This and This and That

Greetings, friends!  I know I’ve been waning on my blogging duties lately, and that disappoints me because I was just starting to get to all the art projects I’ve been working on that I wanted to share with you.  Buuuut… I’m still navigating the learning curve with this Lupus diagnosis, and just when I thought I’d be in and out of a quick flare, I got a bad sinus and upper respiratory infection, I injured my knee in an apparent sleeping accident (another fine benefit of Lupus), and then another flare followed.  So, this…

…is the second Medrol (steroid) pack I’ve had to take in the past four weeks.

…is the new (and grossly disgusting!) homeopathic turmeric milk drink I’ve started taking daily to attempt to help with inflammation.

…is the remnants of a cute little egg I found on my doorstep.  (Any ideas on what hatched from this would be greatly appreciated.  My first guess was a ringneck snake because we have a lot of those here, but after Googling it, this egg is too round and large.)

And then this…

…is when the shingles for my new roof were delivered this week.  (How cool is that conveyor belt truck?)

…is the roofing crew installing my new roof this morning.  (Actually, this is what my roof looks like naked!)

…is the color scheme that Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I will be painting (or attempting to paint) the exterior of our house this weekend (though with my current state of health and the medical recommendation that I avoid the sun, I believe my contributions may be more in the nature of a supervisory role).  The house will be the Mined Coal grey, the trim will be Bakery Box white, and the accent trim will be Little Black Dress (to match the new charcoal roof).  And once that’s done, I’ll be building two gable pediments which will be white.  Since we are using an airless sprayer for the first time, we’ve all also been busy watching YouTube and See Jane Drill tutorials on how not to end up wasting 15+ gallons of paint.

So, since I’m not able to do the regular blog-thing again quite yet (but hopefully after the house is painted and things are a little more back to normal), I just wanted to pop in today and share some photos I took in Washington D.C. last year, and a couple from other places, and also say that…

…I hope each of you have a Happy, healthy, and SAFE Memorial Day weekend!

…I hope you all remember the purpose for Memorial Day is to honor America’s servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation’s values (and that whether you agree with each and every one of those values or not, you at least appreciate the sacrifice that was made when these lives were lost…I already know you do).

…you all (or at least all the Americans) remember that on Monday at 3:00 p.m. in whatever time zone you are in, that is the time for the one-minute moment of silence.  (In case you have never heard of this, in December of 2000, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” which asks Americans, wherever in the world they may be at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause for a duration of one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.)

Finally, thank you to all the amazing heroes that serve or have served in our nation’s military.  And thank you to all the front-line workers, essential workers, and to those who are helping keep us safe during this current Covid-19 crisis.

Let’s talk:  What are your plans this weekend?  Have you ever painted the outside of a house with a sprayer?  Do you think we’ll do a great job or have the biggest headache of our lives in this attempt?  (I’m sure it will be one extreme or the other, with no in between.)  Did you know about the 3:00 national moment of silence for Memorial Day?

So, this happened…

When Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I bought our house a couple of years back, we, of course, had our mail forwarded.  We were so proud to own our first house and no longer be renters that we changed our Driver’s Licenses, Voters’ Registrations, magazine subscriptions, various insurances, etc., as soon as we could.

Between the three of us, we probably get a total of about five or six magazine subscriptions per month.  When you go on the magazine’s website to change your address, most of them tell you that it will likely be after the next issue is mailed before the change will take place, so be sure to notify the Post Office of your new address.  Okay, no big deal.

All three of us spent a lot of time those first couple of months camped out at Home Depot, Lowes, and Floor and Décor, among other home improvement stores.  We had tons of changes to make to make this place feel like it was really ours, and nothing was going to stop us.

Meanwhile, the mail piled up on a table by the door while we busily learned how to build walls, change out light fixtures, paint textured walls, etc.  Then came the day that we took a break and sorted through the mail.  That’s when we found this magazine.

