Monday, August 29, 2016

I'd Like to be a Gallery. Put You All Inside My Show.

So, Kids...I promise I'm wrapping up the sick girl posts, but I'll probably ease out of them, like I do everything.

Yesterday, I touched on some of the things I actually could do during my recuperation. My lovely days usually started off with a nice walk, and then either peanut butter toast or yogurt and granola and berries and tea for breakfast while I caught up on the last two seasons of "Downton Abbey". Then I would generally go on the back porch and sit on my lounger chair and rest and read for a couple of hours.

If I felt strong enough, I would eat lunch and watch an episode of "House Hunters", before I tried to do a little project, like hanging laundry on the line or cleaning a room of the house that didn't require me to lift more than 10 lbs. Of course, that kind of activity would cause me some serious fatigue, so a nap/rest would be in order afterward.

Like I said, Stinky came over a few times, especially the week before I had to go back to work, and we had fun adventures and little hikes and we would laugh and laugh at her puppy's antics. At one point, we were walking on the bike path, past a sculpture garden, which Jaxson had never seen before and he flipped out. He growled and barked and ran away from the sculptures. I guess, everyone's a critic...

It's probably a good thing this deer wasn't on the path when Jaxson was along for the hike. The poor little guy would probably have had a coronary.

The last weekday of my recovery, Stinky came over after lunch and we got out the canvasses and paints and we drank lemonade and sang along to the Beatles Pandora radio station we listened to and yelled at Jaxson for stealing the sponge that Stinky was on her painting.

It was a beautiful way to spend the day.

These are our (almost) finished products. Stinky's is the one on top and mine is the one on the bottom, which is really just a background I will hopefully use that to paint a gigantic flower over. We'll see how long it takes me to finish it now that I'm working full time again...

Yes, I Get by With a Little Help From My Friends

Archie loved that I was hanging out on the porch so much the last couple of weeks.

So this will be a more random post today. We met with the surgical oncologist on Friday. She said everything looked great, the incision site was healing up. There are no signs of infection and all that's left now is a dark purple, smile shaped scar around my left breast. I had John look at it a few times in the last couple of weeks and he had already told me that.  It definitely helps to have an ortho the tech for a live-in life partner in crime. She did say that she wanted me to still see the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist to consider further treatment. I will definitely go and hear them out, but the surgical oncologist said that if she thought anti hormone therapy or radiation therapy would make a big difference, she would have told me to do it and she didn't think she could say that. Since I like to err on the side of the least invasive treatment, I might just watch it and get regular mammograms for now.

People have asked me if I went stir crazy being home for two and a half weeks. The answer to that is HELL NO! I love my house and, especially after I got off the drugs and the worst of the pain and stuff, my days were filled with books and painting canvasses and looking longingly at my cats and gardens. How could I be stir crazy....Especially, since I was allowed to go for little walks outside on the days where I felt strong enough.

John did worry that I would feel isolated during my convalescence, but my friends and my daughters wouldn't let me. Holy cow, but John and my girls and my friends are amazing.

My friend Joanne let me walk with her and her dogs to her house on my first walk after my surgery. MnMOM and my friend Kit, bought me a $50 gift card to the co-op, with which, we bought a quiche, a nice bottle of red wine and some fancy things to put in a salad. My friend Molly bought me a $50 gift card to Prairie Lights, with which, I bought 3 books (since I read 6.5 novels while I was home, it was nice to have more selections). My friend Matt left a big bottle of homemade pesto sauce with tons of garlic in it, with which I made some pesto shrimp linguini. My friend Brittany came over and gave me some awesome graphic novels to read. John's ex-girlfriend brought over some homemade corn chowder soup and some lovely bread from the Co-op. My friend Ginger came over with the gorgeous sunflowers you see above. My friend Carrie brought over some turkey zucchini tetrazzini, a plate of brownies, some cut-up fruit and two Goose Island beers for me and John. My friend Lydia left me a bag of girly make-up type samples, that I had no idea how to use, but Stinky was kind enough to come over and tell me what they were and show me how to use them. Speaking of Stinky, she came over several times to check up on me and brought her puppy to go for walks with me and have lunch and get ice cream with me. Of course, John did so much for me, that I don't have the time or space to list it all.

