30 December 2015

End of Year Greetings

There are two days left of 2015 and I will be happy to put this year behind me.  Behind us.  It’s been a tough one.  I know that is true for many of you, as well.  Let’s raise a glass of icy cold, mountain-borne, pure Oregon water and toast the coming year.  Bring on 2016!  Gotta be better, right?!

Here are some updates from my world.

Health:  The cancer saga continues, but is on a better plane now.  T has had surgery and now has a fantastically flat chest.  She kind of likes it, I definitely like it.  Her physical recovery from surgery is going well.  Her incisions are healing nicely.  Most of her upper body mobility is back.  She is back at work.  She will continue to get ‘chemo lite’ through the end of May, and then get the port removed.  She is taking a beta blocker to protect her heart from the cancer killing drugs, and when she is done with chemo she can stop that.  She is also taking an estrogen killer and will continue with that for the next 5 years.  It’s not tamoxifen, but something like it.  I have noticed that her body temperature regulation has altered dramatically.  She used to run hot, and have frequent hot flashes, and now she is chilly a lot.  Believe me, the furnace is cranking at our house!

Holidays: Survived.  Actually, now that my sister-in-law has divorced her asshole husband, things are much calmer at the family get togethers.  I never realized what an instigator he was before.  He worked quietly but the effect was loud and contentious.  Really, a rude man.  I’m glad that he’s not around anymore.    I met two of T’s aunts at Thanksgiving.  Her late father’s two sisters.  One is an unbearable snob.  She married a rich doctor and now lords it over the rest of the family.  No thanks!  The other one is funny and loving and seems really kind.  Lucky for us the nicer one lives near Seattle and the snob lives in Los Angeles.  Not that I have any intention of looking either one up.  But, I wouldn’t mind stopping by the nice one’s house on my way to my daughter’s. 

Family: Speaking of my daughter, she was down for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Yay!  Bonus holiday time!  She came by herself for Thanksgiving since her husband was away on a business trip.  They both came down for the December holiday.  He isn’t my favorite person in the world, but it could be so very much worse and for some reason my daughter loves him… so, I tolerate him.  He has improved over the years, maybe he feels more comfortable with us, and I am working at seeing the good side.  It doesn’t help me that my partner can’t stand him and is always judging and criticizing.

The other family: T and her sister had a falling out and hadn’t spoken to each other for a year or so.  That rift is now healed and they are enjoying each other’s company.  Interestingly, since the sister is now single and an empty nester, they are doing things that they haven’t been able to do since they were young.  In fact, I think they are having more fun than when they were young.   They are going to Las Vegas at the end of January – and taking their mom!  Just for a weekend getaway.  (I’m so relieved that I wasn’t invited.  I hate Las Vegas.  I’m not a gambler and the tawdriness of Vegas depresses me.)  Also, the sister won a vacation to Hawaii through her work and she is taking T as her guest.  That will be wonderful for T.  I’m sure they will have a great time.

Employment: I’m still here.  Whoopee!  At the first of the year, I will have one and a half years to go until I retire.  Halle-fucking-lujah!  There have been some real rough patches at work over the last year and it has been extremely trying.  Plus, I’m being kicked out of my office in a space shuffle and I have yet to be assigned a new spot.  It’s made for some extra tension at the work place, that’s for sure.  But, knowing that my days are counting down, I’m taking the ‘roll with it’ attitude.  There’s nothing I can do to change it, so I’ll just finish out my time with a smile and move the hell on.  If I still had a decade to go, I would be worried over where they were going to put me, but I can see the end from here so there’s no use fussing about it.

After I retire, I’ll still need to work but my plan is to find something that is interesting, satisfying and does some good in the world – ideally with health benefits.  I won’t be eligible for Medicare for a few years, so I’ll need something.  Of course, there’s always Obamacare (thank you, Mr President!)

Another health topic: My best friend of over 40 years has been in a bad health spiral.  She was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes last year and was working hard at keeping it under control.  Unfortunately, her doctor put her on a drug to control the blood sugar and it resulted in kidney disease.  Full blown, low functioning kidney disease.  She has begun dialysis.  She needs a kidney.  I’ll be tested for donating one in the spring.  Just a little something to look forward to.

