Monthly Archives: April 2012

My Life on The Titanic

Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.

My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer.  I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.

When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.

The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.

But I’m scared.

What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?

What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?

And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?

Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.

What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be?  Will I need to take more time off?  How will my body respond?  Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off?  My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5.  That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year?  How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?

Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school.  This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request.  If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school.  Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past.  I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.

On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate.  The move was a good one, for my youngest.  The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved.  I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal.  I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see.  It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now.  I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.

Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon.  I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable).  She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen.  This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family.  I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink.  For now, we remain afloat.

The icebergs continue to converge with no relief.  One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way.  I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship.  All I can do is survive today.  And after today, tomorrow.  And after tomorrow, the next day.  I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.

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Plinky

I really like http://www.plinky.com/. It’s a great place to go to find inspirational ideas for journals, blog posts, what have you.

Except tonight it didn’t work. I found many great prompts, but not which I had the mental energy to actually develop. Tonight I am tired. Bone weary tired. Work is demanding. My closet organizer shelves fell out of the wall again for the second time. It’s just be a long, difficult emotionally taxing day.

This could be good. I might get some sleep. It could also be an indicator of a more serious health problem.

I just can’t even worry about that now. I need to sleep.

The Party Continues

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Today I met with my oncologist for the first time. This is not to be confused with my radiology oncologist, with whom I’ve met twice. My oncologist is a brilliant woman. So much so, that inside about 5 minutes I realized my eyes were glazing over. I had no understanding of about half of what she said. In spite of my difficulties tracking with her (I suspect the lack of sleep last night had something to do with this), I gleaned a few interesting tidbits of information. Not that you care, especially, but I thought they were interesting, and since tonight, after interacting with my teenagers and yet again going away from the exchange with the label of “Worst Mother Ever” verbally stamped on my soul, I’ve decided it is time to make it all about me. Hey, I figure if my teens can insist everything is all about them, then I can do the same.

First, I learned that not only can a thermometer read your temperature, it can now detect the amount of oxygen in the blood. I am pleased to report that I exceed the expected level of 95% with an impressive 99% oxygen. My blood pressure was slightly elevated today, which was weird.

Another thing I learned was something my surgeon and my radiology oncologist both told me: some experts don’t believe DCIS is really cancer. My oncologist is definitely in the “it’s just per-cancer” camp. This is not to say she minimized my situation or concerns; she did not. She just added an additional and very informed perspective. I mean, I get it. I get to keep my boobs, The decision for radiation treatment was left up to me, and chemo is not happening. Compare this with a friend of mine who, a decade ago was diagnosed, ended up having removal, radiation and 32 6-week sessions of chemo. She is alive and was declared by her doctors to be cancer free just a few months ago. I have nothing compared to that.

The third thing I learned was that there is actually a pill one can take to reduce breast cancer. The reduction percentages are small and some of the side effects, though rarely occurring, are worrisome: possible clotting or increased risk of uterine cancer for starters.

I also learned cell phones were not allowed in the waiting room. This tidbit dawned on me because I can read this:

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Finally, I learned another great way to make $100 go away really fast: have an oncology consult. My next oncology appointment is after radiation. I’m sure that will be loads of fun.

That was not such a fun party. Lots of great information, but no food or beverages. Next time, I’ll know it is BYOB.

Insomnia Episode #748

There are some nights that I fall asleep quickly, early even. These are the nights after a night or two or three spent wide awake, tossing and turning and searching Craigslist for everything and anything in the hopes that I will become drowsy and eventually knock off to sleep. I thought tonight might be one of those nights but, here I am, wide awake again.

There are some nights, very few and far apart, where I actually sleep the entire night through without even waking at midnight for a potty run. These nights are exceptionally rare. Most often, I sleep soundly for about three or four hours, then I’m wide awake for most of the rest of the night. Tonight appears to be one of these nights.

