. But I found it on Librivox, which offers free audio books in the public domain. I figured if I found you funny, then I would like the books you suggested. The other books you liked which I plan to look into are The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, the collected works of Raymond Chandler, John le Carre's Smiley's People (maybe, I'm not big on spy books) and the one you adored The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.
So, I want to thank you for giving me ideas about books to read. I'm always in search.
But I do have a bone to pick with you. You are in your mid 60s and say you weigh 126 pounds. How is that possible? Are you short? Say, 4'6" or thereabouts. Don't you know that women get fat in menopause? I have finally come to accept that I'm not going to lose weight unless I eat about 1,000 calories a day, and I do not want to do that. Chicago may be the most stressful city in America, but it also has the best food.
My question to you is, Did you get liposuction? You must have. God knows, you have the money. But the whole point of your book, I thought, was to live with the cards aging hands you. You claim (I'm pretty sure) that you didn't want to have a face lift because you didn't want to look like stretched leather. You would have liked a neck lift, but you would have had to get a face lift to get a neck lift and you didn't want that. Liposuction seems unhealthy or at least risky. But if you weigh 126, you got it.
You feel bad about your neck?? I feel really bad about my stomach.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I've discovered I'm just a bunch of parts

Sometime, say in your late 40s, you discover you are made of parts. No longer do you consider your body as one whole piece, like Gumby (but graceful). No, you are more like Mr. Potato Head. With lots of different parts that fracture and break. If you have good health insurance, these parts are replaceable, as are Mr. Potato Head's.

Before 40, more likely in your 20s, you glided. Up stairs, down stairs, through halls and rooms full of other 20-year-olds. You flaunted your wholeness, especially to your elders (the 40 year olds). You felt no pain, no soreness. In the morning, you leaped from the bed and into the shower. And you never had to dry between the rolls of fat.

But, then, as you entered your 40s, and more likely toward the end of those years, parts of your body began to revolt. Your knee would hurt one day, your shoulder another. But they traded off. Never did they attack you on the same day. They still respected your youth.

Then comes your 50s. And the pains begin to orchestrate. They stop being polite, one bowing to the other. They all tune up at once: the knees, the ankles, the shoulders, the back, even the thumbs. The glide you once possessed is now a lumber. You grunt when you stand. Getting up from bed is more of a roll and tumble, then a slow unfurling as you limp toward the bathroom. Toweling off after a shower takes soooo much longer.

I am not in my 60s. Or even close. Bob is, and he's doing mostly OK. I do wonder what the 70s and 80s will bring or, I guess I should say, take away.

By then, I suppose I'll be fragile and easily toppled. Like Legos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For the Bible tells me so

What do I know about health care reform? Not much. Probably about as much as the average American citizen. I know what my gut tells me (you could even say my heart), and that is that every U.S. citizen should have access to health care. I know that's controversial; and I know if universal health care is realized, it's going to cost me in taxes. But I also know that Jesus did not discriminate when he healed people; often they were poor, blind, a little crazy, and of a different cultural background or race. And he never once asked for an insurance card, though he did require faith.

Two years ago, I went to the doctor's office to have my routine colonoscopy. I turned 50, and I was doing what my doctor told me to do. The exam revealed I had a golf-ball size tumor. Two weeks later, I was in surgery getting seven inches of my descending colon removed. A month after that, I began a six-month regimen of chemotherapy because my tumor was at Stage III; the cancer had seeped into my lymph nodes.

OK, say I lost my job (it's been heard of in this country) and I had no health care. (In reality, I am offered excellent health care through Women of the ELCA.) I would not have known I had cancer until it was far too late because I would not have had a doctor telling me it was time for my colonoscopy. I would have waited until I was doubled over in pain, and then I would have gone to the emergency ward where the hospital would have to treat me at great expense. The financial administrators could try to force me to pay; I could go into deep debt, mortgaging my house, selling my car, forking over my children's college tuition if I had any saved. But in the end, when I just couldn't come up with the $100,000 for surgery and the $22,000 a month for chemotherapy, the hospital is going to pass the expense onto those with insurance. And they are going to pay the bills of the uninsured through higher deductibles or reduced health benefits.

