Tuesday, December 30, 2008


A month ago, our sweet Rebecca celebrated her sixth birthday. We had her family party on Thanksgiving, as we have for the past few years, but this year it was not hosted at our house, but at Jim's brother Mike's house. Rebecca was very excited that Uncle Mike and Aunt Missy were going to include her party in their Thanksgiving celebration. And it was a lot of fun.
Since we've hosted the past few Thanksgivings, at first I felt out of sorts that we weren't doing it this year. Then I realized that I *hate* the stress of planning, cleaning, shopping, organizing, etc. that comes at the same time that I am extremely busy at work. All we had to do for this year's party was to bring a cake and some balloons. We also provided dessert plates and napkins. I will be happy to host T-day again in the future, but it was a big deal to me to let go of feeling like I needed to be in control of it.

This year we did not have a "friend" party for Rebecca. Instead, I got tickets for her to go with her cousin Allison and me to see the Cheetah Girls in concert. This was a surprise for Becky; she didn't know where we were going until we picked up Allison. When Allison told her, she slid down in her seat and looked happily stunned. We were expecting a bigger reaction, but she really was thrilled. So the three of us trekked downtown to the concert venue. It was snowing that evening, and so I was a little concerned about driving across icy bridges and whatnot, but my trusty Odyssey kept me safely on the road. I had bought the tickets way back in August, because of an email I got from a local radio station with a "beat the box office" promotion. Turned out to be a good deal... the seats were two rows up from the floor, facing the mixing boards. Great seats! And we didn't have to stand during the show; we did have to turn to our right slightly but it wasn't bad. There was an opening act, three teen girls called the Clique Girlz. Not being Radio Disney listeners, none of us had heard of them prior to the show. They were, uh, not really the type of music I was interested in, nor the type I would want Becky to listen to... It seemed like the songs were all about boy chasing. They were 'tougher' looking, which is okay, but they were too young to carry it off, instead looking like they were dressing up for Halloween maybe? During the intermission between them and Cheetah Girls, Becky commented that "they were loud" and I could see she wasn't a fan.

Then the Cheetah Girls came out... and put on a fun show. Lots of cool stage sets, a number of wardrobe changes, a ton of dancing, and they sounded good too. At one point their (male) dancers were doing a number, as they would while the girls were changing outfits, but then the dancers made their way down the floor to the mixing boards. Suddenly the floor next to the boards comes up and *poof* there were the Cheetahs... very close to where we were sitting! Becky's eyes went very wide at the sight. We all really enjoyed the show; I was wondering if I would be bored, but had listened to their latest CD a couple of times before the show and realized that I like the upbeat music. It's not deep stuff, but I could see where it would be good music to dance to, or just to inspire a good mood.

So that was Rebecca's first real concert experience. She is loving being six, as it feels much older than five to her. She's tall, taller than most of her classmates in Kindergarten though there are a couple who are bigger. She loves school and does her best every day. She's a good reader already, having cracked the code over the spring and summer, but is still getting a lot out of the reading classes. Handwriting was her bane early on; she was frustrated that it didn't come easily to her. As she worked on homework sheets, practicing letter formation, she complained bitterly early in the year. I've explained to her that practice is what will help her to do better, and she's starting to see the truth in my words. Her teacher told us at open house that Rebecca is a joy to have in class, that she stays with the class even when she already understands what is being taught, and that she reads to her classmates.
Finally (to her) some of her teeth are starting to loosen. She can put her tongue between her bottom front teeth, and it looks like they will be the first to go. The top two are a bit loose as well, and our dentist told her earlier this month that it won't be long. As much as Rebecca wants those holes in her mouth, I will miss the baby teeth. Baby teeth smiles are just so charming to me, and seeing the big teeth grow in just brings home that the child is growing up. I know it's inevitable, and really I'm okay with that, but we've had such fun so far.

Rebecca has her challenges too. She is already asking for things because "everyone else has" the items in question, especially Webkinz. Do you know that some of her friends have ten Webkinz? This was news to me, and I assured her that we would not be catching up to her friends... she has more toys than she can play with now. I did have a poignant exchange with her the other night about "stuff". We were in the drugstore waiting for a prescription to be filled. Inevitably we ended up in the toy aisle. She pointed out an e-Pet that she liked and started talking about Littlest Pet Shop toys. Whenever we are at Target, she shows me tiny LPS toys at the register (you know, in the 'impusle buy' area) and begs me to buy them. I never do, because they are collections of tiny pieces of Chinese made plastic junk and I know they will either be scattered throughout the house, or eaten by Trixie. Last night Becky told me that some of the kids at school have LPS toys, and when they are playing, they tell her she can't play with them because they are only playing with LPS and so she's not invited since she doesn't have them. Oh, my poor girl... I didn't know this. I told her that she should have put them on her Christmas list. I remember only too well the pain of exclusion because I was out of step with other kids, so this just hurt my heart.

She is a big American Girl doll fan, since she got a Bitty Baby for Christmas one year. Her dream came true this birthday, when her Aunt Barbie and family gave her money to buy her own AG doll. She picked out a "Just like me" doll that she has named Molly. Just before her birthday, her Grandma Monahan treated Rebecca and me to an AG fashion show. What fun it was... so many girls with their dolls there. It was a benefit for a local children's hospital (shhh, my employer's competition but I won't tell if you won't) and they had a raffle with some nice items. There was a set of Bitty Twins with a stroller, a Bitty Baby 'starter set', Kit and Ruthie dolls, a food concession stand set, etc. Grandma had bought some raffle tickets and I bought some more. We let Becky put tickets in for whichever prizes she wanted. She wanted to put one in for the Bitty Baby set, which I thought was pointless since she already has a BB (named Polly - see the link to above?) but she went ahead and toss a ticket in. Oh, and they had a Kit Kittredge tree house - very cool. They drew the raffle names at the end of the show and as they drew for the first prize, I hear my name being called! I had put my name on the tickets instead of Becky's for some reason. Guess which prize we won... the Bitty Baby starter kit!! Along with the doll, we got a crib, mobile, bouncy seat, and some blankets and clothing. Wow... good thing I had the trusty Odyssey because there were two huge boxes of stuff. Grandma and Becky waited for me to bring the car to the door. While they were waiting Becky told Grandma that she wanted to give the doll to Carly... it only made sense to her that since she already had a Bitty Baby, that her sister could have one too. Grandma and I were both touched and impressed. How easy it would have been for her to keep the second doll, but she definitely wanted Carly to have her. This generosity messed up Grandma's Christmas gift plan for Carly, but she didn't mind at all. Carly was thrilled when we got home with the loot and she learned that she had become a Bitty Babymama. Her BB is Sophia and she enjoys having her. They play with their dolls together and it's fun to listen to.
Rebecca is still a drama queen, very jealous of attention Carly receives, continually telling me that Carly "gets more" "has more" "is loved more", none of which is true, but I haven't figured out a way to convince Becky of this. It's something Jim and I need to keep working on. Her clinginess to me has decreased, which is good. Hopefully as she continues to mature it will recede into memory.

All in all though, she is so very sweet and loving... so good to her little sister most of the time, kind to the dogs, and funny and smart. I continue to be so in love with her.
Here are a few recent photos... from the American Girl show, the Polar Express train ride, and at the top of this post, her birthday celebration. You can see that Rebecca is royalty!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I started the last post on Christmas day but just finished it today, the 27th. If anyone knows how to change the date on a post, let me know! I will try to research later, but need to get ready for the next round of holiday cheer now. :-)