Tonight my mind is spinning around the possibility of my 11-year-old completely rejecting me and going to live with her father. Now, I know it sounds a bit exaggerated to say that she would reject me, but that is exactly the choice she would be making, though I doubt she would understand that at first. The reality is she would be making a change for a completely different way of being. She would be choosing a life that would not allow her to tolerate me (yes, her dad is one of those ultra-religious and very judgmental and not-very-nice Christian types). She would be taught and would learn to hate me because I don’t attend church every single Sunday and because I sip a beer or two occasionally. She would, I fear, become a disrespectful, ugly, intolerant, and unloving human being if she were to live with him most of the time. I hope to avoid this by teaching her the difference between having a relationship with God, and being religious. Further, were she to live with him, she would be prevented from staying with or seeing me. I cannot worry about this. Though it would crush me and grieve me for her to make the choice to live with her dad, it is ultimately her life.

To distract myself from this, I decided to cruise Craigslist. Tonight’s category: bikes. This did nothing to help. It just made me feel badly because I have no money.

The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she tried taking NyQuil just so she could sleep. A few minutes ago, I tried this. I emptied the last of the cold medicine, just enough for one dose. This might be working, so I’m signing off for another night.

Sweet dreams, or if not, then here’s wishing you a deep and restful slumber.

Unmotivated and Okay With It

In my younger years, I was one of those driven Type A people.  I would over-commit, over-do, over-achieve and I really somehow felt like I had to prove myself to the world.  Fast foward 30+ years and things have changed.  I no longer feel the need to work so hard to prove anything to anyone…not even to myself. I can sleep in on the weekends.  I can go home after work and not take work home, much.  (I used to spend a full eight to ten hours on a weekend working.) I love a clean house, but I’m not about to slave over cleaning the grout in the shower every three days. I can let stuff go.  I am the furthest thing from driven imaginable. What happened?  When did it happen and why the change from then to now?

The first thing that happened was my first marriage.  I am, by nature, not exactly the most efficient person in the world.  I am a creative sort, and when I work I like to have all my tools at my work space.  Crafty things can take up a lot of space.  I’m very particular about cleaning things up, however.  In the early days, I was also a bit of a hoarder.  I couldn’t have one set of brilliant markers or stamps or scrap-booking papers.  I had to have the newest, latest, bestest ones. This kind of crap can really clutter a home and fill a garage. To make matters worse, I was married to a man who was the epitome of slob.  He’d walk in the door and drop stuff right there.  He would do this all over the house.  To make matters even more difficult to manage, we started having children, one, then two then three.  Each child had their own junk.  Before I knew it, my desire for a tidy home was at war with the clutter and crap all over the place.

I learned that clutter creates stress. I didn’t need any more stress in life than I already had with three young children and a very unhappy marriage. I sought to remove the stress and the clutter from my life.

The next thing that happened occurred on the professional front.  I learned the very important lesson early on: don’t place all your eggs in the career basket.  No matter how great you are, how irreplaceable you are, how amazing your work, the day’s going to come when you are ultimately disposable and unnecessary…for whatever reason. What then?  All your time and energy has gone for what?

The final thing that happened, which took most of the last 30 years, some really good marriage counseling, and a slew of self-help books, was the realization that I really didn’t have anything to prove and I didn’t really care to spend the energy any more trying to prove whatever it was I was trying to prove in the first place.  I didn’t need to be rich, or at the top of the company ladder, or the first, best and fastest at anything.  I was not my achievement.  Sure, the achievement gave me some bragging rights…for a little while.  Who cares?

What really, really mattered, I discovered, was how I felt about myself and my life.  It really didn’t matter what others thought of me.  In the end, I’m the one that wakes up with myself every day forever. Once I learned to be okay with me, everything else in life fell in line.  I was able to figure out my own interests instead of spinning my wheels doing whatever everyone and anyone else thought was important for me to be and do.  Of course, this knowledge all came with the price of two failed marriages.  I wish I would have figured it all out much, much earlier.

These days, instead of being driven to perform and achieve, instead of worrying about what everyone thinks of me and how I look, and so on, I am able to relax and experience life.  I wasted a lot of years worrying too much about whether or not I was successful.  I spent way too much energy concerning myself with how I looked or what others thought of me.  I simply no longer care…at least…not like I used to.

