Sweet Potato Casserole

I got this recipe from my beloved Aunt Jenny in 1988. Where she got it, I don’t know. It’s a fabulous recipe for those who are tired of the marshmallow-sweet tater combination you usually see. And my father-in-law, who doesn’t care for coconut, even likes it!

Notes in parentheses are mine.


3 c. cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (you can eyeball it based on the size of the fresh sweet potatoes you’ve bought)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk (we use canned evaporated milk)
1/3 c. margarine (we use salted butter)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (get the good stuff; Mexican vanilla is best)
2 eggs, beaten

1 c. flaked coconut
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar (we use light brown sugar)
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. margarine (butter again), melted
1 c. chopped pecans

Combine first six ingredients, mixing well. Spoon into a lightly greased 8″ inch square (9″ x 13″ works better) baking dish.

Combine remaining ingredients; sprinkle over top of the sweet potatoes.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: six servings.

Martha Stewart, you are not invited for Thanksgiving this year

I have absolutely nothing to say to Martha Stewart and she has irked me for the last time. Never mind the fact that I don’t know her, will probably never meet her, and have never spoken to her in the first place, you can be sure I will snub her if given the opportunity.

To be honest, I doubt this will be the last time she irks me. (I love that word–irk, irk, irk. It’s nearly as good as being miffed.)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My house is a mess, dusty, and in dire need of a good vacuuming, my laundry is wet (remind me when we are through here to go put that stuff in the dryer or plan to go naked tomorrow), and my favorite maroon tablecloth is–gasp!–not ironed. I’m pretty sure I know where my cookie sheets are (process of elimination; I’ve looked everywhere else and how do you lose cookie sheets in the first place???). My beloved husband and sister-in-law (who doesn’t even like to cook) have foolishly–foolishly–volunteered to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, but the chic yet cozy decor decisions belong to me.

On top of that, I have not, pitifully, completed making the hand-cut, hand-stamped thank you notes I need to get into the mail like YESTERDAY to my wonderful friends and family who have spent time and energy and thoughts and prayers on me and my well being lately.

Martha set the standard way too high. And so did Rachael, and all the rest. Not only can I not keep up with them, I don’t even know who is on the A-list for celebrity lifestyle coaches. Joanna Gaines, of course. Everybody knows the Queen of Shiplap.

I, alas, am shiplapless. And custom cardless. And cookie sheetless. And I am okay with it.

As we were coming home from another of the myriad doctor’s appointments I’ve had lately, I was lost in thought: If people don’t get thank you notes until after Thanksgiving, can I still go with a fall theme or should I do something snowy, but not necessarily Christmasy, because it’s by gosh a thank you note, not a Christmas card, or should I go with something altogether different and holy crap I’m still a newbie and do I have anything that isn’t red or green on hand to use anyhow? And did I order envelopes? Because if I didn’t, then I probably definitely need to go with something less fall-like since I will have to find my postage stamps, or buy more, after I make sure I have envelopes. Just because I had them three days ago does not mean I can find them today.

Here is what I presume another person in my position would have been thinking: Gosh, I’m glad I’m progressing so nicely after my mastectomy, and so thankful I have some energy and no pain, and it’ll be nice to be at home relaxing here in an hour or so.

What am I doing to myself? When did my obsession with All Things Adorable begin?

To be honest, I’m a late bloomer. Other than the occasional granny square and that whole run-in with homemade soaps and candles a few years back, I pretty much limit my artsy craftsy side to purchasing hundreds of dollars of supplies that will never get used. I’m good at it; I have a discerning eye. But, as I pondered actually cutting paper and inking stamps, I also pondered (co-pondered?) why there is such a craze for DIY Heaven nowadays? Who started all this in the first place?

Martha did. Martha Stewart, the First Lady of the White-on-White House (the subtle use of textures is so elegantly understated when one uses color-on-color.)

But in my quest for a more relaxing, fulfilling life now that I don’t fight traffic on a daily basis to get to work (because of telecommuting, not illness-related) , I have determined that our quirky, quaint Folk Victorian home must be the epitome of Adorable. Dammit, Martha, leave me alone; I’m doing the best that I can.

This year, though, Thanksgiving will be small but heartfelt. My in-laws are visiting the siblings in California this year, so we will be few. No need to break out the Artfully Mismatched dishes and linens. No need to set up a drink-and-dessert station, or set out hors d’oeuvres since dinner won’t be three hours late this year (I hope). This is the year for a pre-cooked turkey, the ever-popular green bean casserole, store-bought pies, and dressing that comes in a box (and I won’t look at the sodium content on the nutrition label). This is the year I will relax and let my beloved husband and his sister feed us and it will be delicious and amazing and even Adorable.

