Wednesday, March 30, 2005


I haven't eaten any chocolate since Sunday.

I never thought it would be possible for me to eat so much chocolate that I'd literally and figuratively be sick of it, but I managed.

The clean eating is doing me a lot of good. The presence of DH's birthday cheesecake in the fridge is helping me stay on the no-sugar wagon. Today I idly thought about making an apple pie. I still might do that, flush from the triumph of that cheesecake, which is without doubt the best I've made yet -- and I've made a lot of cheesecakes.

Vanilla Cheesecake
based on the legendary Beachgirl's Cheesecake
have all ingredients at room temperature before beginning
1 C almond flour
1/2 C quick-cooking oats (not instant)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 T honey or molasses
1/2 C butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Press into bottom of springform pan, making sure it goes all the way out to the edges and is evenly spread.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
Let cool while you assemble the rest of the cheesecake.

4 8 oz packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 T vanilla extract
3/4 C Splenda pourable
3/4 C sugar free vanilla syrup (Da Vinci, Torani, Monin)
3 T sour cream
4 eggs plus one egg yolk

Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, vanilla extract, sweeteners, and sour cream until they are very well blended -- no lumps! Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, and mix into the batter by mixing at the slowest speed for no more than a count of 10 -- do not overmix, as this can lead to the cheesecake cracking.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Take the prebaked crust in the springform pan and place it on a large piece of heavy-duty foil. Fold up the sides of the foil to make a waterproof barrier. Place the springform pan, in the foil, into a slighter larger pan; fill the larger pan with water till it comes about half-way to two-thirds up the sides of the springform pan.

Give the inside of the springform a light spray with no-stick cooking spray, and pour in the batter.

Bake at 300 degrees for one hour.
Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees, and bake for an additional hour.
Turn the oven off, and let the cheesecake come to room temperature in the oven.
(This gentle cooking method helps prevent cracking, which is usually caused by baking or cooling too quickly.)

Chill the cake before serving, and store in the fridge, too.

cautiously optimistic

Well, it took seeming forever but I finally got my Tg number today, sort of. I won't complain, because the news was good. The independent lab doesn't test to the level that the endo's does, so all I got was "less than 2.5", which is still quite useful, since it's less than 3.4, which is what it was last time.

I was so happy when I got off the phone after hearing that news that I actually jumped up and down a few times. DS1 thought that was just a little strange, and asked me about it, so I explained I had good news. Yay!

I called DH right away, and then talked to my mom, one of my sisters, one of my brothers -- that's enough to ensure that it will percolate through the family grape vine. And my MIL called to tell me how happy she was that the news is good, for now.

I now have a reasonable basis for hoping that maybe I won't need any more surgery or RAI. Who knows what will show up on the scan in May? We'll have to wait for that, and, as I like to say, jump off that bridge when we come to it. For now, I think I can deal with that.

Monday, March 28, 2005

comedy of errors, cont.

The story of my thyroid cancer is one screw up after another. Eventually things get put right, but usually only because I spend some time making increasingly annoyed phone calls.

This latest round is par for the course, unfortunately. It all started last Tuesday when I went over to my local office for my blood draw. It was scheduled for 8:30, and I was fasting and hadn't had my meds yet. At 8:30 I'm OK in that state, but it doesn't last very much longer. I drove over to the medical office building and found a parking space, which in itself is a minor miracle. The problems started when I walked into the lobby and saw that my endo's office was dark. All the other offices were open and lit...sigh. I tried the door. Locked.

I knocked, thinking that the lab techs could be working in the back and the receptionist hadn't arrived yet to open up the front office. No answer.

I sit down on the bench in the lobby and cool my heels for a minute, and then I dug through my purse and found their card, and called the main office number on my cell phone. "Was I scheduled for my labs in Phoenix?" I ask.

Hold on a sec, let me see -- oh, yes, here you are. No, you're scheduled for the [local] office, but I don't know why anyone would have done that. There isn't anyone there today.

Gee, like I hadn't noticed. "OK, what should I do?" I was dreading the idea of driving by myself, fasting and unmedicated, up to Scottsdale or worse, Phoenix.
There's an independent lab just a few doors down from our office there. You can get your blood drawn there.

OK -- I did the back-and-forth a few times with this person, because the thyroglobulin test is tricky, and it's a good idea to have it done all the time at the same lab. She assured me it would be OK and we would get results that we could reliably compare to my previous results. (Little did she know...)

I walked over to the lab. There were, without exaggeration, at least 30 people waiting. Maybe even 40. But wait, it gets better! I don't even have real paperwork, all I have is my doctor's notes on two different prescription forms, so someone else, someone who does not know me or anything about thyroid cancer and the tests you would order for a thyroid cancer patient, has to interpret her writing and transfer the order to a lab slip.

The one upside of going to that lab is that there is a great tech there, a guy from India (I just love their sibilant accents), who always gets a vein on the first stick. Alas, I continued my streak of bad luck by getting the older woman with the lovely manicure (she always has the nicest nails) who can't hit my veins without digging. Tuesday she was lacking in patience, though, and after digging around in my left arm she declared my arms "impossible" ("Not for the Indian guy," I was thinking, but I just kept my mouth shut -- you don't want to annoy someone who is about to jab you with a sharp instrument) and she drew three huge tubes from the back of my hand.

I have to give this woman credit, because the vein didn't blow out. Of course my hand was killing me for a good while afterwards, but I was still impressed.

My blood was drawn, and off I went. The helpful person at the endo's office said that my results should be back by Thursday, so Thursday I called and left a message for lab results.

No call back Thursday.

Friday afternoon I call because I don't just want the results, I want my endo to tweak my meds because the chest pain, palpitations, and skin crawling are all nightly occurrances now. It's not the worst thing I've endured, but I'd rather not deal with it all if I don't have to, you know?

So I called again and rang through to the receptionist and gave her my story. Newsflash: My endo is on vacation until next week. A nurse can give me my results over the phone, but no one else can adjust my meds, I'll just have to wait it out -- which also means filling yet another Cytomel prescription. That's just annoying because I didn't want to refill my old prescription, I want a new prescription.

OK, I understand about the meds having to stay where they are for now. I can deal with that. What about my test results?

We don't have them.

What? Get this: The lab didn't send the results back, so they had to track them down. We'll get back to you.

That was Friday afternoon. Saturday and Sunday I just pretended this whole situation didn't exist. DH's comment to me Sunday night: "You've been really happy these past two days." I was, too. I just set the burden of worry down for a few days, knowing there wasn't anything I could do about it over the weekend. I wish I could turn it on and off like that all the time. The weekend was a gift, and I really enjoyed my shopping and seeing DH's confirmation on Saturday, and then all the Easter stuff on Sunday, even though I ate wayyyyy too much chocolate.

This morning, I was busy cleaning out the refrigerator in preparation for DH's birthday cheesecake. Then I made the cheesecake, which came out awesome. After lunch, MIL and I went out to do errands to pick up presents for DH and groceries we needed. We picked up DS1 at school on the way home, and when I got in and there was no message from the endo's office, I called them again, and specifically asked to speak to the person who had helped me last week.

She's really a doll, but the worst thing is that whenever I talk to her it's because there has been a screwup. Anyway, she found my labs, which had been sent back on time, just to another doctor -- eek! We did some back-and-forth and she didn't want to give my numbers because she couldn't advise treatment or interpret them for me. I told her, no problem, I have my last labs, and I just want to compare.

She was fine with that, so she went and got the paperwork, and gave me these numbers:
TSH 0.05 (I knew I was over-suppressed)
T4 1.3
T3 3.2

"What about the Tg, and Tg antibodies?" (sounds of paper rustling)
I don't see that here.
"Did they do the CBC, then?"
Yes... why did they do a CBC?
"My white blood cell count was very low, and we wanted to see if it would come back up."
Yes, that's in range at 4.4, although the bottom of the range is 4.0

No Tg or Tg Antibodies, though! "That's the one test I really needed," I explained. You know, the whole cancer-tumor-marker deal. She said she'd check with the lab to see if they had even run those tests, perhaps they, too, had gone to the other doctor. We ring off.

About 15 minutes later, she calls me back. The lab did not run the Tg or TgAb, but they still had frozen specimen and would run the test on that if they had enough. (roll eyes here)

I can call her on Wednesday afternoon for the results.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


This day was strange. It seems I did nothing, but that's just because I didn't prepare any meals (although I did pick up the pizza for dinner.)

DH and I both shopped (separately) today for clothes for the service tonight. I spent an inordinate amount of time at Nordstrom Rack trying to find a top to match a very pretty skirt I found. I tried on a cardigan I loved, but it was really too small (sigh), and of course, it was the only one they had. So after that exercise in frustration I went down the strip mall to TJ Maxx and found a dress and shoes in about a half-an-hour. Yay! I love the shoes, they are so comfy and pretty. I bet I wear them out this summer.

We left for the Easter Vigil at 6; it didn't start until 7, but that's OK. We hung out in the courtyard with all the other candidates for a few minutes, and then I went in to the Church to find a seat. It was already packed at 6:20! I managed to find a seat in my "usual" area, and another Saturday vigil regular sat next to me. Actually, I recognized quite a few people in my general vicinity, which was nice. DH, of course, didn't have to worry about getting a seat, as they had roped off about half the church for the candidates.

