Monday, February 28, 2005

diving in

I posted at the ThyCa Survivor's Yahoo group today -- that was like diving into this whole (thankfully limited, but still large) world where everyone knows what's like to have thyroid cancer and terms like TSH and Tg are tossed around effortlessly, not to mention LID and WBS and T4, etc etc etc.

I also continued my email correspondence with the Phoenix ThyCa rep, who is just awesome.

I feel as if I have uncovered a huge treasure trove of knowledge... the temptation to swim through it endlessly is very strong, but I'm limiting how much I get involved because I know me, and I can't let myself get obsessed with it.

I spent a good deal of time this evening answering emails about my history and treatment so far. Everyone has been helpful but it is hard going over the old ground again and again. I feel a little worn down by it, but I've also gained some new knowledge and perspective, and that helps a lot.

There are people out there who've been living with Stage IV for years -- sure, it's there, but it's not really causing problems and they can just get on with their lives. Even if I do have an aggressive cancer, the tracking and treatment protocols are the same -- so there isn't anything else I can be doing right now.

At least, that's how it seems, and that's a comfort. I may need more treatment down the line, but for now I'm going to just keep swimming.

Yes, the peewees did watch Finding Nemo today -- I recommend it. It is a nearly perfect movie.

(very) small regrets

A few days ago, a friend posted this brain teaser on a board I frequent. He asked, "Can you figure it out?"

Petals Around the Rose

I am very slow on the uptake on these sorts of things. I tried some simple math tricks, but none of them worked, and I knew better than to try and devise something very complicated. The answer would be simple, I knew -- I just had to leave it alone and come back to it enough times and eventually I'd "see" it.

So now I'm kicking myself, because another friend posted the solution and I allowed myself to read it! What was I thinking? (Well, I was probably thinking that I might as well read this now because it will save me wasting time over this silly thing.)

Now I'll never figure it out, and I'll never know whether or not I could have. Rats!

However, I fully plan to torture my oh-so-smart older brothers with this game, this summer. (cue evil laughter)

... knowing them, they'll all figure it out in 3 rolls or fewer. I will have to shame-facedly admit that I had the answer given to me, but I can plead "cancer treatment recovery" as my excuse. Hopefully they won't mock me too badly.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

much work

Today had an aura of unreality about it, simply because so many things got done.

I first woke up around 7:30AM; DS1 shuffled into our room and announced, "Dad, Mom! I finished my report!" He has been working on a report about Gila monsters. These are exceptionally cool animals, and I'm really glad he picked it for his report topic, because I learned a lot about them, too. He had finished all but the copying-over-neatly part and DH had told him "No computer games or TV on Sunday until it's all done, we don't want you up late doing your copying." So when DS1 woke up at 6:30, he got up and finished his report.

Second grade penmanship is really a trip. Each individual letter is really nicely made, but the spacing between the letters is where DS1 gets a bit tripped up. To look at his report, you'd think it was all one huge word. There are ever-so-slightly bigger spaces between words than within words... it's a skill. He'll develop it eventually. At least his printing is readable once you figure out where the words start and stop! I am sure he will get a good grade, too. He was so happy to be done with it.

After that brief interruption, I drifted back to sleep and didn't resurface until 10:30, and my hands were killing me: I had overslept to the point where I could feel that I needed my meds. I hate that. I finally managed to get out of bed sometime before 11, but it wasn't easy. I figured it was going to be a puttering-around kind of day since there wasn't anything that really had to be done, now that DS1's report was finished -- I had planned on saving my energy for pestering him until he was done! What a relief not to have to do that.

I did spend a little time proof-reading and having him correct some very minor capitalization and spelling mistakes. Then I had him review the instructions one more time, and we made sure we put everything into the report binder in the proper order. He was very pleased with himself. When DH came home from church he (DH) gave a "dramatic reading" of the report which we all enjoyed. The kid can write! Wonder where that came from?

After proofing, I was toodling around on the computer when a minor ruckus erupted outside; the beloved Hover Copter had been lodged unfortunately on the roof. Not the roof of the patio (only about 10 feet high); the roof of the house. The high-ceilinged, two-story house. It must've been at least 25 feet up there. I hauled the 6-foot ladder out of the garage and made a hook out of a wire coat hanger, and taped the hook to the long extension pole we have for changing impossibly high light bulbs. The kids gave me (rather inept, but funny) directions, and eventually we succeeded in getting the thing off the roof. Next time -- there better not be a next time! -- it can stay up there, I told them, even though I would do it all again if I thought it would work. We were lucky in that it had crashed right at the edge of the roof, so I could reach it without having to get out the much-too-heavy-for-me really tall ladder. I was very glad to have resolved the situation before DH came home! I was also exhausted and figured, OK, that's it, my accomplishment for the day!

Nope -- it went something like this:

-- finished working in the ends of the wrap I made for the silent auction next Saturday

-- cleaned off the kitchen island counter

-- filled out and assembled funds for DS1's permission slip for an upcoming field trip, an optional buy-this-thing-for-the-kids (OK, yes, I did), DD's dance recital, and latest school fund-raising donation

-- made bread to have with dinner: when you're going to have leftovers, it helps to have really nice herb bread. Dinner was so quiet! Everyone was busy eating.

-- Wrote up the last set of descriptions for the silent auction program

-- Wrote the March MILC column for LCL Magazine.

I'm realizing now that I didn't leave the house today, but I was so busy it didn't matter. When you don't have to leave, you can get all sorts of stuff done. It was almost like I was a healthy person today. I would've been just like a healthy person today except that the salivaries have really been misbehaving, to the point where I actually took ibuprofen this afternoon just to see if it would help -- it seems to have.

I have a recommendation for an ENT; I think I'll call in the morning to see when/if I could get an appointment. I think it will be good to have one on my roster given all that's happened in my neck. DD noticed my voice was scratchy yesterday afternoon. I can hear it, too. It's very much like the scratchiness I had before my surgery, only that little "burr" was there all the time, and this one isn't. But it's there more often, now. Could it be from scar tissue, or is there something growing in there, stretching out the nerves again? See, this is why I need an ENT.

But today was a very good day, even with sleeping late and all. Days like this give me hope.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

late breaking realization

I've posted before about toxic friendships, people that I've "lost" over the course of my changing life.

I can't pinpoint exactly why this thought popped into my head yesterday, but I finally realized something about the most toxic friendship I ever had. Let me see if I can articulate this in a way that makes sense.

E was my best friend in college, and saw me through my first horrible marriage and through the breakup and then through my next serious affaire and that broken engagement, all the way up through my meeting and marrying DH, and us moving West and me getting pregnant. That's when things went awry, pretty much permanently, because she said to me:

Just because you think you have everything you always wanted doesn't mean you're really happy.

Mmmm, yeah. Being accused of being delusional when, for the first time ever, you're in a great relationship, enjoying your work, and just really loving life, is just not going to endear you to a person, especially a person who has made a habit of cutting you down at every possible opportunity. That's the point at which E and I began to drift apart, and we never reconciled.

So now it's more than eight years later and for whatever reason, I finally figured out why things collapsed so completely between the two of us: I had upset the balance of power, so to speak. All the years that we had been friends, I was the screw-up, the one that was struggling with my grades, the one with the low-paying job, the one with major self-esteem problems. She was self-assured, she was brilliant, she studied for a semester in France... she was the one who had it all together, whereas I was pretty much a basket case socially, romantically, financially -- you name it.

So by the time I meet DH, I'm making as much money as she is plus more because I'm consulting on the side. I own my house, and I've had more marriage proposals in one year than she's ever had, period. Then DH and I get married and move and build our own house and I get pregnant, and at this point even E can't continue to deny reality any more: I really do have my act together, and things are great.

But that can't be right, because I was supposed to be the screw-up! E was the one that was successful and all that jazz. She was the type that relied on pushing those around her down, to raise herself up. (Isn't it funny how you don't realize this while it's happening, but looking back it's so obvious?)

So, E did the only thing she could do to sustain our relationship's status quo: she filed me under delusional, but made the mistake of telling me that.

I think there are a lot of people out there like this. We all love to riff off that "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" commercial, but these people do the opposite: they love us because we're failures in some way, because they feel, by comparison, they look better.

Shortly before E and I fell out, I had the opportunity to go to a Red Sox game with her boyfriend (very uninteresting story as to how that came about, suffice it to say it was all on the up-and-up.) I was left sputtering at one point (about the 4th inning) when he said to me, "You know, I like you a lot more when you're not with E."

It was good that I didn't know what to say, because that made me take the time to think about what he said, and what he could possibly mean by that. It didn't take me long to realize that E brought out the competitive side in me, that we would find ourselves one-upping each other constantly in an effort to be the most witty or smart or something. My immediate reaction was: Ick. I don't want to be that way.

It was such a gift to be told that, under certain circumstances, I was a jerk, but generally I'm a nice person. Kind of like getting smacked up side the head with a really huge bouquet of flowers. The flowers are beautiful, but the smack still hurts. I consoled myself with the realization that it was apparent to E's boyfriend, where the competitiveness came from, that is, not me.

