Sunday, July 26, 2009

Missing Edie

Well, this was not how we planned it, huh, Edie?

Your breast cancer diagnosis came only a few days after mine, and we sat on the sofa at your place laughing because we were cradling our left arms in identical discomfort. You ran out of Lortab - I had some to spare. The deal was that we would pester each other along until we were both well. I'm almost there; you still had a long way to go.

I wasn't totally delusional. I knew your condition was life-threatening. Of course, I knew. But I had dumb ideas about cancer, I guess. My misperception was that you would finish all of the treatments, and then we would see. Maybe you would be cured (the magic word that doctors never really say to cancer patients); and if the cancer recurred, there would be plenty of time to try again. Or plenty of time to say good-bye.

It didn't really occur to me that anything could happen so quickly. How could you be feeling so great last weekend? (I mean, we were CAMPING, for Pete's sake. Drinking gin and tonics, goofing around with your wig collection.) How can it be that you could wake up in the wee hours of Wednesday with an infection and be dead by Friday morning? It's like Patty said: "I still owe her $6 for the lunch she picked up on Tuesday."

I simply can't hold on to the idea that you're gone. I tell myself over and over. Edie's dead. No more Edie. Get it? No more Edie. I try it on with all different wordings and tones of voice. It skids right off my brain. I don't even cry much. I spent Friday lying on my bed, staring at the wall; the weekend staring straight ahead, waiting to understand. I'm sure it will start to sink in soon. I talked to Mark tonight. He says he's in shock. Maybe that is what I'm feeling - shock?

It isn't fair that I got off so easy and you didn't. I get no enjoyment just now from knowing that I'm getting better, 'cause you're not. And I know what you would say if you were here. "Here she goes again! You're doing it, you know. God, you are SO BAD this way! You over-think everything. You just mind-fuck yourself." One of the things I liked best about you was that you were free of that self consciousness that is such a problem for me. What do they think of me? Will I be judged? Will every one approve? You expected acceptance for who you were, with no varnish and no pretence. You spoke your mind without second thoughts. I never had to wonder what was on YOUR mind, that's for sure!

I'm an atheist, you know. It's very sad to be an atheist when someone dies. There is none of the comfort of believing in an afterlife, or a better place, or reincarnation. There is just a...lack. Deals made and dissolved; and big, ugly holes where you are supposed to be.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who Chooses These Books, Anyway?

OK. This has been making the rounds on Facebook, but I thought I'd rather put it on my blog.

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

50 for me. I have to say, though, that the person who compiled this list must have been doing it between tequila shooters. Oh, never mind. The British don't do tequila.

Wanna play? Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

1 Pride and Prejudice -X (A bunch of times. Love it! And you know the movie version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? Pant! Pant!)
2 The Lord of the Rings - x
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - x (This is another one I never get tired of.)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (The whole enchilada, twice!)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - X
6 The Bible -(Wha-? The whole thing?)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - x
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell - X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (I skimmed it to prepare for an exam. I don't think that counts.)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott - x (With my friend Lisa Waltenberry in 7th Grade. We were very sad when Beth died. Do you remember, Lisa?)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy -X
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller -X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - (Oh, c'mon...All of it?)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier -x (Loved it!)
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien - X (Over and over...I have read it aloud to the kids a couple of times, too. I do a great Gollum voice, My Precious.)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk -
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger -
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger - x
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot -
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell -
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens -
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams -
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky -
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck -X (one of the best books ever)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll -X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame -X
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy -X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens -
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis -X
34 Emma - Jane Austen -
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen -
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis - (Not to split hairs, but isn't this one of the Chronicles of Narnia?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - x (I cried all over it.)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres -
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne -X (I love the poetry best)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell - X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - x (But I didn't like it. Sorry.)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving - X (And don't be put off by the STUPID film version that came out a few years ago. The boook is fantastic.)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins -
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery -X (I was a big fan. So is Sara.)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood -
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan -
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel -
52 Dune - Frank Herbert -
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons -
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen -X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth -
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon -X
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley -
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon -
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -X
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck - X (So short. So beautiful.)
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov -
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold - X (Is this meant to be a classic??)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas-(No. But I would like to...)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac - (Tried. Hated it.)
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -X
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding -x (Another classic. One for the ages. Ahem.)
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie -
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville - (Forget it. Life's too short..)
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens - X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker -(Not yet, but I plan to this year.)
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett -X (But "A Little Princess" is better.)
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -
75 Ulysses - James Joyce -(Literature shouldn't hurt)
76 The Inferno – Dante -X (I love all those levels of Hell.)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -(My MIL loves it. I couldn't get into it.)
78 Germinal - Emile Zola -
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -
80 Possession - AS Byatt –X (Incredible! Challenging. Byatt is a genius.)
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - X (God bless us! Ev'ry one!)
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell -
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker - x
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro -
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert -
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White - x (Don't even ask how many times. Still makes me cry.)
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom - X (But, oh barf! What a complete load of tripe.)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton -
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad -
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - x (Well, I didn't like it, though.)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks -
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - x (A bunch of times, and I'm reading it to the kids right now.)
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole -
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute -
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas -
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - x
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo -X (A project, for sure.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Five Good Things Today

