Thursday, February 28, 2013

Just When You Thought You Knew It All

My new best friend Teri at Snarkfest has tagged me in a little game called, "Who The Hell Are You?" I answer 25 allegedly easy questions, tag some fellow bloggers and obligate them to do the same, and the end result is you, dear reader, get to learn still more about me than you ever wanted to know. (You might wonder what's left for me to tell, as spilling the details of my back door surgery and recovery should have been the cherry on the cake of all that I've overshared, but you'll be glad to know I've not run out of material.)

(I TOTALLY stole this from Teri)

1.  Where were you born? St. Luke's Hospital, Kansas City, MO
2.  Were you named after someone?  Actually, yes, after a former 1st grade student of my mom's, whose middle name was Dyanne. My mom had thought the spelling was DARLING and ORIGINAL. I have always hated it.
3.  How many children do you have?  A 17 year old son and a 14 year old daughter. She likes to be mentioned in my blog (in fact, requests that I devote entire posts to her); he does not particularly care for it.
4.  How many pets do you have?  Two cats, Pete and Fletcher. Both blue. Fletcher just wants to lie in your lap and get belly rubs and have a full bowl of kitty kibbles. Pete is 24 pounds of trouble.

5.  Your worst injury? I have had countless very minor injuries, because I do stupid stuff, but the worst one would probably be when I broke my nose at a water slide when I was in college. I hit it so hard on someone else's back that it gave me a concussion.
6.  Do you have a special talent? Besides being able to pick up objects with my toes? Because that's a pretty useful talent. Oh, I have terrific handwriting. Especially my printing.  
7.  Favorite thing to bake? I like to bake cookies, because I like to eat dough. 
8.  Favorite Fast Food? I'm a sucker for a regular ol' McDonald's hamburger.
9.   Would you bungee jump? Only if you threw me off the bridge. 
10.  What is the first thing you notice about people?  Their teeth (is that weird?). And when they start talking? Their grammar.
11.  When was the last time you cried? Two weeks ago, at my friend Larry's memorial service.
12.  Any current worries? I was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year ago - what do YOU think?
13.  Name 3 drinks you drink regularly. Diet Coke, Diet Coke and sweet tea
14.  What’s your favorite book? Well, it sure as hell isn't that stupid "50 Shades Of Grey" trilogy. I love to read, but I'll choose "Onions In The Stew" by Betty MacDonald as my favorite. At least, today. Ask me tomorrow, and I might come up with something else.
15.  Would you like to be a pirate? I'm scared of the water, sooooo, no.
16.  Favorite Smells? itty, bitty babies, new Barbie dolls, diesel exhaust fumes.
17.  Why do you blog? It started as a way to record everything about my diagnosis with breast cancer, so I could organize my jumbled thoughts and record the details so I would never forget them. I've also always hoped that someone, somewhere, facing the same diagnosis would stumble upon it and be helped in some way. Now I probably do it more just because it amuses me.
18. What song do you want played at your funeral? "Till I'm Too Old To Die Young" by Kevin Welch.

19.  What is your least favorite thing about yourself? You might think I'd say something about having breast cancer, but, shallow person that I am, my honest answer is my big feet. Nothing I've been through with the cancer is harder than finding cute shoes in a size 11....
20.  Favorite hobby? Startling the cat and making him jump straight up in the air like an armadillo.
21.  Name something you’ve done, you never thought you would do? Once, I had to pull curling ribbon out of the cat's butt.
22.  What do you look for in a friend? A sense of humor and a positive outlook on life.
23.  Favorite Fun things to do? I like to travel with my family (I'm an awesome tour director. Maybe I should have put that down as one of my talents?). I love to write. I enjoy going out with my girlfriends and laughing until we cry. I love teaching preschoolers.
24.  Pet peeves? Spelling mistakes on menus, signs, etc. GAHHHHHH! Drives me CRAZY.

25.  What’s the last thing that made you laugh? That would have to be when I checked in at the desk at my gynecologist's office today for my appointment, only to be told I was a month too early. After I made the Walk of Shame out of there, I laughed all the way to the car.

Okey dokey, now it's MY turn to tag someone. Eeny, meeny, miney, mo....

A Fly On Our (Chicken Coop) Wall
My Half Assed Life
Dysfunction Junction
Since You Asked....

Tell us who you are! I double-dog dare you....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Time Flies....

I'm coming up on a whole lot of anniversaries. Today, it's the anniversary of the mammogram and diagnostic ultrasound that were ordered because of the "jellybean" in my left breast.


If you don't have an up-close and personal relationship with your boobies, ladies, I suggest you start one NOW.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snow Day!

