HAIR LOSS

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Recently, I was at my wit’s end. We have a project where the Planning Department is holding up the Final Occupancy Permit for a home that’s completely built and signed off by Building. All Planning’s concerns are addressed and approved and they can’t figure out how to ‘close out’ the process. >sigh< And there’s a homeowner waiting to move in to the house.

So, our client asks me to send an email to the Planner and ask him to sign off. That’s all that is required according to the Building Department.

I type up the email and cc all the appropriate parties.

BAM! Email failure message states that the City’s server has blocked the emails.

I send it again, and again. Failure, failure, failure. I delete the huge email string attached. Failure. I send an email to the Planning Department general mailbox. I call the Planner, but can’t leave a message because his VM is full! Aargh. I call Planning’s general line and let them know that their email system must be having issues because its rejecting my emails…MY emails! My perfect, well-worded, concise emails.

Of course, I’m a little hampered by various medications and am not operating on all cylinders, either. So, I’m just getting madder and madder. One, because the delay in getting this project finished has been so frustrating and two, failure Failure FAILURE!

The property owner calls and he’s sending emails, too. HIS ARE GOING THROUGH! Why? WHY?

I get an email from one of the Admin Techs, forwarding an email from IT. She’s sent my email to him and asked what the problem is. She calls me and she is laughing and let’s me know that she is showing his email to everyone and they are all giggling about it.

So, what was the problem?

In every email sent, there is a tag paragraph where I let people know what’s going on with me and my cancer treatments.

The City’s system flagged the emails and rejected them because I mentioned possible side effects to my cancer treatments and one of them is ‘hair loss’.

Yes, folks, you can’t mention ‘hair loss’ in an email to anyone who works at this particular City.

Well, I made somebody’s day with that goofy problem and, really, you gotta laugh, right?

Hair loss. Hasn’t happened to me yet, btw.

I am halfway through the neck radiation treatment. Its a pretty quick process, put on a gown, lie on a table, get snapped into a mask, radiation moves back and forth, then I’m done.

This is the mask they snap over my head and chest. They told me I can keep it!

5 more sessions. No real pain from this treatment except for lying on my back.

The table slides towards the machine and the machine rotates around me. It can give me a CT scan, too.

Side effects are beginning, though. I’ve started to lose taste. Food and drink don’t taste right or they taste bad. I have a dry mouth. I can’t drink room temp water, which I’ve always preferred. It must be cold! Green tea is horrible! Coffee is barely drinkable. Hot cocoa is acceptable but not great.

I also feel like those mouth sores are beginning. Not painful yet, but they are budding, I think.

I have to watch out for Thrush. I’m brushing with a special flouride toothpaste that costs $25/tube! Every night for the rest of my life, apparently.

I’m having more back pain, now, and am scheduled for a spinal Dr consult in about 10 days. Criminy

Still waking up every 1-2.5 hours, going potty, checking meds schedule, doing light stretches, staying up til the meds start to work or are at least nestled in my tummy about to start their work.

Totally addicted to Facebook videos now. Christmas DIY! Refresh your wardrobe! DIY Van Life! Living in a Windmill! Buy THIS not THAT!

And when I do wake up all night long? Sometimes its all good but some nights are miserable with nerve pain shooting down from my back to my knees. I put on various salves or lotions and wait for them to take ahold. I have no clue what makes a good night possible or triggers a bad one.

One of the salves is something my mom gave me. And it pretty much works like a charm, pretty much, mostly.

Its for hemorroids, yes, that’s right, hemorroids. I’ll bet I can’t say that word in an email to Planning, either, ha!

I told my Dr that I was using it and she titled her head quizzically, looked at me and said “how are you applying it?” Well, I’m applying it down the path of the nerves giving me grief, which is the thigh and knees. Not, you know, where its made to be applied! She’d never heard of that before. I’ll try anything.

The best time of day for me is mid-day, maybe 11-5, and that often includes a nap. I start flagging around 5pm. I still stand to work most all the time, but I can sit in certain chairs for short periods of time. I even drove myself to the Dentist for a temporary filling on Friday! Short trip, but doable. Thanks to Janice for referring BrentCourt Dentists to me!

My hubby is a trouper, btw. He’s taking really good care of me. Does the chores I cannot and makes great grilled cheese sandwiches.

Mmm good, grilled cheese sandwiches.

3 New Tattoos

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Yes, that’s right, I have 3 new tattoos.

I got a tattoo when my husband bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  He had said many years ago that he’d own one and I said OK, you get a Harley and I’ll get a tattoo.

So, after he bought the Harley, he dared me to get a tattoo.  So, really, its his fault cuz he dared me.

I’ve always wanted to get another one.  But I couldn’t decide on the design.

I’ve vacillated between one or another or another.  Should it represent my kids? My favorite things? A random design? And location?  I figured it would also be at my neck or on my back.  Its for me, not for anyone else, so I don’t care if its visible.

Then I decided to get a raven design, since I love how smart they are.  So, then it was all about what is the design?  I couldn’t find one I liked until I saw a billboard of a casino using an eagle as their logo.  I want to mash their eagle into a raven.