And the tablecloth will be wrinkled.

And the thank you cards may or may not be completed before tomorrow. (Who am I kidding? I’ve already put them up for the day.)

And there will be love.

And thankfulness. Lots of thankfulness.

I’m cancer-free.


Still hangin’ in there

Well, I came home yesterday, Saturday, the day after surgery, both exhilarated and exhausted. I spent Friday afternoon, post-surgery, drunk Facebooking and texting and it was totally awesome. Luckily the meds made me a happy drunk, not a sad or menacing one, and for once in my life I had an appropriate excuse for being a smart aleck. It felt so good that it continued well into Saturday. I even held an informal contest for people to guess how much Lefty Lucy weighed.

Now, before you go judging me for being heartless, understand that Lefty Lucy’s alias could have been Hefty Lucy, because I am somewhat amply endowed. (I guess Righty Tighty’s alias would be Righty Rotundy. I never had to worry about what to call them besides The Girls until just a few months ago.) Between the fact that everyone who knows me knows I have Bodacious Tatas, as a friend dubbed them, my friends also know I’m on a quest to lose some weight. I must say now I don’t recommend a mastectomy as a weight-reduction option, but, hey, you take it where you can get it. So…3.3 pounds. Not what I’d hoped for, but then again if I’m being honest with myself I knew I wouldn’t shave 35-50 pounds off with this surgery. And a 3.3 pound loss in a single day is nothing to sneeze at.

So far the uneven boobelage has been…ah…interesting. I’d been warned to get some front-opening sports bras to wear for the duration, and that I’d be sent home from the hospital wearing a compression bra.

I do most of my clothes shopping online, more so now that I live in a small town with limited resources. Online purveyors of fine support undergarments lump sports bras into a category with leisure bras. This is a bit ridiculous. Sports bras keep The Girls from wandering around unsupervised while you exercise; leisure bras keep The Girls from sliding completely off your chest and filling your armpits when you sleep on your back. Leisure bras are readily available in my size; sports bras, not so much. But I found one I liked–a dashing fuchsia and black that I envisioned had a future of coyly peeking out from under a fashionable, but functional, tank top as I sweat to the oldies at the gym, wiping my brow, and guzzling water. Sexy. Like a commercial. Not like a middle-aged morbidly obese woman, but it’s my vision so let me enjoy it.

Which I did, until the bras arrived and I attempted to try one on.

Now, sports bras are snug. They are, in many ways, nothing more than elastic bandages with cute designs and shoulder straps. They have to be snug around your rib cage so The Girls don’t look like they are bungee jumping while you jog. One, however, has to consider what to do with The Girls while one is actually getting the sports bras fastened around the rib cage. They won’t stay in the bra without it being already fastened–they either ooze out or flop out. They are in the way if they hang outside of the bra while you are trying to fasten it. And they certainly cannot be shoved in as the last step because once you get a sports bra on, it takes on many tourniquet-like qualities, and there is no amount of finesse that’ll get those babies in there.

So back in the package, not for return, but to wait until I can get that sexy tank top to go with them, and I ponder getting a larger size for post-surgery.

After all of this bra-wrestling and anticipation, I was a but surprised to wake up after surgery without the promised compression bra. I thought maybe they’d “assign” it to me before I went home. But I was wrong. As the name indicates, compression bras do just that; they compress. Like sports bras. And my surgical team was unable to contain Righty Tighty as they tried to get the compression bra on me so…no compression bra.

One thing you must know about my surgeons–they are young, attractive, vibrant women with sparks of wit and intelligence in their eyes. These are the kind of people you trust upon meeting them and want to hang out with because you are so certain that their “polite conversation” is going to be interesting. I adore these two women. They are not-however, well-versed in chasing large floppy boobs around and trying to contain them. I will forever carry an imaginary vision of these young, dynamic medical professionals trying to corral Righty Tighty, diligently protect the sutures where Lefty Lucy used to live, and get the dadgum band fastened around my midriff. There is a certain dignity in knowing when to retire gracefully from the struggle. They, thankfully, possess that dignity.

I must say, though, that I can understand the need for a compression bra, so if you are offered one, take it and take it seriously. If I were able to wear one, it would hold up the remaining Girl as well as offer some firm support for my surgical site as we wait for the next step. Truly it will aid not only your healing, but also your comfort and self-esteem. I’m going to go with a leisure bra, I think, and hope for the best. At least Righty won’t be hanging out in my armpit while I sleep.

