Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Updates

Well I guess we can say the waiting is over. In a manner of speaking, I suppose that is true. My mom was here for her post-surgery check up about a week ago. During that appointment, she was told the results of the tests done on the lymph nodes and tissue taken during the surgery. There were eight lymph nodes taken, as well as breast tissue and also skin tissue. There were no signs of cancer cells anywhere. Hallelujah! This news, though, has its ups and downs.

First off, there was a question as to whether mom would have to endure chemo at all, since cancer was found nowhere else. Word was received today, that yes, they are still recommending chemo, and still at the highest dose available. I truly had high hopes that she may avoid it, or else be able to only have to receive one of the lower doses, especially with the chances of leukemia and other cancers that the higher doses have a small chance of causing. Unfortunately she will still be subjected to that risk.

Next, there’s now a question as to whether the insurance will pay for the second mastectomy surgery in a year. Since the cancer was found nowhere else, it’s possible the insurance will take that as definitive results that it had not spread and therefore view the second mastectomy as…hold on to your shorts…cosmetic. That’s right, apparently chopping a body part off these days is considered cosmetic. Ok, so I know maybe sex change operations had a big hand in that, but still! This is a woman who has had to go through treatment for breast cancer. Twice! How can surgery to possibly save her life, while mutilating her body in the process, be considered cosmetic?? Insurance companies may as well be government agencies. They sure think like governments do.

*ahem* Pardon me. Ok, end of rant. Regardless of the bad that is coming out of it, it is a great relief to all of us that it had not spread. Now the next awful step begins next Tuesday. On the up side of things, I guess we get to see my mom a lot more. It will just be hard to see her that way. The treatment is estimated to continue into January. Four months of hell. But I believe we are all as prepared as we can be, which may be why the news that she has to go through it anyway, while disappointing, was not devastating. I’ll keep you updated along the way.

And, since this is a post of updates, I suppose I ought to finally post the pictures of our new house. Thanks to a very talented friend (Thanks again, Fitz!), I have several pics sans address numbers:

The house is technically a six bedroom, 2 ¼ bathroom house, though one of the bedrooms has been altered. The prior owner was using it as a craft room. It also has a storage room, a living room, family room, formal dining and eat in kitchen. And as big as it is, we’ve had no trouble filling it up with stuff. I’m still trying to figure out how we put that much crap in the last house we were living in. Amazing. I even feel like I need to clean stuff out, so I’m planning a yard sale for the spring. I figure by that time I might have actually gotten through all the boxes and put things away. Though, at this rate that’s a lofty goal.

We do have grand plans for the house. It looks like it will be a constant remodel project, which isn’t all that bad. It has great potential. There will definitely be some cosmetic work to the outside done, which will also help save energy. I’m also hoping it will help with the spider problem, which is apparently going to be an ongoing issue. Yes, we’ve had 4 spiders in the last week, one of which decided to crawl upon my husband as he sat on the couch in the family room. A fatal choice on the spider’s part, but still disturbing enough that I instantly called the company that sprayed our house, even though I knew it was after hours, just to leave a frantic message which sputtered something about giant spiders and their 100% guarantee. Unfortunately they couldn’t fit us in until this Friday morning. I’m counting the days, and they’d better show up this time!

There will also be quite a bit done to the inside, starting, I think, with the bedrooms. Though right now we are in the process of replacing all of the windows, one at a time. It’s turned out to be a relatively easy project, after the first window was in. And it’ll end up costing a whole lot less than having someone come and install them for us. Ah the life of the do-it-yourselfer. Anyway, I will try to get the place cleaned up and take some pics of the inside, but don’t count on anything. Like I said, the way things are going, that is a pretty long way away. I think that’s it for now. I will try to also get some cake pics up, as there are several I have done that I have yet to post. Thank goodness none have been disasters!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Instant Karma

Monday I saw probably the most prevalent example of instant karma that I have ever seen. It was fantastic, classic and sobering all at the same time. My sister, my bil and I were headed back to my house from the hospital late in the afternoon. My bil is from Wyoming, and still lives there, so he does not like the crowds and traffic that come with living in a “city”. Earlier in the day we had had a discussion about whether drivers in Utah are defensive or offensive drivers. My argument is defensive. You have to drive defensively here in order to avoid being in an accident. His argument is that offensive driving keeps you out of accidents, and that’s the Utah driver. The conversation basically ended with an agree to disagree sort of tone.

