Saturday, April 30, 2016

You've Come a Long Way....


When I think of the phrase, you've come a long way, I remember those ridiculous adverts for Virginia Slims cigarettes I saw in the magazines of my childhood. Cancerous, but slimming. Oh, wait, the slim part was just a description of the cigarette. Right.

Anyway, forgive that silly, random memory, but actually, I have come a long way on the road of my cancer treatment...which has nothing to do with smoking. Or bad adverts.



The early days were hard. Those weeks I spent waiting for test results, knowing they were not going to be good, were torturous. After surgery (mastectomy), my squeamish self hated looking at and emptying my drains. I actually arranged the bathroom mirrors in such a way that I didn't have to look at myself! It was a shock to my brain.

Having those drains come out was the first uplifting thing that happened. The memory of that physical and mental liberation is a happy milestone to be forever cherished.

The following tests, MUGA and CT scans, felt ominous, but the results were as good as they could be. I had my mediport installed in early January and started chemotherapy on January 15th.

Going back to work a week later was at first very stressful, especially since I had to deal with a human resources department filled with people who were packing up and leaving; our small bank had been bought out, and the complete conversion would happen very soon. When I started back half days, I was not aware that "half" meant exactly four hours, not a minute more or less; if I clocked in at 8:03, I'd better clock out at 12:03. When the new company took over, I had three chemo treatments completed, and quickly decided to come back full time.

Returning to a more normal work week was another chance to exhale. New Company actually gave us sick days! I haven't had separate sick days since my very first job--thirty years ago.  I did not have to touch one of those until recently, since I was able to work every other weekend to make up for the time I spent in the chemo chair.


Ah, weekends: every other one was nice--even if I was working, I got out in time to enjoy feeling good. My treatments were on Thursdays, and my worst day would be two days later, the following Saturday. I wouldn't get up. Oh, I'd change my pj's, move from the bed to the futon, but....that's not fooling myself. I listened to NPR. Mike jokes that is seems a bit ghoulish, how they've kept Car Talk on the air, but those guys did so many shows that are too much fun to archive just yet. And Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me is too entertaining to resist, and if I was still awake, I'd catch This American Life. Sometimes I could actually get some reading done.

The bad days were not all equal. After four treatments of Adriamycin and Cytoxan (lovely name, that), I was ready for four treatments of Taxol, which was not as fatiguing. And gradually, I regained full range of motion in my left arm.


Which brings me to another happy milestone: two weeks after my first Taxol treatment, my blood work improved quite a bit. I'd been frightened by the possibility that my treatment might be interrupted for a blood transfusion. Again, I'm squeamish. And want to get this over with. So, this was happy dance time, and I had the energy to do it!

That's not to say Taxol was a picnic. I developed neuropathy and my nails hurt. One morning, I had to use a pair of scissors to open a sugar packet, and opening jars was not an option. After that first treatment, I decided to hold an ice pack during the following ones, and I'm convinced it helped keep the side-effects from worsening in my fingers. Some people lose their nails, but I didn't. They are an intriguing--orange.

And then, the day of Last Chemo Treatment came. The treatment itself was uneventful and quiet. The Benadryl drip I got along with the Taxol put me to sleep for one last time....





When I got home, there were balloons! 



My mother brought me a gift for each treatment. Yes, there's beer in that picture. Really good, local, hoppy stuff. Those balloons are still in the air this morning!

No, you may not have my mother. She's mine.  (Well, not all mine, I do have siblings and nibblings and there are other special people who claim her as a surrogate.)


Along the way, there was another very important, happy outcome. Working for another company, starting in mid-February, meant that I also had to switch insurance coverage mid-chemo.  Having already satisfied my maximum out-of-pocket expenses (chemotherapy is incredibly expensive), I feared that we'd have to start all over again with the new insurance company, and that is usually what would happen, fair or no. However, that is not what happened. New Company gave me full credit! The office staff where I was receiving treatment have yet to pick their chins up off the floor.



 Yesterday was my day to meet another doctor. Silly me, I'd entertained the possibility that there might not be any reason to do anything else. Perhaps cancer treatment was over? Get the mediport out?

No. Dr. Radiologist and his friendly, helpful staff were very cheerful, but there will be six weeks of radiation. This form of cancer does have a woeful habit of recurring in a couple years, so radiating certain areas, just to make sure bad cells don't even think about growing back in the wake of chemo, is very much encouraged. My surgeon had already told me that this would be something I should do, but a girl can dream...

 It's okay. It won't be chemo. Dr. Rad wears a button that says, Chemo is over. Forget the chemo. He's right. I'll get a sunburn, I'll put special lotion on it, then I'll be finished--probably around July 4th. These appointments will be a logistical pain, more than anything.

