25 January 2008

Sandbox Redux

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thirty minutes of intense pedaling on the stationery bike relieved me of all my fury last night. My legs are still tired this morning, but my mind is calm. I emailed a note to Dr. Cristofanilli's scheduler to see if I could manage to work in a trip to the lab next Tuesday (nipple day revisited). I conceded that I might not be able to see Lisa (his nurse practitioner) that day, but we can always discuss the report via telephone. (Usually one sees the doctor/PA/ nurse the same day as the tests.) Though it's highly unlikely that anything unusual will turn up, not checking makes me crazy and scared.

Dr. Sandbox gave me a little lecture about the limits of technology and how, even if there were some early signs of cancer, a blood test might not be subtle and sophisticated enough to spot it this early. True enough. No question about it. It's not "predictive," he pointed out. There is another reason to take a look at what's going on, though. It's important to have a clear idea of whether the level of Tamoxifen is adequate. I'm not as clueless as he seems to believe. Furthermore, if the National Cancer Institute recommends it, shouldn't we do it if only to ease my troubled mind?

Sandbox reminds me of why I used to hate doctors, specifically male doctors. It's the arrogance, the utter lack of interest in the patient's questions and concerns. Yes, you've been to medical school, but so has my ex sister-in-law. Believe me, I'm not that impressed. I, on the other hand, have lived in this body 54 years now. I'd like to live in it another 20 years or so, long enough to take up smoking again. (I've promised myself that, if I make it to 70 or 72 depending on my mood at the moment, I can throw all caution to the wind. Thank you, Frank Sinatra, for the inspiration). Sandbox and all of his ilk should listen more and talk less.

I was momentarily called away from my relentless Sandbox bashing to do a little freelance computer assistance for my friend the Superhighway. What blind faith they have in The Sausage. Fortunately, she had a question I could answer and I even remembered the exact process without fumbling around the way I do most of the time. I always find my way eventually, but I hate making my faithful friends wait while I noodle around endlessly.

I've belabored Sandbox enough, anyway.

It's a cold, gray, rainy start to the weekend. I had to go downstairs a little while ago to fetch my yogurt from the refrigerator. The atrium is always chilly, so Sausage ran upstairs. The wooden stairs creaked mightily as I did my best to sprint. As a matter of fact, it sounded to me like the entire building shook. I'm reminded of the proverbial herd of buffalo. Can I blame this on the boots? Wait. Maybe Sandbox is somehow responsible.

24 January 2008

Dr. Sandbox

Warning: Ggirl is furious. Bad language will be used. If this offends you, move on to another post.

I just got back from seeing Dr. Sandbox. He is now being called by that name because he is one of the most narcissistic people I have ever met. And that's saying a lot. My dad pretty much had the market cornered on that quality.

He entered the examining room and I said, "Hi, Dr. Sandbox. How are you?" I'm a southern girl. I have southern manners. We always ask.

"I'm here," he says.

Oh really. Well I'm fucking fine, too, asshole. I'm thrilled to be here. At least you're getting paid.

He makes me take my clothes off and pokes around on my breasts. It's not like I don't have millions of guys doing that. Seriously. I do not need my oncologist to feel. It is a massive waste of my time and it makes me cold sitting on that stupid table.

"Are we doing blood work today?" I ask.

He launches into a lecture about how blood work doesn't really tell you anything. Again, oh really? Then why does the National Cancer Institute recommend one every six months. Am I at six months? Hell yes.

So we did not do blood work. That scares me. If we're not doing blood work, then I'm wasting my time. Seriously. There is absolutely no reason for me to be there if all he's going to do is poke around on my breasts. Even I do that. An extra pair of hands is NOT NECESSARY.

Then I broach the question, once again of BRCA1 and BRCA2. I noted that the last time I saw him, he thought I should do one. He said that after I mentioned it, though. So.

"If you think I should have the test, then I'll have one. Don't do it because you're humoring me, though. I don't have any vested interest in having one, but if you think that's what I should do, then I'll do it."

Again another lecture that has little bearing on the issue at hand. Finally he said he thought we should pursue it. Okay. So we're doing genetic testing but we are not doing blood work. This makes complete sense to me.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are indicators of whether it's likely breast cancer will develop in the other breast and whether it seems likely ovarian cancer is a risk. Fine. We'll test, but I am NOT having anything cut off. I am not having ovaries removed. I am sick to death of surgery.

On the other hand, I don't want to wake up two years from now and find out I need to do more chemo. (Again, another important reason for BLOOD WORK.) I will not do chemo. I don't care what that means. I WILL NOT DO MORE CHEMO.

So here's tomorrow's agenda. I will call M.D. Anderson and see if I can schedule and appointment with my oncologist's nurse practitioner and see if she will do blood work. Then I will cease the procrastination and find a local oncologist I don't hate.

Dr. Sandbox. What an asshole.

Terrified by O'Henry

It's time for more blood work (I've really started to love the sound of that), so I'm seeing my oncologist today. I can't stand that guy, but what with the rescheduling of the rescheduled scheduled nipple reconstruction, I haven't gotten around to finding a new one. Okay. It was also because I always, always avoid thinking about breast cancer, if at all possible. So I've procrastinated.