Say what?

After over a dozen appointments with Medical Professionals over the past two months,  I feel qualified to say that preparing for breast cancer surgery is, at best, confusing and exhausting. At worst it is an absolute nightmare for Type A personalities and people suffering from anxiety disorders. Did I mention I’ve recently started taking Prozac? I can officially say my over has been whelmed.

Here are some of the things I have been told:


  • New primary care physician: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • Breast Imaging Center: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • Oncologist: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • Breast surgeon (same office as Oncologist): Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, because we can’t use the ones you filled out yesterday for the Oncologist (I asked).
  • Plastic surgeon: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications, then create a login for our patient portal.
  • MRI Imaging: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications.
  • Hospital: Please fill out this new patient paperwork including medical history and current medications.


  • Let me tell you what to do and then send you a copy.
  • Let me tell you what to do and then you must download a copy.
  • Do you want a copy of the thing we told you to download?
  • Here is the paperwork for you to fill out that we told you to fill out before you got here. Oh, you’ve already filled it out? Great!


  • Seven days before surgery.
  • Two days before surgery: “If you haven’t stopped taking your supplements yet, please do so now” while reviewing a piece of paper specifically stating the last day I took said supplements.


  • Midnight the night before; nothing the next morning, not even water.
  • 11 p.m., but you can take your Prozac in the morning.
  • Midnight, and we highly recommend you take your Prozac in the morning.


  • Go buy HibiClens and shower in the morning, and the night before as well if you’d like.
  • Go buy HibiClens and shower in the morning; no need to also shower the night before.
  • After we’ve purchased HibiClens: Here is a free bottle of HibiClens and you absolutely must shower both the night before and the morning of surgery.


  • Prescriptions for post-surgery medication: Fill the first four right now (two weeks before surgery and including the one that I won’t need based on the information sheet and the info they provided on how they’d suture the wounds, and also including the prescriptions for non-prescription items), but also take the fifth prescription to the pharmacy so they can special order it because they won’t stock it as it’s expensive and rarely used, then if we decide you need it, fill it. (I hope the pharmacy has a money-back guarantee.) Oh, and we’ll give you your prescription for painkillers while you are in surgery and you’ll need to fill it before you leave the hospital.
  • Somebody will give you one post-surgery bra. Be sure to wear a bra 24 hours a day and change into a clean one daily.

PRE-LYMPH NODE BIOPSY INJECTIONS (rendering Lefty Lucy radioactive until tomorrow mid-morning):

  • It’s gonna hurt really bad.
  • It’s gonna sting a little like the Lidocaine  you got for your biopsy.
  • Some people say it’s the worst pain they’ve ever felt (oh, great!) and some say it didn’t hurt at all.
  • NOTE: For me, it hurt like a BIG DAWG for about two minutes, and then went away.


  • You’ll need to arrive at about 5:30 am.
  • You’ll definitely need to be here by 5:00 am.
  • You’ll need to be here at 5:00 am but as long as you are here by 5:30 am it might be be okay.


  • Don’t raise your arms over shoulder level.
  • Raise your arms until it hurts, then don’t raise them any higher.
  • Do all of the exercises on the sheet we gave you except the ones that require you to reach higher than shoulder level. Do those later. But we’re giving them to you now.


  • Walk 150 minutes a week five days a week.
  • Walk twice daily.
  • Walk four times daily, 5-15 minutes each time.


  • If is imperative that you empty your drains every eight hours around the clock and log it.
  • You must make sure you don’t produce less than 30 cc of drainage every 12 hours when you empty your drains.


  • We will give you one post-surgery bra. Be sure to wear a bra 24 hours a day and change into a clean one daily.
  • Use your pillow. (Turns out it is for my arm to rest on, and I thought it was to put in front of my surgery site to protect it from Brigid the Demon Puppy. I wonder why it had a handle/strap on it.)
  • Get plenty of rest, but each day take  your meds every six hours around the clock except the as-needed meds which you take every four hours and every eight hours, respectively, and do your exercises and remember to walk. But get plenty of rest. (I have 11 daily reminders programmed into my phone right now, plus a calendar reminder for unscheduled daily things, plus two additional reminders for the first three days, plus a reminder three months out.)

And, on a more positive note…


  • I’m sending you to Dr. S. She’s the best.
  • I’m sending  you to Dr. P. She’s the best.
  • Oh, good, you got Dr.  S! She’s amazing.
  • Dr. P’s work is excellent, you are gonna be very happy with the results.
  • Oh wonderful! you are in great hands with Dr. P. and Dr. S. You are going to be fine!

