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No Fun

We are about halfway up to the start of the singletrack from where this photo was taken. It’s a brutal hill in any weather, but the July heat made it even worse.

Two miles of hot, dusty gravel road. One mile, at least but it felt like much more, not riding my bike, but forcing it up the hill beside me. We weren’t even five miles into our ride and I was experiencing a new “first”. I was not having fun. My cyclometer wasnt recording my mileage. I was carrying the Camelbak water pack; something I hate doing because it adds another five or six pounds to the already large amount of weight that is my body on the bike.  Sweat poured off my body like water in my morning shower. Dust coated everything; my body, my sunglasses, my contacts, my bike tires.  I wondered, feebly, what kind of effect this dust was having on my chain, crankset, and derailleur.  I knew this meant work cleaning my bike later; a necessary inconvenience, but one I wasn’t in the mood for. A quick glance at my sketchy cyclometer says it’s 105 degrees. It’s really about 95, but it feels every bit of 105 today.  “Why am I here?” I wondered to myself. ” This is not fun.”

I told my son I needed to stop and rest. By this, I did not mean get off my bike and haul it up The Hill Of Death. I was already doing that. I really meant I had to stop. Completely. Sit down. Take my helmet off. Breathe. Clearly something was wrong. I never, ever have to stop. Not on a ride. Not like this. And never, ever this early in. I was tired.  I was depleted.  I was mostly very, very hot.  I can ride in rain and cold, if I have the right gear.  I can ride at night, usually without much gear at all.  The one condition that stops me still on my bike is the heat.  I’m not talking about just a warm day that seems bad until the air from riding your bike cools you.  I’m talking about that still, heavy, oppressive heat that makes even breathing hard.  Regardless of the temperature on the thermometer, when this kind of heat hits, I simply lose all power.  Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m at the age where, most of the time, I’m experiencing my own personal summer anyway.  So, when the weatherman says it’s 95, I’m experiencing 115 degree temps.  I simply melt when this happens.

We rested for about 15 minutes then we muddled on to another location, where there was a rock I could sit on in the shade. This location was a hundred feet from the start of the Payette Trail around Applegate Lake. We practically crawled to the start of the trail, me spewing misgivings the entire way when, usually, I am the one encouraging everyone else onward.  We ventured forth, deciding to tackle the singletrack trail for a little while, then turn back.

Immediately, I knew I was in trouble.  I was riding my brakes almost entirely on the descent which characterizes the first half mile or so of this trail.  My bike didn’t feel stable under me, but I think that was due to the fact that this was very rocky single track and I have become accustomed to the solid asphalt of the road.  I was already tired and in no mood to exert the required effort that manhandling a mountain bike on a downhill requires.  Further, I wasn’t exactly excited about packing my bike up that hill, especially after the hill I already climbed.  I let my bike roll for a few more yards, then I called out to my son, who’d disappeared from  view.  A few moments later, he appeared below me, his bike and his youth handling this trail with far more success than I. I told him I wanted to go back and he, surprisingly, agreed with me.  We turned our bikes around, rode back up as far as we could, trudged the rest of the way to the top, then rolled down the dusty road that we’d just walked up.

Three unknown boys sit contemplating whether or not to jump off the rocks at Applegate Lake in Southern Oregon.