Or what was left of a magazine after the Post Office damaged it.  (If you can’t tell, this is literally the bottom corner of the cover only of a magazine!)  At least they apologized for their error and included their wishes that the problem didn’t cause us too much inconvenience.

Let’s talk:  Is this hilarious, or what?  Did you ever get something like this from the Post Office?  What’s the most damaged item you’ve ever received from any shipping company?  Regarding the last place you moved, did you make any changes as soon as you got there, or did you wait a while?

Underneath

I do realize I need to clean the glass on my front door.  But, putting that aside, look:

How rude!  Good thing I didn’t clean the glass yet, or I’d have to do it again to get the slime off.  (But seriously, he’s still small enough to be cute.  When the larger guys come to the door, that’s not as photo worthy.)

Let’s talk:  Cute or creepy?  Have you ever eaten frog legs?  How are you and your family holding up?  What’s changed this week in your city?

Hitchhiker

These days of the unknown are certainly frightening, and the cabin fever doesn’t help.  Which is why I guess when I went out in search of food and somehow picked up this hitchhiker, he gave me just the hearty laugh I needed.  (He seriously didn’t want to leave!  I had to get out the car and hand-feed him some French fries to coax him down.)

Let’s talk:  How are you and your family holding up?  Do you have a curfew or stay home order where you live?  Are you running low on supplies yet?

NIJOD

When I read the word NIJOD, I know I can cast my worries aside and enjoy peaceful sleep.  “What’s NIJOD?” you ask?  Allow me to explain…

My 26-year-old son Jeremy lives with me.   But at 26, he’s not a child, so he does his own thing and it’s not like I can stop him, even if I think whatever it is he has planned might be a bad idea.  However, because we are technically roommates (and because he doesn’t have the most reliable truck and is no stranger to speeding tickets and traffic accidents), I still get a little mama-bear-worried if he’s not home around the time he says he will be.

My 30-year-old daughter Stefani does not live with me and hasn’t for years.  While I still get pangs of mama-bear-worry over her, they don’t usually come unless I happen to know she’s in a potentially dangerous situation (such a traveling out of state with bad tires or brakes).  But as for her day-to-day life, since I don’t know her hourly plans, I just have faith that she’s doing well unless I hear otherwise.

My sister Michelle lives with me.  We are technically roommates and have witnessed a lot of the worst life has to offer (unlike my kiddos who are still young enough to think bad things won’t ever happen to them), so because Michelle and I are both old ladies responsible adults, we’ll both still give a courtesy call to each other or even to Jeremy if our plans have changed and we’ll be home significantly later than expected.

It took several years times of trying to explain to Jeremy that I’m not trying to control his every move, but rather just want confirmation that he’s not been in an accident or ended up in jail for some reason (not that he’s criminally mischievous – he’s definitely not, but he also would have no qualms about defending himself by beating the crap out of someone if he felt they were threatening him).

Finally, I got him to agree to texting me a code word if he’s going to be very late or not come home at all that night.  NIJOD.  NIJOD is our code word, and it’s an acronym for “Not In Jail Or Dead.”  I used to text him “NIJOD?” and hope he replied, but now, he almost always automatically sends a quick NIJOD text on his own and I go to bed without imagining all the possible reasons why he might be so late.  Apparently, texting NIJOD is a lot cooler than answering calls from your mama-bear-worried mommy who calls to check and make sure you’re okay if you’re not home when you said you would be.

So, if you’ve got a teenager or twenty-something kiddo who still lives with you but doesn’t feel like they should still have to report their whereabouts or change in plans, you can feel free to adopt NIJOD for your own covert communication efforts.

Let’s talk:  Do you call or text your at-home person or people when your plans change?  Would you be happy with a code word if your at-home person or people was running very late?

Bees!