Sen. Teddy Kennedy of Massachusettes, who is wealthy as we all know, wrote a recent Newsweek article about how he has been fighting for universal health care since the 60s. Battling a malignant brain tumor, Kennedy acknowledges that he enjoys the best medical care money and health insurance can buy, but he believes it should be open to everybody. "Quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to," he writes in the article.

We, those of us with insurance now, are going to pay anyway. Why not pay up front? The Christian way?

For the Bible tells me so.

(This blog was first posted on the Women of the ELCA blog site.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boo hiss on the blahs

I'm restless. I feel like my life is sitting at a stop light as all other traffic moves around me, rushing and swerving and turning. Going someplace.

It's the end of July and what have I done of consequence this summer? This year? Last year? In 2007, I survived. And I guess, in a sense, I continue to do so. But why do I feel so inert? Is it menopause?

Does menopause manifest itself in malaise just as it shows up as thickness of body?

I'm a fairly happy person, mostly. I looked forward to our recent trip to Milwaukee and Madison. And then it came and went. And my routine returned. Up at six or so, putter till time to leave, drive to work, work at work, drive home from work, go to the gym or ride my bike downstairs or take a walk with the dogs. Off to bed, and it starts all over.

(My blog just posted before I had finished; at least blogger is not inert. Or maybe it was sick of my whining.)

I read this interesting LifeHacker post recently about finding your life's purpose in 20 minutes. A nice drive-through solution. A quick fix for the blahs. I'm sure I'll shake out of this. We all go through this at times; wishing for a more meaningful life, a higher purpose.

I should just be happy with life, period. At least I have it.

(Funny, I just googled blahs and found this: Banish the Blahs. I haven't looked at it, so don't hold me accountable.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm famous with the Asbestos people

I don't know who or what Asbestos News is, but I'm very proud to be mentioned on their site as one of the top 50 cancer blogs. I wouldn't have known if Dennis, who commented on the previous post hadn't told me. I'm number 10, not a prime number, which I would prefer, but I guess it's a better position than number 11 (or anything after that).

Ironic too because I haven't posted much lately. I hate to just talk and talk without anything to say. I know too many people who do that (and I won't name names, but you probably have some ideas).

I can tell you a couple of things, one related to cancer and the other not.

I had my blood tested earlier this month and my CEA levels are great! (According to my doctor; don't look on the Web to figure out if your CEA levels are good because if you punch your numbers and CEA levels into a search engine, the news may be frightening. The acceptable levels are so different for different types of cancer. I'm just trusting my doc. So far, he's done right by me.)

The other thing is: I'm desperate for a hair cut. I like my hair nice and short. It's so thick that it takes forever to dry, so short hair is best for me. Plus, I acquired a new curl after chemo. One asymmetrical curl--only on one side of my head. So I need short, short, short hair (even with my ears). Whenever I see women with short hair, I think, "Don't they look so cute." Long hair after 40 is out anyway, according to fashion designer Carolina Herrera. If I grew my hair out, I would look a little like a bowling ball. Which has its advantages if you're attracted to bowlers.

Didn't I promise not to ramble? Heavens.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Requiem for a Blue Spruce

This post has nothing to do with cancer or poop, but it does have something to do with death (not that those all go hand in hand). Earlier this spring, we had to cut down a Blue Spruce, and we were very sad about it. I video taped it, but then my camera died and I couldn't get it to my computer. Thanks to a colleague at work (and also the fact that Canon repaired my camera for free), I now have completed my Tree Funeral video. And here it is.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oink Off

Here's what I think about this (milquetoast) swine flu business:

At this writing, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the swine flu has killed one American and sickened 109. (By the time you read this, the numbers might have increased or decreased).