There were over 40 baptisms, and I'd say at least 30 confirmations, if not more. It was really quite extraordinary. My voice only went squeaky a few times, once when there was a cloud of incense, and once when I swallowed wrong -- that has been happening more frequently lately. (grrrrr) It was nice to be able to sing, and I liked the songs they chose.

DH is a full-fledged Catholic now. Yay! It was so nice coming out of the church and having so many people greet us to say Congratulations or just to shake hands. I feel it is so important to belong to a community larger than your own family, and I love the community of our church.

We got home a little before 10, and got everything ready for the Easter Bunny. Tomorrow's plan is egg hunt, brunch, and then Mass with the kids.

Papa is recovering nicely from his terrible fall yesterday -- he tripped off the curb and broke his glasses, and the wire frame sliced his forehead by his eyebrow. He had to get stitches and has a nasty shiner now with lots of swelling, but already it looks better than it did yesterday. DH picked up a pair of dark glasses for him to wear so he won't feel uncomfortable coming out with us tomorrow -- he wanted to stay in and hide! He says it doesn't hurt and I hope that's true. I'm very glad he decided to come with us to brunch. It just would not do to leave him home!

Nana and Papa oversaw the egg decorating while DH and I were at the vigil. I know how much the kids enjoy that, and I'm sorry I missed it -- but I'm still very glad I got to go to the Easter Vigil and see DH's confirmation and all.

Happy Easter!

they're evil, I tell you!

The Easter Bunny arrived only about a half-hour ago and I've already eaten about a million of these things.

It's only once a year, right?


Thursday, March 24, 2005


The rhythmic sloshing cycles of the dishwasher somehow
preserve the stillness of the house.
The others drift in sleep, even the cat
breathes evenly amidst the familiar white noise.
Only I remain, grasping
Or failing, rather --
What is this vague shadow, hovering
elusive in the corner of my mind's eye?

Indistinct, it looms, yet patiently.
This hour, shadows take form.
Through this bright day I sailed, skimming the breezes,
a child's hand in each of mine.
But, now:

Something terrible is going to happen...

Something terrible always does happen, somewhere. So?

So, far from home,
a woman lingers, dying by court order,
hearsay hardened into law.
Many issues here perturb.
Love, law, life, all disturbed. Lost in all
the words, a woman starves, alone.

While in a file cabinet, unread
lie alphabet soup and my Tuesday numbers:
TSH, Tg, WBC, Ca
Therein, my future. The knife a certainty, temporary
reprieve, or... nothing at all.

It's just one test.
We really don't know.

For me, more tests will come, regardless.
None for Terri.

Two sides of the Coin: Heads, I don't know
Tails, It is certain.

Here are my two shadows, then:
For me, Heads;
the not-knowing gnaws away my calm resolve.
Tails for Terri.
Sorrow comes in a storm of anger,
regret, and disbelief at what is sure.

Time brings its resolutions.
The coin will be tossed again, and again.

nothing succeeds like excess

Today was just too much, the exact kind of day I'd expect the kids to melt down and everyone to become wretched and miserable as a result. But they didn't. Sometimes they amaze me.

Actually, I only had the 2 younger ones today, as DS1 took off with his Dad and Papa down to Tucson to see a spring training came, Diamondbacks vs Colorado Rockies. There were ups -- cotton candy, seeing Gonzo hit a home run -- and downs: the game was called in the fifth inning because the players were being attacked by bees. Or maybe it was hornets. Not a swarm, mind you, but enough of the little critters to make playing impossible, I guess.

The boys' field trip left Nana and I with DD and DS2, and we, well, had a blast. We went to CPK for lunch where I once again indulged my thing for the insanely good tortilla spring rolls. After lunch, we went to the Build-A-Bear Workshop where DS2 spent his birthday gift card, and then some; DD spent her own money, of which she has plenty. DD picked out this very soft, adorable purple bear. DS2 chose Elmo and a Border Collie (now named Arfie). Nana contributed to the madness by buying DD's bear another outfit and shoes, and a smaller puppy ("Little Arfie") and puppy backpack for DS2. Whoever came up with the idea for that place is probably so rich it isn't even funny.

After BABW, DS2 requested "Toy Land," which is the padded play area for the toddlers and small children to run around in. That was perfect since we needed to kill time until the movie, so Nana watched the kids while I took the animals and loot out to the car. I thought it was a good idea to move the car over the movie theater side of the mall, and then I stopped to get the tickets -- only to find out that the paper had the movie times completely wrong! Oh, well. We just let the kids play a bit longer, and went to the 3:50 showing of Ice Princess.

This movie did not make me wince, but I do get annoyed at some of the stupid things that parents do in kids' movies and tv shows. The complete absence of any kind of a father figure -- any at all -- was somewhat disturbing, too. It was a mother/daughter thing, all the way. That said, DS2 didn't mind because we had a huge vat of popcorn, and the movie ran out before the popcorn did. I was relieved that the movie was much less stupid than the previews made it seem like it would be. I enjoyed the skating, all the girls were pretty, and even though I felt like anvils were being dropped every 5 minutes or so, it was really pretty fun.

It has been so much fun to watch Joan Cusack evolve over the years. I don't think she has ever been a romantic lead, but I do love her work. Kim Catrall was as flinty as Samantha, but she never got to purrrrr the way her old Sex & The City character often would; she seemed pretty humorless, unfortunately, for almost the entire movie. That was how she was written, though: the tough-as-nails coach who has micro-managed her daughter's life to the point she is completely miserable. Whee! Cusack's crunchy granola feminist-lit prof character was just as much of caricature, I think -- at one point, she says, "I confess, I went a little wild. I made the pancakes with white flour." My MIL teased me on the way home, "She reminded me of you!" (Yes, I am a Nutrition Nazi, usually. Lately, not so much, and boy do I feel it. Time to get back on the program.)

By the time we got home, and the boys got home, it was after 6, and then we ordered take-out Chinese and ate way too much, again. Oof.

One of the most extraordinary things about today is that the only hint of uppity-ness was a very minor thing DS2 pulled because he didn't want to sit by the window at CPK. It lasted all of 30 seconds, and when I switched seats with him, he was fine from there on out. This is a far cry from the days when we'd have to lug around entertainment of some sort or other for them; now they can color or do whatever (people watch, play "I Spy") to entertain themselves. DS2 often remarks on the interior design of a place; he loved the palm trees etched into the glass booth dividers and the windows at CPK. He is such a cool kid.

Today's anecdote of the exceptional: At dinner, I put a spoonful of hot mustard on my plate for my spring rolls. "What's that?" he asked. I told him it was mustard. "Oh," he says, "it looks like horseradish." It's a litte more greenish-yellowish than horseradish, but yeah, it does kind of look like horseradish. And how many 4-year-olds are talking about horseradish, anyway?

DH reported that all went well with DS1, too, except for a very minor dust-up on the way home, when it was well past snack time. But even that blew over quickly, and the boy was his usual charming self by the time they got home. After dinner he was practically bubbly. DD was her usual poised perfect self; I remember when she was four or five we went through a rough patch with her, where I'd have to drag her out of a store if I wasn't going to buy her anything. It was ugly, but she hasn't done that in the longest time. It's not something DS1 ever did, and I'm hoping DS2 is like his brother in that regard; I'd love never having to do that again.

It is really a blessing to be able to go out and enjoy myself with my kids, as often as I do.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

the slippery slope

I did something else today I haven't done in a very long time: I made white rice. It's Calrose, actually, the shorter grained, sticky rice that's great with Japanese food and is a much less costly, but effective, stand-in for arborio if you like risotto.

I scooped the rice out of the canister and dumped it into the pot, and rinsed it three times. When I was in high school, one of my best friends was half Japanese, and she taught me about cooking rice. So, I always rinse it, and always rinse it 3 times. I like how the water turns milky-white on the first rinse. I feel like a pre-schooler stirring the rice in the cool running water, the slippery grains like sand. I like how the wet rice clumps up in the bottom of the pot. You could make sculptures of it, I think, like you would with silly sand. Wet raw rice has lots of possibilities.

One cup of rice, rinsed, one and a half cups of water, in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, and then turn off the heat and let it sit until you want to eat it.

I could make rice in my sleep, even though I probably haven't made it in 5 years.

There was a several month period of my life in my 20s when rice was the only thing I could eat that didn't give me horrible stomach cramps. I ate a lot of rice then.

Later, much later, I'd come home from work and have to eat something but not know what, so I would throw on a pot of rice while I figured it out. Rice cooked with chicken stock, then mixed with frozen peas, makes a complete protein and a very portable lunch. I ate a lot of that over the years.

Still later, when I could finally eat without feeling sick, I fell in love with food: tastes, textures, techniques... I was a single woman in a terrific city, earning good money and going out a lot. I discovered basmati rice and Indian and Thai food. Then I discovered risotto, and that was all she wrote.

I was the risotto queen. I made this incredible risotto with shallots, white wine, fish stock, shrimp and peas... oh, heaven. Even a simple creamy risotto with chicken stock and a little parmesan stirred in... how easy is that? There's something awesome about the way the little glistening beads of rice absorb the liquid, bit by bit, somewhere along the way transforming into themselves into edible velvet.