Last week, I posted a call to writers to respond to a writing prompt and allow me to interview you.  So far, I don’t have any takers on the writing prompt part.  It’s okay. I’m patient.  I can wait for anyone who wants to attempt to write a short something in exchange for me asking you a few fun questions and give you free exposure to promote your book(s) or other offerings.

In the meantime, please check out the following photo of some bees I found in the exterior wall of an old shed when I was hired to do a photo session a while back….

Photo: ©R. Carrera

Have a great Hump Day!

This Simple Human

I’ve always favored the color black to decorate with.  Eons ago, when desktop computers went from that ugly mandatory beige to being available in black, I was overjoyed.  When kitchen garbage cans stopped being available only in that horrible slate blue and black became an option, I was thrilled.

I had my last kitchen garbage can for more than a decade.  It was a basic, black rubbery-plastic can with a lid.  Nothing fancy.  The lid lifted off to fold the bag under the rim, and its two plastic hinges allowed you to manually lift the lid for use.

My old can was not this model but was similar.

Removing a full bag of garbage wasn’t easy, however, so my son Jeremy drilled two holes in the back to negate the vacuum caused by the full bag.  It worked.  The design was not great (but it was black!).  The rim of the lid had ridges where gross stuff like spaghetti or crumbs would get caught, and because of the texture, it couldn’t just be wiped clean, so it had to be hosed off and scrubbed (but it was black!).

It wasn’t fancy, but I lived in rental homes, so they weren’t fancy either.  Fast forward until Sister Michelle, son Jeremy and I bought our first home.  I redecorated and wanted to go high-end with everything.  I replaced everything from doorknobs to every piece of furniture we owned.  The fixtures and appliances are all brushed nickel, so I wanted to get a stainless-steel garbage can to match.  Then I saw the $100+ price tag.  Ouch!

After all my other new house expenses, I decided to keep the old black can a while longer.  Then we started having parties, and people who got a little too tipsy didn’t know how to “work” the old black can.  (Just lift the lid, stupid!)  At one party, one plastic hinge was snapped, and at the next party, the other hinge was snapped.  I soon found myself in Bed Bath and Beyond, and something in me snapped!  I HAD to get a new kitchen garbage can right then!  I walked right past all the plastic babies and headed straight to the $180 Simple Human 14.5 gallon can.  (Luckily, I had my 20% off coupon!)

This can had it all.  It was gorgeous with a brushed nickel finish.  It had this beautiful step opening and a smooth rim under the lid.  And it even had a pocket to store more bags and the rim concealed the edge of the bag being used.  It was the Porsche of all garbage cans!  When I got home and stopped hyperventilating over the price tag, I opened the box and was dismayed to see a scratch on the lid!

The next day, I returned the can for another one just like it, and I was thrilled with how nice it looked in my kitchen.  (It had better at that price!)  But the first time I took out a full bag, it ripped.  Turns out, the liner pocket wasn’t flush against the back.  This frustrated me because, while I’m not cheap, I still think almost 200 bucks for a place to throw outdated lasagna is a bit pricey, and since it was only a few days old, I wanted it to still look showroom new.  I examined the problem and figured there was a little plastic tab missing, so I contacted Simple Human who guarantees their products with an amazing warranty.  They asked me to send photos of the problem, which I did.  I expected them to just send me a replacement liner pocket that I could pop in the back of the can, and I figured I’d have to mail them the damaged one once I switched it out.

About two days later, I received a huge box in the mail containing a beautiful, brand new garbage can!  They told me to recycle the old one and enjoy.  The cost of one of these beauties is about the total sum I’ve paid for every other garbage can combined that I’ve ever owned, so there was no way I was going to just chuck the “old” one.  So, I got out the trusty duct tape (which is, of course, black!) and taped down the liner pocket, and I went on Amazon and purchased a recycle logo sticker, and I figured I’d use it for recycling instead.

