Pink Ribbon Overload: Permanent Reminders

My friend Jody sent in these two entries, with the following comment:  “I think you should get a pink ribbon tat & navel ring to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month!  Here are a few for you to check out!  If you don’t like these, don’t worry…they come in many different styles!”

JJF-00646_thumb You know, Jody, I was just thinking to myself the other day, “Why Self, can you believe you haven’t had a surgery, or any other sort of invasive cancer-related thing for nearly a year?  I mean, gee Self, pretty soon you might just forget you ever had The Cancer and go back to a normal life.  You know, aside from the implant, and the 10-inch long scar, and the newpple that’s made from a piece of your groin, there’s really nothing to remind you of the year you spent your summer vacation being bald and having no eyebrows.  You know, Self, your memory is pretty bad, thanks to the Tamoxifen you take every night.  How will you ever remember the summer after chemo when you only had one boob, and had to find a Foob compatible bathing suit to wear to the water park?”

 I was really worried.  I mean, gee, if there’s one thing I never want to forget, it’s the ridiculous constipation that chemo causes.  So, Jody, I was SO glad when you emailed me the pink ribbon tattoo.  Of course!  Here I was planning to get my newpple tattooed to look more natural, and all along I was missing a grand opportunity!  Why, with a pink ribbon tattoo on the noob, I’ll never forget about The Cancer.  But gee, I just don’t know.  It seems like such a waste to put all the awareness someplace where only I can enjoy it.  So, I’m thinking perhaps I’ll go for the always classy neck tattoo. 

 pink ribbon navel ringJody also suggested the navel ring.  There again, who’s gonna see it?  Hubster?  Oh Honey, trust me, he’s already aware of The Cancer.  Of course, given my penchant for the gaudy, there’s a good chance that gravity would have the Flava Flav sized ornament I’d pick stretching out my belly button, and swinging between my knees like a Focault pendulum. Still, just to be on the safe side, I think I should probably get a pink ribbon belly shirt to go along with it.   Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find one of those online though.  A tube top might work, too, but I haven’t seen one of those either.  Dang it.  Maybe the belly button ring isn’t such a good awareness tool, after all.

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Doctor Day-Part Two

After we left Dr Grasee’s office, we headed to Noblesville to visit Dr Birhiray at the hospital up there.  The directions his office had given me were pretty vague.  Basically, they got us to the hospital and that was about it.  Once there, we were on our own.  We went in a door near the entrance for the professional offices, thinking that might be where he was.  Rather than wander around, I stopped immediately at the information desk and asked the volunteer where I could find Dr Birhiray’s office.  In his 70s, missing a few fingers (ex-machinist, perhaps?) and laboring to breathe, the volunteer in question looked at me quizzically and said, “Beer hurray?”  Yes.  Then he asked what kind of doctor he was.  It was when I explained that he was an oncologist that the pitying looks and the unsolicited reassurance began.  All the while, I’m thinking, “Can you please just tell me how to get to where I need to be?”  Finally, our friendly volunteer gave us the absolute most convoluted directions in the world, slowly, and punctuated by many laborious breaths.  (Good thing we were early) By this point, we’d pretty much deduced that the place we needed to be was on the extreme opposite side of the hospital.  Rather than traipse all the way through, we asked the volunteer what door the office was closest to so that we could just drive around and park near the entrance.

 With that information, we drove around and parked near where we needed to be.  Sort of.  We still had a ways to go.  Having learned nothing from the previous experience, I again stopped to ask the two old ladies at the information desk where I could find Dr Birhiray’s office.  Once again, I was met with blank stares as if they’d never heard of him.  They even asked me if I was sure he had an office there and not in some other building.  I assured them I was, and they asked me what kind of doctor he is.  Here we go again.  When I said he was an oncologist, there was this strange vibe that came over my two helpers.  It was one of shock and pity.  Please.  Cancer is not getting ready to kill me, but frustration just might if I don’t find somebody who can tell me how to get where I need to go.  They give us directions to “the cancer ward” (which sounds like someplace no one ever returns from—or as Don Henley put it, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave) and we are on our way. 

