Breast Cancer

I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I had cancer.  Recently.

It was a small spot on the breast that was painful and solid. Everyone said breast cancer isn’t painful. Mine was.

I noticed it in May when we moved into our house in California. I had helped my husband lift a table to move it around and accidentally bumped my boob with a corner. Ouch! I expected it to bruise, but several days later it was more than a bruise. It was a scary sore-like bruise. Black,purple-green-like. I started putting some oils on it and just kept my eye on it.

So it had been bothering me for awhile when I finally made the decision to have it checked out.  Here I had all this amazing insurance with my previous job and now I had nothing unless you want to count Medicare.  Figures.  Armed with the only insurance I had I did try to make appointments with doctors.  I thought it was going to take an act of congress to get an appointment!  Just say you have Medicare and no one wants to see you.  Not knowing how these things work, I called around for supplemental insurance and that too took awhile to take affect and then  you are limited as to who you can see.  Finally, three months later, I got in to see a doctor.

That’s the other thing about these plans, it seems they all require you to see a primary caregiver first before you get referred to the doc you really want or need to see. So I finally get checked out.

At first my doc didn’t think it was anything more than a hematoma, a blood clot type bruise.  My daughter, who is in nursing school saw it and insisted I keep at it, so I did. I get referred to the GYN office who then sent me to radiology and get checked it out from several different angles and then followed by sonograms. Back and forth in one day. Keep in mind, up until now, no one thinks it’s anything, even though my gut says differently.  Finally, later in the day, the doc who evaluates the film calls me to set up a biopsy.  (I think they take their findings to others in their group and confer about the films).   A biopsy was done and it was positive. I wasn’t surprised.

However, I wasn’t upset, worried or anything.  I guess at my age, whatever happens, happens.  Then again, I have a great team on my side who have a higher power on theirs. So I put this information up on FB and made my request. All my friends got to praying real hard on my behalf and they gladly did it and continued checking my posts for updates. I was amazed at how many people rallied for me. Even though I wasn’t frightened, my mind kept racing around thinking of all the things I hadn’t gotten to do yet. (the proverbial bucket list of items everyone probably has)

In December, I had surgery and radiation was then scheduled. Of course, it being over the holidays all that was postponed for after that and after my big trip cross country.

Well, here’s the best part.  The radiation doc said he highly recommended I do the radiation because even though I was cancer free, the cancer they did find were high grade cells, however I was at zero stage. It had not had a chance to break out and invade my body. My question to him was that if I have nothing, then how can you tell what affect radiation on nothing works? You can’t, he says. ” It’s just insurance.” At least he was honest.

Hmmm. I was a dental assistant in my younger days and I had to wear this little gizmo to gauge how many rems my body absorbed giving x-rays and I know there is a small risk in getting these mammograms (they are x-rays which contain radiation) and I just had 7 within a short period of time?  I told him I’d think about it. He was actually okay with that, so he’s waiting for my reply.

Leaving his office, I got into the elevator and a woman wearing head covering joined me. As the door was closing, I noticed how many more patients had shown up and noted the varying stages of cancer. In the meantime, the lady looks at my luscious head of hair and says, “You won’t miss it when it’s gone. You’ll get used to it”.  She smiles. I didn’t know what to say. Then it dawns on her to ask if I was having to do chemo. I shook my head and said, “Radiation”. She looks at me and says, “You’re lucky”.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her I might not even be doing that either.  It was all I could do to get to my car without bawling.

I don’t  exactly know what it was, guilt or gratitude that I was not one of them up in that room or empathy that so many suffer with such a horrible disease. Perhaps a combination of all that. It could very well have been me.

In the meantime,  the next day I had my first appointment with the oncologist.  Okay. Up until now, I’d seen the PC physician, the NP, the radiologist, the sonogram tech, the surgeon, and several other docs and the sweet breast cancer survivor support lady. Everyone as wonderful as can be. Last step is the oncologists to plan the treatments.

As I’m waiting in the room, I hear this child like voice outside talking and wondered if there was a kid out there and why.  A few minutes later, she comes in.  A tiny little thing, no bigger than a minute. She smiles, introduces herself and shakes my hand with tiny cold fingers. She then looks at her screen and in her small voice, immediately addresses my concerns (apparently everyone had logged in all my questions and comments) and says. “It’s optional”. “if you were going to get cancer, yours was the best to get”.  She said most people want to attack it aggressively and want to do it all. I didn’t have to because my cancer was encapsulated in a cyst and had never had a chance to branch out and invade my body.  My lymph glands were clean, nothing was found in them, so I don’t need to do anything. It was up to me.