So after that I started watching myself around her, and feeling myself respond to cues she would set up, and buttons of mine she would push -- and I stepped back from that game and stopped playing, because, as I said, Ick.

This is how you realize a friendship is toxic: you don't like how you feel/act around the "friend".

The simple test for whether or not someone is a friend? Do they support you and help you feel good, or do they just suck all the energy out of you to make themselves feel better? Sometimes there's an ebb-and-flow in a friendship, and that's OK, unless or until you sense that the tide has ebbed permanently. After a certain point, it didn't matter that E had been there for me during some of my worst early break-ups; what mattered was that she was never there for me at all by the time we drifted apart -- it had all become about her.

In retrospect, it really cracks me up to realize that I was the screw-up. Nearly nine years later, the only thing I've always wanted that I don't have is my health, and I'm exactly as happy as I think I am.

on tiramisu

How are you supposed to pronounce this, anyway? Tear-a-meee-soo, even stresses on all the syllables? teer-AH-me-soo, stress on the second syllable? That's how I say it.

The most important thing about tiramisu (no matter how you pronounce it) is the balance between the sweetened mascarpone cheese and the espresso-moistened lady fingers (or sponge cake). Too much of either one is a not a good thing, but when in balance, the combination is just divine -- of course retraint must be used when dusting with cocoa powder as well. Tiramisu should not taste like chocolate. It is not a chocolate dessert. The cocoa powder is an accent, not a dominant flavor.

The tiramisu from La Stalla last night was disappointing in that, for all its overly generous portion, it was disproportionate. Way too much marscapone, far too few lady fingers. And the lady fingers that were there were not gently holding their lovely espresso, ready to yeild to the tongue -- no, they had been drenched, leaving me with a puddle of espresso in the bottom of the dish.

The final indignity was over-zealousness with the cocoa powder shaker. An inadvertant inhalation too close to the dessert could lead to a coughing fit; it's hard to clear cocoa powder from your lungs.

So it was a disappointment and I didn't finish it last night, mostly because of how overwhelming the mascarpone was. None of these faults will deter me from polishing the remains of it off today, however!

procrastinator extraordinaire

That would be me.

All sorts of stuff going in the real world that don't compel me to write. I finished knitting up the wrap, just have to work in the ends... but haven't. Just like I hung up the new curtains two weeks ago and haven't fixed them properly yet. I just ... haven't.

I did write up all the descriptions for DS2's school's silent auction program. I haven't written March's column yet. I have at least four ideas but am lacking in "oomph".

The salivary glands act up from time to time, but generally are better. I contacted the head of the local ThyCa Support group and she has been wonderfully informative and encouraging in her emails to me. She has been dealing with this condition for 30-something years. Hearing her story is both comforting and enough to make me feel like such a whiner, that is, even more of a whiner than I usually acknowledge being.

My feet are not bothering me too much, finally. I just hope they heal up properly. I have a very nasty scar on my ankle as testimony to how difficult healing those lower extremities can be.

I have been doing pretty well with getting to bed at a decent hour. Even though I stayed up late writing up the program, I was still in bed about 12:30. Last night I totally blew it and didn't crawl upstairs until well after 2:30. Ack! What is wrong with me? Perhaps I was influenced by the humongous margerita I had at Rockfish with dinner (coconut shrimp with insanely good wasabi dipping sauce, crab cakes). Or maybe the tiramisa from La Stalla just put me over the edge? I have no idea. I caught up on all my TiVo'd shows (Monk, Clean Sweep, What Not To Wear [a total waste, it was a guy, just ff'd through the entire thing], DeGrassi, and RFR -- aside: other than 24 and In a Fix, that's pretty much it for my "regular" television) and then flicked on the Guide... what's this? Married to the Mob!

For some reason eighties movies fascinate me. The clothes and hair are so outrageously ugly, but I can remember thinking how stylish and cool they were at the time. I like Michelle Pfeifer as an actress, and I think she had great chemistry with Matthew Modine. Whatever happened to him? I guess he has been busy making forgettable movies.

Anyway, I stayed up to watch it for no good reason, thinking, When I'm dying, I certainly won't be thinking, "Oh, I'm so glad I watched Married to the Mob one last time.".

Fortunately I do have some reasonable instincts on occasion -- DH and I both decided there isn't another movie currently in the theaters that were willing to make a dash for after dinner, and so we just came home. In retrospect it probably would've been better to stay out!

Thursday, February 24, 2005


As in, today went by in a...

Rheumatologist is sending me for an MRI after all, just waiting on the insurance company's OK on that. She seconds the ENT recommendation. She also thinks I should have an oncologist to manage the whole cancer thing. I dunno about that.

GYN confirms there's nothing wrong with my "girl parts." (Hee!) Suggests if it keeps bothering me that I take it up with my gastroenterologist. The g/e is cute and funny, but he (by nature of his specialty) always orders nasty invasive tests, so I avoid him unless I have no choice. He did dx my bad gallbladder. I have to give him credit for that, I suppose!

After the GYN, went to Staples and exchanged the laser printer cartridge for the right one. Then picked up DS2. Came home and had lunch. Went to Hi-Health for EFAs, then to Trader Joe's.

Hey, guess what? The garage door opener is well and truly broken now... they'll come fix it tomorrow, I don't know what time, yet.

Slept for about an hour or so this afternoon, that was necessary.

My feet were really bothering me last night so I ended up taking Ambien and wow, what a difference! I really felt good when I woke up, but I still had trouble getting out of bed... Today the feet are a little tender (to be expected) but generally OK. I'm surprised they don't hurt more. The constant dosage of ibuprofen is probably helping...

Spent 3+ hours writing up the program for DS2's school's silent auction fund raiser. Once I got into the groove it went well... at least I think it did. There is surprisingly little I would choose to bid on. Oh, and the wrap I am making to donate is just about finished -- that's the other thing I did today: knit.

Tomorrow should be easier, I think? Just the garage door opener people, and a quick trip to the bank to sign some paperwork, nothing major. I hope it stays that way!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

well, that was stupid

I had the dermatologist take the biopsies today from my feet, so I'm in serious pain right now. If you've never had any kind of foot injury, be grateful. If you have had one, you know what I'm going through. It could be worse, though, as both biopsies were taken from fairly high in the instep, meaning I don't actually step on the stitches. If that were the case, I would've only done one at a time. As it is, they're pretty obnoxious. Walking is possible but must be taken slowly. I'm being fairly diligent about keeping my feet up. It minimizes the throbbing pains.

I'm hopeful that this is the worst of it. They only just started bothering me about an hour ago, and I'll be in bed soon -- by tomorrow the worst should be over. It has to be, because even if it's not, I have to do some grocery shopping and other errands, not to mention my two doctor's appointments first thing.

The appointment with the endo went well -- she reviewed the labs and was a bit concerned about the WBC being low; she'll recheck that in March when I get my other labs drawn. She suggested I go to an ENT to have the salivaries checked out but she also said that if it is from the RAI, there isn't anything that can be done. I don't think I'll bother with the ENT just yet. I had a very, very bad afternoon -- after lunch my entire face felt as if it were throbbing, but eventually it subsided. I'm just going to have to ride this out... or add salivary gland weirdness to the list of things I just deal with every day.

The endo did say there was a possibility of a viral infection being the cause of salivary problem, and the depressed WBC would be consistent with that. I am not convinced. She dismissed as inconsequential the protien in my urine, which was OK. I'm expecting to hear more on that same topic when I see the GYN tomorrow.

As usual, I'm wiped out. Biopsies do that to me. I even took a nap this afternoon. That is to say, I passed out on the loveseat while DS2 was watching the SpongeBob DVD we have. It was maybe 40 minutes, but it helped. I still feel generally yucky so we'll see what the other doctors say about all this tomorrow.

Monday, February 21, 2005

further thoughts on Constantine

It was quite a silly movie but dealing as it did with profound themes -- sacrifice, redemption, etc -- it has found its way back into my thoughts periodically ever since we saw it.

There's one particularly interesting discussion, about faith. Constantine is a faithless man: he doesn't believe in God, or Satan, or heaven and hell, any of that. He doesn't have to believe, because he knows. He was dead, once, for two minutes; he has seen what comes after this life. So, he knows. There is no possibility of doubt, for him.

He is denied the gift, and the burden, of faith. He is immeasurably diminished by this, somehow, to me, made less than human in some respects, but more than human in others.

I'm thinking that the Hellraiser comic books on which the film was based would be a great read. I'll have to check them out.


I felt better today. The throbbing on the right side of my face has subsided a bit, or maybe I'm more adept at ignoring it until it flares up, which, come to think of it, is pretty often. Like now.

The rest of me was not so bad... stomach wobbles mostly calmed, lower back faring well due to my extreme diligence in moving about (or sitting still) properly today, the gut pain only calling attention to itself... periodically.

Oh, who am I kidding? I am just as miserable today as I was yesterday, but until I sat down to write that today was better, I didn't realize that I was deluding myself.