Later, while lounging in the sun at the swimming hole that we discovered at Applegate Lake, we were reflecting on this experience.  Last year, at about this time, we made this very same ride.  Sure, we had to walk up that initial road, but I don’t remember feeling quite so spent at the top of it.  I also don’t remember feeling nearly this apprehensive when tackling the downhill.  We have done this ride twice, with minimal mishaps.  Last year at the end of the ride, I missed on a switchback, landed on my back wheel and tacoed the thing.  This cost me two days of ride time while my bike was in the shop.  Not something I was especially thrilled about, but neither was it a traumatizing event that left me scared to ever attempt this ride again.  We speculated about the heat, the fact that we’ve become used to riding the road, the fact that on a day like today, the swimming hole looked far more inviting than the trail.  There are any number of reasons for today’s ride fail.  All of these factors could have contributed to the dread I suddenly felt heading down that hill.  I don’t know.  I suspect, more than anything, I am not in the same mental and physical place I was last year, and something deep within me knows this.  Somewhere inside, I sensed I wasn’t up for the challenge of this trail.  I was too tired.  I would likely make mistakes that even I, as a rookie mountain biker, would know not to do.  I was afraid of the consequences of such mistakes.  I’d spent enough time in surgery this year.  I wasn’t about to sign up for another visit.  Maybe I’m still experiencing a wee bit of radiation fatigue.  Admittedly, this week is far better than last, and last week was better than the one before.  I’m feeling like I do have more energy every day and I am accomplishing more, though not nearly what I hoped and planned to accomplish by this time in the summer. More than the physical drain, I just mentally didn’t have the strength and the determination to make that ride today and I knew it.  Deep in my psyche somewhere, I knew I couldn’t handle it.  I’m not sure what that’s about or why.  It could be I just like the smooth flying sensation of the road as opposed to the adrenaline-driven jarring ride of  the singletrack. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Whatever it is, I am okay with it.

My son and I spent the rest of our day enjoying the water.  That was much more fun.

My son’s bike with mine behind it. Dusty.

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I Don’t Wanna!

I love cycling. Cycling  is easier than walking.  Walking or jogging or running (should I actually get to that speed) is slow, tedious, laborious, and painful. Cycling is easy.  I just get on the bike and keep the pedals turning.  Steady, continuous, effortless, fast.  Well, until that roadie on the expensive Felt wearing the aerodynamic helmet and fancy kit zips by.

There’s not a day of the year that I don’t look forward to getting on my bike and taking her out for a spin.  I don’t care where.  I don’t really even care about the weather, as long as I have the right gear and as long as it isn’t icy. I might stay in if there is pouring rain…and standing water.  Water does make the stripes on the road awfully slick.  I’ve ridden in the mud, pouring rain, over fallen trees, on single track in the middle of December.  While I’m not exactly a beast when it comes to singletrack or downhill, I’m certainly not anything close to a fair weather cyclist.  My mantra, and the mantra of The SO (Significant Other)  and My Son is, “Even a bad day on the bike is a pretty good day.”

But lately, I’m ill, and I know I’m ill because I just don’t wanna.

I just don’t wanna ride.

Actually, that isn’t entirely true.  I do want to ride.  I just don’t want to do what it takes to get in the saddle and I’m not up for anything more than collapsing after I roll up into the driveway at the end of the ride.

While I’m on bike, though, I’m golden.

All those 50-year-old aches and pains disappear.  Any drama or stress I’m dealing with dissipates, because, seriously, I can ride 40+ miles in a day and want to go for more.  Problems?  Issues?  Really?  There aren’t many people my age, doing what I’m doing and even fewer women.  Let’s talk about strength, endurance and ability to mentally persevere.  Yeah,  you go try to take that two mile hill without coming off your bike, Mr. Financial Pressure and see how you do.  You go and try to keep pedaling at that rate Ms. Whatever Might Come Your Way.  I can take you you on.

See?

That’s the thing about cycling…at least…for me.

When I ride, it’s better than any drug, not that I was ever a druggie type.  (Just watch your baby-sitter get wheeled out of your home on a stretcher because of an overdose and you’ll never be tempted to even experiment with any kind of narcotic. Trust me.  And, no, I’m not making that last bit up.  It was terrifying, and the best drug awareness education I could have received.)  But I digress…

When I’m on two wheels, wind blowing past my face, feet clipped in, sun on my shoulders… I’ve become one with the bike.  I am truly invincible.

On all counts, I’m stronger than most anything life dishes out, on and off the bike, specifically because of my efforts on the bike.

Exercise, according to my surgeon and my oncologist, will cut my risk of recurring cancer in half.

Even if that weren’t documented by research, I’d love cycling because of how strong I feel when I’m riding and how I can note my progress with each mile, each hill, each ride.

So, what’s up with the “I don’t wanna” mentality?

I’m guessing this is just a side effect of the radiation treatments.  They warned me.  They told me I would experience fatigue for a while after the treatments were done. I’m hoping that’s all it is.  I mean, it isn’t that I don’t want to ride, but I just don’t seem to have the energy it takes to do all the prep and the after work.  Thank God I have people in my life that do that for me or I’d never ride these days.  I’d just sleep.  (Which, I hear, is probably not a bad thing either.)