I told her I had already planned a health regiment to change my eating and exercise habits and she thought that was a good choice. We parted with her saying, “I hope I never see you again in my office.” I wanted to hug her and wish I’d seen her first or at least right after the surgery.

In any case, I’M CANCER FREE!!!! May I live a long and prosperous life.  I could you know. (wink) God is good, all the time.

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Ferguson and The Vet

I took my dog Ferguson to the vet for a dental prophylaxis today .

 

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His vet is in Petsmart and even though he loves going to Petsmart, he doesn’t like going to the vet.

It was quite evident that this little guy knew exactly where he where he was headed because as soon as I set him down in the store he bolted and made his escape through the still open door and out to the parking lot. He was quick and this 4 pound power house drug me after him. I, of course took things in hand, laughing of course, and picked him up. He wasn’t counting on that.

The receptionist said that another patient, a very large German Shepard also came in reluctantly making it halfway through the store before realizing where he was going and sat down, refusing to budge.  However, he was not a picking up size so the owner literally slid him across the floor to the vet.  I guess I had it easy.

When you check in at the desk, the procedure is to have you sign all these releases, the usual people-type forms required for admission. One, was for something to pick up his heart rate should it drop during surgery; then there’s the consult (call) should they find he needs more than the intended work scheduled, in this case possible extractions.

So later when I got the call I wasn’t terribly surprised. I already knew Ferguson had bad teeth because when he first came to us via a tornado that hit Alabama several years ago (at least that’s what we surmised), he had been wandering the streets of town for several weeks eating garbage or whatever he could scavenge.  I remember looking in his mouth and seeing his gum tissue and teeth in various stages of decay. That was three and a half years ago.

When we first found him, he was sitting on our doorstep looking like this… quite pitiful.

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He could have been the poster child for one of those SPCA commercials.  Big eyes, head cocked and patient. It was July and hot, so I put food and water out for him. On the third day, after much coaxing, he let my sister and I get near enough for me to pick him up, so we took him in. I tried not to get too attached as we determined to make a conscientious effort to find his rightful owner. It was apparent he had a pedigree of some kind so we were certain he had somehow gotten separated from his owners. As cute as he was I couldn’t imagine anyone deliberately dumping him.

Well we ran an ad in the paper for two months, took him to the vet to see if he had a chip, went to the various shelters and pounds, put up posters and checked online for displaced animals from the tornado, but nothing. Each day that passed I knew it was going to get harder to give him up even if it was the right thing to do. Finally, when I knew he was going to be mine, we made arrangements for shots and his first dental cleaning. At first it was awful, but they improved and the teeth that were loose recovered as his gums improved.  I would periodically brush his teeth to keep them looking as good as I could.  Still, there are issues.

We tried out various names when we first adopted him or him us.  I called him “Spike” but my sister didn’t like that. I thought it was ironic. Then I went to “little bit” and finally after noticing his gravitation to the gardens of Ferguson’s florist, where he loved to go for his walk, my sister suggested the name Ferguson. We learned a few months later from some of the shop owners on the street, that he had been seen him hiding under the gazebo benches at Ferguson’s for weeks, but that no one had previously been able to get near him. Call it what you will, it was meant to be, his name and me his owner.

Needless to say, the vet called and wanted to recommend a few extractions. Central incisors (maxilla and mandible) and a bicuspid or two on the upper and lower as well. I declined to do it at this time.  He’s not in pain or uncomfortable in the slightest as there were no impacted teeth, just dead ones and it was just a recommendation. Knowing what kind of care would be entailed in keeping them clean and rinsed and all that I opted against the procedure. The biggest reason being that tomorrow we are going on a big road trip.  Two weeks with a miserable pup was not an ideal scenario. Perhaps later.

I’m sure Ferguson is appreciative.  As it is, he has whimpered all night, an effect of the anesthesia. Poor baby.

Ferg claims his spot.
Ferg claims his spot.

The New Year Has Begun…

Today I found myself being very lazy. I actually took a nap this afternoon and slept.

Russ and I had gotten up at the crack of dawn to go yardsaling.  Why isn’t that a proper word?

Why do we yard sale? Two reasons. To find bargains and to make a living.  However, around here, it appears everyone buys to resell. The competition is horrendous. I mean people tag team!!

