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Thoughts Of Suicide

Confession: March 24th was going to be the end for me. Months with no car, pain, painful treatments, meds screwed up, isolated, low on cash...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chemo Christmas

Just between you and me, this Christmas is awful. There's no tree, decorations, gifts or greeting cards on display. I had to miss helping serve Thanksgiving dinner at the homeless shelter and won't be able to help hand out toys at the children's hospital. I just do not have the strength. I'm neither cook nor hostess this year. Basically, I'm the person people are glad they are not. I'm the one that 'doesn't have her health' this season. I'm fighting breast cancer and unfortunately, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I make lots of people uncomfortable. "There by the Grace of God..." and all that.
This has actually been a pretty good year for me. I quit smoking, I started working out and I made a list of the things I wanted to do now that my son is grown and I have an empty nest. The top two things on the list? Returning to critical care nursing and getting books/stories published. The former is on hold and as for the latter, I use some of my 'down time' to write more. Never have enough stories.
I'm making plans to celebrate NEXT Thanksgiving and Christmas. This holiday season is ruined and it isn't even over yet! Can't enjoy traditional family dinners. Chemotherapy made the delicious smelling turkey taste like acid and Granny's green bean casserole taste like glue. Anything that is supposed to be sweet tastes bitter and everything else tastes like dirt. The combination of drugs I receive make the body feel like it's just beginning to get the flu--body aches and no sense of taste. Can't tell Granny that--she'll just tell you to add more salt!
But no matter how many bills come, treatments are received, how sick I get or number of days of lying in bed I have...this too, shall pass. It will. I know it will. Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. Including cancer and its treatment.
One day, I'll have my final chemo treatment. One day, my experience with breast cancer will help someone else. One day I won't spend the majority of time alone being sick in the bathroom or at the cancer center and I will be waving a final 'goodbye' to all the doctors and nurses who took care of me. One day.
As for now, I spend my time in bed or watching Christmas specials on TV. I write, I blog, I read, I pray and check days off the calendar.  I remind myself just how lucky I am to have found the cancer in a point in time where a woman's breast cancer is treated and not ignored because it's a "lady's thing." Diagnosis and treatment plans are almost immediate--the duration of those treatments, however, aren't.
So I'll just drink my two to three quarts of water a day, enjoy what I can when I can, be grateful and plan for next Thanksgiving and Christmas. Never too early, right?
                                                         MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Uniform Response"

I am a college educated, registered nurse by profession, mother of one--full grown woman who becomes a paranoid idiot whenever a police car gets behind me. To paraphrase Chris Rock, when a police officer is behind me in traffic, I start wondering if I stole my own car!! My heart beats rapidly. My hands get all sweaty. I do the "check-list" in my head..."what am I doing wrong? is the license plate current? is there a broken light of any kind? did I remember to wear my seatbelt? where is my driver's license? how do I keep calm and drive? am I breathing?" Then inevitably, the officer goes on his way completely unaware of the trauma "he" inflicted upon me. I breathe a big sigh of relief and Life goes on.
I was raised to not only respect police officers but to fear them. Officers I grew up around were larger than life. As those before them, they risk their lives everyday. They have the power to arrest anyone for anything right or wrong and nothing could be done about it. "If anything happens--it's your fault," I was told.  Cops are 100% right and the public is 100% wrong. Even when the cops are wrong they are right. That's just the way it is. Why? Then I started to think about it: Perception is reality.
People treat me differently when I am in my nurse's uniform. At times, they just walk up to me and ask medical questions whether I'm standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at lunch. My uniform implies a certain level of knowledge and accessibility. With my cousin, he is nearly a rock star in his army uniform. People give him 'knowing' looks, salutes, handshakes and hugs on occasion. But not one has yet to ask 'permission' to give the hugs or handshakes--they just do it and he's expected to take it. Why? The uniform.
Right or wrong, uniforms imply certain traits in those wearing them. My hair color and bust line gives some people certain ideas about me when I'm in my nurse's uniform. I 'decide' that a man or woman in a police officer uniform sees everyone and every situation as a life or death threat. While just the sight of an officer can make some folks "get an attitude," that officer is duty bound to protect and serve. Says so on the car!!
We want them running to the bank robbery in progress; stopping the car flying through the school zone; capturing an escaped convict; helping us in any way they can and to be happy to do it. The uniform they wear allows us to expect a hero in every police officer. To some however, it implies there's a doughnut shop nearby. Good cops/bad cops, good people/bad people. Fact is--you can't tell just by looking. They come in all shapes, sizes and...uniforms!

Friday, November 7, 2014

I'm in the Same Room with Who?

Maryville College held its "Best in Blount County" awards ceremony last night honoring various achievements, citizens and veterans. It is a wonderful event at a beautiful campus in East Tennessee with a featured speaker that normally gets a little coverage on the local news but by the time the event actually started the guest speaker we were going to hear went from "motivational speaker" to "the man who shot bin Laden."
I thought there was a mistake. HAD to be a mistake. There just HAD to be more than one man by that name, right? How many 'Robert O'Neill's are there anyway? There was no way that the man named on the national news was the same one we were going to hear a bit later. Besides, hadn't someone else already claimed to have been the shooter? What difference would it make anyway?
As word spread about the man's identity, the event was taking on an different feel. A strange feel. Focus wasn't exactly on the awards anymore. How could it be? Honoring people while ignoring the 'elephant in the room'? Especially the 'elephant' who shot Osama bin Laden. Thankfully, the man was not going to address the question of who he was after all so nothing in the program was changed. Everyone was properly honored and not cast aside in favor of a secret identity having been revealed. It was like "we know but we're not going to say anything." At least his motivational speech had a lot more people paying attention.
Security seemed to be everywhere. Police. Dogs. Checking bags. What? Why do we need security? Oh right, the guy who shot bin Laden is here. Ok, Veterans Day is next week. Maybe that's why this information came out. Wait...is he in danger? Probably. Who knows that he is here tonight? Wait. Could we be in danger? Are we in danger? Have I seen too many movies?
Fact is, the majority in attendance that night were elderly veterans who'd served us in ways we both don't realize and take for granted. There seemed to be a dignity in these men and women that is reserved only for their generation. Honor. Service. Sacrifice. Humbling to be in their presence. While the outside world scrambles to get a look at the latest SEAL in the spotlight, these heroes are just as deserving.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Midterm Vote 2014

The burning question for me this midterm election was "should I or shouldn't I vote?" My state is overwhelmingly Republican therefore voting doesn't seem to do very much for me or my country. Cleverly worded ads tell me "everything I need to know" without saying a damn thing definite about the candidates and issues in question. The "buzz words" like "safety," "family," and "freedom" are used to make me believe the candidate "desperately seeking my vote" is just like me. Some of the ads make concessions: Okay, he's a man but that shouldn't matter because we are all God's children and he personally is for equality but "changing Washington takes time" and why should you ladies worry about laws providing equal pay for equal work when such issues are too difficult to explain, blah, blah,blah. Or: Aren't you concerned about your safety? Okay, TN politicians voted against the Violence Against Women Act but, Sweetie, that's not the point. Their "Nay" wasn't an actual 'nay' but you just don't understand how government really works so you can't take it literally when they voted against the Violence Against Women Act but if you'll vote for them they'll make sure your voice is heard...again--blah, blah, blah.
I vote because years ago a guy named Harry Burn promised "Miss Febb" that he'd cast a "Yay" giving women the right to vote in TN and across the United States. "Miss Febb," Burn's mother, wrote that he (to paraphrase) "should be the 'rat' in ratify and give women the vote." So because a good son listened to his mother--I vote whenever possible.
Incumbents win here. Challengers come but quickly go with an occasional, "bless their heart, they tried." Issues are presented as if they "really don't apply to everybody and we'll word them in such a way that you'll get confused and frustrated so vote if you want but you could do more with your time than concerning yourself with this."
Amendment One........................
The law making men in my state want to get rid of abortion clinics and women's reproductive rights that came from Roe v Wade. They know they can't just come out and say "We are doing this to outlaw abortions in this state," so they manipulate words in the ads their audiences hear to get the vote they want. Don't you care about safety?  Shouldn't abortion clinics be regulated? For safety, you gotta have regulations, right? You want to protect the family, right? Then vote 'Yes" on Amendment One and when you're not looking, instead of burdening TN with all kinds of safety rules and regulations...we'll just get rid of abortions altogether. Bait and switch. That's politics.
I voted.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Breast Cancer: Chemotherapy Sessions