I can’t wait for my surgery tomorrow morning. Being knocked out and on that table for about four hours is going to be the only rest I’m going to get in the foreseeable future.

Cleanliness is next to impossible

One of Chuck’s uncles was in Texas last weekend, visiting Chuck’s dad and stepmother. The really cool thing about this is that it’s his mother’s brother. I love it when a family can stay family even after a divorce.

But I digress. Chucks’ father (also named Chuck; it makes for interesting conversations with my mother-in-law sometimes) and Uncle Allen dropped by on Sunday. Thankfully I suspected that might happen, because I was way behind on housework and needed at least eight hours to get the house presentable enough so that I could say, “Pardon the mess” with an air of confidence.

Presentable, not actually clean.

I am an excellent housekeeper, which is why my house is always at least a bit unkempt. You laugh at this? Let me explain.

When I really truly clean house, I operate under the theory that, if things started out in pristine condition, they can–and should–be restored to that condition. I absolutely despise burnt-on spots on pots and pans, grunge in any cracks and crevices, coffee stains on grout (kitchen counters; I’d have completely different issues if I had coffee stains in the shower). My cleaning supplies include wooden toothpicks and cotton swabs (I’m serious) in addition to three kinds of rags (terry, microfiber, and “floursack”), two mops and a floor brush, and four dusters. I keep my toilet brushes (one for each bathroom) soaking in pine oil cleaner at all times. I have owned as many as three working vacuum cleaners at one time.

With an arsenal like this, even my carpet should be squeaky clean. But one thing–the most important thing–is missing from my arsenal.


It takes a freakin’ HUGE amount of time and energy to clean a 1900 square foot house with toothpicks and cotton swabs. The results are fabulous, of course. Run a toothpick around the seam of that metal rim thingy around your kitchen sink and you’ll see what I mean. (If you don’t have a metal thingy, try the toothpick on the edges around the hinges on your toilet seat.) But after about four hours of this self-abuse, you get to where you start asking yourself if the floors really need to be clean enough to eat off of when you have a perfectly serviceable dining room table (we actually have three, but who’s counting?) so you quit. To be honest, I rarely get in four hours of this but I can go for about two as long as there isn’t something more interesting to do. Two hours = one room. On a good day.

At this point I switch to Plan B cleaning.

Step One: Hide things. For us, this includes empty boxes from online purchases, clean clothes that are folded but still sitting on top of the dryer (usually my underwear),  full trashcans, crochet and crafting projects, receipts (don’t ask), and the potty pads we keep down for the dogs (one is a puppy with an attention span of milliseconds, the other is an old and irascible chihuahua; we need potty pads). This can be fun, since the trashcans and recycling bin both live down a four-foot flight of stairs and across two driveways. Extra steps mean extra seconds. And there is only one closet in the house (in the office) and it doesn’t have a door, so there is no hiding stuff in it. Oh, and as you are picking up unused napkins and taco sauce packets from the coffee table, use the napkins as makeshift dust rags, but only on surfaces where the light might show the fine layer of “memories” (aka dust).

Step Two: Make the floors look like they might be clean. This involves picking up the fiberfill that Brigid (the puppy) has eviscerated from her indestructible (ha!) toys, hitting the high spots of the carpet with the vacuum (hoping the bag isn’t too full), and running a broom or dust mop around the edges of the rooms that have hard surface floors where the whatever-that-stuff-is gathers. Definitely not clean enough to eat off of, but then again, I’m now in panic mode prepping for guests and I doubt I’ll have time to go get anything to offer them to eat, anyhow.

Step Three: Bathrooms. Unless I have an ironclad agreement that states nobody will ask about using the facilities, or opt to hang an Out of Order sign on every bathroom door, I just suck it up and go to town, sans toothpick. I’ve tried using those pre-soaked disinfectant wipes, and they do work, but they also pick up any stray hairs that you might not have gotten on your preliminary  wipe-down. We are a family of two people with glorious manes, two dogs, and two cats. We have stray hairs. In any case, I generally spend more time trying to get the &!@*(^)^ wipes to let go of the )(%#^@!* hair than it would have taken to break out the rags and spray bottle.

Step Four: Empty trashcans. This is actually a part of Step One, but I always forget it. I suspect my in-laws and quite a few of our friends think Chuck is a fanatic about emptying the trash because they usually knock on the door mid-empty. And I’m usually in the bedroom frantically finishing the toilets or else attempting to put on my bra without taking off my shirt (to “save time”) so he has to get the door, trash in hand.