The NP from the gynecologist's called and all the tests they ran last week -- blood, urine, ultrasound -- came back just fine. Well, I had them fax over the blood and urine lab sheets and it turns out my white cell count is low (lingering after-effects of my RAI? likely) and I've got protein in my urine. So they want me to go in and see the doctor himself (he's awesome)... Oooo-kayyy.

I have four doctor appointments in the next two days. Ka-ching! That's $160, since they're all specialists.

Tomorrow: the endo first, then the dermatologist, who will slice off two more suspicious spots. I was completely unflappable with the endo's scheduler today: "Dr. M told me to see her on Tuesday." Flat statement, no questions allowed. Through the magic of scheduling, she got me in at 9:30AM. I'm sure it's things like this that make Dr M. at least 20 minutes late for every single one of my appointments, but honestly? I don't care.

Wednesday: The rheumatologist, for back pain management... I have to grill her on why she didn't order an MRI. Is she so sure I have no disc problems? I was dx'd with mild degenerative disc disease a few years ago. Criminy. I'm betting she's going to go with physical therapy. That'll be fun. My PT will probably shoot me when she sees me crawling back in there... I should've been back in there months ago. OTOH, I also adore my PT. The only problem will be finding times to get in to see her.

After the rheumatologist, back to the gynecologist to see what he has to say to me. If the u/s is clear and the labwork says no infection, why didn't he just say, Keep track of the pain and if it gets worse or doesn't go away in X time, then we'll do some more tests. If he's bringing me back into his office to say these things to me I will be quite annoyed. Still there is a small niggling thought in the back of my head that's saying he's going to want to order more specific tests now. What is he looking for? No idea -- ovarian cancer is unlikely since the u/s came back fine.

I am so annoyed right now. What is the point of all these doctor's appointments, all this money and time and inconvenience? I have no confidence that any of them will tell me anything I don't already know, or that they will be able to do anything to help me feel better. In fact, I'm pretty sure that by Wednesday afternoon I'll be even more ticked, because by that point the hope of something good coming out of all these appointments will have been completely dashed.

But I have to at least try to get better. I think coming into this evening I felt today was better because I pretended to be well today. We took the kids out for lunch and did a little shopping and had a low-key day, but I didn't let myself mope around or let all the stupid never-ending failings of this body give me any more than momentary pause (although some moments were longer than others). I can do that some days.

I'm thinking now of this summer when I was well -- I really wasn't, I was full of cancer but I didn't know it yet -- I felt really good. I had energy and I could move and I did a lot of really fun things. And now I'm just useless, pretty much. I had plans for what I wanted to accomplish before the end of last year and they all went out the window.

I'm sick of being sick. If being pissed off were enough to get me through all this trauma, it would all be in the distant past.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

ick, again

Today I just did not feel good. The parotid gland acts up from time to time but isn't as bad as it was at first -- it mostly bothers me when I'm eating, or cooking. The other salivaries kick up from time to time as well, which continues to be disconcerting.

I realized that everytime something new goes "sproing!" that it just takes me a while to get used to it, and then it sort of fades into the background -- that is the story with my lower-back pain, and with my right-sided pelvic pain, too. They're still there, still annoying (about 4 on that pain scale), but the face/salivary stuff is getting all the attention these days because it's new and more immediately annoying.

My digestion continues to be shot, and there are any number of reasons why that could be so. Could be my supplements -- too much Vitamin C or too much magnesium? Could be the thyroid meds. Could be the lingering dregs of that stomach bug (DD came down with an extremely mild case today.) Could be related to the right-sided pelvic pain. Could be something else altogether. Occam's Razor would suggest... what? Any of the first 3 theories is completely legit. But I've cut down on my cal/mag/zinc supplement just the same to see if it helps.

In spite of feeling completely horrid today, I managed to do a few errands with Mom; we visited both Michael's and Joanne's in search of yarn and supplies to make the knitted teddy bear. I'm finding it's impossible to find size 17 double-pointed needles, and I'm balking at spending upwards of $40 in yarn for a bear! So I may downsize the entire project and work it up on smaller needles... it is generally better to do that after having completed the project at least once, as written, but I'm much too stubborn and too cheap to let that deter me.

DH brought home strawberries yesterday and said hopefully, "Maybe we could have strawberry shortcake for dessert this weekend...?" It was by no means anything more than a wistful hope, but when he had the kids out at the park this afternoon I made some cream scones and sliced the berries and even whipped the cream. They were awesome, and so far they haven't made me sick. Here's hoping.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

whine whine whine

I decided this morning to call my endo and see what she had to say. Yes, it is obnoxious to call your doctor with a non-emergency situation during the weekend, however I have had so many problems getting messages to her during the week that I did it anyway.

She agrees that it is an inflammation of my parotid gland.

She doesn't think this is related to my RAI. She expects it to resolve on its own with a little heat, but commented that if it doesn't, or if I start running a fever, I might need a course of antibiotics. She did mention that if it isn't better by Tuesday that I should go in and see her (that's the day she's in the office closest to me).

Honestly, I think she's delusional to not attribute this to the RAI. I made myself a little heat pack out of an old sock and some rice,and it's the perfect size to hold up against my face. The warmth feels good and it did seem to help, but this afternoon it went all spazzy again. Sometimes I get a big rush of salty saliva and it's quite disconcerting.

At Mass in the late afternoon, all the rest of my salivaries started that tingly feeling that usually means you're going to throw up. My stomach is as calm as could be, though, so I know it's just salivary weirdness. The left parotid is starting to ache a little, too, but nothing like the right one -- so far, and I'm hoping it doesn't get any worse.

I've had episodes today of feeling quite unwell -- nothing specific, just general overall ick. I have no idea what's going on, whether it's related to what's going on in my face or my gut or what. Grrrrr.

I slept until 10 this morning and took a nap this afternoon. The major accomplishment of the day was helping DS1 organize his facts and draft his Gila monster project. It is very interesting to see how an 8-year-old's brain works.

Friday, February 18, 2005


I'm fairly sure of my face pain diagnosis: post-radiation effects on my parotid salivary gland. Here's a picture I'm nicking from the MedLine Encyclopedia:

It's definitely the parotid, the biggest of the salivaries, just under the cheekbone, in front of the ear.

After the movie, I experienced my latest weird symptom: very salty-tasting saliva, but only on the right side of my mouth, on the top. Extensive Googling turned up this article, RadioIodine and Your Salivary Glands. This article is a layman's version of a medical journal article I had found earlier. I would've had to shell out $44 to read the real deal, and probably would've only understood half of it, so I was very glad to find the summary.

Key grafs which I'm trying not to freak out over (emphasis added):

In most cases, immediately after high doses of radioiodine, the salivary glands, especially the parotid glands, become swollen and painful. Alternately, these symptoms can develop months later. In either case, the effects intensify over time.

(I did have "mumps" during the RAI isolation period.)


Other organs known to concentrate and transport iodine include the gastric mucosa, pancreas, lactating mammary glands, chorid plexus and the ciliary body of the eye.

Have I mentioned that I've been getting a pain under my right rib cage, off and on, recently? I was thinking it was just adhesions or scarring from my gallbladder surgery last year, but now I'm trying not to think about what else it could be.

Anyway, I think I will let my endo know that this is happening and see if there is anything she needs/wants (me) to do. If inflammation of the salivaries gets severe, apparently, nerves can be affected and facial paralysis can result (whee!). Wouldn't want that to happen, but I've no idea what, if anything, they can do to treat this or fix any ongoing damage.


(spoilers, if you care)

Bad movie -- maybe one-and-a-half, two stars, the most. But I enjoyed it nevertheless. It was full of hysterically bad "Catholic" mythology. Every time I heard "Spear of Destiny" it was all I could do to stop keep myself from laughing.

However, there were a couple of parts that I enjoyed much more than I had any reason to -- one in which Constantine threatens to send a demon to Heaven, and proceeds to administer Last Rites to effect such a thing. The absurdity of this was delicious, particularly since Constantine is not a priest. The demon falls for the ploy and gives up the information Constantine was looking for, whereupon Constantine reminds him that you actually have to ask to be forgiven to receive absolution.

The other scene was even more complicated than that so I won't bother to say anything more than it was probably the most inappropriate time for an obscene gesture, ever.

Keanu is the same as ever. You know that going in, though, so it's neither a surprise nor a disappointment. FX were cool, appropriately ugly, and Gabriel completely rocked. But once again Hollywood nearly misses the point that evil is beautiful to the eye -- nearly. Balthazaar oozes beauty. Lucifer, not so much.

It was bad. I liked it anyway. I've never read any of the comic books and so am unhindered by preconceptions. Even so, I can see where major improvements could've been made in the pacing and ordering of the scenes, and in the design of some of the props, even. I had an impression of a bunch of film geeks sitting around saying "Wouldn't this be a cool scene?" (one in particular, where, apropos of nothing, a bunch of cows fall down) and everyone agreeing, and then figuring out where to stick it.

