Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cancer for Dummies

There actually are some specific versions of these classic books, Prostate Cancer for Dummies, Breast Cancer for Dummies, and others, I'm sure. I need more of a "Living with Cancer for Dummies" guidebook. Make that a "Living with Cancer for Single Dummies." Yeah, that's what I'm looking for!

I'm not talking about cancer treatment, I'm talking about life. First of all, in the shock of diagnosis, the wheels are just not turning. If you've got a spouse, you've got a sane partner who can think logically and help with decisions. Like... someone mentioned that, since I hadn't been able to work for months and probably would not be able to work for a long time, it might be a good idea to apply for SS Disability and Food Stamps. How long would it have taken me to come up with that on my own? I don't know - all my brain cells have been busy trying to fight for my life.

And if you have a spouse, maybe your spouse can provide income while you concentrate on getting well. Even if they can't provide income, they can help you fight for your Disability and Food Stamps because those petty bureaucrats will kill you a whole lot faster than cancer.

I was never a lonely, miserable single person. Really, I was a relatively happy single person (okay, a little cranky now and then) with a full life and terrific friends. But for the first time, I think I understand why having that life partner might be more important than a fruitless search for the perfect life partner. I understand why commitment ceremonies include the words, "in sickness and in health."

Talk about your late bloomers.

Go See.....

cakewrecks...when good bakers go bad, which led me to the
blog of unnecessary quotation marks... a "pet peeve" of mine for "quite" some time.
misspelled tattoos...I'm not a tatt fan (we'll get into that sometime) but these misspelled tattoos are like a car wreck: hard to look at, harder to look away.

Polyanna caution: some naughty words here.
With all these sites, the descriptions are funnier than the pictures, and the comments are often just as hilarious.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wacky Wednesday

Yes, it's Wacky Wednesday, the day I take the steroids, therefore the day before Cah-raazzy Thursday. I climb on the crazy rocket and buckle up for the 48-hour ride to loonytown and back.

The blood sugar boomerangs begin and I get this horrible squeaky little high-pitched Minnie Mouse voice. It's a good time to plead for financial aid, because I sound absolutely pathetic (at least I think I do!).

Steroids are very, very strong medicine. I don't think you should take them unless you absolutely have to, and nothing else will work for you. I really can't imagine any reason to justify why athletes would do this to themselves voluntarily. I mean, it's insane to basically poison yourself with toxic drugs that shrink your boy bits, and make you sound like a chipmunk on crack, and maybe cause brain cancer and who knows what else, for what? To run a little faster, jump a little higher? That's SO crazy, we ought to lock them up on grounds of mental instability. I wonder if the risk of having "nutjob" on their Permanent Record would be a deterrent. I guess if the life-threatening side effects or the threat of the loony bin doesn't deter them, that proves they're nuts, right?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"But wait, there's more!"

On Mom & Dad's last visit, I admitted to Mom that I had succumbed to a shopping network "bargain." Since my heels have turned into crusty boulders the last few years, I broke down and ordered the Ped Egg, because it had a 2-for-1 deal and offered free shipping. So I gave Mom my "extra" Ped Egg.

Mom laughed and admitted she, too, had succumbed. Not to the Ped Egg. She had broken down and bought Debby somebody's Green Bags, because the infomercial was so compelling. And of course, it was a 2-for-1 offer, so she had a pack of Green Bags for me. She also brought me two of those blown-glass plant-watering globes.

So at least I come by this weakness honestly.

In years past, these tv-pitched gizmos were usually shlock-o-matics, that didn't work at all, or worked briefly, expiring immediately after the warranty. But I have to admit - both the Ped Egg and the Green Bags seem to work, quite well in fact. And the plants enjoying the watering globes haven't died yet.

So good on us. But even better -- turn off the tv.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Smells Like Teen Angst

Supergirl #4 is going to be 12 soon; the last of the Supergirls to hit adolescence. I shudder in empathy at the very thought. With the single, notable exception of cancer, adolescence was the most excruciating time of my life. Read more...