Before I was diagnosed, I never procrastinated. It's not a thing that comes naturally to me and it used to make me anxious. In the past two years, I have become a pro. I am a world class procrastinator. Make a hotel reservation in Houston? I wait until the week before the appointment, even if the Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo are imminent. Talk with M.D. Anderson about changing physician notification? I've been "meaning" to do it for about six months now. That, my friends, is an accomplishment. I find I've topped myself. Not locating a palatable oncologist wins me the gold (thanks, Mitt) in the Olympic Procrastination event.

I've been coping with my anxiety by being giddy all day. I've been a source of great amusement to all of the denizens of Crazy Land. They wish I could have Oncology Day every day. Hilarity abounds. We had a birthday celebration today and I was absolutely manic. Not to take credit or anything, but I laughed at everyone's jokes, encouraged their camaraderie and spread love as if it were high grade margarine. It was a remarkably festive event. Oh for the days of Little Miss Sunshine, when I was willing to put in that kind of effort every day.

Yesterday, Crazy Employee and I rescued a couple of puppies from our next door neighbor. Lillian has allowed her two dogs to repopulate the entire neighborhood and she's been doing a mighty fine job of reproducing herself. Luckily, other people rescue her human offspring. The puppies and I had an immediate Love Connection the likes of which even Chuck Woolery would be impressed.

I'd love to share with you why I'm so exhausted. I've started keeping track of my physical fitness work every day. Yesterday, after reviewing all the work I've done in the past three days, it was clear to me why I drag myself out of bed every morning feeling like I've been run over.

I've had a dream two nights in a row. I've just started the new year in high school, have been assigned a homeroom and a locker. I've also been assigned the topic for my senior honors English class thesis. It's O'Henry...I think. I get sick after the first day of school and I'm absent a long time. When I go back, I'm anxious about finding my homeroom again. The worst part is that I can't remember if it's actually O'Henry who's supposed to be the subject of this enormous project. I frantically try to write a paper in an hour that was supposed to take all semester. While I'm writing it, though, I'm thinking, "Why O'Henry? I hate O'Henry. Surely that can't be right." I wake up drenched in sweat.

I may be the only person I've ever known who's found herself terrified by thought of William Sydney Porter.

23 January 2008

Sometime before Christmas, I received a call from a (mildly) injured employee, Pattycakes. Pattycakes and I had some trouble finding a suitable doctor who could see her immediately, but we finally tracked one down. She was treated and, afterwards, sent me a Christmas card telling me how grateful she was for my kindness and compassion on the phone with her that day. Yes, I was touched, but something deep inside me mumbled, "Careful."

A couple of weeks later, I received another call from Pattycakes, asking me to compare our corporate insurance benefits/costs to her current provider, the carpenter's union. She told me she'd been abused as a child and needed to get some psychological counseling. (Sound of alarm bell blaring in my head.) Unfortunately, I told Pattycakes, she has no choice. As a carpenter, she must use the union insurance even though it's exorbitantly costly and offers paltry coverage. Again, that voice deep inside me grumbled, a little louder this time, "Careful!"

Today I received three, count them, three separate injury reports from Pattycakes. She included three separate EOB statements from her health insurance provider and a note asking for my help in resolving payment issues with the hospital/radiology clinic/masseuse. Are the injuries work related? She doesn't know, but she thinks so. Why did she submit the bills to her health insurance provider? Beats me. See? Always, always listen to that little voice.

Needy. Pattycakes is needy and talking to Ggirl can be such a comfort. Ggirl, much like mommy, can make it all better and make you laugh. I believe I have a winner. Pattycakes is my first Problem Child of the new year. Don Quixote was scary; that does not constitute Problem Child status. No, the Problem Child will continue to haunt me for months, pleading with me to intercede on her behalf with our workers' comp provider. Pattycakes the Problem Child will be anxious about being fired (which she will not be), she will continue to have hurties (because they're all kind of nebulous and hard to pin down), she will eventually strain my patience to its limits. She will test my patience because what she really wants is emotional comfort. Unfortunately, that's not my job.

I've had at least one (but generally two or three) Problem Children every year for the past ten years. From time to time, one Problem Child is held over for a couple of years, eventually and invariably becoming Hurt Employee Who Will Make Me Wade Through Tons of Paperwork and Attend Countless Hearings. I don't think Pattycakes will become one of those, but it's anybody's guess at this point. As I previously noted, our hurties are nebulous.

I'm a beacon of hope in a hopeless world. I always have been. The hurt, the needy, the merely inconvenienced flock to me in droves. "Let me tell you my problems," they say, "let me grab you around the neck and squeeze so tightly that you can't breathe. Because I need you. Because you're the only person who can help me. You're the only person who understands me." Sometimes, when I can't stand it anymore, they stomp their feet and demand that I dedicate myself to comforting them. I have made a career of solving unsolvable problems, soothing wounded egos, calming the grumpy and agitated. Excellent job choices on my part.

Now why is it again that I have such resistance to interacting with other humans? I'm sure Pattycakes will be a substantive part of this week's therapy.

Requisite up side? I'm wearing new black suede, high heeled ankle boots. Never underestimate the emotional comfort of new boots.

22 January 2008

My Favorite Contact Sport

Forget basketball. My favorite contact sport this year is politics. I haven't had this much fun in decades.

I watch every debate, irrespective of party. I've visited all of the candidates' websites, searching for those "plans" they like to talk about. The candidates have a much different understanding of that word than I. Basically, they all say that, if elected President, they will wave their little magic fairy wands and make everything all better.

I'm not letting the paucity of action items get in the way of my enjoyment, though.