Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm Golden! A message to my siblings.

Ok, so I'm bald.

The baldness is not the point.  It's what I learned about myself by going bald.

Before I let you in on my little secret, I'll set the mood with some background for my readers.

Our father and mother (who art in Heaven,) Bud and Carolyn Golden, Dad and Mom, Bops and Gramma, Great Bops and Great Gramma...they were known by several monikers...had a big family.  Eight children.  In eleven years.  I know. 

It went like this:  The much-desired boy at the top of the order and then seven girls in a row.  They became so good at making girls, that in the end they were sending them out two at a time!  Of course, my brother was the official Golden Child, and the rest of us were the Golden Girls!  The original Golden Girls.  As teens, people would call the house looking for babysitters and just ask for one of the Golden Girls.  When I was a very little kid, I thought Little Golden Books were written just for my family!  Barbara probably told me that.  I remember wondering how other families got our books at their houses, too!

To understand what it means to say "I'm Golden" in our family, it is important to know the wonderful parents of this brood.  If Bob Hope had married Milton Bradley and they had a child, it would have been my father.  Always ready with a one-liner and a master of card tricks and games.  It seems we never tired of the old stories he'd spin during Sunday dinner.  Over and over we wanted to hear about how his mother locked him in the closet where he "spit in her Sunday shoes, her hat, her gloves and then sat there waiting for more spit to come."  While dishes were being done, Dad would entertain by playing swing bass ditties on the piano - I can still hear it!  Sunday nights ALWAYS ended with his popcorn, for which he was/is famous.  It was the only thing he could cook.  Luckily, we all inherited the popcorn gene!

My mother.  Sweet, kind, gentle, loving, and well....she had eyes in the back of her head.  I mean she really did!  She could shoot laser beams through the walls of the house just in case one might think one could sneak across the kitchen in clickety-clackety roller skates looking for a snack!  Being a wise observer of my sibs, I never attempted such a lame-brained trick.

I think I was getting my driver's license when I realized my name was just Kathleen and not "char-bar-mar-li-jo-ja-kathleeeeen!"  Frankly, I don't know how she knew her own name much of the time.  One morning Mom walked into the dining room and slapped Marie across the face.  She stepped back and said, "I thought you were Margaret!"   Now Marie will tell you she stills suffers the psychological scar, but OMG, that was a side-splitter!  Still is!

Anyone with a house to run and kids to chase and, godforbid, a job, is busy, but I can't imagine having to do what my mother did without a clothes dryer until AFTER the twins came along!  Hanging out all that laundry?  In the winter?  The sheets?  How?
What a wonderful family to have and to hold.  I love you all!

Ok, here goes:
Mom and Dad
Imagine my shock when I discovered this two years ago the first time I lost my hair!  I was reluctant to tell you then, but now that I'm bald again, I feel I must.
The truth as they saw it:
For your own peace of mind, I think each of you should shave your head to see if they had a message for you! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Woman Walks Into A Doctor's Office.....

And it's all up hill from there.

Last Wednesday was chemotherapy day.  Let's all hope that subsequent treatment days are less long. Shorter. Please.

I arrived at the cancer center early and registered on the first floor, as always.  I was able to skip the lab, as my blood had been drawn the previous day in the angio radiology department.  That was a timesaver, right?  So straight upstairs to Dr. J's office I went for my appointment with him, scheduled for 12:45, and then I'd be off to the infusion center for a slow drip of unpotable potions and a well-needed nap.  Post should end there.

When I stepped into the waiting room, I immediately noticed that patients were stacked up like planes at O'Hare.  This did not bode well for any of us.  Clearly, there are way too many sick people in the world and, quite possibly, the entire staff was out to lunch! 

Not that I've seen them all or anything, but the waiting room I use at my cancer center looks...well, blah.  No windows.  Well, there's glass along two walls, but it's etched, so there is no view, nothing to look at. The walls are painted in Benjamin Moore 'You-look-like-shit-today-blue' and the furniture must have been a closeout from Overstock Waiting Rooms dot com.  You know, the stiff vinyl kind with wooden armrests - some in singles, some in loveseat size - lined up along the outer walls and then a row down the center of the room. They should have a sign on them that reads "If you cannot get comfortable sitting here, we we have a bed of nails in the back you're welcome to try."  Unattractive.

The 'space,' as they say on HGTV, has not seen a current magazine since it opened its brand new doors in 2011.  Still there today is the same copy of Martha Stewart Living (she does it best) and an even older issue of Popular Mechanics.  That's about it for reading material.  At the far end of the room, there is a table with a jigsaw puzzle in varying stages of completion.  Let me just offer this:  If  you find a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle in your doctor's waiting room, you're gonna want a snack.  Goldfish crackers, plate of brownies, 12-inch sub, something to hold you over.

Chuck arrived after parking the car (another great thing about having cancer is that no one lets you walk more than 20 feet) and a very long, convoluted walk from the parking garage.  He said, "Are you still waiting?"  Yes, dear.  He flipped through one of the magazines for a moment and then we got down to the business of people watching.  At one point, there were 13 people sharing our space.  Six of those were sleeping. 

Warning: Flashback ahead! 
When we were kids and had appointments with the dentist or doctor, our mother fell asleep in the waiting room! Every single time.  My older siblings always seemed amused by it.  I was completely mortified.  I would sit as far away from her as I could, occasionally peering over the top of my "Highlights for Children", hoping none of my "neighbors" had appointments with the same doctor at the same time.  Mom's head would fall forward, snap back, she'd make an adjustment, and down she'd go again.  Mortifying!