Unfortunately, the first sticker I bought was white and huge, so it made my kitchen look like it belonged in a state park!  I scraped it off and purchased a smaller sticker in grey, and it looked so good on the lid that I bought another to stick on the front.

The only trouble has been that I got a violation warning from my city that I’m not allowed to put my recyclables in plastic bags!  (Yes, really!)  What-evs… I’m loving my new garbage can (and recycle bin), and I expect to have them around for many, many years, or until I have another party.  And I also find myself polishing both cans at least once a day.  In fact, I suggested to Sister Michelle and Son Jeremy that we install a disposable shoe cover dispenser above the cans so that people can use them before they step on the pedal to open the cans, but my idea was quickly vetoed.

Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about Simple Human, their superior products, and their awesome customer service!  Thanks, Simple Human!

Let’s talk:  How long have you held onto a garbage can?  How much would you pay for a good garbage can?  Have you ever had a party guest destroy something?  What would you have done with the can that was replaced?

 

#simplehuman

We Are Family

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  One of the projects I mentioned working on prior to my most recent absence from the blogosphere was that I had uncovered some pretty cool genealogical finds within my family, and two in particular that I want to share today.  Now, I fully recognize what a boring subject ancestry can be, especially when you’re talking about someone else’s family, but I think if you’ll stick with me here, you’ll see that it’s worth the read. 

Honestly, when I started looking into my family’s history, I didn’t really have much interest in genealogy at all, but I took on a project following the death of my Grandma (who raised me and was really my mother).  I wanted to do something to honor her which would also help me deal with my grief.  She was really proud of her parents and siblings, so this seemed like the logical choice.  First, I researched and then designed a book that showed both Grandma and Granddaddy’s heritage and how each branch of their families relocated and such until the stars aligned for the two of them to meet.  Most of Grandma’s family started in England and made their way to North Carolina.  Many of Granddaddy’s family originated right here in America since his mother was half-Cherokee, and I picked up their trail in South Carolina.

The cover of the book I made

Grandma and Granddaddy met as teenagers in a small town in North Florida where she was born and had been raised and near the town where he was born and had been raised.  During my lifetime, neither of them seemed to know a whole lot about their own ancestors past the names of their grandparents.  That’s why this first cool thing I’m about to share makes me particularly sad that they aren’t alive anymore for me to show them…

I found numerous documents backing up the trail of where each family had originated and moved further south through the generations… And that’s when one particular document seemed familiar while I was researching her family… Because I had already seen it when I researched his family!  Turns out that Granddaddy’s mother’s father’s father’s father and Grandma’s mother’s father’s father were both residents of a small town in Georgia in the 1830s, and both were Privates in the same regiment under the same Captain in the Indian Wars there!

(Of course, it goes without saying, I don’t like the injustice to the indigenous people, and I don’t even understand it considering Granddaddy’s mother was half-indigenous herself, but how cool is it that their ancestors knew each other!)

(To add to the weird coincidences found throughout history, when I later did research for my next-door neighbor and made her family’s genealogy book, I found documentation where her 3x great grandfather sold land to my 4x great grandfather —  in a city approximately 200 miles from where we both live!)

Finally, growing up, I always knew Grandma – whose maiden name was Milton – was related to John Milton the poet (born in 1608), and we also knew she was not a direct descendant of the poet.  I was able to crack the code and find documentation to show how we’re related – with Grandma being the poet’s first cousin 9 times removed.  (That’s not the cool thing yet.)  Turns out the poet’s paternal grandfather had one son that was the poet’s dad, one son that was Grandma’s 9th great grandfather, and one son that was among those missing in the lost Roanoke Colony.  (Still not the cool thing yet.)