My friend Walter was typically down on this, but having obviously read the DC comics, he has a vastly different perspective. I'm intrigued by his idea of casting Dennis Leary as Constantine. That would've been brilliant.

It would've been even more brilliant if they had taken just the slightest trouble to get even some of the Catholic stuff right. Now, as with The DaVinci Code, we've got yet another pop culture event putting forth garbage as Catholic doctrine and practices. People, unfortunately, believe these things. It's just not helpful.


Psyched! I booked our summer vacation flights this afternoon. For slightly more than $1000, you can get a family of four from (nearly) one coast to the other, non-stop. Whoo-hoo!

Of course, you have to plan months in advance and book over the Internet. Easy, for motivated folks like me.

Even though that trip isn't until late June, the excitement of having actually bought and paid for the tickets is enough to make up for my morning, which required dragging my butt out of bed at 6, showering, drinking vast quantities of liquid, and then sitting in traffic on the 101. Fortunately, the traffic wasn't bad -- it was too early for it to be bad!

I arrived right on time and filled out my paperwork. The ultrasound tech called me right on time, bless her, and she was very kind. I survived the exam and the report will be at the doctor's on Monday. I was supposed to call this morning to get my lab work results, but I forgot -- that, too, can wait until Monday.

Day 2 with the painful cheek/jaw thing. I have decided it's not TMJ. I actually posted over at the thyCa forum: "my face hurts." It's a low-traffic forum, so I may not get a response for a day or two or three or ever. That's OK. Sometimes it's therapeutic to just write it all down.

Last night it was the weirdest thing. Whatever this is would twitch, and every time it twitched, I could feel saliva being squirted into my mouth (right along the gum/cheek). It went through quite a period of activity, and then subsided. Still hurts, though, and is feeling rather mump-like. I'm giving it till Monday, and then I'll call the doctor. (Which doctor? I don't know yet!)

All the kids were well again today. I'm grateful.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

additional insults

This morning at 4:15AM, DS1 woke up puking... it was deja vu all over again, as the saying goes. We only had to change the bedclothes once, and it wasn't nearly as nasty as it had been with DS2. Another upside: DS2 slept through the entire thing (the boys share a room). So DS1 spent the first 6 hours of today periodically vomiting, and then got over it and was his normal spunky self, more or less. He was happy to finally be able to watch TV and play on the computer, although I severely limited his computer time.

When I first woke up (at 4:15), I didn't notice my latest insult -- I'm not sure exactly when I did notice it, probably while I was getting dressed, around 7-ish: the muscles along the right side of my jaw are completely messed up. For the first time since college, I have a killer case of TMJ. I don't get it, though. I am scrupulous about wearing my retainer, which has a nightguard that prevents me from grinding my teeth. How in the heck did this happen?! It's bizarre.

I've also never had TMJ only on one side of my jaw before. The only thing I can think of is that I have been chewing more gum lately, and I do tend to chew it on the right side... but I've been chewing gum since my first pregnancy (8+ years now) and I haven't had a problem like this. So: ibuprofen, and I'll put some heat on it, and hope it goes away soon. If not, it's the dentist next week. (So far, ibuprofen has done zip.)

Today's appointment was at the gynecologist. The nurse practitioner listened to my description of the 3-week-old right-sided pelvic pain and agreed it was worth taking a look at. The exam was inconclusive. She ordered a CBC and the lab got the blood sample with only one stick! Huzzah! (Seriously, that was a cause for a minor celebration, since I was kind of dehydrated when they took it.) I'm also going for an ultrasound up in Scottsdale at 7:45AM tomorrow, which means I will have to beat it out of the house before 7 to be there on time. I am not looking forward to that. Pelvic u/s are torture for women because we have to drink 40 ounces of water so our bladders are nice and distended to keep the intestines out of the way. Nothing like the prospect of peeing your pants while driving 25 miles to put the fun in a morning, huh? But, I was lucky to get the appointment since everyone else had no openings at all until late next week, and the NP said absolutely not, get it done tomorrow the latest. So, I am -- another hurry up and wait situation. I should have an idea Monday or Tuesday the latest if it is anything that needs further attention.

The NP did say I could have chronic appendicitis, it's consistent with what I've been going through. Heh. Can we treat that with antibiotics? At least the pain didn't go away as soon as I made the appointment (it's irking me now, come to think of it). As I was driving up there this afternoon I realized I was actually somewhat happy that I was still feeling it, because that gave me more hope of a diagnosis. Talk about twisted...

Man, I wish my jaw would stop hurting. Every so often it just kind of throbs to get my attention. It's very annoying. It is also annoying that my face looks lopsided now. The muscles are rock-like at the jaw line on the right, and on the left they're relaxed and normal, the slightly saggy facial muscles of a 41-year-old woman. Of course I am probably the only one who would notice it!

The unasked question runs through the back of my head, Does this have anything to do with the cancer? The jaw thing especially is suspicious to me, since I had glandular involvement, and since it's only on one side... but the pelvic thing, too. There's no reason why it should be. I just know it (remotely) could be. That's a scary thought, and not one that needs saying out loud to anyone just yet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I had a bad night last night. Things were fine until I crawled into bed with DH and then I just felt so overwhelmed by the myriad ways I am falling apart these days that I just, well, fell apart.

Fortunately my husband doesn't mind if I literally cry on his shoulder. It's just so old, all this... whatever-it-is. DH is a good listener and makes non-dismissive helpful comments and gives good advice. He is without a doubt the best thing to ever happen to me.

I realized last night that my life was a series of disasters until I met him. Then I had about a six year reprieve, and now it seems to have started up again. Only now it's not just happening to me -- I could deal with that, really I could -- it's affecting my husband, too, and our children.

It is such a struggle. I know this won't last forever and it is not wrong to say I'm looking forward to that day -- while at the same time I'm hoping that day is far in the future. What gets me are the times when I feel that is a completely unrealistic hope. Last night was one of those times, and I don't exactly know why.

Today I made some more doctor appointments, and we'll see what comes out of it all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

taking it all in

I've been thinking about some deep topics lately but once again they are back-burnered. For now I'm just absorbing everything and letting the ideas come together the way they will when I don't force them. Today won't be a writing day.

DS2 woke up puking at about 4:30AM, and that more or less set the tone for the day. Fortunately we only had to do two rounds of vomit-related laundry. See how I can find the positive side of nearly any situation? As far as stomach virii go, this one wasn't all that bad; he seemed mostly over it around 10 or so, and by 12:30 he was positively devastated that he wouldn't be allowed to tag along to the dentist with his older brother and sister. He worked himself up so much that he passed out while we were gone and had a good nap as a result. When he woke up, he was positively chipper, and he ate a reasonable dinner.

DD slept away most of the afternoon after doing wonderfully at the dentist, even with the x-rays. She has a tiny mouth and the films are uncomfortable in there, but she was a trooper and they got good shots. I think the Omnicef knocked her out, but the sleep is good for her. She seemed to be running a very low-grade fever after her nap so we dosed her up with ibuprofen before bed. I know she was feeling fine, though, because she kept making snarky comments to her brothers during dinner, which requires a certain amount of energy. DS1 also did well at the dentist but is a bit freaked out by getting a referral to the orthodontist. He was hoping to be spared, but that's highly unlikely given his parents' dental histories.

Tomorrow: all 3 kids in school if they're well enough, and hopefully some time to write.

Monday, February 14, 2005

eyes ahead

Things I'm looking forward to, in more or less chronological order:

DH and I are going to see Pat Metheny at the beginning of March.

Later in the month, we'll all be attending The Ostrich Festival as a family.

The next weekend, my in-laws arrive. They'll be here for Easter. DH will be making his First Communion and will be Confirmed at the Easter Vigil service. I love the vigil service but haven't been able to go for years. It's very long and completely unsuitable for children. This year Nana and Papa will stay home with the kiddos while DH and I go. Next day one of us will have to bring the little ones to Mass again, but that's no big deal.

In April, my mom will be returning along with my two sisters, my niece and her son who is DD's age, and my niece the teen-ager. We're (almost) all heading off for a whirlwind trip to Disneyland -- turns out we're just missing their 50th anniversary celebration by two weeks. Talk about good timing, huh?

And when we get back, DS1 will make his First Communion.

May? I see my endo right at the beginning of the month, and I'll have a whole body scan done sometime a few weeks later. Here's hoping that it's clear!

In June: Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince arrives. Mom has already pre-ordered a copy for me as an early birthday present!

At the end of June, we're off to the East Coast for another (hopefully) glorious summer of beaches and all that good stuff. Since there is no Democratic National Convention in Boston this year, I hope we'll be able to spend at least a few days there this year.

July 4th: On the Esplanade! Fingers crossed that none of the kids get sick, like last year!

Things get a bit murkier after that -- coming home again, getting the kids back into school, etc... but there are a couple of things I'm awaiting:
Wallace and Gromit are releasing their first feature film in October, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire hits the theaters mid-November -- two good movies to look forward to in the fall/early winter.

laid low

DH woke up yesterday morning feeling icky -- stomach virus-y things, plus slight fever and body aches. I was hoping to be spared but about 2PM started feeling pretty horrible.