And the mediport will stay in until I'm done, and I won't whine about it. After all, it rarely bugs me.
And along the way, friends and family have sent me cards, good vibes, and food. Mike has been my personal protector, vacuumer, and fact-keeper. 

And--I'm aware that I'm no fun anymore. And it's time to get up and out for walkies...








Friday, March 18, 2016

Mid-March Update

It's Friday, and I'm working a later schedule at work, which suits me; life is nicer with more time in the morning.

I did start working full time in mid February, and have now finished five out of eight chemotherapy treatments. Since my last post here, I've had some ups and downs, of course, but I'm still hanging in there.

One thing to be grateful for is my lack of drug allergies. Two drugs that have done me a world of good are Neulasta and steroids. One keeps my white blood cell count up, reducing infections, and the other helps make chemo more effective and reduce reactions. There are plenty of people who cannot easily tolerate these benefits, but I can.  This is probably why I'm able to work.

My fear is my hemoglobin level, which has been dropping a little bit each time...I am not severely anemic, and know that I must simply keep eating and keep my mind off of it. Sure, I'm careful not to do too much, and I'm getting plenty of rest outside work. Maybe too much...

My fear might be my biggest handicap. I'm afraid of the toll this is taking on my body, though I do know that chemo is something that is done for me, not to me. And I am looking forward to recovering from it--honestly, I will embrace getting out there and getting my energy and stamina back. Every gain will be something to celebrate.

The Taxol does not make me crash the way the previous drug did, but it is an irritant. So far, I am not experiencing the extreme joint pain that some people have. I did have a mild case of that, and also a very annoying finger reaction, which I am hoping doesn't get worse. Bowel issues have been a constant problem, on and off since surgery--sorry, that's not a polite topic, but it's a major annoyance.

Three more treatments until I can start recovering...that last treatment is thirty-five (35) days away. It won't be over over, but chemo will be...

And tomorrow, I have off...and will show, to the best of my ability, the appreciation for the man who has put up with all my moods and needs...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
About work: My health insurance did change mid-chemo, which was frightening, BUT my new employer has given me credit for my out-of-pocket expenses! This is major. They did not have to do this. As customers complain about the changes, I carefully sympathize, but--this new company has been good to me. My last employer did cater to customers a lot more than my present one, it's true. I'm sorry about this, but--I have to be grateful for what the new company is giving us, the employees.





And I've made it through another week...

Happy Friday, everyone!




Thursday, February 04, 2016

Almost a Month Later...

Happy, gentle Thursday! I'm happy to say that this is a pleasant morning for me; I caught up on some sleep and was able to go out for a nice walk, which really helps my spirits.

Yesterday was not as cheery, I must admit. One side effect of the chemo drugs I'm currently on (dose dense A/C) is anxiety and emotional episodes. Simply knowing that I'm not alone in this does help; it's great to know that it's a kind of normal, and I shouldn't feel bad about myself for not always appearing strong and positive. Of course, my prognosis is very positive, and my anxiety is caused mostly by outside issues, such as work.

Work. I'm currently on intermittent FMLA, working half days, which I'm beginning to think is not the best thing for me. There is way too much time to ruminate on stuff that I would ignore or simly not think about, were I at work. I am currently contemplating other options.  Also, the bank I work for is about to become another bank, so I'll need to communicate with another set of people. We'll also be using a different computer program with a whole set of different policies. The change will be stressful for everyone.

However, there is so much to be positive about! For one thing, I've been lurking breast cancer forums and am shocked by what some women suffer during the same treatment. I could tell that I was doing better than average, but after reading some of these posts, it is clear that I should be very, very thankful. And I am half way through the A/C treatment. After that, I will have four treatments of Taxol, which almost everyone agrees is easier.

So. Last treatment will be in late April. Seventy-seven (77) days away, most of which can be pleasant days.







Those minions are so cute!  I'm looking forward to my old relaxed, healthy life. And seeing it with different eyes, amazingly grateful eyes!


Friday, January 08, 2016

Inaugural Post

Happy Friday. This is the fifth Friday I've been absent from work. My first Friday off was spent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the day before our yearly December cruise.  On the second Friday, I was three days post-surgery, by the third Friday, I had my post-op visit, and before the fourth Friday, I'd had my drains removed and was feeling better. A week later, I have had my mediport procedure, and a week from now, I will probably know everything about what my chemo routine will be.

Things are happening as quickly as can be expected, even if it feels as if I'm inhabiting a slow-mo, alternative universe. I'll be back to work on the seventh Friday. And my workplace will accommodate my schedule. I will stop worrying about that right now; I've had an on and off stress headache about logistics. It will be okay.