But, I’m still a little worried.

What if this fatigued feeling doesn’t go away?  What if this is the new normal?  What if?  What then?

I think I would start by crying.

I can’t even think of it.

So…

I muster up the energy for another ride.

After all, once I’m on the bike, I’m golden.

And when I’m on bike…really…nothing else matters…I’m still strong and healthy and that is everything.

 

A Day Just Perfect For Wasting

It’s one of those early summer days, just perfect for wasting.  It’s a warm, clear, zero-percent-chance-of-rain day in Southern Oregon.  It’s the kind of day that results in a greenway full of young lovers walking hand in hand, dog owners meandering back and forth disregarding the posted “Keep to the right” admonitions, and cyclists of all types rolling through.   I should be among them. But I’m not.

Instead, I’m home…which I don’t mind…wandering listlessly around the house trying to find some project or task that can both absorb me, and for which I will have the staying power to complete.  The Significant Other is off at his part-time job. (Yes!  He finally got a steady part-time job!) All my kids are gone, for the moment.  The youngest just headed off to her dad’s for Father’s Day weekend. The college student is away at college and won’t be coming home in between the end of her term and the beginning of her internship in Portland this summer.  The recently graduated child is off being recently graduated, enjoying her friends and working.  The son will return later, at which time, I’m hoping I have the energy to go for a bike ride.  Until then, it is just me, here, alone.  I love being alone.  I love being in my home and alone.  I almost never have a problem finding something to engage in.  In fact, I am the one who is most likely to be voted “The Person Who Has Too Many Things She Wants To Do To Have To Work.”  Today, something is definitely wrong.  I find myself feeling almost…not quite, but almost…bored.

It isn’t that there aren’t plenty of projects to be done.  There are.  Even as I peck these words out on my laptop from the upper deck of my town home, I hear the S.O.’s voice in my head suggesting laundry as a top choice to become absorbed in. It is, in fact, overflowing, and it does, in fact, need to be folded and put away.  Then, there is the garage, most of which, I’ve gone through, tossing decades worth of paperwork that no longer has any meaning in my life, but which I just never took the time to toss. I’ve worked the overwhelming pile down to a box and two 2-drawer file cabinets that I must go through and organize into a useful filing system.  There are several bins of school paperwork that managed to just get tossed into bins over the course of the year rather than being filed in the appropriate binders.  (I find there are binder people and there are file people.  I am most definitely not a binder person.  Give me a file and let me flip through it, please.  Binders, for me, always end up in bins or buckets…or files. I’m far to busy to take the time to carefully open the rings, select the pages I want, get them copied, then return them.  Forget that.  I’m the type that grabs the file and plans on the go.  When I’m done, it all goes back in the file ready to be pulled out again and used next year, this time with added notes and comments about what did not work.  If I really had my way, I would have neither bins nor binders nor files…I’d have an iPad.  It would save me so much time rummaging through the paper pile.  It would save space: good-bye binders and files.  It makes sense.  It is also a pipe dream for me, right now, as I look at the fairly large amount of medical bills I have yet to pay, combined with the expenses associated with now having two children in college.)  Organizing the garage and the remaining files would be a worthwhile project for an afternoon such as this. So would reading a book, going to get some tomato plants and beginning my veggie container garden, or going for a bike ride, or working on developing any one of my many blogs which I’ve neglected over the last couple of months.

There are any number of tasks that could absorb me.  The problem comes when I begin to consider my energy level.  There’s not a task here, including this blog post, which I think I’ll have energy to complete and I hate the idea of creating yet another unfinished project in my life.  I hate unfinished projects.  Just yesterday, my Mac crashed.  It’s possibly a video card going bad.  But it is something I now have to deal with, which I can’t because it will cost money, which I just don’t have. Another unfinished project.  I hate this.  I hate how life can sometimes be going along swimmingly, in fact, perfectly, if it weren’t for all the loose ends.