DS2 turned 4 yesterday and he did have a great day; I managed to push myself to unpack/setup all his new toys so he wouldn't have to pester anyone for help. And I made all three kids do their school valentine cards, and got dinner in the oven before I went upstairs to crash. The worst of the bug was over by about midnight last night, but I'm still feeling crummy.

I've got some good photos to post of yesterday's doings, but I just don't have the energy right now. They'll keep.

DD came down with a raging ear infection today. I had to pick her up early from school -- even before they did their valentines! Fortunately I got her in at the pediatrician's this afternoon and she is doing much better now that she is on her antibiotic and slept most of the day.

DH and I are just praying that none of the kids come down with the stomach bug. They just don't deal with this kind of illness very well, poor things. I don't know how I manage on days like today, for that matter. I have aches and pains and gurgles and worse, too many to list. But we do what we have to do.

DH surprised us all by making a lightening-fast stop at home at lunch, to deliver flowers: red roses for me, an apricot rose for DD, and a yellow rose for Mom. What a sweetheart! I reciprocated by making steak for dinner. (hee!) That's the extent of our V-Day celebrations!

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Day 3 on the higher levels of T3, and another wet day, too. We're supposed to get 2 inches of rain over the next 24 hours. I am not loving this weather, but physically I'm not doing badly at all. The back still twinges me from time to time. Must call the RA doc and ask about those x-rays, any follow-up?

I am discouraged. DS1 got sent to the principal's office again today. Same thing, he just loses control of himself and will not shut up when he is upset. He yammers on and on, making himself more upset. It's like he has regressed to when he was 4 or 5 -- he had this problem constantly. Until very recently, he was doing quite well. We can't really figure out what's changed but we do know that this has got to stop. So: no tv or computer for a week, and already it's paining him severely. We had to choose a very significant consequence, and after discussing it with him, have decided that any more trips to the principal's office means no Disneyland for him.

A huge, huge part of me thinks that's way too severe a punishment, and also too abstract a punishment, for him. It's too far in the future (2 months away), and isn't really "real" to him. It's just an idea, although he does have a pretty good idea of what would happen there. Even though I wrote that "best carrot ever" post below, it isn't really such a great carrot! If we had been to Disneyland before and the kid had some idea of what he was missing, then it would be a great carrot. But now I'm thinking, it's not that great.

I don't like having that ultimatum out there because if he screws up next week, he'll have no incentive to do better -- and the trip is 2 months out. I also do not even want to entertain the thought of going without him! I can't imagine actually doing it.

On the other hand, I know that he has to understand how serious this is. There is no reason for this behavior, and it is completely unacceptable that it keeps happening. I don't expect him to never get upset, never have a bad day, never have a scuffle at school. I do expect him to be able to control himself sufficiently so that when his teacher tells him to knock it off, he can, and he does.

Stuff like this exhausts me -- even if I do get to bed at a decent hour. It's like a black cloud has settled over me and I feel as if I am struggling against an unseen enemy, one that I do not know how to fight. There's not a question of giving up, though, because letting this go now will send all the wrong signals to the boy. I keep wanting to look at what's happening, the "whys", but they really shouldn't matter. Everyone gets stuck in irritating situations, we should learn how to deal with them. I can't be there to fix his surroundings so that nothing ever sets him off -- that's just ridiculous on the face of it. But still, as his mom, I wish I could make life easy for him. Except I know it's the worst possible thing I could do, and so I don't.

I have this insane hope that if I deal with this now, in 2nd grade, it will be easier when he's in middle school and high school. I know it's unrealistic, but I have to hang onto something, here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005



I fasted today but since I am in the not-hungry phase of my cycle, it wasn't hard. Oh, those last few minutes before dinner were kind of tough but nothing compared to having to prepare a break-fast dinner on Yom Kippur. I couldn't do a Yom Kippur-style fast anymore, though. I take too many medications; I'd at least have to drink water so I didn't pass out from low blood pressure.

It seems somewhat odd but I do like Lent. I like the idea of preparing, really working hard to get ready, for Easter. I almost always "give something up," and usually, it's chocolate. There have been years when it was extremely difficult for me to do that, but now I don't think it would be. Entire weeks go by when I don't eat it, although I then turn around and eat it every day for a month.

I thought about giving up chocolate again this year, but decided that's basically a meaningless gesture. If I don't have chocolate, I'll have something else instead. Wouldn't it be better to do something positive, rather than (or in addition to) giving up a luxury?

So: for Lent I have resolved to go to bed at a decent hour, and get up earlier in the mornings. IOW, I will establish a more healthy waking/sleeping schedule for myself than what I've got now, which is quite frankly pathetic. Most nights I am in bed by 1AM, but I would say that at least every other week or so I stay up reading and writing until 2AM or even 3AM. I really have to stop doing that.

I realized that all of my adult life, I've been this way. In my first marriage, the argument that my ex and I had the most often was about me not coming to bed with him. I always wanted to stay up and read. Even before then, I remember staying up late to unwind after a closing shift, waitressing, when I was in high school. I like being the only one awake in the sleeping, quiet house. I like setting my own consciousness adrift in some fictional world. I like being able to hammer out an essay or a review without being interrupted at all.

By giving up my late nights, I relinquish all those things I cherish too much. This one change is both a sacrifice and a positive act, because regular sleeping hours can only help my health, and there's a hope that I'll have more energy for everything going on in the house, too.

I have tried to make this change many times before. 2004's New Year's resolution, to get to bed before midnight, was a complete, utter, dismal failure. I think I managed it fewer than 20 times the entire year! And that includes times when I was sick or recovering from surgery -- those days I had naps during the day and used them to rationalize my staying up late!

Why do I think this will be different? I hope it will be, I will pray for help and do my best. I do need help with this, because I can foresee horrible consequences down the road, not too far, either. Mom's leaving in just a few weeks, and then I'll be on the spot for school morning breakfasts, and making lunches, and emptying the dishwasher, all those little things that Mom does every day while I sleep until 7:30 or 8 or 8:30, even!

I need this change in my life, the sooner the better.
Good night!


Today was an extremely busy day, not helped by poor sleeping last night. I know that many people split their T3 dosage to smooth out their responses, but I think popping 15 mcg of Cytomel yesterday afternoon really messed me up. I took all 25 mcg this morning at once, with nary a palpitation or anything, so I think I'll stick with that until I have a reason to do otherwise.

I spent the day as a walking Catholic PSA: Hey, it's Ash Wednesday! We went to the 8:15AM Mass before taking DS2 to preschool. Mom's and the boy's ashes were almost immediately indistinguishable. I had (still have most of) a very dark gray cross on my forehead. The ashes themselves were mixed with water to form sort of a slurry, something I had never seen before. I was more a less a victim of the technique, which involved "reloading" the thumb every 2nd or 3rd person. So if the person giving the ashes dipped right before you, you got a huge dark cross. The next 2 people got huge crosses that faded away a lot more quickly.

Neither Mom nor I had ever seen ashes distributed this way, mixed with water. She speculates that it was because my parish makes it own ashes; we collect all the blessed palms that were distributed at the previous year's Palm Sunday masses, and they are burned to make the ashes. It is also very dry here, and dry ashes, I think, would be too much of a dust hazard (not to mention the mess!). They just wouldn't stick. Back in MA, there is always sufficient dampness in the air so that's not too much of a problem. Then again, back in MA, all we ever got was a thumb print on the forehead.

I got a number of weird looks (of course), but several people said to me, "Oh! I didn't realize today was Ash Wednesday! Thank you so much!" Seriously, people were thanking me for walking around with ashes on my forehead. Hey, no problem! I'll be sure to stop by next year, too!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

best carrot ever

This cold has had everyone in its grip for far too long now. For the most part we're doing OK, but the kids have all had varying degrees of grouchiness and bad behavior.

I'm really, really tired of it. What to do, what to do?

"I have two words for you: Disney. Land."

It's my new favorite phrase. I told the kids that I booked the hotel, but that I could cancel like that (snapping fingers). Their eyes grew wide with horror at the suggestion. "If you don't behave yourselves, I will have no problem leaving you here and going to California without you."

The "you" up there is singular, and has been applied to both boys already. DS1 totally dissed his teacher today. We're not sure what is up with that, but it simply has to stop. DS2 has just been a grumpy thing lately. I think it is the cold plus being on the cusp of 4 that is doing it, but I have to be honest here, too. The kid has been a whiny little brat for months on end now. He can be the most cheerful thing in the world, and if you say "no" or "not right now," he immediately goes into shriek-mode. Talk about bipolar disorder... I am hoping and praying that this is a phase he will grow out of, because I am thoroughly sick of it. He never gets his way, behaving like that. Why does he keep on doing it? You should've seen him yesterday -- he carried on for 45 minutes about not having Cheerios as lunch. I proposed them as an addition to lunch, not lunch itself -- he's always hungry again 15 minutes later. That is a hassle I didn't need, but I also didn't need the resultant tantrum.

