Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reconnecting

Today I had lunch with two high school classmates, whom I haven't seen in at least 15 years. As I mentioned in a previous post, E and I have been corresponding since she sent out a mass email seeing if there was any interest in a get-together to celebrate our 25th reunion. We work near one another so we planned to meet for lunch. She also invited M, a male classmate of ours with whom she has a business relationship that has become a friendship.

I was a bit nervous but not as much as I thought I would be. It's silly to be so nervous in the first place, but in the past I would have been paralyzed by the thought that I wouldn't be funny/interesting/smart/whatever enough. Luckily time, experience, therapy and meds have all helped my self esteem tremendously. The three of us met and I discovered that we all look like we did in HS, yet not. We're all recognizable to one another but we're certainly not kids anymore. Throughout the meal, I felt comfortable talking with them, even though they had more to say to each other since they know each other as adults.

Remembering my high school days, I feel sad that I wasn't able to come out of my shell. I was the quiet, smart fat girl who was afraid of so many things. As a small child I was thin, but in second grade I started gaining weight, so I spent most of my grade school years either being tormented or ignored. In HS I was afraid to speak up lest I bring attention to myself; that usually got me mocked. I did have friends but always felt like I was on the fringes of my friend groups, never feeling like I was a part of any group. I was sure that people didn't think about me if they didn't see me. Our HS had a lot of cliques. All HSs do, but ours was really "good" at it. I saw a therapist during my senior year about various issues, and she told me that my HS was well known in the local therapy circles. Sad, eh? It was a great place to get an education but so many of us suffered more angst than we might have elsewhere.

When I was in HS we were assigned one locker for our entire four years. My class was unlucky; our section of lockers was at the far end of the school. It was difficult to get back to one's locker and back between classes to switch books, so many of us ended up carrying most or all of our books every day, at least the ones for all of our morning or afternoon classes. There were times during the day when there was time to visit the locker, like at lunch time or during free periods. I usually carried all of my books however, thanks to a group of boys who parked their butts on the railing of the big windows on the way to our lockers. They were a year ahead of me, and considered themselves "cool". They thought it was great fun to make fun of me, and gave me their very own nickname... Whalebone. I would ignore them the best I could but it was mortifying to hear that name being yelled down the hall after me. I hated those boys. Hated them. Funny enough, I ended up inadvertently getting revenge on one, who was kind of the king of the assholes. I had been working at the Clinic for a few years, and had my desk in an office that I shared with another person, on the other side of a dividing wall. It was an okay office, nothing special but I did have a window with a view of the "splendor" of the inner city. At that time, I was responsible for copying employee files when we had a subpeona to respond to. One day a law firm was asking for a file and sent a courier to pick it up. The courier walked in and it was none other than the king! He remembered me and told me how great it was to see me, how nice my office was, etc. I was almost speechless at his friendliness. It wasn't until he left that it struck me. Here was Mr. HS god, working as a courier for a law firm. I don't think that any gainful employment is bad or shameful, but it really tickled me that for all his " I am king of all and better than you, fat girl" that he really didn't do much with his life. It made me glad that my best days weren't behind me.

So after this most interesting work day, I picked up the girls and came home, only to remember that we needed to go to pay respects to our next door neighbor's father. Fortunately the funeral home was only a couple of miles away, so we headed over. This was the girls' first experience with calling hours. Carly was interested in the guy sleeping; she pointed to him and wanted to go over to him right away. I had explained to Becky what would happen and told her that she didn't have to look at the body if she didn't want to, but she was okay with it. We talked on the way home about how Mr M's spirit had gone to heaven already, and that his body was left and so he would be buried. It was all very low-key and for that I am glad. I grew up attending various family funerals and have memories of running around in empty viewing rooms with groups of cousins, of eating sugar cubes, and of being fawned over by older aunts. As a result, seeing dead people in caskets isn't really traumatic for me. It's an attitude I want to pass on to the girls.