I found the lump in my right breast, had it checked, was sent to an imaging center that confirmed cancer with lymph node involvement leading to my double mastectomy. I was surprised at how quickly everything happened.
Complications developed requiring five days in the hospital where my treatment was so bad I changed oncologists. But the idea of chemo with different oncologists didn't appeal to me at all. What would be different with them? They'd try to "sell me" on chemo/radiation etc., too. Chemo is chemo, right? Doesn't matter where you get it, right? That's what I thought.
Before my first chemotherapy treatment with my new oncologists, I had a "chemo teaching" session. For almost two hours, my treatment was explained and discussed. Since my doctor is a woman, I did feel more comfortable talking and asking questions. I wanted to know exactly how my care, chemo and it's side effects would be different with them than the previous doctors. While I did have a little bit of the denial that seems to come with this diagnosis and consequences, my doctor convinced me to give chemo one more try.
The first difference I noticed was the chemo room set-up. There are only five 'units' but each unit has a large recliner, an individual television and an unusually wide restaurant-style menu for patients if we get hungry while receiving treatment. There is plenty of staff and even an occasional nursing student.
My current chemo-combo is Adriamycin and Cytoxan administered through the port in my upper right chest. Prior to receiving this, I get an anti-nausea medication then Decadron through the port. My Adriamycin looks blood red, comes in an enormous syringe, is given by a nurse a little at a time. To combat the sensations that are possible during this administration, I get a cup of ice chips. The ice cools and constricts blood vessels while keeping my mouth moist. It works. No problem.
Once the Cytoxan has infused, I'm sent home where my treatment plan is drink 2 to 3 quarts of water a day; Decadron 4mg and Zofran 8mg night of chemo then 3 times a day for 3 days. I also add my own home remedy to combat nausea: a B6 vitamin and a Benadryl 25mg. Been using that pair to relieve/prevent nausea since I had morning sickness while pregnant with my son. It works. No problem.
At home it is self-care and monitoring until my next treatment. I have noticed that for the first week after chemo, I get strange food cravings. I'll want BBQ with Thousand Island dressing, dill pickles, onion rings, ketchup, ice cream, etc. and now--eggnog! As days pass, symptoms pass and the remaining treatment total decreases. One day I'll take "my last one."
I'm just thankful that I stood up for myself, changed oncologists, reconsidered treatment and am taking it as it comes. Side effects are temporary and so are the treatments!!
Life is Great!!

Friday, September 19, 2014

I've Lost That Lovin' Feeling for the NFL

I've been betrayed. Well, sort of. Most of it is my fault, of course, but it is still shattering to find out just how wrong I was about "my" NFL. I projected onto players, coaches and refs all sorts of admirable qualities like honesty, integrity, intelligence as well as phenomenal athletic ability. Yes, even refs are above average folks, right?  Have you seen Ed Hochuli's arms?
I loved supporting the guys who'd faced insurmountable odds in college and now were fulfilling their "destiny" in the National Football League. Gave kids around here the idea that maybe--they might be able to overcome the odds they were facing and make it to the pros, too. They could play the game they love, entertain millions, have even more fans, get a lucrative endorsement deal--and buy that house for their mommas! Unfortunately, they have to turn pro to do it.
As a football fan, the domestic abuse survivor in me doesn't seem that interested in the pro players anymore. Owners and coaches, too for that matter. I just decided that no matter how bad the NFL might look to us in the audience, there were a number of unseen entities that ruled the NFL and its employees with an iron fist. Apparently, the only one with a fist resembling iron was Mr. Rice.
I understand "protecting the shield" but to have an owner and management conspire to downplay an assault "their guy" committed so their buddy the commissioner would just give him a two game suspension seems criminal in itself. I bet the conversation sounded like this:
"Oh, Roge, he might've shoved her or something but TO BE FAIR she spit on him and I don't know any man that could take that from anyone. Besides, he's never been violent with me or anyone I know and he is really, really, really sorry. So let's give him a break...we need him to on Sundays!"
Goodell admitted that he had no personal experience with domestic violence and hopefully, neither of his daughters will ever be abused because I doubt he'd ever think much less ask or tolerate anyone asking, "what did you do to make him hit you?"
As for the 49'ers, where I live pregnant women are 'especially protected' by the law meaning no matter what she does--or what you say she did to deserve 'it' the unborn child must be protected above everything else. YOU go to jail. Unfair? Life protecting.
If John Harbaugh really did go to the Ravens 'brass' and ask that Mr. Rice be cut, I apologize for thinking he was part of the problem. At least he tried to do the right thing without hiding behind "due process." He is more of a man than his brother is out in San Francisco.
I have narrowed down the teams I support. #18 and #10 have always been men to admire both on and off the field so they'll still get my money but overall, I'll find better things to do with my money than spend it on jerseys, game tickets and souvenirs at stadiums.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Damn, The NFL is "Exactly Who We Thought They Were"

After this week of horrible publicity for the National Football League, I have to admit I'm not as interested in watching it anymore. I've been disillusioned. It really is just another business dedicated to making money and "protecting the shield." I should've always known that but dammit, I felt involved every time "my teams" played. I supported them in every way I could. Blind loyalty. But because of what we've found out going on behind closed elevator doors and in 'whipping rooms' of a player's home, I've gone from checking a football player's 'stats'  to finding out whether or not he can keep from abusing 'his woman' or his child.
I'm disappointed in myself for thinking a business that promotes a violent game and is dominated by men would even acknowledge an issue like domestic violence much less handle it properly. As a survivor of domestic violence, the NFL is acting exactly like I thought they would in saying things like: "It's between a man and a woman." "That's their personal business." "But he's such a great guy." "He's one of our superstars." "He's done so much for the community." "Did you see what she did to him?" "I'd knock somebody out, too if they spit on me." "We can't take their livelihoods away from them." "He's entitled to 'due process.'" "He's playing today because he is appealing his CONVICTION and we need him on the field!" "African-American men deal with 'their women' differently." "That's just how he was raised." "It's not like the fans or the sponsors will go away." "It will blow over soon enough." "Roger has made us a lot of money...we'll be fine. Besides, this isn't "Bounty-Gate," right?" And "Gotta protect 'the shield' at all costs."
I also heard this:
"If I were #12, I'd keep 'my woman' in her place. She has a job in the public eye, for God's sake--she makes more money than he does! How is a real man supposed to take that day after day after day? Maybe if he'd smack her around now and then, she wouldn't think she's so high and mighty.. He'd better show that b***h who wears the jock in his house." Unfortunately, these comments are not unusual.
As for why there are so few arrests/reports:
When there is a domestic violence call, the responders are mostly male cops. These cops usually never see the victim themselves but are met by the perpetrator who qualifies his actions by using the old "she's drunk,""she's just crazy," "you know how it is with women" and "look guys, she attacked me and I was just trying to keep her from hurting herself...but I'm fine and this is all just a big misunderstanding." Then when the cops leave (with no report filed or arrest made) the perpetrator says something to his victim like, "Cops said  next time you bother them with this s**t they'll take your ass to jail," "see, even the cops think you're crazy," and "They bought my version of what happened."
That's exactly what the NFL did, too. As the Ravens owner said regarding Rice, they "heard what they wanted to hear in the story because they wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and they loved Ray."
That's how the "men behind the NFL machine" really handle off the field violence and we aren't surprised a bit. Damn.
Just as we thought.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Domestic Violence: Why I Left