Even my best "I am not discussing this with you," response didn't deter him from literally screaming at me, periodically every 2 minutes or so, for well over 20 minutes. I didn't even come close to losing my temper: my resolve is like steel. I have had enough of this crap and it's time to put a stop to it.

DS2 is very afraid he will have to stay home and not go to Disneyland (I do know it's one word, and when the older 2 kids find out, they will totally bust me on the way I threatened them). He has excellent self-control when he wants to. Here's hoping the best carrot ever will help him use it a lot more often than he has been, lately.

The funniest thing? Even though he's the youngest, DS2 has the easiest, most natural, best manners of all 3 kids. Whenever anyone helps him out with anything, his "thanks" or "thank you" is automatic and sincere. The other two kids still require nagging, sometimes frequently, but not the little guy. I suppose this too is a phase he could grow out of, but I'm hoping it's a habit that will stick with him for life. It would definitely serve him well.

mini obsession

Yesterday we went to Michael's to buy some more yarn for the blanket that Mom is making for me, and some Fun Fur for the wrap I'm making for the silent auction at DS2's school. For some reason, there was a major delay at the cash register, so Mom started leafing through Family Circle's Easy Knitting.

I was herding DS2 away from the candy displays and trying to peak over Mom's shoulder at the same time, and I managed to catch a glimpse of this:

Blue Sky Alpaca's Bobbi Bears

I've been making teddy bears for years, and this was, without a doubt, the cutest and most unusual knit teddy bear I had ever seen. I took a moment to look at the blurb accompanying the photo and thought, "I'll remember that." Ha! Of course I forgot it almost immediately.

No matter, through The Power of The Internet, I located the charming Jimmy Beans' Wool and found the kits, which I cannot afford since they run from about $70 up to nearly $100 because they are sold with absolutely gorgeous yarns. Fortunately, I found they also sell just the pattern. It's on its way here as we speak.

The weird thing about these bears: they are knit using a super-chunky wool, on size 17 needles, are about 2 feet tall. I think that a smaller and more easily-managed-by-an-infant bear can be created using the same pattern, regular worsted, and much smaller needles. We shall see. These are an ideal infant bear since there is nothing to be pulled off and choked on, and if you make them out of acrylic, you can throw them in the washing machine and they'll come out of the dryer looking dandy.

I'm psyched.
Oh, I bought 8 skeins of this, in black, to make that wrap. The auction's the first week in March. I better get going on that!

cancer management update

Dr M was, as usual, quite late to our appointment this morning, but then she made it up by staying to answer every last one of my questions. The only one she out-right ducked was, "What stage is my cancer?" She replied quite simply, "I don't do staging."

Wouldn't it be nice if we could play the "I don't do..." card whenever someone presented us with something we'd frankly rather not do?

Anyway: whether I am stage 1 or stage 2 is immaterial, because the treatment/management is the same, regardless, even if the 5-year survival rates are not. I let her get away with it. We had too much other stuff to discuss for me to waste time busting her on it.

TSH: 0.25
T4 & T3 numbers were "a little low," she said, I don't have the exact numbers
Tg: 3.4
Tg Ab: undetectable (yay!)

TSH is still too high. She bumped my Cytomel up from 10mcg/day to 25mcg/day. Yikes! I have been taking 2 5mcg pills in the morning, so this afternoon I popped 3 more, and you know, I do feel pretty peppy. We'll see how it goes in the longer term. I have to watch out for heart palpitations and general anxiety, as well as other hyper symptoms; if those develop, I can drop down to 20, but she really wants to get that TSH down to undetectable for now -- eventually it can come up to 0.10, but she wants it way, way down. Fine by me.

Next labs will be in 6 weeks, and I have already made the appointment. After the appointment, I'm to call her to get the results and see if we need to tinker with anything.

The next labs will be a good indicator of how things are going. Because I do not have Tg antibodies, my Tg readings are a reliable indicator of whether or not I have any remaining thyroid or thyroid cancer activity. So, Tg should decrease over these next 6 weeks. My pre-surgery Tg was over 300 (consistent with having a thyroid, not at all freakish), and she didn't seem to think it still being 3.4 four months post-op was unheard of. Still, she'd like it to be undetectable, too. Update: according to this site, the normal range for a female with a thyroid is less than 40! Who knew? Obviously I didn't, when I wrote this yesterday. The fact that my Tg was up around 300 is, I think, a pretty good indicator that my particular cancer cells were cranking out Tg at quite a clip. There are two things that "good" thyroid cancers do: first, they uptake iodine, so RAI can kill them off. Second, and nearly as important, they produce Tg, so we can keep track of them via a simple blood test. It would seem that my cancer is very well-behaved, considering. (end update)

Soooo, if Tg stays the same or goes up, then what? Well, I had a salivary gland targeted as suspect right after my surgery. My PCP, upon exam, ordered an ultrasound, and when that came back he wanted to do a CT scan. But that was postponed because I was going for the RAI and the WBS. The gland is definitely still somewhat enlarged and odd-feeling. Dr M suggests that if Tg does not drop, a CT scan of the gland will be in order. If done right away that would give 2+ months for the iodine from the contrast to be flushed from my system. That may not be long enough. Maybe they can do a scan without the iodine? Here's hoping I won't need it.

I'm set up for an appointment at the beginning of May to schedule my thyrogen WBS -- the follow-up scan, sometime in mid-May. I asked if we would have any indication before the scan as to whether or not further treatment would be necessary. She said that Tg levels could tell us beforehand that something should be done -- just not what (RAI, or surgery.) The scan would tell us that. She also stressed that having undetectable Tg does not mean that I won't require further treatment. Still, one can always hope.

The good news, though, is that if any necessary treatment would interfere with our vacation plans, it can wait until August when we get back.

I asked about my voice stamina, and she said to give it a good 6 months and then see an ENT for evaluation if it is still giving out on me. She did say it would probably strengthen over time, but I will be dealing with scar tissue forever. "Your surgery was quite extensive," she said.

She was flipping through the path report and snorted. "There was no cancer in your nodule!" Yes, that was quite annoying. She did the FNA and took great samples but of course the cancer didn't show up because it was everywhere except in the nodule!

Yes, sometimes I do have the impression I am being toyed with. Why do you ask?

We talked about other stuff, too, like calcium levels (up 2000 mg/day is OK, but no more), and other things I can't remember. I am not inspired to go get my notes, either. Yes, I brought my notebook with me as I didn't want to forget any of my questions. I must be doing better to be able to remember all this stuff at this time of the day.

The bottom line is a new level of medications and another 6 weeks of waiting before I know anything. Maybe I can start getting some things done around here.


I'm seeing the endo tomorrow morning, first thing. I have a fine slew of questions for her, too. I expect non-answer answers to quite a few of them. We'll see.

I booked our hotel for Disneyland in April. Days like today I think I have a calling as a travel agent. I had about 6 different browser windows open looking for the hotel I wanted and the room I needed... got it. And I have up until 24 hours before check-in to cancel with no penalty, too. Cool.

Not that I'll need to cancel, right?

Monday, February 07, 2005

there is no kiss

Last night I watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) for about the thousandth time. It is one of those films that I am compelled to watch whenever I stumble across it.

It's just lovely. The characters are fully developed, the score is suitably full of dramatic surges and over-wrought strings, and the seaside setting is simply gorgeous, even in black and white -- perhaps especially in black and white. The cast is outstanding, too: never for one minute does any doubt about the authenticity of Lucy and her Captain creep in. There is no smirking or mugging, and any scenery-chewing is rather circumspect. Everyone plays it straight and treats the material, as flimsy as it is, with great respect.

And of course, Gene Tierney is so luminescently beautiful that all she has to do is stand there and breathe to transfix an audience.

Gorgeous! (Of course she shouldn't be wearing a dead bird on her head, but it was all the rage back then.)

Yes, Gene Tierney alone is a good enough reason to watch this movie again, but what I especially like about it is the relationship between Tierney's and Harrison's characters. If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is quite simple: a turn-of-the-century widow with a young daughter leaves her stuffy in-laws in London and moves out to a house ("Gull Cottage") by the sea. The house is haunted by its former owner, a sea captain, and after some initial difficulties, the two become great friends and the relationship deepens further. They are charming together because, superficially, they are working off the "opposites attract" script. Lucy is prim and proper, the Captain gruff and profane (by 1900 standards!). But the reality is that the core of the two characters is the same: they are both honest and discerning, and passionate.

Following the standard formula, having come together, the two must part, only to be reunited at the end. And so it is. But I noticed something quite striking to me last night that is different about this love story.

There is no kiss.

There are two scenes were we would expect a kiss, where, in fact, I found myself thinking, "Why doesn't he kiss her?!"

The first is when he decides he has to go, so she can get on with her life. She's asleep, and he is more or less casting a spell (or planting a post-hypnotic suggestion) that everything they've had together was just a dream. His lips are so close to hers, you think that surely he will brush them lightly, the tiniest phantom of a kiss -- but he doesn't.

