Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dodged another bullet

Nothing seems to go smoothly for us anymore. Maybe that's not true, but it seems like everything that happens has to be complicated in one way or another.

I called the surgeon for an appointment last Friday, and the person I talked to in his office said she would call both my regular doctor and the imaging center, and get all of the various files and x-rays and have them for the doctor when I came for my appointment yesterday. But when we got there, not only did they not have the x-rays, but no one had requested them. Maybe it was because I hadn't signed a release--she had me sign one when I got there, which she faxed to the imaging center--but if that was the case, they should have known that ahead of time, and they could have faxed it to me and I would have faxed it back.

But whatever, be that as it may, they didn't have them. We talked to the doctor, and he had a file which included the radiologist's report, which must have been sent over from my doctor's office. The report basically said that the mass that they saw "wasn't significantly different" from the one that they had seen before, which begs the question, so why am I here? And the second question, so why has no one been worried about it in the four years since it first appeared?

The answer to the first question was what Bob had predicted: ob-gyns aren't breast cancer specialists, and they get sued a lot for failing to diagnose breast cancer, so if there's any possibility of being wrong, they err on the side of caution and get a second opinion. Which I am totally in favor of, of course.

In answer to my second question, the doctor just shrugged and said it depends on the radiologist, probably, and maybe we just got an especially cautious one. Again, I have no problem with that.

The doctor said there was probably nothing to worry about, that it was probably the same mass that we saw, and had biopsied, in 2001, but of course, without the x-rays, he was just guessing. He said he would wait until he got them, which would probably be the next day (today), he would look at them, and call me. There didn't seem to be anything else that we could do, so we thanked him and left, but then when we got back down to the car, Bob said, "Didn't we hear someone say that he wasn't going to be there tomorrow?" and I realized that he was right.

So once I got in the car, I called back up there and asked, and they said, yes, the doctor was going to be gone tomorrow. I asked when he was going to be back, and he wasn't going to be back until the following Wednesday! So we would be waiting ANOTHER week, and I didn't think I could take that. I asked her if she thought I could go over to the imaging center and pick up my file myself, and bring it back, and she said I could try, and she suggested I call first.

So I called the imaging center, told them that I wanted to come over and pick up my file and bring it back to the doctor's office, and she said, "Right now?" I said yes, that the doctor was leaving the office for a week, and I couldn't wait another week to find out. She asked if I could give her a half hour to get the file together, and I said no, that the doctor's office would be closed by then, so I would really appreciate it if she could get it together in the new few minutes. I waited until I had hung up the phone to yell, "Why the hell would it take her 30 minutes to get my file together?? Why would it take any longer than about two minutes to pull it out of the drawer???!!!"

I called the doctor's office back and said I was going to drive over to the imaging center and hopefully pick up the file and bring it back, but that they had asked for a half hour to get it ready, so I wasn't sure if I'd be successful. The woman in the doctor's office said, "Are you kidding me? They should be getting it ready anyway, to courier it over here!" She told me not to worry, just to get over there, and once I was standing in front of them, they'd get it for me, and she would stay until I got back, and leave the door unlocked.

I guess we had to wait about 15 minutes at the imaging center until the woman from the records department came out with the file. Bob paced out in the courtyard for about ten of those minutes, then came in and stewed, and threatened to explode, and if it had taken another five minutes he probably would have, but fortunately she came out with the file before that happened. I had to show her a photo i.d. and sign a release before she would let me have them, but once they were in my hand, we raced back out to the car and drove back to the doctor's office, where I parked in a no-parking zone, put the car in park, and jumped out of the car with the file, leaving Bob to re-park it.

As I was getting out of the car, he said, "Don't wait for the elevator, take the stairs!" but I didn't. I took the elevator. The receptionist met me at the door, took me back to the doctor's office, and practically before she shut the door, Bob was there. He did take the stairs.

A few minutes later, the doctor came in. He took the x-rays from 2001, and the x-rays from last week, stuck them up in the lightbox, got out his little magnifying/measuring viewer thing (no idea what it was, really), looked at them both, and pronounced them the same--same spot, same size ("about the size of an M&M Peanut" was how he put it) (the mass, not the breast).

He said there was no reason to do anything about it, that they (fibroadenomas, which is what the biopsy showed that it was) do sometimes get larger, but that I don't "have enough estrogen running around in there" to make that happen, and in any event, the biopsy showed that it was benign, so as long as it wasn't causing me any problems, it didn't need to come out.

We were practically giddy with relief when we left, Bob probably more so than me, actually. I think so many times it's harder on other people than it is on the person experiencing the problem--just like it's easier to be an advocate for someone other than yourself, it's harder, sometimes, to worry about someone else than it is to worry about yourself. You really just want to take the worry and pain away from them, but there's no way to do that, so you internalize it, and it seems larger, as a result.

