Jenster's Musings

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Than You Wanted To Know

I have this problem. It's a very serious problem and I've had it for as long as I can remember. I tell things that I shouldn't. Not about other people. I'm really good at keeping those kinds of things to myself. No, I tell things about myself that I shouldn't. A good example would be when I was complimented on a new dress at work several years ago I said, "Thanks! I got it for $5.00 at the Goodwill!" Those of you who have been reading my blog for the last three years or so are probably thinking about the posts I wrote about my breast reconstruction and nipple tattoos. That may have been TMI as well, but I don't know how to stop and this post is just going to be more of the same.

This morning as I was fixing my coif I thought to myself, "Self, you really need to call Darlene about those roots." Or if I was His Girl I would say that I'm in desperate need of some hairapy. Before I left for work I told Todd I was going to spend some time grooming tonight. You know: plucking the eye brows; waxing the lip; maybe masking to get rid of the zit that popped up last night. That sort of thing.

As for my wardrobe, well, I just wore one of my usual comfy v-neck tees, jeans and my Crocs because they're about the only shoes that don't bother my blisters (another post for another day).

So I get to work and the Children's Ministry team is having their weekly meeting and they're all looking sharp. Of course, they're all young and pretty and always look good even when they're wearing something like, oh, I don't know. A t-shirt, jeans and Crocs. But today it was nice make up, great hair, cute outfits. Sharp. Then I remember they're shooting The Feed, a video announcement for Sunday mornings.

I'm standing at the copier making -- can you guess? -- copies, while the girls are talking to Dave, the videographer, about the video details. Then I hear my name and see all these slightly sinister smiles directed toward me. Turns out there were seven announcements and only six ministry leaders.

I tried to ignore them and kept copying, hoping and praying they would forget about me and go about their business. But no such luck. Now I'm going to have to witness all my flaws on the big screen Sunday morning. *cough* I feel a cold coming on. I'm afraid of hearing something like, "Man, that chick needs a shave," or some such.

And the worst part? I've just given a ton of people something to look for on Sunday morning. Why? Because I can't keep my yapper shut! Or my fingers still.

Oh well. I much prefer to be behind the scenes, writing a script or something like that. But it's all good. I'm just working for Jesus, keeping it real. Know what I mean?

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Neighborhood Street Walkers

Every morning as I leave for work I pass the neighborhood women, and the few men, who stand on the corner after walking the streets. Men and women of the oldest profession. Parenthood. "But Jenster, people don't get paid for being parents so it can't be a profession." Au contraire, mon frere. Parents may not receive cash for their efforts, but they do receive cards and home made gifts and kisses and hugs... it's more like a bartering system.

Sometimes I stop in the middle of the street, roll down my window and chat for a few minutes and sometimes I just slowly drive by, waiving furiously and hoping I didn't miss anybody. I would hate for somebody to feel left out. And then I drive off, feeling a little bit sad because that has never been part of my world.

When my kids were in elementary school I drove them every morning because I refused to let them ride the bus. Where we lived in Arkansas there was one bus for each neighborhood which meant my kindergartner and third grader would have ridden to school with the high school kids. I'm all about educating our children, but not THAT much.

By the time we moved up here I had a high schooler and a middle schooler and that first year I still was having a very hard time getting out of bed and moving in the morning. So there was very little street walking and corner-hanging-out going on for me.

I've decided, however, that I'm going to start being a part-time street walker. On Friday mornings, my days off, I'm going to walk up the street with Sookie (the corner usually looks like a dog park) and hang out on the corner, plying my trade in the form of, "When my kids did that I would ____", and then come home and head to my Bible study.

Then I, too, will be a neighborhood street walker!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another Six Months

So I saw the White Russian today. As doctor’s appointments go it was fairly pleasant. My biggest complaint every time I go is that they’re too prompt and I don’t get to read nearly as much in the waiting room as I’d like to. Which was a crying shame today because I’m reading this fabulous book that Laurie Kingston, a Mothers With Cancer friend of mine, wrote: Not Done Yet: Living Through Breast Cancer. She started a blog at the time of her breast cancer diagnosis and the book is a compilation of her posts. I’ll be doing a complete review when I finish, but suffice it to say I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Kind of a weird thing to say considering it’s about her experience with breast cancer, isn't it? But she’s funny and her way of dealing with things strongly resonates with me. And that’s all you get until I finish, which could have been today if the oncologist’s office was just a little less efficient.

On the way back to the scale I asked the nurse if I could just tell her how much I weighed and if so, I’m 125. She answered with, “So am I. But you’re going to have to stand on the scale anyway.” Then we went in the room for the preliminary vitals and blood work. Because I had lymph nodes removed I can’t have blood pressure or blood draws or anything that could aggravate the lymph system and cause lymphedema in my left arm. When the nurse asked which arm I drew a total blank. For a minute I couldn’t remember which side was okay to use. We both laughed and agreed that was a great thing.