All in all, while I love a clean house, and I am quite capable of having one, it just doesn’t happen. The flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak. Or maybe, in this case, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. So I spit-shine my way through, knowing that, if cleanliness is next to godliness, I took a wrong turn somewhere and am not quite able to get back on the right path. Even for Uncle Allen.

Bye Bye Boobie

And so the adventure begins. We will be kissing one of The Girls goodbye. Wait, maybe I should rephrase that. Chuck can kiss her goodbye, everyone else can just wave.

I met with my breast surgeon yesterday. Chuck came with me; he didn’t go the first time but, frankly, as my husband, I figure he has a vested interest in my boobelage. Not, perhaps, as intimate as my own interest, but still. And the doctor pointed out that he might very well also have an interest in my overall health. Since I can be a handful, I am glad he thinks I’m worth it. Technically I’m two handfuls right now, but after we kiss the Left Girl goodbye (again with the phrasing) I will still be a handful. Anyhow, I’ve decided on a complete mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy (which actually has an official, medically-ish name that starts with onco- but I’m too lazy to look it up). This will not 100% guarantee that I will not need radiation (a two-hour commute plus wait time plus treatment time every weekday for six weeks), but there’s a pretty darn good chance I won’t. That was a consideration. I think the recovery part of the journey is going to be emotionally exhausting and I really don’t want to add that stress unless absolutely necessary. Additionally, without the MRI (for which I was thankfully not chastised) we don’t have as much information on the State of the Lump as we could have. Also additionally, it is large enough and in such a location that a lot of tissue is going to have to come out anyhow. Also additionally as well, I have wondered if adding to what’s left of the left one would be as attractive as starting from scratch. So, for me, a mastectomy is best. Chuck, the doctor, and I agree. We didn’t ask The Girls but they usually don’t have much to say anyhow (except in a push-up bra, when they scream, “Look at us!”).

I met with my plastic surgeon last week. (I swear, it’s like an assembly line; one person does on thing and another does the next. The scheduling is murder, but there is comfort in knowing that every step is being performed by an Expert in the Field.) We discussed options on how to level the playing field, so to speak, after Lefty Lucy (pronounced Lefty Lose-y) is partially or completely out of the picture. She will fill in Lefty Lucy with either body fat (tummy tuck! or an implant) and reduce Righty Tighty (who got her name since she will be all firm and perky again) to match. The good news is that I have plenty of body fat to work with. But that’s also the bad news. Apparently your flap can die. (Medical terminology is a hoot when they use words you know. Like the time I sliced a big chunk of my left pinky off and the doctor said it would “remodel” nicely and look normal when it healed. They were wrong. The color scheme is okay, though.) In any case, they can’t do the DIEP flap (“deep flap”–love it!) until I get my BMI (Body Mass Index) down enough to statistically improve the chances significantly that the removed/relocated tissue will not die. Granted saying goodbye to Lefty Lucy will reduce it by a good chunk, but not enough. There is a LOT of me to love. I have to tear down before I can rebuild; lose some weight to that I am statistically better suited to a successful tummy tuck. Thankfully (oh, so thankfully!) I’ve been on a diet (mostly just portion control as I may or may not have previously mentioned) and already have the mindset to make this thing happen; all I need to do is up my game a bit to make it happen sooner. I have about 35 pounds to go. Once I get there, we will re-evaluate and when everything looks good, I’ll get the DIEP flap tummy tuck to create Lefty Lovely and reduce Righty Tighty (who may end up with a new name at that point). Which means, ugh, two surgeries, but it also means survival, good health, and good body image, so I cannot complain too much. Worst case scenario, they can put in an implant. I’ll go through the waiting, frustration, and indignity of being a One-Boobed Wonder for a while to try to avoid that.

Here’s the game plan: wait for The (Presumably) Nice People at the Hospital to call.

It’s not as worrisome as it sounds; I just wanted to go for dramatic effect. What the (Hopefully) Nice People will do when they call is tell me what time to be at the hospital on November 17 (I already know that much) and how to prepare for it. I may go into detail about what will happen but, remember, everyone’s journey is different, so don’t go by what I write to plan your own journey. You are starting in a different place than I have, so your path will be different, even though the final destination (a great life!) is the same.

November 17 was the day I was going to meet the Renny Gang at Texas Renaissance Festival. Since I knew that wouldn’t happen, it became the day before we finally got to hear Spilled Whiskey play at Roadhouse Paige. I am pretty sure I won’t be up for that, although I will probably be home from visiting the (Quite Likely) Nice People at the Hospital by then.