Back to my waiting room...Not all of these people were patients, of course.  When you have a serious illness, it is important to take someone with you to appointments so that that someone can nudge you awake, should you have to wait through your naptime.  For me, it's important because that certain someone keeps me from chit-chatting with strangers, which I do fairly often, or so I'm told.  "Whadya in for?"  Like that.

There was an elderly woman straight across the aisle from Chuck who was enjoying some very heavy REM sleep, we could tell.  She would slowly lean to one side, then waaay over to the other side, then waaay to the back, etc.  At one point, while attempting an unconscious forward roll, I thought Chuck was going to have to kick one of his size 13s into her chest just to keep her on the chair!

I think waiting rooms in cancer centers should be particularly lovely.  Warm colors on the walls, nice couches and comfy chairs, good looking magazine racks with lots of good shit to read.  Patients are there because our lives depend on it! Dress the place up for godssake!  I'm not a huge fan of televisions in waiting rooms, but this room needs something!  How 'bout a giant fish tank?  I'd be less pissy if I could stare at something like House Hunters International or look for Nemo.  Damn.  Especially once I've texted and tweeted everyone I know to tell them that I'm still waiting!

Shit, this is a long post....Well, too bad. It was a long day and somebody's gotta talk about it.

As previously stated, my appointment with the doc was at 12:45.  Infusion appointment 1:15.  Can you see where this is going?  At 1:45, my oncology nurse stepped into the waiting room to say that "Dr. J wants you to just go over to the infusion center unless you have any important questions."  Every question I think up is fucking important, wouldn't you agree?  Geez.  But I'll go.  I'm already 30 minutes late for THAT appointment anyway.

I bade farewell to the lady next to me - Chuck had his eyes closed for awhile - and off I went.  Oh, but first, "you need to sign some consent forms."  Well, that shouldn't take long, right?  Twenty minutes later, at 2:05, we were walking down the hall to Transylvania, which has it's own stylish waiting room.  With people waiting. 

By now, I'm famished.  Chuck went over to the hospital cafeteria to get me something to eat, and when he returned 20 minutes later he said, "You're still waiting?"  Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch......

At 2:40, just as I cracked open my plastic salad, one hour and twenty-five minutes past appointment time, I was taken back to my room.  Then, more waiting.  First the banter with the nurses, most of whom remembered me (odd), and then the pre-meds.  Decadron, Zofran, Compazine, Benedryl, Ativan, and a bit of waiting.  When I'm good and fucked up, they start the blitz on cancer.  As I recall, it was 4:15 or so when the drip was let loose, and it took until 6:30 for it to finish.  While in my stupor, Chuck went home to throw a pork roast into the oven. 

As I was being unplugged from the poison, a nurse asked me if I would talk to another patient who had just had her first chemo treatment (very thin veins) and was debating about getting a port-a-cath.  Sure, I love to talk to my neighbors, remember?!  A lovely woman and her attentive daughter were brought into my room, and I think I laid out a pretty convincing story on why she should opt for the port.  Besides being so much better than repeated vein stabbing, it also serves as a microchip like you'd have in your dog.  When chemo-brain kicks in (and it will,) anyone can scan it and return you to the waiting room where you belong!
Selfie of healing microchip placement.
No more boob shots for you, Thom.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

WANTED: Port Authority

Yippee!  My dream job was posted on Career Builders!

Wait. What?  my mistake.  I thought they were looking for an Interventional Radiologist.  Damn.  What a great job that would be.

I have been known to spend many hours with my nose buried up to my frontal sinus in a medical book, like the Merck Manual or the Physicians Desk Reference...yum!  However, I became a WebMD when Al Gore invented the Internet.  Wow! My career took off!  Then I was able to fulfill my interest (and make money) in medicine by becoming a radiology transcriptionist, providing me with an endless supply of fascinating cases to read. 

On Tuesday, the day I had my port-a-cath implanted, I had an upclose and personal exposure to the Interventional Radiology Department of UVa.  To say that I thoroughly enjoyed the process is indeed an understatement.  I know, I'm sick (and I mean in the I-love-this-stuff kind of way.) The department runs like clockwork - as I wish all departments did.  They hooked me up to the mandatory IV and even drew my labs that were necessary for the next day's chemo - damn efficient. 

At about 11 am, I said toodles to Chuck, who was eager to get to the cafeteria, and off I went with Nurse Debby to the surgical room, which was lit up like High Mass, as Mom used to say.  I think it actually had stadium lights in the ceiling, along with a gigantic move-around-able x-ray machine.  I had to wear a mask and have my head and face covered so I couldn't see a damn thing!  I so wanted to watch, but they prefer the patient to keep her nosey little face and grubby hands out of the sterile field.  Nurse Debby asked how "in or out" I wanted to be.  Well, since I can't watch, I'd like to listen!   She pushed in just the right amount of  the ever-appreciated conscious sedation cocktail to keep me happy and fascinated.  It was so cool!  

An ultrasound was performed over my neck, which, according to the tech, demonstrated a "garden hose of a jugular!"  Well, I do aim to please.  At about that time, the interventional radiologist, Dr. A, made his appearance and got busy! An incision was made in my neck for the guidewire, and a larger incision was made in my pretty chest to accommodate the port, which looks this:
The thing is threaded through a vein to a point just above my ever-loving heart.  I could have made this much more gruesome, but I just realized not everyone shares my enthusiasm for ooginess. 
This is what I looked right after the procedure:
Nurse Debby suggested that I might want to stop by the cosmetic surgery department and order some breast implants.  At my age, girlie, we don't need implants, we need a staple gun!  Just pull 'em up and chagunck, chagunck (staple gun sound effects) right below the shoulders.  $14.95 at Home Depot.