From the list above, you might assume that I have gained a TON of weight these last couple of weeks, but strangely enough, I have lost a little weight. The big problem with that, is now I think I can eat whatever I want without gaining weight and that has never been true, especially now, when Winter is coming...

I am back at work today. I was dreading it, but now that I'm here, it's just fine. I will definitely miss my beautiful days filled with literature and art and nice, slow walks, and flowers and bees and butterflies...But I will have some nice, quiet, time away from my cats now.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

You Win Some. You Might Get Lucky Now and Then. You Win Some.

Looking very "natural" and way too smiley before my lumpectomy.

Sooooo. Yesterday was my 2nd week anniversary of being newly cancer free. Yea me! It's been a weird two weeks, but also pretty amazing in a lot of ways.

John and I showed up at the ambulatory surgery place at 8 o'clock and they immediately started doing their thing. I changed into my lovely "evening wear", they put an IV in me and the nurse said, "Normally, we'd do a pregnancy test now, but they said that since you are over 50 your eggs are too old and you don't have to worry about getting pregnant.' She said she was a little offended by people calling our eggs old, but I told her that as long as I didn't ever have to worry about getting pregnant again, I didn't care what anyone called my eggs...

I was set to go down to radiation, so they could do another 5 million mammograms on me while they took a needle and inserted a wire to the location of my tumor. Right before we were supposed to leave, the nurse informed me that my surgery had been moved from 11:40 to 9:30. That was more than fine with me, but John had to text my girls and have them come down as soon as they could make it.

After the wire was in place, they wheeled me back up to my room. I talked to the anesthesiologist and she asked if I got motion sickness, and I said, "Boy, do I ever!" She said she would put a little patch behind my ear that would help me from getting nauseous but not to touch the back side of it and then touch my eye, because it would dilate my pupils. Weird. The nurse anesthetist said she was going to wheel me into the OR. like everyone we dealt with that day, she was so nice and personable and comforting. I was introduced to the staff in the OR and then the Nurse anesthetist told me she was going to give me the "I don't care" juice. One of the nurses told me that she would be next in line for some of that juice and I asked that she please wait until AFTER my surgery. That was the last thing I remember saying. I'm always happy when I go out with a joke...

The nurse woke me up in the recovery room. I had a brand new, funny looking bra on (John calls it my dominatrix bra, but I think it looks more like one of those 1950's bras but with tons of weird straps, kind of like those old maxi-pad belts (if you're too young, ask your great grandmother and you can be glad we live in better times)). She told me that when I first came-to in the OR that I thought I was late for work and worried about it. What the hell is that with me? When I passed out during my biopsy, I did that too. I guess everyone has to have an insecure fixation...

This was one of my favorite hang-out while I recuperated. I think the cats will be sad when I'm not home to gaze upon them all day.

John took me home and Coadster stopped by the store to get some food. I ate some soup and bread and then slept...And slept and slept.

The general anesthesia took at least 24 hours to wear off and then I started on the Dilaudid. With the drugs, I really didn't have much pain, but the drugs made me itchy, dizzy, weak and tired. So, after a few days, I worked on weaning myself off of them. After a week or so, I was completely off of them, but I might have done that too soon, because I still had some bad pain. I took Tylenol for another few days, before I was drug free. I still had some pain, but it was tolerable and I was much happier that my brain was working a little better then.

My doctor told me that walking would help me recover faster, but that I wasn't allowed to do any other real exercise. I tried to walk two days after my surgery. I couldn't even make it a mile before I had to stop and rest. On Saturday, John took me to Terry Trueblood recreation area.  for a change of scenery. It took me over a half an hour to walk one whole mile and even then, I had to rest on a bench for about 10 minutes. Wow. I'm up to 3.5 miles now and I even got on the bike trainer and pedaled very slowly a couple of times. I'm just working on building up. It could take a while.

In my head, I thought I would be able to get so much done during my convalescence, but I was sadly mistaken. I was on drugs and/or in pain for much of it and I was just exhausted in general for pretty much all of it.  I remember apologizing to Stinky when she came over two days after my surgery for being so spacey from the drugs. "Honestly, you aren't much different than you normally are..." Whatever. The one thing I could do, was read. John said he couldn't read when he was recuperating from surgery, because he couldn't focus enough and had to read pages over and over again. I told him, I don't usually have a lot of focus anyway, so I'm used to it. Okay, so maybe Stinky had a point...