We got home to find another opportunity to reconnect. In the mail was a card from one of my mom's cousins, inviting us to a cousins' reunion at her house, about 2 hours from here. I haven't seen most of my mom's family since my grandfather died in 1980. I did get to see/meet some of them last fall, which was a wonderful experience. My mom kept very much to herself; we had very little contact with her family, other than receiving holiday cards. Lots of reasons for this, which is all for another post, but unfortunately my sister and I have only a hazy idea of all the extended family we have. Several years ago, sis decided to start working on geneaolgy and My mom's cousin B has done a lot of research on my maternal grandmother's family, so my sister started looking up records of my maternal grandfather's family, who were from Ireland. Incredibly, on a family-tree board she found a cousin, who lives in town! We met with him and his sisters and exchanged emails for a while, then we both suddenly stopped hearing from them, as though we'd offended them. I know we won' t have that experience again, so I think I would like to go to this reunion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's gone

The lung nodule, that is. Unbelievable. Better news than I was even hoping for.

Had my CT yesterday; that was pretty much a non-event as usual. I had to have routine bloodwork as well. Since I drink the one-hour prep instead of the redi-cat, I had to be there an hour before the test. After slugging down that poison, er, delightful potion, I walked over to the lab. Monday night I had an epiphany; what if they could put in a heparin lock when they drew my blood? Then my shy veins wouldn't have to go through the prod-n-poke twice. The CT techs are good but I have been stuck up to 6 times in one session before they found a vein that didn't blow, roll or otherwise screw up. Since the phlebotomists are generally spot-on, I figured it was worth asking. Of course, the answer was No. "Can't do it; not allowed and besides we don't have the proper equipment anyhow." Figures that she struck oil with the first stick. I mentioned it to the tech, who agreed that it's a shame that they don't do that. He was good though; he ended up only poking me twice, and I am only slightly bruised today. I would live quite happily with bruises from elbow to fingertips if it meant a clean scan, but it was nice to escape relatively unscathed.

Our hospital has an employee ideas program; they want us to submit ideas to improve some aspect of patient care or operations. Today I submitted an idea to allow the phlebotomists to place hep locks (if they're allowed to, I'm not sure what that protocol is) in cases where the patient will be having an IV placed the same day. Can't hurt to suggest...

I have to hold my breath twice during the test because they are doing two scans. First is a scan of my lungs, then one of the abdomen and pelvis. During each of these tests I have to hold my breath. It's not a problem for me; only once during all the scans I've had did I need to exhale before the recorded voice told me I could. I asked the tech how long I am holding my breath since it seems like an eternity even though I know it isn't that long. He told me for the lung scan I hold for 27 seconds, 24 seconds for the other. Lots of preparation goes into that 51 seconds. And it sure costs a lot of money, which makes me feel very fortunate to have good insurance.

My doctor's appointment was scheduled for 3PM; Jim was planning to meet me there. When patients check in at the cancer center, they are given a pager, like the kind you get at a chain restaurant; it's a coaster style with a ring of lights. Sadly, there's no bar to belly up to while you wait. I was surprised to be paged within about 20 seconds of sitting down in the waiting lobby. Luckily Jim arrived just then, so I didn't have to leave a trail of bread crumbs through the maze back to the exam room. The nurse took basic stats including my temp, which came up as 100.6. She took it again and it was 99.4. I told her that I thought the brisk walk from the parking garage was the cause. My blood pressure was high which I also attributed to the walk. After the nurse left I told Jim, "I'm sure the fact that I'm completely terrified right now has something to do with that number."

After several minutes the fellow doctor came in. (This is a teaching hospital after all.) He introduced himself and asked how I was doing. Then he asked me if I knew the results of my CT scan. I said no, and he said that it was good news. Then he told me that the nodule in my lung was gone. At first I didn't understand what he was saying. He explained that they couldn't find the nodule on the scans. They never knew what that thing was, though they had confirmed that it wasn't malignant. I was overjoyed to say the least; I even gave the fellow a high five! Jim looked very relieved, in his reserved way. The fellow and I talked a little more and he left us to see Dr. Rini.