So, as I said, we were on our way back to my house in the late afternoon. I had chosen one of the interstates as the fastest route. We were in the center lane, and I admit that I was in fact speeding. However, I was going with the flow of traffic which resulted in our speed hovering only about 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit. As we traveled along, a dark blue Dodge Nitro with Nevada plates passed us in the passing lane. Something I didn’t really pay attention to initially, since he was not going excessively fast or driving erratically, and this is a common occurrence on the interstate. When the Nitro was probably about three car lengths ahead of us, followed by another vehicle, suddenly along came a late model, silver Pontiac Grand Prix barreling its way up the passing lane. It pulled out in front of us, though not at too close a distance, without using signals at all, and basically crossed all three lanes to get to the right-hand “slow” lane. It immediately pulled back into the center lane, passing very closely in front of the vehicle directly ahead of us, again using no signals, and again crossing three lanes to return to the passing lane. (As the vehicle was passing in front of us, my bil made a comment like “see, offensive driving”.) It entered the passing lane directly in front of the Nitro. As we watched, suddenly the Grand Prix slammed on its brakes, causing the man in the Nitro to also hit his brakes. Neither vehicle skidded their tires, but the slowdown was sudden enough that nearly every vehicle in the vicinity of the incident hit their breaks as well, including me. Then the Grand Prix let up on the brakes, and immediately slammed them on again, causing the Nitro to hit his brakes again, and coming even closer this time to a collision. I saw the passenger of the Grand Prix throw his arm out of the window in some sort of angry gesture, and it dawned on me that we were witnessing a road rage episode. Now we have no idea what it is that the driver (and apparently the passenger) of the Grand Prix perceived the driver of the Nitro to have done, but clearly there was some prior conflict we weren’t witnesses to. And, truth be known, every driver on the interstate in proximity to this event is extremely lucky that the driver of the Nitro had such good reflexes. Had he collided with the Grand Prix at that speed, it would most like have sent that vehicle spinning into the other lanes of traffic and, there’s no doubt in my mind, every vehicle in the area would have been involved in the pile-up. Including us.

Now here’s where the karma comes in. After the second time the Grand Prix hit its brakes, we noticed the driver of the Nitro pick up something with his right hand that looked like a cell phone. My sister said, “he’s calling them in!” The very next instant, the Nitro’s headlights and taillights began flashing. That’s right. The Nitro was a law enforcement officer of some kind. Both vehicles crossed all three lanes of traffic, and the Grand Prix was pulled over on the shoulder of the next exit. The best we can figure, the driver of the Nitro was either a Nevada officer, or an undercover agent of some sort. And when we thought he was calling the cops, he was actually radioing for someone local to come and effectuate the arrest, or else radioing for backup.

The reaction from all of the occupants of my vehicle was the same. First a collective “Awwwww s*&@!”, followed by cheering and even a little applause. As I glanced around at the other vehicles on the road, their occupants appeared to be of the same mindset, with smiles and fists shaking victoriously in the air. We discussed the charges the Grand Prix’s driver could face, and determined that among others he could be charged with speeding, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a law enforcement officer, etc. It was our estimation that he probably was arrested on the spot, or could have been if he was not. My sister said “see, that’s why you don’t do crap like that.” She’s right, for several reasons. One, you could cause an accident. That one would have been huge, and a miracle if not fatal to someone. Two, you don’t know who’s in the other vehicle. The Grand Prix driver was probably lucky that it turned out to be a cop. For all he knew, it could have been some psycho with a gun. The episode was cause for a lot of thought, on all of our parts.

My final comment to my bil? “See, defensive driving.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I know that many of you have been waiting for updates on what is happening with my mom. Before I get too into the details of what has happened, let me just say that she is fine. Well, as fine as anyone could be under the circumstances. Monday was the date scheduled for her mastectomy surgery. She was to be at the hospital by 8:00, with surgery scheduled for 10:00. She asked my sister and me to be there no earlier than 10:00, since she did not expect to be able to see us before the surgery. This made me extremely nervous, but I tried to respect her wishes. We were surprised, however, to receive a call from my dad at 9:10 letting us know that they had taken mom back already. They expected about 45 minutes prep, and then the surgery. By the time we got there around 9:45, they had taken her to surgery. After a short breakfast with my dad, we received word that the surgery was going well, and mom was doing fine. My sister, bil and I played two games of cribbage to pass the time, a new game for me since I had never played before. By the end of the first game the doctor came out to talk to us. The surgery had gone well and mom was in recovery. They would have to run tests on the tissue removed to determine whether the cancer had spread to her lymph system, and the results of the tests would not be available until Thursday at the earliest. (As of yet today, I have not heard from my mom, so I assume she has not received the results yet.) He estimated about 45 minutes for mom to be in recovery, and then they would let us know what room she would be in and when we could go there. We continued our cribbage, and finished the second game – with me winning both games. Beginner’s luck, I guess. Regardless, I didn’t chance it, and did not participate in any more games for the rest of the day.