A lifetime ago, I was married to the man of my dreams; the first person I ever met at college and my best friend from that day until graduation. We married shortly after graduation and then Real Life started happening.
I worked as an RN while my husband had trouble finding a job. I'd go to work for twelve hours, come home, cook, clean, pay all the bills and 'take care' of my man while he seemed to be getting more and more resentful of me. Female friends told me that I 'didn't need to shove it in his face' that I was the breadwinner and an "occasional insult, push or shove was no big deal." As the insults, pushes and shoves became more frequent, I told myself: He doesn't mean it. He's really a great guy. He's never been like this before. I'm not the easiest person to live with anyway and no man wants to live off 'his woman.' Besides, it's not like he's ever punched me.
That all changed one Sunday morning.
I came home that morning from the night shift to find 'him' seated at the kitchen table wanting 'his breakfast.' I went back to the living room for something and 'he' came in there, pushed me onto the couch, grabbed me by my ears tearing the left one off and banged my head against the wall. He hit me on the left side of my head rupturing my eardrum then punched me in the face breaking my jaw. He said things like, "If you knew how to do anything right, I wouldn't have to do this." "You think you're better than me because you have a job." Then, "Yeah, you WOULD have to go and bleed, wouldn't you! Now I have to take you to the hospital."
He drove me to the hospital I had left just a couple of hours before, telling me why I'd made him do what he'd done to me the entire way. I decided right then I was leaving him no matter what. If I went back to him after this--he'd kill me next time and Life is too short for this.
He walked me to the ER and told the admissions clerk (who kind of recognized me but wasn't sure), "She fell." I said as best I could, "He did this to me." "That doesn't matter, " he said, "she needs help."
The staff separated us, took me to a trauma room and began treating me. I told them I wanted to press charges so I spent quite a while having all my injuries photographed as evidence by the police and giving statements. At that time, it was rare for a wife to press charges against her husband and domestic violence wasn't a term yet. It was considered a "private matter between spouses."
I pressed charges, he went to jail, I divorced him and never saw him again. I went thru some post-traumatic stress disorder but the only things that remain are a few scars that have nothing to do with the wonderful life I have made for myself. But I was lucky. I had a career, money, no children by him and above all choices. Very few victims of domestic violence have real choices. For some, all they have is hope...hope that 'he' will change...and the hope that things will get better. Unfortunately, in these situations hope can get you killed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Breast Cancer 'Support' Experience and the Nursing Shortage

Diagnosed with breast cancer 6/20/14.
Double mastectomy 7/7/14.
1st chemo 8/11/14.
Hospitalized with Cellulitis in area where  right breast was removed from8/24 to 8/28.

 I bought into the 'hype' about the resources, support and 'pink ribbons' available to women with breast cancer so I am hope I am that "rare case" of disappointment/disillusionment. and the woman they mean when someone inevitably says ,"We can't take care of everyone....there's always a 'few' that fall thru the cracks."
 Booklets/resource material I've received in the mail are great and have the latest general information/guidelines available. I read in a booklet about how "breast cancer can be devastating but you will not be alone," I take comfort in that. When I read, "the doctors and nurses will treat you as an 'entire' person--not just your breast cancer,"I take comfort in that too. But my personal experience has been my doctors just treated my "body part' with no interest in the rest of me. Reality? Not many nurses on the surgical floor I was on. Hire More Nurses!
 Hire more nurses if for nothing but public relations because the things I read in my booklets I expected to happen neither did nor were offered or at least be offered! Hire More Nurses.
This particular hospital's had a sheet of paper in my room that read: "You will be visited by one of your caregivers" then in all caps: "EVERY HOUR from 6a to 10p and EVERY 2 HOURS from 10p to 6a." Never happened. Couldn't have. The nurse to patient ratio on that particular floor is dangerous. Answer? Hire More Nurses!
As for the "we treat the entire person," I took that bait, too. I assumed they'd take my chemo into consideration--what do they say about "when you assume"? Exactly!
My surgeon was "supposed to know" the particular chemo drugs I received on the 11th, were still in me and their particular side effects continue for 28 days or more. Of course my hospitalization would coincide with my "3rd week past chemo." I have all the luck.
Had he factored in my "entire person" he would've seen my "chemo-combo" raised blood sugar, caused  mouth sores, nausea and a touch of 'chemo brain,' and not ordered the fingersticks, sliding scale insulin, fluid restriction and a regular-yes, regular diet! How the hell was I supposed to eat? The very smell of food made me sick! Any halfway decent GN, LPN or RN would've looked at my "chart" seen my chemo was just 13 days "prior to admission" and individualized my care throughout my hospital stay.
 At no time did any caregiver check me every hour from 6a to 10p and every two hours as "promised." Realistically, IMPOSSIBLE! The skeleton crew worked the 6a shift and even less worked the 10p one! Hire more nurses! They will solve all of this!
It "got out" that I was a nurse so instantly, I turned into a 'self-care patient.' Rarely saw anyone. I got the old "You're a nurse so you know how it is." I do know 'how it is and what the minimum care is for a surgical patient with chemo "on board." Nurses do, too. Hire More Nurses!
My son brought my laptop to me. Hospital internet access made me feel less isolated. Didn't all the booklets tell me I'd never 'go it alone'? Trying to get some of the things I read I "could expect as a woman with breast cancer" probably got me labelled as a "horrible patient," and with the 'skeleton crew' this floor had I wouldn't blame them at all! Solution? HIRE MORE NURSES!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Not Enough of Us to Matter

As a Native American, sure I'd like for Washington D.C. to change the name of its mascot and all the announcers to stop using it. There's a surprisingly long list of things announcers cannot say on air--just add the "R" word (amongst other 'R' words that can't be said). That would be a good public relations move. Advance your career. Get your name on the growing list of announcers who'll "refrain from the name" and watch your paycheck increase from all the talk shows you'll be on explaining how you "finally decided it's not a good idea to offend anyone."
Won't happen.
The team from D.C. will change its mascot's name when too much money is lost. Of course. Everybody knows that. Red might be the topic but the bottom line is green. He knows and I know he can call the team anything he likes. The owner also has an Ace up his sleeve.  Bet he's thinking, "There's not many Native Americans anymore, right? There's not some 'National Association for the Advancement of Cherokee People' I don't know about is there? How many Native Americans are there? Not enough to matter? F 'em."
When I was a kid, the local TV station played "The 4 O'clock Film" every weekday. This was the late 60's, early '70's and civil rights were progressing. But every day at 4 p.m this station ran things from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" to "Tarzan." Reportedly, everything  from 'black face' to 'collecting scalps' played. Grandma wouldn't let us see it. Pretty soon protests and pickets came. Eventually, the only films deemed acceptable were"Cowboy and Indian" ones. They didn't even call them 'westerns.' Who'd care?
As for 'celebrity support' for the name, who'd want to cross Mike  Ditka in his viral rant about the 'politically correct idiots' who dare think the name is offensive? You don't want Coach Ditka to think you're a 'pansy' do you?' The owner and his sports legend buddies make public statements on the 'stupidity of PC' and how we've gotten too soft in this country when it comes to offending people.' As a Native American, it's entertaining watching the white male broadcasters 'explain' why the name is some kind of honor.  It comes across as "not a rich, white man problem? Then not a problem!" At present, no African-American broadcaster has tried to convince me in TV Land  to 'get over'  the mascot's name.'
Truth? The mascot name reminds me of being in grammar school, 'escorted' to the lunchroom where a teacher sprinkled flour on my face in front of everyone  because she said I "just wasn't quite white." I think she got the idea from the movie "Billy Jack."