My next door neighbors, the Three Little Pigs, woke me up last night at 3 am. Actually, this time it was their male pit bull (not neutered - whee!) who woke me up. The Boy Geniuses let him out at 3am for a little barkfest outside my bedroom window. They claim -- aw, shucks, ma'am -- they don't do these things on purpose; they just get drunk, and forget to not be assholes.

Between the painkillers and the steroids, my sleep cycle is pretty whack, so I just sleep whenever I can. As it happened, I had just fallen asleep. Yep, so then I was not only AWAKE but seethingly furious. I tried repeating the mantra from one of my meditation CDs:
Fill your heart with gratitude and forgiveness...

Fill your heart with gratitude and forgiveness...
Fill your heart with gratitude and forgiveness...

But it wasn't working -- I still wanted to put all their beastie boy parts in little vices (even the dog's!) and crank them up to Falsetto. Sleep was out of the question for hours, so I came into the living room, climbed on the magic internet machine, and went for a ride. I happened to "stumble upon" and bought myself two groovy posters, Pattern Bird and Love Bird.

I really like them, and I'm going to get them framed. But I don't need them, and since I'm darned near destitute, I have no business shopping at 3am and buying something so beautiful but non-essential. I'd probably be better off buying those vices, so I'll be ready next time.

then I can fill my heart with gratitude and forgiveness.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Meet The Foodies

Seven years ago, a group of amazing women got together and formed a cooking club. Somehow, I managed to join, maybe in the name of diversity ("Wait a minute, we need someone cranky.") It was quite surprising, and moving, to find such terrific new friends in my early 40s (...or so).

Over the years, the Stir Crazy gals also walked in Race for the Cure, donated Christmas cookies to homeless shelters, supported a marathon-running member in the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training and another member’s participation in the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, collected a vanload of clothing and housewares for newly-relocated Hurricane Katrina refugees, and raised money to cook and serve a dinner for 80+ guests at our local Ronald McDonald House.

And when l was diagnosed with cancer, Stir Crazy rose to the occasion, visiting every other week with books, magazines, and food (of course!). They made this beautiful “get well” quilt. Some of the squares say Strength, Hope, Love, Courage; there are pictures of all our dogs in one square, and all their names in another. They redecorated my bedroom in anticipation of a long, slow recovery. Behind the scenes, they opened a Stir Crazy “store” on the Etsy website to make and sell craft projects and handmade soaps, all to help me by raising some much-needed cash.

Now Stir Crazy is offering you this treasure: a cookbook with our favorite recipes from seven years of cooking together. I know you will enjoy the food. I hope you find friends as willing, as worthy, and as wonderful as I have.

If you'd like a copy of the cookbook ($10 each), send an email to lacootina (at) gmail (dot) com.

Les Fleurs du Jour III

Any collection can get out of hand. I've always been enchanted with itty bitty things*. I started collecting little vases, no more than 3" tall, at garage sales, thrift shops, etc. Suddenly I had a shelf full of them. In a fit of downsizing a few years ago, I gave away more than half of them and kept just a few favorites. I'm glad I did, especially when zinnias are blooming, and lilies of the valley.

*Haven Kimmel talks about this love affair with miniatures in one of her books. If you haven't already, go read her autobiographical books, "A Girl Named Zippy" and "She Got Up Off The Couch." I mean it, go read them. Now. You'll thank me.

A Psychology Tip

by Piet Hein

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,

is simply by spinning a penny.

No - not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;

but the moment the penny is up in the air,

you suddenly know what you're hoping.

Piet Hein (1905-1996) was a Danish scientist, mathematician, inventor, author, and poet in several languages. Talk about your underachievers, eh? He is one of my favorite poets. It's hard to believe that English was not his first language. His poems are full of puns, double entendres, innuendos. His collections are called "Grooks." Read some and enjoy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Les Fleurs du Jour II

ZINNIAS! When Hoodies Chris, Pat and Judy slew the weeds back in April, the one thing I managed to do was throw down some zinnia seeds. And now you can see why: they are the poor girl's Gerber Daisy! Those delicate little seeds, along with some Zinnia plants Judy contributed, will keep me supplied with beautiful, jewel-toned bouquets until a hard frost. Wish I'd thrown down some snapdragons, too.