By this time we had been informed of what room mom would be staying in, and that we should give about 20 minutes before going up. Finally the lot of us, including myself, dad, nene, papa, my sister and bil trooped up to her room, expecting her to have beat us there. In fact, we waited another half an hour or so for her to appear, until we finally starting asking the floor nurses where she might be. Once we started asking, they made the effort to track her down. Incidentally, this is only one of two complaints I have about the hospital, which, if you ask me, speaks volumes about the level of care provided to my mom. Stellar, at worst. As it turns out, there was a miscommunication between departments. The floor thought that mom was still in recovery, and recovery thought that she had already been moved to the floor. Apparently someone simply forgot to make the phone call to have her brought up to the floor, and she was in limbo for about half an hour.

She finally arrived at the room at around 1:00, much earlier than any of us had anticipated. She was still a little groggy, and in a bit of pain, but was doing quite well. By 3:00 she had completely refused any further pain medication stronger than Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Not that she wasn’t in pain, mind you, but she does not like the side effects of the medicine, and feels she does not get any of the rest needed to heal while on it. I agree with her. My sister, bil and I finally left the hospital about 5:00 to go relieve my dear husband of his babysitting job of all three kids. A job, by the way, that didn’t give him as much trouble as I had expected. With the exception of Scoob picking on Dragon Child continually for the first half of the day, until D.C. finally had had enough and hauled off and wacked him across the face, the kids were all really well behaved. We picked up the crew and headed to the store, intent on picking up treats for my mom from the kids and clothes for my dad.

A side story on this: my mom, while packing up the car to head down here on Sunday, failed to notice that my dad had several sets of clothing on hangers ready to be packed. She didn’t include them in the packing. While dad ended up with his toiletries, socks and underwear, he had no other clothes to wear other than those upon his back. This was a bit déjà vu-ish, since it is a well known story that my dad did exactly the same thing to my mom when packing for their honeymoon. He had left all of her hanging clothes behind, causing my grandparents to have to send them to my mom on the Greyhound bus. I insisted that this incident was pay-back, in spades.

We finally made it back to the hospital around 7:45 or so, armed with chocolate, a special edition breast cancer awareness Care Bear and red Gatorade for my mom, and some clothes for my dad. By this time mom had had a nap, and was looking much better, though that’s not saying much considering she looked about like death warmed over to begin with. The kids were all very glad to see her, and we struggled to keep Sweetpea away from her bedside even long enough for the nurses to do their jobs without falling over her. She hadn’t let on until this point, but it turns out she was very worried about her Granna. Though she seemed a bit confused about all that was happening. It became apparent that I had not adequately explained to her the situation when she looked at my mom and asked, “where’s the baby?” Amazingly enough, this provided some much needed laughter. Thereafter, Sweetpea stayed next to her Granna, hugging and kissing her gently when she could and stroking her hand softly. It was very emotional for me to see her so protective of my mom, and it just reinforced my belief that this is a totally evil disease.

Finally we left around 9:00, since none of us had had dinner, and went to eat. Sweetpea was asleep in the car before we got home, and Scoob and D.C. didn’t take much longer to crash once they’d made it to their bed. It is amazing how much the stress of the adults around them affects children, and it is something that I need to try to remember when things are stressful in the future. The next morning, we all trooped back up to the hospital by 9:30 or 10:00, only to find that they were already beginning the discharge process on mom. She was discharged by 11:00, and back at my house by noon. She was quite tired, having gotten little rest during the night.

Which, by the way, relates to my second complaint about the hospital. It is not that she did not get much rest, because we all know that happens in hospitals. They come every four hours to take your vitals and make sure they can see your breath on a mirror, and if you have a saline IV, which was the case with my mom, chances are you have to get up to go to the bathroom within an hour’s proximity of their vitals invasion. On top of that, when you’ve had surgery they put these cuff things on your legs that are attached to a machine. The machine turns on periodically and squeezes your legs to make sure that blood clots do not form. The trouble with this is that, as relaxing as that sounds, it’s really not relaxing at all, and Murphy makes sure that the machine turns on right as you are drifting off to sleep, guaranteeing to wake you up.

