It is more important to know where you are going, than how long it takes to get there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Lottery...

The change of winning the lottery is slim. If you don't play the lottery, like me, the chances are even slimmer. I probably should stop prefacing my grand statements, "When I win the lottery..."

Today I finally removed the bandage from having my port a cath removed 13 days ago. When I had it inserted in July and then removed earlier this month, I went to Beverly Hospital and was assigned whatever doctor was working that day to perform the day surgery. With 20/20 hindsight, I feel like I was playing the lottery with the doctors. How was I to know that I would get a highly skilled doctor, or a doctor that might not be on the top of his game? Why did I not research this better and request a certain doctor to do the procedures? I don't play the lottery with my finances, why did I play the lottery with my health?

A few unnerving instances happened during the removal that makes me believe this doctor was not necessarily the top in his field. I mentioned the nick on the artery in a previous post. One reason why I had so much time to look around the operating room prior to the procedure is that the doctor forgot to put on his glasses before he robed up for the procedure, so he had to re-robe. (Why do the doctors get to wear a robe and the patients wear a "johnny?") I can understand forgetting your cell phone or pager, but forgetting your glasses to do intricate work is a problem. The other strange situation was that the doctor did not have an assistant with him during the procedure. It was just he and me in the room. I kept thinking, what if something goes wrong and he needs help? When he needed an electric cauterizer, he yelled into the other room for some assistance. After the nurse brought the cauterizer, he left again. I have had countless procedures, and there were always at least two people in the room when anything was puncturing through the skin. The last odd circumstance was when he put on the bandage over the stitches and incision. He told me to cover it with cellophane wrap when I shower because it was not waterproof. What? Every other doctor, and there were plenty of them, used waterproof bandages. Were they out? Did he not know about them? Now I have gauze stuck to the site.

The scar from the removal looks a little big. I can't completely see it through the gauze that is clinging to the incision site. So far, my scar count from last year is 9. I would have more but a couple of them were cut off and discarded. I know, gross.

Whacky thought for the day...
Fresh snow is the most beautiful and serene sight, but the same snow, a day later, next to the side of the road, is the complete antithesis.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hat Hair...

The worst part about skiing in cold weather is hat hair. Whenever I wore ski hats in the past, I begrudgingly was making a day long commitment. I could not remove my hat until I was stepping into the shower. If I should dare to remove the hat and expose my hair, I would make Phyllis Diller look like she had the most perfectly quaffed hair in America. The only way I could handle hats was when I was young enough to wear two french braids...those days are long gone. (Now people get helmet hair and forehead while skiing, but I haven't succumb to wearing a helmet. I'm still old school.) But with very short chemo hair, hat hair is not a problem. Bed head isn't even a problem.

Yesterday after shoveling tons of snow, I went inside to warm my bones and removed my hat to discover hat hair! My hair is now long enough for hat hair! Well, hat hair might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I did have a few independent hairs standing awkwardly proud. My hair is a whopping 1.25 inches/3.2cm long. Yes, we measured it. The color is still salt and pepper - very salty in the front, more peppery on top.

The ultra short hair has garnered various reactions. The other day, while shopping in the grocery store, the gay Frito Lay woman stocking the shelves gave me a double take and started a conversation. I was flattered, said hello, exchanged some pleasantries and then moved on. However, if it was a good looking straight guy, I might have stopped and pondered over which chips to buy before grabbing a couple of bags... unfortunately, those days are long gone for me...not the chips, but the cute straight guy giving me attention. But, I can still dream.

It is crazy how many people like my very short hair. I am not certain it is the best look for me, especially the color, but the convenience is great. After a shower, I towel dry my hair and arrange it with my fingers. I don't even need a comb or brush. I tried brushing it the other day, and laughed out loud at myself. I think my hair was laughing at the brush too.

Whacky thought for the day...
Do you feel a bigger sense of relief and accomplishment after you finish decorating the Christmas tree and the house for the holidays, or, after the tree is down and all the ornaments and decorations are put away?

Whacky thought for the day #2...
Why do the gas companies charge 9/10 of a cent? Who are they fooling? $3.03 9/10 is the same as $3.04! Have you noticed that it takes longer to fill the tank as gasoline prices rise? The gas pump can only go as fast as the dollars and cents can turn. Now the gallons on the pump read to 1/1000 of a gallon! I purchase 16.728 gallons of gasoline the other day at $3.01 9/10 a gallon. That is a lot of fractions and decimal points. Can you imagine the gasoline attendant doing the math for the bill if it wasn't tallied for him?!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Having the port removed today was much easier than when it was stuffed into my upper right chest. However, it was not quite a cake walk; more like a cupcake walk.

I thought I could remember where the day surgery was located so I wondered around the first floor of the hospital for five minutes. When I inquired at the front desk, they informed me that I was to check in with them first. Oops. After I was properly registered, I was sent to the cardiovascular day surgery area. As I walked up to the area, it all began to look familiar. I was the only patient in the "CVS" - which I think stands for cardiovascular surgery. There were eight people standing around the centralized desk, wearing the same blue-colored scrubs, and looking relieved that someone showed up to their party. When I walked in I said, "No one told me that I was supposed to wear blue!" Can you believe that I got only one slight chuckle out of this Monday morning crew? About fifteen beds lined up in a semi-circle around the desk area. In July, when I had the port inserted, every single bed was full. Today, I was the Lone Ranger.

