May 21, 2006

An Effort To Keep You Abreast

I haven’t posted in well over a week now and since my last entry was so lame, I’d like to offer a better excuse this time around.

At the time I composed the May 12th post, it was all true and nothing but true. Things have changed now. The little image I used for that post was very accurate; boy was I miserably sick.

The one I chose this time around is quite accurate too! Enjoy it because it might be the only sign of humor you get out of me in this session. Poor Ren. I wonder what was on his mind when they drew him this way.

For a long time, I went along (as many do) feeling pretty well and taking good health pretty much for granted. Then I decided it was time for a physical. I was poked, prodded, pinched and tested in many ways. Several times throughout this process, I thought to myself “Jeeze, lots of bother and hassle.”

The day after Mother’s Day, I received a phone call telling me that “something” was found in my recent mammogram. (Insert many bad words with many exclamation points)

I was told I’d need another test to confirm or deny any real problems. I had my retest last week and was advised that now, I need a biopsy – to FURTHER confirm or deny any real problems. That won’t happen for another two weeks and I don’t mind telling you that I’m frightened beyond words. I’m a worry wart anyway ~ whose glass is usually half empty ~ so I don’t need this brand of anxiety in my life. It sucks. A bunch.

Now there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that I haven’t had a mammogram in several years and my family is no stranger to cancer. The good news is that eighty percent of all biopsies turn out to be benign AND … they’re not rushing me in to get the test done. There’s no apparent tumor, just some “deposits.”

I am a person who needs to know what I’m faced with. I don’t like surprises – actually, it’s more accurate to say that I don’t HANDLE surprises very well. I’d rather know up front, all the possible outcomes, all the possible trauma that may lie ahead.

I hesitated to write this post until I realized I pretty much had to – I had to put things out on the table and keep my blog alive. I had to get rid of this first, before I could tackle my usual writings. Now that I’m writing it, I’m hoping you won’t find it overly maudlin. I may be a pessimist, but I’m truly not a sympathy whore.

If you read my wordy intro to this blog (top of page), you will see that I did include sharing my fears. How would it be if I couldn’t write about this most delicate situation which is consuming every thought and action in my life at present? Pretty uncharacteristic of a hag, I’d say. In my best NY accent I ask “You see what I’m sayin?” So I’m sharing.

It’s funny how we walk into our homes every day after work or school or a night on the town and we simply take it all for granted. I’m here to tell you that NOTHING, not a single thing, have I taken for granted this past week.

I walked in the door from my test, looked around this marvelous home and said to myself through hot tears, “but I’m just not ready to leave this place – I’m not ready.” I walked upstairs and looked out into the yard and across the lily pads on the pond and cried some more thinking, “uh uh … I do NOT want to leave this place.” I looked at the photos of my daughter and of Ed and I in our living room and thought to myself, “oh crap PLEASE don’t make me leave these people.” I swear, I did all of this – and then thought some more, and cried some more.

I sat at my computer and visited my own blog. I think I cried for five full minutes as I thought to myself, “but I have so much more to say! I’m not finished with all this yet.”

I tell you these things because I really really have to. When my biopsy is finished and the results come back negative – I don’t want these thoughts lost somewhere inside of me. I want to have SAID them, WRITTEN them … I want to have SHARED them so that there’s no mistaking me for a person who has got it all together and doesn’t have life struggles. But, I also want you to know that I’m as prepared for battle as I possibly can be. There will be no real surprises.

I already know that I do not have to lose my breast. I do not have to get my affairs in order and do not have to say any goodbyes. This I was pretty much assured of. (They can’t guarantee anything 100%, but this is the general consensus amongst the medical folks right now so I’ll frigging TAKE it thank you)

I know that I may need to brace myself for a lousy outcome and I might even have to have surgery and treatments – but that would be the worst case scenario. Because I ask a million questions, I get to know these things.

I also know that I may be told “Hey Hag, it’s nothing more than some calcium deposits – go home and relax.” This, of course, would be the best case scenario.

I just can’t stand the waiting. It’s torturous and unfair. No one should be made to wait so long. We assembled thousands of troops and waged a war in less fucking time – but we can’t provide enough hospital staff to perform such definitive tests in less than two weeks? Good Christ is that twisted!

I read a list of things this morning, pertaining to worry. Maybe if I post this list, it can help someone out there as well as this someone right here.

Following this list, I will leave you with a little “worry” cartoon I found online. I thought it was pretty comical and hope you will too. Since our marvelously intricate brains lack the capability to have any two thoughts at precisely the same moment, I’d like to keep mine laughing as often as possible.

Practical Tips for Handling Worry

In his book Worry: Controlling It and Using it Wisely, Edward Hallowell, M.D. offers 50 tips on how to manage worry without medication. Here are just a few of his suggestions:

~ Learn to distinguish good worry from toxic worry. Good worry is a catalyst for planning, action and solutions to problems. Toxic worry is unnecessary, unproductive, paralyzing and self-defeating.

~ Get the facts. Save your worry for real problems. Don’t let misinformation send you into a swirl of worry.

~ Never worry alone. When you share a worry, it almost always diminishes.

~ Get reassurance. Know which people in your life you can depend on to reassure you, and then ask them for help.

~ Ask for advice. No one is an expert on every subject. If you’re in over your head, get input from someone who's more knowledgeable.

~ Add structure to your life where it’s needed. Disorganization is the source of many worries. Structure provides security and enhances self-confidence. (yeah, like this is going to happen)

~ Use discretion with T.V., magazines, and newspapers. They're full of bad news and potential triggers for worry.