Unfortunately, my joy in cooking destroyed my metabolism. No matter how assiduously low fat I ate, I was always hungry and always gaining weight, or struggling heroicly not to. It was so frustrating, because I was really following all the rules, but I was miserable, and I was tired of having to buy new clothes in larger sizes...

Then I met a guy, we fell in love, got married, and moved West (the creeping weight gain came with us, alas). Then we had a baby, and 21 months later, another one -- and about six months after that, my brother-in-law told us about this diet he was on, Protein Power.

It explained everything. Every single thing I was struggling with, this book made sense of, and it told me how to eat for my metabolism. And it worked! It's still working, too.

And that's why I haven't made rice in so long. Rice was my companion through a lot of horrible times, and through some delicious experiences as well. But it can't be a part of my day-to-day life anymore.

I had some rice tonight, maybe a half-cup, not enough to do any damage, I'd guess. It was good. It was great, actually, having the sticky rice to soak up the tremendous spicy sauce from the pepper beef. [Step away from the rice, Joan!]


Can I do this? Can I make rice, oh, say, once a month? How about a pilaf, wouldn't that be lovely? Or maybe... just a little risotto? I don't have to make a vat, you know -- just 3 or 4 servings...

Is there a 12-step program for this?

everything in its place

I cooked again today, a nice dinner: Spicy Pepper Beef, sticky rice, cucumber salad. It comes to the table as just a few things, but it requires a surprising amount of prep to bring it all together. There is a lot of slicing and chopping and grating (fresh ginger -- mmmmm!) before you even get to the actual cooking parts. Those processes, the "prep", are all working towards the cook's dream: a perfect mise en place. The literal translation from the French means "put in place," and that's exactly what you're doing.

I've already taught my kids about having a good "meez", especially when you're baking. We assemble all the ingredients before hand, to make sure we have everything we need, and nothing gets left out. Even when I'm baking something hurry-quick-quick that I have done a million times and need no recipe for (like chocolate chip cookies), I still do a mise. Perhaps not the elaborate mise you'd see on a cooking show, where every ingredient is pre-measured into neat glass bowls (although I do have some of those -- not enough, now that I'm thinking of it...), but at least I have every ingredient out, lined up, and all the appropriate measuring cups and spoons out, too.

So today, I got my mise together by coring and slicing the peppers, and then steaming them in the microwave (IMO, crunchy peppers are best left to salads and crudite plates; if it's cooked, I want it soft and flavorful). I sliced the beef and marinated it, and then I crushed the garlic and grated the ginger into one of those little glass bowls I don't have enough of. Then it was just a question of pulling everything else down out of the cupboard and lining it up on the sideboard. When it was time to cook, the whole thing came together effortlessly.

I love a good mise.

Monday, March 21, 2005

quote of the day

"It's my responsibility to eat candy."
-- DS2, four years old, on the occasion of the denial of his requested snack of chocolate and/or lollipops.


These past few days I have been feeling agitated and powerless, much as I did before the elections in November, because of the Terri Schiavo case.

I feel as if this is a tipping point, and how this case is decided will determine which direction our country is going to go. Just now, many people are fighting to save this woman's life, and a few are seeking her death. The problem stems from initial findings of fact by Judge Greer in FL, that have never been reviewed because fact-findings are not subject to appeal, only procedural issues are!

To me it is incomprehensible how a convicted murderer can get a stay of execution from the governor of his state, but a completely innocent woman can be murdered this way without some people even batting an eyelash.

This feeling of portentious events pending, over which I have no control, has made me sad and scared and unsettled, and all that is exhausting, too.

I spent the day with the kids, we did some errands and then I more or less ignored them the rest of the day (heh) -- cooked a nice dinner for the in-laws, who arrived about 5:30pm. We ate outside just ahead of the evening chill descending, and it was very nice.

Woke up this morning to that dreadful familiar hit-by-a-truck feeling, much to my annoyance. Plus the left parotid has started kicking up a bit, too. At least now I have a more symmetrical face again (cloud, meet the thinnest silver lining ever.) I decided I need to get moving, though, and started up my trunk-stability exercises from physical therapy again, in the hopes they will help my back problem (worse lately, too). Could all this be weather related? I suppose, but you know, I hate that. Can't control the weather, and most of the time I don't even pay attention to it enough so I could proactively medicate before symptoms kick in.

Tomorrow AM: blood work. What will my Tg be? I hope, I hope it has gone down... I have to remember to ask the tech, When can I call for the results? No way am I letting this one slide.

Big Fish

I finally caught up with this movie that I have wanted to see since it was released in the theaters. I generally like Tim Burton movies (OK, OK, I actually love Tim Burton movies, mostly -- he has had some dreadful misses -- but I didn't want to sound too much like a fangrrl. Too late now) and I adore Ewan McGregor, in spite of Star Wars Episodes Bad and Worse. I even like Helena Bonham Carter, even though she hasn't been very fortunate in her choice of roles, so much (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, anyone?); I guess they can't all be Fight Club.

So I kind of knew what this movie was about and had read generally positive reviews and I was still somewhat trepidatious going into it. Is this how I wanted to be spending my time?

No worries... it is about as perfect a film as I can remember in a long time, and my only regret is catching it on the TiVO and having to watch it in full screen, an abomination which should never, ever be allowed and yet somehow perpetuates from day to day, in spite of the stupidity of it.

Reading over some of those reviews, I can see the validity of their criticisms: pacing seemed odd, the editing sometimes stifling. But for my mood, this exploration of a father's life through the mechanism of the skeptical son was exactly right. It is very difficult for a son to truly know his father, as I am finally learning now to know my mother. There is a softening that is required, an acceptance that what they seem to be, they are... and more; Will's fumbled iceburg metaphor is of course apt.

I was thinking, I wish I had seen this sooner -- but if I had, I wouldn't have understood it so well. We are always drawn to the familiar, it evokes that feeling, Yes, that's exactly right, that's what happened to me! or maybe just I understand that, I've done that, too. That's Big Fish for me. I understand Will, and I understand Edward even more, in ways that I wouldn't have, last year. I'm glad I only saw this just now.

been a long time since I rock & rolled

The Led Zep riff?

The sound of a powerful motor accelerating?

The sight of that row of seats magically folding itself down?

The tiny, Tiffany-blue bag in the back of the SUV?

The gorgeous, together woman who was doing the driving? (Did you see her shoes?)

It's late, I'm tired.

I dunno.

I suddenly find myself wanting one of those Cadillac SUVs.

(I have betrayed my fantasy car allegiance to the Mini Cooper! I'm so ashamed.)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

unlikely identification

I watched parts of the Russell Crowe Oscar-fest Gladiator last night. I've seen it a few times and generally enjoy it, CGI tigers and all. Maximus is such a good man, and Commodus is so evil, it's impossible for me to not enjoy good triumphing. I also like, as cheesily presented as it is, that Maximus ends up with his wife and son in his idea of The After Life.

Now, there is absolutely nothing in my life remotely comparable to the life of a fictional Roman gladiator. Still, though, one scene really got me. Maximus is about to go out and fight some champion or other, and he is raging to his owner about the State of Rome. So you have to picture Russell Crowe in a dress (a lot of it is leather, but it's still a dress), waving this honking huge sword around, proclaiming,
Marcus Aurelius had a dream of Rome, Proximo. And this is not it. This (here, a tremendous flourish of the sword, indicating the screaming mob in the arena stands) Is. Not. It.
Then he stomps out into the arena, beats the other guy, and spares his life even after the Emperor has condemned him. The crowd, as they say, goes wild.

So, there's poor Maximus, recognizing that Rome is not what it should be and raging against it, and in that moment, I saw myself: Hey, I know that feeling! I paused the broadcast (I love TiVO) and said to my husband, I know exactly how he feels. Sometimes when the house is a disaster and the kids are all getting on my last nerve, I think that same thing, I had a dream of what my life would be like, and this (sweeping hand gesture) is not it. This Is. Not. It!

And then I fell over laughing.

The whole scene just cracked me up. Yes, it's a big dramatic movie, but the sight of Russell Crowe waving that sword around, talking about Marcus Aurelius's dreams was just too much for me. Who talks that way?

This afternoon DS2 was running around with one of his plastic swords and put me in mind of the whole thing so I started laughing again. Then I had to re-create the entire scene for the kids. DS1, without ever having seen the film, can do a spot-on Maximus imitation.

So I've warned them that the next time they're all going nuts I'll just wave my arm around and say dramatically, "This Is. Not. It." They'll know what I mean, and we'll all laugh, and that will be the end of that.

Friday, March 18, 2005

don't wanna go there

I'm tired of cancer.

I have this idea that if I look to the future and make plans that's good. Then I have to implement the plans, and that means I need information. So I get the information, and it reminds me that my plans -- short, medium, and long term, are all subject to change... can't rely on being able to do anything.

It's not that I won't ever know (I hope), it's just that I won't know for a while. Maybe next week I'll know more. Maybe in May I'll know more; maybe then I'll see a six-month stretch with nothing to think about except a blood draw or two. Then again, maybe I'll be scheduling some horrific-sounding surgery.