Winn-River Casino

I saw an article in Content Magazine about a tattoo parlor in San Jose and was very impressed, https://stateofgracetattoo.com/  This is where I decided to get the tattoo.

Still haven’t done it. Ha!

My 3 new tattoos are the size of a pin pick and are necessary for my radiation treatment, so they match them up and irradiate the right area.  Here’s info re the type of treatment I’ll receive – from UCLA Health

There are tattoos on my sides and on my belly above my button.

They placed them during the CT scan last week.

I have an MRI scheduled on Tuesday, the radiation is Thursday and Friday and also, on Thursday is an immunotherapy session.

So, yeah, I’m working today, Saturday, trying to keep up with work.  So is Rick.

So, with the visit to the irradiation doc last week, I brought up the subject of medication for the pain.  I’m taking short-term meds to control pain.  Do they work?  Not like I want them to.  And we need to have a plan for meds.  Not just willy-nilly prescribing stuff without a look towards the future.

Photo by Colin Davis on Unsplash

The procedure next week is supposed to mitigate pain, reducing it 60-70%, but the benefits won’t necessarily be noticed for 4-6 weeks.  The surgery was supposed to mitigate pain, too, 50-80%. I’m thinking it worked for 1 type of pain but not the other.

So we decided on a long-term med and a short-term med.  The long-term med which I take at night starts with “Gab” so, since I can never remember its real name, naturally we are calling it Graboid,.  I liked having this med prescribed since 2 friends use it for their back problems with success.

themoviedb.org

Its a good, fun movie!

The side effects of the radiation are pain flares for a couple days (I’m glad the procedure is Thurs/Fri so I have the weekend to recuperate.  There is another side effect that might not be known for 6-18 months.  And that is damage to another vertebra.  Oh, for crying out loud!!

Well, anyway.

Thanks to the new drug regiment, I can sleep.  The insomnia is reduced significantly and the pain from the femoral nerve has diminished somewhat.  I can also do stretching exercises now.  That’s especially necessary!  Stretching helps relax the femoral nerve.

Frankly, while experiencing that unrelenting pain I can understand why, in the face of such pain that can’t be treated, some people are driven to commit suicide.

Not that I felt close to that at any time.  I still had/have options.  I simply understand why others would do it.  And I have a new respect for people who deal with chronic pain every damn day.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

So, I’m now waking up every 3-4 hours rather than 1.5-2 hrs.  Sweet!

Walking since the surgery is more difficult.  When the pain allows it, I’ll go for a walk.  Criminy. 

I’m not asking for pity, or barely even sympathy (just a little).  It’s supposed to get better.  So understand, please, that I’m grouchy a lot.  I’m not getting all the work done and I make mistakes.

But I think you should know what’s going on. This is what melanoma looks like.  This is what cancer does.

I had my first immunotherapy and didn’t have horrible side effects…just a small bit of nausea.  So I’ll get a few more infusions every other week, then we’ll see if I can take a monthly dose.  What they do is determine what a dose is and then split it into however many monthly sessions one is having.

For instance, pretend the dose is 10, then an every-other-week dose is 5.  A monthly dose is 10, an everyday infusion would be 1/20 of 10 (M-F, not weekends).  Make sense?  So my first infusion was ½ of the prescribed dose.

At some point I’ll be discussing diet.  That’s part of it.  How cancer can grow and what it likes to eat.  You know what I’m talking about already, don’t you.  Sunscreen is important.  Food that is non-GMO, no preservatives, organic.  No sugar.

>sigh<

I think that’s it for this post.  As Lester Holt would say “Take care of yourselves…and each other.”

Pain

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physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury

That’s simplistic, and let’s not get carried away with all the shades of pain that exist – except where it applies to me, naturally!

I’m having pain all the time, when a person has sciatica you get used to it and are mostly able to push it away to a place you can ignore…mostly.

But this isn’t about me having pain. But on that note, here is a comprehensive spinal nerve chart. Wow…

When you break a bone or strain a muscle, the body sends a signal up to your brain that says STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.  It often continues to send a signal even when the caution is no longer necessary! 

But this isn’t about nerves, either.

There are great drugs for mitigating pain.  These drugs can have side effects as miserable as the pain and you get to walk through the regimen figuring out which work best and while we’re here, why are some pains gone and some still hang around? 

But this isn’t about taking pain meds.

This post is about my Mother.

My mom will tell you, if you give her a minute, all about the 5 things wrong with her back, plus her lack of cartilage in her knees and all the myriad of things that have gone wrong over the years to create pain in her life. 

She says it easily, like one does when living with something that many many years.

One of my first memories with my mom’s back issues, we were living on Madison Avenue in San Diego.  I was writing a story or something, probably in 2nd or 3rd grade?  I needed to know how to spell ‘ini’.  So I went into my parents room where she was trying to rest her back and stared at my Mother until she woke up and could see my note asking how to spell ‘ini’.  She was lying on her tummy, reached out her hand and said ‘a.n.y’. 

My mom now has chairs that help lift a person from sitting to standing and a walker, scooter, handrails, etc.  I heard you can get a stripper pole next to the bed to help with getting out!  That might be Mother’s next trick!

Those tools help but there is still pain with motion, much pain.