Another Christmas in the books

All the hype, over again for another year, except for celebrating with my sister's family, which we will do today (Saturday). It was a nice holiday, though I felt rushed and disorganized about preparing for it, more so than usual. I just wasn't in the groove this year. In general I have been very disorganized, scattered if you will. This is ironic considering that I was diagnosed with ADD over the summer and have been taking medication to see if it helps. It actually has helped; I think my brain scatter is more a matter of the things on my mind pressing up against each other.
Over the summer I started to see a psychiatrist close to my office for medication management. As some of you know, I have been on and off antidepressants for several years, to mostly great effect. I've had periods where I've not taken them and functioned okay but not as well as I do on them. And after having post partum depression twice, I think that my brain chemistry is altered so it doesn't bother me to be on medication for it. Anyhow, I was having my primary care physician prescribe my meds. This worked "okay" until I switched to a particular med to avoid some side effects, and found myself turned into a screaming lunatic at home, especially to Carly, who was in the throes of terrible twos and was pushing Every Button. So, I got a recommendation for a woman who is local to my job, making it easier to book an appointment, and who is on my insurance (yay). She's been great, very supportive and knowledgeable. she explained why the med I was taking wasn't working for me and prescribed a different drug that has helped a lot. I decided at this time to also seek a therapist to deal with my life long emotional eating issues, which I have tried to address numerous times in the past but not successfully. The doctor recommended a therapist who practices in her office. I was hesitant to make the appointment, I think because I was still feeling hesitant about facing my problems. Then they found the nodule in my abdomen and everything changed... so I started seeing R, the therapist, to talk about my cancer issues. As we've worked together I have been able to lose a bit of weight, as I become more aware of myself, and of my eating. The holidays have been a bit of a setback, as I suppose they are for many people, but I don't feel defeated this year.
Unfortunately I have this cancer business hanging over my head. I did have a follow up scan in November, as I had planned. I didn't post about it here because it put me in a tailspin. This was the official impression of the abdominal scan: "High density lesion seen in the left posterior lateral flank musculature measuring 2.7 x 1.9 cm, previously 1.9 x 1.5 cm on 7/14/08. On 1/16/08 it measured 1.7 x 1.2 cm. Impression: SMALL INTRAMUSCULAR HYPERENHANCING MASS CONSISTENT WITH METASTATIC DISEASE, DEMONSTRATING MILD INTERVAL ENLARGEMENT". In other words, there is "something" in my left side, about where the ports went in at my nephrectomy. Because RCC (renal cell carcinoma) was found in my abdomen in August, this spot is also very suspicious. My oncologist contacted my kidney surgeon (Dr. Kaouk, who removed my kidney and who I love!) to discuss an ablation of the mass. Dr. Kaouk called me himself and explained the situation. The mass is somewhat diffuse, and is very close to my bowel. He is not comfortable introducing a needle to that spot because of the risk of puncturing the bowel. He and Dr. Rini decided to re-scan me in January to see if there are any changes, and to see if the area of bowel may move, so that they might be able to get to the mass more safely. If the new scan shows more disease elsewhere in my body, then it won't really matter whether the mass we now know about it near or far from anything. At that point I won't be treated surgically anymore but instead with systemic therapy. Luckily a lot of advances have been made in RCC treatments in the past several years, and I know people from the KCA patient forum who have lived for years on these therapies and are doing well. Still, it's not something to look forward to. Now, it is possible that what they are seeing isn't cancer, but Dr. Rini, very sensibly, says that he considers it to be RCC until proven otherwise. Dr. Kaouk sounds the same. This is very depressing to me but I know that it is their job to look at the worst case scenario, and I absolutely would not want to be given false hope. My sister works with oncologists and tells me not to worry too much about their pessimism for just these reasons. I know she is right but if I start to think about it, I feel like falling apart.
This is a situation that needs to be taken a step at a time, but it's really easy for me to progress myself mentally into the worst of all possible outcomes. I don't like to talk about it with anyone because I don't like burdening the people I love with more sorrow than they already feel. Jim in particular struggles with depression too, and I hate giving him fodder to add to it. But I'm holding a lot in, and I can see (with help from R, who is Wonderful) that keeping my feelings to myself is hurting me.
I am also trying to do things to feel like I have some control over what is going on in my body. I'm continuing to do visualization, to get rid of any cancer cells. When I was first sick, family members suggested I contact a local doctor who has gained renown as a faith healer. I was skeptical, and scared, and ultimately didn't pursue seeing him since I was doing well. I recently decided to google him, and found his web site. There I learned that he holds healing services on a regular basis, and will be having one next weekend near where we live. Jim is going to attend with me, while the girls have some quality time with my sister. I don't know what the outcome of this service will be; I'm hopeful that it can help me but I am being realistic enough to know that it doesn't always work for people. The service is on Jan 3rd, my CT scan is on the 12th and I see Dr. Rini on the 15th, so I will have more information in a few weeks.
Am I grasping at straws? Foolishly putting faith in anything I can get my hands on? Maybe. But I am willing to open my mind to all possibilities. And, if my doctors think that standard treatments are needed, I will take them. I will try whatever I can to make sure that I am here and healthy for as long as possible. I have too much to live for.
Hopefully my next post will be lighter - I still have a newly minted six year old daughter to celebrate!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Off hiatus, hopefully

Wow... two months since I last posted. I'm not going to get angry with myself about it, but hopefully will not let that happen again. Life has been so very hectic and when I finally have time to sit down and write, I am exhausted. But I have a lot in my head and my heart that I need to let out, so this will probably be the place where I do it. I've debated whether I should just keep a private journal instead, but decided that I don't mind baring myself to the people who know me, whether that is face-to-face or just as words and images on the screen... and the second group has grown to be as important to me as the first. There may be times when my words are dark, and if they bother you, don't read them. For a long time I have not expressed my hardships to other people, as a way to protect them from joining in my sadness, or because I was embarrassed or ashamed of my feelings. This practice has been very unhealthy for me, because it has also allowed me to hide from my feelings too.

Anyhow, I won't always be dark or serious, because that is not who I am... this is one silly mama you're reading, after all. And I have some fun photos and stories to post, so with a little bit of gentle prodding of myself, I plan to be a more regular voice.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Andrew Novick

This afternoon as the girls and I drove to a friend's house for a jewelry party, Jim called. He was reading the newspaper, which I hadn't had time to do. He told me that Dr. Andrew Novick died.

When it was first suspected that I had cancer in my kidney, the community-hospital urologist I had seen recommended I go "downtown" to Cleveland Clinic right away. I scheduled an appointment with one of their urological surgeons. A good friend who works with the doctors at the Clinic really thought that I should be seeing Dr. Novick, the chairman of the Clinic's urological institute, rather than one of his staff, so she called his secretary. When she told the secretary my story (symptoms for several months, currently pregnant), the secretary agreed and got me an appointment with Dr. Novick himself.

Jim and I went together to see him. He immediately ordered a biopsy, and told us that in his career, he'd only had two other patients who were pregnant at the time of their diagnosis. He told us that the biopsy could come back inconclusive, which in his mind meant the tumor was malignant, and would need to be removed. This is exactly what happened - the biopsy was inconclusive. He had spoken to my obstetrician and they were in agreement that pregnancy or no, the kidney would have to come out. So Dr. Novick arranged for me to see one of his surgeons, Dr. Kaouk, that same day. Dr. Kaouk was concerned about my pregnancy but confident he could remove my kidney laparascopically. Because he didn't want to wait long for the surgery, both because of the cancer itself and because of my growing belly, he studied his schedule for some time, finally deciding he could fit me in first thing in the morning on the next Tuesday (five days from our consultation). Dr. Kaouk had trained under Dr. Novick, and so I felt comfortable that they would take good care of me. And so they did, and I became the third pregnant patient successfully treated for kidney cancer by/because of Dr. Novick.

A year later I ran into my reproductive endocrinologist, who had also been a high school classmate of mine. She told met that she had run into Dr. Novick, who told her that they'd had a patient in common... me. I was touched that he remembered me from the hundreds of patients he must have seen during that time.

It's horribly unfair that someone who saved so many lives affected by cancer would succumb to it himself. We know so much about the human body, and yet so little. Dr. Novick was only 60 years old. He was far too young to have left this world.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

And then she was three

Earlier this month we celebrated Caroline's third birthday. Oh wait, according to her, the proper name is not Caroline, but Carly Bernadette. That insistence of hers that her name is what SHE defines it rather than what was actually given to her at birth is what makes her quintessentially Carly. Three is such a small number, but in terms of childhood, three is so different from two. Carly is an energetic, articulate, fun-loving girl. She has also spent the past several months as the textbook definition of a “terrible two”. Tantrums, insistence that "ME can do it myself", defiance, general bad behavior, you name it and she did it. Jim expressed hope that as of her birthday, she would magically return in demeanor to the sweet girl she was pre-age two. Her behavior while dressing on the morning of her birthday tossed that hope out the window. It took both of us to get her pants onto her body because she decided after she chose them, that she didn't want to get dressed.

On the other hand, as she's matured and developed a better vocabulary, she's been better able to express herself, so the tantrums have started to disappear. I'm not sure I've ever met someone with such a strong will before, but she is beginning to be more reasonable lately.