Guess what? Figures from the American Cancer Society say that in 2008, about 1,437,180 U.S. citizens were expected to get cancer; and more than half a million of those (565,650) were expected to die.

That's 1,500 people a day.

"Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease. In the US, cancer accounts for 1 of every 4 deaths." (ACS)

And some other insights? The older you get, the more likely it is that you could develop cancer.

"Anyone can develop cancer. Since the risk of being diagnosed with cancer increases as individuals age, most cases occur in adults who are middle-aged or older. About 77% of all cancers are diagnosed in persons 55 and older."

And if you don't have insurance (like 46 million Americans and that figure is rising steadily because of this crappy economy), you will likely die.

The National Institutes of Health estimate overall costs of cancer in 2007 at $219.2 billion. (How many bail outs is this, I wonder.)

Come on people. Why don't we start harping on the real issues instead of this swine flu silliness?

To the media who are taking us for a ride: Oink Off!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My resurrection

I just got a Google calendar reminder that my surgery for colon cancer was starting on 4-12-2007. Two years ago today, I had seven inches of my large intestine (or my descending colon; are those the same?) cut out. I didn't know what I was in for, really, at that time. I just knew my doctor said it had to be done.

I was due at the hospital around five or six that morning. When I went to the basement to let the dogs out, Louie had pooped all over the floor. Not a good solid poop either. Was this foreshadowing? Bob and I spent valuable time mopping the basement floor. Not a good start.

Surgery happened, and after, the nurses stuck a needle in my spine for the epidural that would dispense pain relief. For a couple of days, any time I was in pain, I just pushed a button and it went away. But eventually they took that needle away. I thought I had a high pain threshold, so I didn't ask for drugs when I felt a little pain. But then it got worse. When the doctors made their rounds to see me one morning (I say doctors because I was in a teaching hospital), I was wailing.

Man, it hurt. Tears still spring to my eyes when I think about it. I don’t really even remember where the pain was. I just remember it was most definitely there. The nurses gave me something. Morphine? And told me not to wait so long next time. After a few seconds, I felt better.

One day, I got out of the hospital bed and walked. The following day, I knew I needed a shower. Then, I pooped, the function necessary for my release. Finally I went home.

Every Easter from now until my death, I will remember what it feels like to be resurrected.

Friday, March 6, 2009

CAT call

In an effort to be more healthy, I've been eating a lot more fiber lately. In the form of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. I think we all know what turmoil fiber causes in the gut. I have been having that turmoil. Sharp pains that eventually manifest themselves into various gasses and solids. But not quite quickly enough in my opinion. The week has been rough. This morning I doubled over briefly when a short pang shot through me.

Couple these pains with some of the blogs I've been reading lately about people with Stage III colon cancer and the result is ANXIETY. When you've had cancer, all pain is potentially cancer. A cold is lung cancer; a sore shoulder is bone cancer; fatigue or night sweats mean lymphoma. No matter where the pain is, no matter if there is absolutely no correlation. It *is* cancer. It just is.

So I have been slightly nervous about my upcoming CAT scan. Worried about what it would reveal. But I was also glad to have it, just to get it over with, so I would know and could get on with my life. (Or not.) This morning I had my CAT scan. I drank the murky white liquid at home, the murky berry liquid at the hospital. I think it must be also made of fiber because the results were much the same as if I had eaten a bowl of spinach and nuts.

CAT scans are not painful. I did think carefully about what I would wear. Because they make you strip down to shoes and socks if you have metal on your pants. And unless you wear polyester pull ups, you probably do. So I wore sweat pants and took my work pants, happy that I wouldn't freeze to death in the little waiting room with my black socks and shoes on (and paper-thin hospital gown). But they told me to strip anyway. I pulled up my shirt, showing the nurse I had on sweat pants. She just pointed and said, "Grommet."

Poo. I had thought about my outfit several times during the night when I should have been sleeping.