In addition to these lovely things, my mom has broken her ankle recently, broke her wrist awhile ago, a couple years ago she had an artificial heart valve put in, a heart pacemaker, broke her shoulder!  All in the last, what 8 years?  Oh, and a weird kidney stone’ish thing that caused blood sepsis.

ALL OF THOSE THINGS INVOLVE PAIN, tremendous, mind-numbing, crushing.

And my Mother works through it every time. She tells me, I ask “God, why me?  Then God says, why not you, Imogene?’

She won’t give up nor give in.  She cries, shouts, screams, pouts, argues, but she moves forward.

It’s a terrible thing to watch, getting in and out of the car, or a chair.  The pain to her knees from something so simple as standing. 

You gotta gear up for it, you know its gonna happen but if you want to stand you have to just deal with the pain.

So she stands up and cries out and then she takes a big breath, says, I’m up! And off we go!  Its over.  The staggering pain is over, its only there for a moment and then its gone, thank heaven. 

And she does that all day every day. My Mother just does it.  She never gives in and never surrenders.  She might postpone or gear up but, man, this woman is my hero. 

Until you have pain of your own, you don’t understand how frightful it is.

How mind-altering, mind-numbing, exhausting, overwhelming.  Without pain meds, I can barely think at all, can’t read a book, carry on a conversation. Even with the meds, I can barely read a book, I mostly look at pretty pictures on Twitter or Instagram.  When I’m in the sweet spot of meds, I can get some work done, or write a blog post.

And when you know you must inflict pain on yourself in order to move from sitting to standing or to pick up a book or go potty?  You have to prepare for it, mentally and physically.

I know folks who are pretty good testaments to living despite pain.  Using things like acupuncture or chiropractic methods in addition to meditation, medication, tools, etc. But it will never be easy for them, they simply must leave how to overcome it so they can live.

We’ve devolved recently to see only what’s in front of us and not what’s behind the façade.  Who is behind the face, the body of infirmity.

I watched a comedian, Josh Blue, on Dry Bar the other day. 

He said that he was walking from the hotel to the Dry Bar event and usually 2 types of people will stop him on the street.

1 of them will ask ‘didn’t I see you on the TV?’  ( He replies ‘And how would I know that?’ )

The other type will assume he’s drunk.

Either way, he said he asks for a dollar. 

He’s got Cerebral Palsy. He used to play soccer for the Paralympics.

Anyway, we see a stiff posture, a limp, missing limb, scruffy hair/beard, slowpoke, bad teeth, overweight, badly fitting out-of-style clothing, gray hair, stooped over, shuffling and all we can think about is how to get around the sidewalk boulder.

We don’t see that the person is fighting with all they have to stay upright and live a worthwhile life.

We surreptitiously take photos of people and post them so we can make fun of them.

We need to stop that.  These people are fighters, they deserve our respect.

You know what my mom does?  Just before Covid she was visiting friends in their respective care-homes, bringing treats and jokes to lift their spirits.  She makes phone calls, sends emails and texts to let people know she is thinking of and praying for them.  Sends inspiring thoughts, uplifting pics and videos.  She reminds us all to send birthday and anniversary cards.

She’s 91.  And she’s my hero.

There’s a pony in here, somewhere (updated)

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Let’s see now, where were we?  Oh, right, waiting for the dental appt to do the root canal.

Apparently, I completely misunderstood what the oncologist said about the biopsy.  The root canal was going to interfere with the timing of the biopsy.  I have to have the root canal in order to have the radiation (since the radiation will affect the jawbone’s ability to heal).  Thus, I postponed the biopsy in order to get the root canal done.

Well, that was the wrong way ‘round. Oops, my bad…seriously, my bad.

If the biopsy shows that the bone has fractured due to a cancerous lesion, that will modify the chemo and delete the irradiation completely! 

The doc was peeved.

Oh, Halloween is coming…are you looking for a sexy Zombie Hacker Nurse costume? Here you go!

But, you know what?  I have a broken back and am all drugged up and can barely think straight.  So pooh on everyone who thinks I need to do anything more than I can do right now. 

In fact, ask me to do something and I’ll laugh right in yo face!  Ha!  Or cry, depending on how far I am from having taken drugs or am going to take drugs.

So, back to the back.

I went to the root canal appt and was barely able to keep from screaming when I was tilted back on the chair.  Nope!  The sweet dentist said ‘I don’t know what we were thinking! We can’t do this until your back is ok!’  I said, I concur.  I tried, though.  Its a good thing no other patients were in the office or they’d have slunk out the door at that point.

I was on Tramadol at the time. 

Well, they can take that stupid drug right off the market.  It did a whole lot of nothin’.  Except give me edemame, no, umm, edema, yeah. Crazy swollen feet!

So, I drove to our office, not great but not a horrible drive.  California roads are soooo bumpy!  We had our mail hold being delivered so I was able to get that…no checks, only bills, dang it.  Am I supposed to send out invoices?  Who cares?  Just send money!  I’m worth it.

Guess what?!?  One of the chairs in the office was PERFECT for dozing!  And since my sleep pattern is whacked, I take naps whenever possible.

I also contacted my doctors and said, in as firm a tone as possible, that I NEEDED DRUGS NOW!  I also asked to talk to a back doctor.  I’m sure there’s a better name for them but I don’t care.