When we left the doctor's office the first time, Bob had said, "Well, we can't go to Joe's Crab Shack, because we don't know it's okay yet. And I was really looking forward to it!" So after we got the all-clear the second time, that's where we headed. We had appetizers and shrimp and crab, and dessert--a huge piece of chocolate cake for him, and an ice cream-and-bananas dessert for me, and I had two of the drink special--something with Strawberry Daquiri and Frozen Margarita swirled together--and as we got up from the table, I handed Bob my keys, because I was in no shape to drive home.

When we got home, I basically passed out. Most of it was the drinks, of course, but some of it was, I'm sure, relief at dodging another bullet.

previous | next

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I like my horoscope for the coming week:

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): It's the beginning of the upside-down and backwards time of year for you, Sagittarius. As long as you cooperate with the unusual flow of fate, you will thrive. Here are some exercises to get you in the proper frame of mind: Picture yourself having the body of the opposite gender. Hold a pen with your non-dominant hand as you write about your taboo fantasies. Gaze at yourself in a mirror that reflects your image from another mirror. Consider the possibility that there's something you really need but you don't know what it is. Make up a dream in which you change into an animal. Compose a prayer in which you ask for something you think you're not supposed to.

~ Freewill Astrology

I'm enjoying having a new car. There wasn't anything wrong with the old one, so it was kind of annoying to have to get rid of it, but it's always fun to have something new. It kind of shakes things up to have something different, with different buttons and knobs and things to learn and figure out.

The CD changer is kind of weird. It's a six-CD changer, but it's in the dash, so you feed the CDs in one by one and there are all kinds of mechanical gyrations going on behind that scenes. Bob said, "That sounds like a recipe for disaster" when I showed him how it works. But I've got a good warranty, so if it breaks down, it shouldn't be a problem getting it fixed.

The moonroof* is nicer than the one in the Escort, too. In the Escort, when I had the moonroof open, if I was driving on the highway, my hair would fly up and get caught in the mechanism, and sometimes pick up grease. Ick. So I tended not to use it unless I was just driving around town. With this one, my hair still flies up, of course, but there isn't anything for it to get caught in. It slides back smoothly . . . okay, as I write that, I'm wondering how it actually works. I think it must slide into a panel inside the car, above the headliner. Hm. In the Escort, it folded up over the top of the car, but not in this one. I guess they figured out a better way. Cool.


previous | next

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Still no news

Actually, that's not totally true -- I did finally hear from someone from the doctor's office. After leaving a plaintive, "Will somebody please call me?" message (you are, of course, never allowed to actually speak to a doctor or even a nurse, but have to leave voice mail messages pleading for someone to call you back), I got a call on Thursday saying that the report was on my doctor's desk, but that he hadn't yet "signed off on it," and until that happened, they couldn't tell me anything.

So I waited the rest of the day Thursday, and no call, but when Bob got home, he called me and said that there was a message on the answering machine for me to call the automated system. The clinic has instituted this automated recording system where, when they need to tell you something, they record it, and then the system calls you and tells you the 800 number to call, and you call it and plug in your Social Security number, and they play you your message. Designed, obviously, to eliminate the possibility of you ever actually having the opportunity to ask a question. Your only recourse is to call back the next day and leave another voice mail message, ad infinitum . . .

Anyway, the message said that the doctor had reviewed the mammogram films and the ultrasound report, and he wanted me to get a second opinion. He apparently thinks it's probably nothing, but since he's not the expert, he wants me to see a surgeon. By then it was too late to call, but I called the surgeon's office (the same one I saw four years ago) Friday morning and, wonder of wonders, was able to actually speak to a human being, a very nice woman who got up and went and looked, and found that they still have my file from last time, and she gave me the first appointment she had available, which was Wednesday afternoon.

So, more waiting. Honestly, I keep thinking it's probably nothing, but then I remember the last time I was sure it was nothing, and ended up having a hysterectomy. I'm sure it's nothing. But, you know, I still worry.

The other thing that's had me stressed out is that the lease on my car is up mid-July, and I'm out of miles. Every mile over 36,000 costs me 15 cents, so while that's not a fortune, of course, it's money that I would rather not spend. And I knew I could turn the car in early, but I didn't know whether they would still make me fulfill the terms of the lease and make the rest of the payments, or how that would work. And I had that dent from when someone ran into me in the Target parking lot.

So I was stressing out about that. And to add to it, even though the lease wasn't up for over two months, the dealership had started calling me every day. Thank goodness they didn't have my cell phone number, but it was bad enough to come home every night to another message. I thought I might as well get it over with, so I didn't even make an appointment, I just drove up there this morning, and it was easy! Almost painless. I bought a brand new Ford Focus, silver, loaded, and my payment only goes up about $10/month.