Vitals taken and blood sucked, she handed me a robe and left the room. Which meant I had to disrobe from the waist up. Which meant persons other than myself would be seeing my underarms. D’oh!! Not only are left armed vitals off limits, so is shaving the left underarm. If you’ve been around here for the last couple of years you know I went through three sessions of laser hair removal which seemed to do the trick. Except it didn’t and now I have to go back for a touch up, though I keep forgetting to make the appointment and I hardly ever Veet because it’s so inconvenient and it kind of burns, too. But do you know what I say to sparsely hairy armpits at the doctor’s office? “Whatever.”

The appointment itself was very good and almost great. I think we spent at least half the time discussing college choices for Taylor – my doctor is pushing for Penn State and laments that his girls chose Yale, Harvard and Temple. Not a huge concern for us. But this appointment was supposed to be about me so let's get back to that.

My blood work was great (surprise, surprise, my white count was on the low side of normal). My vitals were great. My tumor markers were low. Everything was as it should be which is very good. I’ll get a bone density test in January, see the doctor in March and we’ll be that much closer to my 5 years.

The one glitch in the appointment is that I will be on the Arimidex two years longer than originally prescribed. The plan had been post-chemo treatment for five years which for me was two years of Tamoxifen followed by three years of Arimidex. There’s been a new study, however, that says there’s a better success rate when the patient stays on the Arimidex for five whole years regardless of how long she had been on any other post-chemo medication. A little disappointing, but I’m not going to complain about it (at least not at the moment). It’s small beans compared to the grand scheme of things.

Finally I checked out and high tailed it for the Starbuck’s down the street for my venti White Chocolate Mocha with whip to complete my visit. Because a trip to the doctor’s isn’t over until I’m sipping that sweet nectar of life and making yummy sounds. Besides, my oncologist’s office is about 40 minutes away and I needed something for the ride home.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Just Another Oncology Appointment

This coming Wednesday I’m going to see my wonderful oncologist, otherwise known as The White Russian, for my 6 month check up. I’m pretty sure I know how it will pan out. I’ll sit in the waiting room happily reading until the nurse calls my name. She and I will walk back to the nurse’s station while she blames me for the weight she’s gained because I happened to tell her about Hope’s Cookies and now she can’t ever drive by there without stopping. Then, just to be spiteful I’m sure, she’ll make ME stand on the scale (at which time I’ll tell her again that I’ll be a good 30 pounds less the next time she sees me) and drain a couple vials of blood from my arm.

Once I get to the examination room I’ll be depressed about the weight she just recorded for all of eternity and The White Russian will walk in, disturbing my lamentations, and say how great it is to see a healthy person. Then I’ll feel bad about my whining when I would take every single ounce and then some if it meant not having cancer anymore.

He will ask how my summer was and what my family did. I’ll tell him we drove to Arkansas for a week to visit friends and family and how we didn’t get to see half the people we would have liked to. Then I’ll tell him how I flew to Seattle the following week to spend some time in a beach house with four other women. We’ll also talk about the tight, tingling, almost painful pressure my left arm feels whenever I fly or even ride in the car for any length of time without any support and he’ll look for signs of lymphedema. Thankfully he won’t find any unusual swelling and I’ll be told to keep wearing the compression sleeve when I fly and hopefully we’ll dodge this particular bullet.

After that we’ll discuss the stiffness in my joints and other bodily aches and we’ll decide that since it’s not debilitating pain I’ll just remain on the Arimidex for another 15 months. This is when I’ll realize I’m only little more than a year out from my 5-year goal and that will make me happy.

Most likely The White Russian will order a bone density scan because the combination of no ovaries and the Arimidex make for early onset osteoporosis. He’ll also probably decide I should have a colonoscopy because I haven’t had one yet and colon cancer is somehow closely related to breast cancer. Not only that, but there is a history of colon cancer in my family.

We will also look at my blood work which will no doubt look good except for my white count and other immune system related values. They might be within normal limits, but I can tell you right now they’re going to be low. How do I know this? Well for one thing they’re always on the low side of normal. In the nearly four years I’ve been finished with chemo they have never gotten very far above the line. But I’ve also managed to wear myself down which always results in a thick and swollen tongue, my own personal telltale sign of a low WBC. When it’s really bad, like it was after my trip to Seattle, minor cuts and blisters won’t heal and I’ll get a funky feeling that I just can’t describe so I’m not even going to try.

Thrown in between all this clinical stuff he’ll ask about my kids. When I tell him Taylor is now a senior in high school he’ll ask about his desired major and college. He’ll also ask how Katie likes high school and what do I think about being on this end of parenting. The White Russian will tell me a little about his family and their summer and before I know it my visit will be over.

I’ll then get to Peggy’s desk and we’ll chat for a moment and schedule my next appointment for sometime around March or so. And while I’m so happy I don’t have to make weekly or even monthly visits to the oncologist anymore, I’ll be just the teensiest bit sad that I don’t get to see these people for another six months. But then I’ll stop at Starbuck’s on my way home for a Venti White Chocolate Mocha with whip (Weight Watcher’s points don’t count on oncology days) and all will be right with the world.

