?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Questions

I love to ask questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? have been stalwart friends for years.  But since my surgery, I’ve realized that it’s hard to ask the right questions when you don’t know what you don’t know.

I asked the doctor, “Can you remove the tumor?” What I should have asked was, “What’s involved in removing the tumor?” He answered the first question with a nod of his head, but gave no indication of the second.

I asked, “How long will it take?” It was all in an afternoon’s work on an outpatient basis.  What I should have asked was: “What kind of restrictions will I have when I get home?” I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to raise my right hand more than 90 degrees, that I couldn’t wash my hair because I couldn’t raise my right hand, or that dressing oneself would become an exercise in contortionism.

What I asked was: “How long will the drain be in?” And what I should have asked is, “What is the longest possible time the drain could be in?” The answer to the first question was couched in wishful thinking (“Oh, maybe the doctor will remove it at your next office visit.” ) while the answer to the second appears to be the reality. (“Up to a month.”)

I am still in the beginning stages of this health situation, but I’ve learned that nobody volunteers information – particularly unpleasant information – unless you ask for it directly.

Today was a 1 until the home care nurse came and fixed my bandages. Then it was a 4 until I got my hair washed at a salon.  After my nap, it turned into an 8.

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Hunches

This blog isn’t about that time at the racetrack where you picked the winning horse on a feeling instead of studying the facts. It’s about breast cancer patients and posture.

I’ve worked with a trainer for years and still must remind myself to stand tall with shoulders back and down, chest out, and chin high.  It’s even harder to do with a large incision on your right breast that extends to the back of your armpit. There’s a tendency to “hunch” for relief and protection.

I told SW, the nurse navigator, and said my solution was not to wear a bra so that I could hunch even better. She cut me off mid-sentence: “Now we have to have the bra discussion,” she said. First, not wearing a bra helps gravity’s pull but not you, the breast cancer patient.  Bras provide support and help in standing tall.  Because when it’s all over, you still want the posture your trainer worked hard for you to have. SW even gave me a variety of post-operative breast cancer bras to try. (Grist for a different blog)

The truth is that since my surgery I find myself unconsciously hunching over: at the table, at my computer, at my piano. Even with these special bras. It must be a natural tendency, but I’m working to avoid it. I imagine my back will also thank me down the road.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this was a 9. I will never list 10 until this all over. So 9 is good.

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Surgeon’s Report

Today was my first post-op visit with the physician who did my surgery last week. He is a matter-of-fact kind of guy, wastes no words, and is an authority on Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a general of the Civil War. I mention this last, because once he shared the medical news, that was how we really connected.

Earl is a Civil War buff too, and before we left the examining room Dr. R. invited him to join a local civil war group. So history brought my husband and my surgeon together as much as the cancer itself. Did I mention that Dr. R and Earl go to the same church?

Yeah, it’s spooky!

And the report? Stage 2B cancer with two lymph nodes out of eight involved. Still a long row to hoe, but one more piece of information to absorb and use. And because the drain that was inserted during the surgery isn’t ready to come out, we get to see Dr. R weekly for the near future.

Who knows what other connections we’ll unearth.

On a scale of 1 to 10, today was a 9. No nap, feeling perky. More tomorrow.

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Crash

It’s been five days since my surgery. Yes, I’ve curtailed my activities as directed; but I’ve still managed to dress, make the bed, pick up the house (It’s not that heavy!), and generally move about in relative comfort. Without pain meds too.

I credit all those years I’ve gone to the gym, worked with a trainer, and mall walked regularly with my feeling as good as I do and being as flexible as I am.  That is, until today.

I hit the proverbial wall. Woke up this morning stiff and sore, mostly because I’m consigned to sleeping in only one position due to the location of my surgery and the ever-present drain. My back is rebelling. My incision is offering sympathy pains, and the arm where the surgery was done is becoming tingly and numb.

I was warned about these latter symptoms, but at the time I was far more focused on the surgery and not the aftermath. I should have realized it’s the aftermath that gets tedious.

So I took a pain pill and spent most of the day sleeping. Asked Earl to wake me in time to see the sunset, which he did. I’m hoping today’s rest will result in tomorrow’s feeling chipper once more.

On a scale of 1 to ten, today was a 5.

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Big C

In the almost six months since my last blog, cancer has come calling. I hope it finds me a formidable opponent, as I have no intention of letting the Big C have its way. In fact, calling it Big gives cancer too much power, so I’m referring to it as lower case c.

I’m not being flip or casual; this is serious business. But I believe a positive attitude, coupled with an appreciation of every day we have on this earth, is an important component to facing lower case c.

Long story short: I discovered a lump in my right armpit the middle of September; after a variety of tests it was determined to be cancerous; my surgery to remove it was this past Tuesday, November 14, and now I’m looking at several weeks of radiation that will start before the end of the year.

But that’s just an outline for what has been an amazing experience so far. It’s an experience that defies everything I ever thought about cancer and doctors and family and friends. So I plan to write about it. This is the start . . .

On a scale of 1 to 10, today was a 9.

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O’Reilly

It wasn’t his political opinions or his bravado that brought him down.  Heck, it wasn’t even the complaints about and pay-offs for harassment.  It was money, plain and simple.

When approximately fifty advertisers pulled their support for his program, Bill O’Reilly was done. Personally, I won’t miss him although I doubt he’ll be sidelined for long. Some other network will wrangle a deal with him and his no-spin zone.

I assume “no-spin” is code for straight talk. I’ve never really heard the term explained, although I did a cursory check on the Internet to see how it was used. Mostly I found disgruntled commenters complaining about the abundance of spin in the no-spin zone.  But maybe they were liberals.