The Road to Diagnosis

For more than a year, my only symptom was fatigue. I should have trusted my instincts. Read more...

Faucet Face

What's more fun than a summer cold? A summer cold without an immune system! Yeah, I'm going back to bed, maybe for a couple of days. So here is a cartoon ( by Dan Piraro:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cah-raazzzy Thursday!

I take steroids every Wednesday, and I'm pretty much a nutjob for 48 hours. Friday is recovery day. I appreciate that the steroids do a lot of good stuff, but the side effects are significant. I'm just a WEE BIT more emotional. And because it revs the metabolism, I usually have at least one sleepless night, sometimes two, which also fuels the emotionalism.

But the real fun part is that I am diabetic for two days. When my blood sugar skyrockets, I become drenched in sweat (I mean dripping) and weak in the knees. Over-emotional, woozy and sweaty - good times.
I test 4x a day, and take insulin 3-6 times over those 48 hours. By "take insulin" I mean poke myself in the pupik (belly) for an insulin shot.

Three Good Things. M
y blood sugar is normal Friday through Tuesday. I'm not terribly squeamish about needles. The new insulin pens have superfine needles; most of the time, I don't even feel the injection.

But as a service to humankind in general, I make an effort to stay home on Thursdays.

The Big C Update

I was diagnosed in December 2007 with Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer similar to Leukemia, and started radiation immediately. At some point, I recovered from the shock of diagnosis and started trying to make my own decisions. That included reaching out to a knowledgeable friend (Foodie Christie) and ultimately changing oncologists. I believe that was a good decision, but now I'm a teeny cog in what I call the Ginormous University Cancer Machine, and I occasionally have to yell and scream* to be heard.

I just finished chemo. My insurance company (we'll call them DieSuckah) tried three times to refuse to pay for the chemo drug - which, with insurance is about $7,000 a month (yeah, people without insurance die faster). Luckily, I have Supernurse G, who knows the ropes. She battled DieSuckah each time, until they realized that she was going to swing at every pitch, and gave up, agreeing to pay for the drug.

These insurance companies count on people giving up after the first refusal, or the second; certainly by the third -- even when they know that the drug/test/treatment should be covered. And if they're really lucky, you'll die **waiting. Know what's wrong with health care in America? Two words: health insurance. Don't ask me if I've seen "Sicko." I'm living it.

Now, my doc wants to do a PET scan, a radioactive contrast scan that provides not just anatomical and structural information, but information about metabolism and blood flow as well. It's used to detect and stage Cancer; it helps physicians decide about the best treatment, and assess the patient's response to therapy. And a head-to-toe PET scan costs about $4,000, so once again, I need preauthorization from DieSuckah. Are you surprised to learn that they're refusing to pay for it? Supernurse G is unfazed, so I'm not terribly upset; at least not yet.

But...the back-and-forthing can take, oh, let's say 7-10 days. And "when" we get approval, it will be at least 2 weeks before I can get on the schedule again. That means any treatment is delayed by at least three more weeks.

Unless DieSuckah gets lucky.
*Like after 6 weeks of telling my doc that the steroid dose was too high, I finally did a somersault and back flip into the room, ricocheted off the wall 4 times, threw a chair out the window, grabbed him by the lapels and nose-to-nose, screamed, "THE STEROID DOSE IS TOO HIGH AND TODAY IS THE DAY WE CHANGE IT." And we changed it, from 20mg 2x/week to 12mg 1x/week. Yeah, I'm about 75% less crazy.
Like after 3 months of complaining about hip pain, I again grabbed him by the lapels and said "LET'S FIND OUT WHY, SHALL WE?" (Hmmm - maybe he likes being grabbed by the lapels.) And we did a CT scan, which wasn't definitive. But nothing happened until I sent an email, asking "WHAT'S NEXT?" The screaming cog gets the grease.