 Arriving at the end of a hallway, we come upon an entire flock of these volunteers sitting and drinking coffee, and shooting the breeze.  Apparently, there is no Hardees in Noblesville, so all the oldsters hang out in the hospital every morning “volunteering”.  Maybe it’s because there is no Hardees, or maybe it’s because at the hospital, the coffee is FREE.  I glance quickly from left to right to try to determine, without assistance, which way we need to go, but it’s too late.  “Do you need help finding something?”

 Aw crap, here we go again.

 Me: “I have an appointment with Dr Birhiray.”

Oldster #1: “Who?”

Me: “Dr Birhiray.  Oncology.”

Oldster #2: “Oh, <insert pitying looks and tone of voice> you need to go left and the cancer ward is on the left.”

(Meanwhile, some of the others cluck softly amongst themselves, no doubt about what a shame it is that I’ve got one foot in the grave.)

Me: “Okay, thanks.” (walking away)

Oldster #1: “They have really nice doctors down there.”

Chorus of Oldsters: “Uh-huh, they do.”

 As I power walked away, I could hear them murmuring amongst themselves.  I don’t know for sure what they said, but I’d guess it was something along the lines of, “That’s just so sad—dying so young!” 

 Once I found Dr B’s office, everything was normal again.  Sort of.  Instead of waiting and hour to get in, it was only about 10 minutes.  It seems that up at that office, there are fewer distractions, less interns, and things actually run on time.  Who knew?  Doesn’t make me want to go up there again and have to run the pity gauntlet, though.  So, I scheduled my next appointment back at the usual place.

Doctor Day – Part One

Normally I go to see Dr Birhiray at his office up at the Breast Care Center.  In order to do that, the appointment has to be on a Tuesday or Thursday, because Dr B spends the rest of the week at other offices. I like going to his office at the BCC, because it’s all breast cancer patients, and I usually go in and show off my long hair and generally be a poster child for life after breast cancer.  Another reason I like it is that it doesn’t have a TV with which to blare soap operas like the Hux Cancer Center where I did my rads. And I think I’ve mentioned before how I do not like going to the main oncology place because it’s full of people in all stages of a variety of types of cancer, and it really just weirds me out.  I much prefer to go to the BCC where, for the most part, you don’t see anybody who looks like they’re on their last leg.  Bald, yes, but that is a temporary thing, and we can handle that.

 However, the last time I scheduled an appointment, it was going to fall in the same week as my follow-up with Dr Grasee, so Hubster said, “Can we schedule it for the same day so we don’t have to make two trips?”  Well, we *could* but that would mean that I’d have to go seen Dr B in his office in Noblesville.  Despite my whining about not being able to go to the BCC for my appointment, Hubster insisted that we kill two birds with one stone and schedule the appointments on the same day.  And since I didn’t have any better argument than to whine, “But I wanna come heeeere” we made the appointment when Hubster wanted it.

 The appointed day arrives and first stop is Dr Grasee’s office in Carmel.  This is the follow-up visit where they will take to official “after” picture of my reconstruction.  Dr G is very pleased with how the recon looks, smiling and commenting how it’s really not obvious that the tissue has been radiated.  If you remember, I had to sell the idea of the expander/implant to Dr G, who wanted to do the LD flap procedure because of the radiation.  I take pleasure in reminding her of that as I sit there looking all fabulous.

  So, now that I’m all super-fabulously reconstructed, I asked Dr G about getting the newpple tattooed.  Because the newpple is just regular skin color, many cancer girls elect to have it tattooed—in my case it will be matched to the color of the remaining nipple.  So, Dr G referred me to a woman who specializes in such tattoos.  Her name is Cricket Hemp. 

Cricket.  Hemp. 

Given the name (is there even a remote possibility that it’s her real name?)  I’m pretty sure a Janice Joplin wannabe is going to be doing my newpple tattoo.  Should I be worried about this?  I mean, what if she tattoos a peace sign on there, or worse yet, a smiley face?  You know, I get kinda grossed out by needles, so I probably won’t be watching.  And forget Hubster—he’s really squeamish.  My only comfort with this deal is that she works for Turkle and Associates rather than Cricket Hemp’s Groovy Booby Tattoo Palace.  Dr Turkle is top notch, so I’m clinging to the hope that she wouldn’t hire some crazy hippy.