What I did with the delightful gift of a snow day:

Baked cinnamon rolls:

Made a batch of fudge:

Cooked up some pizza sauce (lots of garlic - yum!):

Made noodles for the chicken and noodles that will be supper:

Mixed pizza dough and let it rise:

And that was all before noon.

What the kids did with a delightful gift of a snow day:

Daughter and friend plus unpictured son watched Netflix allllllll day (when not eating cinnamon rolls, pizza and fudge):

What the cat did:

Business as usual.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Someone That I Could Always Turn To

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight;
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.
-William Wordsworth

Oh, that 80s hair! Both of us!

My heart is broken. Someone who was very dear to me passed away this week. He had been in poor health for the past ten years, but his death is still a shock to me. He was my neighbor when I first graduated from college and moved to Branson and quickly became my protector, my confidante, my adviser, my friend. He never said, "I told you so." And he could have, many times. Many, many times. 

I hadn't been good about keeping in touch with him lately. What a mistake. But he was always bigger than life to me, and I thought he would always be there. How foolish of me! 

I want to fix it, both for his wife and my friend, Sandy, and, selfishly, for me.

Sandy, Larry and me, August 7, 1993

I. Want. Backsies.

This is how I will always remember him.
Rest peacefully, Larry Wilkinson.
I'll try to think before I act, like
you always tried to teach me. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

I Got A Liebster Award And Now I Feel Like I'm All That!

My darling new friend at A Fly On Our (Chicken Coop) Wall (check out her blog - she's smart and funny) has bestowed an honor on me. She has nominated me for the Liebster award, and I will forgive her for turning my mindless ramblings into a homework assignment. 

First, I am supposed to tell you eleven random facts about me.

1. I love to drive. I'd drive anywhere, in anything, at any time. Especially if I can be alone.

2. I weighed 10 pounds when I was born, had club feet and was jaundiced. There are no pictures documenting any of this (thank GOD).

3. I  met my husband on the telephone, through work.

4. I was a master tree climber when I was a kid.

5. I can pick objects up with my toes. Which probably helped me be a master tree climber.

6. Really strong peppermint flavoring makes me sneeze.

7. I always shave my left leg first.

8. I sometimes (okay, often) count on my fingers.

9. The flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz still scare me so much that I have to cover my eyes and watch them through my fingers.

10. I'm really not superstitious, but I figure crossing my fingers never hurts.

11. I look like Gomer Pyle when I wear a baseball cap. As a result, you'll probably never see me in a baseball cap.

And now I have to answer eleven questions (here comes the homework).

1. What inspired you to begin blogging? Less than a year ago, I hardly knew what a blog was. The only one I read belonged to my friend Dawn. Then on March 2, 2012, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. My head was so full of information and emotions that I felt if I didn't record all of them, I would explode. Plus, I didn't want to forget any of it. I thought about just creating a journal, then decided what the hell, I'd make it a blog. I did minimal research and, flying by the seat of my pants (which is not unusual for me), I launched "Backsies Is What There Is Not."  My hope with it has always been that someone, somewhere, going through a breast cancer diagnosis will find it and be helped by it.

2. If you had to watch the same movie over and over for a day, which would it be? Hmmm, probably "Young Frankenstein." I can quote most of it already.

3. Do you prefer living in the city, the country, or somewhere in between? I've never lived in the country. I think I would be scared. I lived in a loft apartment on Music Row in Nashville and loved it, but I think, bottom line, I am more of an in-between person. Suburbia. Suburgatory. Whatever. 

4. If you could choose any profession, meaning you would have the skillset required and money was not a deciding factor, what would you do?  I've always wanted to be a nurse, although my family might tell you that I am not a very good one when they are sick. 

5. How is your driving? Are you aggressive behind the wheel or are you patient and generous? Have you gotten any speeding tickets? I am an excellent driver, because I had an excellent driver's ed behind-the-wheel instructor (shout out to Mike Noland, wherever you are). I'm not aggressive, but I'm not patient, either. I used to drive too fast, but once I had kids, that was over. Never got a speeding ticket, although I was pulled over once when I was in college. I attribute the sundress I was wearing for getting me out of a ticket.

6. What life lesson do you find yourself having to learn over and over again? Don't take everything personally.

7. Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi? No brainer. But it has to be DIET Coke. Give me regular Coke or any Pepsi product, and I would rather go thirsty.

8. Do you have a favorite Bible verse? If so, what is it? "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13  As a mom and preschool teacher, I also like, "Do everything without complaining or arguing."  Philippians 2:14.