Dr. R was his usual serious self but even he said "it was definitely nothing". We'll rescan in 6 months and as long as that scan is clear I won't see Dr. R until this time next year. He wants to continue to scan me at 6 month intervals for the next couple of years, then will consider going to an annual scan schedule. My chance of recurrence will never be zero, but the likelihood is small and getting smaller. He told us that most recurrence happens around the 2 to 2 1/2 year period. I'm currently at 2yrs 2 months. In my mind, the next scan will represent a key point, kind of like the end of the first trimester signaling a vast decrease in the chance of miscarriage. He told us that after 5 years the rate of recurrence is less than 5%.

I also asked him about the fact that I was pregnant while the cancer was growing. I have often wondered if the pregnancy hormones contributed to the aggressiveness of the tumor. He said that he didn't think so, but that he couldn't say for certain because most people are diagnosed with kidney cancer around age 60, so they don't tend to be pregnant. :-) I explained that I've just been curious about it but that I certainly didn't blame the pregnancy for contributing to the cancer. To the contrary; it was because I was pregnant and an ectopic pregnancy had been ruled out that my symptoms were taken seriously. So as far as I am concerned, my pregnancy very well may have saved my life. A second chance and a second healthy, beautiful daughter; absolutely a fair trade for my kidney.

It is interesting to me that the nodule has disappeared, disintegrated, left the building, whatever it did. I had visualized it dissolving a few times but did not really expect to be told that it was gone. So perhaps I used my powers for good instead of evil for once.

This gives Jim and me one more reason to celebrate when we go on our second honeymoon next month... in Vegas, baby!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nervous anticipation

Next Tuesday (7/24) I have my next CT scan, along with some blood work. It's been a year since I saw the oncologist, so I have an appointment with him for the next afternoon. At that appt I will get my CT results. Jim will be coming with me; he wasn't able to accompany me the first/last time I saw Dr. R and I have felt bad about that since then.

I have no reason to feel like I will get bad news at this appointment but I am still scared witless. My mind has been going into the dark place where the cancer is back and I have to go on treatment. If it comes to that, I will do whatever treatment we decide is best, but I know that there is no definitive treatment for advanced kidney cancer. This has me very worried and sad. I even told Jim the other day that if we get bad news, I am considering pre-arranging my funeral. I know, I know, very morbid and really jumping the gun here. But I also know that if it came to that, I would want to make sure I eased Jim's burden some. The thought of leaving him and the girls makes me want to weep, and I do sometimes. It's ridiculous in a way, because I very well could be told that everything is status quo and be able to go along on my merry way. But until I hear that, I can't be sure and I can't rest easy.

It's a weird place to be in; I don't have cancer, so I don't feel like going to a cancer support group would be the right thing. Sometimes I confide in Jim but that isn't fair to him; he has his own worries about my health. Where is the support group for people who used to have cancer but don't now and are scared they might get it again?

This sucks and I hope nobody I know has to go through this in the future.

On Friday, I have another event that brings up nerves of a different kind. I'm having lunch with one or maybe two high school classmates, whom I haven't seen in at least 15 years. One of our classmates sent an email around asking if there was any interest in getting together somewhere for an informal 25th reunion. I responded to her message and we've been talking via email for the past week. We were in very different groups in HS; she was always nice to me but we didn't spend time together. She was always very friendly and that trait has continued, so lunch with her should be fun. Of course, I wish I wasn't at my highest weight ever, but I don't think I can lose ____ pounds by next Friday. Ah well, I am who I am and that will be fine.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More pics

We took the girls for portraits a couple of weeks ago. Poor Miss Carly suffers from second-child syndrome; these were supposed to be her "18 month" portraits but I didn't get the session scheduled until almost 21 months. Ah well...

We were going to go to our usual haunt, Picture People. When I looked up their phone number to make an appointment, I discovered that they had closed. The closest one is now over an hour away. I didn't like them THAT much, so needed to find a new place. So instead we tried out Portrait Innovations, which is near us and was recommended by a couple of people. We mostly enjoyed the experience, other than feeling a little rushed at the end of the time we had to choose shots to print. They took 97 shots of the girls, and they almost all were terrific, so we had a lot to decide on. Below are a few I really liked:












I love my sweeties so much...