Sunday, April 29, 2012

Note From A Child Growing Up With Six Siblings

I just discovered what remains of Lindsey's Easter basket hidden in the garage with the above note attached.

In case you can't read it, it says:

Lindsey warning:  DO NOT TOUCH or become an Avox, get your limbs ripped off one by one.  Have a nice day!

A few thoughts on this note, written by my nearly straight A, very bright 6th grade student...

1.  So excited was she to get her message across that she misspelled her own name in her haste.  I was both horrified and amused by this.
2.  An Avox is a reference to the Hunger Games in case you are wondering.  It is a person who has been physically punished by the government for rebelling against it.  If you know Lindsey, you know she is obsessed with the Hunger Games, so this is not as awful as it sounds.
3.  Do you think my kids are just slightly wary of their candy being consumed by their siblings if they don't take drastic measures?  I had no idea things were THIS desperate...
4.  My favorite part?  Have a nice day!  That is soooooo Lindsey.
5.  Think I have some work to do as a mother as far as teaching my kids to respect each other's things and positive messaging in general?  Perhaps.

I don't think I'll go back in the garage for awhile.  I don't want to know what else is hidden in there!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Post-Surgical Report

For those of you following along and wondering how my minor surgery went on Friday, I am happy to report that all went well and, overall, I am feeling much better than I thought I would be at this point.

Since I don't believe I mentioned this ahead of time on my blog (because I have been less than consistent in updating), for those of you confused by this because you've never heard anything about it, I had to have a fairly minor surgery to remove an endometrial polyp that was causing me some trouble.  It was a simple, outpatient procedure that was complicated only by the fact that I am on blood thinners because of the major blood clot I had in my leg last fall and has still not dissipated.  Happily, all went well: I did not bleed excessively and I am recovering nicely.  The mass was biopsied several weeks ago so we already know that it is not cancerous, which is of course what we were most concerned about.

This was my first surgical experience at Cedars-Sinai and it was very pleasant (if this sort of thing can be pleasant).  I continue to be impressed by the staff and facilities I have come across (and I have hit four departments already in my first month, so my sample size is not small) and am very happy to be there.

Nonetheless, the situation is not without irony.  Jay's company was acquired this week by IBM and our health insurance will be changing as of June 1st.  Naturally, it covers UCLA.  If this had happened three months earlier, I would not have had to go through this transition.  But with faith that everything happens for a reason, I am certain I was meant to make the change.  And I am feeling quite lucky to have access to a very good health plan in the new situation, though it will cost us a bit more.

Next up: Regular systemic Herceptin infusion on Tuesday as well as an intrathecal (in the brain) dose.  Routine stuff for me now...can you imagine?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Surprising It Took This Long, Really

Tony hurt his elbow in a trampoline incident on Easter Sunday. A friend of Joey's accidentally landed on his arm causing us all to think it was dislocated. Jay raced off to urgent care, leaving me to slice the lamb (which, if you know me at all, is quite traumatic). X-rays didn't show anything definitive, so they sent him home with a sling and a lecture on trampoline injuries.

I know, I know...trampolines cause more injuries every year than anything else, blah, blah, blah. I don't doubt it's true, I just would like the people who self-righteously proclaim this to live with seven extremely active children for a full 24 hours with no trampoline or swimming pool and see how quickly they get on to place their order.

I knew between football, gymnastics, tree climbing and trampolining that it would only be a matter of time before we had a broken bone, but I am actually delighted that it took this long. Tony is the first official real cast in our family, and, at that, his injury is minor. (Lindsey once had a softball-related broken thumb, but this is the first actual cast.) So, I still consider us blessed in this regard as some of my friends, with active boys in particular, have spent many hours in casting rooms for limbs of all kinds.

At any rate, over the past 10 days, Tony's injury did not get better and he would not take his sling off. He is not one to nurse his injuries or refrain from rough play of any kind, so we knew something was not right. A visit to the pediatrician led to a referral to a pediatric bone specialist (incidentally, the same doctor who handled Natalie's hips) and Tony came home today sporting this fine cast.

The doctor could not clearly see what the injury is, but cited it as a fracture, telling me that the fluid accumulation and soft tissue swelling around the joint indicates at best a bad bruise and more likely a crack in the joint that cannot be seen. She casted it to be on the safe side and he is really happy to have it secure. He was always babying the arm in the sling and already I can see he is using his shoulder more now that the elbow is stabilized. The cast will come off on May 8th and he should be good as new. He, for his part, is delighted to have a PE excuse for a whole month and is busy collecting signatures on the cast.

The first one to sign it was Tony himself, and he wrote, "me". I enjoyed that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Beginnings

I have officially made the switch away from UCLA to Cedars-Sinai. It is definitely different, but I think I am in very good hands and I like my new doctors very much.

When I first learned I had to leave my long-time oncologist who has done such an excellent job keeping me alive and who I trusted literally with my life, I was naturally pretty upset. I waited until the last possible minute to switch, hoping that Blue Shield and UCLA would make up. But they didn't, so I had to make the move.

I was recommended to my new oncologist, Dr. McAndrew, by so many different people and doctors that I have lost count, so I was quite confident that she was the one to see. Same thing for my new radiation oncologist, Dr. Burnison. As a double bonus, the two of them speak on a near-daily basis about their in-common patients and work very well in tandem. They will have plenty to speak about where I am concerned!