So, in addition to all the hullaballoo that goes on in a hospital at night, my complaint is that for some reason my mom ended up with the nurse from hell over night. She was apparently rude and mean, and to top it off, lazy. Mom ended up with one of the M&M’s Scoob brought her as a present in the bed underneath her. Of course, it melted, causing her gown to become sticky in that spot. She asked the nurse if she could have a clean one, and the response was “*sigh* I guess so” (said in a put out, I’ve-got-better-things-to-do-than-cater-to-your-every-whim tone of voice). Miss Priss nurse returned with the clean gown and handed it to mom, then stood there and watched while my poor mother struggled to put it on. Remember, this is a woman who just had major surgery, with IV tubes coming out of one hand, and unable to raise the other arm even to shoulder height due to the fact that she’d had a mastectomy, which affects the muscles in that area. To top it off, it is a gown that snaps at the shoulders so that it can go over an arm with an IV and not get tangled up in the tubes. The nurse didn’t even help her snap the gown back together, so mom struggled to do that with the other hand. Again, the hand that she can’t raise to shoulder level. On top of that, Priss refused to give my mom Tylenol, saying she didn’t have orders for Tylenol. She insisted mom needed a Lortab, when all mom wanted was medicine for a headache. When mom refused to take the Lortab, Priss got snippy with her saying that was all she could give. So mom, an obviously very sick person who does not like to be sick and can get downright mean in response to snippy, said “so get on the phone with the doctor on call and get orders for Tylenol. I’m not taking Lortab for a headache.” While these are the only two incidences I was informed of from Priss, I get the impression there were more. All I could say is, well, maybe that’s why she works at night.

All in all, things went much better than any of us had anticipated. Mom seems to be doing well, though I suspect she may be dealing with a bit of depression over this. And who can blame her? She returned home yesterday morning, and since I have not heard from her, my dad or my sister, I can only assume everything is as it should be. She comes back for a check-up with the surgeon on Monday, and then will be back the following Monday for her first round of chemo. It’s still a very long road ahead, but little by little I believe we will get there.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Some things truly are priceless, and so much more so when few words are necessary to describe them. A debtor sent this in to our office. Apparently when they mailed their monthly plan payment to us in the first place, they failed to put the suite number on the envelope. The postal service returned the envelope to them, which they just placed inside a new envelope and sent back to us – but not before adding a sticky note with their own comments:

Now I ask you, who do you think has the issues?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Why does it seem like we spend the majority of our lives waiting? We are always waiting for something. We wait in line at the grocery store and the bank, sometimes in our cars. We wait in line for our dinner at times, ironically termed “fast food”. We wait at the doctor and the dentist, regardless of our “appointment” times, then wait for the pharmacist to fill our ensuing prescriptions. Sometimes we wait even longer for test results. We wait to find out if we are approved for a loan, accepted to a school, promoted to the higher position, or even offered the new job. We wait for births, and sometimes even for deaths. We wait for arrivals and departures, beginnings and endings, rises and falls. We wait until tomorrow, until next week, until next month, until next year. “Wait until next year” in fact, has been ripped from the world of sports and instead become a key phrase in all of our lives. “Hurry up and wait” is now more true, and poignant, than ever before.

But why do we wait? Why do we let our world spin by, missing opportunities and experiences, all in the name of waiting? Shouldn’t we be living our lives to the fullest, every chance we get, regardless of what we are waiting for? I’m as guilty as the next person. I wait, just like everyone waits. I waited, a long time, to write this post, in the hopes that what I would write would be the truest and most complete version of the story as possible. Many of you have noticed my references in the last few posts concerning a recent event. I’ve decided not to wait anymore to discuss this event. I can only hope it provides the release I clearly need.

As you regular readers, friends and family are aware, in January of 2005, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thereafter, she endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and was finally given a clean bill of health nearly three years ago, in October, 2005. At the end of this past July, she found another lump in the same area as the previous cancer. It was removed the first weekend in August, and about a week later we had the word that it was in fact cancer. The tumor was about the size of a pea, the cancer only contained in about 1.5 cm of that. Since that day, the term “waiting” has taken on a whole new and so much more dreadful meaning.