John Milton, the poet

Now, fast forward from 1608 to 1807 when another John Milton was born in Georgia.  This John Milton ended up being the fifth Governor of Florida during most of the Civil War.  (He was a very prejudiced man and killed himself upon learning that the South lost.)  Several sources claim this John Milton was a direct descendant of the poet John Milton, though I’ve also found some conflicting documents that seem to indicate he was actually the 5th great grandson of the brother (that was also Grandma’s direct ancestor) of the poet’s father.  At any rate, I think you can imagine that either way, we’re going back as many as ten generations from Grandma’s children to wherever they and the Governor John Milton’s family meshes together.  (Now we’re finally going to see the other cool thing.)

Which is why it’s so strange that being separated by a few hundred years, a couple of continents, and a few generations, Grandma’s son, my own Uncle David, is the living doppelganger to the aforementioned governor!  What do you think?

The governor is on the left and Uncle David is on the right.  The truth is, if Uncle David wasn’t wearing the hat, his hair and hairline at the time he was that age also looked exactly like the governor’s, but the only other non-hat photos I had of him at that age were of his profile.

(I have to admit, as strange as this is, I can’t take credit for actually discovering it.  Uncle David was up at the Florida State Capitol Building and, while waiting for his wife, stood in the corridor minding his business when some tourists came up to him and wanted to shake his hand.  They told him what a magnificent actor the state had selected in portraying the former governor.  Uncle David was perplexed until he looked over his shoulder and realized he was standing directly in front of a portrait of his cousin the governor.)

Let’s talk:  Do you know of any unrelated people who met long before their descendants also met?  Do you have any family members who look just like another distant family member?  Do you think Uncle David should try to pick up some extra income standing around the State Capitol building portraying the former governor? 

My Skeleton Hurts!

Hello again, dear friends.  When I made my Bloggyville comeback appearance last week, I tried to be upbeat and lighthearted.  It’s never easy leaving a place you love for a while then returning later only to be greeted by a lot of new faces who look right through you because you’re a stranger and not seeing some of the familiar old faces you used to love.  The same is true of taking a lengthy break from the blog as I did.

The fact is, while I often see things that either make me think they will be the subject of my next short story or the subject of my next blog post, the life I was living didn’t allow my body to go much beyond just having the thought to do such tasks.  It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride since I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2016, not to mention the couple of years before that with the host of medical problems I was experiencing and getting no answers from the numerous doctors I saw.

I thought that once I was diagnosed and finally had a name for what ailed me, things would start getting better.  That was not the case.  Keep in mind that I’m also dealing with Gastroparesis caused by my Lupus, so that means I still vomit more days than not, and I’m very limited in what I get to eat and keep.  My family has started saying, “Are you going to eat that meal or just rent it for a while?”  Gastroparesis typically occurs in people with diabetes, and what happens is the food they eat does not digest past the stomach, and since it doesn’t move along as it’s supposed to, it can cause their blood sugar to spike even hours after having eaten their last meal.  In my case, my gut gets so inflamed, the food just sits there until it hurts so bad I have to get rid of it in the only way I know how.  Which is a visit to hug the porcelain god.

I took steroids daily for more than 2 years to try to get everything under control, not to mention chemo for 4 months.  Because of all the poison I was eating in the form of “medicine,” my skin thinned to the point I can see my veins, and just scratching an itch can make me bleed or have a “hickey” that lasts for weeks.  The slightest bump into something can make me get a large, ugly, violet bruise.  All the meds made me lose even more of my already-falling-out hair along with other unpleasant side-effects.

But my body was still in such excruciating pain, I saw no quality of life.

And then my rheumatologist announced she was leaving her practice to move to another city.  Fast forward a few months until I got in to see the new rheumatologist who took her place.  The new doctor’s husband is diabetic and has Gastroparesis.  What this meant for me is that (even though this G.I. affliction was out of her scope of treatment) I finally had a doctor who actually understood at least part of what ailed me.