I figured I wouldn't hear about my CAT scan results until next week during my doctor's appointment. If you get a phone call from the nurse or doctor, it causes fear and trembling.

I got that phone call this afternoon.

The nurse, Pam, said my CAT scan was all clear.

I am not dying, after all.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Apocalypse now

I have a new apocalypse theory, and here it goes. The world is not going to go out with a big bang, flooded waters, or as a salt lick. We’re going out slowly and painfully. And the downturned economy is going to be our demise. We are going to get poor, then poorer, and finally so deprived that we have nothing. Then we’re going to start killing people for their cars, or their houses, or their wide-screen TVs. Maybe their food. Eventually.

It is the privileged who are going to suffer the most. Just like Jesus said. Camel and eye of needle stuff. They aren’t going to handle being poor very well at all. They won’t be able to afford gas for their airplanes and helicopters, so they can't fly to their vacation homes in the south of France. They’ll have to sell their cabin resorts all together. And their boats. And their third Humvees. They are going to be in a sorry state.

The middle class, like me, also will suffer. No more eating out. We won’t be able to afford the symphony or opera anymore (yea!!!). No more buying that second pair of LL Bean wide-leg jeans. Or maybe even the first. Movies are out. Netflix too. Red meat and organic vegetables will be history. In fact, we might have to grow our own food.

It is the poor who will be blessed. The 800 million people in the world who already suffer from hunger and malnutrition. The ones who have never even felt their foot on the gas pedal of a vehicle. Who have never owned a TV. Or a radio. Who wouldn't have the electricity to run them if they found them in a dump. They will barely feel the apocalypse. They’ve been living it all their lives.

Just a thought that came to me in the night.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Happy 80th Dad!

Today is my dad's 80th birthday. A mile-marker I hope to reach and exceed. For his birthday, all of us kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids got together to make him a birthday video. Well, we didn't get together, but everybody sent clips to me and I put it together. In lieu of us not getting to converge on him in his Florida home, which he would most surely hate, though my mother would most surely love. But it is his birthday after all. Not hers.

The full video is far too big to post to You Tube, this blog, Facebook, or any of the other free social media tools. But I can give you a preview. Featuring, of course, me!

Here you go.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hunger pangs

The new year is here and I vow to live a healthier life. No. Really. Last year I ate anything I wanted because I was so relieved I could taste. Chemo clouds taste buds. This year I must watch what I put into my mouth. Considering. Some "foods" could even be dangerous for me.

I have a bunch of candy-loving colleagues. But we are all going to do better. In mid-month, my fellow employees and I are going to begin studying the book, Your Whole Life, ("Don't think thin, think whole . . .") and learn how to live healthily and happily. Certainly we can do both.

I know a big cookie or giant candy bar can be happiness food. But not healthy. A big slab of char-broiled red meat makes me happy, but not healthy. Cheese makes me dance with delight. Wine makes me dance, period. But I'm getting old. And I gotta watch what I put in my mouth. It slides straight down to my hips and thighs. I know living right is about more than just my weight and gait (placing one foot in front of the other instead of lumbering side to side). "Don't think thin, think whole..."

I have been going to the gym since 1993, so I'm doing my exercises. But I can't pop a miniature Three Musketeers bar in my mouth when my brain starts crying, "Chocolate. Chocolate!" And when I'm hungry, I need to reach for something healthy (what!?), not sugary, or cheesy, or wine-y.

I just read an article on Cafe about breaking bad habits. It takes 28 days. (That seems like a long time to crave a Three Musketeers.) I read somewhere else, and I can't remember where, that you just have to have hunger pangs for awhile. Three days maybe. Before your stomach figures out it is not getting food everytime it screams for it.

It is now time to climb into bed and I want food. My head hurts 'cause I feel hungry. But I must think of all the starving children in China. And Sudan. And Darfur. And India, And East Tennessee and downtown Chicago. And be glad I have a bed. A refrigerator. A house. And wait three days until the hunger pangs subside.