Yesterday, I had my three month follow-up appointment with my surgeon.  I always enjoy meeting with this man because, besides being a personable sort, he has this way of rendering highly technical medical information into easy-to-understand packages for me. Yesterday, he took a bit of time discussing what I might expect in the months and years to come.  He suggested that I’ll probably be feeling much better in the next couple of months as far as energy levels are concerned, but that I should expect it to take a year, maybe more, before I feel like this is finally behind me.  In short, I need to give myself permission to feel tired and to rest when I just can’t go on.

I wonder…is today’s almost bored listlessness just another way the fatigue is manifesting itself?

I told you I wouldn’t have enough energy to even finish this post.  I’m going to go take a nap.

The End

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We usually think of it as a bad thing; the end of a romance, a good book, a great concert, or fun vacation. Sometimes, even though they can be emotionally laden, endings can be positive. They can provide long awaited closure to the loose ends in life. They can be the end of stressful events, situations or unresolved dilemmas in life. Endings aren’t always a bad thing.

This has been a year of transitions or, more accurately, conclusions, for me. Endings. Finales. Mostly, life just goes on from one phase to the next, from one event, day or season to the next, without much fanfare. This year, I’ve noticed an unusual amount of endings to things that have been going on in my life, some of them for years. Things I’ve been working on cleaning up and moving off my plate are going away and, with them, the accompanying stress. I find it interesting that while 2012 has been an absolutely disappointing year, at least I can say that a great deal of the stressful chapters in my life are closing.

Since May of last year, I have been working on resolving the situation with my home which has become an overwhelming financial and physical burden for me. The tax break was nice, the hedge against inflation nice, the stress not so nice. Also, the fact that it gave me a negative net worth wasn’t exactly cheery either. I am pleased to note, that this chapter should be concluded by the end of July. That takes a huge amount of stress off my plate. I can’t say I’m disappointed. This signifies closure on one of the most unhappy and nightmarish periods of my life. For many reasons, I’m eager to say goodbye to this home and all it symbolizes.

My second oldest child is graduating from high school this year. We are in the midst of all the last minute preparations to close yet another chapter in our lives. For both of us it is an ending and a beginning of new things; new ways of being with each other as she adjusts to the demands and responsibilities of adulthood. While, she is not necessarily going far away to go to college, her role as a college student and theatre major will mean that she is, for the most part, not around. She will be making more of her own decisions and this reality ends my role in her life as it has been until now.

Another school year is winding down. This is always a bittersweet experience and this year it is even more so. It’s been a bumpy year. While it couldn’t be helped, I do wish it could have been different. I can’t change it now. 11 more days and this school year is a wrap.

For the last seven years, I’ve been driving around an older SUV. I believe the life of this vehicle is nearing an end. When I look at the cost of insurance for my 18-year-old who drives it now, combined with the cost of gas, I am certain that my days of driving any SUV around are nearly over. In fact, this brings me to recognize a fun new beginning in my life: that of transitioning from the car as my primary mode of transportation to the bicycle.

It took me almost the entire year to figure out a routine and how to make the 2.95 mile commute to work feasible, but for the last month, I’ve successfully commuted by bike to work, then to radiation treatments, then out for some riding time, then back home most days of the week. This has been wonderful for so many reasons. Obviously, the savings in gas costs is significant. It also means that I am able to get a 20+ mile ride done at least 5 days a week. I no longer have to worry about fitting a ride in after school or dinner or before it gets dark. I’m looking forward to the day when I can say goodbye to the old SUV for good, replace it with a more fuel efficient economy car then drive only when absolutely necessary. This chapter of car insurance hikes, exorbitant gas prices and spendy car repairs is one chapter I can’t turn the concluding page on fast enough.

The best news this week? Monday, I went in for my radiation treatment thinking I had 11 treatments left. I was informed that I have only five treatments left and, if I double up on one day, I will be finished with treatments on Friday. So now, at the time of this writing, I have only two treatments left. My short, little journey with cancer diagnosis and treatment is ending. I’m going to miss the techs, the bike commute across town, and the great routine I had worked out, but I can’t wait for my skin to heal, my energy to return and summer to finally and officially arrive.

Some goodbyes are just good.