What I have to do is accept that this is a part of my life and just integrate it -- blood draw for Tg next week? Yeah, that's no big deal (but the results?). LID and scans in a couple of months? Yep, that's not hard (but what about the results?). Another round of surgery, how about some more RAI? Gotta do what I gotta do...(AAAUUUGGGHHHHH!)

I'm still fighting that acceptance. It has been 5 months since my diagnosis and I'm still pushing it away, still hoping it will just...evaporate. I don't want it to be real. I don't want to have to live with this for the rest of my life. If I accept it, that will mean it's real. Of course my resistance doesn't make it any less real, but it does mean I'm constantly upset about it.

Intellectually I know that acceptance would help, but that doesn't matter. I can't make myself accept this situation. It will have to happen over time. It's going to take a long, long while to get used to this idea.

shiny new blogroll

After a bizarre delay in receiving my account confirmation email, I was finally able to create a blogroll. It's so much more easy to manage than the hard-coded list of URLs in the blog template. Now it will be so easy to add new links!


Thursday, March 17, 2005

don't like this

I noticed this little brown spot on my pinkie today, just under the nail and extending onto the cuticle. I expected to be able to wash it off, but couldn't. I hope it's a bruise, but I don't recall smashing my finger. It feels tender but then so do all of my cuticles.

As far as I know, it's unusual to see pigmentation like this. I'll have to present this to the dermatologist when I go for my next biopsy the first week of April, if it hasn't resolved by then.

that's just not right (supper edition)

I wrote once before about affronts to culinary goodness in that's just not right (breakfast edition). The topic back then was reheated scrambled eggs. I can say with relief and gratitude that I haven't had to consume an abused plate of eggs in quite a while. We've been working on the timing, and that's going well; also, eggs are not quite so heavy in the breakfast rotation these days.

Tonight's adventure takes us to the end of the day, and involves the collision between an exotic dish and the lowly potato.

The exotic dish is Masaman curry. This is a very tasty Thai stew-like dish that has (usually) beef, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, coconut milk, and lots of tasty Thai spices like tamarind, lemon grass, and fish sauce. It's a comfort food for me, but I'm usually too fussed to make it myself (although I have, with good results.) We get our Thai take-out from the strip-mall gem Mint Thai Cafe in Gilbert.

Which brings me to the potatoes. Potatoes -- especially cooked potatoes -- should never be refrigerated. They acquire this nasty taste that no amount of spicy sauce can camoflage. About the only thing you can try to save a refrigerated (or, heaven help us, canned) potato is frying, but even that is no assurance that you won't still taste that nasty refrigerated taste.

Yes, even leftover mashed potatoes suffer this unfortunate transformation in the refrigerator.

At this point, you may be wondering what I'm talking about, because I have the impression that some people don't or can't taste the difference between refrigerated potatoes and those that have never been chilled. If you're one of those who has never noticed a difference, you may consider yourself lucky, because there's nothing quite as nasty as biting into a potato and getting that mouthful of refrigerated taste...

... which is exactly what happened to me at dinner tonight. Masaman, like all stews, does improve overnight as the flavor settle together -- except for the potatoes! If you're going to make it up and let it sit for a day or two, just leave the potatoes out! I expect Mint Thai does not think like I do about those potatoes, and keeps its masaman, potatoes and all, in the fridge until it's time to make a new batch. So this is not all that unusual for Mint Thai, although there have been times when the potatoes have been fantastic. Fresh potatoes are fantastic in masaman curry, because they absorb all the flavors so wonderfully and quickly; they don't need to soak for days. The best thing I can say about the refrigerated potatoes is they don't contaminate the rest of the dish.

So I ended up (as usual) picking out all the potatoes, which is probably better for me anyway, carb-wise. I eat a sparing portion of the accompanying jasmine rice, and I'm fine -- there is more than enough to eat, even after picking out the generous portion of potato wedges.

I still wish there was a way to find out about those potatoes without having to actually taste one. Is the risk (nasty taste) worth the potential benefit (perfectly masaman'd potato)? Given the low probability of the latter, I'd have to say no.


That was today... got up at a reasonable hour by anyone else's standards, but early for me, to help get the kids ready for school. Today was Field Day, and they both needed lunch and suntan lotion, and I had to put up DD's hair. DH could've handled it all (well, maybe not the ponytails) but I had told him I would help, so I did.

Then I read for a while until I realized it was 8:45 and DS2 had to leave for Atrium at 9, and he was still sleeping! Rousted him out of bed, got him dressed, and made him a chocolate protein shake for breakfast. Got him there on time, too, where he proudly presented his teacher, one of our parish's seminarians, with a fish he had more for him. Last week, they talked about fish -- maybe the miracle with the loaves and fishes? I'm not sure; usually they follow along with the regular liturgy pretty well. For whatever reason, on Monday DS2 insisted on making this fish, so we did, and we managed to preserve it until today so he could give it to his teacher.

I am always fascinated by the things the kids find interesting. You never know what is going to appeal to them, particularly.

Anyway, after dropping off DS2, I dashed over to Target to do Easter shopping. I tried on a few things and have come to the conclusion: I hate cheap clothes. Even if they are well cut, they are poorly constructed. I tried on this cute dress (and it was really cute), but I couldn't do up the zipper because the lining was all bunched up around it. Poor construction. What can we expect for $24.99? Crap, that's what. I don't mind getting cheap clothes for the kids because they grow out of them so quickly; it doesn't make sense to spend huge amounts on clothes that will be worn for only a few months. But I haven't bought myself a decent article of clothing (I'm not talking t-shirts and yoga pants here, after all) in months.

So: the clothes all went back on the racks, and I focused on the other Easter shopping. I found a cute hat for DD (she has been begging for an Easter bonnet) and a nice little cardigan she can wear to church; the a/c gets brutal in there sometimes. And I got a copy of The Incredibles on DVD to send to the writer from my online writers group who is now stationed in Iraq. I had just enough time to pay up and dash over to get DS2.

I figured he would be starving, but he had a huge shamrock cookie (green frosting) and an Easter egg cupcake (they are always giving treats in that class!) so that held him over; we came home so I could wrap up the DVD and write a sappy (but sincere) note to my friend, and then we dashed to the P.O. to send it off.

Then we dashed over to the Mall to See's Candies, where I got Easter baskets for all the teachers. Tomorrow is the last day before Spring Break, so it was now or never. This is a tradition with me. I always wish I could do more in the classroom, and I really appreciate how hard the teachers work. So I like to do something for them when no one else does. There's nothing overtly Christian about these baskets -- they are filled with eggs and bunnies, after all -- so I don't expect anyone to ever be offended by this. I'm not exactly sure how I would respond if someone were; it's not that big a deal, really: it's candy. You don't want it? No problem. Moving along now...

Came home to drop off the EBs. DS2 insisted he was not hungry for lunch, so we went to get DD, who had lunch at school today. Hung out with her for a while, then wandered around in search of DS1. DD showed off her monkey-bar prowess for me, and DS2 got to go down the big slide on their play equipment, and then we resumed the search.

We ended up finding DS1's teacher before we found him (he was in a different classroom). She was glad I had come in, because there was an "incident" yesterday with DS1; he stuck his tongue out at another teacher, and basically told her off ("I'm not listening to you!") Oy.

Got the boy, brought him home, fed DS2 lunch, talked about the tongue-sticking-out situation with DS1, got him to sit down and do his homework, and then write a note of apology to that teacher for being so rude. All this was more or less like pulling teeth... then I had my own lunch and felt a bit better. (tortillla, leftover chicken, jack cheese, avocado, salsa. mmmmm)

Then I took them out to the barber's where they all 3 insisted on haircuts. DS1 needed it the most, but the other 2 had not been in quite a while, so, OK. Everyone looks nice and neat now. DS2 insisted that I needed a haircut too, but I declined...

Now we're home and I'm dead. All the way home the kids were pestering me about going out to eat tonight. Ain't gonna happen, I think... they just don't want to have to eat anything in particular, and that's what happens at restaurants.

On the other hand, about the only thing I'm up for cooking is PB&J. I don't know where this day went.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

calm before the storm?

Two things of import today: first, I saw my ENT, and he was great. Second, I got my reports from the whole body scans (WBS) I had done after my RAI treatment. My ENT got them about the same time I did, since his office staff faxed them over to me when they arrived there. (Thanks, Pam -- you are a gem!)

The fax comes in, I'm reading it over, and get to the money graf:
Radioiodine accumulation in multiple lymph nodes in the neck and upper chest and possibly in residual thyroid tissue. There is no evidence of distant metastatic disease.
First reaction: yay! no distant metastases.

Second reaction: multiple lymph nodes?! No one ever said anything about lymph nodes before. My impression had been that all the uptake in the neck was from residual thyroid tissue. Hmmmm....

Around the time I'm thinking, "Hmmmm...." the phone rings; it's the ENT. He just read the scan report, too, and wants to know: Did I have a neck dissection? Was I scheduled for one?

Well, no. I reviewed the treatment/management plan with him and said I was OK with it. I am, for now -- because next week I'm having bloodwork done again. If my Tg is up again, I will not wait for May for a scan, etc. I will push for earlier treatment, I have pretty much decided.

Treatment, however, is almost certain to be a neck dissection, because lymph nodes are typically resistant to RAI.