The second is of course the final scene, when she has died and finally joins him across that Great Divide. He extends a hand to help her out of the chair, and she rises from her old body, young and beautiful again. If this film were being made today, they would surely embrace passionately. But they don't. Both characters are positively beaming, and the Captain says something along the lines, "Now you'll never be tired again," and they walk off, literally, into the sunset.

So, I watched last night and I realized, I wanted them to kiss, but then I realized why they didn't, and why it was so much better that they did not.

The kiss is sign of love, it's true, but it's the expression of love through physical means, a passion of the flesh. Far from being the best expression of love, a kiss is actually just the easiest way for directors to show an audience a couple's feelings for each other. But how do you convey a passion that is not of the body, but of the soul? Such a passion is not nearly as exciting to see as a mad embrace. It takes time to make such a thing believable, and it's certainly much more difficult to portray. Very few, if any, screen writers and directors bother to make the effort anymore. It's such a shame.

When we mourn someone we love who has died, it's not their kisses and embraces that we're missing the most (although missing those expressions of love is certainly legitimate.) What we miss most is the conversations we had, the understandings that passed between us, the spiritual presence that endeared them to us. Mrs. Muir and her Captain had all those things, in abundance. When they were finally together, kissing had lost all its relevance.

It's pretty obvious at this point how our culture has degraded nearly every aspect of every relationship, whether it's husband/wife, parent/child, or perhaps the relationship most fraught with potential, that we so casually describe as "friendship." This old movie appeals to me so much because of the respect it pays to all of them, and especially its recognition that the love between a man and a woman is so much more than the impulses of hormones coursing through their bodies. There is no sex after death, after all, but love endures.

I can't imagine anything like this being made now.

hope & fear

In a fit of optimism, DH and I planned out the dates for our summer trips this year. The dates depend on a lot of things: when the kids get out of school, and when they start up again. The Red Sox home game schedule.

Whether or not I'll need another round of RAI.

That's actually the point we started with -- I was putting together my list of questions for the endo, I'll see her on Tuesday. My next scan should be in mid-May; if I need RAI, I'll have to do 2 weeks of the low iodine diet beforehand (I think? this is one of my questions), so that would push the RAI out till the end of May, beginning of June.

So I should be OK to go East by the end of June, right? Even if I need the treatment.

Honestly? I have no idea -- last round, I was fine for the first few weeks and then slid rapidly downwards, but that was because my dosage needed to be adjusted. Now the hope/expectation is that I could go right back on my proper dosage and feel better quickly. But there is no way to predict what's going to happen, so I'll stick with the hope that I won't need any more radiation.

In the same category, I am planning on going out to Disney World with the kids this spring when my sisters visit with nieces and nephew in tow. Mom asked, "Are you planning on going to California with your back like that?"

I replied, well, yeah. I've already had an X-ray and will get an MRI if I need one -- and the trip is not for 2 months. I had bloody well better have some treatment by then! I feel like I landed hard on my tailbone, it just feels bruised, and the vertebrae above it are not very happy, either. Ibuprofen is helping a lot.

Some part of me says, you could give up, you know. But I can't. There's too much to do, and I'll never get to everything, but I can do some things. To say that I'm frustrated is an understatement of epic proportions. I remember being able to do things. I remember skiing! I was mostly terrified and I sucked at it, but towards the end there I began to feel like, hey, this is something I could learn to do, and it would be fun.

Now? It is to laugh. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Fears? That the problems with my back are somehow related to my cancer: my dr ordered the x-ray with the following directions: dx lumbar spine pain, hx metastatic thyroid cancer. Why is that relevant, I wondered. Because the two might be related, I realized. Unlikely, but possible. Whee!

I hope our plans can become reality. I hope I won't need any more radiation. I hope I'm done with cancer and can just be normal (heh) for a while, like, for ever.

One night last week I had all my prescriptions and supplements out and was performing the nightly fill-the-pill-boxes ritual. I take different things six times a day. Some things for my thyroid (obviously), some for the RA, some for adrenal support, some for general health and well-being. This routine got old months, even years, ago, but I'm stuck with it. When I don't take my supplements, I feel crappy. If I don't take my prescriptions, the consequences are a lot more dire. As DH was meandering around at the time, I vented:Some day, I would like to not have to do this.

He looked at me. Some day, you won't.

That's all he said, but I knew exactly what he meant. That day is inevitable, and I hope far-off. To say I'm looking forward to it would be wrong, but I will say this: it will be a relief.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Where would I be without Ayn Rand?

February 1st marked the centenary of Ayn Rand's birth. This is not something I would've known had I not seen Ayn Rand and Me over at Dr. Sanity. I enjoyed reading the good doctor's perspective, but even more I appreciated the Cathy Young article, Ayn Rand at 100 at Reason Online, that Stephen Green designated as Required Reading over at VodkaPundit.

It has been several years since I've given even a passing thought to things Randian. My ex-husband introduced me to her fiction when I was a freshman in college, the exactly perfect age to be seduced by her philosophy. While there is much to admire in her work, there is also a lot that's just, well, crap. Even at the beginning, I recognized that, even though my ex was completely enamored of her and her ideals. I would say that, of all her works, We the Living had the most profound impact on me, and I found it to be the most resonant of her novels. The characters and the circumstances they endured were much more real than any others she ever produced.

So, fast forward a good 10 years, and I'm divorced from the creepy ex, and finally left the tiny economic consulting company where I was stagnating for years. I got a job with a medium-sized software company that would soon be swallowed up by Oracle. It was something of a let-down, going from having my own office in a downtown Boston high-rise with a view of the harbor to sharing an office with a view of a Waltham parking lot. But the work was interesting and so was my office-mate.

J was a little older than me, and everything I'm not: petite, blonde (really blonde), and girly. She was also an Objectivist. In spite of our differences, we got along famously. I have no idea how the subject ever came up at first, but the topic of Ayn Rand was one we bothed love to bat around. She loaned me her copies of the two Rand biographies by Barbara and Nathaniel Brandon so we could talk about them.

Eventually, J and I each got our own offices (seniority does have its privileges) and went on to work on different projects, but we respected each other's work and abilities. She and her husband moved to AZ just a few months before DH and I got married. We had had a pleasant, professional relationship, and I expected that would be that.

Just a couple of months later, though, I got a call from her out of the blue. Her husband's company was looking for people who happened to do exactly what my DH does. Would we be interested in relocating to AZ?

As much as the idea terrified me -- I had never lived farther than 75 miles away from Boston my entire life -- I told DH I'd consider it. We flew out for a weekend to see what was up, and that, basically, was that. DH got an offer; four weeks later, he headed to AZ while I put the house on the market and wrapped up my own affairs. When DH first got here, he stayed with J and her husband until he found us an apartment.

Ten years (just about), two houses, and three kids later, here we still are.

Would J and I have hit it off so thoroughly if we hadn't had Ayn Rand in common? Would J have thought to suggest my new DH to her husband as a candidate for the positions they had open?

There's no way to know, of course. I do know that my life would be inordinately different if we had stayed in MA. I don't even want to imagine what it would have been like, I confess!

In a weird way, Ayn Rand helped build the path that led me here. There is no other place I would rather be. So -- thanks, Ayn!

(As for J, our relationship was irreparable after I became pregnant with DS1, for many reasons, but chiefly because her husband was a sociopath. Sometimes when you meet someone's mate, it can change your whole opinion of them. Unfortunately, the opinion can change either for better or worse, and the more I got to know her husband, well -- I had to let it go.)


I took DD to the pediatrician today. She failed the hearing screening tests at school twice, and so the school nurse notified us that we should follow up with her doctor. We aren't concerned about it, since there's a good chance the first test was done when she was coming down with strep in December, and the second test was done in January in the midst of her 3-day meltdown -- we never did figure out what was going on then, but she was definitely out of sorts. Maybe she had an ear infection? That could explain it.

Anyway: the pediatrician remarked that I looked much better than when she had last seen me (and DD). She asked if I had gained back some weight, and I more or less lied and said yes -- but honestly, I don't know. Maybe I was in the low 120's then and I'm a little over 125 now, but it's those same few pounds, up and down, as far as I can tell. Who knows? (Those pounds are my scale pounds, which only bear a passing resemblance to real-world pounds, but my scale is still useful for monitoring change.)

I just looked at the pictures in the blog from back then, and I honestly think I looked better, as that was before the RAI. It wasn't so much the RAI itself as the aftermath of the treatment that wiped me out. I don't think I look that different. But what do I know? I'm behind the face, everyone else has to look at it all the time.


I like being observant. I want to be able to soak up the details of a story, a situation, a photograph.

It's grist for the mill. All those details get turned and examined and judged and filed. Everything remains available, too, pretty much.

It's awesome having a mind like a steel trap, but it requires active management.

It is possible to be aware of potential problems (like a possible speech impediment, or a baby falling out of its carrier) without becoming me anxious about them, even when the potential problems are my own.