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Monthly Rides

March 11 was the last day I rolled out without kids in tow. It was the day before my last surgery. Kids on a ride, while enjoyable, slows the pace significantly. My 17-year-old son keeps up very well, but he doesn’t always pay attention to his use of the path. It can be alarming the way he weaves around. He’s also been known to stop without warning. I hate that. My 11-year-old daughter, can’t keep up. With her, we slow the pace significantly and we shorten the distance. She’s able to make a 20 mile ride, but it has to include lots of stops, a plodding pace, and the promise of a park with a playground somewhere along the way.

Since my surgery, I’ve been out on a couple of rides, but they haven’t been long ones, because the kids ended up going along. The weather has also been nasty and, while I ride in just about any weather, pouring rain is one forecast I’d rather not encounter on my bike.

On Saturday, there was a break in the weather and I was able to get out and ride to my heart’s content and until my legs gave out. It was the most mileage in a ride ever. The SO and I logged 42 miles in 3:34:00. That’s a pretty steady 11 mile an hour pace. It’s not the fastest we’ve ever ridden, but considering it was my first long ride since surgery and in a month, I don’t think that’s too bad for an ole gal getting back in gear.

The fun thing about this ride is that it also included our first group ride with the Southern Oregon Velo Club. We’ve been members since last May, but have not felt confident enough in our riding skills or in our endurance level to attempt a group ride. A month ago, I found out that there is a group that rides shorter distances at a slower pace so I got on the email list in order to be notified of upcoming rides. Yesterday it finally worked out that we could attend a ride. The only problem is that the ride scheduled wasn’t going to be nearly long enough for our purposes.

To remedy that, the SO and I got up early and headed down the greenway on our own. By the time we met up with the other club members, we had almost 27 miles in. We rode 10 miles with the club, and then after an enjoyable stop at the Badass Coffee Company, we parted ways and headed home. It was a very positive first group ride experience and we learned some cool stuff. We also learned that as soon as we are able to get those road bikes. We’ll be ready to join the group that rides a little further at a bit faster pace. Without the road bikes though, we will slog behind the faster group.

By the time we got home, the SO’s legs were cramping up. I’m doing fine so far and am only mildly sore. Just lucky this ride, I guess, because that’s not always the case after a long ride. I hope we can head out for another long ride again today. Putting in 80-100 miles on a weekend would be a new milestone to celebrate.

This One’s For My Family, Especially The Ladies

Breast Cancer runs in my family…sort of. My mother, at 56, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She also had an uncle who died of breast cancer, a rare but possible thing, as breast cancer can affect 2% of all men. At least, I think that is number I remember reading in my journeys the last few months. As I’ve traveled this road, I’ve successfully laughed off the potential for fear, but I have on several occasions wished I paid more attention when my mom was going through this. The sad part is that I can’t just go back and talk to her about what went down. She passed in 2004. To the best of my knowledge, after her operation (she ended up having a full mastectomy), and her treatments, she never had a recurrence. Her cause of death, was not breast cancer, but complications of emphysema. I find this encouraging. I still wish I could talk to her about what she went through.

Since I cannot do that, and since there is likely to come a time when my sisters or nieces or daughters might want to know exactly what the family genetics holds for them, I am writing this post. I am writing this to let them know what my diagnosis is, and to inform them of my treatments so far. It is, of course, going to be a bit evident through it all, how I feel about it all.

Diagnosis

I have what the medical professionals refer to as DCIS or Ductile Carcinoma In Situ. In other words, I have tiny micro-calcifications in the duct of my right breast. These crystallizations are not visible to the human eye, and in order for them to be seen on my work up they have to be magnified a bazillion times. The term In Situ means that this particular form of cancer is non-invasive. Were it to progress it could eventually break through the duct and invade breast tissue. However, because, my cancer is In Situ, it hasn’t broken out and gone floating around either in my breast or anywhere else in my body.

Treatments

I’ve had three biopsies. Two separate bits of cancer were found. The first was intermediate grade. (Ladies, that will be important for you to tell your health professionals.) The last bit was about a millimeter in size and was of low grade. There’s been some question over the years as to whether the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1 and/or BRCA 2 mutations) exist in our family. To my knowledge, my mother was not tested for this. I know I have not been tested for it. I think this is important for you to know. I know some in the family are already asking. At some point, it might be a good idea for one of us to consider testing…yeah…I guess that’d be me.

