I’ve hit the halfway point in my radiation therapy for breast cancer and so far, so good. Not only is it relatively painless, I have scored some pretty delicious meals thanks to fine friends and whenever I feel like it, I get to pull out the “I’m so tired” card.Â In the world of strange coincidences, my sister Kathy, a nurse in Alaska, discovered her own breast cancerÂ shortly after I told her about mine in December.Â It has been difficult being so far away from her but she makes me feel better by saying what happened to me probably saved her life. That said, I have always had my eye on her Rolex watch but I’m more likely to get on of her favorite Christmas sweaters.
The truth is I’ve heard lots of cancer stories since my own broke and every one is something unique, important and usually has some laughs attached to it. I am mulling over doing something with the humor end of things. It seems the best idea since I won’t be held to a very high truth standard and I now know for sure that laughter IS the best medicine. Please forward me any cancer laughs you might have experienced. The pain we remember all too well.
Doesn’t it just go that way–something happens kind of out of the ordinary and then it seems like it is all you hear about. That happened to me 19 years ago when after my very first mammogram, they found a mass and I underwent surgery to remove what turned out to be a benign tumor. But the long weekend before the surgery and the subsequent good news, it seemed like everywhere I turned there was someone talking about cancer from one of my neighbors to Barbara Walters.
It happened again a few weeks ago. I went in for my annual mammogram on Tour of Homes weekend and got called about a recheck just before Thanksgiving. The Monday after I was told there was something there that shouldn’t be. There was a biopsy the next day and by Thursday I was told it was cancer – stage 1, small but cancer nonetheless.
In the days that followed Elizabeth Edwards died, Dorothy Hamill was talking about her cancerÂ still looking good skatingÂ inÂ one of those little skirts and I began to remember the almost 20 womenÂ I have interviewed about their “cancer stories” over the past 20 years.Â They have been all ages, some with a family history of cancer, most with none. Their cancers were found on mammograms, in self-exams andÂ in check-ups. They have had mastecomies, lumpectomies, chemotherapy, radiation and more chemotherapy and reconstruction. While nobody wants cancer,Â these women also said their lives had changed for the better because of it.Â Read KelliÂ Burrow’s blog or Â Kris Minor’s to see what eloquence the experience can inspire.
Me, I’m not feeling eloquent just yet. I’m still getting over the fact that the smallest thing ever to be found on my body is the thing they are taking out. It couldn’t be some 49 pound thing that would show? And at some later date I will describe my experience with the MRI machine where the technician suggested a dry run to be sure I would “fit” in the thing. I had a friend tell me that there is some speculation that our bras may be contributing to breast cancer and all I could think of was what that might mean now that we’re all wearing Spanx.
I am having surgery next week, a lumpectomy followed by radiation. I expect everything to go well and that I too will somehow be inspired by the experience. In the meantime, I am grateful for all the “advance knowledge” those 20 womenÂ have given me…and for that annual mammogram. Have you had yours this year?
The decorating is as good as it is going to get and I finally put the outside lights back in the old cooler where I store them (they just aren’t happening this year). I added a few more candles and some of those super scented pine cones insteadÂ and we are good to go.
But it really isn’t Christmas until I start using up blocks of cream cheese. There is the cheese ball which along with the cream cheese, calls for sharp cheddar cheese spread and Kraft Roka Blue which I think is referred to as a “cheese food.” I always had the distinct impression that Roka Blue not only had a limited appeal but also a very seasonal one. Most times when I would pick up my three jars in November, there would be considerable dust on the lids andÂ the expire dates were always well into the future. This is a food, though with limited appeal, could be important come the end of it all.Â
And the end of it all has come – at least for Roka Blue. Kraft has stopped making it – a couple of dozen jars to cheese ball comsuming families like my own just weren’t enough to sustain this 1950s staple. I found this out last year when I sent Kevin to hunt for it. I figured we might find some buried behind the pimento flavored vareity but no such luck. The really incredible thing was that when he asked about it in the store, they provided him with a recipe from the Kraft people to duplicate it, who apparently had received some ugly hate mail aboutÂ Blue’s demise.Â The recipe calls forÂ more cream cheese, blue cheese crumbles and water. I guess that would have to do – but it doesn’t. It’s OK but just lacks that kind of off white paste consistency that always worked so well.
There will be cheese balls this year at our house but it won’t be the same. Who knew anyone would ever miss Roka Blue Cheese Food?