~ Exercise at least every other day. It’s one of the best treatments for worry.

~ Pray or meditate. These time-honored practices calm the mind and help put everyday problems into perspective.

~ Get plenty of light every day. It helps improve mood and diminish worry.

~ Touch and be touched. Physical contact nourishes the soul.

~ Use humor. Laugh as much as possible and surround yourself with amusing people.

~ Listen to music. While you’re at it, sing. "It’s hard to worry and sing at the same time."

~ Be careful about alcohol and other drugs. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs (and food, for that matter) are ways to self-medicate anxiety, but they only create more problems in the long run.

(I also wanted to thank you for the lovely comments, Mother’s Day and birthday wishes – I had a wonderful day on the 14th and am looking forward to many more!)

Till next time …

May 12, 2006

Hag-a-tosis ? Perhaps

Sorry for the long delay in posting but I'm under the weather and can't seem to find my way out.

It's nothing too dreadful, mind you; merely a long series of one-damn-fool-thing-after-another.

And so, that is the bad news.

The good news is, this will have been the shortest post I've ever written - you lucky people you!

I did want to wish all the moms, mums, mothers, mommys and ma's out there (and okay, even the mofos) a fine and dandy Mother's Day on Sunday. Enjoy.

May 01, 2006

Hey ... Psssst. Want Some of My Money?

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s being caught off my guard. I’m fairly certain most folks would agree that getting taken for a ride, being made a fool of, getting scammed … no matter what you call it, it’s just no fun.

About three summers ago, my daughter and I were traveling along I-95 coming back from a trip to Staten Island. We both needed to use the facilities, so I pulled into the parking lot of one of the ten thousand McDonald’s/Mobil stations along the highway. We took care of business and while walking back to the car, were approached by a rather frantic looking female.

She spoke quickly but clearly, telling me how embarrassed she was to ask this, but that her car had broken down hours earlier, and that her infant was without formula. She said she waited in the car for a trooper to come by (the car was on the highway) but instead, a kindly tow truck driver stopped and offered to take her and the baby to this rest area so they could at least get milk and use the bathroom. He was willing to tow her car back home, but she was just twenty dollars short of his fee.

“So where’s your car?” I asked without even thinking about all the rest of the crap she just told me. “It’s still on the highway about two miles south of here,” she said. “Oh … well where are you from? Sounds like Boston,” I said, smiling now (not because I especially love Boston, but because I could relate to being far from home, late at night). “Yeah, I knew I shouldn’t have attempted this trip,” she replied, “I’m from just south of Boston … and I’m just frantic to get my baby back home safely in her crib.”

I scanned the area and I could see a tow truck parked about seven or eight cars up from my own. The flashers were off, and I could have sworn I saw a car seat in the cab of the truck. I had no real reason to doubt this woman. She was clean-cut looking, hair neatly braided … she looked weary, but alert. Her clothes were simple and clean and she had money scrunched in her hand. And … my heart went out to her. A young woman (about early 30s) alone and broken down on a highway in a strange town with her baby in the car – at night? Who wouldn’t feel a little badly for her?

I hesitated … then reached into my purse and fumbled around for the last of my cash – which was about eighteen bucks. Good lord, I even asked my daughter if she had any money at all with her … luckily, she did not. Somehow I would have felt even more foolish had I involved my kid in this idiocy.

When I gave her the money, I said “Here, it’s eighteen … I’m sure someone will give you a couple more bucks … good luck.” She took the money and thanked me profusely and then took it up a notch by asking for my address so she could mail the money back to me. I told her not to worry, that it would come back to me someday* in another way, I’m sure. She was persistent though … and ready for this? I GAVE IT TO HER. (great, now she knows where I fucking live)

Oh, but wait … there’s more. You see, when I do something foolish, I don’t mess around. I have to jump in with both feet and scrape the bottom of the pond looking for broken glass!

As if it hadn’t been enough that I forked over the last of my cash to a complete stranger, I got back in my car, opened my purse and rummaged for more; I felt THAT badly for this chick.

I came up with a fresh, crisp twenty dollar bill that was neatly tucked into a zippered section of my purse ~ my emergency loot! I got out of my car … ran up toward the tow truck and as she turned and looked at me (kind of startled, I might add), I proudly waved the bill at her and said, “Here, I just found more money!” She took it, told me how kind I was … God Bless-ed me … and away I went.

I have been made a fool of at other times in my life, for certain, but this took the cake as far as over-thirty, where’s-my-street-smarts, you-oughta-know-better, total retard-jerkass-idiocy is concerned. I hate to mince words in such a way, but it’s true.

So how did I come to know I had been scammed? Because two days later, while watching the local news on television, they reported a “widely-used scam” that was being run at the region’s highway rest stops. Several people … not people like me but the smart kind, had called this into police over the past three or four days. They were suspicious of this woman and the tow truck with NO LETTERING on the side of the truck and simply walked away to report it. Like I should have. But didn’t. Because I’m a sap.

So I’m writing to tell anyone who might gain from this … the old “Don’t judge a book by its cover” thing doesn’t always mean things could be better than they first appear. It also means things could be totally worse.

*I found a hundred dollar bill that following Christmas Eve under the left quarter panel of my truck. I scanned the parking lot of the pharmacy and when no one was around looking like they lost it, I kissed it up to heaven and ran like hell with it. I figure I had it coming to me.

"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm" Colette (French novelist)