My oncologist came through and now I’m on steroids plus Doan’s Pills.  She also said we’ll need to wait to do any therapies until the back has calmed down and was I ok with that.  Ummm, yes.  Its because the steroids can diminish the effects of the chemo.  Even though the steroids are actually used to help counter the side effects of the chemo…ok, weird, but ok.

And my GP explained why I can’t see a back doc yet.  Apparently, we need the biopsy, which I postponed, in order to find out if the break is related to a physical injury or not.  They would be treated differently, it seems.

So, where am I, right now?  I’m staying with my long-time friend Cindy and her hubby Dave.  I was supposed to have a million San Jose appts this week, which didn’t turn out to be the case, but needed a good central location and they offered before I could barely state the need!

I hope you all have friends like this! I’m forcing my healthy diet on them now, which is a bit of a pain since healthy eating involves so much cutting and chopping!  And I can’t do a ton of that, so sad, so CIndy must.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

We’ve cooked Black Beans and Rice from Weight Watchers – brown rice, added corn, too, & ground turkey.  Did a Soba noodle, with chicken, shredded carrots & broccoli, supposed to be Tofu, but I allowed chicken.  See, I’m flexible.  That recipe is from DamnDelicious Her recipes are ALways great!

Tonight is an MRI of my head…we’ll see if the Parotid Gland is compromised or not.  Oh, people kept asking what that is…it’s a salivary gland.  I’m perfectly happy not to have radiation on my neck, since it will cause issues – propensity for cavities, dry mouth, scaly skin.

And see if any other problems have reared their ugly heads.

Until then, my dear support group, I can be all whiney but its all still a good prognosis and silver linings only 😉

—PS—

I’m back from the MRI. Took them way to long to see me. I have that sweet spot of 20-30 minutes during any given 4-6 hours of meds, that lovely sweet spot of no pain. Well, they missed the window.

I am not going to depress you with the details but I will say that I asked the Technician to pray for me. And I will say that I concentrated VERY HARD on not thinking of what was to come. And that I concentrated VERY HARD on letting God know I was scared of having a back flare while in the friggin’ machine.

And I did not. Have a flare in the middle of the machine. I DID have a few afterwards but, hey, that’s practically cake, right?!? And I concentrated VERY HARD on counting from 1 to 60 a bunch of times slowly, in time to the MRI rythym.

I could barely walk to the changing room, all shakey, teary from the stress, took pain meds right then, earlier than s’posed to but, too bloody bad.

There was a woman in the room waiting. I said ‘sorry, don’t mind the screaming. Its not the machine’s fault’… She smiled wanly. I saw later that she had been waiting for her son to come out of the machine. Oh, I don’t want to think what she’s going through.

11pm: I snail-walked out of the hospital and into the car, drove home and the cherry on top was that my freeway exit was closed! Hilarious, right?!? AND no detour signs, thanks so much. Fortunately, my nav system was up and I could see where to go.

I get to Cindy’s blessed house and decided that the Caddy car seat is extremely comfortable and so I hung out in the car for a bit, just breathing.

Now, I’m having a cuppa Bigelow SweetDreams tea…debating if I should also have a Dove chocolate.

Thing is, it would really be easier if I didn’t have the extra avoiduprois, which means something rather different than what I thought it meant, but still works. No Dove chocolate, then, sigh 😉

PET + Dentist =

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Yesterday I had a PET scan.  Basically, they inject a radioactive serum into one’s bloodstream and leave the room, turning off the lights.  In an hour, after the serum has coursed through your body…’coursed’ is too active-sounding a word since you aren’t allowed to do a thing, not one thing, not read, not text, no phone calls, nuthin’.  So perhaps the word would be sauntered, yes, sauntered through your body.

OK, I’m wearing clothing with nothing metal on it (well, except for the little metal hooks on a sports bra, but they assure me that’s fine) and I am led to a darkened room with a donut in the middle of it and a narrow cot sticking out of the end.

Mayo Clinic

Did I mention that I wrenched my back a week ago Monday?  Yes, indeedy, doing absolutely not a thing but lying in bed and relaxing for sleep to take me in its loving arms.  I felt a tweak and, now, existence is pain.  Worst pain ever!  Not going away, no drugs are beating it back, I can’t sleep except upright.  That’s a first and not a good sign.

Up in the middle of the night thanks to another med not working, I look up back pain med and discover Doan’s.  Its been working, thank the Good Lord…that and the back brace I am wearing 24×7.  My back does feel better, thank you for asking.  I read that it can take 4-6 weeks, ugh.

ANYway, so I’m gonna have to get on that narrow cot.  I have prepared so I’m as drugged up as possible (and still be able to drive)(which pls remind me not to do cuz it hurts my back).

I am to lie down with my head in a foam wedge, feet directed away from the machine.  THEN since the cot is so narrow with no place to hold your arms, they bring up 2 wide straps at either side of you and Velcro them together to hold your arms in place!

No, I will not panic, no I will not panic, I am stronger than claustrophobia.

Tbh, I’m more worried about pain in my back from lying still for 16 min.  In fact, its really what consumes my mind.  If I move, then I mess up the scan.