I think that’s about it for today.  I’ll keep the topics suggested by seasonal affective disorder to myself, ok? 

Happy New Year!  

12 October 2015

Monday, Post-op


Surgery was Friday.  Rest assured, it was a long fucking day.

Went home Saturday afternoon.

Everything is hyper-focused, slow moving, and fraught.  What do I mean by that?  T's focus is on her body, of course, alert to the signals of pain.  The drains rub on her ribs which cause a pain separate from the incisions.  We gingerly reposition them, with whimpers and quick gasps and admonitions of 'careful!'. We focus on the drain output, how many milliliters of fluid have we drained off today?  What color is it?  We focus on the clock, is it time for more pain meds, or another antibiotic?

Everything is slow.  Getting her up, or down, is a slow moving orchestrated event every time.  In the hospital they asked if we had stairs.  Ha!  Yes. It's a two story house, with 13 steps before you get to the front door.  Stairs are slow.  Add into that the fact that we don't have handrails (I know, I know). I have to walk beside her, upstairs and down, so she can hold on to me.  These are the easy things, though.  The time spent in this state of limbo spools out slowly when the biggest activity is standing up and walking slowly to the kitchen.*

Surgery is fraught with risk and hazard.  Cancer is fraught with fear and depression and hope.  Families are fraught with history and obligation and love and regrets.  All of this swirls around and through our days.  Thank the Goddess for Hope.  Otherwise... we would despair.

So, really, all things considered, she's doing pretty well!  Ha!  Actually, her incisions look pretty good.  Flat, tight.  Just how she wants them.  With luck, they'll heal that way.

There's also the flip side of it all.  She worries that she will look fat and ugly.  I reassure her that her boobs did not make her beautiful, she is beautiful despite the fleshy appendages.  She looks down and all she can see is her belly sticking too far forward.  Yes, I agree, we need to work on getting in shape when she heals.  That will be good for both us.  There is a great deal of fear in an involuntary change to the body.  Understandable, of course, but there's nothing I can do or say to change that.  Will you look different?  Yes.  But you won't look unattractive.  It's not a shallow or vain concern -- it's a process of coming to grips with this trauma to the body that changes a person inside and out.  My role in this (as I see it) is to affirm and reassure while she begins to adjust to the change.**

I have taken the week off to stay home and help her navigate her way through the early days of recuperation.  My hope is that she will be able to move herself around more easily each day.  By the end of the week I expect her to be completely ambulatory and able to do most daily self care on her own.  If she's not, I'll take a few more days.  We've got some post-op appointments this week and I think those will be our big outings and biggest tests of mobility.

Ok, that's all I've got for now.  I have ten million chores to do before lunch, so I'd better get started.  Thanks for following along.

*The slow moving time is T's.  My time has been spent fetching and helping and cleaning (so much cleaning!)  I have been moving like a whirlwind, like a dervish.  Sunday should have been spent watching football and instead I dusted and vacuumed and swept and mopped and tidied, keeping an eye and an ear on the game when I could.  Why, you ask, was there so much cleaning to do?  Well, neither of us are good housekeepers and the week before surgery was full of pre-op appointments and family stuff.  Then, when we were home afterwards, her sister wanted to come over after the Seahawks game.  They are a judgy bunch and I didn't want to hear about it from them or even deal with the eye rolling.  So, I cleaned like a maniac.  At one point T looked over and said, 'There's a dust bunny by the couch.'  I stopped what I was doing and said, 'Here are your choices: You can quietly stress about a dust bunny or you can piss off your partner.  If you choose the latter, nothing else gets done in this house.' Because I'm a bitch like that.  Oh, and the topper?  Her sister texted and said she couldn't come over because she was drunk in a sports bar with her boyfriend.  I will have much more to say about that later.  In the end, the sister did come over -- later than we would have liked, about 8:30 last night.  So very inconsiderate.

**I expect than when the shock of this has all worn off, and when we have lost some weight and toned up our flabby bodies, I expect that T will actually like her new shape.  She has always wanted to have a flat chest and while it's hard to get it this way, I think she will be pleased.  In the future.  Not now.