 I guess I’ll know for sure when I see her on October 29th.

Why Am I Here?

“Why am I here?”

 You would not believe how many times I say this these days.  No, I don’t mean that I’m getting all philosophical on you.  I’m talking I get somewhere and really don’t know why I’m there.  This happens almost every time I go to the garage.  My garage is where I keep glassware, canning supplies, and other kitchen related items that I don’t have room for in the house.  It’s also the home of our two big freezers.  So I go to the garage at least once a day.  And nearly every time, as soon as I step inside I say, usually out loud, “Why am I here?”  The garage sits about 20 feet from the house, which apparently makes for just long enough of a walk for me to acquire amnesia these days.  The problem is not that the required information doesn’t stick.  Oh, it’s in there, but good luck retrieving it!  Usually, within a minute or so of asking myself why I’m there, and after the application of much concentration, I’m able to remember why I came.  But not always.

 I try to warn people that I don’t remember things, but they don’t seem to get it.  They say things like, “I’m the same way!”  Ha, ha—no, you’re really not.  Thanks to tamoxifen, I just lose information in my brain somewhere.  It’s like my brain is the junk drawer of my body or something.  Sure, what I need is in there somewhere, but I’ve got to mentally dig through a bunch of twine, pencils, scotch tape, and a nut cracker to find it. 

 Two weeks ago I was driving into town to take Mini Me to piano lesson.  In a deviation from the normal routine, I was planning to run by Goodwill before hand and drop off some items.  So, we ride into town, pass the turn to piano, and head for the Goodwill.  Except as we approached the intersection where I’d need to turn, I suddenly did not know what I needed to do.  “Do I need to turn here?  I don’t remember where I’m going. Where am I going? Think, think, stupid brain, where am I going?”  Tick tock tick tock.  Finally, at the last second I remembered, “Oh yeah, Goodwill,” and made the left turn.  Then last weekend, I was getting ready to open a can of tuna.  I carried the tuna over to the drawer where the can opener is kept, but when I got there I just stared at the contents of the drawer.  “What am I looking for?  I need…something.  I must need it out of this drawer since I opened it.  What am I doing?  Uh…opening a can.  And what’s the tool I need for that?  Uh…”   Really, it should not take so much effort to remember that you need a can opener to open the can you are holding in your hand.

 Either of those things ever happened to you?  Probably not, unless you’re on tamoxifen.  They never used to happen to me, either.  Thankfully I have both a sense of humor and a supportive spouse.  A big reason why I‘m able to laugh at these incidents is because I cling to the assumption that once I’m off of tamoxifen, everything will go back to normal.  But it’s not all bad anyway, because like I said I have a supportive spouse.  Hubster has been great about recognizing that the tamoxifen has caused memory recall issues for me.  So, what’s he gonna do, get mad?  No, because I can’t help it, right?  I’m not forgetful because I’m an insensitive and self-absorbed lout who is too wrapped up in herself to remember to pick up Hubster’s toothpaste at Walmart.  Nope, it’s the drug’s fault–I’m handicapped!  And while I would never, ever exploit this, it does offer a certain advantage for those times when I am just an insensitive, self-absorbed lout who got too distracted by a new bottle of nail polish to remember the toothepaste.

Zumba vs. Chocolate Cake

I’ve been doing Zumba.  Much to Mini Me’s dismay, this has resulted in me gyrating at random intervals throughout the day.  I’ve always been a dancer.  Not in the coordinated, classically trained ballet dancer type of way.  Not in the Fame–I’m gonna live forever kind of way.  More like, in the shake your booty like you think you don’t dance like a white girl sort of way.  Only now it’s worse, because in addition to my old school 1980’s dance moves (think Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Aire at best and Bruce Springstein at worst) I have now added my Zumba moves including, but not limited to: gyrating, lassoing, Charro-style booty shakin’, and this strange tippy-toe mambo thing that is just fabulously fun when used while pushing a shopping cart.

 Oh yeah.  Because when I say at random intervals throughout the day, what I mean is at home, at the grocery store, at church, at a yard sale, in Susie’s pool, or any other place that I might hear music.  Or not.  Don’t really even need music.  Just having someone ask about Zumba is enough.  Or mention Dirty Dancing.  (Nobody puts Moody in a corner, heh heh.) 