You see about 25 years ago I had an affair which resulted in this awesome guy I’d had the affair with, to get in bad graces with his boss (my now ex-husband) in this business we all had together.  It was a weird crazy phase I was going through and I’ve come to regret it on numerous occasions, but appreciated it on many more. Hard to explain.

We continued working together in the business for a few years after the affair and my ex remarried this chiropractor and we all got along fine.

My ex father-in-law in the meantime had virtually turned the business over to my son-in-law who is now my ex brother-in-law (another goofy situation) Okay, I suppose I should explain so you don’t think we’re a bunch of perv’s.

What happened is that my first husband and I had divorced. My girls were 12 and 9 years of age.  I eventually married a guy considerably younger and he had an even younger brother who would later fall in love with my older daughter and marry her.

By the time I left his brother, the two brothers had pretty much taken over the business.  Their dad had retired to Las Vegas and left them to manage and run the business.  Prior to that we were all living in California planning a move to Colorado, where my  daughter and her hubby could plan a family away from the hubbub of the big city.  By now they’d been married about 5-6 years, maybe more.

Her husband, I’ll refer to him as “R”, got this great idea that we liquidate the majority of our product. He calculated that we were making 80% of our profit on 20% of our product. Do you see where this is going?  We had an import business and distributed to shops in addition to having our own catalog that those shops could order from. We were very popular because we had it all.

So an executive decision was made and we dropped 80% of our merchandise.  That in of itself didn’t kill us. The chain of events that followed were that in the move, I was sent on ahead to set the business up along with our warehouse manager.  We were alone a good while before the others came along living out of a hotel until our house closed.  But really, that had nothing to do with the business declining.

In the year that followed I shared an office with the warehouse manager and we would talk. A lot. Mostly about religion and sports. Yes, sports.

He was a total opposite of my husband. He was always doing things. Camping, hiking, skiing and just having outdoor fun. I envied his life. I married into a family that hated camping and any outdoor activity.  I never knew that and then guess what? We had boys. WE had TWO boys.  One turned out to be like his dad, somewhat of  a geek, but the other was like his mom, wanting to do things.  My feelings were that a father ought to do and teach his boys things. It didn’t happen. (BTW, my geek, loves to hike and thanked me for dragging him up his first peak. In fact, his comment? “oh mom, it’s beautiful up here)

I talked D (the father and my ex) into taking us camping one time and he insisted we sleep in the van instead of the tent on a hot summer night, because he just knew someone would come along and slit our throats in the night.  ( I know. He has some serious issues here) I told him we needed to leave the door or windows open, so he relented but by morning I awoke to find him sitting there wide eyed with a deathlike grip on a baseball bat staring at the now closed door.

I was angry.  He insisted there was someone out there all night. I argues that it was probably bears, a deer or some other critter. He insisted he saw someone!! We packed up immediately and left. We never camped again.

Next, I wanted to learn to rock climb. Here we were in the fantastic state of Colorado and I couldn’t do anything. He said,  “No, you’re a mother! You have two boys, you can’t be taking risks like that!”  He vetoed everything, except riding my bike. How could he veto that, that was our business?!

Long story short, I ran off with the manager.  Like I said, it was okay at first. Then D ended up divorced from his chiropractor wife and eventually remarried a Filipina he mail ordered and who couldn’t stand the sight of me or the idea of “getting along” with the ex wife.

But back up again, the business was not doing well. I could have told them that but then I wasn’t allowed any input. People like one stop shopping. Heck, Walmart thrives on it!!

Our biggest seller was still doing us good, but then mistake number two.  R decided he would help them establish a manufacturing plant here, so our business sponsored them to come to America and then they dropped us!  The Swiss screwed us over.

So now, our 20% is less than and we had already dropped the 80%, so what do we have to offer? We still had some of their product, but they were now competing against us and our loyal customers were going to companies they could buy more stuff from all in one place, including some of the people were sold to. Eventually, it declined to the point that they had to sell the business.

The new owners bought out other failing competitors and manufacturers and are now doing a thriving business.  My ex stayed on as an employee, while my now husband and I had to find something else to do.

At first Russ supplemented our income with reselling whatever he could find however he could find it in places he could find to sell them in until someone told him about eBay.  (Yikes! That was a mouthful.) Yes, eBay!