Carly LOVES to dance. At a recent wedding she was the first person on the dance floor, and stayed there all evening. She didn't care what genre of music was being played; she just wanted to move. She gets to dance formally every week, as she started ballet classes in September. Some weeks it's difficult for her to pay attention for the whole 45 minute class. But even with that, she is showing improvement. Her teacher is the most patient woman I've ever met, and just encourages her and the other girls to join the group. She loves going to class and dressing in her ballet outfit.

She and her sister get along well most of the time; they have arguments and tussles but love each other a lot. Becky is the bossy older sister, while Carly ignores her sister's directions and advice. If you have ever seen the kids' show Max and Ruby, Carly is Max to Becky's Ruby. But the other night I looked out to the living room as they watched TV and found them sitting on the couch together with Becky's arm around Carly.

Carly decided to become potty trained in time for her third birthday. I think her new school was a good influence; in her class the kids are all learning. She is now the proud owner of Blue's Clues underpants, which had been her promised reward (thank goodness for Ebay!) though now she prefers the Disney princess briefs that she also got. The photo at the top of the post shows her in a Tinkerbell dress; suddenly our rough-and-tumble girl loves dressing up in girly costumes.

She's become very loving lately, too, giving hugs and kisses frequently. One recent night at bedtime she told me that I am her best friend, and yesterday she told me several times "you're a nice girl, Mommy". I treasure this sweetness and am trying to store the memories of it to sustain me through her teenage years. :-)

It occurred to me recently that if my cancer had been discovered when I first started to show symptoms, that we wouldn't have Carly at all. Once my kidney was removed, I knew that getting pregnant again, given my age and other health "issues" would not be wise. I first knew something was wrong in August of 2004, and she was conceived in January 2005. Once I articulated for myself this reality, any lingering anger that I wasn't diagnosed sooner disappeared. You would think I would have had this epiphany a long time ago, and I think that I knew it subconsciously from the start, but only recently allowed myself to think it "out loud".

At any rate, she's really a joy in my life and I love her to distraction.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Magic wand

I saw these questions on another blog and so I've tagged myself to answer them as well.

You find a fairy. With a wave of their wand they can change anything for you.

What is the one thing you would change about your body?
My first reaction is to say my weight, since that has been a life-long struggle for me. But it occurs to me that I would really ask the fairy to make sure I am clear of cancer cells.

What is the one personality trait you would change?
Probably to be calmer when dealing with my kids. I am working on that myself but it is hard for me to be calm and patient, and easy to get worked up.

What is the one thing about your job you would change?
The hours spent working and commuting. I hate being away from my home for about 11 hours a day, and away from my kids for so long.

What is the one thing about your home you would change?
To get rid of all the clutter so we could enjoy the space.

What is the one thing about your Significant Other you would change?
To solve his medical issues, that make him not able to enjoy life fully.

Who is the one person you would poof out of your life and why?
I can't think of anyone; there are people I don't like dealing with but nobody who is making this "a hellish life" (old grandma phrase) for me.

Who is the one person you would poof back in and why?
Ok, since I'm not poofing anyone out, can I poof two in? If so, my parents. It makes me so sad that they aren't here to enjoy their 3 grandchildren (my two plus my sister's son). And it makes me so sad that these 3 kids don't get to know two really great people who I miss immensely.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

3-week post surgery update

My physical recovery from my surgery is going fine. I'm mostly healed except for in the belly button but that is coming along too. I requested a note from my surgeon's office to allow me to go back to work next week; they had originally given me leave until 9/21. That is too long; plus
I don't want to use any more FMLA time than I need to, "just in case" - though of course I am hopeful that I won't need any more.

Last week I kind of "shut down" a bit mentally; I never logged on to my work email because I just couldn't face it, and I slept and watched TV a lot. Becky's situation didn't help, as she kept up the hysteria all last week. I do think that she is aware of my health issues on some level deeper than the obvious that I had surgery. We've tried to be careful of what we discuss around her but she's pretty perceptive. The official explanation is that they found something "bad" in me and took it out so I am better now. Her extra clinginess could be due to a fear of me not being here at some point, poor girl. Carly has been giving us tons of trouble at bedtime; she will get ready for bed but then keeps getting out, finding excuses to do things, then flat out playing with items in the bedroom or adjoining bathroom. I'm sure part of it is her being 2 years old, but my sister suggested that this behavior may be her way of reacting to the stress of what's gone on over the past month.

Despite my oncologist's grim statistics about recurrence, I'm keeping the faith that this was one rogue cell that got loose when the kidney was still in. The node was enlarged from the start, so they have been watching it all along, but nothing else looks suspicious. I got additional encouraging news last week. I had an appt with the psychiatrist that I recently started to see for medication management for my anti-depression meds. She had lots of questions about the surgery and also explained some of it to me. My pathology called it an "omental mass"; I hadn't gotten around to looking that up but she explained. The omentum is like an apron across the midsection, that contains a lot of blood vessels, that take the nutrients from the intestines and move them to the rest of the body. There is also a big lymph network in the omentum, which acts like a "filter". So she thought that it made total sense that a cancer cell would be "caught" there, and thought that was much more encouraging to my long term prognosis than if the cell was found in one of my organs or bones. I like this explanation, so I am holding on to it.

I also do a visualization every night in bed where special cells enter my body through the top of my head and travel through my body. Any "bad" cells are attracted to the special cells like a magnet and are killed on contact. The special cells go all the way down my body and leave through my feet. I do believe in the power of visualization so I feel this can't hurt to do.

There is no treatment to do at this time. Kidney cancer, unlike other cancers, does not have a standard chemotherapy, nothing that they can give you to kill unseen cells. There are several new systemic therapies, but they are all for shrinking existing metastatic tumors that are either too numerous or too difficult to remove. My oncologist said he would be comfortable with me having follow up scans in either 4 or 6 months, which would be November or January. At first I thought I would wait until January, so that if there was bad news, I would not be dealing with it during the holidays. But then I decided that the likelihood of bad news is small, so I will have the scans in November. If they show nothing, like I hope, then we can enjoy the holidays without the specter of the unknown hanging over us.

Anyhow, I think that it all just kind of hit me at once, so I've been mentally on vacation of late. Starting to pull out of it - we are starting to plan the family birthday party for Carly in Oct - three years old! wow She wants a Little Einsteins theme, so I ordered invitations and a few other items online. I like doing some kind of favor for the cousins but didn't want to give them a bunch of junky toys since we're all trying to commit to less "stuff" in the family. So I went onto Amazon and ordered Little Einsteins books for all the young cousins (six including my two). The books are paperback so most all were $3.99. I got a puzzle book for the 8yrold cousin. There are two teen cousins too; I like to include them so I will probably get them each a $5 McD's gift card or an iTunes card.

First day of Kindergarten

Monday was Becky's first day of K. In the morning at home she was very excited; put on the new outfit and shoes that she had picked out herself when we went school shopping. The excitement continued when we got to school, but then as we went downstairs to take her to the cafeteria (it was breakfast time when we arrived), she started to get upset. It was so sad; she cried and held on to me and asked me to stay. She even followed me out of the cafeteria. Luckily the pre-K class that she just left last week, was in the adjoining play area. Her old teacher saw the scene and took her back to the cafeteria. It was heartbreaking to see my baby's pleading, tear-filled eyes, but I knew I had to go.

When I picked the girls up that afternoon, Becky proclaimed school to be "great"! She enjoyed her day very much. The thing she loved the most was having her own desk; when I got to her room she proudly showed me her name on the desk and all of her supplies stored in it. The next day Jim dropped the girls off and Becky was fine; she showed him her desk and then lined up with the class for breakfast.

Today was her first day of actual class. She told me that she is excited about having homework, and going to gym class! Jim was running late this morning so I took the girls to school; Becky looked a little sad as I left but she told us last night that she won't be crying any more. I hope that is true. Through all of this, Carly is her own confident self; swaggering into her room each day with enthusiasm.

This photo shows me a glimpse of the young lady my first baby is becoming...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Which LOST character are you?

Your results:
You are Mr. Eko

Mr. Eko
Claire Littleton
Boone Carlyle
Hugo "Hurley" Reyes
Sayid Jarrah
John Locke
Michael Dawson
Walt Lloyd
Sun Kwon
Kate Austen
Jin-Soo Kwon
Charlie Pace
Shannon Rutherford
Dr. Jack Shephard
Ana-Lucia Cortez
James "Sawyer" Ford
You are neither a leader nor a follower. You are a Bible reader and are motivated by God's will. Many people have respect for you.