I can tell my back is thinking about it. The longer I lie down, the more the back wants to relax and I have to keep it from relaxing. Its almost like snakes are slithering around, NO, electric eels! writhing around and I’m just waiting for a shock of pain. You move 1 mm too far and bam! But It doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

The scan will take about 16 minutes.  I close my eyes and the cot is pulled into the machine.  It makes very little noise, nothing at all like an MRI which feels like someone is banging drums from inside your brain.

Since the space is tight, I keep my eyes closed, singing The Lord’s Prayer just like I did in choir for years.  Its a very short song so I have to keep singing it over and over.

Finally, I open my eyes just a tetch and see that there’s a little clock that shows 15:xx minutes have elapsed.  Yay, almost over!

I’m brought out of the machine and the Tech comes to help me up, he weighs about 100 lbs…but he’s strong.

I get the results later that day!  Everything is as expected, with the exception of the back.  A little more info on the parotid and salivary glands which indicate a bit of possibility, but not too much extra info.  I think they think that the radiation will take care of it, in any case.

As to the back…I’ve a fractured L3…and its ‘lighting up’ the scan in a strange way that could be a lesion or totally might not be.  So, there’s another biopsy in my future to see what that’s about.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Best news is that the Dr is prescribing a lovely pain med to allow for sleep!  Ahhhhhh

Today, I went to the Dentist to make sure my mouth is in great shape since the radiation will make it difficult to have any work done if I get a cavity or something.

I haven’t been to the Dentist since, oh, 2009.  That’s right, you heard me, 2009…something to do with the Great Recession, I expect…that and my dislike of going to dentists plus maybe seeing that movie Marathon Man.

If you saw the movie, you’ll remember how cloves are involved. Photo by K15 Photos on Unsplash

So, deSPITE having been since 2009, the Dentist was VERY impressed with my teeth.  Asked me if I bleached them!  Said there were no stains, no cavities!  Just needed a cleaning, but there was very little plaque!  I do have a broken tooth, no pain from that, how weird.  I’ll be getting a root canal and a crown before I can have the various therapies.  Cr*p  Btw, I am crediting my great teeth (a change, since I’ve lots of fillings) to using Hydrogen Peroxide daily, swishing it around for 60 seconds or so.

The irradiation at my neck/jaw will cause a salivary gland to likely fail forever and the salivary glands help keep cavities at bay, so more dental cleanings are required.  Yippee

Overall, we have more info to add to the pile.  I guess that’s all the news that’s fit to print. 

I’m off to pack for our trip to CO, attending an Alfa Romeo National Convention and, conveniently, helping one of our kids finish his basement. Take THAT cancer and back injury, you aren’t the boss of me 😉

SOMEthing like this one Photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash

Dammit, I have cancer

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Late 2019 I had a ‘beauty spot’ appear on my face.  Sure, it looked cute, after all, they aren’t called beauty spots for nuthin’.  In fact, they used to be a thing, way back to the Roman Era…more fascinating info on that here. There were even meanings assigned to the placement of the “beauty patches”.

https://hair-and-makeup-artist.com/beauty-patches/

But…

It grew, so I contacted the dermatologist, it didn’t look like much so we (I) decided to let it be for a bit…in hindsight, hmmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have waited. But I’ve had moles all my life, so it didn’t seem to be a big deal.

But it grew…but I also had vertigo, which seemed more important than some silly mole.  Dealing with vertigo takes a lot out of ya, so I was trying to get that resolved.

And it GREW. 

Then Covid happened and who was going to the Dr for ANYthing other than Covid?  Right, no one.

Finally, the mole was scary-hag big…no hairs growing out of it, though…and that seemed like a bad thing – bigness not the hairlessness, so I made another Derm appt.

ahmad-kanbar-cLXoMUtGi0k-unsplash

Well, one biopsy later, the mole is gone but it was melanoma.  So now we go deeper…deeper…to remove the invisible parts of what remains beneath.

That was last November, 2020.  The surgery incision was about an inch long and right in the left laugh line running down from my nose to the edge of my lip…pretty perfect placement, I thought.

After I woke up from surgery, I bounced out of the gurney feeling like a hundred bucks – literally from asleep to completely alert – but the next day I felt like I’d run a marathon pulling a train behind me.  They might have been too enthusiastic with the ventilator pressure.

But, since that time there have been PET, MRI, CAT scans, what-have-you and there are 2 other areas that ‘could’ be suspicious. 

Up til now, I’ve told people its cancer, lower case c, italisized. We don’t know much and I’ve friends who went through more – or are going through much more.

But then, that lymph node begins to swell until I look like I’m holding a jolly-big walnut below my left jaw…which is right where you would expect something like that to happen…if you know anything about how the lymph node system works, which, apparently, I get to learn now.

The biopsy is done in what used to be a storage closet, I kid you not. 

Still hard to get a good read on the biopsy, and still its growing so its gonna come out, which it did about 2 weeks ago.  And THAT 18” incision isn’t so fortuitously placed.  OK, its not 18” but it feels like it.  I had to measure it and its only 6” which is crazy small, considering it feels like its 18″. It runs from below my ear to my Adam’s Apple…does Adam’s Apple get capitalized? 