Upon the discovery that the tumor was, in fact, cancerous, the doctor immediately recommended a mastectomy, chemo and a PET or CAT scan for my mom. Breast cancer is known to metastasize, and when it does so, it is to the lungs, liver or brain most often. One or both of these scans would let us know whether the cancer that had returned was curable or terminal. Unfortunately, this meant approval by the insurance company of one or both of these scans. Which we waited for. It was bad enough that we had to wait for approval, but because my mom is insured, the hospital does not schedule appointments for such scans without the approval of the insurance company. In addition to waiting for the approval, it meant waiting to schedule the appointment, and therefore waiting to find out what was happening with the cancer. In the end, the insurance refused to pay for the PET scan (I hope I have that name right) because “it has not been proven to be more accurate or provide any more information than the CAT scan”. Let’s not leave out the fact that it would cost the insurance more than the CAT. In waiting for the approval, and since all my mom’s treatment has taken place at Huntsman Cancer Institute here in the valley, (and 2 ½ hours away from her home), she also opted to wait to schedule her appointments with the oncologist, the surgeon and the plastic surgeon in an effort to minimize the number of trips she would be required to make. Finally, insurance approved the scan, the appointments were set and she proceeded.

She had her appointment with the surgeon first, the oncologist next, the plastic surgeon after that, and the scan last. One appointment to the next was nothing but upsetting. The recommendation of the mastectomy ballooned into a recommendation of a double mastectomy, followed by immediate commencement of reconstruction surgeries, of which there could be as many as six total surgeries. The recommendation of chemo was suddenly for the strongest dose of the treatment, guaranteeing nausea, fatigue, nearly immediate hair loss and all those other horrible things that you’ve heard go along with chemo. (Whatever you’ve heard, believe me, it’s true.) The reconstruction could not begin on the same day as the mastectomy, as the first surgery would be at least 8 hours. So much bad news, all at once.

After the scan was completed, my mom, dad and I headed to “Gene Therapy”, an informative class regarding the genes involved with such cancers as breast and ovarian. On the way to the class, the oncologist met us in the hallway and told us the chest scan had come back clear, and that my mom’s heart was healthy enough to withstand the lengthy surgery that is a mastectomy. Finally, the first bit of good news. However, the waiting continued, as we waited to hear about the result of the abdominal scan.

The following evening – Thursday night prior to Labor Day weekend – the oncologist called to say a “spot” had been found on my mom’s liver, and two “spots” on two vertebrae directly behind the liver. The CAT was inconclusive as to what the spots were. The next step? An MRI. However, none could be scheduled until Tuesday morning after Labor Day. So we waited. The camping trip to Flaming Gorge for the weekend with my family, while enjoyable, was clouded with the concern everyone had, and didn’t discuss, about whether the cancer had metastasized. The additional concerning factor that the MRI might also be inconclusive in its results just worsened the situation. (As a side note, I find it ironic that the insurance refused to pay for the PET scan, which might have given conclusive results immediately, and instead wound up paying for two scans, one of which was inconclusive and the other which could have been. There’s something coming back to bite you in the butt, right there.)

Finally, the day of the MRI arrived. Mom had to be at the hospital at 7:30 a.m., the scan scheduled for 8:00 a.m. I went to work, attempting to perform my duties as normal, and waited. After hours of torture, I received the call at 11:30. None of the three spots were cancer. The two on the vertebrae are what the doctors refer to as “islands”, which just means area of bone more dense than the rest. The spot on the liver was a cluster of blood cells, nothing more. Mom cried when she told me. I cried when I heard the news. It is truly an amazing feeling of relief when something that horrible is staring you in the face, and it turns out to be something completely harmless.

Next on this harrowing journey is the mastectomy surgery, scheduled for this coming Monday. Mom has opted to have the single for now, since the double is a much longer surgery with a much longer recovery, and she has her responsibilities to consider as state head of the Eastern Star organization for the next year. Since the cancer is not in the second breast, the doctors have said they believe it will be just fine to wait a year to have the second mastectomy surgery and begin the reconstruction. A couple of weeks after the surgery she will begin the chemo treatments. As my boss had said, in a vacuum a double mastectomy is the most horrible thing you could think of. But in a situation where we briefly faced much worse, it suddenly seems manageable.

Mom, though, is not yet out of the woods. While we know that the cancer has not metastasized to her brain, liver or lungs, we do not know whether any cells have made it into her lymph system. We will not know until after the mastectomy is complete and the doctors have tested the lymph nodes they will remove as part of the surgery. And so we wait.

One last plea on my part to all of my readers out there: those of you who are women, please, participate in monthly self-examinations and visit your doctor regularly. Men, please remind the women in your lives to do so. You have no idea how awful this disease is until it affects you or someone close to you. Everyone please remember to participate in the “Click a Day” project located on the right side of my blog. A click a day will help provide free mammograms to those who cannot afford it. And please check out the Susan G. Komen Foundation website for further information on this plight, and always offer your support to those afflicted with this disease. More than ever, they need it.