I had a few things on my list that I wanted to be sure to get--a moonroof, a CD player, power locks and windows . . . I think that was basically it. The deciding factor turned out to be the moonroof (why is it a moonroof now, and not a sunroof, I wonder?). They only had one with a moonroof, and it was the one that had everything. It has leather seats, a six CD-changer, their highest-end upgraded audio system, heated mirrors and seats, remote on-the-column sound system control, antilock brakes . . . every possible option there is, it has.

I still prefer the Escort's body style, it's lower to the ground and more attractive, I think, but I'm pretty happy with this one. It's roomier inside, but it's still a small car. And the salesman really worked to make it work for me. With interest rates so low right now, lease payments would have been higher than buying it, so for the first time in about twenty years, I actually bought a car. It's some weird arrangement, I can't remember what he called it--flex pay? Something like that. The payment goes up $50 after three years (it's a six year term), but I figure I can trade it in in three years, just like I would a lease.

So it all worked out. The only thing I really negotiated was the extended warranty. I turned it down when they first offered it to me, but they came back with an offer that only raised my payment $6/month, and gives me free maintenance (oil changes, tire rotation, etc.) for two years, so I didn't see how I could turn that down. My mom said, "Did Bob go with you?" and I said no, I did it all by myself, and she laughed. I've done it so many times now that it just seems normal, but I can't say that I've ever enjoyed it.

previous | next

Sunday, May 08, 2005

No news

I don't know yet what the results of my test are.

I went Friday for the ultrasound, and it showed that the lump (not that I can feel it, but I guess it is a lump) is a solid mass, not a cyst. I guess a mammogram showed that there's something there, but not the composition of it; an ultrasound can show more clearly what it's made of. Or at least that's how I interpreted it.

I don't actually know how this all works, whether the radiologist who reviewed the mammogram films had my whole file or not, but I mentioned to the ultrasound technician that I had had a biopsy on a lump in my left breast several years ago (I actually said it was about two years ago, but looking back, I can see it was almost exactly four years ago), and I got the impression that she mentioned that to the radiologist when she took him the ultrasound results.

She came back and said that it wasn't a cyst, but that it was probably the same mass that I had last time, since I hadn't actually had it removed. She said "probably" because they didn't have my full file to compare it with--she said my file indicated that the hospital still had my old mammogram films, plus their test results. So they're going to have to get the films and the rest of the file from the hospital, and compare them with the current one and see if they're looking at the same thing. If it is, then it's all well and good and everything's fine, I guess, since I already had that spot biopsied and it was benign.

If not, I don't know, I guess we start over.

I was telling a friend about it after I got back from the doctor on Friday night, and he said, "So basically they just scared you to death, and then left you hanging?" and I guess that's pretty much it. I'm not scared to death, but I suppose I'm a little bit worried. The thing that worries me the most is, if it's the same lump, where has it been for the past four years, you know? I mean, why hasn't anyone remarked on it before? And if they had my earlier films to compare it to, so knew it was nothing to worry about, why don't they have them now?

It's just kind of weird, but probably nothing to worry about. The technician said since it was Friday, probably nothing would happen until Monday. She said they would go over to the hospital and get the file, then call my doctor with the results, so I probably wouldn't know anything until mid-week.

I went out to see my mother today. We had lunch, then she and I went out and dug in the yard while Daddy did dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. I came home with a trunk-full of plants--a big hosta, some Bishop's Weed, a big clump of chives, and several different kinds of ground cover.

I didn't get everything put out, but I did finally pot the geraniums that I bought a couple of weeks ago, put the hosta in a big pot, and cleaned off the back porch a little bit. We have a maple tree, and the patio was covered with those little "windmill" seeds. I tried blowing them off the patio with the hose, but they stick, and since it rained today, we really didn't need a lot more water out there. I guess I'll let them dry and try sweeping them off. I picked up big handfuls of them and put them in a trash bag, but there are still millions of them out there.

I had another one of my multi-anxiety dreams last night. I dreamt that we were on vacation in Florida, and I decided to go walk on the beach, but after I'd been walking only a few minutes, I patted my pocket and realized that I didn't have my keys. Which made me worry that I hadn't locked the hotel door. I thought I'd better go back, and turned around and started walking back up the beach, only to realize that I couldn't remember where I'd parked the car. Or even what kind of car it was, since it was a rental.

At that point I thought, well, I guess I could just go back and walk on the beach some more, but no, I figured I'd better take care of the car/keys thing. As I reach the street, I see that there has been a car accident, and I worry at first that they've run into my rental car, but I finally find it--a cream colored SUV--and somehow, even though I didn't have my keys, I have the car keys, and I drive away.