This is the only room in our house with air conditioning. I slept here the first few days back from the hospital.

I got the pathology report back last Friday and the doctor called me and told me it was much better than they originally thought it would be. Yippee! I asked her if that meant that I wouldn't need radiation treatments or hormone therapy after all and she said, she wasn't sure. She said she would set up an appointment with the radiology oncologist and she will tell me if I should or not. As far as I know, that hasn't been set-up yet. John and I are hoping that the Tumor Board met and discussed it and decided I wouldn't need it. Of course, that's just a fantasy. We'll find out for sure tomorrow morning when we go to speak to the surgical oncologist at my follow-up appointment.

So, I will probably head back to work on Monday. I have a release form for the doctor to sign tomorrow and hopefully, I'll get to a point over the weekend where I can go through an entire day without napping or resting and I'll head back to work on Monday.

For now, I will appreciate the last few days of freedom from structure or pants wearing or even thinking about what kind of holy hell I must look like.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Living for Right Now and It's L.I.V.I.N.G. When I'm Here With You.

Well, Kids. Tomorrow is the big day. At 7 am I have to be at the ambulatory service area at the hospital. They told me I won't be allowed to walk and will have to be wheeled to radiology they will stick some kind of rod in my breast to help guide the surgeon as to where my tumor is. Then I'll get wheeled back up to my room where I will a few hours until my surgery at 11:40.

It seems pretty simple, right? I've just never had surgery before, I've never been under anesthesia, except for an epidural during labor with Coadster and I've never taken narcotics before, except for Tylenol 3 once for a kidney stone and I puked and puked. I have no idea what to expect. I know the outcome should be good, so I'm not super worried about that. It's just all the particulars in getting there.

I was looking at all the surgical prep and I can't eat after midnight, I have to wash with a special soap and I can only have one 8 ounce glass of clear liquid. They made a big point to specify that alcohol is not included in that. Damn it!

I started doing my arm exercises to get strong and my range of motion back after the surgery. They seem so easy now. I'm sure that will all change very soon...

This weekend was full of beautiful bike rides and runs and gardening and I will cook some veggie lasagna and potato leek soup to have for the week after surgery. Coadster is coming into town tonight and so John and my girls will be there for me.

What I am taking away from this is just how damn lucky I am. My cancer is very treatable and I have the most incredible support system. This will be an inconvenience in my life, but it's not a tragedy and I will get better and start kicking ass as soon as I can. I will also live each day in wonder and appreciation for all of the incredible people and things I have in my life.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Come On Y'all, Let's Take a Ride

On Wednesday, we rode out to meet RAGBRAI. John had broken a spoke the day before and the only bike shop in Ottumwa was closed to work at RAGBRAI. So, he had to ride about 50'ish miles with a broken spoke and with his back brake disengaged. Eek!

We headed out of Ottumwa and headed to Blakesburg. We were almost on the exact same route we'd be riding the next day. The roads were nice and we had one family out in the country yelling from their farm, "Hey! Yea, RAGBRAI! WooooHooo!" It was pretty cute.

I love the old gas stations in these towns.

John and Burne got their coffee drinks, while I had my favorite, chocolate milk.

We were very close to the route and the woman at the gas station in Blakesburg was so great about telling us which roads would work best for us and giving us directions. She said she had done 5 RAGBRAI's but they had been a long time ago.

We made it to Unionville, which was the last town before we would hit RAGBRAI. As we were heading out of town, I saw two junior high aged girls with a 6 week old kitten. I jumped off my bike and asked if I could hold her. They were nice enough to let me and it made my day even better.

We caught RAGBRAI on the Karras Loop, which extends the route that day, to go close to 100 miles for the day. It was at Lake Rathbun and it was beautiful.

They actually had a full menu and full bar and I actually got a salad on RAGBRAI. That never happens. I also had some Arnold Palmers's, which I love.

We met our group along the way and headed to our first camp in Chariton, Iowa. This really nice couple housed ours and another team and it was really nice.

The next morning, we got to ride over Lake Rathbun again. I like to sing bad songs from the 70's and 80's and for some reason, John is not a fan of that. Of course, that just makes me and our friends want to do it more. So, on Thursday morning, as we were crossing the lake, a guy rode past us with "Dr Love" screeching out of his stereo. It was perfect, we all surrounded John on his bike and sang it to him. He may not have thought it was as perfect as we did, however...