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Breast Lump Chronicles: Recovery Road Realizations

Almost two weeks ago, I had a double mastectomy. One minute I'm on the couch listening to my local news anchor talk about the importance of doing monthly breast self-exams and the next I'm waking up from anesthesia flat-chested and (hopefully) cancer-free. I was discharged from the hospital with about fifty staples across my chest protected by a layer of gauze and hospital tape with two bulbs--one for each side of my chest--that looked like toy hand grenades at the end of rubber tubing siphoning off any blood that might be left over from the surgery. A week later, all the staples and drains were removed, I officially became 'untethered' and free. Now, it is basically just the dog and me trying to resume 'activities of daily living.'
While I have been given appointments with oncologists and radiologists per protocol following breast cancer surgery, I have to admit that I feel strange. Maybe I feel strange about what I DON'T feel. I don't feel like going out and conquering the world because I had the diagnosis of breast cancer. Right now, all I want to do is feel comfortable. I don't like the feeling of a thousand paper cuts up and down my chest. I don't feel like 'playing through the pain.' I don't want to 'be nice' and stoic when my friends make unfortunate comments about how lucky I am now that I don't have to buy any more bras. I don't feel like I somehow let myself down for choosing a double mastectomy without immediate reconstruction AND I don't feel less female just because I no longer have 'boobage' though going from 38DD to nothing is quite a change.
I like not feeling I was singled out in the cancer lottery. Yes, it might've been easier to understand and accept my diagnosis had I any family history of cancer but no one ever said all surprises are good ones. I like how the world didn't stop 'just' because I had cancer. The house still needs cleaning, bills still need to be paid and the world is still a place of good and evil. Friends are still friends and I have no 'long lost' ones who suddenly decided to look me up because cancer was associated with my name. In the best sense, not a lot has changed for me. Some things have. I credit my mostly positive experience with Cancerland to a book by Madhulika Sikka entitled "A Breast Cancer Alphabet." I needed the author's everyday, matter-of-fact, 'girl-talking' words to demystify the disease and for lack of a better description make cancer "not THAT big of a deal."
Upon receiving my cancer diagnosis, I instantly stopped smoking. I needed to feel like I was being proactive in some way against the disease and putting down cigarettes for good made me feel like I was 'fighting back.' Pink has now joined black as one of my two favorite colors. I look great in both! I have to follow doctors' orders...all of them--not just the ones I want to follow. I have to 'check in' with my son. I'm letting him be there for me. I have to be open and honest about needing help. I have to accept help. I have millions and millions of sisters (and brothers) who've been where I am and to not call on them when I need to would be attempted martyrdom. No thank you.
At the end of the day when I'm getting ready for bed, I "take a look." Despite the remaining and temporary post-op discoloration, I have to admit I am ''diggin'' my new body. A post-op double mastectomy body CAN be beautiful. I am at my ideal weight and firming up on schedule. Little by little, I'm getting back in shape. If I keep this up, I'll have arms to rival Kelly Rippa! Worth a try!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Breast Lump Chronicles: Mastectomy Monday

Maybe my journey is coming to an end. My dance with breast cancer. My experience with a disease that at one time was a death sentence. My brush with medical advancements. We've come a long way, Baby!
In preparations, I spent my birthday being 'pre-admitted' to the hospital. I'll be having my mastectomy Monday July 7th so paperwork, lab work and a chest x-ray were done a week in advance to make sure my surgery goes as quickly and easily as possible. No admission delays. That's standard now. Plan, check-in, arrive then cut. Wasn't how I had planned to spend my birthday but then again, it was definitely something different. 
My 'check-in' time is for 6 a.m. My surgery is scheduled for 8 a.m. so by noon tomorrow I'll have been taken from the recovery room to my hospital room with 'two less things' to worry about health wise. I'll even have a new figure!
I wasn't a candidate for a lumpectomy so a mastectomy was my only option. That's just fine with me. Who needs breasts that will 'betray' you like mine have me? Well, actually the right breast is the 'offending one' but if removing both will reduce my chances of getting cancer again then get to it! Life is more important than trying to preserve a pair of double D's. Besides, I can always have reconstruction surgery. I could even get a two-for-one by having a tummy tuck and use the belly fat to create new boobs!! Oh, the wonders of science! A belly flat and a bra filled! Glorious!
Just between you and me, I want this over already. I wanted it over the day I went to my family doctor--who incidentally told me that my breast lump was 'nothing to worry about.' She was wrong. Cancer was in me and it needed to be gone! In my mind there are cancer cells bumping into each other in my right breast and right axilla nodes looking for other places to reside. Get 'em out! Get 'em out! At long last-they'll be out tomorrow.
Mastectomy Monday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Breast Lump Chronicles: Biopsy

A week after I had the mammogram confirming there was a lump in my right breast, I was scheduled for a biopsy. Actually, two biopsies. One for the lump in my breast and the second for the one in my armpit. The second was so small that an ultrasound was the only way it would've been detected I was told. I consider myself very lucky.
Someone once sang, "The waiting is the hardest part" and it certainly has been for me. I want this condition seen, diagnosed, treated and done with already! Enough with the waits! But that's not realistic or healthy. Breast cancer is conquered one step at a time.
My next step was the biopsy. Ultrasound with a needle chaser! The idea is far worse than the actual procedure. You simply lie on your back with the 'questionable' breast cleansed with Betadine then it's draped with a thing that looks like a kid's 'Goodnight' pad with a hole in the middle and then the inside of your boob is onscreen. If you're lucky (or inclined) enough to have proper position, you get to watch the entire procedure. Once they numb you with a Lidocaine injection, you don't have anything else to do but watch--you certainly can't feel anything. Watching made me feel better somehow.
I watched as the dark space in the ultrasound was pierced with a device that took a sample of the mass in question and sounded like something at the dentist's office. Drill baby drill! Felt a little pressure but no pain at all. The lump in my armpit or axilla was a little deeper, a little harder to sample but the procedure was done properly and painlessly.
After everything was done, I was patched up with sterile dressings, given instructions to follow for the sites' aftercare and given two cute little discs that turned out to be mini icepacks. Now, another wait begins.
Only I could have scheduled a biopsy on a Friday! Why not? Wasn't I the genius who had a mammogram on Friday the 13th? But this was particularly maddening because my results would not be ready before Monday or "the next business day." CRAP!!!
I was given an appointment with a surgeon 'just in case.' These people specialize in this area, they already knew what the outcome was going to be and were being proactive.
My weekend was spent worrying about what could be. 'Imagine the worst,' right? I was prepping to restart a career--now that would have to be put on hold. Luckily, I found a remarkable book called "A Breast Cancer Alphabet" and it's been a godsend. It covers everything you can imagine in 208 pages and is written by a woman who writes as if she's known you all your life. Anything you can ask, she can answer. The author got me through the weekend. I'm ready.
Monday the news came.
I have breast cancer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Breast Lump Chronicles: Discovery