Click here to take the "Which Lost character am I?" quiz...

Requesting positive, cooling vibes

Today about 1200 women in the greater Cleveland area started the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk to benefit the Susan G Komen Foundation. Unfortunately, this weekend looks to be one of the hottest and most humid we've had this summer. I know they would appreciate any positive vibes you could send as they do the three 20-mile walks.

Blog to check out

I get emails from Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project, which I really enjoy. She recommended a site called Someday Syndrome. If you are a procrastinator and a "someday..." person like me, you may enjoy it as well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Concerns of a more mundane sort

So I'm at home to rest and recover from the surgery. It's a time of peace and quiet, as I am almost never home by myself. This pause from my hectic life is giving me the chance to nap, to watch dvds that I can't watch with the girls around, and to just hang out.

Unfortunately, Becky has other plans for me. Timing is everything, and not always in a good way. The girls started their new school on August 4, two days before the surgery. Carly has taken to the new school like a fish to water; you would never know she'd been somewhere else. Becky was all smiles the first week too.

Then came Monday... she woke up crying hysterically. At first I thought she'd had a nightmare but she said no, just kept saying "I want you, mama". Jim and I both tried to feel her out as to what was going on. She did mention that she was upset because the morning teacher would be on vacation this week, and that she was sometimes bored because there wasn't a computer in the classroom. (Turns out there is one, but it's not turned on every day.) Jim asked if it was okay for her to stay home with me. Well, not really... I was exhausted because I'd done too much over the weekend and not rested enough, but how could I say no? I ended up only getting about an hour nap on Monday, but figured I'd make it up Tuesday.

Each morning this week she has cried and cried, complaining of tummy aches and saying "I want mama". On Wednesday I gave her some tylenol and that seemed to help, though I'm sure it was just a placebo. On Thursday, she kept crying that the tylenol wasn't helping. Jim took her and Carly to school, with Becky becoming increasingly hysterical as they drove. When they arrived, he watched as B crunched her abdominal muscles and made herself vomit. He called me and I told him to bring her home. She was not allowed to watch TV or use the computer, and she said to me "I promise I will go to school tomorrow. I will keep my promise."

This morning, more of the same. I didn't bother with the tylenol, and kept reminding her that she'd made a promise. She is also upset because she has to have her kindergarten immunizations today, but that is a smaller concern. Jim called to tell me that the teacher had to literally peel B off of him.

I totally understand that my mommy's girl wants to be with me and has had a ton of change recently. She's also disappointed because she didn't understand that she's in pre-k until 8/27 when K starts officially; she wanted to start K right away. My heart breaks for her, but I also need my rest. We've talked several times about how mommy is supposed to be sleeping a lot and that she needs to go to school. She listens but then says "I want mommy" and starts weeping again.

This is to the point where I am seriously considering telling her that I am going back to work next week, dressing for it, then changing back after she leaves. This kind of deception seems very wrong but I'm not sure what else to do. There is no way I can have her here all next week with me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The next chapter

It's been a week since my surgery, and I am resting comfortably at home, as comfortably as you can with two little children in the house. The surgery went well; the surgeon said that it was less complicated than he had anticipated, so they let me go home the next morning. I was really grateful for this, as I just wanted to relax at home. It was so hot during the night and I was stuck in bed with a catheter and leg compression sleeves, which help prevent blood clots. After reading the story of a woman who died of a pulmonary embolism the day after her daughter was born, I had told Jim that I would never again complain about the leg compression. And I didn't, but man, they make me hot and because I can't move in the bed much, I just get so sore. Then, my roommate was having issues throughout the night, so there was TV on very late, lights on most of the night, etc. Plus she was vomiting, which actually didn't bother me much, but I didn't start to get good sleep until about 3AM. Then starting at 4AM, I had two different nursing assistants take vitals, and two different phlebotomists take blood. Argh... However, I kept it all in perspective. My roommate had MS and had had her bladder removed due to cancer. Some medication she'd been given had made her really out of it, so they kept asking her questions to see if she was more lucid. I might have been hot, tired and sore, but at least I got to go home the next day.

They did the procedure laparascopically, which is pretty cool. I have a small incision to the left of my navel and one to the right and slightly below; both are less than 1 inch. The third incision is through my navel, which is pretty weird! That is the only one that is still a bit sore, but it's healing up too. This recovery is much easier than the recovery from my nephrectomy. At that time I was in much more pain than I had thought I would feel after a lap procedure. This time I feel like I had expected to. My job says I am ok to be off work until 9/22, which is crazy - also is more than 2 weeks longer than I was allowed for the nephrectomy. When I see the surgeon for follow up, I will see when I can go back to work, hopefully much sooner. That follow up hasn't been scheduled yet - they actually haven't called me since I came home.

Dr. Rini, my oncologist, called me this morning with my pathology results. The nodule was malignant with renal cell carcinoma. The good news is, that is the only place they saw it, so while I am now a member of the stage 4 cancer survivors club, in Dr R's words, "we would call it resected M1 disease because your only site of metastasis would be resected with nothing visible left and no treatment would be offered." There isn't typical chemotherapy for kidney cancer - it's not like other cancers where they remove everything they see surgically, then blast you with drugs to try to kill any remaining cells. Instead, the systemic (drug) therapies, all of which are pretty new, work to shrink or kill existing tumors when they are too numerous or too dangerous to be removed surgically. My stats are that the chance of no cancer coming back is 30-35% right now. I cried when I heard that, but I know that stats are based on past experience, and that advances are being made all the time; also, I could be in that 30-35%. So I'm upset about this turn of events, but am not going to let it restrict my life if I can help it.

Before you think I am so positive about all this, I will say... I am mad, sad, disappointed, scared, lots of emotions. Even though this is not in my control, I feel bad that I am putting Jim through this. After watching my dad die of cancer, me getting it was his worst fear. I fear not seeing my girls grow up and not being here for them, and I fear leaving Jim to raise them alone. Yes, I know that I am projecting a lot here, but these are the thoughts that go through my head.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another dip in life's roller coaster

The short story... I'm having surgery on August 6 to remove a nodule in my abdomen.

The story behind the story... last week I had my regular semi-annual CT scans. I am always apprehensive at this time, worrying about what the scans might find, even though the chance of them finding something becomes more remote as time passes. This time however, was a deja vu of my scans in 2006, when a nodule was found in my lung, biopsied and found to be non-malignant, and which subsequently disappeared. They were also aware of an enlarged lymph node in the abdomen, a node which sparked a bit of disagreement between my specialists. My oncologist said it was too risky to biopsy since it's in pretty deep, and that it wasn't necessary since they could biopsy the lung. My kidney surgeon disagreed, and sent my information to the radiologist to schedule the biopsy. They wouldn't do it - giving the same reasons as the oncologist. The nodule has been stable since, but now has grown in the past 6 months. I discussed it with the oncologist, who called it "concerning" but acknowledged that it could well be benign. He wanted to discuss with my kidney surgeon whether they should biopsy it or just remove it. Unfortunately, the surgeon is out of the country for the next several weeks, and though he is allegedly accessible, the oncologist ended up talking to the surgeon who is covering for him. Therefore, surgery on the 6th.

So now I wait, anticipating and dreading anesthesia and another hospital stay, then being in pain/discomfort for a while... I'm really hoping that the nodule is benign, but trying to temper my optimism so that I don't feel crushed if I get bad news. I asked the oncologist, if it is malignant, will I need systemic therapy? He said that I would not, as long as follow up scans remain clear. That is good news, but if it is malignant then the chance of it coming back is much greater. I’m trying not to think about that just yet, though I have been doing some reading online. (Yes, I know, bad Liz, reading all the gory details when they may not apply.) Traditional chemotherapy does not work on metastatic kidney cancer. There are several drug therapies that have been recently approved, and they are helping people, but they are either keeping their tumors stable or decreasing their size, but not “curing” the cancer. I know this is similar to people with other kind of cancers, but now it really hits home.

In pettier annoyances, I have been happy to be a three-year survivor. I’m counting the months until I can donate blood again; right now I will be cleared to do that in May, 2010. My dad donated over 12 gallons in his lifetime. I know I won’t ever get to that point, but I would like to at least “pay back” the six pints that were transfused into me during and after my nephrectomy. If I have metastasis, the ticker starts over again and maybe never gets to the goal.

So if you can send out some “benign tumor” prayers and positive vibes, I would be truly thankful.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Recent Carlyisms

Recent pearls of two-year old verbal wisdom...