Add caption

We got to my sister and brother-in-law's place around 5. They spoiled the hell out of us. Some of the people on our team hadn't had a hot shower in many days. My family had three different houses on their street where we could get a hot shower AND they let us do all of our laundry and made sure we had tons of outlets to charge our phones. We made a ton of food and fed my sister's family and all of our troops. It was heavenly.

We rode to Washington the next day.

About halfway in, we went to Keota and caught a cool bike trail into Washington. Some if it was pretty rough, but I would definitely trade a smooth road for cooler views.

We did enjoy the craft brew tents this year. I don't drink a lot, but I like to have a few good beers and the craft brew tents are perfect for that. No more drinking warm Coors in unshaded alleys on RAGBRAI. Whew!

the last day of RAGBRAI, we chose to ride from Washington, with a stop for a very early lunch in Riverside and home to Iowa City. It was only 35 miles, but I didn't mind the break. While we were at Murphy's some friends, Andrea and Oliver asked if they could ride back with us. I told them we were going slow and they said that was just their speed. it was nice to chat with both of them. It had been a while. We got home around noon'ish, and had all day to do tons of laundry and unpacking and lawn mowing and take a much needed nap. It was a beautiful week.

Friday, August 05, 2016

We Are Concern. We Are Hope Despite the Times.

Always glad when my gladiolas come up in the garden.
So, here's another cancer update for you all. I got a phone call from my surgical oncologist's nurse telling me that she made an appointment with the radiation oncologist. She said they were talking about me at the Tumor Board (now there's something I hope I never have to hear again...) and they thought I might be a good candidate for intraoperative radiation. It would probably delay my surgery, but it might take away the need for external radiation.

John and I went to the appointment with the radiation oncologist. I keep saying it, but I think it's important - all of the doctors and nurses we have dealt with at the University Hospitals and Clinics have been amazing. This appointment was no different. We first spoke to a resident, who was very personable and funny and smart, of course. He asked us to call him Dr. M. and he talked us through our options. Before cancer, I got options like, vanilla, strawberry or chocolate, after cancer I get to decide what kind of radiation treatment I want: Either external radiation long course, where they have a lower dosage, but I have to get treatments 5 times a week for almost 7 weeks, a short course of external radiation, which would give me a higher dosage of radiation, but only 3'ish weeks, 5 times a week, or lastly, intraoperative radiation, which would be the best and least dangerous option, they weren't able to get enough tissue from my biopsy to test for, I believe, ER and PR (?) and so they wouldn't be sure if I was a candidate until after they examined the sample they get from the lumpectomy, and if it wasn't the right fit, I'd STILL have to do external radiation, but it would be the 7 week kind, so there was that...I wanted to still choose chocolate anyway, but the doctors wouldn't be able to help me with that.

DR M. told me he would also have to tell me about all of the things that COULD go wrong with radiation treatments.  He said, "Here's the part where I sound like the guy in those drug commercials and tell you that by using these treatments, it might cause alien abductions...." But he did say that the external radiation could cause heart and lung issues and it could create some osteoporosis type effects on my ribs underneath where the radiation is centered. Greeeaaatttt.

The other doctor came in to talk to us as well and then I got ANOTHER breast exam. After palpating the site of the tumor, which is way back next to my ribs, she didn't think the intraoperative radiology would work very well, since my tumor was in a bad place for it. She said we should go back and ask the surgeon what she thought.

I called the surgeon when we got home and spoke to her nurse. She said she would get back to me the next morning about her thoughts on the matter. I got the call as I was coming into work today. She agreed with Dr. Sun. We would go with the lumpectomy surgery this coming Wednesday, followed by the short course of external radiation therapy about a month after surgery. So, my daughter brought me a bunch of fun movies to watch while I'm on drugs, I have books to read for when I'm off the drugs,but can't go back to work yet and I will hopefully get my FMLA paperwork all set-up by the 8th, when it's due.

The thing about these appointments, is that they make everything seem scarier than it probably is. I know I have a VERY early stage of cancer and my outcome is great, but to have someone detail all the things that could go wrong or what scary things they might discover once they go in and do the surgery can make a girl a little scared and shaky. Lucky for me, I have John around to suggest things like, "Hey! Let's ride mountain bikes after your appointment." And not that it makes everything all better, but it helps to remind me what I should be focusing on right now....Getting better as quickly as possible so I can play outside again as soon as possible.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Stay with Me...Let's Just Breathe...