The most striking difference between UCLA and Cedars-Sinai is the amenities and service. Private hospital vs. public hospital, I suppose. Both the cancer center (radiation) and my oncologist (systemic treatments like chemo) have valet parking free (or $2, depending) for patients. I paid $11 at UCLA to hike a mile to my treatments (until I got my handicapped placard which then reduced it to $4, but still). This is WAY, WAY better.

Then there is the food and beverage service. As I received my first treatment in the much-larger infusion room of my new oncologist on Monday, a candy-striper-type volunteer walked around with a big basket of snacks of all kinds and offered to bring us juices, coffee, ice water, whatever. She circled back around about every 20 minutes in case we needed refills. I confess, I loved this and enjoyed some cookies and coffee...and chips...and ice water. My last oncologist had the juice and snack basket but you had to help yourself on the way in. Again, this is a great improvement.

The radiation oncologist's office had giant bowls of beautiful fruit on every table in the waiting room and a cappuccino machine with no coins required. Again, I really enjoyed this detail. My last radiation oncologist had saltine crackers in a bowl. Nice if you are nauseous, I guess...

Don't worry, I understand that the quality of the medical care is more important than the perks, but I think I am in equally good hands medically speaking with my new doctors. Both of them are women, so it was a very different experience for me in terms of their questions about details of my life and quality of life. The male doctors I have had are more down to business and all about killing the cancer (which is not a bad thing). But imagine how surprised I was when one of them asked to see pictures of my kids and the other asked questions about where our ancestors were from. They were both very concerned about how I was feeling just as much as how the scans looked and that was very nice. They both also spent an hour or more with my during my first appointment to be sure they understood my long and complicated history. They explained the details, pros and cons of various treatment options in great detail, which I appreciated. I already feel very well taken care of.

My oncologist has some ideas about new things to try to help stop the bone mets in their tracks and keep me in remission. It is nice to have a fresh look at my situation while at the same time difficult to transmit all of my history. There is always good and bad in every situation, but happily this all seems to be mostly good.

While I was getting my treatment a marriage and family counselor came by to see how I was REALLY doing and offered to counsel me, my caregivers or children, all as part of the service of the office. Another very nice touch.

Next week I will be having a bone scan, and an ultrasound to check on the status of my DVT (blood clot). We will decide from there what to do about my spine which is currently the only active cancer we are dealing with.

I feel very, very fortunate to now have and to have had access to the very best care from the beginning of this adventure. (And, now, coffee and cookies to boot!).

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Strange Sensation

While I was driving home today I got a bit warm (yes, I who am always cold), so I took off my hat and put it in my purse. I forgot I wasn't wearing it when I got home and got out of the car. I rarely if ever go outside without a hat.

As I stood there, just outside the car in my driveway, I felt something I haven't felt in nearly a year: I felt the wind blowing through my hair. It felt wonderful!

My "hair" is still pretty pathetic, about a quarter to a half inch long with thin spots and uneven growth. It is nearly all gray in the front and brown in the back. It has been many, MANY years since I have seen my natural hair color (I began graying in my twenties) so I am enjoying this virgin hair, never treated, so very soft.

I polled the kids recently on what I should do about this hair since it won't be long before I can go out without a hat. Should I color it or let it be? I am biased toward letting it be, as I am not embarrassed by my gray hair--I have earned every strand. I did not expect Julia's response: "I am too young to have a mom with gray hair! PLEASE color it!"

I guess I understand that, so I will probably at some point color it. But for now I am enjoying the sensation of this afternoon, of being able to run my fingers through the fuzz, of having something to shampoo, and I don't much care what the color is. I have some hair, and that is a pretty delightful thing.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Totally Upstaged

In the best possible way, though, because it was by my daughter. (Warning...maternal bragging post approaching, not for those easily made queasy).

I was "helping" Lindsey with her math tonight. In reality, I was watching her quickly figure out word problems that left me with my mouth hanging open. I did actually help with one where I could use an algebraic equation to answer, but all the other ones required approaches I could not even guess at.

There was this one problem that I was certain did not have enough information to answer. I won't go into the details of it in case every single person reading this blog can figure out the answer in 10 seconds or less--that kind of upstaging I couldn't enjoy. But I read this problem, realized that there was no way on earth I could ever figure out the answer and was about to tell her so when she asked me to check her work. She explained her answer and I could not believe how clearly she had seen the problem and how quickly she had figured out how to answer it. I didn't think there even WAS an answer, I thought the whole thing was a farce. But when she explained her reasoning to me there was no doubt she was right and it all seemed so incredibly simple.

In fourth grade, Lindsey struggled with math. She set a goal that year that in 5th grade she would make the advanced math class. All summer she asked me to print out math worksheets so she could practice, and darned if she didn't succeed in meeting her goal. She has gotten better and better at math ever since she realized that if she works hard enough she can meet any goal she chooses to set for herself. This is an invaluable life lesson and one that can't be taught except through experience, and I am so happy she has learned this at such an early age.

Oh, and in case you were wondering...I couldn't have figured this problem out even before the brain radiation, so I will not be playing that card tonight. (But I did consider it.)