31 August 2015

Microblog Monday


Yes, still here.

Brief update?  Sure, why not.

Approximately one third done with the cancer thing.  T has finished the debilitating chemotherapy.  Yay!  She will have 'chemo lite' through May of next year but only one drug and (reportedly) very few side effects.  Her hair will grow back.  Her GI tract will stabilize.  Many other things will return to normal(ish).

We meet with the surgeon this week.  Bilat mastectomy in 4 to 6 weeks.

While none of this sounds cheer-worthy, there's something to be said for simply getting through it.  That's where we are now.

And, because this is 'Micro'...that's all I'm able to produce today.

Cheers, all of you lovely people!

27 July 2015

Update from the War on Cancer

First, let me say that everything you've heard about chemotherapy is true.  It's horrible.  It's not the same for everyone, but it's horrible for anyone who has to suffer through it.  Interestingly (if anyone is interested in such a topic), the main side effect, nausea, is now very well controlled.  But, trust me, there are many other side effects that are not controlled at all.

We are 2/3 of the way through chemo.  I'm relieved that the end is closer, but we're not there yet.  I say 'we' because while I am not suffering the physical effects of the chemo, I am living through the wretchedness of it with my partner.  And, it is wretched.

I'm not going to give you a run down of T's symptoms.  I'll spare you the graphic details.  Suffice it to say, it ain't pretty.  Physical symptoms aside, there are also emotional side effects.  These are harder.  Well, you know that.  It's been a bit of a roller coaster around here - except that the coaster rarely goes up.  Just down.  And then further down.

Last week we got into a minor spat over her treatment.  She wanted to stop chemo and wanted me to agree with her and back her up with the oncologist.  I said no.  Of course I said no.  The doctor said no.  Her friends who have gone through this said no.  She was mad that I didn't take her side.  I said, I am taking your side!  This is in your best interest!  I don't know that we persuaded her, but she will not be quitting chemo until it is done.

Cancer has taken over our summer.  Probably autumn as well.  It's hard to plan anything when your partner doesn't know if she can leave the house or not.  Do I sound bitter?  Oh, a tad.  Sorry.  I'm trying to remain positive, but it's a challenge.

So, let's go to the highlight reel.  What are the noteworthy good times we've had since May?

1. Went camping.  Ok, it's not camping the way 8thDay camps, but it's what we like.  :-) We took our vintage trailer out for a 4 day weekend.  Our favorite neighbors came too.  It was so nice to get out of the city and into the forest!  Very restorative, and so worth the effort.

2. T got to drive her show truck in an informal car show.  We didn't stay long - energy levels and bathroom issues prevent a long stay anywhere.  And germs.  Can't be around a lot of people.

3. Got out of several tedious family get togethers because of the suppressed immune system.  Ha!  Making cancer work for us, for once!

4. Canned a big batch of dill pickles.  Something we enjoy doing and will enjoy eating for the rest of the year.

5. Had a friend over.   Once.  For a couple of hours to play cards.  We were in the habit of getting together with this friend every couple of weeks, but this is all we've been able to manage.

6.  Went to a dog's birthday party.  Yes, we are that kind of lesbian and so are our friends!  Interestingly and ominously, half of the women at the party had or have had breast cancer.  That makes me sad and mad.

In some ways, this list makes me happy - look, I say to myself, we've done some fun stuff.  In other ways, it makes me sad.  I know how many more entries there should be on this list.  Oh well, my job as a Pollyanna is to highlight the positive.  It's been a difficult job of late!

So, that's the update.  We're still here, slogging through the awfulness.  We've still got surgery to look forward to, and then the lesser chemo that will go through to May.  Whoopee.

That's what I've got...  how about you?  I could use some good news here people!  Who's got some?

04 May 2015

News, of a sort...

As usual, it's been way too long since my last post.  I'm sorry about that, because I should have been keeping you up to date along the way.  Instead of an incremental accumulation of information, you get a big batch - a data dump, a bolus, an almost incomprehensible amalgamation of news from me.  Like I said, I'm sorry.

But, really, I'm sorry for us.

T has breast cancer.