But worse than tossing my cookies (oh, how I wish I could really have cookies!) 5 or 6 times a week, I just hurt!  Everywhere!  I typically have a pretty high pain tolerance, but this was too much to bear.  I mean, it was like this (and this is factual… not embellished for comic relief):  My 10-pound cat would try to sit on my lap, and I’d scream in agony because it was as if my femurs were being broken in half.  I’d knock on my son’s door to call him to dinner and I’d recoil because it felt as if I’d dislocated every knuckle.  I’d roll over in my sleep and wake up crying out because it was as if my ribs were cracked.  I’d sit on a kitchen chair and grimace because it felt as if my spine and my tailbone had been fractured.  In reality, my problem was this: MY SKELETON HURT!  Every. Single. Bone.  I had no better way to describe it.

My new rheumatologist, because she understood better than most about Gastroparesis, realized that I was losing nutrients during my frequent time on my knees, and as it turned out, my Vitamin D was acutely deficient.  (Your levels are supposed to be between 30 and 100 and are optimal between 40 and 80. Mine was 9!)  And when your Vitamin D is low, you don’t absorb the calcium you also need to help keep your bones healthy and strong.  Turns out that the steroids and chemo I took are known to deplete Vitamin D, the anti-malarial I still take daily to preserve my organs is known to deplete Vitamin D, and my unwilling pastime of barfiness also depletes the Vitamin D. Additionally, I haven’t eaten any of the foods rich in Vitamin D (milk, fish, eggs) in more than a year because they make me puke.  And because of the Lupus, I can’t get out in the sun which is another source of Vitamin D.

(Side note: when I had the iron and B-12 anemia, that caused pain and total exhaustion, but that pain was nothing compared to this.)

So, I was put on a prescription level of D3…  If you take an over-the-counter supplement, you will either take 7,000 or 14,000 IU’s in a week’s time.  I was prescribed 200,000 IU’s a week for the first four months, and now take 100,000 IU’s a week for maintenance.  And I finally feel so much better!  Oh, I do still get the aches and pains from Lupus, but those are nothing compared to the deep bone pain in every bone from the low vitamin supply.

I’m also still dealing with the puking, but at least now when I lose my meal, I don’t feel as if my kneecaps are being bombarded with nun chucks as I kneel to do so.  So, half of my battle is won, and I can’t tell you what a relief it is not to live with that kind or that level of pain in literally every bone in my body.

While my experience has soured me on the current state of America’s healthcare system and the bureaucratic “rules” that go along with it (because no other doctor I saw went out of their way to even recommend a simple, inexpensive blood test that literally could have saved me from months of torture), it also woke me to the idea that there must be an inordinate number of people in third-world countries (and likely even closer to home) who don’t get enough to eat or at least quality nutrition, and they must live as I did every day – with their skeletons hurting.  And that thought hurts my heart.

Let’s chat:  Have you ever experienced a broken or fractured bone?  Have you ever experienced a severe vitamin deficiency?  Did you ever realize that a mere missing vitamin could cause such severe pain?  When you are diagnosed with something out of the ordinary, do your thoughts ever turn to how someone else in the world might be dealing with a similar condition but for a different reason?

 

#LupusAwareness #GastroparesisAwareness

I Survived the Medical Medieval Torture Chamber!

Greetings, friends!  Here’s to a (belated) Happy New Year in 2020 and (very belated) hopes that your 2019 was a good one.  I’m afraid I’ve been off the grid a lot longer than I intended.  During my absence from Bloggyville, I’ve been dealing with various aspects of life including more health (Lupus and Gastroparesis) complications, several deaths of various friends and family members, and emergency house repairs (and appliance replacements).  During my time away, besides the day job, I’ve also opened a homemade soap store, written two new manuscripts, created more art for the house, updated some backdoor stuff on my blog, and otherwise kept myself busy with reading and other artsy projects which I’ll elaborate on in a future post.