 While it IS fun, the goal with this Zumba thing is to get in shape.  It’s supposed to burn, like, 400,000 calories in an hour or something, which is almost enough to counteract The Great Chocolate Cake Disaster of Last Week.  Because, friends, Moody has no will power.  None.  And so she usually tries to keep the danger items out of the house.  Things like Hostess Orange Cupcakes, that I like in spite of myself.  Things like really good bread.  Any form of chocolate.  When Mini Me asked, “Mom, can I make a chocolate cake?” I should have known that no good could come from saying “Sure.” 

 So, she made the cake.  A whole 9 x 13 inch pan of it.  And frosting, too.  And we ate some.  Then Hubster came home and hated on the cake, “I don’t like chocolate cake” he said.  Looks like it’s just Mini Me and I tackling this thing.  Again, no good can come from this. Mini Me and I ate some more cake after supper.  The next day, we had cake for breakfast.  Cake with lunch.  Cake as a snack.  Cake after dinner.  The following morning, Mini Me ate the last piece of chocolate cake for breakfast, proclaiming to me that she’d done it to save me from eating any more of it.  I am blessed to have such a selfless child, am I not?

 One cake.  Two people. Approximately 36 hours.  Did I mention that no good could come from letting her make a chocolate cake?

 As you can see, eating sensibly is just not how I roll.  Oh, I do alright most of the time.  In fact, I really probably eat better than most folks.  But man, when I fall off the wagon, I not only fall off, buddy I hit the ground running in the opposite direction, my chocolate smeared face contorted by maniacal laughter.  Anybody remember Mike Myers’ Hyper Hypo character?  That’s me. 

 So, if a girl like me wants to lose some weight, exercise in some form is a must.  Preferably something that I don’t totally hate.  Because I’m pretty good at avoiding things that I hate.  But Zumba has been great because it’s actually fun.  I’ve been doing it 2 times a week for about 4 weeks now, and the instructor is doing monthly weighings & measurings, so next week I’ll be able to let you know if all that booty shakin’ has been enough to counteract The Great Chocolate Cake Disaster.  Stay tuned.

Candy is Dandy (or Why It’s Not a Good Idea to Stop at the Tourist Trap Candy Store When You’re Hungry)

munger moss

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the fam and I went on a little weekend trip to southern Missouri. No, not Branson. I read your mind, didn’t I? Okay, not really, it’s just that pretty much every person I mentioned our trip to asked if we were going to Branson. Branson isn’t really an option for us, because Hubster breaks out in hives whenever he’s subjected to country music. I’m pretty certain the man would explode if we were to even drive through Branson. And, really, if I’m gonna go to Pigeon Forge, I’ll go to Pigeon Forge, not to Pigeon Forge’s Ozark cousin.

The real reason we went to Missouri was to check out the spring planting festival at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Yeah, we’re plant nerds like that. In spite of the fact that we got drizzled on all day Sunday, the festival was a good time. Got to hear lots of live bluegrass, and cowboy music, including Sourdough Slim the accordion playing cowboy. And we picked up some interesting varieties of tomato and pepper plants. I also got a very cool African basket.

About 3:00 or so, we decided to head back to our motel in Lebanon—the very cool Munger Moss Motel located on Route 66. Did it have fancy amenities like internet? Heck no. But what it did have was a very interesting mix of folks staying there—including the Harley Riders from Finland. Awesome. But Lebanon is a pretty small place, so there wasn’t much going on Sunday night, and we decided to head over to Springfield. After an evening of Bass Pro Shop and Buckingham’s Barbecue, we went back for our final night at the Munger Moss.

The next morning, we checked out and did some hiking in Bennett Spring State Park. After a quick clean-up and change of clothing, we headed for home. It was about 1:00 and we were getting pretty hungry. When we reached I-44, there it was, like a beacon of love, and rainbows, and sugar, and tooth decay, and empty wallets—Redmons Candy Factory.