Prognosis

My surgeon, after this last surgery informed me that there is almost zero chance of this metastasizing. However, since I have a diagnosis of breast cancer, my odds of getting breast cancer again in either breast is dramatically increased. Exercise and diet are going to be critical factors for me going forward. It is now even more important than ever that I get out on two wheels as often as possible.

Further Treatments

I meet with my Radiology Oncologist this week, to determine if radiation is necessary. I kind of suspect that it will be recommended. It’s not a foregone conclusion and radiation treatment is not without its risks. For example, I learned this week, that if I choose radiation now, and then I have another issue down the road, it will make mastectomy the only option. Though, I’m not so sure that’s entirely a problem, either. As for chemotherapy, not needed for me, because my cancer was such early stage and non-invasive.

So, Ladies, I’m going to encourage you to get your mammograms regularly. Regular exams do make a difference and early detection is the key to the cure. Daughters, you’ll need to start these mammograms earlier than the average person. You now have a grandmother and your mother with the history. Talk to your doctors, but I suspect, getting your baseline at 30 wonD’t be any too soon. If I’m around then, and you want me to, I’d be glad to accompany you for that first one. It sounds a lot scarier than it really is. I’m going to be okay. You will be too. Just remember, eat right, exercise, keep up on your scans.

Slowly Getting Back in the Saddle

As much fun as the surgical party was, the time spent convalescing wasn’t nearly as smooth this time around.  More pain, more fatigue, less weather that cooperated with me getting out on the bike, and more of the daily stuff of life that can just get in the way of feeling 100 percent.  That being said, I’m sporting a pretty wicked looking 4-inch scar.  I can, at least, still proudly announce that I do have all my original body parts. I’m certainly glad that it wasn’t worse than it was.

Two days ago, the weather relented, and I ventured forth on my first ride after this last surgery. My significant other, my son and I logged 17.04 miles in an hour and 26 minutes.  Not too bad for a first day out.  The SO kept asking how I was doing and telling me not to push too hard.  After my typical sucking air for the first 10 minutes, I was fine.  After the first 30 minutes, I was fully warmed up and having a great time.  The weather was perfect.  Of course, there are some who would not consider overcast and sprinkling weather as perfect, but I was ecstatic to be on two wheels again, with the wind in my face. The ground was mostly dry, large puffy clouds scudded across the sky, every now and then we were hit by a few sprinkling drops of rain, but nothing significant.  Fruit trees are beginning to blossom and trees are beginning to leaf out around here.  It was beautiful.  I was disappointed only by the fact that we started out late and due to time constraints had to head back much earlier than I wanted.

It was good we headed back when we did, though, because my body was screaming at me for going out that far and that hard after two weeks of complete inactivity.  I was pretty grateful for a few of the remaining pain meds that night.

A Hee Haw Life

This week reminded me of one of those That’s Good, That’s Bad” comedy skits from the variety show Hee Haw I used to watch as a child. The routine begins with one person asking the other how things are going. The person responds to the question with a statement about a disastrous event that just happened. The first person reacts with horror, “Oh no! That’s bad!” The other person then replies with “No, that’s good because…..”, and he states something good that came about because the bad thing happened. Then this first person says, “Oh, well, that’s good,” to which the person then mentions something bad that happened as the result of the good thing happening. This elicits the response, “Oh that’s bad!” and so the skit goes to its humorous conclusion.

This was my life this week.

First up, I returned to work (that was good). But the ex also decided that instead of bringing our daughter home according to our agreement, he was going to keep her. Without planning ahead and indefinitely. (For the record, his reasoning for doing this was not so off the wall, but the manner in which he did it was what created the stress.  Stress is not what I need as I’m recovering from surgery and returning to work.) That was bad. This did, however, give the Significant Other, and I some time together without the kids around. That was a little unexpected treat. I was able to get the family paperwork and finances done, also good. But because of the Ex’s bully tactics, I decided to seek out the advice of my attorney. That event gets mixed reviews. I love talking with her, because beyond being a fascinating person, she is so very reasonable, and has a great deal of life wisdom. The downside: it cost money at a time of the month where things begin to get tight for us. (Sure wish the SO could find decent paying work!)