I'm watching our local NBC affiliate's news program when the co-anchor reminds viewers that "it's 'Buddy Check Day.' Call your buddy and remind them to do a breast self-exam." Nice public service statement. They do it every tenth of the month. Okay, I wasn't really doing anything anyway, I was alone so I thought 'why not?' I 'assumed the position' of left hand behind the head, right hand on the 'boobie' and circle the entire area with my fingertips. Nada. Nothing. Just as I suspected. As I began the same movements with my left hand to my right breast, something felt strange. Hey, wait a minute. Am I actually feeling a lump? No. Can't be. Probably just imagining it. Drama momma and all that. But dammit, something is definitely 'not right.'
The next morning, I called my doctor and in typical fashion I started with, "This may not be anything, and I'm probably just wasting your time but is there any way I could come and get a breast exam? I think I found a lump."
"Come right on in." the receptionist said. Wow, I thought, they must not be busy at all today--or they need the business. Either way, lucky me!
In the exam room, the nurse practioner asked me all the routine questions. No, I don't have any family history of cancer. Yes, I get a mammogram every year--well, not for the past two years but I'm pretty good about self-exams so not getting screened for two years isn't that bad, right?
After a rather prolonged and might I say thorough exam, the NP said, "I definitely feel something but I'm not sure. May not be anything but I'm going to schedule you for a diagnostic mammogram." Okay. No big deal. Any good doctor or NP would do the same thing. So I got dressed and waited at 'check-out' while the staff made my appointment. After about fifteen minutes the receptionist handed me a card and said, "You're scheduled for a mammogram at Tennova Imaging for this Friday." Great, I thought. I'm going to have a mammogram that could change my life on FRIDAY the 13TH! Wouldn't you know it?
Woke up that morning, did all the prep work I was allowed to do pre-mammogram (no lotions, powders or deodorant) and proceeded to drive--in the pouring rain--to the medical center. I arrived, checked in, gave all the routine info and waited in their lobby which just so happens to be named the "Peyton and Ashley Manning Center." For some reason, knowing the couple had made a donation to make a difference in people's lives made me feel better...and I'm a #18 fan.
The mammogram led to an ultrasound which led to the confirmation of a lump in my right breast and the discovery of one under my right arm so small it wouldn't have been felt in a self-exam for a long time. Wouldn't you just know it? What a Friday the 13th I was having!
On second thought, it might turn out to be the luckiest day of my life.
Next week, I am scheduled for two biopsies. My right beast 'gets a needle' and so does the area under my right arm. I'm a little scared. I'm also pretty much alone in this. Support from friends/family will be minimum at best and I know it. Besides, conversing about this with the blogging universe will give me all I'll need. Everything will be alright, right?
Now comes the first in what promises to be a series of "waits." I have to wait for the biopsies to be done, then wait for the results, wait for a consultation and so on. If you don't have anything else to do, want to wait with me?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mom's In A Home UPDATE

When Mom was admitted to the nursing home, it was as her aftercare rehab from a fall, heart attack and renal failure. As her condition improved, she was no longer covered by insurance because dementia does not qualify for "skilled nursing care." This meant her social security benefit of $708.00 a month would go directly to the facility for her 'extended care.' Basically, she is residing there because she can no longer live independently and has no family able to give her 24hr care.
The nursing staff have been great caring for Mom and even used the fact that she used to be a certified nursing assistant in their nursing care plan. For example, Mom "made rounds" and was given "charts" to fill out. This gave her a sense of purpose and a feeling of usefulness.
Mom fell one Monday morning on the way to the bathroom. Her injuries were nothing more than a scraped knee and a little embarrassment. The following Wednesday, she fell again breaking her right hip. She was hospitalized and required a right hemiarthroplasty. The procedure was simple and basic so Mom was able to return to the nursing home that next Monday. Unfortunately, she has fallen out of bed three times since she returned despite every precaution the facility and staff implements. At least she hasn't fractured or re-fractured anything.
Meanwhile, Mom's bill collectors are circling. While I have cancelled her phone, electricity, rent and mail, one group of bill collectors remain. Payday loan reps.
Mom fell for the payday loan folks who send elderly people checks through the mail. Living alone and slowly losing brain function enabled her to cash these checks then either keep it secret and/or forget the transactions altogether. Her total with interest comes to approximately $3500.00. But now that it's 'time to pay up,' I get about 25 calls a day from these companies.
I understand that there are probably people who take out this type of loan with no intention of paying back the money but to 'decide' that EVERYONE who gets a loan like this is trying to get out of paying is horrible. Calling me every day is also horrible. To be honest, sending these types of checks to a specific population like the elderly is also horrible. But she DID cash those checks...as their representatives remind me.
When this month is over, finances will be a lot easier. Mom's insurance has resumed covering her care and her monthly check will go directly to her bank account and can be used to take care of some of her outstanding bills. Even though she has credit card bills and payday loans none of us knew about AND no one but she is legally responsible for them, I have been trying to repay them--with little to no success.
It just adds another level of sadness to realize that there are businesses that send our elderly offers that are 'too good to be true.' I also wonder about my concept of responsibility and tendency to lean towards martyrdom when it comes to my mother. Why would I try so hard to take care of her bills when she never took care of me? Why should I try to do anything for the woman who tried so hard to forget all about me when she was younger and is finally accomplishing that through dementia and old age? All I can come up with right now is--why not?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My "Sterling" Experience

When the initial reporting of the Clippers owner's remarks began, I was shocked. How could a man who owned an NBA team allow himself to think the way he does AND allow himself to be recorded making these remarks? It's 2014! The guy is a billionaire! What's wrong with the guy? He's in L.A. for Pete's sake--does the name 'Mark Furman' ring a bell, Donnie? When Johnnie Cochran got the detective to admit that he had used the N-word sometime in his life, Mr. Sterling 'shoulda took the hint.':
"Don't say nuthin', won't be nuthin.'"
As the days went on, certain 'news' organizations wanted to turn the focus of Sterling's remarks from racism to the issue of privacy. 'How could this woman secretly record this man?' 'Whatever happened to 'free speech'?' One news program quoted a certain billionaire NBA team owner as saying he, "doesn't want to live in a country where he could say something in private and lose everything he owned." Free speech does NOT mean free from consequences. These statements make me wonder what these people who are more 'outraged' at the taping than the remarks are saying privately. Their argument seems to be that "we all say things we don't want others to hear." But "we all" do not say racist things.
A few years ago, a physician in my hospital had a reputation for holding "certain views" about "certain groups." He was a white, rich son and grandson of  doctors, did a lot of charity work and had  his share of humanitarian awards so rumors of his real feelings towards women, minorities, etc., were written off as jealous people trying to damage a 'great man's' image. When he found out that I was Native American, he started calling me "Red" but he "didn't mean anything by it. Don't be so sensitive." I was told.
I had heard that he only treated white people, had settled a couple of discrimination lawsuits and was married but his mistresses were always African-American. I wondered how someone like that could be granted admission privileges at this particular hospital. Money? Power? Probably. No proof of his true self? Definitely.
That all came to an end when one of his "ladies" recorded the good doctor voicing his opinions in one of their conversations and made it public. In the recording, he 'explained' the physiological reasons African-Americans are better athletes than whites. He states that he 'preferred' white patients because 'having to wear gloves to examine Hispanics and African-Americans took too much time.' Far worse things followed. At one point the woman asks him how he could say those things about black people to her when she is black and he is heard saying, "The only color than really matters is green!"
The firestorm with Mr. Sterling reminded me of this incident because it was very shocking to hear a doctor reveal his contempt for and prejudice against minorities. Unlike Sterling, this man had taken an oath to treat all people with dignity and respect. Right? Maybe like Sterling, this man felt that his life, career, wealth and accomplishments entitled him to feel the way he did.
While the fallout was nowhere near that of Donald Sterling's fall from grace, it did show certain qualities and expectations the 'rest of us' project onto people of wealth and power and what happens when we are proven wrong. We may find out that we're wrong a lot.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Crackhead Revisited