Sorry.  Had to say that.  And, so much more, but whatever.  I know that you have all said it too.  Over and over and over again.  Really, the question is, 'Who's not tired of that asshole, Cancer?'

So, yeah, prepare yourselves from posts about shitty stuff.  Again, sorry.  You know what I would rather blog about?  Flowers.  Springtime.  Puppies.  Happy shit.

Remember when I lasted posted?  And I was so blithely happy, looking forward to my visit with my kid and my two besties?  Yeah.  That was awesome.  I'm glad I had that minute of joy.  Because it shortly turned to ashes.

So, here's how it has played out so far.

December: "Oh, hell.  We forgot to schedule our mammogram in November."  "Ok, let's do it now, at the end of December, before your insurance runs out." [cue music]
Communication from Women's Imaging dept: "Please call us to schedule a follow up appointment."
Us: "Shoot. Insurance just ended.""Oh, it's probably another harmless cyst."  "Insurance starts again in 90 days,  We'll schedule it then."
Radiology: "Where the hell have you been?  We need follow up imaging STAT!"
Us: "Uh oh."

Follow up mammogram.
Follow up ultrasound.  With needle biopsy.
Pathology results.
Follow up MRI. New findings.
Follow up ultrasound.  Inconclusive.
Secondary pathology results.
Meet with surgeon.
Meet with more providers than we expected.
Schedule so much shit.

At first we were handling it well.  Yes, both of us.  The initial treatment plan was a quick lumpectomy and radiation.  Ok, that's shitty.  But, we can deal with it.  We feel confident about surviving it and thriving afterwards.  Then the secondary pathology results came back.  The dreaded HR2 receptor was active.  Suddenly, we switched tracks from manageable to a whirlwind of medicine.

These results came back on Thursday morning, just in time for Tumor Board.  The oncology team was increased from Surg Onc and Rad Onc to include Med Onc.  Yes, that's the provider no one wants to have on their team.  The Chemotherapy doctors.

At this point, T finally cracked.  She had been firmly positive and determined about the early prognosis.  But, when the chemotherapy and all it's side effects were added into the equation, her confidence took a heavy blow.  Her outlook plummeted.  It has been a shitty weekend after a month fraught with doubt and dismay.

We have appointments coming up this weekend.  Follow up MRI.  Possible MR guided needle biopsy.  EKG to see if her heart is ok for chemo.  Decision about lumpectomy vs mastectomy. Place a fucking port.  Because, T's going to have a year of chemo.

Things are not great around here.  We've got a whole lot of stuff to process right now.  (As the kids say, 'all the feels'... except, I guess, not the good ones.)

Silver Lining: T has talked to quite a few friends and relative about it.  (So not like my family!)  We have pretty firm and believable offers of help for the next 18 weeks.  Our best neighbor, who will be off work (public school employee) and T's best friend, Chris, who is self employed, have both offered to drive her to and from chemo and other appointments.  Lots of other friends have offered to help, or offered to bring food, and I appreciate every single one of them,  Her other bestie has already brought us dinner on a night when we had an MRI at 7:30pm.  Thank the Goddess for friends!

It'll be a long road.  Here's to the end ...  ::clink::  ::cheers::

In the meantime, here's a picture of the grandpuppy!

Zoe is bringing him down next weekend.  A combination of mother's day and cheer up T day.  Bless her heart...

23 March 2015

Another Monday

What?!  A blogpost?!  Bet you thought I quit blogging...  nope.  Just...  haven't.

Today is Monday and I am pleased to say that I am at home.  I am not taking this for granted because the new boss at my work decided to take away the option of working four days a week, mostly just because he can.  I had to fight to get it back.  I wish the fight had been physical, but it was a battle of wills and words.  I won some and lost more.  Because, you know, Straight-MiddleAged-White-Man has to win for the world to keep spinning.  But, whatever!  It's Monday and I am at home.

I haven't wanted to mention the weather since it has been so incredibly bad for most of you.  But, you know what?  It's gorgeous here.  Ok, yes, it is a very, very rainy and windy day, but there are flowers.  And, crazy as it sounds, we need the rain.  And snow in the mountains.  So, yay, rain!  (Plus, it's not snow or ice at my house.)