Coming out of this surgery was awful, awful.  I was immensely groggy. The sweet RN got me up to go potty, or at least he tried, but the vertigo!  There was simply no bladder control…there’s more to that story but TMI…  This time, I did NOT feel the next day like I’d run a marathon.  It did take a day or so to get control of the bladder back.  Remind me next time to prepare ahead by getting some adult diapers, ‘kay?

I had to sleep sitting up, leaning a little to the left to take pressure off the incision. This I did, plus a bunch of naps, in the pilot house of our boat.  It was perfect, sitting on the couch and overlooking the marina.  Except when the sun started to set, then Rick had to put up a curtain since it shines right in there.

Anyway, the incision is huge and looks like someone tried to reupholster my neck.  The stitches were not delicate.  Exactly what you’d expect in a horror movie.

What it feels like

lisa-yount-POKb4uUOizU-unsplash

What it is

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Turns out horror movies got that right part right, anyway.  So, really awkward drainage tube with blood-in-a-bulb was removed a couple days later.  That was so icky, so so icky.  After 10 days the crazy-quilt stitching is removed and I no longer am wearing scarves to hide the incision so I don’t scare the little kiddies.

This scar is who I am now so phooey on anyone who doesn’t like it.  Yesterday I volunteered at a Veteran’s charity golf tournament and did NOT feel like everyone was staring at my neck!  I’m pretty sure those Vets have seen a lot of scars, so mine was no big deal. Of course, I’m still stiff and can’t turn my head all the way to the left or upwards but that’s gonna pass.  I won’t mention that it feels like someone packed my neck with green florist foam.

So, the bad news is…the surgeon removed 16 lymph nodes…in reality they are practically scraped away since they are close to and attach themselves to nerves and fat and muscle and tendons so its delicate work.  Hence, the inability to turn my head all the way to the left or upwards (but that’s gonna pass).

Of the 16 nodes, 6 of them had obvious lesions.  That’s DEfinitely not good…complete results aren’t back yet from the rest of the nodes.

I’ve an appt with my oncologist – who thought I’d be saying THOSE words in my lifetime? – this coming Wednesday.  The bit of research I did is scary but hopeful at the same time.  And some of it is contradictory.  So that’s great. 

There are many, many positive stories for every sad one.  Will I be one of the fortunate ones or not?  Who knows, its one day at a time. 

But, for now, I have peace

I’ve upped the alarm to DefCon3, but still, I have peace. I know I’m in Good Hands.

Btw do NOT post anything about this on facebook or twitter or anything else…or ELSE!

Not everyone knows and I’d like to keep it that way 😉

Top 3 foods

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What are your favorite meals?  What food have you had in the past that you still, to this day, recall how good it was?

For me, there have been 3 times that I count as memorable, food-wise.

1 = sushi, every meal with sushi – even that place in Nevada had great sushi, but don’t ever go too late in the day or it won’t be fresh enough

2 = Kobe beef burger at the Sugar Barge on Bethel Island in CA The burger was over the top because of the sauce

3 = Tuna Carpaccio at Baja Karbon in San Jose del Cabo, Baja Cal Sur

The Kobe beef burger was so good I even dreamed I ate another one that very night and it was delicious, every bite.  I remember the burger at the Sugar Barge AND I remember that dream, vividly, too!

The Baja Karbon has only been open a couple months. 

Its open air, like most every restaurant around there, low brick walls with open ironwork above, lovely ambiance with lights strung across a patio, lights in the trees.

We ordered our entrees and then Ron at the last minute threw in an appetizer of Tuna Carpaccio.

That first bite stopped time.  It was absolutely breathtaking, seriously, magnificent.  I don’t understand how something can be SO GOOD! 

This is what the menu says:

Tuna Carpaccio
Seared with Olive Oil – Garlic – Sesame –
Crispy Guajillo Chilli – Arugula and Lettuce Salad

So, its tuna, sliced extremely thin, topped with crunchy sauteed slivers of chili, lettuce with a little dressing down the middle of the long plate and oh, my.  There are not enough superlatives to give it.  How?!?  Everyone ssshhh, don’t distract me. I need to focus on the moment.

We were enthralled with this dish, somehow the chef melded them all the ingredients together yet you could taste them individually.  The lettuce, the chilis, the dressing, the tuna, all contributed to an unforgettable flavor, each bite as good as the last.

It deserves an award, many awards, every award.

That’s my top 3 bestest meals EVer…what are yours?

What I learned by watching Firefly Lane

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Have you watched Firefly Lane? Its a series on Netflix with Katherine Heigle and Sarah Chalke, two actors I really like anyway. If you ever watched that old (hilarious) show Scrubs you’ll recognize Sarah Chalke.

The story is about 2 girls who meet when 1 moves in across the street from the other. The story takes us through the various moments of their lives through adulthood.

It is captivating and the 2 girls could not be more different.

And that’s the main reason I’m talking about this series. The 2 girls could NOT be more different. I am continually struck by their differences as I watched the show. 1 is seemingly carefree, with an unusual family dynamic and the other is seemingly uptight, with a ‘normal’ family. Their attitudes, behavior, looks, worldviews, likes and dislikes are so opposite and yet, and yet, they become best friends.