**The same strategy is used by Social Security to deny Disability to people who deserve it. That's another story.

Les Fluer du Jour

I am a gardener, or I was, BC (before cancer). Now I grow mostly weeds. Thanks to the kindness of a few hoodies, the weeds are attacked every couple of months, and a few flowers elbow their way to the sunshine. These lovelies are actually from my herb bed - it is oregano! It is a light, lacy airy pink flower. And this year, I've got enough of it for a pretty bouquet. I wish the picture was better.

I can't claim these beauties as my own. These spectacular spider mums are from Hoodies U&S, for taking care of their kitty for 2 days. Boy, did I get the better end of that deal! Their kitty is a cranky, antisocial old girl who just vants to be left alooone. So we understand each other perfectly, and I don't take it personally. A little food and water, a scoop of the litter box, and I'm done. Still, U&S worry that she's hurting my feelings or something, and feel they must do something to assuage my ire. Or maybe they're just really classy, thoughtful people.

Epilogue: Realizing that bright indirect sunlight would probably make for much better pictures (DUH. I'm a very bad amateur photographer.), I tried to take both vases outside again a few hours later. I managed to hurl the oregano vase at the ground. Yes, my favorite 25¢ garage sale vase is now history, because I'm too lazy and/or stoopid to make two trips. But it is a great comfort to me to know that, even at this age, I can still learn from my mistakes. And that I can keep finding new stoopid things to do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

GoodGolly, Miss Molly

You thought perhaps I was exaggerating her beauty? Ha! Impossible.

Thanks to S-I-L, Molly sports a very classy Coach collar - pink patent leather! Here she is (foreground) with her best friend Gracie. Gracie is the second-most submissive dog on the planet, and she enjoys bossing around the #1 title holder. Gracie likes to give kisses; Molly prefers to be the adoree, and will lay still for hours of tummy rubs. They are very petite girls - Molly is just 22 lbs. (We tell people they are "Toy Labs.")

Gracie's peeps have been wonderful, taking Molly with them on long walks several times a week, or to their house for playdates. Molly went through her annual Stinkarella phase ("I must roll in something foul, right now!") and the peeps remained understanding, even bathing her when the stink reached toxic levels.

What are the odds that The Two Best Dogs In The World would live just 2 blocks away from each other, and become lifelong best pals? I dunno, but we are so, so grateful to have Gracie and her exceptional humans in our lives.

I'm So Proud!

Brother #1 and his daughter Supergirl #1 rode in the Windy City's "Bike the Drive" last month, bicycling 16 miles along the outer drive and the lakefront. What a view! Supergirl #1 has also taken up running, and ran in her first 5K in April. (I don't think that comes from our side of the family - I wouldn't run if my ass was on fire.) Go, Supergirl! Go Bro #1!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fun with Novacaine

Aware of my cancer and the fact that I have been unable to work for a long time, my dentist has very graciously agreed to treat me free for a year. It's a program through the state association and she gets to write off everything. Still, it's a very generous gesture.

So, I'm trying to get a fair amount of dental work done as soon as I can. I've had a cockeyed "crossbite" all my life and although I am scrupulous about brushing and flossing, there is always, always work to be done.
My mouth is chock full of boat payments, college tuition, tropical vacations. (You people with straight teeth have no idea what the rest of us go through.)

Today we were replacing a very old filling... way, way in the back. Just above my kneecap, I think. We have learned to use lots of novacaine. This means that nearly my whole freakin' face is numb. My nose and lower eyelid are tingling. I'm really hungry, but don't care to bite my tongue and cheek, and spill my snack all over my shirt. So I'll just wait til the tingling subsides a bit.

But it's interesting that right now, when I willy, willy can hodly thpeak ah all, I've had thwee phone cahs. THWEE!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Like a Spa, Only Better

Now, that's a swanky bedroom, eh? Yes, thanks to the Foodies. Led by our master decorator, Karin, and Cathy F., the bedroom received new paint on walls, ceiling, and trim; new bedding, a new rug, a new lamp (which, since the picture was taken, has gotten a shade), new window treatments (plantation shades and cotton curtains) and a new light fixture. Cathy C. and Jason pitched in, too, at a critical point. The color scheme is apple green and ice blue, with black & white accents. (Can you tell the piece at the bottom of the bed is actually a tablecloth?) I don't think I've ever had such a beautiful bedroom; it is so elegant, and yet so comfortable.