These days, while the money is very tight and things are not perfect by any means, I am much happier.  I would still appreciate having a lot more money, but the problem is that I am no longer motivated to work myself to death to get more money.  I’m not willing to endure undue amounts of stress, tension, time away from my family and home to get more money. Because, when I’m gone, my money might help, but it won’t provide the comfort my presence does. So…we make do.

I’m okay with that.

Craigslist To The Rescue

They say money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s been said that money isn’t everything. I would agree. Happiness has to come from within and there are things far more important in life than one’s net worth. In the movie, Becoming Jane Reverend Austen makes a much more accurate statement:

Nothing destroys spirit like poverty.

I have to agree. Money isn’t everything until you don’t have any of it. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d rather be crying in my mansion with the Lamborghini in the garage as I’m packing for a shopping excursion in Europe.

I’m sick of always scraping by. I’m tired of alternating which bills I pay this month in order to catch up on the bills I didn’t get paid last month. I’m still really unhappy that I had to turn over my tax return. I’m certain my bankruptcy attorney could have communicated and timed things a bit better so that things didn’t go the way they did; costing me even more money than I had and requiring me to forfeit what I had coming in tax returns.

My divorce attorney got back with me about dealing with the child support review. It is going to cost $150 for an hour, which isn’t bad, and my attorney is definitely worth all that. It’s just that I don’t have the money. I’m tired of not having the money.

I scraped together the money, this time without having to dig into the family grocery and gas money. I did what I have done for a while now: when things get tight, I sell something on Craigslist. I was fortunate this time, in that I actually had a few things I could get rid of. So far, it all added up to $170, just a little more than I needed for the attorney. That definitely helps. I’m just weary with having to operate like this. Pretty soon, I’m not going to have anything left to sell on Craigslist. Then what?

Hopefully, by then, I will have this little season of difficulty behind me. The Hesitant Boyfriend is actually working and making some decent money. Even though it is only for a few months and he won’t see any of it until next month, it will help. Things will get better. I hope.

Reality Overdose

The year, 2012, didn’t hesitate in announcing itself. Even before it’s calmer, more peaceful predecessor, 2011, had the opportunity to exit the scene, 2012 was pushing its way in loudly declaring that this was going to be a very different year. And, 2012, has not been wrong about that.

2012, began its oppressive rule when I had a biopsy the first week in January. It wasn’t a clean report indicating a benign issue. An additional excisional biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of cancer which lead to a third surgery to remove all the affected tissue and get what the medical professionals seem to enjoy calling “good, clean margins” or “nice, wide margins”. 2012 is literally leaving scars.

The year continued its domineering disruption this week with the start of my radiation treatments. Until now, I’ve quipped and teased and joked about it all. My coping mechanism is humor.

In spite of my ability,thus far, to remain positive and upbeat, I was silenced on Tuesday, when I attended my first appointment for radiation simulation.

“I’m here for the party.” I quipped as I checked in, garnering a smile and conversation from the associate at the front desk. Moments later, I was being led through the radiation department, to the special waiting rooms with lockers. The nice lady explained all the procedures carefully. After she left, I donned my hospital gown and headed out to the interior waiting room designed for those awaiting treatments.

I don’t know if it was her bald head, clearly indicating chemotherapy treatment or her courageous words as she spoke with another patient.

I believe am going to beat this. I’m convinced this isn’t going to do me in. My purpose here in this world isn’t quite finished yet.

It was then that 2012, slapped me full in the face and brought me up short. Suddenly, my mind grasped what I did not want to acknowledge: This disease is for real and sometimes, often, it plays for keeps.

There sat a woman, possibly even younger than me, in much worse condition than I. ( I have to say she looked strong and healthy other than her hairless head). She spoke confidently, but there was an ever-so-slight tremor of hesitating uncertainty in her voice. I realized then, that her plight could as easily be mine.