And then I'm back in Kansas City, and it's snowing, and I can't figure out what highway I'm supposed to get on, and I can't remember how to get back to the hotel, and not only do I not have my keys, but I don't have my purse, either, so I don't have my phone, and can't call Bob.

Man. I just can't get my subconscious to give me a break.

previous | next

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More flowers

Sari Robins liked her new website so much, she sent me flowers:

That doesn't happen very often. In fact, never.

Sharon wrote and asked for a picture of the tulip geraniums that I talked about the other day. They're really unusual and, I thought, really beautiful. The one on the right in the second photo was called an "Apple Blossom" geranium because of the white and pink color. They are all still sitting in my living room in front of the window, because it's still too cold to put them outside. Soon, I hope.

I took the day off yesterday and had a day's worth of medical appointments: my annual ob/gyn checkup, a mammogram, and a new one, a bone scan. I had no idea what to expect from that one, but it turned out to be no big deal, and the technician was kind of a character. Very sunny and upbeat and cheerful; all the nurses at that office are, really. The reception staff is kind of dour, but as a rule everyone is pretty nice.

The nurse who did the bone scan said my bones were in great shape. She said I had "the hips of a teenager," and, in fact, when I looked at the printout she gave me, I saw that my bone density numbers were better than the ones listed as the comparison point. I take calcium every day, and eat a lot of dairy, and do some weight-bearing exercise, all of which she said were obviously doing the job. I asked her if I needed to take more calcium, because I'm taking 1200 mg, and I though you were supposed to be taking 1500 (the pills are so large that I can really only force myself to take two at a time). She said no, that what I was doing was working, and I didn't need to change anything.

After that happy news, though, I got a call this morning from the radiologist's office where I had the mammogram done. They want me to come back in for a sonogram to check something out. The nurse stressed several times that it wasn't anything to worry about, that the radiologist thinks it's probably a cyst, but he just wants to be sure. I'm going in late Friday afternoon for that. And I'm trying not to worry about it.

previous | next

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Last weekend I went to the nursery to pick up some geraniums for the front porch. I found some really beautiful exotic ones, called "Tulip Geraniums." These particular ones are hot pink, with each individual "flower" in the cluster forming sort of a cup , i.e., the "tulip" of the name, I guess. They're really unusual, and after I told my mom about them on the phone, I realized that she would probably like to have one, so I went back yesterday to get another one.

While I was there, I made friends with a cat.

I had picked up the geranium and was heading up to the check-out when I saw a little black and white cat dart under one of the tables. The greenhouse is huge, and I just kind of followed him from table to table, and he eventually ended up in a room in the back where they have various containers and pots for sale. He was pawing at a door that was almost closed, but he couldn't get it open. I didn't know, of course, whether he was supposed to go through the door, so I didn't feel like I could open it for him. I crouched down and talked to him, and got him to come over close enough so I could touch him.

He was a little skittish, but I just stayed down there, talking to him, and after a few minutes he came close enough to be stroked, and I sat down on the floor and he crawled up into my lap and purred. I guess I sat there with him about five minutes, then reluctantly, had to leave. It always feels like such a victory to make friends with a cat. I'm not sure why, but it just feels very special.

I asked the girl at the check-out counter what his name was. "Oreo." Not exactly unique, but I guess it fit him. The other girl on the counter turned around and said, "We have a cat?"

When I had been there the weekend before, I had been amazed at some of the people who were there at the same time. There was a big crowd, and a long line, and while I was waiting, I was listening to a woman complain about the high prices, saying that she had been to another nursery, and "everything" was cheaper, everything was a dollar cheaper. She counted the plants in her basket, saying, "I could have saved, one, two, three, four dollars! Enough to buy another flower!" She said she wasn't going to come back there again until they lowered their prices! And after she left, the man in front of me turned around and said the nursery she was referring to was 20 miles away! "She's going to drive forty miles to save four dollars," he said, shaking his head. Makes sense to me.

There was another woman complaining that she had gotten a plant home, then noticed that it had a broken stem. It was some kind of a small bushy plant--I couldn't tell what kind--but certainly not a tree with a broken branch or anything like that, just a plant. She said she wanted to know whether it had broken off, or whether it had been cut off because the stem was dead, or what, and the clerk was saying she didn't know, but the plant looked fine, it looked healthy. The woman wanted her money back, and they wouldn't give it to her. She said she was just unhappy because it wasn't perfect, and I thought, lady, the plant's going to grow! It's not like it's an inanimate object . . .

And then the people in front of me wanted to know if the peonys they were buying were guaranteed, and I thought, wouldn't it be nice if everything in the world were guaranteed?

I finished three websites this month, and put the third one live this weekend.

Number 1, for Terri Farley:

Number 2, for Melinda Rucker Haynes:

And number 3, for Sari Robins:

All I can say is, "Whew."

previous | next