One morning as we came downstairs, Rebecca looked out the front window and exclaimed, "The irises have bloomed!" This event had been breathlessly anticipated for a couple of weeks. Carly was so excited, and so she said, "Mommy! The Irish Socks are blooming!"

In Carly's world, you have one foot, and two feets. We were at the kitchen table one day and we could hear Jim coming down the stairs and hallway toward us. Carly raised her eyebrows and exclaimed, "Oh! I can hear Daddy's feets!"

Jim likes to use the word "Czechoslovakia" as a silly tag word, when the girls ask a question about someone or something's whereabouts. "Where is my toy?" "Czechoslovakia" "Where are we going, Daddy?" "Czechoslovakia." This is part of Jim's homage to a favorite movie, Stripes. ("C'mon, it's Czechoslovakia. We zip in, we pick 'em up, we zip right out again. We're not going to Moscow. It's Czechoslovakia. It's like going into Wisconsin.") Well, it's hard for a 2 1/2 year old to say that big word, so when she says it, it comes out as CHECK-ia-FOCK-ia. Every so often that third syllable comes out a little different...

And, she has both a cousin and a teacher who share a name... ASS-a-lin. You might be more familiar with a different pronunciation for Allison. When she says it, we repeat it, "what, Carly? Is her name Assalin?" "NO, Mommy, it's ASSalin!"

These moments make up for the tantrums that while starting to subside, have put Miss Caroline into the category of a "terrible two".

Artistic impressions

I submit for your consideration... a piece created by Rebecca entitled "Carly When She Is Mad". Her parents and teachers have hailed this portrait as an accurate portrayal of the subject in a certain mood.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I'm a weekly reader of Post Secret and today Frank is asking for help for Hopeline. Hopeline is a national suicide crisis line that is stuggling to keep private and confidential. They need help to stay that way.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sometimes idiocy is right in front of your eyes

This was in front of my car on the way to work one day recently. Luckily for me I had my handy camera in my purse.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I don't know what to title this

I read this website for the first time today: First Do No Harm: Real Stories of Fat Prejudice in Health Care. I have heard stories of fat prejudice before, and have some of my own to tell... like the doctor who wanted to treat my depression after my mother's sudden death with a 1500Kcal/day diet. And I will admit here that I am loathe to go to see the doctor because I don't want to get into a discussion about my weight (yes, I know I am fat). Not a healthy attitude for a cancer survivor to have, given that I may need to continue to see doctors. But there it is.

Anyhow, these stories were heart-breaking. And they make me think... what makes these medical "professionals" think that browbeating their patients will even get them to lose weight? There are stories popping up in the media continually about how fat people get more diseases, are sicker, harder to treat, yadda yadda yadda. Did they ever stop to consider that the fat people in question might not have gotten as sick, if they weren't terrified of being verbally abused? And another thing... it's human nature to rebel... many of us don't like being commanded to do something, and so will do the opposite to prove that the commander doesn't control us. Cutting off our noses to spite our faces? Perhaps... but it's how people are.

My employer banned smoking on campus a few years ago. Did that cause the smokers to stop? A few maybe; the rest go off campus for lunch now when they didn't before. At all of our hospitals you can find employees, often in scrubs or other medical gear, outside smoking just off the premises of the hospital. That's a good image for a medical facility, eh?

But I digress...

There seems to be a perception among many people in our society (not my faithful readers I'm sure) that fat people are less human than other people. It seems to be okay to make fun of them, to discriminate against them, to ridicule them as simply lazy gluttons. We're the enemy in the "war on obesity". Meanwhile, we have lovers, children, relatives and friends who love us as is. Sometimes those people close to us consider us the enemy too, which is extra painful.

Let's just say for the sake of argument that obesity is a character flaw. I don't believe this to be true, but for the moment go along with me. Do people not have other character flaws? Ones that are not so visible but still there? Why is it okay to hold fat people in such contempt for their "flaw" but not other people for theirs? Actually, why judge anyone like that? So you are within the range of weight considered "normal". You don't eat emotionally, you haven't yoyo dieted, good for you? Why am I less of a person because I have?

I know someone who has worked hard on weight loss over the past couple of years. She really restricts her eating and gets a lot of exercise. Oh, and she also smokes. The reason she gave for not quitting in the past few years, even after watching a close family member die of lung cancer? She is afraid of gaining 10-20 pounds. So she has wanted to lose even more weight first. Recently someone else close to her was diagnosed with lung cancer; this has caused her to decide to finally do it before cancer catches up to her. I know that nicotine addiction is extremely hard to fight so I'm proud of her for even trying. Funny thing though... she is one of those people who can't understand other people's perceived weaknesses. If you're fat, you diet. If you drink too much or take drugs, you stop. End of story. She thinks people shouldn't have weight loss surgery because it's the easy way out. I know quite a few people who've had WLS and they will tell you, it's anything but.

Can't we try for a little respect of people who are different from us?

ABC meme

A is for age:
43. You got a problem with that? I don't... beats the alternative!

B is for burger of choice:
Medium rare, with cheese, tomato and sometimes mushrooms. Love Red
Robin's blue ribbon burger minus some of the stuff on it

C is for what kind of car you drive:
Honda Accord though looking to get an Odyssey

D is for your dog's name:
Three of 'em; Bailey, Trixie and Gracie

E is for essential item you use everyday:
Mr. Coffee Jr for my morning fix

F is for favorite TV show at the moment:
LOST - also watching Heroes season 1 on dvd

G is for favorite game:
Haven't played any in a while, maybe Monopoly

H is for HomeState:

I is for instruments you play:
None, but did take piano lessons for 3 years. Does that count?

J is for favorite juice:
Cranberry, even without vodka. (Ok, hardly ever WITH vodka)

K is for whose butt you'd like to kick:
Nobody in my personal life at present but a whole bunch of people in
the public eye.

L is for last restaurant you ate at?

M is for your favorite Muppet:

N is for Number of Piercing:
3 (ears)

O is for overnight hospital stays:
1971 - Umbilical hernia age 6.5; 2002 - childbirth; 2005 - unknown
kidney pain; 2005 - kidney removal; 2005 - childbirth. I don't care to stay in one again.

P is for people you were with today:
Hubby and girls, folks at work.

Q is for what you do with your quiet time:
Internet, reading, some tv

R is for biggest regret:
Not trying more for kids while my dad was still alive (got pg for the
first time a month after he died).

S is for status:
Tired but wishing it was earlier so I could surf more

T is for time you woke up today:

U is for what you consider unique.
The two crazy girl-children in my life. :-)

V is for vegetable you love:
Zucchini, corn, sauteed green beans

W is for worst habit:
Laziness, lack of follow through, whatever you want to call it.

X is for x-rays you've had:
Abdomen, chest, pelvis. (CTs every 6 months, baby!)

Y is for yummy food you ate today:
Chicken salad and tomato wrap

Z is for zodiac sign:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A little spilled milk goes a long way

Okay, confession time here. Our house is a wreck, our yard is a wreck. The yard part will improve greatly within a month; more on that later. But somehow we've just gotten ourselves into a morass of clutter. We're able to get things reasonably picked up in the common areas prior to big events like the girls' birthday parties, but then conditions slide back down into a mess. Slowly Jim and I have been working on changing this, so that our home can be an oasis rather than a source of stress, and so we don't panic at the thought of someone showing up unexpectedly. But it's very slow going and we do backslide.