I'm doing well not freaking out because there was some balancing good news. The large mass that was identified on my neck u/s following the TT is no longer there! The ENT told me that he would certainly have felt it in my skinny neck (he was much more diplomatic in how he put it), and since that large mass was assumed to be a bunch of swollen lymph nodes, that's a good thing, right? Oh, who knows? I sure don't.

I'll have more information next week, and maybe then I'll be freaking out. But I'm too tired to freak out about some uncertainty.

Other positive things about today: the ENT is obviously fantastic -- he called me. Personally. Not his nurse or assistant, either. That's very cool.
Info from the appointment:
1) He thinks my salivaries will settle down eventually, and that all the swelling under my jawline and in my throat is just a different variant of what's happening with the right parotid gland. I can live with that -- he didn't recommend any invasive procedures or anything else expensive, either. Very cool.
2) He examined my vocal chords (boy, is that a strange process!) and said it looks like there may have been some damage to the supralingual nerve so that the right side is a little wonky, but voice/speech therapy might help with that. He said whenever I want to start, he can give me references -- I told him I will wait to see if I need more treatment, first. (Next week is going to be very interesting.)

All in all it was a very positive experience, and I'm happy to have this guy be part of my medical team.

My endo, Dr M, called today, too, which is a miracle. The message was barely 3 hours old. She OK'd me dropping my Cytomel dosage from 20mcg down to 15mcg. Whew. I was really not feeling well on so much. I'm very interested to see if I have any TSH at all next week! I talked to Dr M about the ENT's concerns about the lymph nodes, but she seemed satisfied that we were handling it all properly.

So I'm not freaking out yet, but I've already warned DH that if I need a neck dissection I will do some crying. It is getting to the point where I'm getting a phobia about being cut -- too many surgeries and biopsies and whatnots. Too many stitches. Too many scars. Too many assaults on my body!

But if they can go in and clean me out one more time so I can be done with it, that would be worth it! Another concern I have, can we do this in such a way that I can still have my super fantastic summer on Cape Cod? I hope so. I don't think I want to wait until August, when we get home again, to deal with this.

What a day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

so vain

The scar is 5 months old now (give or take a week). Can you see it? I can, but that's because I know it's there. No makeup, and no comb, either. (hee!)

Here's what I looked like two months ago.

If I end up needing a radical neck dissection, I know I will fondly remember the days when the only scar on my neck was this relatively tiny one.

saving the next dance

The director of the local Princeton Review called me this afternoon, to see how I am doing and if I would be up for their training sessions this spring. I had been accepted into their training program last summer, but the schedule conflicted with my already-paid-for vacation plans. Then the fall/winter session had to be nixed because of my thyroid surgery and RAI, etc. This call was completely out of the blue.

"I was wondering if you'd still like to teach for us?" she asked me.

I would so love to teach for you, I said, before I started babbling about not being able to -- still not sure where I am in my treatment, if I'll need further surgery in May, blah blah blah. I also mentioned my voice problems and that I'm following up on that with the ENT tomorrow.

I did, in fact, babble. I couldn't help it. She called me! And she was very understanding of my situation, and said that when I know I can do it, just to give her a call, "We would love to have you here."

I have this idea that I'd like to teach teenagers (high school science), but reality doesn't always participate in the way we'd like it to -- so Princeton Review would be a great way to test-drive the concept, so to speak. Plus the schedule is such that I wouldn't have to put the kids in daycare or anything like that. The money is abysmal, of course, but I wouldn't be doing this for the money.

It's really nice to think that this option is still open, future health permitting.

on obtaining medical records

I know HIPAA was supposed to protect patients and prevent their confidential medical information from being released without their prior consent, etc.

What I'm finding is that many providers use it as a convenient excuse to refuse to release my records to me!

It's massively annoying. The doctors' offices will not, for example, fax my records to a private number -- mine -- although they will happily fax them to another doctor. Grrrrr. The medical records people at the hospital where I had my post-RAI scans done will not fax, mail, or otherwise release only the reports to me at all; the reports and the films have to be released together, when given to a patient! I don't want the films, I just want the reports, thankyouverymuch. Again, grrrrr.

Now, combine this nonsense (refusal to release my own records to me), with the fact that my new ENT's office refused to accept reports on me before my first appointment, and you can see the bind I'm in. The ENT's office folks say, "Bring all your reports with you, you don't have a file yet so we won't know what to do with reports that come in before you do," but the medical records people are all, "We will only send this to the doctor's office, not to you."

I have managed, through persistance (including showing up in person) to get every report I need to bring to the ENT tomorrow, except for the WBS reports from the hospital. And the very nice woman in the file room there advised me that I should just call them first thing in the morning, and they will fax the report over to the doctor's office then; since I'm on the schedule early, hopefully they'll know what to do with the reports. And hopefully they will make a copy of them for me! What a run around.

I wish there was some standard form that I could fill out for every one of my providers that said, "Automatically forward a copy of all lab test results, operating reports, pathology reports, and any other pertinent analytic results to this patient." Then I would just get the stuff via some established procedure, and I wouldn't have to be a colossal pest to every medical office worker I come into contact with.

I don't like being a pest. I like not having my test results and reports even less, though. If I hadn't pestered for my blood test results last spring, I'd probably still be walking around with a cancerous thyroid.

"otherwise unremarkable"

I just love the way radiologists dictate their reports. I can totally picture Dr. Olga (not her last name) reviewing my MRI films and huffing, "What is with this woman? There is nothing wrong with her! Why does she keep pestering us?" So then she dictates the report, which sounds like "blah blah blah show mild degenerative changes. Otherwise unremarkable MRI examination of the lumbar spine."

I know, this is a completely factual report and there is no "attitude" involved, but it still just cracks me up.

I am understandably relieved that there's nothing going on, disc-wise. It would appear that the piriformis issue is just causing different problems. Now I have to get my butt (literally) back to physical therapy.

Monday, March 14, 2005

4 is hard

DS2 has a vicious cough and hasn't been sleeping very well.

After one of his spats with his sister today, she went outside to play, and he decided to take a few spins around the kitchen island on his tricycle. (Yes, the kitchen is that big.)

His misery overcame him, however, when he saw his sister outside without him -- I had made them separate to prevent blood-letting. So he just sat on his trike screaming "I don't wanna!" over and over.

You don't wanna what? Who knows. He certainly didn't. There was no point in talking about it.

So I picked him up and sat him on my lap, holding him secure and rubbing his back. He nestled his head into my shoulder immediately, but he was still sobbing and sighing. Eventually all that subsided and he went to sleep.

When he was tiny, I carried him in one of those baby carriers you wear like a backpack, only you keep the little one in front, of course. We tried the sling but not one of my kids was ever comfortable in it, but the two younger ones loved the babypack. DS2 spent a lot of time in it, too, because I was always taking one of his older siblings to school or somewhere, and if he was in the babypack, he could just come along for the ride.

The one thing, though, was he always wanted to face in, towards me. This is required when they're tiny, because they don't have the strength to support themselves, facing out. It's OK for the wearer because their little legs are so short that they don't impeded your walking. Once they've grown and developed some muscle tone, you can wear them face-out. DD, like every other baby besides DS2, loved being face-out; she could see where we were going and interact with everyone, and being face-out put her legs away from mine, so I could walk without our limbs crashing into each other.

DS2, though, hated being face-out and cried and cried whenever we tried it. I couldn't even carry him face-out on my hip! He does have a slight depression in his sternum (I can't remember the technical term for it right now), and we think it probably just didn't feel good to him, having pressure across his chest. So I always kept him face-in, and he always loved curling up against me. Of course I would end up lifting him, in the babypack, if I had to do any serious walking, because his legs and feet were always smacking against my thighs... but it was still worth it to have him in the babypack!

I think being on my lap, like today, with my arms around him, holding him against me securely, must remind him of those days when he could spend hours with me, like that. And even as a big boy of four, I think it still must feel close to perfect, to be safe and warm and loved, all at the same time, and to be held just so, letting sleep settle over you because it is the rightest thing in the world.

Dolores Claiborne

One of the reasons I was grumpy today was not enough sleep; I stayed up till 2-ish watching, for the umpteenth time, Dolores Claiborne. Maybe I am just a bourgeois housewife, but I find the real-world Stephen King stories much more compelling than his horror fantasies, at least when transferred to the big screen (except for Carrie, that was totally creepy.) I really like The Shawshank Redemption, too. These stories are so well-set in time and place, and the characters are complex and real. And since we're watching the stories on-screen and not reading about them, we're spared King's habits of overloading on pop culture details and gratuitous product placements. Stephen King: a great, imaginative writer long in need of a great, steel-spined editor. But I digress.

I hadn't seen Dolores Claiborne in a long time, but I was reminded of it when I was watching the TiVO'd "100 Scariest Moments of All Time" special that DH had recorded. Kathy Bates in Misery was somewhere in the Top 10, I'm not sure where -- but seeing her made me think of poor Dolores. Bates's performances in both films were fantastic, but now I haven't seen her in ages! Where is she?

So, the movie: unrelentingly depressing, gray, oppressive. Until the very end, where this is some hope of a brighter future. Yay! There are really only two characters in this movie: Dolores, and her daughter Selena. Selena has repressed memories, and I wonder about how other people react to that particular plot line. My reaction: Yes, that's exactly what it's like!