1. Pasta salad for supper with cherry tomatoes, green grapes, basil, feta, balsamic vinaigrette.
2. Searching for late peas on my pea vines.
3. Getting the last of my stitches out and being told that I can take Ibuprofen instead of Lortab.
4. Watching Si iron, shirtless. I'll bet most guys don't know it, but that's sexy.
5. Kissing my favorite spot on Sara's damp, salty forehead.

What were five little things that made you happy today? Contribute your list.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Well, small-ish grapefruit. Or large oranges?

Not like Maxi Mounds, here. But this is precisely how I feel. Except I can't raise my arm, yet.

The pain from my surgery is diminishing. I'm a little tired and a little sore, is all. I can't wait to feel well enough to get back to the gym. Maybe next week?

Ever since the mastectomy, I have been checking out everyone else's boobs. The track on which I run at the rec center is elevated, circling the gym and providing a view onto the floor below. For the last several months, they have been holding a Zoomba class down there, so I run laps while the ladies (and an occasional guy) shake their jiggly bits to Latin fusion. From above, I get a view right down the shirt of every woman there, so it's been a smorgasbord of boobs right there under my nose. Literally.

I think to myself, "Honey, you have a great set! I wonder if I'm going to end up with cleavage like that? Actually ANY kind of cleavage would be awesome."

"Those ones are too big.......a little too big.......too small.......Ah-hah! There! There's a set I'd like!"

So, OK. I have my new boobs now, and they are freaking me out. I sort of thought that this would be a fun stage. Mostly, it's just weird. It's a little bit like someone stapled a couple of mangoes to my chest. I can't feel them. When I walk past a mirror, I do a double-take. What the hell!?!? I usually stop and peer at them. You know when you hold a mirror up in front of a cat? Like that. A couple of times, I have tried to open a closet or cupboard, and been puzzled as to why it is stuck. My boobs are in the way, and I can't tell. I back up an inch and open the cupboard.

I am a little bit afraid of them. Dr. Perfect told me that every time I go to the bathroom, I should reach my arms across my chest, grab the outside of each breast and push upward and in a few times. This is to prevent scar tissue. I dread these exercises, because I can feel the new twins with my hands, but they register nothing. I will admit, though, that they are sort of soft and nice. They are warm like the rest of my skin. I will get used to them. Maybe when the feeling comes back to the right side (formerly known as Tater-Tot, but in need of another moniker, now) in a couple more weeks, they will seem less bizarre. Leftie won't have any feeling for a year or two, but I can deal with that if I can feel the other side.

Now, [vigorous rubbing together of hands] this is the part where I emerge from the turmoil of the last several months and get my life back. Before The Knee and The Cancer, I used to have interests, a sense of humor, a social life, a marriage. I have come somewhat unmoored from all these little anchors. For now, I can stop thinking of myself as a cancer patient. I can go back to being who I was. Or I could change some things. I have a new torso, for heaven's sake! Doesn't that mean all things are possible? I guess I'll at least have to get a new running bra. Maybe we'll start there.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cookie Counterindications

I'm actually blogging from my cool, breezy back patio, watching the sunset light up the mountains. The joys of wireless.

I tried to blog a couple of hours ago, but the Lortab felled me. I toppled over like a puppet whose strings had been cut, and hallucinated that mushrooms were growing out of my thighs. Nice.