When our son Blake was born, his father Jeff asked me if I thought it would be a good idea if he "made contact" as he put it, with his mother. "If you want. That would be nice" I told him.
 I had never met his mother and he hadn't spoken to her in over a decade and yet he felt compelled to call her and tell her she was a grandmother. He called, they spoke for twenty mins and then never spoke again.
When Jeff started smoking crack, I took "my" son and went back home to Tennessee. Jeff eventually came back too and saw his son a few times but crack use ended up taking over his life and forcing him out of Blake's.
On March 15, my son became a father. Holding his daughter--my granddaughter--in his arms reminded me how tiny he looked in his own father's arms. I wondered if history was going to repeat itself. Later on that evening, Blake asked "Do you think I should find my dad and tell him he's a grandpa?"
"If you want. That would be nice." I said. Those were the same words I had said to his father twenty years earlier.
In both occasions, I didn't think the absent parent deserved to know about either birth but it wasn't up to me then and it wasn't up to me now. So when Blake asked me if I could locate his father, I told him I would see what I could do.
Why not? Maybe things had changed for Jeff. Turned his life around. Gotten "sick and tired of being sick and tired" after all these years. Maybe he wanted to reach out to Blake but so much time had passed he didn't feel it was his place. He never "made contact."
Through the powers of social media, I got a message to Jeff. I gave my phone number and asked for a call.  What if he called? What was I going to say to him? What if he didn't call? What was I going to say to Blake? Which would be worse--telling Blake his father called or that he didn't?
Less than twenty-four hours after my message, Jeff called.
"Hi Dyane, this is Jeff." he said, "I got your message. I thought about not calling but I figured something must be up for you to call."
"Blake asked me to see if I could get in touch with you because he wanted to tell you that he's a daddy now...that makes you a grandpa." I don't know why I said it that way but it's what came to mind. I told Jeff this situation reminded me of when he had called his mother to tell her about Blake. Unfortunately, the woman had died without ever speaking to him again after that December morning over twenty years ago.
But this wasn't going to turn out to be a Lifetime movie where Dad realizes what he'd missed with his son and what he'd gone through with his mother and decides to change. No credits would roll, no happily ever after.
Jeff said that he had read about Blake's athletic accomplishments in newspapers over the years but confessed to still being addicted to crack, homeless, in and out of shelters and jail. He said that every time he got a job, he blew his money, got high, got fired or just didn't show up to work. In essence, "once an addict....."as he used to say.
 The next day I told Blake I had spoken to his father and what he had to say. It actually gave Blake peace. A question has been answered. Life goes on.
Haven't spoken to Jeff since and probably never will.The 'happily ever after' will be with Blake and his daughter--and me.
Roll credits!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Cashier Comments

Like a lot of incidents, this one starts with "I was minding my own business."
I needed motor oil and The ******* was open just ahead so I pulled into the parking lot, got in a parking space and dashed inside for a quart. As I got in line at check-out, the elderly man ahead of me asked for a pack of cigarettes from behind the counter. The cashier rang up the sale and said, "That will be $4.35---welcome to Obama's world."
"How's that?" the man asked.
"Everything's gotten so expensive now that Obama is in charge of the country." The cashier explained.
The customer said, "Oh, I don't vote."
"Then you're one of the idiots that got Obama elected...not voting at all is a 'bump' for them." the cashier replied.
"I just want to get my cigarettes and go." the customer said.
"Here you go, sir," the cashier said handing the man his cigarettes , "maybe next time you'll 'go' to the voting booth."
Surely, these two knew each other, right?
Neither men knew each other, the elderly man made that clear. But the cashier "decided" that $4.35 was too much for a pack of cigarettes, his customer was an idiot and partly responsible for Obama's election because the man said he didn't vote.
I had never seen an unprovoked attack on a customer before and it was a shock. I'm not that na├»ve but there are things I see happen between people that surprise me. Maybe if the customer had initiated the conversation with the cashier and it had been 'just talk,' it wouldn't have been so bad but this poor man just wanted a pack of smokes and ended up getting insulted. Embarrassed. I was embarrassed for him.
None of the rest of us in line thought this was a way to treat a customer and told the cashier so. He honestly seemed surprised at us. He was even more surprised when we reported him to the store manager. Yes, all four of us in line reported this cashier to the manager. I'm glad that as four strangers, we took it upon ourselves to stand up for this elderly man. We tried to make him feel better but I don't think we did a very good job. Rudeness towards elderly people is just wrong--worse when it's unprovoked. "The customer is always right," is a bit outdated doesn't the customer "have the right" to shop without harassment?
More than likely, nothing will happen to the cashier and nothing at the store will change. Well, one thing will change...I'll never go back to that store again.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Confessions of a March Madness Monster

Walk by my house during the next two weeks and the sounds you'll hear coming from inside will make you wonder if someone's being murdered or if someone's having sex. This is the time of year that furniture gets thrown around, holes get put in walls and people who come to my home "just to watch the tournament" start to realize that I'm a monster.
Normally, I'm a mild-mannered, professional nurse in intensive care dedicated to the health and well-being of all. I use the skills I learned in college and through life experience to make life better for my patients. But for two weeks, I go from nurse to nut all because of March Madness. When my shift is over--the monster appears.
It all began long ago when a date took me to Rupp Arena the night Kentucky played Duke. It's an unfortunate thing when a young girl's first "taste" of the NCAA tournament turns out to be the greatest college game ever played. I dropped the guy, became addicted to men's college basketball and a hopeless junkie.
My 'drug' gives me an undying love and blind devotion to certain teams but a fierce hatred for the men in stripes who 'purposely' make calls against those teams. I ridicule and verbally assassinate young men whose only crime was choosing the wrong team to play for in college while explaining away any infraction one of "my" players is accused of committing.
Cursing the ref? Technical foul? Oh no--MY player was merely trying to engage you in a short debate about the merits of criticizing and penalizing his youthful enthusiasm. (I know...it's bad.)
I do everything I can to help my teams--from my living room.
I hold my breath, OUR foul shot is made.
I scream at just the right moment--THEY miss theirs!
If the game is going "the other way" I change the channel for a second--you know, to break the opposing team's "momentum." Can't let them go on a run!
Then when my living room couch seems to be losing its power to effect the game, I call upon the big gun--St. Anthony. He is the patron saint of lost objects and sometimes, he is the only hope. I have put in emergency prayers to him  a couple of times like:
"Please, St. Anthony, if you're not too busy---could you make something happen so 'we' win this game?"
Does it work? Ask Butler about that "last shot" against Duke. Ask North Carolina about "time-out" against Michigan. Ask Grant about "that pass" to Christian against Kentucky!
It's quite a burden to know that I have the power to influence every game my teams play in the NCAA tournament but I have come to accept it. I also accept something else. For two weeks out of the year--I'm a monster!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Father & Daughter--Love at First Sight!