So yard sales has done us good for a very long time, in addition to buying closeouts at trade shows and working auctions.  At first, it was far more profitable than it is now.  What was in demand and sold for big bucks 15 years ago, has become commonplace now and as more people get into doing it, the competition keeps taking it’s toll. He is still an eBay top seller, but also does Amazon Prime now.

Today was a good day, but he’s a one man show so, no work, no money.

Me?  Up until we moved, I worked a normal day job. I hated it, but it paid the bills and gave us insurance. Like I said before, Alabama doesn’t have much to offer employment wise, but the job I did get, paid well enough.

Oh yes!  The second reason I like yard sales? I love the hunt for the bargain. I love refinishing furniture, so turning a plain piece into something unique and interesting is enjoyable. I may or may not sell it in the future. Sometimes it sits in our house until another piece comes along and takes it’s place. My style is eclectic and many people admire my distinctive renovations.

I used to also find some amazing jewelry and I don’t buy junk either, even though I will say, I have not found the selection here in Cali that I found in the south. Southern women are inclined to wear more jewelry and less reluctant to part with the their gems, either that or California women are more inclined to go to gold brokers rather that dickering with someone at a yard sale, who wants something for nothing. Can you blame them?

New Years Eve

Can you believe it?  It’s the last day of the year!

This has been a very exciting year to date and we only have a few more hours left in it.  A year ago, I was spending it with my son, Ian and my sister Di.  We didn’t do anything except watch the New Year on TV in NY, then across the country until it hit CA, where my husband was living.

We had bought a house in CA but I stayed behind until the property we had in AL sold. It wasn’t moving any too soon either. In fact, it just closed a couple of weeks ago, after having been on the market since Daddy died three years ago. For us, it was like our work is done here, it’s time to go.

Don’t get me wrong, I love many aspects of AL, but it wasn’t near my family and even though neither is CA, one day is better than two to go see them and the grand kids. It was important to me for the property to sell because I had plans for the money coming out of it.  It would allow me to pay off cards and “retire”.  Additionally I wanted more time to write.

While caring for dad, I realized how much I wanted the time to do that, yet it’s funny, once I had the time, I wasn’t doing a damn thing!! Not how I imagined it anyway.  (Hence this blog.)

The other factor to selling the property was that Diana could get back to Florida to be with her family. I wanted her help and appreciated it very much but I always felt guilty and badly that she gave up her job to come up and help me.  I was so afraid that once in AL, neither of us would ever be able to get out and that we’d be stuck there.

Like I said, I didn’t mind AL in many ways, but it is a very depressed area and it’s hard to make a living there and even more difficult to prosper. Money comes from outside, or it’s old money, like the generational kind and you are definitely not going to “earn” it there. It is a poor state and the things that Diana and I had become accustomed to in both CA, CO and FL are just not available there.  They don’t even have a Starbucks!!!  i know it sounds frivolous, but it’s more than that.

Dining is countless buffets, Chinese, Mexican (or so they claim), your typical chains Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel, Ruby Tuesdays, Appleby’s, & Chili’s (that was it and some of those came in not that long ago) & lots of fried chicken & fish and fast food places. That’s it. No health food stores, organic or fine dining places or healthy anything.  Veggies available at grocery stores are pretty basic stuff. No whole grain breads just rows and rows of white!!! That kind of thing was frustrating. There was one health food store in the state and that was an hour a way.  We loved making trips to Birmingham for it though, but it was not convenient. The arts were in Bham also, so we didn’t do much in that regard, except for a couple of times a year we would go for the art or film festivals.

The other outstanding thing of 2014 is that I got to quit my job in April and I got to move to CA to be with my hubby.

My former boss and friend Robin retired and got to come out and visit. She loved CA!! I had time to go visit my kids and grand kids. That was a plus.

In 2014, I learned I had breast cancer, but I had surgery and the doc states they got it all. Radiation starts in 2015.  I’m ok with that.

In 2014 my son Ryan and his wife announced they were adopting a foster child and that she is pregnant with a girl. They already have a son, Hunter.

It’s been a busy year and we’ve lost some friends and some very talented people, but like everything else it’s a time of renewal and we are survivors.

I submitted and got good feedback from the Austin Film Festival for my screenplay “Baja Run” so that was exciting.  I’m now in the process of rewriting it.

I submitted another short screenplay to Sundance, “Lost & Found” so we’ ll see what comes from that. It’s all good.

NY had their New Year’s already, and now it’s moving our way.

Happy New Year! May it be the best year yet!!