Lortab is my best friend just now. Overall, I'm recovering incredibly well: the only thing that hurts at all, really, is my left armpit (I know, go figure...), but it's a screamer. Makes me cry real tears. I ended up in the ER yesterday, being checked for a blood clot in my arm. Nope. No clot. The armpit is doing its own special post-surgical thing, and until it decides to stop, I'm hanging out with the Lortab.

What I can't figure out is why sometimes, I can take a tablet-and-a-half and not even get drowsy; but other times, I practically pass out. My theory centers around the kind of cookie I eat with the pill. Lortab should be taken with food, said Dr. Perfect, and it always seems to not be a mealtime when it's time for a dose. Since I have to take it with SOMETHING, cookies are my drug transportation device of choice. After some empirical research, my findings are: with a morsel of Harmon's soft gingersnap, no problem. McVities Digestive Biscuit? Total limpness. Thin Mint? Hallucinations. Please, don't be ridiculous and suggest a healthy alternative. I figure I can indulge in a few cookies. Hey, I'm infirm!

They ARE a little difficult to eat on my back, though, which almost caused me some embarrassment yesterday. I was in Dr. Perfect's office, waiting for his opinion about the screaming armpit and fretting a little, as I always do when I have to be examined a few days after surgery. Not being allowed to bathe or mess with his handiwork, I'm rank, sweaty, covered in black adhesive gunk and smears of Vaseline, sporting cryptic magic marker messages across my torso, etc. Strangely itchy, too from...from the...uh-oh. Seconds before the doctor walked in, I realized the source of the itching, pulled out the elastic of the surgical bra and watched a little avalanche of cookie crumbs cascade into my lap. Sooo glad I found that before he did.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

They Call It "Exchange Day"

Sorry, Sara. I'm going to have to cut these off in a minute. Sara tied these little string bracelets on my wrist when I was still too weak from my mastectomy to even sit up. We're surprised they have lasted this long. I told her, "By the time they drop off, I'll be better!" I'd love to leave them on, but my reconstructive surgery is tomorrow. They are going to take out the horrible tissue expander and put a nice soft silicone thingy in there; then they'll do a couple of things to my other side to even things up.

Of course, this is a good thing... I have become used to the tissue expander, but it is a little alarming to look at. It's this big, perfectly hemispherical thing with a huge honkin' horizontal scar right across it. When we were riding through London, Sara looked up at the soaring dome of St. Paul's Cathedral and said, "This looks familiar. Oh, yeah, Mom - I've seen it on your chest."

Okay, okay. I accept that it has to be done. But geeze. I feel so good just now. This evening after work, I tried to squeeze in as much activity as I could. I made a gorgeous salad with roasted beets, blue cheese and toasted walnuts. I worked out in the garden: picked peas and lettuce (please come over and take some lettuce); put in some cages for my beans to climb. I made a homemade salt scrub (OMG, it was easy! I can't believe I was dishing out money for it before.); painted my toenails purple with sparkles so I have something cheerful to look at in the hospital; called Mom and told her that we'll be visiting Wisconsin in August (yay!); went to the gym and ran four or five miles. I know now that I won't be able to do any of these things again for a while.

That is the advantage of surgery #2. I get it now. This is going to hurt a lot, and it's going to hurt for a long time. I'm determined not to get depressed again.

But likewise, the disadvantage of surgery #2 is that...well...I get it now. I'm reluctant to give up all the things I like to do, even for a few weeks. I don't want to spend more time lying on the hateful sofa. Drains. Lortab. Prune juice. Bandages in the heat of summer. And even worse, the horror of taking the bandages off and looking at my messed up boobs. Being numb, not just on one side, but on both. It sucks! And most people don't understand. They think reconstructive surgery is HAPPY surgery, somehow. [buzzer sound] Not. But I will get well and look back on the whole thing and think, "Well, I don't have St. Paul's Cathedral on my chest anymore."

Simon is also checking and double checking to make sure that my wedding ring stays at home this time. Wish me luck! I'll be back as soon as I am able. Now I'm off to try out my salt scrub in a long shower and sleep in my bed once more before I'm sleeping propped up on the couch again.

PS. To my local friends who know and are concerned about A.: I haven't heard anything since Friday. No calls, no e-mails. His wife was going to try to get me into the unit to see him, but I guess it couldn't happen. But I'm thinking that no news is good news.