They got it exactly right, as far as I'm concerned. My repressed memory had nothing to do with my parents or child abuse, in fact The Repressed Event happened when I was in my 20s, and it did not, in fact, stay repressed for very long, comparatively speaking -- 6 years, maybe? And it wasn't deeply repressed, either, but The Event was certainly missing when I'd look back over the significant events in my life, even looking back over the things that happened when my first marriage was falling apart. It's not that I had simply forgotten it, either -- it was gone. I didn't remember "something happened, I don't know what," I didn't even remember anything happening at all! Until, of course, I did remember.

In my case, the trigger was a simple question, What started all this? but asked in a specific time and place, by a specific person... the key that unlocked the memory. You could've knocked me over when I remembered what had really happened. I had one of those, "I have to sit down," moments. How odd! This kind of thing only happens in movies and on made-for-TV specials, right?

No, I guess not. No, because it did happen to me.

So there is one aspect of my identification with this movie: I had a lot in common with Selena. But there is another aspect, and that is my commonality with Dolores, who escaped (by horrible means) a horrible, oppressive marriage. I did that, too. My ex-husband, neither a drunk nor a child-molester, is happily running the tax department of a major Boston law firm these days, so don't go thinking I've pushed anyone down an abandoned well or anything like that. Not every horrible thing involves violence or law-breaking, right? I saw a way out, I took it, but it was a tortured road.

Every day I am grateful that I followed it to the end -- escape! Sometimes I wonder, How did I manage that? How could someone as beat down as I was, get up and walk away? I had help, so much help; I'm thankful for that, too. There are people who will always have a little piece of my heart, because of what they gave to me, what they helped me take back for myself.

So much time, frittered years lost. Then I think of Dolores and Selena, suffering for nearly 20 years before they could come to any peace. I think, that could've been me.

But it's not, and it never will be. Such a powerful reminder, Dolores Claiborne.


It still surprises me that even here in the Sonoran Desert, the weather in March can be just as capricious as it is in New England. Today started fair and fine, with nary a cloud, quite warm. It held until about 2, when something started blowing in; by the time we were leaving to pick up DS1 at school, there was a stiff wind and the temp felt 20 degrees cooler, and the sky was filled with clouds.

Now I'm listening to various howls and the jangles of the windchime outside, and I'm thinking, did I leave anything out there I don't want getting wet? I don't recall hearing a forecast for rain, and most likely this front will blow through here without letting fall a single drop, but you never know with this sort of thing.

My mood was as oddly changeable as the weather. I seem to be taking things very badly lately. The two younger ones got into a tiff while watching Dora. Probably my least favorite words as a parent, after "I can't", are, "That didn't hurt," repeated until shrieking and crying commence. It's like the kid is stupid, asking to be beat up -- "Oh, that didn't hurt!" is just asking to be smacked, whacked, or whatever'd, again, until it does hurt. I over-reacted to the little tableau but felt fine after lunch. (Lunch, what did I eat for lunch again? Oh, yes, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And 12 crunchy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.)

I made whipped cream after supper (beef stew, recipe around here somewhere) to eat with the amazingly perfect strawberries I got at Sam's Club yesterday. Great strawberries and fresh whipped cream are a very cheerful combination, you have to admit. The nice dinner, and the fact that it wasn't a stress-fest putting it on the table, was a nice way to start the evening.

Other than dinner, not much of a day. My biggest accomplishment was getting DS2 to take a nap. We all schlepped over to the vet with the cat, who is starting on a course of steroids to see if it will help her tentatively-diagnosed inflammatory bowel disease. She seemed much calmer for having the kids there, and they were so solicitous of her it was sweet. I was happy they were there! A miracle.

I tried to find out about my MRI, but it turns out the rheumatologist went on vacation on Friday and won't be back for another week. So I went by the office and tried to pick up the report, but it hadn't been typed up yet! So I will get it tomorrow. I have major errands awaiting, too, but didn't have the energy to get to them today.

Every single gland or node in my neck feels swollen now. Swallowing, not fun. So glad I'm seeing the ENT on Wednesday, although whether or not he'll be able to do anything at all for me is one of those as yet unanswerable questions.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

linen season

These past few days the high temps have reached close to 90, and I'm sure it has been well above that in the direct sun. So linen season has begun!

Friday I took the kids to Border's after school, and it was nice to be at our old hangout again. It seems that things keep coming up and we only make it there once a month or so, but everyone still remembers us, which makes it very comfortable.

Late Friday night (after 12:30), DD woke up in tears with an earache; we dosed her up with ibuprofen and put the painkiller drops in her ears, and she went back to sleep. That kind of threw a minor wrench in our plans for Saturday; I took her over to the urgent care center where they confirmed that she has another ear infection.

After picking up her prescription and everything, we were finally ready to go to the Ostrich Festival, which is basically a big fair/carnival thing with rides and all that. The kids love it. We had wanted to get there right at 10AM when it opened (it gets very hot in the open, like that), but ended up getting there closer to 11. It all worked out fine, though. There were no lines, and everyone was very pleasant. We split up, DH taking DS2 and me with the older two, and they did rides for an hour or so and then we had lunch -- we even scored seats at a picnic table in a covered ramada, in the shade, prime lunch real estate. I splurged on "spun potatoes", freshly cut and fried in peanut oil, lots of salt... mmmmmm. Also on the fresh squeezed lemonade ($4 for 32 oz, $2 for refills). We spent an inordinate amount of cash on buying water -- you're not allowed to bring your own, and who wants to carry it around, anyway? And then, the food. Yikes. Could you believe it took us about 10 minutes to track down some cotton candy? We get a small bag and let the 3 kids split it, it's really not so much of a sugar overdose certainly it has less sugar than the lemonade does! DH even got a deep-fried twinkie. It was OK but I think the Oreo would've been better. (hee)

We were home before 3PM, sticky, dusty, and exhausted, and had early baths and went off to church.

Today I took the tribe to the Mesa Southwest Museum to see the new exhibit "Tusks", about the cool tusked animal fossils that have been found in Florida. There were these really bizarre creatures called shoveltuskers that I had never heard of before. The kids really love that museum (me, too). After the museum we went over to Sam's Club for snacks and some groceries -- although I was irritated that the pharmacy was closed when we got there, if it is even open at all on Sundays -- so I will have to go back this week for my Cytomel.

I am thinking that my ravenous hunger (which could be related to how much junk I have been eating, but maybe not) may be related to my meds, I am probably technically hyperthyroid at this point. New labs a week from Wednesday, just have to tough out a little longer and see where this all ends up.

Oh, and since DS2's spring break is this coming week, he's going to have to come with me to see the ENT on Wednesday. Sigh. I don't mind bringing him, but it freaks him out to have to listen to me talk about all of these things with the doctor. Which of course I have to do.

In-laws arrive one week from tomorrow... that will require some getting my act together before then. Heh.

My back is not-good, and on Friday when I called for the results of my MRI, at 2:30pm, I was already getting the "call the answering service and leave a message if you must" recording, even though office hours are supposed to be until 3PM! I am going to complain about that, for sure.

And my throat feels more junky than ever. I have either a very slight cold or allergies going on, but seriously, ouch. My face hurts, my jawline hurts, my throat hurts. I'm glad I'm seeing the ENT on Wednesday.

Those are just the top two complaints for now, but that's enough. I am miserable but trying hard not to be. All of this is very tiring. Friday and Saturday both I crashed on the futon in the family room for an hour's nap. I wonder how I will be able to get through all the things I am supposed to be doing, and all the plans we've made -- Disneyland? A few hours at the Ostrich Festival laid me out! Well, Disney is still more than a month away so I hope to feel better. We'll manage, regardless... we always do.

I'm very glad for the warmer weather. The air outside smells insanely good with all the orange blossoms. And there's a lot less laundry because we're all wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

espinaca fantastica

I had this bag of baby spinach that was supposed to be good until Sunday but already some of the leaves were getting yellowish. I hate that.

And I had these two beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes (good size) that were fast approaching over-ripe (that is, they were turning to mush, almost.)

Soooo... I sauteed the chicken breasts in plugra and olive oil, letting them get nice and brown, and then I took them out and covered them until dinner time. Then I tossed in a couple of cloves of pressed garlic and let it soften.

Then I seeded and diced the tomatoes (always seed them unless they're Romas; the seeds can be so bitter!) and tossed them in with the garlic, and used the liquid from the tomatoes to deglaze the pan.

Let that bubble for a while, then hacked off a chunk of frozen green chilis (probably half of a small can... I got some larger cans and never use them all at once, so I put the leftovers in the freezer) and tossed that in to melt, and added a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, too. mmmmmmm

Washed the spinach, and let it drip for a few minutes while I grated up about 3-4 ounces of Monterey Jack.

Stirred in the spinach until it was wilted, and then cranked up the heat so all the liquid would cook down, and then stirred in the cheese until it melted.

Not pretty, but Oh. My. God. I had it with the chicken, with the bread, I scraped out the serving bowl it was so good. DH liked it well enough, too (I noticed him taking 2nds and 3rds, too) and said "Yes, definitely" when I asked him the same question I ask after every culinary experiment: Can I make this again?