I'm trying to treat this time period as a pleasant break, trying not to focus or pay too much attention to the unpleasant parts, but I admit that that can be hard; I'm lucky that I haven't had much pain--it's discomfort that I've been experiencing, which is annoying, but it's not pain. It's frustrating, sometimes, when I cannot get comfortable, but then I remind myself that I do not know PAIN. And fretting over how well I'm healing isn't going to help me heal faster.*

I'm feeling good this morning, better rested. Perhaps I'm getting used to sleeping on my back. Port on the right, surgery on the left, so that's how it's going to be for awhile. Mike and his computer geek coworker made up some puns about the port, but I'm just looking forward to that bright and shiny day that I will celebrate as deportation day...not that I hate the port. It will be a good thing for me, but of course everyone wants chemo treatments to be past tense. It will be hard not to wish my life away.

In the present, I am thankful that we have a good treadmill, so that I can make myself walk in all weather. And, I'm still working on the left arm mobility, and I'm reading. Not as much as I'd thought, but more than usual. It's really hard not to spend pointless time googling stuff I'm worried about--pointless because it only increases the worry and frustration about The Unknown. Honestly, I should put controls on myself...

Actually, from here on out, I am going to do exactly what I'm told to do, to the best of my ability. There will be eight chemo treatments over a sixteen week period. I will go bald and not have a beer for a very long time. I predict that I will miss the beer more than my hair. And yes, these two things will be the least of my worries. 

This year is off to an unusual start, in more ways than one, but I'm optimistic...



 ....and I'm gonna roll with it.



*My left breast and seventeen (17) lymph nodes were removed, only two of which were cancerous.  And  I had an excellent surgeon.







Sunday, December 20, 2015

A month and a half later...

My last post seems to be from a different lifetime. Here we are, at the beginning of Christmas week, and so much has happened. Mike remarked, just this morning, that it seems as if that cruise we took was a lot longer than a week ago.

At the end of November, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I almost capitalized that, for some reason. Stage II, triple-negative. Since that day, we've been on a cruise, followed immediately by my MRI the following Monday, then surgery the next day. Scratch what I said about losing that banked sick time.

Without further ado, I will post pictures of our cruise. Usually, I post them on my Fly Away blog, so that I bore only people who want to go there, but today I'm feeling lazy and so will put everything in one place...


Oops, I closed my eyes for this one...but, it's become a tradition to seek out this same spot in San Juan because it makes us laugh; on one side, a creche, on the other side--The Three Wise Mariachis with a pig on a spit. For dinner, we went to a place called El Alambique. We happened upon it last year, and wouldn't think of going anywhere else! It's right on the beach and does not look special;
it was a surprise.


....and on the next morning, we go out for breakfast and walk on the beach before taking a taxi to the cruise pier

There was some rainbow action on the day we left...

The first stop was Tortola...we were on the way to the beach. It was a rainy day, but still beautiful.

The ship was decked out, of course. The poincettias were set out shortly after we departed San Juan, and we always look forward to seeing them. This staircase is lit up from the bottom, too, which isn't obvious from the picture.
We had some fabulous meals and drinks. I had to get a picture of this bottle (and Mike).



We went whale watching on Dominica, and saw several sperm whales. Mike actually managed to time a picture perfectly, here. The crew had a fluke album to help them identify the individuals we saw that day. All happened to be females. At the very end of the tour, as we were on our way back, we saw two adult females together, and watched them for awhile, until--they both dove under at the same time, a double-fluke sighting! No, I was not able to record that.



I always enjoy the boat rides. And when I see that orange "11" tour sticker on Mike's shirt, I'm reminded of the cute little five-year-old girl on the tour who had ALL the stickers by the end of the outing. Before she left, though, she bestowed one of them on Irwin, one of the guides, seen here with the underwater microphone.





On St. Kitts, we went to the beach again, a day that turned out to be gloriously perfect. We stopped along the way at a scenic point at which the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea are separated by a strip of land--


We visited the Carambola Beach Club, which was beautiful, and on that day, not very crowded--



On St. Thomas, we took a snorkeling tour, much like the one we've done a few times before. The catamaran takes us out to St. John, an undeveloped island with a beautiful beach. Some people spend more time lounging on the beach than snorkeling. This year, since the snorkeling wasn't as good, we enjoyed that, too.
On the way back, the snorkeling gear is put away and the beer, rum punch, and champagne flow. It's a fun ride and a great party. 

A couple more evening pics-- I love it when Mike smiles! My astonishing husband.