At 8:34a.m. this morning, I met the love of my son's life and the newest light of mine:

Zaya Renee!
(I'm gonna call her "Ziggy")

                                            She's little and loud--definitely a family trait!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Family Feud: The Nursing Home Problem

"What do we do about Mother?" No, that's not the question. In my family it's "What are YOU gonna do about YOUR mother?" In other words, I'm on my own.
My family has always been the type that said, "Call us if you need us---we won't do anything to help, we'll just wait 'til everything is over and then tell you what all you did wrong." Does that sound familiar to anybody out in "Bloggerland"?
Now that the nursing part of Mom's nursing home stay is settled, the business part is raising it's head. Though Mom has been "approved" to stay at the facility until July 2, 2014, her insurance had not, meaning the care and residence will now have to come out-of-pocket. Just a couple hours ago, I got a call from the administrator to "let me know" I owed $318.00. "It's been generously pro-rated" the woman said, "so we'll have to have that money today or your mother will be 'released' on the 16th." Apparently, Mom isn't physically eligible for 'skilled care' anymore BUT her mental condition prevents her from living in the apartment she'd had for years. Unfortunately, if they 'have to keep her' they'll need that $318 by Sunday. "By the way," the administrator said, "we aren't in the office after 5p.m. today and won't be until Monday morning the 17th so when will you arrive today?"
I guess I should be honored that the woman thought I had an extra three hundred plus to just give to her at the drop of a hat but the lady also called the next in line, Mom's sister Lily. Aunt Lily then called me to let me know that she "couldn't take the stress and strain of your mother's situation." I guess the administrator called asking for money, too.  Then Aunt Lily's second son called to let me know that "Mom can't be bothered with things like this."
What are "things like this"?
The nursing home wants me to sign over Mom's social security check to them "just in case your mother has to stay here the rest of her life."  Okay, I have no problem with that. What I didn't know was that Mom's apartment requires tenants to pay two month's rent if they are placed in a long-term care facility. Still not exactly sure why.
My problem is if Mom's released after 07/02/14, where is she going to go? Should I just let the apartment go and 'decide' that Mom will be in a nursing home the rest of her life? I was told that "Mom's case" would be re-evaluated after July 2--possibly released. They just can't tell.
I'm just facing what millions of people are facing but it seems to have happened all at once and my family is mounting a rapid retreat.
I'm screwed either way. "They" will be mad if I leave Mom in the nursing home--where she'll be well cared for (because they'll have her $708 a month SSI check) OR if I spend the money to maintain her apartment so she'll have somewhere to come home to. The FEAR is that one of them will be asked to take Mom into their home. But there's no danger of any of them "stepping up" they feel that's my job...and they want to be there to comment on the lousy job they think I'm doing.
I guess I hoped that I could go to people in my family to 'discuss' Mom's alternatives but in my heart I knew better. You can see it in their faces the defensiveness they feel--like they'll be asked for something or other like money. Tightly clutching their pocketbooks and readily passing judgment is all my family does. They are even more insulted if you DON'T ask for money. Why? Because they can't complained that you asked!
The way I feel about it--they can kiss my butt! Even though biology is the only connection between my mother and I, I'll take care of it. I'll stop thinking that 'family' is the group of people that love you know matter what. Mine never has--what made me think they ever would? I guess I always 'hoped' they would but to paraphrase a line from Morgan Freeman's character from The Shawshank Redemption--"HOPE is a dangerous thing."
But reflecting on the situation I'm in reminds me of another line, "If there is a problem YO, I'll solve it..." I'll succeed all by myself!
Thanks for letting me gripe!
Keep me in your prayers.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Mom's In a Home

Mom had been diagnosed with the onset of dementia. Up until then, her diagnosis was described as "strategic helplessness." When around others, she seemed confused/disoriented yet she could function quite well alone at home in her assisted-living apartment complex.
On February 27, Mom was found unconscious and unresponsive on the floor of her apartment. She was taken to a local hospital where it was determined that she had experienced a heart attack which led to her fall which lead to a head injury resulting in a 'brain bleed.' In addition to these conditions, she was in acute renal failure. These injuries were why she had to be transferred to a hospital with a trauma unit. Now out of the trauma hospital, she is in a nursing home for rehabilitation.
I didn't realize that nursing homes were also rehab centers in many cases. Like a lot of people, I used to think of nursing homes as 'dumps' for old folks. There are far more stories of urine smells and poor patient care in these facilities that make news than ones about the dedicated people who work at the majority of them.. Her condition requires post-hospital physical and mental rehab, this center's specialty.
By reading a few of my previous posts, you'll find that I am really nothing more than 'Alice's' biological child. She gave me to her mother to raise so my love and loyalties will forever be with "Mamaw Trula," the lady I consider my mother. Just between you and me, I don't want to be any more involved in 'Alice's' care/condition than absolutely necessary but since I hold the 'title' of daughter, I'm supposed to "be there" for her.
Pearl Jam's "Daughter" has been playing in my head for the past couple of weeks. I have a hard time articulating my feelings sometimes and that song is very comforting to me right now. I've thought of it every time a hospital supervisor or unit nurse asked:
 "Are you her daughter?"
When I have to admit to them that I am, Eddie Vedder sings "Don't call me 'Daughter.'..not fair to..." in my mind. Then I feel better.
I always feared that one day I would be expected to take care of Alice. I am not evolved enough to forgive and forget the fact that she left me because I was quote, "too much of a burden to raise," unquote. I pretend that I have forgotten putting her in jail for assault and all her "I wish abortion had been legal when I was carrying you" remarks...but I haven't. Things like that tend to stay with a person...
especially a daughter...
especially this one.
Now the situation is here.
I must confess that there is a strange feeling of satisfaction here. Alice couldn't be bothered caring for me my entire life but expects me to care for her in my home because NOW she's my 'mother' and I'm her 'daughter.' She wouldn't care for me back then and I can't care for her now. Her condition requires a medical facility. What do I think?
Revenge is too strong a word to describe it.
Maybe it's karma.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Images from the Ukraine

While I sit in my warm, comfortable home awaiting tomorrow's Oscar presentation, I see images on the national news of people in the Ukraine awaiting freedom and independence. That's quite a contrast, huh? Rationally, I know I have nothing to do with that part of the world and know even less about it but news programs bring so much information into our American homes that it can make one think about how we might feel in those circumstances.
History tells us that though separated from the rest of the country, Crimea is the peninsula former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave to his native land in 1954. But when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Crimea ended up in independent Ukraine. Current news report that Crimea now wants to be with Russia.
From the news, the Ukraine is just trying to be free and independent. As an American, I'm supposed to know all about that and encourage it all over the world. Images on my television show "boots on the ground" in Crimea strategically "unidentifiable." Apparently, it is a pro-Russian population awaiting Putin to take over this peninsula. 60% of the 2 million there consider themselves Russian.
The Ukraine, by contrast, appears to want to rule themselves and get on with life after ousting their former leader.
My news programs say that Putin wants Crimea and the Ukraine.
A line from the classic song 'Me and Bobbie McGhee says, "Freedom's just another word for 'nothin' left to lose.'" Watching the situation in the Ukraine play out makes me think as an American, "freedom's just another word...we take for granted."
I have never had two countries battling for the ground on which I walk. While I have sent plenty of my relatives to various branches of the armed services to fight for the rights of people in other countries, there has never been any soldiers in my neighborhood--unless in a "Welcome Home" parade. So when I see the citizens of that part of the world marching, carrying banners and at times with bloody faces it makes me grateful for where I live and embarrassed that I take the freedom it provides me for granted.
My news says that Russia's Putin has claimed Crimea and is looking to invade the Ukraine. He had a reported 90 minute telephone conversation with my president in which Mr. Obama strongly advised Putin against an invasion. This made me think, 'what must it be like to be discussed as a possession'--for lack of a better word. It made me wonder about the millions of people who will belong to this or that country or government solely at the discretion of a single world leader. No matter how viciously our American Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc., fight amongst themselves claiming we "need to take our country back," we'll never have anything as remotely intense as the situation in the Ukraine.
I wrote this post as a "shout out" to those who are listed as from Russia and the Ukraine in the 'audience' category on my blog. We see you.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Strange Roadside Rescue