November 17 is also the Friday before Thanksgiving. We’ve been planning for a year to host Thanksgiving again at our house. We had a blast last year (although I was so out of practice that, even with Superior Assistance by Friends and Family, dinner was about 2 1/2 hours late). Not knowing when Lefty Lucy was going to vacate the premises, we thought maybe if everyone brought side dishes we could wing it, since Chuck prepared the turkey and the ham last year and would do so again this year. But I’m worried that I won’t have the stamina to have visitors for an extended period of time. The flip side of that is that I’ll be horribly disappointed at not seeing folks. No right answer, no wrong answer. We’ll figure something out. What I’m thankful for this year is that we caught the Pink Menace in time to send Lefty Lucy packing and get Right Tightly a new sister.



I’ll give you something to cry about…

I broke on Thursday. I don’t break easily but, like a beautiful and delicate wine glass, when I do break, I shatter into a million tiny pieces. (You KNOW I’m going to bring up wine if I can.)

I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself. That’s not part of this journey. No guilt, nothing like that. It’s just that I was–and still am–completely overwhelmed by the whole situation. There are So Many Things That Must Be Done by So Very Many People in So Many Locations That Are at Least an Hour from Home.

I have to admit I started in a less-than-stellar place. Work has been very stressful lately. There should be a legal limit on the number of times a person feels compelled to say, “Are you freakin’ KIDDING me???” in a single day. But, alas, there is no limit, so Chuck has heard it at least five or six times a day for the past few months. He also hears the occasional colorful language (as my mother used to call it) and a slam so good I wish I had actually said it to the recipient’s face instead of safely out of earshot. He loves those–I see him laughing from across the room.

During an informal departmental phone call on Thursday, I told the newest member of our team about my diagnosis. No, I don’t talk about The Girls with everyone. Even tipsy I limit it to every second or third person. But I felt like he needed to know why I had so many doctor’s appointments. After the call I was fine. I mentioned to Chuck that I’d told Chris and Chuck didn’t realize I was talking to him. This happens a lot; I talk to myself, sometimes under my breath, and there is no possible way he could have known I was talking to him. When he asked me what I’d said, the waterworks started. I wasn’t upset that he hadn’t heard me; it was more like I’d already reached my quota for the day/week/month on how many times I could talk about The Situation and My Health Issues.

You know that release of pressure when a fire hydrant is opened? That was me. They were getting ready to take my picture to put next to the definition of Hot Mess in the dictionary. It was ugly. And, for the record, it’s damn hard to put on makeup when you are crying. There is not enough foundation in the world to cover the redness and, besides, tears make your mascara run. This is the kind of frustration that makes you cry even more when you are already frustrated because you are crying. Ugh.

So, splotchy face and all, off I went to my noon appointment to get an MRI. Got about halfway to Austin and realized something felt wrong. What was wrong was that my appointment wasn’t until 2:30. It was my Friday appointment with the plastic surgeon that was at noon. Bam! More waterworks. I turned around and drove the 30 minutes home, wasting precious Paid Time Off on absolutely nothing. Abso-freakin-lutely NOTHING. Except an opportunity to cry some more and grab some Kleenex to put into my purse for the next trip.

Needless to say, Chuck went with me on the second trip. Thank heavens, because I obviously am going to have to learn my limitations (which are MUCH more limiting than I’d anticipated) and rely on him for support. I like being able to take care of myself; I don’t want to lean on anyone. I have asked Chuck, though, not to help me, but rather to prop me back up if and when I DO fall. He’s agreed. He’s good at that.

So we get to the place for the MRI….no, scratch that. We get to ANOTHER LOCATION three blocks away from where I need to go to get my MRI and I was already running late (surprise!) and have to get back in the car and find the right place. Crying as we go, of course, because apparently my tear ducts needed a good workout. We get there, get checked in, paperwork incomplete, and start the process.

ARA Diagnostics has hired an angel from above in the form of Kyle. Kyle is a gentle, friendly young man who can stick you (insert an IV or draw blood) with literally no pain. (I am using the correct definition of literally here.) Everybody with medical issues needs a Kyle somewhere in the process. This kid calmed me down in about 20 seconds just by saying it would be all right. He has a gift. I guess you could call him a phlebotomist savant or something. Turns out, though, that he was wrong. Very wrong.