It was a great time, and time away. Yes, we both thought about The Situation. I feel so lucky to have had this time away, to get prepared, to eat, drink, and relax. It helped--distance of any kind grants perspective.

And now surgery is behind me. I'm still recovering, still tending the drainage tubes, doing the arm exercises, and trying not to dread what comes next. It will all be for my benefit, and the chances are good that we'll be on another cruise next year...


And, I am not alone in this. I am thankful for everyone around me, and look forward to seeing my family at Christmas. Hmm, that's actually good timing...

Happy trails, everyone!







Thursday, November 05, 2015

growl

Today started groggily. Didn't get much sleep. 

The young woman who caused me to work a bit longer yesterday, out of pure inconsideration, is complaining to me about how another coworker made her late last night.  He is a piece of work, to be sure, and I hope this guy finds something else to do.  This woman, Deelee, is filling my ear about how her new husband is livid about how he never knows exactly when she'll be home...she might have to quit to keep the peace.

We are all fit to be tied. Call offs are another problem; we will be working for a new company shortly, and any leave not used will absolutely disappear. There's a chaotic atmosphere, we are thin staffed to a point we previously thought impossible. I'm lucky that I have more vacation in my future, though I will feel guilty for using it. Silly, that, I know: I'm losing over one hundred hours of banked sick time i.e., unused PTO from previous years. The present company never pays out rolled over time from previous years--I viewed it as an egg nest against future illness, which joyfully did not happen. Still, it seems harsh to just lose it all...

We are all hoping for shorter hours next year. And no one knows what our vacation time situation will be, except that we MAY roll over time, this time. 

So. It feels better to get this down in back and white, somehow. What cannot be changed or helped must simply be endured. I'm luckier than most, with my life situation, so I can suck it up and stop letting certain behaviors get to me.

And--do not take it home.

Do NOT take it home.

Over and out...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What to do, what to do...


It's a good thing that these jokey memes don't take up space in one's life. Why is Pinterest so popular? It's not just a good portmanteau word, it's a place for virtual collections of all sorts. An invisible file. It's a one-stop site for recipes, craft ideas, party themes, travel tips, fashion trends, books, movies, and--jokey memes.

Stuff: The Purge. Can one have too many hoodies, cardigans, or shrugs?  No. Can one have too many pink or orange sweaters? Probably. (That's not the case here, just asking.)

VHS tapes, cassettes, 45 rpm adapters, tote bags with logos of places long gone, a clarinet that needs all its pads replaced, duplicate books bought at different used book sales (scary), pajamas that don't look familiar, age group awards from forgotten races, five (5) sets of long underwear (no idea), too many coats, a crochet project from high school (scary), clothing that is depressingly too small,


embarrassing winter hats that have never been worn, huge and loud earrings from the 1980's (scary), three pairs of red strappy shoes (really?), a very padded pink and pink striped bra (ditto), various craft supplies and implements (of destruction), at least a dozen little envelopes labeled "extra buttons," bobbins for a sewing machine that does not work, enough straight pins for two lifetimes, ditto clothespins, old paint brushes, old paint, atrocious purses, single socks, and watches with dead batteries.

A certain garbage bin in the basement was employed for some of these items until it became clear, under full light, that this container was itself ready to meet the dumpster in the sky, so to speak.

Sad news: it doesn't look much different around here. Yet. Just wait.

Stuff swells. It looks like stuffitis.
A condition of human suffering, in owning way too much stuff,and realizing that one owns too much stuff.
John looked into the garage,and realized he was suffering from stuffitis. He had to find a way to get rid of all that useless junk.
(Urban Dictionary)
Suffering? The planet is suffering.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pretty sure twenty-four cans of lemon lime seltzer water will be toast in a couple days. (Gone, not warmed. That would be a trick...)

It's easy to face a pile of junk and stuff and become paralyzed. When this happens, it is time to eat. This is the best way to control stuff in the kitchen.

And see? It's almost time for the weekly Scrabble game. We have six Scrabble sets, by the way. It's not our fault; they were gifts. And Mike won one of them for being chosen to play with Will Shortz on his Sunday morning show. Hey look, Mike made honorable mention, again. (re: Last week's creative challenge. There were quite a few good ones.) (Not to worry, he didn't win stuff.)

Toast: one who loses a game of Scrabble to her opponent by at least one hundred points.

i.e.,
Yours Truly

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

hiss spit breathe

Pep talk. Things are what they are. They are what they will be. People are going to be who they are. That's the way it is.



That's me. Sometimes, it's good to be all alone. Sometimes, it's irritating--like when there's no one else left to help you do certain things, or when people decide not to be that someone helping you do things. This shall pass. People are who they are. Things are what they are and that is all there is to it.  One day at a time.