Our kitchen table is, like many people's, a dumping ground. We would work on getting rid of the papers, books, toys, etc. on it, and make headway, but next thing you know, the piles have risen like floodwaters. I recently told Jim that we need to take everything off the table, put it into a box, and sort it from there, so that we could start fresh. Early this week Rebecca accelerated the process. One evening at supper, she tipped her milk glass. It was a small glass and wasn't full, but there was definite spillage. This has happened before, and we've cleaned up the area around the spill, but this time, I watched something in Jim snap. He started methodically taking stuff and putting it away. A lot of it was his, as he'd been using the table like an office desk. I was able to clean the table with oil soap, and put down new placemats the girls and I had bought early this year (Valentine's theme but hey, love is year-round!). And the best part is, we've kept it up all week. Yesterday it was raining outside so the girls ended up painting on the kitchen table. It's been a long time since we've had enough space to do that. Jim has a small pile starting again, but I will be bugging him to dispatch it after he wakes up this morning. :-)

I debated whether to post about this, but in the interest of full disclosure I decided to go ahead. Maybe letting everyone in on the "secrets" of my messy life will help me to be more neat and organized.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Three year anniversary

I am sooo behind... last Saturday was the three year anniversary of my simultaneously being confirmed to have, then likely cured of, cancer. Most of the time it seems like it never happened; the only time I focus on it is when my next CT scan is looming... not until July for the next one. It's been a weird time as I know other people who are currently fighting a battle with cancer or other serious diseases. By contrast, I almost feel like I can't be classified as a "cancer survivor" because I didn't know for sure I had cancer until it was gone, and have fortunately needed no other treatment. Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful and happy that I haven't had to fight, especially since metastatic kidney cancer is only just now benefiting from research to the point where there are a few drugs available. I am not sure what I am trying to say, other than it just feels surreal to me.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Polka dot dresses

A few people have commented to me about the girls' dresses in the photo here. They are cute, aren't they? We went to Kohl's a few weeks ago to get some spring clothes for Rebecca; being the firstborn she gets a new wardrobe every new size/season. :-) She loves dresses and saw the red one on a sale rack. I tossed it in the cart and continued shopping. We meandered over to the toddler section; while Caroline doesn't "need" new clothes, I thought she should get something since sissy was getting a lot. Usually she likes pants better than dresses, but I thought a cute dress would be fun. I pointed out a number of dresses, including one with Dora the Explorer on the front - or as C calls her, Dora Ta Plora. No dice. Next thing I know, C was standing next to a rack of fancy dresses, telling me she wanted the blue dress. It was fancier than I thought she would like but the price was right so I got it.
It wasn't until we got home and they put on a fashion show for Daddy that we realized that the dresses were the same style, just in different colors! I like that they "match" but are not exactly the same, even though we have a pair of totally matching dresses in their closet. (Easter dresses that couldn't be worn due to the cold temperature.) On the day the photo was taken, their grandmother had taken them downtown to see The Emperor's Groovy New Clothes. They both wanted to wear dresses to the play, and I like dressing them up for grandma.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bits and pieces

Busy life, nothing big going on of note, either good or bad.

As you may have noticed, I've made a few changes to the blog. I wanted to be able to list links separately from friends' blogs. I think I will also put up a list of books read recently; I'd love to discuss them with anyone who's read the same ones! Speaking of books, I was invited to join a book club recently. I've been to two meetings and read two books so far and really enjoyed the discussions. Since I joined I've read One True Thing and Infidel. Next up is something lighter, The Jane Austen Book Club.

The girls are doing fine and enjoying the change in weather. You can see how nice it was last weekend from the photo I've now put up. The temps have dipped this week and they're predicting frost tonight but hopefully this will be the last of that. I just got a couple of inches cut off my hair. I don't deal well with my hair; I watch the stylist dry it and she makes it look so nice, but I can never approximate, much less duplicate her efforts. Most of the time I let it air dry, which of course keeps the natural wave and makes it look goofy. At least shorter is a change!

Carly is having hair issues as well. In her case they are directly related to her two-ness. She is quite the independent young lady and absolutely refuses to allow me to comb or brush her hair 99% of the time. We've been trying to grow her bangs out and she won't let me put them back in any way, so she looks like a sheep dog. I've threatened to get her hair cut short like a boy's, to which she replies "cut it!" C is not a girl with whom you can bargain to get her to do something. We've decided to get her hair cut shorter by a couple of inches and to cut the bangs again, until she is older. Interestingly, she will sit still for her teacher at day care to comb and style her hair; many days when I pick her up she has a small ponytail for the top hair or some other pretty style. Mommy is not allowed to do this though!

***Update since I started this post... we got it cut; she now has a bob with bangs. It is adorable and so nice to see her face again! She likes it, though the first night she told Jim "I want my hair back" but she was tired and cranky at that point. She hasn't mentioned wanting her hair back since!

Hair is not her only issue; she is independent, defiant, stubborn, you name it. Very exhausting to be around her sometimes. I keep using my mantra, "this too shall pass" to get through it. On the bright side, she seems to be showing interest in the potty again so maybe we'll be able to work on that soon. On Saturday morning she was walking around in her nightgown. She told me she had to go potty, which she hasn't done in a while. I took her to the bathroom and discovered that she had removed her diaper and put on a pair of Becky's underpants! She didn't actually do anything but she kept the panties dry, so maybe... maybe...

Seeing nature

As I walked back to my office from the kitchenette, holding a mug of coffee, I glanced out the window and was surprised to see a pair of hawks sitting on the ledge. They were brown with reddish heads, and both were perched on the ledge that juts out from our floor. We're on the fourth floor so they're up a bit, and the wind ruffled their feathers. They looked around calmly, and stayed in place until I moved toward the doorway to my corridor. That caused one to take flight, circling above the building and out to the side; I could see his shadow. The other hawk waited a moment, then joined his buddy. If I'd had my camera in my pocket I would have taken a photo.
I love being able to see something natural in our sea of gray walls, glass, fluorescent lights and noise abatement. (For those of you unfamiliar, a noise abatement system is "white noise" broadcast throughout a building so that you don't notice your cube mates' voices and other sounds as much. It makes a big difference when you are in an open area.) At our former location, we saw deer all the time; I miss them. Here I am up so high that even if there are ground animals nearby, I can't really see them. Instead, I have a good view of the freeway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What breed of dog are you?

Take this test!
No bones about it, you're a loyal, nurturing Collie. A sensitive breed, you're always approachable and very in tune with others' feelings — just like Lassie! Because of your empathetic nature, you tend to be the group psychologist to your circle of friends. Your faithful, easygoing, steadfast personality makes you a wonderful confidant; people love to come to you with their troubles. Bottom line? You're a star at interpersonal relationships and have a knack for making new friends and acquaintances wherever you go. After all, what's a Collie without a flock to look after? Since you're so giving, your buddies might not realize that you need them just as much as they need you, so make sure not to neglect yours truly. Everyone deserves some "me" time. Woof!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Kindergarten redux

You may recall back in January my post about what to do about Rebecca for kindergarten. It's taken a while and a lot of angst but we finally made a decision.

The winner is option #3. R is signed up for Kindergarten in the private school/day care's all day K program. On Valentine's day Jim and I visited the facility in the morning since my eye surgery appointment was scheduled for the afternoon. We ended up getting the owner as our tour guide. They have several locations but she happened to be at our location that morning to meet with work crews; there had been a water pipe outside that burst the week before, due to all this crazy weather we've had this winter. Owner is a trip; she's an immigrant who made good; came to the US and was unhappy with her son's day care experience so she opened her own. The facility is very nice; we were impressed with all that they do. They have music and art teachers, as well as a computer lab. They teach French and Spanish to the kids; R already takes a weekly Spanish class at her current day care so that will be good, and she knows a few words of French from ballet so hopefully she'll get more of that too. We got to meet one of the two K teachers, who is the one she will likely have. The teacher told us that if we were considering having R attend K at the public school to try to get her into afternoon K because they did the main academic stuff in the morning so it would be best to have her there for that part. Later the owner said it more bluntly, that we would be "wasting our money" if R attends morning K at the public school. We also asked the owner and the director about the "bus story" we had heard from a fellow parent at our current day care. She sent her older child there for before and after K but we heard that she had pulled him out right away, because she observed him having to walk down a hill through a crowded parking lot by himself. The owner was very disturbed by this story, but the owner remembered the situation well event though it had happened two years ago. We heard her version of the story which was a bit different.

After we talked some more to both the director and the owner, we went home to discuss. It seemed obvious to us that we should just spend the extra money and have R attend full day K there. The program sounds like it will be right up her alley; she is hungry to learn and has gotten bored in preschool. And, we won't have to deal with the bus issue. I called the public school to cancel our registration appointment and asked when I should contact them to register her for first grade. They don't know exactly when that will be for next year but told me to contact them around this time next year. Needless to say, there is a task noted for early Feb 2009 in my Outlook at work!

Our difficult decision was about what to do with Caroline next year. While we were there we also toured the day care to see about possibly moving Caroline to this place. We decided that we should move her to this facility when R goes. It looks like a good place, different from where she is in that even the little ones have more of an academic focus, but a place she could do well nonetheless. But then Jim started to have serious regrets about leaving our current place, where we love the staff and where the girls are loved so much. We talked and talked... I feel sad too but logistically I just don't see how it could work to have them several miles apart for drop offs and pickups. I wanted to make a final decision so we could get all of the necessary paperwork submitted. So I told Jim that we would have to be really organized and would have to split up the kids for drop off and possibly pickup to make this work. Then one morning C was an enormous pill; wouldn't do anything she needed to do, was very contrary, very TWO. Jim said That's IT! We're moving her to the new place. No way can we handle this and two places all together in a morning; we'll never get out the door! So on Thursday I dropped off the paperwork on my way to work in the morning. The director was there and said that we could start them any time in August, so they're in.