(Disclaimer: My situation as described here is not typical AT ALL so don’t let it scare you if you have a breast MRI scheduled.) A breast MRI is done face down with these two openings for The Girls to hang low and, yes, they wobbled to and fro, but I did not tie them in a knot or a bow. You know you were thinking it. Problem is, the support structure you lay on only comes about halfway up your rib cage–right to your diaphragm. You know what happens when you take all the extra weight I carry and lay it on top of something that’s cutting into your diaphragm? You don’t breathe. I was pretty sure I couldn’t take 13 minutes of holding my breath, let alone the intense discomfort. One of the nurses kept telling me to put my arms out and not prop myself up on my elbows but I was pretty sure I was gonna die if I put my full weight down.  So, four tries later, including the wiggling/crawling into place because I was too low on the table, I gave up. It was not going to happen. I so vigorously tried to get where they needed me, I even bent the IV needle. But Kyle’s stick was SO GOOD I didn’t even feel it. I’m telling you, he is awesome.

Thursday started in tears ended in tears. No MRI. They are talking about a sedation MRI and giving me oxygen, but there is not enough Demerol on this green earth to keep me from panicking in that machine. They are going to have to knock me out and roll me onto it and then roll me back off when it’s over. Two days later, and my arms, chest and abs are still sore from trying to lay down and wiggle into place and breathe at the same time. I’m not sure what my breast surgeon is going to say, but I’ve got a call in to her.

At least I’m all cried out. For now.

All I want is to-do but there is a lot of doo-doo to be done first

Yesterday I found out my Invasive Lobular Carcinoma is a mere stage one–yay me! It’s a  “well-mannered” cancer, according to my oncologist (who is thankfully not quite young enough to be my grandson, but almost). I almost feel guilty about having such a polite and unassuming cancer–it’s slow-growing by nature, and my numbers are somewhere between pretty darn good and fabulous. There are lots of numbers and you want some of them high and some of them low and I’m still wrapping my head around it. I am grateful and lucky. I know that on the Richter scale that measures the devastation that cancer can wrought, I’m looking at a mere tremor.

I met with my oncological surgeon today. This is where we start talking about next steps. I thought (or hoped), however, that the next step would be scheduling surgery. I’d already scheduled my after-surgery follow-up with my oncologist. But, no. You have to do the things before you can do the things that have to be done before the thing gets done. Before I can do anything I have other things to do. So it’s do, do, do, and then I can do. It’s doo-doo.

I don’t really mean that, of course. I like it when people put some extra thought into yanking off my body parts. It’s only difficult because I am emotionally prepared NOW and all of the (necessary) delays are very draining. I’ve started cancelling plans (what was to be my first visit to Steampunk November and our gang’s annual visit to Texas Renaissance Festival) and I think I’ll have to cancel more (we were going to host the family Thanksgiving dinner again this year). I’m trying to avoid bringing my life to a screeching halt up ’til the surgery, but I couldn’t wait until the last minute to cancel out on my friends. Cancelling some of the travel, though, freed me up to attend the Merry Marketplace (craft show fundraiser) here in town and hear Spilled Whiskey play at Paige Roadhouse, but now I think those plans will have to be cancelled, as well. But I don’t really know. I definitely won’t try to get a booth at the Merry Marketplace, dangit–just in case. So this is another list of things to do that I can’t do because of the things I have to do. In other words, I cannot do because of the doo-doo that I have to do before I can do the things that are keeping me from doing the things I want to do.

What’s next? Call the plastic surgeon. Get an MRI for an even more detailed look at my breastage. Visit the plastic surgeon. Re-visit the oncological surgeon. (Spell-check doesn’t like oncological but danged if I’m going to try to find another word.) At the moment we’re looking at a lumpectomy and radiation vs. a mastectomy. Either one will be accompanied by a breast reduction on the right boob to more closely match what’s left (or reconstructed) on the left. Considering the fact that I was thinking double mastectomy and complete reconstruction only two days ago, these are not bad options (although the tummy tuck to harvest some fat tissue is possibly off the table). I haven’t had a really in-depth conversation about the perkiness factor yet–I think the plastic surgeon is going to be my go-to for that to-do in the middle of all this doo-doo. The oncological surgeon did give me some hope for a possibly more youthful appearance, though. At my age, I consider youthful-looking boobs to be those of a 30-year old. Not asking for the world, here.

In the meantime, here I sit, pen in hand (or laptop in lap…whatever), waiting for the doo-doo to be wiped out so I can do the thing I have to do before I can do the things I was going to do since I can’t do the things I was going to do that were on my to-do list.

It ain’t courage if you don’t have the option of running away

Last night I was proud to attend the annual fundraiser for our local Breast Cancer Resource Center.