This would make a great hot dip, too. My lunatic salivary glands are doing all sorts of crazy things as I write this!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

you don't know how lucky you are, boy

I'm sipping a cup of Tazo Wild Sweet Orange (warning: pretentious, opaque web design) tea. It is not in the least sweet, being pucker-worthy tart in fact, but it is absolutely delicious.

I've got some nice jazz coming over the surround sound thanks to the DirecTV music choice station.

I had three Dove dark chocolate pieces a little while ago, and they were delicious. Larrian says Dove dark is good stuff: chocolate that's good for you! I love it.

Today, I did the usual drop-offs and pick-ups. I returned my 3rd attempt at a pair of dress formal pants for DS1's upcoming first Holy Communion; they fit him when he has the waistband where it should be, but he insists on wearing all his pants at the hip, and so, back they went. Personally, I'm in favor of teaching him to wear pants properly, but DH -- who does exactly the same thing -- says No, and volunteered to take the boy shopping for pants. Yay!

I folded and put away the last load of laundry (socks & underwear... the sorting never ends!) from Sunday. (ahem)

I made fresh bread for dinner, and had everything ready when it needed to be, so DH wouldn't be late for RCIA.

I had a catch with DS1. It has become close to impossible to mock him for throwing like a girl, and he is catching well now, too. When he's paying attention, he can throw some heat. I love the "thwack" sound a fast ball makes when it hits the pocket. I also really like my new glove, which has seen far too little action since I bought it last spring. The boy was surprised when I got out the gloves and practice balls but I knew DH wouldn't have time for it today, and it's so gorgeous out it's all I can do to come up with more excuses to be out of doors.

DS2 curled up next to me, stretched out on the couch, as we watched Kipper (Imagine That!) after dinner. I fell asleep for about 10 minutes. It was divine.

It wasn't just a good day, it was a great day. I know that.

But I started out the day inexplicably sad and am ending it disgruntled for no discernible reason. The eating has fallen off a bit (only 3 chockies as opposed to 25 chocolate chip cookies), but my throat hurts and I happened to run across a completely horrifying discussion about radical neck dissection. This isn't what I was reading, but it's a good enough description -- obviously what gets taken out depends on what the surgeons find when they get in there.

The combination of cyclical hormones and stark terror at the thought of needing that surgery is not a good one. Maybe I won't need that surgery but I managed to get that u/s report, which noted a mass "thought to represent lymphadenopathy" (that is, swollen lymph nodes), measuring approx 3 x 2 cm. Now, there are a lot of reasons that lymph nodes could be swollen, but given the history of the region and the number of nodes already removed that were found to be cancerous, it's highly likely that there's more cancer... maybe a lot more.

I wish I could un-read that report and not think about stuff like this but now I am noticing an obstruction every time I swallow, and the last time this happened it was the cancer. I know, I know, I've got scarring and healing going on in there, but this is near the top of my throat, not down near the thyroid bed.

I'm seeing the ENT Friday morning. Likely he will pat me on the head and say, "No reason to panic, now." (I should wait till later, then?) I have to stop making myself crazy with this. The idea is to get through one day at a time, one treatment at a time -- my next milestone is labs in 2 weeks to see how things are going. That seems impossibly far away, now, although it will be here before I can exhale, or at least it will seem that way once it is finally here.

I'm just wishing right now that I didn't have to deal with either hormonal cycles or cancer, so I could simply enjoy days like today.

status report

The orange and lemon trees are covered with swelling buds. The air is already heavy with the scent of the orange blossoms. Soon it will be overwhelming.

The sky was impossibly blue today, without even the memory of a cloud. The rose bushes are as laden as the citrus trees, although a few rogue blooms are already showing.

It was positively hot in the sun, but the shade was delightful. Everyone is happy to be outside these days.

Well, everyone, that is, except The Cat (sometimes). Obviously our foolish attempt to keep her from sleeping on the desk by allowing it to become consumed by clutter has failed utterly.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

medical research confirming what we already know...

... while serious questions go unanswered, or important research never sees the light of day. What can we do?

This article, A happy marriage can help mend physical wounds, is cool, but also kind of, "ya think?!?" It only makes sense, at least to me, anyways. The human body is just one huge set of interconnected systems, and everything affects everything else. It makes sense to me that environmental stresses, especially a bad relationship with your spouse, would have a measurable impact.

"You're making me sick" is something that can literally be true, and now we have the research to back us up when we resort to using that kind of hyperbole. But is having a free pass to toss that time-worn phrase during an argument enough justification for an entire research study?

As these "happy marriage" research results are coming right on the heels of the dying of a broken heart research, it seems that some medical researchers are spending a lot of effort to prove things that most rational people take for granted as being true. Why?

Does it help to quantify these things? Will producing a measurable result enable better patient care, or preventive therapy? People in bad marriages already know that being in a bad marriage sucks, do they need to be told that they're suppressing their immune systems and inhibiting the formation of healing proteins, too? Will this new news (gasp!) provide sufficient motivation for people to stop being obnoxious to their spouses? I don't think so.

The "dying of a broken heart" research is even more incomprehensible to me. Most everyone understands the concept of "will to live." This is something that you have to have to survive. If your will to live evaporates, sooner rather than later, you'll die.

I am intimately aquainted with this idea, as for the first eight weeks of my daughter's life, it was neither here nor there to her if she lived or died. She was a pleasant, happy baby who loved snuggling. But she took zero interest in feeding herself, and would take upwards of 45 minutes to drink an ounce and a half of expressed milk from a bottle; nursing just exhausted her.

There was nothing physically wrong with her, she just wasn't sure what she wanted to do. Around about 2 months she decided to stay. The only reason she was around at 2 months to make that decision was because we had made heroic interventions on her behalf, coaxing her to eat every 2 hours, and patiently loving her until she developed the will and the strength to live.

We didn't need any research backing up our decision to take these extra measures, and we don't need a study telling us that people who have sustained a major loss can die of a broken heart. They don't have to die, the study said. If intervention was made in time, a complete recovery could be made. Do we really need to be told that some people have a hard time recovering from a loss, and won't, unless they get help? Isn't that obvious?

I'm on a tear on this subject right now because of a discussion over in the Yahoo ThyCa support group. A research paper published this February says that use of sour candies in the first 24 hours after RAI ingestion actually increases the exposure of the glands to radiation -- in other words, does more harm than good. This research has spent 2 years in the publication pipeline, and I understand the business of peer review, and juried articles taking time. I also understand that sometimes journals have more stuff than they can publish, so 2 years to a publication date is not all that unheard of.

What irritates me is that this study demolishes the standard course of treatment after RAI, and no one knows about it, and a lot of people (including me) are having negative consequences because we followed a protocol that we didn't know had already been proven harmful.

Yeah, yeah, the nuclear medicine doctors are different from the doctors who did the happy-marriages-heal study who are different again from the dying-of-a-broken-heart researchers. It just seems to me that there are a lot of legitimate medical questions that go unanswered, when all this fluff science is being touted in the media. So, being in a happy marriage can help you heal faster. Great! Yes, it's possible to die of a broken heart. OK. So what? How does this research benefit anyone other than the researchers? Isn't there something better they could be doing with their time?

I'm not advocating changing anything in how medical research is conducted -- more power to the doctors and researchers to decide their topics, get their funding, and write the papers. The Lord knows it's not something I could do, and I value them for their amazing work. This area is covered by the First Amendment, as far as I'm concerned -- up to a point; we trust our researchers have ethics. I'm just frustrated by the stuff that I see getting lots of air time, while the research that can actually help improve the quality of people's treatments and their subsequent lives never even makes a blip on the media radar. (Maybe the problem is with the media, and not the researchers? -- Partly, yeah, but that's a whole 'nother topic.)

What is to be done? If you want to know what's up within a specialty, you have to go look it up yourself. Fortunately I have the ability and resources to do that, but the average non-medical person does not. What about the average doctor? I'm always telling my doctors about new research I've read that may be relevant to my treatment. My doctors are still my doctors because they listen to me when I do that. I am not a doctor but it stands to reason that I have a lot more time to spend researching my condition than does a doctor who is treating dozens of patients. A good doctor will keep an open mind and won't be bothered by being handed a sheaf of abstracts.

There are countless online support forums where people can keep track of new developments, and help push the word out into the real world, where medicine is practiced, not just written about. These can be a mixed blessing, and you have to know that going in. Forums are populated by the hard cases, so it's dangerous to form an opinion about a condition based solely on what you see and learn in a forum. That said, online forums are often the best place to find out about new research, because most successful forums have one or two gatekeepers who keep an eye on the journals and post about anything relevant. Forum archives are a great resource, too, for searching on a particular set of symptoms, for example. You can bet that, no matter what you're going through, someone else has been through it already. The question is, will their experiences help you? It's a given that they can't unless you (and your doctor) know about them.

Hat tips: Thanks to Dr. Charles for the link to "happy marriages" article. I saw more than one link to the "dying of a broken heart" research, and I can't remember where... it was a month ago, sorry! Thanks to Dr Kenneth B. Ain for posting about the sour candy/RAI research over on the Yahoo! Groups Thyca Message board.

(wince) (cringe)

One of DD's tiny front teeth is loose enough that she can wiggle it with her tongue, and you can see it moving.