The leaf "collage" was my contribution. I collected thrift shop picture frames (the round one and the two diamond mirrors were a nice find) and spray-painted them black. Previously, I had collected and pressed leaves in my flower press. I spray painted them black as well. I had some of the wall paint left over, so I painted some cardboard, and cut to fit the frames so the background of the leaves is the same as the wall color. I have to say, I think it turned out pretty groovy.

I still don't want to have the stem cell transplant, but recovery will be a whole lot nicer in this bedroom.

The New Purse

I’ve been carrying the same purse for 100 years, because yours truly, Aunt Crankypants, The Fussiest Girl in the World, knew I’d never find another one as good.

I’m also a terrible snob about small purses. Why on earth do some women need to carry an apartment’s worth of crap with them everywhere you go? Much easier on your back to just wear a t-shirt announcing your insecurities.

Anyways, my 100+ year purse is a buttery-soft black leather fancy-schmancy Perlina. It’s very small but has lots of organizer slots and zips and pockets. And I love it even more because I got it at a thrift shop for less than $5. Still, I was ready for a change. 100 years is enough.

So I bought a cute little straw handbag with flowers embroidered on it... for $2. It had short handles, and I’m a shoulder-strap girl, so I bought a nice Aigner leather belt for another $2. Here’s the crazy part: I paid the shoe repair guy $6 to grommetize the leather belt onto the handbag!

Apparently the price of a non-offensive handbag has doubled in the last 100 years.

And the other crazy part is... I am sure that come August, I will switch back to the 100 year Perlina. Come on, who’s going to carry a straw bag in September?

Camp Itchy Crotch

Things are frothy Down Under. Part of my "chemo cocktail" is steroids. It's a mixed blessing, because the steroids definitely help with pain management, and my energy level, but they have lots of side effects, including my big fat moonface, and diabetes. Yes, the steroid bone is connected to the diabetes bone, and the diabetes bone, I believe, is connected to the yeast infection bone. Welcome to Camp Itchy Crotch.

Every drug has side effects. Some, like steroids, have a lot of side effects. But if you need the drug, you just have to keep treating the side effects. This one, as you might imagine, I’m quite unhappy about, but I don’t get a choice.

I’m going to make lemonade, euphemistically speaking. I'm a Bad Poet, a compulsive writer of Bad Poetry, and president of the Bad Poets' Society for 3 years running. So I’ve amused myself writing the anthem for the camp.

Imagine a full moon overhead, shining on gently rolling hills, and the scent of pine trees in the air.

The Girls of Camp Itchy Crotch

The Girls of Camp Itchy Crotch are here to say
We’re honest, brave and true, and so we’ll stay
Though misery loves company, both night and day
Our hitch is just a tube of Monistat away

It’s been fun, it’s been swell,
but I’m glad that I’m now well
Tally Ho, off I go, hope we meet again soon...
in the hills, ‘neath the pines, and the Itchy Crotch moon.

(Okay, it’s awful, I admit it. But it amused me. And you’ll be humming it tomorrow.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Smells Like Teen Angst

Supergirl #4 is going to be 12 soon; the last of the Supergirls to hit adolescence. I shudder in empathy at the very thought. With the single, notable exception of cancer, adolescence was the most excruciating time of my life. Everything I said and did and wore and thought was 100% WRONG. Everything seemed a matter of life and death, and I died a thousand deaths DAILY. It was horrible, more horrible and worse.

You want a f'rinstance?
Here's a beaut. Somehow I was invited to a pool party at Betsy's, one of the Cool Girls. At first I thought it must have been a mistake, but then I realized that Betsy's mom made her invite me because I was in her carpool.