This is where I decided to let some of my local friends know of my diagnosis.

It was emotional; I got hugs, kisses, tears, and one fabulous offer to go get drunk–and I’m pretty damn sure I’ll be taking up that offer. (I would be a lush if I weren’t so lazy.) In any case, I was in a room full of survivors and it was gut-wrenching and tear-jerking. I was inspired and, frankly, a little bit overwhelmed.

Today, I got a call from Dominique, one of the technicians at The Center for St. David’s Breasts (you really need to read my posts in order to understand this one) who was checking up on me. I was flattered and touched. She said she knew when she saw my diagnosis that I’d be strong and able to handle this journey quite well; she even thought I’d be an inspiration to others. Which, of course, motivated me to write this post. 🙂 Maybe my story can help people. It’ll be good for a couple of laughs along the way, in any case.

It doesn’t take courage to fight breast cancer. Courage is when you have the option to run, to hide, to lie your way out of it, to pretend it didn’t happen. I’m not courageous. Given the choice, I will avoid confrontation, pain, and accepting responsibility every time. Every. Single. Time.

What it takes to fight breast cancer is fortitude. My back is against the wall and this is a fight I have to fight. No, that’s wrong. It’s NOT a fight. It’s a journey. It’s a path I must follow. Like Yoda said, “Do or do not; there is no try.” (Yes, I did have to Google it.) And, for me, “do not” is not an option. I’m not finished yet; I’ve barely begun. (I’m 58 and consider myself a late bloomer.) So there is only “do.” And I will. And it will take fortitude and emotional strength and perseverance and sheer will and discipline and, hopefully, grace and dignity. And humor, because I find life to be highly entertaining and amusing most of the time.

But not courage. Never courage. Because I’d really rather not be here and rather not have to take this journey. But I will.






Blessed are they who go around in circles, for they shall be called the Big Wheels

And after this evening’s attempt at riding a bicycle after well over 30 years, a Big Wheel is just about what I need right now. Except I couldn’t even ride it!

If you don’t know me, you don’t know that there is a lot of me to love. A lot.LOT. I refer to myself as a “little dumpling” but I’m only little because I’m short. I’m doughy and I giggle and if I weren’t married I’d be best off if I swiped right on the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

In any case, I’ve been trying to lose weight; not by dieting, but by eating less. Yeah, I am playing mind games with myself. But so far, so good.

So I decided to add some activity to increase my metabolism and burn some calories (160 of those suckers in 1/2 cup of Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate).

So we bought bikes. We didn’t spend a fortune–Chuck got a Mongoose and I got a purple one. Wal-Mart had to order it for me because their online presence said they were Available Only in Stores. And after they ordered it the website said Out of Stock so I might have gotten the last reasonably priced purple bicycle on this green earth. Except the two they had in stock but had been displayed outside and were all rusty. Those don’t count.

My wonderful Chuck put them together. He know how to do that stuff. Apparently it’s an art form, which you start to realize when you look at all those brake and gear cables–kind of like a spider and a puzzle procreated.

“They” always say that you never forget how to ride a bike. I think that’s true; you start off a little shaky but some muscle memory wakes up and remembers the last time the asphalt kicked your butt (or knees, elbows, face) and your body does everything it can to keep you on that bike and propelled forward.

And then comes the moment of truth: you have to pedal.

Unencumbered pedaling isn’t too hard, but when your beer belly is the size of a keg, not a growler, your knees have nowhere to go when your pedal reaches the top of the rotation. You know how your dog looks when it’s trying to scratch a spot it can’t quite reach and it back paw just kind of flails around scratching the air? That was my right foot. And then my left foot when I tried again. And then my right foot again, because sometimes I am a slow learner.

We tried raising my seat (on the theory that it would put my belly a few inches higher) and my butt appreciated it, but my legs couldn’t have cared less. They were totally oblivious to our efforts to accommodate their needs. So after I stood there and boo-hooed like a baby whose butt had recently been kicked by the asphalt, I decided to shelve the bike-riding thing for right now. My ever-patient Chuck, who has been looking forward to riding even more than I have, is going to have to ride without me or wait for a few more pounds. It’s going to be a goal until I can get a little bit less belly. I’m pretty sure sit-ups ain’t gonna happen; toe touches might be a good start. (I can’t see my toes when I stand up, but I know they are down there because I need a pedi right now.)

Because nobody should have to wear Spanx in order to ride a bicycle.

And Big Wheels have a similar knee-to-belly situation going on. So that’s not an option, either.