Category Archives: Memoirs

Party In The Surgical Ward

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This last Monday I headed backed to one of the local hospitals for my second excision biopsy. There were several names this particular procedure has been called and, since each time a nurse came in to talk to me or polk me with a needle or I-V,I had to repeat what procedure I was having done, I got really good at pronouncing all the hard words. I was in for my second wire-isolated lumpectomy…except what we are dealing with are not lumps…they are micro calcifications. They are so tiny they cannot be seen by the naked eye, thus the wire. The surgeon has to do his best, by going into the body guided only by my radiology images of the wire placement and of the wire itself. To make matters even more interesting, the new section they discovered is resting deep at the back of any tissue, right on my pectoral muscle. All this means is that I was up for a day of good times at the hospital. I was,if nothing else, pleased to receive my second pair of purple slipper socks! This time, at least I knew what to expect. It shouldn’t be too bad. Or so I thought.

Since I knew I was in for a bit of a wait, I decided to take advantage of the fab new hospital fashion they have going these days. Gone are the old threadbare cotton hospital gowns that cover nothing and expose everything. They now have paper hospital gowns. That’s right, folks, save a cotton plant, kill a tree.

The nice thing about these paper gowns is that they are lined and they do provide good coverage even for my large, lumpy, old carcass. The best part is that these gowns come with their own climate control. They just hook into this shop-vac type tube which hooks into something behind the bed somewhere. Then you turn on the tube and set the temperature for either warming or cooling, as you desire. Last time, I wasn’t quite looking forward to the process like I was this time, so I didn’t take full advantage of all my hospital accommodations. This time, I didn’t hesitate. I hooked up the shop vac and turned it on full force.

Now, I’m sure this situation is just ripe for euphemism and innuendo, but since this is a family friendly forum I’ll leave the strangeness of this type of modern fashion device to your imagination. I will say this, the air from shop vac going into the gown was not in the least bit flattering to my figure and it did absolutely nothing for my already very fragile body image. It wasn’t long before I was pulling the hose out of the gown and begging the nurse for an early dose of sedatives. In all honesty, I can see some value to these gowns. At minimum, if one were incontinent, they could use the warm air from the hose to dry things out before their surgery. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

The best part of the day was when I got to go to imaging. The same techs were there this time that worked on me last time, so we got all the small talk out of the way. It wasn’t long before they were telling me their darkest secrets. Okay, I’m just kidding about the dark secrets part.

If you’ve ever had a mammogram or have had one described to you, then all I can say is that this wire placement process was like having the mammogram of all mammograms and having it last for.ev.er. Imagine having any certain tender part of your anatomy stretched and twisted and smashed between two flat plates of glass while you strike some freakishly bizarre America’s Next Top Model pose. Then imagine Dr. Radiologist has to leave the room to consult with Dr. Surgeon in order to determine the best wire placement possible while you hold that pose, in compression, the entire time. Then imagine they are discussing this situation for nearly 15 minutes. It may have been more, I stopped worrying about it when my arms went numb.

Now, lest you think I am complaining and that I’m implying in any way that any of the fantastic medical professionals who treated me were anything less than incredibly skilled and competent, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. I’m very pleased with the care I’ve received all along the way. This instance being no exception. The most stressful aspect of my kind of cancer is getting ALL of it. Remember, my surgeon, who truly is amazing, needs that wire to be accurate and he needs accurate images. They were actually discussing whether I needed two such wires, and if so, what was going to be the least obnoxious and most effective method of inserting said wires. My attitude about this is “Please take all the time you need and while you’re at it, how about another round of those sedatives?” The professionals handling my treatment are so compassionate and wonderful. They truly were concerned for me and my comfort. (I must have really looked ridiculous!) All I can say is that I think everyone is going to be very pleased when medical science develops “softer” means of getting images of all our softer body parts.

In any event, while I was in the room attempting my pose for my audition for America’s Next Top Model Senior Edition, my eye wandered over to the window sill. Lo, and behold, there on the windowsill was a spatula. Okay, now that was weird. Well, me being me, I just had to ask. I just couldn’t let that much weirdness go by without comment. Again, because this is an attempt at a family friendly forum I’m not at liberty to give you all the specifics. Yes, they do use the spatulas in the radiology department. No, they are not making cookies. I did get the specifics from the techs, and the story was so fascinating I didn’t even notice that the needle and wire had been inserted. While, I can’t exactly say that part of my day was over before I knew it, I can say that great fun was had by all. Furthermore, I now know that the kitchen spatula is truly a multipurpose tool.

Of course, after imaging is when the real fun begins. That’s when I get to meet up with the anesthesiologist and plan my cocktail for the afternoon party in the surgical wing. I was fortunate enough to have the same Dr. Cocktail as the last time, and since last time was such a great trip with no nausea on the back end, I opted for the same recipe. I was good to go.