On the way down to another appointment I had this week, something terribly wrong happens to my car. I barely get it parked, call the SO to come have a look-see and head up to my appointment. The SO gets the hood opened but has no idea what is wrong. Of all his fantastic qualities, vehicle mechanic is not on the list. Miraculously, a mechanic walks by, takes a look, and diagnoses a blown water pump. That’s really bad! Fortunately, my mechanic was able to come get the car and get it to his shop. He was able to have the vehicle repaired in less than 24-hours and $466 later, I have my car back. He was able to allow me to pay over two months, which definitely eases the strain that an unexpected mechanical problem can place on the budget.

In the midst of all this, after going back and forth with the ex about what exactly our divorce document means and him changing things at will, I had no confirmation from him that this self-appointed parenting time he’s taken the liberty of giving himself will ever end. I finally received confirmation and a pickup time and location is decided. 12 hours later, I receive texts from him wanting to bring the daughter back early. A full 24-hours early. It’s crazy-making but I’m certainly not complaining that I get to have my daughter back for which, it now turns out, will be all of Spring Break.

As all the rest of this is happening, I’m plugging along at my first week back after surgery, too exhausted to work out each evening. It’s also raining, so I can’t ride. In the midst of it all, the SO gets the word that his teaching credential was finally granted (a process that took almost an entire year) and the very next day, he receives a job offer at a wonderfully classy dining establishment (read tips and discounts on great food, ca-ching!). He can substitute and work this job so he will have work all year long. Very, very good news. He’s been out of work for a very long time.

Yesterday was the last day of work before Spring break, I packed the family up and headed north to pick up the oldest to bring her home. We planned a special night at Chuck E. Cheese. It is, after all, the closest thing to Disneyland in state and probably safer too, since I’m not sure my stomach can handle the rides like they used to.

For those who are not familiar with Chuck E. Cheese, let me explain briefly this bizarre dining experience.  Chuck E. Cheese is an arcade place where parents spend a small fortune for a bunch of gold-type coins imprinted with a rodent’s smiling face. These tokens are then used to play the arcade games which, in turn, earn the kids tickets.  These tickets can then be traded for prizes at the Cheesy Store.  The pizza is just pretend.  I believe it is really cardboard masquerading as pizza.

For my oldest kids (21, 18, and 16), Chuck E. Cheese was an opportunity to revisit some of their quickly fading childhood.  My youngest was ecstatic.  The SO was the most amusing. As serious as he sometimes comes off as being, it was surprising to see him enter into the fun. At one point, I heard the girls calling my name and I look over to see him on a mechanical horse race game. It was crazy hilarious to see this guy, nearly 50, on an arcade horse ride game. I do have a video, but out of respect, I won’t post it.

Chuck E. Cheese, however, was not such a good plan for me. Looking back, scheduling an evening at Chuck E’s after teaching 4th graders who’ve checked out for Spring Break (that’s not bad, but it isn’t easy) and driving 3 hours (usually not so bad, but my body was in pain) was probably taking on a bit much just two weeks after surgery. By the time we arrived at Chuck E’s, I was feeling pretty ragged. By 9:00, I was in pain and exhausted. And we still had a 3 hour ride home. My kids’ enthusiastic gratitude helped ease the pain, but by the time we got home my body was screaming in protest at the discomfort of the crowded Durango seating.  I was exhausted. Probably not the smartest thing to run myself into the ground like that.

This morning, I  planned to attend a ride with the local Velo Club. It would have been my first ride with a group larger than three. I’d been looking forward to it all week.  As my head hit the pillow last night at nearly 1:00 a.m., I decided not to set my alarm and take my chances with waking up in time for the ride. Upon waking this morning, I felt energized…for about three minutes.  I gave it my best shot.  I actually got up, got in my gear, checked the weather, then checked email. Due to the “iffy” weather they cancelled the ride. Personally, under normal circumstances,  I would have ridden in this kind of weather anyway, because I try to ride whenever I can except in pouring rain or when it is so cold there might be ice on the ground. Today, I took the excuse offered by the wimpy weather, the cancelled ride, and decided to try listening to my energy level by making today an easy, lazy day.

That was such a good decision,  I might just try it again tomorrow.

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.