A pool party means wearing a bathing suit, and I was very slow to "develop." In fact, a boy in my class described my figure as "two pennies on a parking lot." (Yeah, couple thousand deaths there.) So I badgered my poor mom into taking me bathing suit shopping, and then I harangued her into buying a suit with little molded cups, because without a little help, I had no shape at all.
Ah, but then I thought...what if, in the midst of all the frolicking that will no doubt take place, someone bumps into me? My little molded cup would just dent inward, there being nothing behind it to support the shape! Anticipated horrors! But's an easy fix: I will just stuff the little molded cups full of kleenex, rendering them undentable. BRILLIANT!

Sort of. There we were in the pool, me and the Cool Kids. I was sure the frolicking would break out at any moment... and... do you know what happens to kleenex when it gets wet? Yes, there on the water, in concentric rings all around me, were little gobby bits of wet kleenex! And before I could even try to begin discreetly collecting it, Betsy shrieked, "WHO PUT KLEENEX IN THE WATER? OHMIGOD, IT'S GOING TO CLOG THE FILTER!"

In my memory, I'm sure all the gobby bits were pointing at me, like one of those overhead shots of Dean Martin's Solid Gold Dancers. I've sort of blacked out whatever happened next; I probably slunk out of the pool, made excuses, and ran home, leaving a soggy little trail. And I'm sure Betsy and the others figured out where the kleenex came from and why, and probably laughed so hard they threw up.

And THAT is a pretty typical experience from my adolescence. The funny thing is, when I tell that story now, I laugh so hard I can hardly get it out; but at the time, oh, lordy, it was an agony so intense and engrossing, I was sure that I would die.

Things like that happened almost daily, and it went on for two years. There just was no relief from adolescent angst. Another time, I tried to sneak an anonymous valentine into one of the textbooks of my Massive Crush, Tony C. Yeah, talk about asking for trouble. Not only was I caught, I was caught by Tony's cool, beautiful girlfriend, Gail, who thought it was hilarious, and made sure everyone in the whole class saw it. And I died ten thousand deaths.
The only reason I didn't try to commit Hari Kari that very night was that naughty, swarthy, bad boy Tony C. came up to me, held my hand (!!!!), and said, "Thanks, that was real sweet." I don't care if he robbed banks, kicked kittens and ate babies; for that sentence alone, he will go to heaven.

So, even though all 4 Supergirls are so much smarter, confident, more poised than I was, I still cringe and wince and want to hold my breath for them the whole time. Supergirl #4 is now finishing her first stint at sleep-away camp, and will begin middle school in the fall. I want her to know that everything that seems so earth-shatteringly important now, really doesn't matter at all. At all! It's just part of the growing-up, trial-by-fire process, and nobody gets to adulthood without going through it. I want her to know that the very incidents that seem so horrifying now are the very ones that, years later over a glass of Cabernet, will seem pants-wettingly hilarious. I promise!

I know SG4 will have plenty of friends, because she is smart and funny and caring. If she just follows her instincts -- if she is kind, and doesn't worry about what anyone else says or does -- she will be just fine. I wish someone had told me that's the way to survive adolescence.

That, and staying away from molded cups.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Road to Diagnosis

"I'm taking a nap."
For more than a year, my only symptom was fatigue. I should have trusted my instincts (yeah, that’s the refrain of this song): even when I exercised, instead of feeling better and getting an energy-endorphin rush, I would become completely exhausted and have to rest/sleep for 10 or 12 hours or more.

In June of 2007, sharp chest pains and breathlessness finally drove me to the doctor for help. When I coughed or sneezed, the pain was blinding. I could not find a comfortable place to sleep. It felt like bone pain, not heart or chest pain. Even though the pain was behind my right breast, so localized I could pinpoint it, my doctor ordered a chest X-ray and CT scan to rule out a heart attack.

She then declared a diagnosis of “pleuresy,” which didn’t sound right to me. And yet, it was impossible to prove (or disprove) and difficult to treat. I was sent home with a prescription for painkillers and a caution that stamina would return very slowly. The chest pains subsided for awhile but the stamina never did return.

In September, I was back at the doctor with the same complaint. The pain was excruciating. When I laid down, I felt like I was laying on a baseball. This time she ordered a bone scan, which revealed a supposedly conclusive diagnosis of “costochondritis.” Huh? Another rather strange, vague diagnosis, and difficult to treat.