Unfortunately, I had not had the opportunity to talk to the director of our current place about the switch yet, because I wanted to wait until I knew there was a place for C in the new place. She knew about R because R has been telling everyone where she's going for K. Then I found out that R has been telling people that C is going with her to the new place, even though we hadn't decided that yet. I felt terrible that they were hearing this from her and not from Jim and me. Yesterday I sent an email to the director to let her know what our plans are. I sent it from work just before leaving early (thanks, blizzard conditions!) so I don't know if she's replied. Jim picked up the girls yesterday; he didn't see my email so he didn't know about it. The assistant to the director mentioned C leaving so he was further irritated that there was "gossip" going around, but I told him that I'd also copied her on the message.

Change is hard... we will miss these folks so much. But this is the best decision for our family. And it will be nice for C - she'll have to meet new kids now but she'll know them through K. For both girls, they may end up in elementary school with some of these kids so it's nice for them to start meeting some more "local" kids now. That was one problem with our current day care; since it's in a neighboring town, most of the kids there are from that town so R wouldn't be seeing them much longer anyhow. There is one in particular that we will continue to see; she is in R's ballet class and they are buddies, so that is nice. Plus her mom works for the Clinic and I've known her for 15+ years.

I can't believe that in 5 months or so I'll have a Kindergartner... sniff sniff...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Seeing the world through new eyes

After an initial false start, I am now seeing out of my freshly-lasered eyeballs.
My LASIK appt was on Feb. 7th. We arrived on schedule and were in the waiting room for over an hour. I had decided that I was not all that nervous so I had not asked for any valium, which some people take prior to the procedure. As we waited, I felt a bit more nervous. Interestingly, Jim was very uncharacteristically chatty which was distracting me but not in a good way. It occurred to me that he was nervous too so I didn't say anything to him about it, though I wanted to tell him to be quiet.
When they took me back, they talked about what they were going to do, and got me comfortable in the procedure chair. It's a comfy chair, like a reclining dentist chair but more plush. The first step after numbing drops are applied is to make a flap out of a thin layer of the corneas. They let that settle, then they use the laser on the part underneath to change your vision. The flap is like an internal contact lens. I used to wear contacts but always had trouble with them. They often felt dry or itchy, and so I was constantly using drops. I was always aware of the lens in the left eye; it wasn't painful but I always felt it. Once I got a serious bacterial infection in my cornea; that was no fun.
Well, I guess my eyes didn't want internal "contact lenses" either. They applied a suction cup type thing to my eye as they started, but it lost suction. Three times this happened, luckily before they cut the eye, so they stopped. The surgeon told me to come back the next week and he would do PRK instead. PRK is the precursor to LASIK; it's basically the surgery on the surface of your cornea with no flap. It's a procedure that is prone to more pain and has a longer recovery period, but is still safe and effective. The doctor warned me that my eye was bloodshot from the suction and advised me to use steroid drops for the next several days. I went to use the restroom and "bloodshot" was an understatement. I had developed an almost perfect blood ring around my iris, with more blood on the outside part of the white of the eye. It was pretty gross looking, though it didn't hurt at the time. I went out to the waiting room to wake Jim up, and then took him out of the office to tell him what happened. I was disappointed and cried a little, but still wanted to return the next week for round 2. We went home and my eye was starting to hurt, so I took some ibuprofen and a long nap. The next day at work a colleague told me I had an eye hickey, which amused me.
I was rescheduled for the 14th, Valentine's Day. I knew that I would be much more nervous this time so I had requested a Valium this time. I've never taken Valium before but decided it might be a good idea. The nurse told me not to take it until I arrived for the appointment. When I checked in at 1PM, I asked if I should take my pill and was told to wait until the tech came to see me. They had told me that they wouldn't be actually taking me back until 1:30, and they came out on the dot. Immediately they walked me back to the procedure room. What about my Valium? I asked. Oh, you can take it now, I was told. Uh oh...
The procedure itself, I liken to painting a room, where you spend far more time prepping than actually painting. I was seated in the comfy chair, and my eyelids were cleaned with betadine. The surgeon then put a patch over my left eye, and numbing drops in my right eye. My eyelashes were taped back and an eye speculum was put in. It bothered me in theory that I couldn't close my eye but I didn't fight it as much as I thought I would. Then the doctor "roughed up" the surface of the cornea using some small tool. Once he was done, they started he laser procedure itself. I was told to stare at a blinking orange light. It takes 28 seconds which doesn't seem like a long time except when your eyeball is being burned! I smelled a burning hair smell briefly; that was my cornea. I had read about others having this experience so I wasn't surprised or particularly grossed out.

After the laser did its thing they put some medicine in my eye, removed the speculum and tape, and moved the patch from my left eye to my right. I thought I could feel him doing the "roughing up" a little more so he put in additional numbing drops, which made me feel less nervous because I was worried I would be able to feel the laser! While he was prepping it occurred to me; this man is scrubbing at my eyeball. If I could really feel it, I would be screaming in pain right now. So, the numbing drops clearly are working!
Once that eye was done, they sat me up and the tech gave me some directions along with my bag of "goodies". Each patient receives a small leather-ish toiletry bag containing: a bottle of antibiotic drops, bottle of steroid drops, pair of sunglasses and a pair of goggles. I didn't need the goggles since I didn't have the LASIK, but they have LASIK patients wear them to sleep in for the first few nights to keep from rubbing their eyes. A post-op instruction sheet was also included. They tucked into a side pocket a prescription for percoset.

And that was it. I was in at 1:30 and out at 2:00. Jim and I got the prescription filled, and then went to Friendly's for a late lunch. I took some percoset right away as my eyes burned some. I was sensitive to light so I kept my sunglasses on (a pair I had bought, not the ones from the doctor), a baseball cap on my head, and my head down. I continued to be sensitive to light at home for the next several days. Two days post-op was the hardest; I awoke at 6AM to a strong burning in both eyes. I took percoset periodically, interspersed with ibuprofen, and slept most of Saturday. Sunday I felt much better.
It was amazing how well I could see right away. I still have some blurriness at times, more so in the right eye than the left, but my vision is still quite good even when blurry. I do see a "halo" around lights at night sometimes, but not all the time. Driving has been fine. It took a couple of weeks to stop reaching for my glasses on my bedside table, and when getting out of the shower. I did try my glasses on at one point and it was weird to see how bad everything looked, especially knowing how clear they had made everything before. It does feel odd not to have clear and blurry vision, not to have my peripheral sight be as sharp as it is. I think I've mostly adjusted but my brain is still catching up in small ways.
Everyone seems used to how I look now, without my glasses. I'm starting to wear eye makeup again; I know I look washed out without it but it hasn't become part of my routine yet. It bothers me more to see my gray hair roots now. Apparently with glasses on they weren't so obvious to me; now I'm thinking I need to schedule my coloring appointments closer together. At my last hair appointment I got my eyebrows done. The woman who does them at my salon used a combination of sugaring and threading, and told me I'm pulling too many from the beginning of each brow. Who knew?Certainly not me, who is far from a fashion advertisement.
I still have some healing to do; the doctor says at six months out I will really feel the difference. But I'm pleased with it already, and am looking forward to any additional improvements healing will bring.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kindergarten readiness... feh

Funny, I had started writing this post earlier today, then came across Rebecca's birthday post, which I neglected to post at the time of her actual birthday. This post is particularly fitting after that one, though!

***Warning*** this is a whiny post.

Last night our school district had a Kindergarten readiness forum. Jim and I were both planning to attend, and had even secured a babysitter. Then on the way home from day care, Carly barfed in the car. We canceled the sitter and Jim stayed home so I set off by myself for the meeting.

Because I didn't get there super early, I had to sit in the last row in the cafeteria where the meeting was being held. It was difficult to hear what was being said at times, because they didn't use a sound system. A couple of people brought their kids, and the kids were noisy. Then a cooler behind us started running a cycle. Someone from the school turned it off, but I still had to really strain to hear some of what was being said. One of my pet peeves was played out too; people in the audience would ask a question and the speaker would not repeat the question. Most of the time I could figure out the question based on the answer, but not always.