9. Which do you prefer - physical books or e-books? I've never read an e-book, but as someone who likes to read in bed and who usually reads until she falls asleep and drops the book on her chest, an e-book just doesn't seem like a good idea. 

10. What one thing do you absolutely not leave home without? Besides the obvious keys/purse/cell phone? Underpants. I always wear underpants. CUTE ones, but I always have them on. Well, unless I'm in a swim suit.

11. What one thing scares you the most? Besides the flying monkeys? That something will happen to one of my children. Don't ask me what, because I don't want to go there.

The next part of this award is to pass it on to some other new bloggers. I have recently made some new blogging friends, but as they have all been doing it longer than I have, or better than I have, or both, they most likely have already received the Liebster Award. I will reserve my right to bestow the award on someone else at a later date. In the meantime, if you're looking for some great reads, check out my reading list under "My Blog List."  And if you don't look at anything else, please check out:

Underachiever's Guide to Being a Domestic Goddess

Since You Asked....
 A Fly On Our (Chicken Coop) Wall 

They have been exceptionally kind to this fledgling blogger, besides being excellent writers of some of my favorite blogs.

Peace out.

Monday, February 4, 2013

To Make A Long Story Short - Nah, It's Just Plain Long

My daughter is always trying to get me to write a blog post about her. Every time she brings it up, I never fail to mention that my blog is actually about ME, and if she wants a blog post about herself, she can start her own blog. But today, her 14th birthday, I will write about her birth.

We had recently moved to Joplin from Los Angeles. I was 38 and pregnant. My medical file had   "A.M.A." written on it in big, red letters (that would be Advanced Maternal Age - isn't that sweet?). I had a three year old, was busy moving into a new house ("Can you lift your end of the couch a little higher?" This said by my husband. To me. Honeymoon phase obviously over.) and  I was TIRED. In spite of my A.M.A., I passed prenatal tests with flying colors until the Alpha-Fetoprotein Screening, a test which assesses the probability of genetic disorders, which came back indicating there was a chance my baby had Down's Syndrome.

I chose to have an amniocentesis (a test done by inserting a needle into the amniotic sac and extracting amniotic fluid, which is then tested for genetic abnormalities), because I wanted to become as prepared as possible if the baby did, indeed, have Down's Syndrome. The test is done at around 20 weeks, which means halfway through the pregnancy, and carries a risk of miscarriage.

My doctor was explaining this to me shortly before the procedure, telling me one in 400 amnios resulted in miscarriage.

"But I've never had a patient have a miscarriage after performing an amnio," said my OB.

"How many have you done?" I asked.

"Around 300," he replied.

"Then we're far enough from 400 that it should be good."

I mean, seriously, if he were on 370, 380, I would have figured his streak was close to being over. 

The amnio was performed without incident (although the ultrasound that is performed simultaneously to allow the doctor to properly insert the needle showed my baby's tiny little fist reaching for that needle. I kept telling him, "Don't poke my kid!"), and the waiting game began.

Apparently, I wasn't a very happy person to be around those two weeks I spent waiting for the results. But the doctor's office finally, FINALLY, called with the good news that everything was fine. No Down's Syndrome. Then I was asked, "Do you want to know the sex of the baby?" 

Hmmm. We DIDN'T want to know with our first child (and it's a good thing we were pretty stupid about ultrasounds, because it was apparently pretty obvious it was a boy). But after the stress of the past few weeks, I decided I didn't want any more surprises (famous last words) and said yes. And at that point, that bulge in my belly became "Emma."

My biscuit oven must be a comfy, cozy place, because neither of my babies were in any hurry to leave it. My son was taken out through a trap door, and for those of you who have actually done it the way you're supposed to, his head was still freely floating. Had not dropped a smidge. My daughter had the same plan to set up housekeeping in my uterus and also was scheduled to leave via the trap door (the SAME trap door, in case you're curious).

I was given a spinal anesthesia for this delivery. All was fine, until a few minutes after my OB started the procedure, and I began to notice a roaring in my ears. I didn't say anything at first, but as it got louder and louder, I thought I had better speak up. I did so by saying, "Is anyone concerned that I have roaring in my ears?" 

I don't remember much after that, although I certainly got the hint that yes, indeedy, the nurse-anesthetist was VERY concerned and summoned the  anesthesiologist. I remember my hands, which were strapped down out to my sides (the same Jesus-on-the-cross position I was later in for my bilateral mastectomy), getting numb, and they put some kind of mask over my face. I remember trying to wiggle my fingers, so I could signal to my husband that I was okay. I remember hearing the words "too high" spoken with reference to my spinal.