At the same time, it's probably (in fact, emphatically) not possible to convey my awareness of the potential problems to others that my examination of the details has yielded, without me coming off as either:
a) a control freak
b) grumpy
c) neurotic
d) all of the above

Some times I do better than others at keeping my mouth shut, or not leaving comments.

The last few days? Not among them.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

the beginnings of understanding

As the kids were straggling upstairs to bed, DS1 was teasing DD about something. As I was a few steps behind, it wasn't until I reached the top of the stairs that I could make out what DD was saying, "I don't ever want to hear that word again!"

What word?


DS1's class had practiced lockdown today. The teacher locked the door and turned out the lights, and the children crawled under the tables, waiting there quietly until the drill was over.

DS1's attitude was typical of what I remember feeling about fire drills when I was his age: wow, this is cool, we get out of doing schoolwork. We never even considered the possibility that there would ever be a real fire.

DD has been through any number of fire drills, since she has been going to school since before she turned three. Until today, she had never even heard the word "lockdown" before, and she asked me why her brother's class had practiced it today.

This is a typical parental tightrope situation: I don't lie to my kids. If there are things I don't want to discuss with them, because they are not ready -- or I am not ready! -- I'll tell them that, straight out. But this wasn't a time I could take a pass like that, I really needed to tell them what lockdown was for. At the same time, I didn't need to scare them out of their wits. As with many things, a delicate balance was required. DS1 seemed to think it was kind of cool and fun, and it seemed best that he understand that if he ever were in a real lockdown situation, it would be something very serious indeed.

So I said, "Sometimes people come into a school to do bad things. You go into lockdown to keep you safe."

DS1's idea of people who do bad things is rather limited. He asked, "What are they trying to steal?"

"They're not trying to steal anything. They're trying to hurt people."

I think of the terrorists in Beslan, all those terrified children in Chechnya, eating the flowers they had brought to give their teachers on the first day of school. So many dead. My heart is breaking.

We say our prayers all together like every night, and the kids get into their beds. DS1 has already forgotten about lockdown. DD looks scared and on the verge of tears, tiny in her big bed. I kissed her forehead.

"Don't worry. You have lots of good people around you to keep you safe."

She kissed me and said, "I know."

But now she knows, too, that the possibility of evil is quite real, even here in the midst of our idyllic lives. And so we must prepare.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I've got this rather sharp right-sided pelvic pain, and I'm trying to figure out if it's an ovarian cyst or my appendix.

Since I have a year-long-plus track record of having non-essential organs give up the ghost, it wouldn't surprise me if it's my appendix.

OTOH, I also have a long history of ovarian cysts. This sucker is killing me, though. The timing is right for a cyst. Of course I'd rather it be a cyst, but I'm thinking it's a little too high... what the heck do I know?

Well: no fever, and no rebound tenderness, which would seem to contra-indicate appendicitis. So that's good.

Oh, and my lower back is killing me to the point where I saw my rheumatologist about it yesterday, and she sent me for x-rays, always useless but always the first step. It will be interesting to see what comes of that.

In other news, my hands are not bothering me today, and I made it up to 65 shots on the kids' ESPN game station, tying DS1's record. (DH's personal best is more than double that!) At one point I sunk 5 in a row. "Wow, Mom, you're in the zone!" DD exclaimed. Hee! Of course she herself gets in the zone from time to time, too. The game station is totally cool. It's nice to feel well enough to want to play with it, too.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

February's column

... is up over at LCL. I like my original title, "Oops!" better, but such is life under editors; they've billed it as Fixing Low-Carb Disasters.

When I wrote it, I really liked it. Now I think it's lame. Is that me, or the writing?

The other thing they did was edit out my links to online suppliers of concentrated liquid Splenda. I specifically included these because I know people will be interested in them, and I expect I'll get deluged for requests for suppliers... but then again, maybe no. Way to psych myself into feeling like I have no audience, huh? Sheesh. At any rate, here are two suppliers of unflavored liquid Splenda concentrate that have received thumbs up from other LC-types I know online. I haven't any personal experience with these so I can't vouch for them, but I do trust the opinions of my fellow low-carbers who say these suppliers are both on the up-and-up: SweetzFree and at I have had excellent results using my concentrate judiciously, especially for making cranberry sauce!

Funny how I can go from euphoric and confident about the column one week to feeling very unsure and just blah the next.

us & them

In thinking about the ethnic slurs I heard today, it occurred to me that the world view of the woman who uttered them is the polar opposite of my own.

It's always the same kind of specious argument from her about why she could or could not do something, because of the customs of some other ethnic group. She couldn't name her son Joseph, for example, because it always made her think of all the Italian (of course she didn't say Italian) Joeys she knew growing up. (She told me this upon hearing that DS2's middle name is Joseph.)

What's she's really saying is, I can't do (whatever) because they do it, and they are alien. I'm not part of their group, I'm not like them; I'm better than they are, because they are (fill in the nationality of your choice), and I'm not.

DS1's name is actually quite popular among Hispanics. Honestly, it's not something we even considered in choosing it for him. Who cares? I'm as adept at recognizing nationalities as the next person. But where this woman sees differences and inferiority, I see so many similarities, and equality.

I really do believe that there is a universal human nature. (If your parents don't help you start getting it under control by the time you're three, you're doomed, but I digress.) We all want the same things, regardless of where we grew up. Customs change; language, food, dress -- that's all fluff. The heart of the matter is, we each have a soul, created by God, and that deserves respect, at the very least.

There's a spectrum of people who hold opinions like this woman's; there are many, like her, who are essentially harmless except for the fact that they are poisoning the well for everyone around them. But at the other end of the scale are people like al Zarqawi and bin Laden, whose disdain for "the other" is so complete that they can justify mass murder of innocents.

For the past 2 days, every time I think of Iraq, my heart is lifted, and I remember all the photos I've seen of smiling people holding up their ink-stained fingers. I can share their joy, I understand (a little) how they must be feeling. One thing I'm sure of is that they deserve it. I'm pretty sure this woman would disagree with that.

Oh, she wouldn't come right out and say that -- even she is not that politically tone-deaf. But for people like her, democracy and freedom are things that "we" understand, that "we" deserve, that "we" have. To her, the Iraqis are "them". She, like the leadership of the Democrat party, doesn't understand that the Iraqis are us.

possibly the saddest thing I've ever heard

The boy is 6 now, and physically he seems like a normal, healthy kid. However, he was born several weeks prematurely, and has some developmental delays as a result. He has been having speech therapy for a few years now, but his speaking is still indistinct, and now it's affecting him academically.

If you can't speak properly, it's very difficult to learn how to read. When you first learn to read, you sound out the words and your brain "hears" them by putting together the sounds you are making. Even though the boy knows all the letters and the sounds each one makes, he can't read because his brain doesn't recognize the words when he puts the sounds together. He's not hearing anything close to what he actually says.

The good news is that this should be completely curable, although it will take some effort, and a good deal of money, too. So his mom is dealing with the insurance company to see if they'll pay for the additional therapies he needs to really bring him up to an age-appropriate level. It really needs to be done now, before he falls too far behind in school.

Plus, his mom said, ... it would be so great if [his father] could understand him.

retro moment

I have the acquaintance of a woman whose son will also be making his first communion this spring. We were chatting today about this and that, and the subject of what the boys will wear came up.

"I can't do the white suit thing," she said. "It's way too Guido."

At that point, a loud buzzing sound filled my head so I'm not really sure what-all amplification she gave to the original statement, but I did catch the fragment, "... all the Guineas on Long Island do it..." before the buzzing noise drowned it all out again.

All I know is, 20-odd years ago in Boston, all the little boys wore white suits -- and that's what I said, relying on my memories of my nephews making their first communions.

The world I live in, it's easy to forget that people ever used terms like that. No one I know does -- except this one woman. I've heard her use ethnic slurs to describe Jews and Hispanics, too. Every single time it floors me, and every single time I'm ashamed of myself for not calling her on it.

I mentioned this to my mom and she told me that kind of thing was common when she was a kid -- 60, 70 years ago: You're a guinea, you're a wop, you're a 5-cent lollipop, she recited for me, and then she sing-songed Oh, it takes one pole and one log to make one Pollog... (there may be some transcription errors there) She shrugged. Obviously these little ditties didn't leave any permanent scars on her Polish self-image. "We were kids," she explained -- it was how they teased each other. The implication was, once you grew up you realized how stupid it was to refer to people that way.

I wonder how or if I would react if she slipped up and made a snide remark about Micks or Pollacks in front of me. I don't know.

I do know that part of the reason I don't say anything is that it just isn't worth it. She has been this way her entire life, 40+ years, and a little pep talk on political correctness from me isn't going to change anything. There's no point in stirring up any controversy with her because I literally have no idea where it will end up. So I just let it go.

I do have to say, if she ever says anything like that in front of my kids in a way that they notice, then I will have to say something, by way of explanation: My kids aren't familiar with those terms, and I don't see any reason why they ever should be.