My first zinnia bloom this year.

I am interrupting my RAGBRAI posts to do a monthly stats write-up. John and I are going to talk to another doctor today to talk to them about a possible new plan they have for me, so I will keep you informed when I know more about that as well. For now, you get my monthly stats.

It was a great riding month for me, because....RAGBRAI/OOBRAI and I have lovely garden/food things I've been able to do as well. Here it is in words and numbers:

1. Miles Run: 41 miles. Not great, but there were reasons...

2. Miles canoed: I didn't record it, but it felt like about 6'ish? And it was damn fun, whatever it was...

3. Miles biked: Exactly 900. That's right. We rode 9 miles to get exactly 900 this month. I figured with everything else going on, I might not get many miles in August, so I might as well be a dork about it and get an exact amount.

4. Books read: 5 - 1. "The Sell Out" by Paul Beatty, 2. "The First Bad Man" by Miranda July, 3. "Redeployment" Phil Klay, 4. "The Woman Upstairs" Claire Messud, "Zoo Force: We Heart Libraries" (graphic novel) John Ira Thomas.

5. Firsts - I definitely had some firsts this month. Some better than others...I had my first biopsy, my first cancer diagnosis, my first filling out of FMLA papers, but much better than that was my first bike bagging adventure, my first stay in a hotel/casino and the first time I got to go to New Glarus Brewery.

6. Races Competed In: 1 - the time trial at Clear Lake.

7. Places Traveled To: Madison, Wisconsin, Clear Lake, Iowa, New Glarus, Wisconsin, Burlington, IA, Ottumwa, IA, Centerville, IA, Washington, IA.

9. House Projects Completed: None, really, but continuous gardening counts, right?

10: Blog Posts Written: 9 and no real creative writing done this month.

Sooooo, today I find out more about the doctors' new plan to treat my cancer and I'll get back to you with as soon as I now. I was lucky enough to get to do amazing things in July. If that isn't the case for August, I guess it will balance out with last month.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Everything's the Same Back in My Little Town

On the second day of OOBRAI (John started calling it that for: Our Own Bike Ride Around Iowa), our friend Burne met us in Burlington.

We had about 90 miles to go on Tuesday and it was a beautiful start. We rode past Lake Geode.

Up some decent sized hills on roads that cut through gorgeous bluffs.

It was a day where we crossed many bridges when we came to them...

We stopped our bikes at this little gas station/store and they had little plastic cups filled some of the best home baked mini chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. It was also a good thing we were burning so many calories that I didn't even think about washing them down with chocolate milk.

As always, there was much checking maps of the route.

And incredible clouds hanging over bucolic scenery.

the people we met were so nice too. this guy helped us back on our way, after we missed a turn and was able to tell us what the roads were like and how busy and that they were paved. Whew!

Sixty'ish miles later, we were in Fairfield.

The great thing about Fairfield, is that they have the Maharishi University there, which means there is amazing, organic, veggie East Indian food to be had. In other words, Our lunch was amazing.

As we left Fairfield,we found this cool but rugged bike trail out of town. part of it was closer to single track, and there were a few cool looking bridges we got to ride over as well.

We left the trail and headed out on beautiful paved roads...That disappeared into gravel...

And then turned into this beautiful, narrow, dirt road. If it had rained, it would be unrideable, but as it was, it was perfect.

Apparently, it was a lot of fun too.

We got into Ottumwa at around 5. We got to stay at the hotel Ottumwa, so we all showered and changed into civies. We called my sister and met her and her family at the brew pub downtown. The food was amazing.

We also got to hang out with my niece and nephew and check out downtown and the plaque that was an homage to the old arcade that was in Ottumwa when I was in high school. There is a documentary called "King of Kong" about the first video game olympics in 1983.

Since my brother-in-law's job meant he was in charge of RAGBRAI for Ottumwa, he drove us around town to show us all the places where things would be happening and to his house, to let him know what our group would need when they stayed there on Thursday night. So great of him.

We ended the night at the Tom Tom Tap. It didn't look much different than it did when I was in the 80's, except the beer was better.

The next day we would be meeting up with RAGBRAI and our new adventure would be over. We were calling it a raging success.