Moments later, I was being wheeled into surgery. I remember greeting everyone (it was a big party they set up just for me) and someone making a comment about the surgeon’s choice of music. They strapped the massaging leg warmers on me and as that I-V cocktail began to take effect, I remember closing my eyes and going to my happy place. I was riding. Effortlessly. Fast. Free. On that $8k S-Works Specialized road bike I saw in the shop this last weekend. I wasn’t dreaming about work this time, like I did last time. The wind in my face felt fantastic! The climbs were effortless. Life was good!

And the next thing you know, the party’s over. They’re handing me my regular clothes, telling me not to make any major decisions or bathe for the next 48-hours and sending me off with nothing but a big patch on my chest and prescription for pain meds. Kinda makes me wonder if it was something I said.

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New Year’s Resolutions, Revised

I’m a great one for setting goals and New Year’s Resolutions are no exception.  Back in the day, I’d write them down making sure they were measurable and achievable.  Most of the time, back in the day, I was able to realize all  these goals I so dutifully recorded.  Things sure have changed. Oh, I still set goals, alright, but with each passing year, the goals seem more difficult to achieve. I’m lucky if I can set one priority a year and make it happen.

In 2010, I made it my goal to purchase my bike.  I achieved that goal.

In 2011, it was my goal to put a thousand miles on my bike.  I didn’t meet this goal until February of 2012, but I got close. That was good enough.

This year, my priority, is losing 50 pounds by my 50th birthday, which is in June. My mantra has been “50 Less By 50.”

Well, it was my priority, until, the first week of January.

Sometimes life has a way of circumventing the most noble objectives.

In brief, my life was clicking along just great.  In December, I was called back to have further images taken after a routine mammogram revealed some areas of concern.  On January 6, I found myself lying prone while I endured what I now know is a stereo-tactic needle biopsy.  On Valentine’s Day, I was in the hospital for a wire-isolated lumpectomy, the results  of which revealed ductile carcinoma in situ, or DCIS…cancer.  At the time of writing, I’m awaiting an additional surgery which will likely be followed up with radiation.

No chemotherapy.

No free boob job.

I’m not contagious.

And…given that DCIS is completely curable…I’m likely not going to die.  At least, not right now, from this.

My overriding emotion these days?

This is really messing with my 50 Less By 50 plan.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  My overriding emotion is gratitude.  You see, cancer, in particular breast cancer, is not the death sentence it used to be. Even so, cancer, really is no laughing matter.  I know this.  I know people who’ve suffered and died from some form of cancer.  I have immediate family members who have suffered through cancer.  It is not a pretty nor is it humorous and were it not myself involved, I’d definitely refrain from the gallows humor.  I’ll go off on how early detection is critical, and how women should absolutely make sure they keep up on their exams at a later time, but right now I’d just like to take a moment to be grateful.

Cancer caught me by surprise, and as any potentially life-threatening disease will do, it has forced me to re-prioritize my life.  Yes, I still have my 50 Less By 50 Plan as a priority, but somehow it just isn’t the most important thing these days.  In the last three months, I’ve learned a great deal about breast cancer and some of the approaches we now have available to treat and cure it. That I live in a day and age when I can benefit from so much research and the medical advancements made just in my lifetime, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the many, many things I am grateful for.

As I take the next step in this interesting journey through 2012, each day I find myself revising my New Year’s Resolutions.  50 Less By 50 is still a priority, in fact, even more so since exercise and healthy eating reduce one’s risks.  But, if I don’t quite make it by my birthday, or if I just need to allow myself some time to rest, I’m going to give myself permission to do it.

Two days after my surgery, I was on my bike.  Of course, it was inside on a trainer.  I made it two miles, in just under 10 minutes before I just couldn’t go any further.  Two days before my surgery, I’d completed a ride that logged me almost 40 miles for the week.  Yeah.  This thing is really messing with my workout plans and my riding goals.

I just have to let that be alright for now.

I am going to make it.

 

Mountain Biking Around Applegate Lake

Chad and the Applegate Recreation Area Sign. This is about a quarter of the way around from our starting point.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
~Friedrich Nietzsche

These were the words going through my head yesterday as I, for the second time in six months, attempted to ride my Ariel Elite on a 15 mile mostly single track trail around Applegate Lake outside the small rural town of Ruch in southern Oregon.Truly, if you are an adrenaline junkie, mountain biking tops any theme park or horror movie devised. But wait, there’s more

Life, Like Coffee…and Bikes

00399231I used to take it black; pure, untainted, full strength, undiluted.  I began this habit back in college; back in those days of choosing and learning to choose. Back then I chose my daily schedule, I chose my purchases, I chose my food, my friends, my fun.  Like my coffee, I chose life pure, untainted, full strength, undiluted. But wait, there’s more