However, in the interest of not going all over the map in a single post, today I would like to share the details of just one of my recent adventures.  (Those of you who have been with me a while know I have the strangest things happen to me and how I like to “at least get a funny story” out of the ordeal.)  WARNING: If you are reading this in a public area, be on notice that this will likely make you laugh out loud.  (At least it hasn’t failed to make any of my personal audiences snort with amusement, so if you’re not laughing by the time you reach the end, you’re taking it way too seriously.)  [Also, apologies in advance to the men who may find this a little too personal – I know the ladies will completely “get it.”]

Several months ago, I started experiencing a pain under my left arm.  I figured it was a swollen lymph node, and that it would probably go away sooner than later.  By the time I next saw my rheumatologist for my Lupus, it was still sore and had grown in size, so I told my doctor that it felt like a doorknob in my armpit.  (Of course, I meant in reference to size – not an actual doorknob.)  So, you can probably already guess that she sent me for a mammogram.

Meanwhile, my sister, Michelle, was having mammary issues of her own and had to get a breast biopsy.  After my mammogram, they found something suspicious, so I, too, was scheduled for a biopsy.  (It may be a good time to note that Michelle and I go to different medical clinics, so at no time did we have any of the same doctors.)  It was around this same time that I was also dealing with an intense amount of shoulder pain from my Lupus.  I regularly get steroid shots in each shoulder, but I can only get them four times per year, and it was too soon to get new injections.  After Michelle’s biopsy, she came home and told me exactly what to expect:  She said they had her lie on her side with one arm raised over her head.  Then they injected her with a local anesthetic, made a small incision, removed several pieces of tissue, inserted a titanium clip inside to know where the tissue was taken, taped up the incision, then – and here comes the bad part – did another mammogram to make sure the clip was in place.

Ladies, even if you’ve never had a breast biopsy, you’re still probably cringing by now, just imagining the pain of a mammogram following an incision and the digging around inside to collect tissue specimens.  Men, if you don’t believe us, go out to the tool bench, put your junk in a vice, then close it all the way.  Wait!  I forgot the part where before you start, you should raise the vice to about six inches higher than your junk will reach, mount it on the wall, then proceed to insert your junk and close the vice.  That’s how a mammogram works… You have to reach around and hold a handle at the back of the machine that’s about three inches past your fingertips, and then they clamp your puppy in until it’s flatter than a pancake and raise the machine until you’re standing on your tippy-toes, and just when you think it can’t get any worse, they raise the machine once more and tell you to hold your breath while they get the first image.  Then after they get the image, just when you think sweet relief might be in your future, they – while keeping your boob smashed securely – rotate the machine sideways to the point that you think it might just rip your breast from your torso.  And then they do the other side.

So, Michelle’s report that I could look forward to this after the actual procedure didn’t give me much hope that it would be a pleasant experience.  However, the part that actually seemed more excruciating to me was that I would have to lie still with my arm raised over my head for half an hour.  (With my shoulders the way they were, I could barely raise my arms for the time it took to brush my own hair, much less for an extended period like that.)

A few days later, I was all smiles and bravado as I walked into the women’s clinic.  They offered me counselling before-hand, but I declined, feeling fully knowledgeable of what I could expect in my procedure.  I changed into a paper gown and wrapped a sheet around me as I waited to be called to the surgical area.  As I followed the nurse, a door opened and I saw a well-lit room with a comfortable-enough looking bed and a tray of surgical tools.  And then we kept walking.  We passed a couple of more similar rooms and then she escorted me into a large, dark room with a table with a hole in it and some steps leading up to it, that can best be described as some medieval type of torture chamber device.  (Seriously, in retrospect, I would have rather been hit in the head with one of those sticks with the spiky ball at the end of a chain!)  There was a huge scary-looking machine that put out this high-pitched hum, and nothing of comfort in the room except a boring painting of a farm on the wall near the table.

“Okay, climb on up there, and lie on your stomach.  Place your left breast in the hole and raise both arms over your head,” the nurse instructed.

“Wait, what?”  This was not what I had envisioned.