I have a lot of time off to look forward to. Today, I am one step closer to time off. Next year, big changes will occur at work, and I find that appealing. Change. We are becoming another company, and I do not take for granted that I will still have a place, but either way, I will get change.


That's better. Bring on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

This and that just because

Our last movie was Mr. Turner, a film about an eccentric 19th century British painter. On one hand, it was brilliantly acted and the scenery and colors were beautiful.  The film displays a man's life without any heavy handed statements or background. For this reason, it was a challenging film to watch, and I was at times a bit confused. Also, I felt it was overly long. It did, however, inspire me to look up more about this painter, since there was so little factual information in the film. I cannot really recommend this film to people I care about, though.


Since I like lighthouses, this is J. M. W. Turner's painting, The Bell Rock Lighthouse.

Honestly, I must start adding some more--lively films to the Netflix cue...

The last book I read was Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson, which I enjoyed very much. The premise is fascinating and thought provoking in several ways. I find it immensely interesting to read other people's reviews on Goodreads, since opinions vary so widely. Sometimes, in the discussion threads, I find ideas that never occurred to me, even more ways to love a book! On the other hand, there are always people who think that what you've just enjoyed so much is rubbish. Different tastes. This time, though, I was surprised that one of the most prolific reviewers hated this book because there was too much drama.  (She uses lots of exclamations!!!! but doesn't like drama.) While it's important that one not know too much before reading Atkinson's latest book, it is nevertheless well known that the protagonist dies--many times. The title suggests this, and it also follows (in my opinion) that there will be--drama. Anyway, I just got a laugh out of that. I've certainly had the experience of disliking  a book or books that many others call fabulous.

Speaking of the reading experience, the latest Nook has just been released. Since Barnes & Noble has moved away from making eReaders, it's a Samsung product--another one. While it does sound like an improvement over the first B&N--Samsung product, the price is a shocker: Four hundred dollars. $400.00. Four. Hundred. Dollars. It's the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 NOOK®
But then, if the iPad Air 2 can cost that much, I suppose this one can, too...what the market will bear, I suppose. We'll see.

Pretty scary. I find it entertaining to watch all these new devices come out, for some strange reason. We already have a Samsung tablet, and I do have the Nook App, so I can easily purchase and read anything I've ever bought from B&N on the tablet--should I ever want to do that.  Lots of people already have tablets. So.  Who, exactly, is the audience for this very expensive tablet?  According to the B&N website, the previous model of this size is $150.00, while the biggest one is $250.00. Those upgrades better be astounding. And really, all I want when I read is an eReader. The only one Barnes & Noble still makes is the Nook Glowlight, which I hope is still around when my vintage Nook dies.  I never thought eReaders would ever go the way of eight track tapes. One can hope. 



Now, that's an idea...

Happy long weekend, everyone!







Wednesday, September 02, 2015

First Wednesday

Today is the first Wednesday of September and also the first Wednesday for most returning students in this area.  There have been the usual changes in traffic--for me, working in the drive-thru, that means people showing up first thing, as soon as I'm open or sooner, in hurried-surly moods--OR in the late afternoon, in impatient-tired-surly moods. We don't have enough staff right now to comfortably make the stretch, so sometimes I find myself alone with a full drive-thru with customers who expect us to look up and fill out everything for them, and don't seem to realize that I'm actually waiting on someone else while they're placing their order.  I understand that, but do not understand why they have to be rude when I either can't hear everything, or need to verify something.  Do they treat other wait staff that way? 

Enough of that.  Even when I get highly annoyed, I don't take it personally. The big news is that we're turning into another bank by April of next year. The new owners are looking over the branches and have already begun to make little changes.  Yesterday, one of the most senior members of our facility team was here and stopped in to chat--he'd wanted to retire here, but he seems to be fairly certain that he'll be getting severance instead; the new company uses contractors for maintenance.  I don't know how close he is to retirement...I am optimistic that we tellers will survive.  Of course, it will be nice if this transition goes smoothly, but it can't be as bad as last time! (This will be my second experience with big transitions, but this time, the circumstances are different.)

In other news, it's almost vacation time for Mike and me!  I have five (5) more work days until I'm off for a glorious week and a day.  And I don't care how bad that Sargassum seaweed is. If the ocean really is that untenable, we'll sit on the beach and cool off in the pool.  We've been there when the beach was flat out closed all week because of severe weather and had a good time.  No worries.



I've enjoyed anticipating this trip more than I can ever remember doing in the past.  I'm  not sure what explains this, but it's a good thing: looking forward. 

Happy September!