I do wish I hadn’t gained all this weight (which I blame all on the various treatments I’ve been through since diagnosis) and I would love it if my body would be more cooperative and less stiff and achy. I’m very conscious about the possibility of lymphedema and I’m a little angry about the whole osteoporosis thing. The thing that bothers me the most right now is the white counts and the swollen tongue. How weird is that? It’s always swollen, but it gets worse when I’m feeling bad or overly tired and it gets in the way when I’m trying to talk and I’m always biting the sides with my sharp carnivorous molars.

Nobody ever tells you about all the stuff you have to deal with AFTER treatment, even if you don’t have any more cancer. But I’ll take all of it just to get to my 5-year goal and hear those magic words, “No Evidence of Disease”. And as I'm driving home I'll start relaxing, even though I didn't realize just how tense I was. I always expect a good report, but somewhere in the far reaches of my mind I suppose I fear the worst.

Finally, I'll start thinking about those I know who don't get to hear those words that I'm sure to. The women who are dealing with a recurrence or a metastasis, those who seem to be losing their fight, and especially those we've had to say goodbye to. My joy at another good report will be dimmed by the sadness for those who are not as fortunate and I'll be reminded just how horrific cancer is.

And in six months I'll do it all again.

Cross-posted at Mothers With Cancer

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

One Day Down...

Today was the first day of the 2009/2010 preschool year. For those of you not in the know, I am the administrative assistant for my church's children's ministry department which includes our preschool. I do a lot of the paperwork to free up Leanne, the Director, to do other, more directory-type things and to help the teachers out. That's the general description of my preschool duties anyway.

My plan was to get in the shower at 7:00 this morning, leaving me enough time to eat breakfast and pack a lunch before I headed out early for work. Sookie had other plans, however.

The kids had left for school; Todd ran to Wawa for breakfast for himself, coffee for me; and the dog was outside. We have an invisible fence and I don't like leaving her outside while I'm in the shower if no one else is home so I opened the door and called her in. She spared a glance for me and then went back to whatever it was she had been doing. Stalking small children, no doubt.

After pleading and cajoling and trying to rationalize with a dog I finally had to go out to the yard to get her. Our side yard on the corner which is very visible. In my warm, pink robe and my fuzzy pink slippers.

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Go ahead. Get that picture firmly established in your head.

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So there I was, in the middle of the yard - the very dewy yard - arguing with a canine with the neighbors driving by and waving and I'm pretty sure they were laughing. At what, I have no idea. But Sookie thought I was out there to play. Because, you know, I often go out in public covered from head to toe in pink fluff.

I thought maybe I could lure her in with one of her toys. The purple ball. Yes! That's it! So I grabbed the ball and dangled it in front of her as though it was a carrot. Dangit if she's not so stealthy and quick because before I knew it she was running away with the purple ball.

Then I tried the new blue ball that she has become enamored with and taunted her with that. She stood over the purple ball and looked at the blue ball, clearly undecided as to what she should do. As she tried to make up her mind I slowly crept closer to her, careful to dodge the poop, thinking she was so confusiated that I could grab her collar and be done with it. She waited until I almost reached her and then she took off running, wanting me to chase after her. I had to disappoint her there. I rarely chase her when I'm dressed. I certainly wasn't going to chase her in my bathrobe. The neighbors had had enough entertainment for one morning.

So I stomped back to the house, muttering something about stupid dogs and showers that should have been finished by now. There were other things muttered as well, but I'm not going to share those with you because I don't want you to know the real me.

Then it happened. One of those rare flashes of genius that only come along every great once in a while. Cheese puffs. She's a hairy, four-legged cheese puff fiend. I stood on the deck, noisily opened the bag and barely got, "cheese puff" out of my mouth before she was sitting at my feet with that glazed look reserved for drug addicts jonesing for a hit. Score!

Finally I got her in the house and took my shower. I didn't have time to eat breakfast or pack my lunch, but I did get a delicious 26 oz. coffee out of the deal so I couldn't complain too much. And I made it to work on time and got everything printed and distributed and the day went pretty smoothly.

Now that I know the secret I need to keep a steady supply of cheesepuffs to keep her in her habit. Then she'll be helpless against my will. Mwahahahahahahaha....

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Mused by Jenster :: 7:04 PM :: 7 People musing:

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Whidbey Island: A Photographic Tour - Island Living - Saturday: Coupeville

I hope you haven't forgotten about Whidbey Island because this blogger certainly hasn't. I had only gotten through Friday in my Whidbey Island Photographic Tour series. My intention was to post all of Saturday today, but I only got through half of it. Hopefully I'll get the rest of Saturday posted this weekend. And hopefully you don't fall asleep before you get through all the photos!









There should be four bluddies in this picture, but we lost one to the alluring promise of hot coffee.






















My typical view as Precious and I were usually lagging behind. There were just so many great things to photograph!







The sign says it all. And it was great food!










Italian Raspberry Soda
Cream





Italian Raspberry Cream Soda








Our uber-delicious homemade lunch: Tomato Basil soup, grilled cheese sandwich (on homemade bread) and fresh grown salad greens with homemade dressing.


Our foamy bookmark craft to keep us kiddies occupied while we waited for our yummy lunch.








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Mused by Jenster :: 9:22 PM :: 7 People musing:

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