O’Reilly was a master of the use of statistics.  He frequently said 85 percent of this or 63 percent of that felt a certain way.  Most often, it was the same way he felt. I have no objection to using statistics – Two other women and I once wrote a book on the topic that was used as a college text — but I do object to their being pulled from thin air. O’Reilly never cited where his numbers came from.

He was remarkably glib with the spoken word, and at one time in his career urged letter-writers to be “pithy” if they hoped to be read on-air. Toward the end, pithy didn’t seem to matter as long as the comments enabled O’Reilly to critique the correspondent. He also deplored “pinheads,” whatever those are.

He had the ability to persuade candidates, activists, lawyers, judges, and just about anybody else in the public eye to come on his show although I’m not sure why.  He rarely let any of them complete a sentence without interrupting. I promised myself if I ever ran for president I would decline his invitation.

And so one part of the nightly ritual at our home is changing. I’m not sure what Earl will do for the eight o’clock hour, but at least I can keep the doors to his office open. Thanks for that, Bill.

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Spring Flowers

We’re almost to May, so most of the spring flowers have bloomed; and Old Man Winter is about to sneak off for good.  He might have one or two more windy grumbles left, but that’s it. Flowers now rule the day.

Some people prefer the surprise of crocus or the yellow of daffodils.  But not me. My favorite spring flower is the tulip.  So last fall I planted almost 200 of them and am now marveling at their hardiness, gracefulness, and color.

I think part of their charm comes from first grade where Sister Mary What-Was-Her-Name taught the class a simple way to draw a tulip for our Moms for Mother’s Day. “Draw a giant letter U,” she said.  Once we all complied, she gave the next instruction. “Now draw a W at the top of the U,” and she demonstrated on the blackboard.  (I understand they don’t use blackboards anymore.)  All we had to do was add a squiggly line for the stem, and we were done. I went home and drew tulips for days.

Granted, once the real ones have bloomed you must wait until the stems and leaves turn brown and soggy before cutting them off. Granted, spent tulips get in the way of mulching and other planting. And, granted, that was never a problem with the paper kind.

Still, I wouldn’t trade today.

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I Went to Boston

One week ago today I flew to Boston to meet my sons, Kevin and Keith, and Lonna, Kevin’s girlfriend. And although it was Easter Weekend, that wasn’t the reason for our gathering.

Kevin had qualified for the 121st running of the Boston Marathon, and the rest of us were his support team. We’d done this three years ago – the year after the bombings – and it was the most emotionally charged public experience I’ve ever had. One of the mottos that year was, “Take back the finish line!” Another was “Boston strong!”

This year’s event, the day after Easter, was no less impressive. Thirty thousand runners took the starting line in various “waves” in Hopkinton and raced through another seven towns and cities to finish in downtown Boston in front of the public library. I believe every one of them, plus the half million spectators who lined the route, felt a psychic connection to 2013 (the year of the bombing) and 2014 (the first year after).

Runners came from ninety-nine countries to participate. The number of countries represented by spectators wasn’t recorded, but obviously this was an event of international attention.  We cheered Kevin on at Heartbreak Hill in unseasonable heat and had our own race to the finish line to be there when he arrived. He beat us.

All week I ignored my emails, didn’t blog, and forgot about the news. What was happening to Bill O’Reilly? North Korea? Ivanka and Jared? It just didn’t matter.

It was the best week since 45 took office.

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This Day in History

Every day of the year probably has significance attached to it sometime in the world’s history. But if you’re interested in what happened on April 13, here are some examples.

In 837 A.D., there was the best view of Hailey’s Comet in 2000 years. This is the most peaceful of all the events I could find that occurred on this day.

Once the Crusades started in the thirteenth century, things took a turn for the worse. There was the Battle of Theiss in 1241, the defeat of the seventh Crusade in 1250; and, in 1556, Portuguese Marranos who reverted to their original Judaic Judaism from Christianity were ordered burned at the stake by the current Pope.

Granted, Handel’s “Messiah” was performed on this day for the first time in 1742; and John Philip Sousa’s “El Capitan” premiered in 1896. But in between, we have had dictators and dire consequences.

Which brings me to today when the United States dropped the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) on Afghanistan to destroy various tunnels where ISIS hides. The MOAB is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, and time will tell what this means historically.

For me, it’s a black mark on Thursday, April 13, 2017.  Next year, it will be Friday, April 13, 2018. And I shudder to think what could happen.

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Sean Spicer

Because I’m leaving for Boston in two days, I spent most of this afternoon at my beauty salon. Got my hair colored and my nails done. Felt pampered all the way.

At the same time, Press Secretary Sean Spicer fielded questions about his comments comparing Hitler of Germany and Assad of Syria in terms of gassing their own peoples. I was utterly amazed at Spicer’s lack of knowledge about World War II and what Hitler did. I also felt embarrassed that I was being pampered while this travesty of facts occurred.

Alternative facts are a narrative of the current administration, and Mr. Spicer certainly is on-board with this approach. So I expect nothing less than what Spicer showed as the mouthpiece for 45.

Still, I’d like to think someone in the employ of our government has done his homework. Hitler gassed his own people, most of them Jewish.  But there were Christians, gypsies, gays, and other dissidents as well. Assad seems to have gassed his own people as well.

I paid for my haircut and nails and left the salon. I’m pleased with the outcome of my afternoon at Reva. But I’m saddened that my experience is so far out of the reach of others in such dire circumstances.

Can you imagine a Syrian refugee enjoying a pedicure? No, neither can I.

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