The information provided at the meeting itself shocked me a couple of times. There is an elementary school close to us, on the other side of one cross street in the next development over. I looked at the district map in my packet and it showed us in the area of another elementary school. This isn't a huge deal, except we have told Rebecca that she will be at the closer school. I found out at the end of the meeting that the map is not correct and we ARE supposed to go to the closer school. It was still quite a surprise.

Then I learned that while the district has a before and after-school care program, they offer no mid-day care. Couple this with the fact that K is half-day in our district, and it means that I have no place for R to go for half the day. She could go to the daycare she's been attending, but it is located in the suburb next to ours, so we'd have to provide a private bus for her to go back and forth. One of the parents asked about full day K. We were told that they've been studying it and find that most people do want it, regardless of whether there is a stay at home parent or not. No kidding... how much can they really do in 2.5 hours? And for kids like mine, who have been attending a full day preschool, it's a step backward. They told us that when we come for K registration, they will have us complete some form or something that they are using to collect opinions to give to the superintendent and Board of Education members. It sounds like the district is finally open to changing their K, not in time for Rebecca, but *maybe* for Caroline. I may write to the superintendent and board members myself to express my support for full-day K. Maybe it's time I started attending Board of Education meetings too.

Here are our options, as I see them at this time:

1. Attend public school, send her to current daycare for before/after care for the portion of day not covered by school's AC program
Pro - she would be with familiar kids and staff for part of the day
Con - cost of shuttle on top of tuition

2. Attend public school, send her to local day care center/private elementary for AC
Pro - school bus will take her to and from AC, she will meet other "local" kids.
Con - I have heard bad story about where bus drops off; need to check this out with AC school and with district's transportation dept

3. Attend private elementary above for K
Pro - she would be one place all day. Also if we like it could consider switching C to this place so we'd only have one point of pickup and dropoff
Con - would then have to apply to local school for first grade and then go through transition again

4. Attend K at our Catholic church's school
Pro - K is full day there and they have after care
Con - unsure of starting time and therefore before-care situation. Also, not sure I want her to go to Catholic school because of my own struggles with their teachings on social issues and other things.

OH, what to do, what to do... I so do not feel up to this challenge to figure out. Part of me wishes that staying home were an option, so that I could be here for her before and after school. But right now that's not an option, so we're left with the above, unless another option presents itself. We might have had a fifth option, where R could go to her grandma's after school, because Jim's folks were looking at a house near here. But when they got the disclosue information, they learned that is has a ton of problems, including black mold in the attic. Everything is supposedly being addressed but they are going to pass.

Any ideas you have, I am open to! I know we'll get through this but it isn't the part of parenting I dreamed about when I stared at the positive pregnancy test, that is for sure!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Still clean

Here is the email I received this morning from my oncologist:

"Just got the results. There is NO evidence of change and NO evidence of recurrent RCC. I think we can repeat scans every 6 months. Reminding me with an email works best. Take care and reply with any questions."

(RCC = renal cell carcinoma)

So THAT is a relief, to be sure. Now I can enjoy my weekend. A girl friend invited me to see Juno; Jim agreed to chauffeur the girls to and from a birthday party, so I am free to be an adult for a while. We may make it a double feature and see 27 Dresses, which is not getting good reviews but might be some silly chick-flick fun. Depends on whether our behinds can take sitting through two movies!

Thanks to all for your prayers, PVs and good wishes. They help more than I can say.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Big day tomorrow

Time for CT scanning again. It's been 6 months already? This is a weird one because usually I go through my oncologist's nurse to make the appointment. She in turn works with appointment schedulers so it usually takes a few days to secure the appt and the appt is usually a few weeks out. When I saw Dr. Rini last summer, he told me just to email him when it was time to schedule and he'd have his secretary take care of it. No kidding... I emailed him Monday afternoon, he replied within 1.5 hours, and she called soon after, offering me an appt the next day if I wanted it. I had a full schedule today so I'm doing it tomorrow. This is good because I won't have to obsess about the appointment for a long period of time. I should have results by the end of the week, which I will post.

As always, I am nervous, even though chances are very good that the scans will show that I'm still cancer-free. It stinks to always have over my head, but better this than actually being sick. And assuming the news is good, I'll feel like I can get on with my winter. I have LASIK surgery scheduled for February 7 and we're planning a weekend away at an indoor water park for late winter. I am very excited about the fact that I won't need to wear glasses in the water! Last year when we went that was a big pain. So, I have lots to look forward to, once I clear another hurdle.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Health care hassles

Jim came down with pneumonia on Christmas day. He had a fever and chills and so he spent most of the day on the couch under a blanket. He just thought it was a seasonal virus until he called his doctor's office two days later, at my urging, because he wasn't showing any signs of improvement. The triage nurse believed that Jim was not suffering from "what is going around" and that it sounded like he was dehydrated, so she recommended he go to the emergency room. I left work a little early to get him, and his parents took care of the girls for us.
We had a truly dismal experience in the ER, complete with a phlebotomist telling him that "when you have the flu you need to let the heat out" while Jim's entire body shook under two coats and a blanket. Oh, and even though they took a chest xray, they never mentioned that he might have pneumonia. They hydrated him, gave some IV antibiotics, and sent him home with a recommendation to "follow up with your doctor as needed". He called the next morning and got in to see a doctor in our doc's practice. (Side note, what is the point of having a Primary Care Provider when you never get to see him? Jim was told he is completely booked until April. WTH?) The doctor had his records from the ER and told him right away that he had pneumonia and could be hospitalized unless he wanted to be treated as an outpatient. Jim chose outpatient so that I wouldn't be dealing with the kids alone. I was glad because while I expected to take care of them by myself, since after all, he would be too sick to deal with them, at least at home he could get better rest. And so he did; for several days he slept for 10-12 hours at night and napped during the day. He's doing fine now but it was pretty scary to see him that sick.
Through this experience Jim had two "fat patient" episodes that really annoyed me. When we were at the ER, a physician assistant was checking him over. He asked if Jim or anyone in his family is diabetic, and Jim answered "no". The PA asked this at least twice more, with a tone in his voice that sounded like, 'come on buddy, you're too fat not to be diabetic, so let's just fess up.'
Jim kept insisting that he was not diabetic. He's never had high blood sugar levels; in fact neither have I. Yes, it is possible to be fat and NOT be diabetic. My obstetrician didn't want to believe this either; when I was pregnant with Caroline he had me take the glucose tolerance test twice because he was sure I would develop gestational diabetes. He actually seemed somewhat disappointed to see my blood glucose numbers both times.
OK, I've digressed... back to Jim. He saw the doctor at our office the next day. This was a doctor he hadn't met before, an associate of our doctor. While he was there, the doctor asked him if Jim was interested in having bariatric surgery. Jim said he didn't know. After all, he was feeling lousy and just wanted to know what was wrong and how to get better. The doctor repeatedly encouraged bariatric surgery, telling him he really should look into it. In fact, he said, if his brother needed it, the doctor would kidnap him and take him to have it done. ??? Is this really an appropriate topic for discussion when treating someone with pneumonia? Obesity is not a risk factor for pneumonia. It just wasn't the time to be discussing weight loss surgery.
Some of you reading this may think I'm overreacting, that these health care providers were just concerned for Jim's well-being. I certainly hope they were concerned, since taking care of people is their career, and I would assume they chose that career at least partly because they care about people. Unfortunately the health care profession has a long history of not looking past the fat when treating people. I was recently re-acquainted with a really interesting blog, Junkfood Science. When I read this article, I was amazed; it described so eloquently what I've been feeling for a long time. I've had experiences like Jim's all my life. Going to the doctor makes me anxious enough that my blood pressure goes up even though it is normal when I take it at home. I am hypertensive and medicated for it, but the only time I get a high reading is at my doctor's office.
Anyhow, I think Sandy Szwarc is telling a truth that people don't want to hear, that in her words, "Science is being misused for marketing and political purposes." I've realized for a while that the media takes information out of context, so I now generally ignore most stories I read or hear in the media that start with "according to a new study". I'm not just talking about studies about weight, weight loss, or the correlation of fat to disease, but studies on most any subject.
Of course, being a fat woman, I am more in tune to the deluge of information we get telling us that fat is bad. That's a whole bigger rant though, so I'll save that for another post.