Of all the holidays throughout the year, I love Thanksgiving the most. It is all about the food. Decorating is at a minimum. there are no gifts to give or receive and to my knowledge, there are no Thanksgiving carols, although give Michael Buble some time and I’m sure he will come up with something.
That said, I think I must be one of the only people around who didn’t take advantage of the early November heat wave to get our Christmas lights up. I like to get the lights up before Thanksgiving and have them on a timer so they are one when we get home from dinner at my sisters. This year, we’ll be coming home in the dark. I think I will have an extra piece of pie to distract me.
And while the holidays have kind of snuck up on me, what I really can’t get over is the fact that the first decade of the millenium is coming to a close. What the heck happened to the last 10 years?
Never let it be said that I’m not spontaneous – spontaneous but not too bright. When all the warnings started coming in about hurricane force winds and the lowest barometer ever (whatever that meant), I started thinking about one of my favorite places on earth – Duluth and Lake Superior. It sounded like the winds and weather were statewide and I have always wanted to be up there in a room with a view and watch the waves break over the lighthouse. We used to take the kids up there every October during the teachers convention and Kevin and I have continued to go without them. We’ve been there when the waves were choppy and a little high but never in a full blown storm. So when weather guys started talking about the Gales of November, I got it in my head we were going up there. We left Tuesday just after work and headed north. It rained most of the way and then we hit snow right around the Big Bear Casino. It was coming down very hard but backed off as we entered the city. I should have known – I had heard some weatherman on the way up say the waves were reaching 27 feet. What I didn’t hear was WHERE all this was happening – like on the other side of the lake. And it isn’t like you can just drive a little further and seeÂ for yourself – It is after all called a “great lake” which obviously means I was skunked on my storm search. It’s OK though. The hotel rates were cheaper because there aren’t many people like me around. And you can always find something to do and see there and the guy at the front desk of theÂ hotel was very nice. He promised to call me the next time a big one approaches their shores. Â I’m not giving up.
The deaths of the two Lakeland teens is just too sad to take in and it comes at a time when it seems the news is full of young kids dying senselessly. I heard a couple of radio jocks talking about it this morning and the guy was saying that kids just need to realize that bad stuff happens and that it doesn’t get better as adults, just more complicated and more of it.Â I get what he was saying but if I were a depressed kid, none of what he said would have helped.
Back in the 1980s there were a rash of teen suicides in Forest Lake that shocked everybody. I went to hear a psychologist talk about it. He said that in an age when a lot of parents seem bent on either pushing kids into every activity around or telling them they can have and do anything they want, what we should really be teaching them is how to handle disappointment. I think that is what theÂ radio guy was referring to but he neglected to mention the most important part. That is Â making sure they understand, that as bad as things seem sometimes, there is a very good possibility they will get better. They need to be told by the people they trust that the one constant in life is change. No matter what happens to any of us – losing your love, parents divorcing, jobs going south, failing grades, unending bullying and teasing–things change over time. It doesn’t make those painful moments right now any less painful but there is every reason to believe that things will get better. That the pain will become bearable and that the possibility exists that something better is up ahead. But that possibility is there only if you hang around to experience it. I’m not very religious but after being around for more than half a century I believe this –that there is nothing so hopeless that another day might not improve. Make sure the people you love know how you feel about this subject. It could make all the difference – you never know.
We all know about HIPA right? I get the privacy thing and all that but after the weekend I had I’m thinking I know what it really stands for – “Help – I’m paying anonymously.”
Now that my daughter is home recovering from a bad infection, I have time to reflect on a few things. Those of you with kids over the age of 18 no doubt have your own tales to tell about how now that they are “adults” you are locked out of everything in their lives with the exception of most of their financial obligations. I just attempted to talk with our insurance company about some medical bill that needed paying when I was told that I needed Katie’s permission before any further discussion. Fine, I can do that. I will just add it to the list ofÂ authorizations IÂ have collected to provide for the care and support of my kid.Â The thing is that now it is her and her brother who have to provide “permission slips” for us. The problem is they aren’t for anything like a fun field trip to an apple orchard or the Children’s Theater but rather to do other “fun things” pay tuition, argue a bill or pick up a perscription. Just another one of those rites of passage I guess.
This is about my 15th try to get a blog up and running. That said, I am keenly aware that trying that hard might imply that I have something important to say. ..Not really. At least not now. But I’ll be back..