As I climbed up the steps and got situated on the table with my left puppy in the hole, I was instructed to look to the right and place both arms over my head.  So, there I was, staring at my own shoulder and the dumb farm painting and feeling very much like Ol’ Bessie there in the barn being hooked up to a milking machine, when all of a sudden, this clamp thing closed on my free-hanging boob and tightened.  A lot.  And then it tightened some more.  And some more.  And then, I’m not sure, but I think it twisted the darn thing in a complete circle.  Or two.  And that was before any local anesthetic!

And then the nurse raised the table.  By the sheer force of the clamp, my entire upper body was glued to the table.  Seriously.  If I’d have sneezed, I think I would have literally ripped my nipple off.  As the table rose, I felt very much like the unwilling volunteer of a creepy magician’s act.  The stupid farm sank down below my line of vision, and I could see where the wall met the ceiling.  And out of the corner of my eye, I could make out what looked to be a trapezoidal lighted thing that I could only imagine was some sort of FIRE indicator.

“Okay, you’re doing great.  Now, let me go get the doctor,” the nurse said.

You mean the doctor isn’t even here yet?  I was ready to be done, and the doctor was, as it turned out, busy and would be there in a few minutes!   The nurse left again after she told me of the doctor’s delay, and all I could think was: If the building catches on fire, I’m screwed!  Seriously.  I imagined how many different ways things could play out, and in every scenario, I was dead and the medical examiner and his buddies were laughing at the corpse with one extremely long hooter!  By the time I imagined being taxidermized for a freak show and having people line up to take selfies with the Amazing Long Booby Lady, the doctor came into the room.  Of course, it could have been the janitor for all I knew, because I was pinned in place staring at the wall.

At first, no one said a word, and then I felt the machine tighten around my breast, and I think a little of my intestines got twisted up in there, because at that point, I could feel the clamp pinch all the way down to my toes.  Then someone said something.  But not to me.  Turns out there were several men and a couple of women down there hanging around under my aching breast.  I think they were playing jump rope with it or something because they sounded as if they were having a fine time chatting among themselves; meanwhile no one said a word to me about anything that was going on.  The good news was by this time, my sore shoulders were the last thing on my mind.

About 9 hours later, they finished collecting all the samples they needed, and the nurse was left alone with me.  She said as soon as they checked the samples on an x-ray or some other machine, they would be able to unclamp me and let me down.  I was certain it was a little after midnight when she let me down and released my three-foot long breast from its prison, and that’s when I got to see the clock and only 40 minutes had passed.  She had to tape and bandage my poor stretchy, black and blue booby, and then I got to sling it over my shoulder and go get the afore-dreaded mammogram to check for the titanium clip.  Of course, by this time, that mammogram was nothing compared to what I’d just been through, so I didn’t complain.

To conclude, both Sister Michelle and I ended up with negative test results, so it’ll be another few months before either of us have to endure that kind of procedure torture again.  I’m still attempting to convince my sister to go see my doctor next time [insert wicked laugh track here], but she’s getting even with me by goading me to “tell your stretchy-booby story again” each time we encounter someone else who hasn’t yet heard it. (So much for my own modesty.)  At any rate, I’ve got a lot of other (less personal) stories to share, so I’ll (really) be back soon.

Let’s talk:  Have you ever injured your shoulder so that you couldn’t lift your arm?  Have you ever been pinned in one place for more than a half-hour?  Have you ever seen a modern medieval torture device?  (Wait, maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one.)  

P.S. Even though I am making light of my experience with a life-saving diagnostic, I am not making light of the diagnostic test itself.  I’m fully aware of the seriousness of breast cancer… One of the people I mentioned who was lost in my absence was Sister Michelle’s sister who, after years of fighting, lost her battle to triple negative metastatic breast cancer, leaving a husband, two children, and a family who loved her in its wake.  

 

#StereotacticBreastBiopsy #LupusComplications #Life