My daughter got a puppy!  A golden retriever puppy, 10 weeks old.  So cute!  Does she really want a baby?  I think so, but she also wanted a puppy, so I am happy for her.  I'm going up there to see her in a couple of weeks so I'll get to meet the new family member.

Actually, my two best friends are also going to Zoe's house.  We are meeting up for our yearly visit and I am really looking forward to it.  It's been too long since I've seen those gals.  They are flying up and renting a car.  They'll pick me up at the train station.  From there we'll head to the Kid's house.  We have no plans whatsoever.  Best kind of trip, I think.  The whole point is just to hang out together.  Oh, we'll probably do a couple of things, but mostly we just want to hang out.  Here is a picture of our last get together, in our team shirts!

What good sports they are!  We went out to lunch in those matching shirts and stopped for booze on the way back to the house.  It makes me laugh to see that picture!  I got us team shirts again, but instead of being all matching they are all similar.  Shades of lavender, with floral prints.  I got one for Zoe, too.  :-)

Well, friends, that's Monday.  I hope you have a lovely day with at least a little bit of sunshine...


06 January 2015

Monday on Tuesday

The first Monday of my new schedule was yesterday.  Hooray!  Hooray for .8 fte! The corresponding decrease in income may not elicit such a glad and gleeful response, but we'll wait and see.

So, what did I do with my glorious first Monday?  First, and this is important, I got up early and escorted my partner to her new job.  Her new job with BENEFITS!  What a relief!  I have been providing the benefits for years and since I am going to part time they will cost a lot more for dependents.  So, she needed to get a job with her own benefits and she did.  Whew!

But, you may be wondering, why did I escort her to her new job?  She's a big girl, not a child going to kindergarten.  The thing of it is, now she has to take public transportation.  She has only taken the bus or light rail when I insisted that we use it to go downtown during a heavily attended event.  She has a small town girl's fear of many 'big city' things.  I know, I know, Portland is hardly a big city!  But, she is from a distant, rural suburb (or even exurb) and has simply had no experience.  Plus, her family!  Good god, what a bunch of yokels!  When she was explaining that she would be taking the train in to work, they all suggested that she get a new can of mace or pepper spray.  I laughed out loud at them.  On purpose.  I reminded them that I had been taking the bus and train from my neighborhood for over 20 years and had never had an 'incident'.  Is there crime in Portland?  Of course.  Of course there is, but we hardly qualify as a crime hotspot.  Can crime happen anywhere?  Of course it can, but statistically speaking, it's pretty safe here.  So, she made it work and she made it home from work.  Good.  That's one hurdle down.

The rest of the day went like this:
1. Read some blogs.
2. Look at FB.
3. Have lunch.
4. Actually do stuff!

I wanted to rearrange my sewing room.  It's actually my project room, but since I have the sewing table out, that's what I am calling it.  I needed to move a double bed mattress and box spring out of that room and into the box room.  That meant that I first needed to rearrange the box room so that there was space to store the bed.  It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle getting things to fit, but I managed it.  I really need to pull everything out of the box room, sort it all, and create some sensible storage solutions.  But, not this week.

I got that done, and then found the perfect fabric to make a tablet cover for T's new toy.    It turned out so well!  I'm pleased with it.  All I need now is a velcro fastener and it's done.  Let me see if I can post a picture.

It is lined with a piece of sham-wow... some kind of cleaning cloth.  It's fairly padded and it cleans the glass while in the bag!  I like it!

Today, though, is Tuesday.  I'm still at home.  Not because I'm having fun doing stuff but because I'm sick.  Dammit!  I've had a run of sinus trouble, due to the wildly shifting barometric pressures I'm sure.  Now it's gone into my chest and I have a deep, phlegmy cough.  And still the sinus junk. Gross.  I woke up with a pounding headache and a racking cough and thought that I would not subject my coworkers to that.  So here's me today:

Yikes!  Why am I showing you this?!?!?  Actually, it doesn't show the mountain of used tissue, the cup of hot water with lemon and honey, or the blanket pulled up high.

Oh, hey!  I got new glasses!

Ok, I'd better stop.  I'm obviously just blathering on at this point...