I was given strong anti-inflammatories which did absolutely nothing for me. Again, the pain eventually subsided but the stamina never improved.

Over these same 4-5 months, my graphic design business had dwindled down to almost nothing. I'd lost my biggest client, and there was no way I could possibly make myself presentable and knock on doors to hustle another account or two. I was down to one monthly job for one client, and every month I spent another large chunk of my savings just to meet living expenses. And I didn't all... about anything.

In October 2007, I suffered a sudden, crippling back pain that had me dropping to the floor, gasping in pain. I was carrying a box that was large and awkward, but not particularly heavy, maybe 15 lbs. I saw my doctor the next day and she rather testily informed me that, short of repeating expensive tests, there was nothing she could do for me. She sent me home and told me to take Aleve, an over-the-counter pain reliever. At this point, she was losing patience with me, and I think suspected that I was just trying to get prescription narcotics from her.

I took Aleve until I was literally sick from it, without any relief from the pain, and asked for a referral to an orthopedist.
I waited, in agony, nearly a month for that appointment. My parents celebrated an anniversary in that time; I drove the 130 miles to be with them, but every bump in the road was an agony. A couple weeks later, I made the same trip to join the family for Thanksgiving. I was in so much pain the whole time, I look back and can't believe I made that trip twice.

I've had a fair amount of back pain over the years, but nothing on this scale; I don't even have the vocabulary to describe what it felt like. When I finally saw the orthopedist, I told him about the blinding back pain and then said, "now I want to tell you about a couple other things, and you can decide if it's relevant or not." And as I related my two experiences in June and September of stabbing chest pains, I thought that I could “see the wheels turning.” I had finally found a doctor who was (a) listening to me and (b) believing me.

"We know what's wrong."
He ordered a *CT scan which showed "numerous lytic lesions," and then ordered an MRI to confirm what he suspected. In less than a week, I had a conclusive -- and this time, correct -- diagnosis: Multiple Myeloma, a rare blood cancer that attacks bone and bone marrow.

I may be the first person ever to weep with relief at a cancer diagnosis. There really was something wrong with me! And the reason for the back pain: an excruciating compression fracture as a result of weakened bones. You've seen those slow-motion videos of when a building is dynamited and the stories "pancake" down on top of each other? That's a pretty good visual for a compression fracture. I lost an inch in height as a result.

It is so easy, convenient, typical to assume that fatigue is a symptom of depression - especially in women. But in my case, it turns out I wasn't tired because I was depressed, I was depressed because I was tired! And I was especially frustrated that a female doctor did not seem to believe me or take my complaint seriously.

I'm sure the original GP is afraid of a **lawsuit. I have never heard another word from her, though she was my doctor for more than a decade. Not even a "How ya doin?" phone call.

Hindsight blah blah blah, if you feel your doctor isn’t listening and/or doesn’t believe you, DON’T WAIT SIX MONTHS... get another opinion, right away. And change doctors.

*I later found out that the original CT scan from June also showed these bone lesions, but were not noted by the radiologist.

**There's really no such thing as "medical malpractice" in Indiana. I was told this by four attorneys. One confided that they take less than 2% of the "med mal" cases they review; of those few cases, less than 15% ever reach a settlement. The average wait is 4 years, and the average settlement is less than $20,000.
If you're going to get misdiagnosed, or have the wrong limb operated on, make sure you move to another state first.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Miss Chris Throws a Party

The weather cooperated: a lovely evening on Chris' deck and patio. Mary Ann, Molly's godmother.

Kerry, Molly's godfather. Chris (left) with her sister and brother

Susie (right), her husband and nephew helped rake my yard several times last fall. Guaranteed front row seat in heaven.

Even a few neighbors who'd moved away came back for the party.

Gary & Kelly. He's the AV/DVD guru, she's the fairy blogmother. They raise our bell curve. Molly and Gracie also put in an appearance.

The giant illuminated Corona bottle travels from party to party in the 'hood. It just showed up one night. Really.

This is why Chris is the Party Light Lady.