Of course she's thrilled to be growing up and getting a visit from the Tooth Fairy, but I have told her that I can't look at her face anymore until that tooth is out.

Monday, March 07, 2005

look at all the little piggies...

I have that stupid, stupid Beatles' song going through my head now.

Anyway, there aren't all that many little piggies to look at here, just ME!

I have been eating way too much. Too much junk, too much of everything. I'm up to just under 130 and if it gets any higher than that my clothes will start looking terrible, which is just a tiny notch below "won't fit."

I'm hoping this is cyclical. Or possibly related to the increase in thyroid meds (hey, it's possible!). Or maybe I've just decided that I want to eat whatever I please, consequences (i.e., fat thighs) be damned.

On the upside, my face no longer resembles those of the walking dead. The cavernous cheek/dark eye circle look is so over, donchaknow!

trust me

Lately I've been butting heads with DS1 on some pretty stupid things. I've been looking at the pattern we're establishing and I don't like it, but I'm not exactly sure what to do about it.

He has fallen into the habit of disagreeing with me or ignoring me when I tell him to do something. Doesn't happen all the time, or even every day, but there is a stubborn streak in that boy (just like in me, and his Dad) and every few days something I say to him will just stick in his craw and he just Will. Not. Do. It.

Yesterday's argument: reading time, and he has been reading a science trivia book, which is fine, but has no sustained narrative. It's not the best kind of reading for him to be doing, but I let him do 3 or 4 days of it last week for a break. He reads at least 30 minutes a day, so yesterday I got annoyed when he asked me, "Am I done yet?" after less than 10 minutes. The appeal of science trivia had obviously expired.

So I got out Farmer Boy and said, "Read this." No! Oh, you'd think I whipped him and branded him with hot coals -- such torture to read this book. Personally, I think every kid should read this book and get a clue as to how easy their lives are... plus just about every kid will enjoy reading about how independent the kids are, and the little mischiefs they get into. I first read this book when I was in first grade myself, and I still remember how the kids made ice cream every day when their parents were away, and how one of the girls had to patch the wallpaper in the parlor...

The point, though, is not that this is a great book, a classic, blah blah blah -- the point is that he simply refused to do what I told him. So after trying to convince him about the book -- which I admit, there is no guarantee that he will like, but since he has liked other books that I liked at his age, I figure this was a good fit, too -- I ended up revoking computer privileges for the day, and I was counting down to revoking TV privileges, too, and leaving him confined to his reading chair until he just got down off his high horse and read the book... when he finally relented, since he didn't want to have a completely miserable rest-of-the-weekend.

What is it that leads a child to defy his parent?

In this case, underlying the stubbornness (always a factor), I sensed an undercurrent of I don't believe you in my son's attitude. He didn't believe that the book would be good, because I was the one telling him that, naturally.

I'm sure I'm taking this attitude too far to label it a lack of faith of me, but that's more or less what we're talking about here. I think it's vital that every parent instill absolute faith in their children: your kids have to believe that you are working towards their good, always, even when they disagree with you or your methods.

When your kids think your rules are for your benefit, not theirs, that's when rules get broken. (BTW -- that's the same reason that people don't follow God's laws, too. They can't see that our religious teachings and guidelines are to help us, and so they turn their backs on them, harming themselves without even realizing it.)

The way to instill that faith is through experience -- the children have to see our dedication in action. At a certain age, too, I think it's appropriate to discuss this with them, too. They are not going to agree with every decision we make, every rule we set governing their behavior, but our rules are made for their good, and to help them grow into responsible adults.

I think if we can feed this faith it can help make this kind of head-butting incident less frequent. I have to try and remember that when we get into that kind of a situation to step back from it and say, what is really going on here? Is this just laziness or being stubborn or is there something more underlying it? Note that the consequences for being disobedient don't change because of the motivation, but a clue as to the motivation can help with avoiding the situations in the future.

He ended up reading well over 20 pages.

the mri experience

I got out of bed surprisingly easily at 6AM, took my meds and puttered around doing chore-like things (emptying dishwasher, etc) until it was time to leave for my MRI. One of the nice things about medical appointments at the crack of dawn (6:45 in my case today) is that, barring some freak staffing accident or mechanical breakdown, they never run late.

And so it was today. I filled out the paperwork ("Hurts more on the left side occasionally, but mostly it hurts the same on both sides.") Zero chance of pregnancy. OK, we're good to go.

The MRI is not unlike the nuclear scan I had post-RAI, in that you get that lovely claustrophobic "I'm stuck in a coffin!" feeling. However, MRIs are worse in that they are so noisy -- at least this particular machine is; the tech actually apologized and said this model is notorious for it. Even though he had me wear earplugs, the noise was so loud it startled me. And since the noise is intermittent, and you have no idea when it will be stopping or starting, you spend the entire time you're in the tube tense, trying not to move a muscle, but getting scared out of your wits every few minutes when the noise starts up again.

Ways in which it was better than the nuclear scan: shorter time (only about 30 minutes), and more head clearance; if I had to sneeze, I wouldn't give myself a concussion.

The noise, though -- I think if I ever need another one of these things, I will go to one of their other offices (they have them all over the place), because that was really bothersome. My neck actually ended up getting a kink in it, because I was holding my body so tense just waiting for the next blast of sound and trying to be still all at the same time.

The report will be to the doctor in 3 or 4 days, so I might not hear anything this week. I'm not enthused about this anyway. I don't really want to go to physical therapy (even though I know how good it is for me) -- it's just really hard to fit it into an already over-crowded schedule, especially when I'm not feeling all that great on top of things.

I guess I'm hoping there's some quick fix -- a cortisone shot, maybe? -- that can settle things down so I can go back to being my usual sorta slouchy self. At the computer, when I'm typing and reading, I'm Miss Ergonomic. Excuse me for wanting to melt like a puddle into the couch when I'm watching mindless television... lately that hasn't been possible. Any extended sitting becomes excruciating if I don't keep my spine properly curved, and it's tiring. This is all probably happening because I have no muscle tone -- I'm slim but not fit. It's not like I've been in any condition to be working out much lately, though. (grrrrr!)

pros and cons of live performances

We saw Pat Metheny at the Chandler Center for the Arts last night, and, as always, it was a great show.

That said -- let me get this out of the way -- if I could nominate both Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays for What Not To Wear, I would. Maybe I should? These guys are such phenomenal musicians but they're wearing the same clothes and hairstyles that they did 20 years ago. Pat, the horizontal-striped boatneck t-shirt is just not doin' it for you, man. And Lyle? The scary hair has got to go -- come to think of it, same goes for Pat.

Moving on from the completely shallow to the marginally relevant, I had a lovely surprise when we got to the concert. My best friend T and her husband had the seats right next to ours! Total shocker -- each of us had no idea the other was going. Things have been rather hectic lately. So that was an unexpected bonus.

I also figured out that I could use my (tiny) purse for a lumbar pillow, and therefore could sit through the two-and-one-half-hour concert with only minor back pain. We did get up to applaud after nearly every piece, but given that the first two pieces totalled nearly an hour, that was still a lot of sitting.

I felt prescient when, after those two monumental pieces, Pat said, "Normally at this point, I'd say 'those were some pieces from our new album,' but that actually was our new album - The Way Up - the whole thing. Thanks for still being here!"

Interestingly enough, there is a review on Amazon from someone who attended this same concert, and his take is pretty much the same as mine. The show was phenomenal, but I'm not sure that The Way Up is an album I would put on at home. It requires some effort, as it is really one (very) long piece, much more like a classical symphony or other longer work. There are tons of changes in tone, tempo, and key, numerous solos, and all sorts of stuff going on. I will admit that I was lost from time to time but found the overall effect pleasant. Sometimes I don't have the mental capacity to adequately process jazz or fusion. Honestly, I would have to hear this again before I could make any judgements about it, because I was easily distracted last night, and The Way Up requires attention.

That said, I had no trouble at all with the rest of the concert, because nearly all of the music was familiar to me, and the musicians were all stellar. I must mention the hardest-working roadie I have ever seen, too. This woman had so many guitar changes that I lost track very early in the evening. Pat must have played at least 8 different guitars, and at one point the way he was strumming the stuffing out of one of them, you know that as soon as he gave it up it would have to go back stage for retuning before he could pick it up again. I loved the times when he would sling one guitar down and across his back so he could play another that was set on a perfectly angled stand for him.

Images like that are one reason I adore live performances, even though they are expensive and too loud and we have to get a baby sitter and my back is killing me by the end of the night. You just cannot re-create that experience at home, even with a concert DVD and a kickin' sound system. It's just not the same.

I have always loved the energy that flows between the band and the audience in a giant feedback loop. I always leave a good concert simultaneously hyper and exhausted, full of new ideas and energy, but depleted by giving so much of myself over in my enthusiastic applause, whoops, and whistles.

No whoops for me last night, though -- my throat is sore all the time now, and my voice isn't strong enough. So I contented myself with the occasional whistle (also difficult, because of the odd saliva situation now), and lots of clapping.

I know a lot of people wouldn't bother, they'd say, "You can buy the album for less than half of what you paid for that ticket!" I say -- it's not just the music, it's the experience, and the experience is worth the price.