I wasn’t allowed much time to even get to know anyone. In less than a minute, I was whisked out of the room and led through a barrage of protocols required to prepare for my first treatment next week. Marked up with Sharpie marker, infused with India Ink and sporting four or five tiny but permanent tattoos the reality of it all begins to crush me.

I really do have cancer.
This is really happening.
I’m a little scared.

It was an overdose of reality shock taken intravenously, in a moment. This thing kills. Though my odds are really great for a cure, it could be worse. In fact, it still could get me…one day.

It was then that I began to shake.

I wish I’d at least had the opportunity to get to know her name before being ushered into my own room with the large spinning donut contraption. Her courageous words required applause, but time ran out.

Three days/nights later and I wonder how she is doing. I hope for her, that she is right. The grim realities of this disease hit hard in that brief sojourn in a waiting room. Tonight, I wonder, is she sick somewhere, alone? Is she dealing with the negative effects of Tuesday’s treatment and fighting off the pain and fear with every bit of her being?

I hope she’s not alone.
I hope she’s not afraid.
I hope her time doesn’t run out.

I hope she wins.

Rain On

It starts softly
the barest, tiny tap
Of water
On roof, deck, leaf.
Followed by
Another, hesitantly.
Then…
Another and another and another
In quick rapid-fire succession
Until what started out softly
And sweetly
Turns into a
Loud continuous pouring
Of water
Over everything.

Pour on.
Soak through.
My day is not ruined.
It is 3:00 am.

Rain on.

Sibling Squabbles

One of the most difficult aspects of parenting is when siblings squabble. You know how it starts: Sibling A says a comment to Mom about some random non-threatening topic. Sibling B has some problem with Sibling A for whatever reason and makes some snide insulting remark in response to A’s comment to Mom. A takes offense, as expected, and before you know it there is a full scale war going on.

I hate this.

This is how my afternoon with my teenagers went. My A child has trouble with her B, Brother. She picks on him, mercilessly. She started in when I picked them up after school and by the time we got home, they were about ready to come to blows about who knew more about politics and current events. I’m certain neither of them know anything about politics, but we’ll just let that small minor detail go.

I’d say this happens often, but that would be an understatement. Child A created an art form of mocking and torturing her brother.

No matter what tips, techniques, systems or strategies I use to intervene, it is useless. She continues.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to deal with the child who continually badgers a sibling? I’m at my rope’s end. I don’t exactly want to tie a knot. I’m frustrated, and might just on accident create a noose.

Moving On

Somewhere I heard that most of what we worry about never comes to pass. Where today’s meeting was concerned, that statement was only partly true. The trustee did, indeed, require me to turn over my tax return. Since it is a size able sum and since turning it over now means I have nothing to pay my state tax bill with, this doesn’t exactly give me the “clean start” everybody who promotes bankruptcy (read those who make money off bankruptcies) says I will have. In addition, the out of pocket medical bills just showed up in the mailbox today. Woo. Hoo. Juggling all these bills with so few resources just becomes a domino effect of holding bills to pay other bills and so on. So, instead of being able to catch up, I will have to keep playing this crazy financial catch up game for a while longer. The Hesitant Boyfriend really needs to get some steady work.

Needless to say, when I left my meeting today, which lasted all of 15 minutes, and wherein no relevant questions germane to my situation were raised, I was angry. After all, every one of my creditors has already made a fortune on my debt and the astronomical interest I paid on that debt over the last 10 years. As for the mortgage company, they already got their bailout. Why can’t I get mine? Yes, I was definitely angry. I feel my attorney should have communicated with me far better than he did. The things that impacted me, which should not have, were amateur oversights and could have been prevented had he been a bit more communicative of the process. After all, I’ve never done this before, so I didn’t know.

Anyway, I’m sufficiently over it. In two months my debt will be discharged. I can begin rebuilding my credit and turning my net worth from a negative number to a positive number. It does feel good to finally be done with that episode of my life even though it didn’t go the way I’d hoped.

I’m now ready to let this go and move on.

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