They see to the core of their friendship and look beyond the surface. We are teased by a life-shattering situation to come in a future season, but overall, thus far, they fight for each other despite their differences.

That’s what I learned…we need to be FOR each other with all our faults, warts, dumb ideas and such.

We all have things we want to hide. Some of us have dumpsters like this:

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Others of us are better at hiding our ‘trash’:

Photo by Alp Duran on Unsplash

But we’ve all got things we’d rather hide than show.

I aspire to be a person who is courageous enough to love others.

That’s truthfully a scary thought because it will take me out of my comfort zone. Its easy to love loveable people but we aren’t loveable to everyone all the time, some of us are rarely loveable, am I right? I’m pretty quirky, in all honesty. I’m working to be less judge-y and more understanding, more helpful, less condescending, see the best in people and help them become their best, too.

I guy I know posted that he thinks there is so much hate in the world that we are doomed. Of course, he blames that on other people, not seeing the hate he is spewing himself. That is all of us, not seeing the bad of ourselves.

We can only seek to change ourselves, like that Michael Jackson song, Man in the Mirror. That song is truth. We must work on our own selves and encourage others to be their best person, too. Of course, others must want to change…that is a hard thing because so many see themselves as already perfect.

Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash

We can find someone who is ‘better’ than we are. Look at who they are, what they do, how they do it. Emulate them. As that saying goes “fake it till you make it”. Practice.

I may have to remind myself to be kind, to love, to look past ‘looks’, to be welcoming, to be inclusive, to be encouraging. But that’s what I’m aiming for. If we love, all the rest falls into place, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it? Yes, that is the key, to love.

Love IS the answer. Love is. Love.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Yucca Fries with my new air fryer

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Look!  I made yucca fries!

OK, not quite…more like mashed yucca…

Let me back up a bit.

While in Colorado Springs a few weeks ago, we visited the Spice Island Grill and I tried their yucca fries, which were delicious!

Since I’ve been seeing so many posts about the fabulousness of Air Fryers and Dehydrators, I finally decided to buy one.  It’s a Chefman product.  I looked at reviews and such and decided to get this combo unit – it air frys, dehydrates and bakes, too. I got this unit via Bespoke Post. I like their recommended products and have purchased quite a few items when they go on sale. Yes, you have to be a member but did I mention I really like the products they recommend? I don’t want every month’s offerings, mostly I watch for sales. They had a magnetic knife board, for instance, that I absolutely love.

My first attempt at dehydrating was banana chips.  They were too chewy and I’d really like to have them be as crispy as, you know, banana chips! The ones from the store. I guess that’s a later experiment.

My next attempt was creating beef jerky.  I bought a big cheap cut of beef and sliced it and then marinated it overnight in a Sweet Baby Ray BBQ sauce.  It took a few rounds of dehydrating to get all the meat done and it was good!  Next time, I’ll swipe off a little more of the sauce and there is a LOT of jerky, so its in the freezer, separated with wax paper so we can take out some at a time.

I thought I’d try yucca fries next.  So on my most recent Safeway online order for delivery I ordered 2 yucca things, uh, roots.  I had no idea what they even looked like.  Although I have yucca plants galore in pots and in the yard,  I’ve never looked at the root and thought, hey, I’ll eat this.

Photo by Anca Gabriela Zosin on Unsplash

ANYway, looking at the picture of a yucco root at Safeway online – long and skinny, like carrots – I decided to buy 2 of them.  Well, they aren’t the size of carrots. Got 1 small and 1 huge one.  They are not small.  Long, yes, skinny, not at all.  They are like thick tree branches! The larger one is about 5″ in diameter, about 14″ long.

I went online to find out how to process ’em.  I didn’t have to look far, found This Old Gal and followed her recipe.

Cut the yuccas, peel, slice and put them in a big pot to boil like you do with potatoes.  This Old Gal emphasized safety in peeling and cutting since yuccas are hard to cut with a thick skin and there’s a need to cook it properly, so you don’t poison yourself…eek.  Do NOT compost, do NOT taste the bark-like skin. There’s something in it that turns to cyanide in your tummy. Old wives’ tale? Maybe, but I’m not testing it…

After it begins boiling I set the timer for 25 min, I went to check on it after 15 minutes and ‘someone’ had turned the heat off.  So I turned it back on to low simmer for another 15 min or so.  You could tell that the slices were turning translucent, like a potato would.

“25 minutes” are up, so I start ladling out the slices into a big bowl to coat with oil and garlic powder and salt.

Then I put a pile of them in the basket and go out to the garage where we keep the dehydrator.  The unit is kinda loud, which I didn’t expect.  Do you have a unit?  Is the fan loud? When I turned it on for the first time, I was like, oh, no! THAT’s not happening, out into the garage you go!

Figuring out how to get the stirring blades to work took awhile, user error?  Uh, maybe, but the bottom of the basket has to match up with the motor that will do the turning.  Finally I click on the start button and its heating AND stirring!  Cool!

I set the timer and wait. Cue the tune from Jeopardy

That first pic is what it looked like when it was finished.  Not quite the yucca fries I expected.  Well, I guess we’ll try them as a sort of hash-brown dish tomorrow, hmmm?  Did they cook too long?  I guess…?