At some point, a nurse showed me my baby girl, wrapped up in a blanket, then they whisked her away to the nursery, taking my husband along with her. 

The roaring went away and at some point, the mask was removed. I remember telling my OB I could FEEL him putting me back together, but he swore that he was nowhere near the area in which I felt pain.

Finally, I was in the recovery room, being tended to by a lovely nurse named Michelle (you can read about her here and here), who told me I was having premature ventricular contractions, meaning too-early heartbeats that originate in the ventricles and disrupt the heart's normal rhythm (thank you, An anesthesiologist was called into the recovery room. A cardiologist was consulted. Michelle kept talking to me cheerfully, telling me that it wasn't uncommon to have PVCs. 

One of my delivery room nurses came in to check on me, asking if anyone had brought my baby to me yet.  When she found out that I hadn't seen her, other than the quick glimpse in the delivery room as doctors and nurses swarmed about me after my spinal went too high, she marched off to "get that baby girl" for me. Finally, more than two hours after she was born, I got to see her. The nurse had to help me hold her, because my hands were still a little numb.

She was beautiful.

After about four hours in the recovery room, I was finally taken to my room, where my parents, husband, and three year old son were there to greet us, and everything seemed to be back to normal. But it wasn't. Someone came in the room to hook up a Holter monitor, so my PVCs could be monitored. (If you've ever worn a hospital gown before and wondered why there was a little pocket in the center of the chest, this would be why.) The monitor was about the size of a hand-held video game and had about a half dozen very thin wires that attached to electrodes which were placed on my person in various places. When I would nurse the baby, the monitor would clunk into her. She would clutch the wires in her fingers while she nursed, and I would have to untangle her with one hand while holding her with the other.  The nurses brought in a roll-away bed for my husband, so he could stay with me. Some kind of special iv needle was inserted in the back of my hand "in case they needed it." Sleep did not come easily.

The next morning, the cardiologist ordered an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart. The technician who performed it was very professional and never said a word during the procedure, but we could tell by what she WASN'T saying that something was very wrong. Later that afternoon, the cardiologist, Dr. Craig, came in to give us the results.

They weren't exactly encouraging.

I had peripartum cardiomyopathy, a relatively rare, life-threatening condition characterized by left ventricular dysfunction and symptoms of heart failure that can occur in a previously healthy woman, occuring in the last trimester of pregnancy or up to five months after delivery (Thanks again, The heart becomes weak and can't pump blood efficiently. This causes the heart to enlarge, which then causes the mitral valve to leak. 

It can lead to heart failure.

The statistics were grim. One-third of the patients with peripartum cardiomyopathy get better. One-third get worse. One-third stay the same. It is worse with subsequent pregnancies, so I was not to get pregnant again. I would immediately be put on digoxin, a drug used to treat heart failure and which helps the heart work more efficiently, and a blood pressure medication so the heart wouldn't have to work too hard. I would not be able to breastfeed. If I did not improve, then I would need valve replacement. Or a heart transplant.

These are not words a hormonal woman wants to hear.

My brother and sister-in-law were there when we got the news, and they took on the task of telling my parents for me. The shock of the diagnosis, the possibility of surgery, the possibility of heart failure were impossible to fathom. But telling me I couldn't breastfeed my baby, when there was a very real possibility that I might not live to do anything else with her, had me inconsolable. So much so that the OB on call (naturally it was the weekend) spent hours doing research to find a blood pressure medication that would be compatible with breastfeeding. The downside? I would have to take it every six hours, around the clock, as long as I was still nursing.

I spent the next 24 hours feeling very scared and very sorry for myself. Then I decided it was time to suck it up and be positive.

For the next year, I got up every night at 3 a.m. (even though the baby started sleeping through the night at five weeks old) to take the blood pressure medicine. (To this day, if I happen to look at the clock at 9:00 or 3:00, a.m. or p.m., I jump a little, thinking it's time for my medicine.) I went to the cardiologist every month. Follow up echocardiograms showed my heart slowly returning to a normal size (kind of like the Grinch's heart). It turned out I was one of the lucky one-third who got better, and after three years, I was dismissed by the cardiologist.

I still have PVCs, especially after surgeries, and they continue to trouble my dear recovery room  nurse Michelle. And my oncologist has certainly noticed them. My husband used to take my pulse while I was sleeping, making sure my heart was beating, checking on the frequency of the PVCs. They are not dangerous, in and of themselves. 

I dodged a bullet with the cardiomyopathy. I dodged one with my breast cancer. I'm hoping no more bullets come my way, but if they do, I'll don my Wonder Woman bracelets and deflect those, too.