After I once again changed into a johnny/hospital gown, they drew blood to check how well my blood clots. (I wonder how many times I have changed into a johnny since this cancer trip began...triple digits?) Once the blood work results were in, I was rolled into the operating room. The two nurses rolling my bed were discussing which room to put me in for the procedure, when the guy said, "I like this room because it's nice and big and clean." I immediately thought, "Aren't all the operating rooms clean?"

As I was waiting for the doctor to come in, I scanned the clean, white room to check out all the equipment, supplies, etc. The wood cabinetry with glass fronts store the supplies. These cabinets gave the room a nice warm touch compared to the cold metal cabinets that they probably replaced. I saw the usual boxes for disposal of contaminated material or sharps - needles, etc. I also saw a box labeled "reusable sharps." What?! I am a big proponent of recycling, but what exactly is reusing sharps? I can't wait to ask Nurse O. Canada about the reusable sharps box.

Instead of getting full-on anesthesia similar to when I had the port inserted, I was given shots of Novocaine to numb the area above and around the port. (It was nice to get Novocaine and not have drooling as a consequence. ) The doctor instructed me to tell him if I feel any sharp jabs. Right away I felt a sharp jab, and then it got worse...I felt him cutting me! I said, "I can feel the sharp point. Ouch! Ouch!" After more Novocaine, the cutting feeling went away, but I could still feel a sharp jab every now and then. I didn't complain. I just wanted it over and done. Unfortunately, he nicked a small artery at the beginning of the procedure and had to cauterize the artery. It is a strange feeling to be lying on a table, seeing smoke, smelling something burning, and knowing that the burning smell is you. After the burning was over, he continued on to remove the port. He was having a tough time getting it out, and explained, "Removing a port is like having a baby, it must be positioned just right." (He clearly never worked in ob-gyn.) He was having a tough time getting it out and said, "This is a stubborn one." I am guessing the conversation in his head was a little different than "This is a stubborn one." He said that he must have missed some scar tissue that was holding on to the port. After a little more work, out it came. I could sense a relief in his voice. He asked me if I wanted to see port. It looked exactly like a miniature computer mouse, about the size of a thumbnail, with a tube attached to it. I was surprised by the length and circumference of the tube that ran from the port up to my carotid artery. The size of the tube explains why I could feel it through my skin.

Once the procedure was complete, they wheeled me back to my spot where I changed my clothes behind a drawn, semi-circle curtain, and then I strolled out of there. Quick and easy. I checked in at 8:10 a.m. and was in the car driving home at 9:30 a.m. No, I didn't drive; Chubba drove me to and from the hospital.

I was amused by how many times someone said to me, "You must be relieved to have this out." or "What a relief for you to have this removed." of "This is a great day for you." etc. It is nice to have it out, but I didn't think of the removal as any big deal. This was just a mini cupcake compared to last day of chemotherapy or last day radiation.

My next appointment is on February 14 with my oncologist. Unless...I go see my radiation oncologist, Dr. Dad because I missed two appointments in December. One was the original appointment, and the second was a reschedule for the first appointment that I missed. The appointments were written on the refrigerator calendar, and they called the day before to remind me, but somehow the appointments fell into one of my memory's dark holes. Next week I go in to Boston of have my arms measured as part of study I volunteered to be a part of for research. I hope I remember.

Whacky thought for the day...
What do you remember most fondly about elementary school - the parties or the academics? I loved the cake walks at my elementary school's fairs, plus all the school parties. Now, the local elementary school does not allow any treats brought to school for any occasion. No parties. No fun.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Looking back on last year, my memory is like Swiss cheese, full of holes. Some holes are deeper than others. Over Christmas holiday my mom saw my neighbor walking his dog, and said how nice it was of him to come see me when I got home from the hospital after surgery. I have absolutely no recollection of him coming by, or me having a conversation with him. I was also reminded of Wild Kingdom and her daughter stopping by shortly after returning from surgery, and I flashed them all my scars. Yikes! I do not remember them coming by at all, and certainly I do not remember flashing them all my surgery sites. I do not even have the slightest recollection of these two visits. All I can remember after my surgery is the cast of characters I had as roommates, the drains, logging all my medications, and spending a lot of time in bed...I think.

I am glad that I wrote down the events of last year, because there is no way I could remember all the tests, procedures and decors. Tomorrow I am having another day surgery to have my port a cath removed. I cannot remember if I had local anesthesia or if I was put out completely. I am fairly certain that I was put out completely because I vaguely remember waking up. I do remember the doctor pushing down hard by my collar bone while inserting the port a cath...kind of like stuffing a turkey. If I remember him stuffing me with the port a cath, then maybe I wasn't completely out. However, I do clearly remember getting very ill from the anesthesia. My oncologist sent me an e-mail with the name of the anesthesia, Versed and Fentanyl. I am going to bring in a copy of the e-mail and ask if I could receive a different type of anesthesia that might not make me so sick.

After the port is removed I will no longer be able to show it off and gross out friends and family. It is visible under the skin as a big bump with some texture. I always ask the viewer if he/she would like to feel it. Most people touch it and then squirm. It has been kind of fun being a freak show.

When your mind if foggy during or after chemotherapy it is called "chemo brain." My chemotherapy stopped in August, but I still feel like I am in a fog. Often I have a difficult time saying a name or word that I know very well. I can see it -I know it - but I can't immediately retrieve it. I have difficulties finishing a sentence because a word fell into a hole. I forget what I was doing or why I walked into a room. You are probably saying, "I do the same thing." Before cancer I did all these goofy things, but now I experience them much too often. I get very frustrated and sometimes a little frightened. I think my brain has a chronic case of hiccups.

Whacky thought for the day...
If you can't remember what you can't remember, how do you know you can't remember?

Happy New Year!