Since that didn’t work, the next batch goes on the wire trays to cook.  Timer set.

Ah, this is much better. 

Last batch looks pretty good, tastes ok, needs more of all the spices, though.  Maybe a different dip than ketchup.  This Old Gal recommended a creamy curry mustard sauce…

I’ll have to keep playing with this air fryer/dehydrator.  I’ve got a recipe for ‘Comforting Tuna Patties’ and I’d like to dehydrate an apple and see how that goes.  Got a couple old ones in the fridge that aren’t worth eating… I was thinking of trying sugar snap peas, too. 

What are your favorite recipes?  Are you dehydrating anything? 

UPDATE: I was looking at the mass of yucca ‘fries’ and couldn’t bear the thought of tossing them.

What do you do with leftover mashed potatoes? Of course, you make Shepherd’s Pie! Or, in this case Cottage Pie. Shepherd’s Pie uses lamb, I’m told. I used Italian sausage and this recipe from Martha Stewart.

I added shredded carrots, broccoli slaw and frozen corn, sauteed, then added to the sausage. Mashed the yucca a bit more (a LOT more), adding a touch of milk.

I spooned the sausage mixture into a square pan, liberally sprinkled parmesan cheese over that, then spread the mashed yucca on top. 17 minutes in the 425 degree oven and voila! It looked nothing like this, but it tasted really yummy.

Image from the Martha Steward recipe page

Rick wanted to add more cheese ( ! ) and I was like, you can’t add cheddar to an Italian sausage cottage pie! He said ‘watch me’. Hmmm, he’s a cheese head, that’s an understatement.

So, I saved the yucca! Would I have mashed yucca again? Yes. It has more Vitamin C, more fiber, more protein and less sugar than a potato. More starch, though, so its not going to be a frequent option for us. Nutrition info on yucca here. A nice change from potato. There is that cyanide issue, though… 😉

Roll up your sleeves, we’ve got work to do

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I’m 1/2 way through the 40!50 Program of prayer and fasting to heal our nation of racism.

Today I listened to a video featuring Drs John & Sara Barton. Dr John is a professor and Dr Sara is a Chaplain at Pepperdine University. They’ve been married about 30 years and lived in Uganda as missionaries for 8 years early in their marriage.

They discovered when they arrived in Uganda that God was already there! That’s a mistake that many of us have, isn’t it, thinking that we are bringing God to any place. We aren’t the bringers, we are the tools. God uses us, our behavior, our actions, to reflect His love. If we don’t reflect His love, we aren’t effective tools because God is all about love. I John 4:7-8

When the cry Black Lives Matter was first rallied, there were folks who immediately bristled and got defensive saying in response that All Lives Matter or some variation on that. I saw white people sharing All Lives Matter memes and videos originally posted by people who weren’t white. People posted stats about who kills who the most or the least. As if those posts validated their affront at Black Lives Matter.

They don’t. In fact, those posts highlight something dark and wormy in us.

We obfuscate and twist words and lie. We hide our biases in the shadows and avoid rooting out our faults. We don’t like asking for forgiveness, we don’t like being wrong, we don’t like being vulnerable. No one wants their own frailties & weaknesses laid out in the open for all to see. I hate it when Rick points out something in me that needs changing and I immediately want to deflect or justify (don’t tell him I said that, oh, wait, I think he already knows…)

When all this first happened, sparked by George Floyd’s murder, I was horrified. I thought, why did that cop put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and not his back? Why did the cop do that for over 8 minutes? Why did the other cops let him? Why did the other cops look the other way? And continuing down that path, I wondered if I also look the other way. I’m not racist…am I racist? What is racist?

I started reading and listening and continuing to wonder if I am part of the problem, even though I don’t think I’m racist – after all I have family members and friends who aren’t white, whom I love. And if I AM part of the problem, then what?

Well, I want to find out where I’m the problem.

Let’s admit that I’m not perfect.
Let’s admit that I have faults.
Let’s admit that I might need to change SOMEthing about myself.
Let’s say I don’t know what it is I need to change, but
Let’s be open to changing.

Let’s go back to love. If we don’t love we don’t know God, for God is love.

Even if we think we love just fine.
Even if we ‘know’ we aren’t racist (and maybe you aren’t).
Even if we are not racist, truly NOT racist, we can learn how to respond effectively and lovingly to other people who ARE and we can become anti-racist.

We need to put aside our defensiveness and rebuttals and pride. Those attitudes are not love. If you want to love people then stop talking. Stop talking and listen. Listen to what people are saying about their experiences, their pain and their hopes.

Not people like you, listen to people who aren’t like you.

To racists and not-racists, alike, read a book, listen to a pod-cast. Ignore the rabble-rousers. Be discerning re who you listen to. There are many calm voices who want to help us be not merely non-racist but anti-racist.

But we can’t get there if we individually keep denying we are part of the problem.  Let’s drop our guard, our pride, our defensiveness.

Let’s be part of the healing process.

40!50 Project videos/interviews/discussions

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi – beautifully written

Pastor Brad & Pastor Damon Interview

Bible Devotions by Dr. Naima Lett

 

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