Taffy. Oh man, this place had more flavors of taffy than I have ever seen. And in spite of the fact that as a mother, I’m supposed to encourage the consumption of healthful foods ahead of the consumption of sticky, sugary goodness, I totally blew off that whole responsible adult gig. So as Hubster carried around a white paper sack, picking and choosing a few pieces here and there, Mini Me and I ransacked the joint, grabbing handfuls of various flavors and throwing them in the sack. “Mmmm! Cinnamon roll taffy! Ooh look, lemon meringue taffy!”

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little flicker of June Cleaver managed to escape the duct tape she’d been wrapped in and push its way to somewhere near the front of my mind. “You haven’t had lunch!” it protested, “And what about Mini Me’s braces? Is she supposed to even have taffy?” However, I quickly squashed June’s rebellion by pointing out that the pomegranate taffy was almost like a fruit—so it was perfectly healthy, and…hey, pecan logs! Poor June was left struggling against her duct tape somewhere along the dusty trail between good sense and sugar overload, and I was on my merry way to pecan log bliss.

Oh sure, I saw the sign that said the bulk candy was $3.49/lb. But, since Hubster was holding the bags—oh, yes, eventually there were two, because the other side of the store had hard candy—I didn’t even think about how much we’d accumulated. I figured than when it started getting heavy enough to be expensive, he’d shut us down. Because, whether he realizes it or not, that is one of his primary functions in our marriage—to keep me from going over the top stupid all the time. There was only one problem—Hubster hadn’t seen the signs. So, he was a little shocked when after adding in a couple of white chocolate turtles and a few mints, our bill came to over $30.

Oops. I guess maybe it was a bad idea to go there hungry.

(Oh, and if you’d like to read Mini Me’s account of our trip, you can checkit out HERE)

If I Only Had a Brain…I Could Think of a Snappy Title

I just realized that it’s been almost two weeks since the last time I posted.  A reader (Hi Theresa!) emailed me and asked if I was doing okay, and I thought “Well, that’s odd, it hasn’t been that long since I posted.”  Then I checked.  Yikes.  I guess it has been a while.  As usual, part of this is because life keeps rolling on, whether a girl has something to write about or not.  And sometimes I just don’t have much to say.  But it would be dishonest to say that either one of those was the case this time. 

 The truth is, I’ve been struggling.  I think that I have Tamoxifen to thank for this.  But knowing the cause doesn’t necessarily diminish the problem, and for the past week or so I’ve just been in a really crappy state of mind.  I do the things I have to do, but anything above that requires a conscious decision to suck it up and do it whether I want to or not.  Which I don’t.  And you can’t make me.  So there. 

 Now, I don’t want those of you that I’ve been around in the past week to think I was totally trying to fake you out.  I’m still up for joking around and chit-chatting.  But, I just have this underlying dullness of brain and general lethargy going on, and it seems to be getting gradually worse.  I’m starting to think that Tamoxifen is making me depressed.

 I hate to even say that.  It’s sounds so “wah wah wah wah waah”.  And trust me, I’m totally the least sympathetic person you know when it comes to stuff like this, and I’d be the first one to tell me to suck it up.  I think that’s part of why it’s getting to me so much—because it’s making me feel totally not like myself, and I’m about up to here with The Cancer and it’s accompanying meds trying to steal my identity!

 You guys have heard me gripe about the Tamoxifen before.  I believe it’s responsible for the fact that I can’t remember squat.  Chemo made me feel fuzzy headed, but I had about 5 months between chemo and Tamoxifen, and I noticed this persistent short term memory thing after I started the Tamoxifen.  I can handle the memory thing.  It’s kind of amusing to me, and I’ve learned to write most everything down—which works great since I’m a compulsive list maker anyway.  Really.  It bothers Hubster more than it does me.  But it’s discouraging to me that it affects my vocabulary—I’m trying to write, for crying out loud!  How am I ever going to get a book deal if I can’t even beat my 12 year old at Quiddler anymore?

 And this mood thing is really making me fed up, and considering that I have to take Tamoxifen for 5 years I’m beginning to wonder if there will be anything left of me by the time I’m done.  Can any of my cancer girls out there relate?  Do you feel like you’ve got a starving brain sucker on top of your head 24/7?  Have you been through this and can tell me that it’s only temporary?  Or do I need to go see the wizard and ask for a brain?