Few things scare me more than the prospect of being stranded on the side of the road, so I take as many precautions as I can to avoid this.. I pack blankets, a flashlight, snacks, water, an extra cell phone, charger and a first aid kit "just in case." But nothing can prepare me for or do much to assist me when I get a flat tire. I am pretty much at the mercy of Life.
It was just a little past sundown when I felt that left rear tire blow. Eric Clapton's "Layla" was playing on the radio and since I use that song as my personal 'everything's gonna be alright' song--I wasn't worried. It didn't matter that I was on the ten-mile stretch of country road known as 'Ailor Gap' or that cell phone service there was impossible. I wasn't worried. Sure, I was all alone on a 'road less traveled' but I wasn't worried. I'd be alright.
I guess I did what everyone does in that situation. I checked the trunk to make sure I had a spare tire that was in good condition and the jack I'd need to change the flat. Of course after I checked, I was in no better shape--I can't change a tire by myself! But still, I wasn't worried. I'd be alright.
I was getting cold, there was still a lot of snow on the ground from a few days ago and I was approximately three miles from what we call around here 'the main road' and cell phone service.
'So where should they find the body?' I thought. My dark humor was starting. Should it be found in the car with all my goodies or found on the road somewhere? That's when I saw him.
Great. "Body found in the car" it is.
Remember the Burt Reynolds's movie, "Deliverance"? Two so-called hillbillies descend from the woods in one scene before the infamous encounter with Ned Beatty. That is exactly what flashed in my mind when this figure appeared in my field of vision. I decided to pretend I hadn't noticed him because I was on the phone. He wouldn't know about the lack of service, right? This ruse was going to get me back in the car so I could lock it and allow me to seem completely unaware of his presence. He'd think I was calling for help. I'm a little worried. But I'd be alright.
I watched him come down the mountain, through the snow and grass while I spoke to nobody on a dead phone. He was the Grizzly Adams of 'The Walking Dead' complete with limp and he was headed my way. Whatever he was carrying in his left hand could easily smash the windows of my car if that's what he wanted to do with it. As he got closer, I noticed what he was carrying was a backpack. Great. He's carrying a 'kill kit.' I thought.
He came to my side of the car and without a visible tooth in his mouth said, "I'm gonna fix your 'tar,' okay?" Since I could pop the trunk safely from the inside, I did...and prayed.
After about fifteen minutes and remembering every self-defense class I'd ever taken, I noticed this strange man was now walking through the grass and back into the woods. He had changed the tire and went on his way without another word to or "Thank you" from me.
As I drove safely home, I wondered where "Mountain Man" lived, how had he seen me? Then another thought came to me. Why had he taken the chance and helped me?
I'm glad he wasn't as judgmental as I had been!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Perils of the Payday Loan

A couple of months ago, my mother received a check for $556.00 in the mail from a certain 'payday loan' company. While I can't excuse her, my mother's mental state and dementia told her the check  was the 'gift from God' she'd asked for so she got a friend to take her to the bank where she cashed it. I found out about this only after Mom started receiving the notices of her repayment schedule. She has to pay back 9 payments of $111.00 meaning she'll be paying a total of $999.00 on $556.00. I get it: Short term loans, high interest and high payback amount. Okay, she fell for it. We hear about it all the time. Elderly people are targets for things like this.
Mom decided she'd get a little bit ahead on her payments so she wrote one check for two payments or $222.00 on the due date. That's pretty bold for someone who only receives $702.00 in Social Security each month. Six days after the payment was received, she gets notified that her "check was returned." My mother has a checking account with overdraft protection so I thought she simply misunderstood. Well, we both misunderstood. How?
The company returned the check--not the bank. Mom didn't know the special previsions that they had set up for this situation. The company "does not accept" more than one payment at a time when paid by check. Why? Because this enables the company to use loopholes and the English language to get as much money as possible from her(and anyone else). I can't say that I would've thought to send two separate checks myself.
So Mom's check for $222.00 was returned to the neighborhood office as if it had never been paid. Then because now it is technically 'late,' they added a $20.00 late fee AND $36.00 for a 'returned to the office' fee. Now this comes to a $167.00 for EACH--yes, the payment due AND the payment she thought she was making to get ahead! Guess what? Yep, another $111.00 payment is due this month!Grand total? $445.00...and counting!
I'm expecting legal threats to come at her at anytime.
I must confess that I really didn't see the harm in "payday loan" places in commercials I've seen on television. But I didn't realize that some of these places send out checks in hopes of them being cashed. It's brilliant actually because if the customer complains, the company rep can just smile and say, "Well they shouldn't have cashed the checks!" It is the perfect plan.
Reminds me of a fisherman who baits the hook just hoping they'll get a bite so they can 'reel that sucker in.' That is certainly what they got with my mother--a sucker. Hook, line and sinker.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Jesse and my cousin Lisa were married three years when they adopted two beautiful little girls. The girls were sisters with one being a special needs child. In my opinion, Jesse and Lisa rescued those two and gave them the best home possible. Both were educated, professional adults with all the love in the world to give children. Something changed.
Lisa began to want 'a real child' with her husband. To me, it seemed like she was attempting to save or improve her marriage in some way but what did I know? This led to IVF, hormone treatments and a lot of expense. When Lisa did finally become pregnant, her happiness seemed strained. Then one day, Lisa told her mother that she caught Jesse in the den getting the eleven year old girl drunk. The child had passed out in fact. Soon after that, Lisa discovered and reported a molestation. Jesse was removed from the home and the law got involved.
Lisa had all the love and family support anyone could ever hope to have. She wouldn't have to worry about being a divorced mother raising two daughters and a newborn son alone because all of us were ready, willing and able to do whatever, whenever. That is why what she did was so shocking.
Lisa stood by Jesse throughout all the legal procedures. Even though they are eleven and thirteen now, Lisa gave the girls back to DHS because she was determined to be with Jesse and raise 'their son' together..."as a family." We have no idea what happened to the girls or where they are now.
Lisa turned her back on our side of the family and her own mother has never held her now eight month old grandson. I used to have Lisa as a Facebook friend but I have grown to hate all her photos featuring her, Jesse and that innocent little baby with her posts about how "God gave her the most perfect husband." I just don't have the stomach for it anymore.
I know I am 'not supposed to judge' because I don't know what really 'goes on behind closed doors' but to me, what she did is almost the worst thing I've ever heard anyone doing. How could she see what she reported and still "stand by her man"? To me, she blamed the victim. In regards to the girls and as an abandoned child myself, I cannot imagine the pain of being adopted at age three then "returned" for any reason. I never dreamed Lisa was capable of this. Disgusting.
Have you ever felt that way about a family member?
Could you separate the person from the deed? I can't seem to love the person but hate what they did.
 I am certainly not "without sin," but "casting the first stone" seems the least that I could do. I fear that if I ever spoke to her again she'd think I condone what she did and even that, for me would be unforgivable.
I guess I'm incapable of "unconditional love."

Friday, January 24, 2014

My Mom's "Diagnosis"

Every time I take my mother to the supermarket, it's an adventure. She'll call out of the blue and expect me to drop everything I'm doing simply because she is my biological mother. My previous blog entries show that my mother and I really don't like each other but we tend to spend a little bit of time together out of some sick "moral obligation." I feel sorry for her at times and she believes even though she never raised me, I am still supposed to 'serve her' so off we go.
I had begun to notice a mental decline in my mother. She'd call and when I answered, she'd ask to speak to me. She would tell me of these images appearing on her living room walls at night. Every time we went to the market, she could neither push the shopping cart down the aisle nor recognize any of the items on the store shelves. She couldn't read her own hand-written grocery list and at times seemed to be asking my permission before putting anything in the cart. Something was wrong. I had this nagging suspicion. I began to listen to my gut instinct. Was it Dementia? The first stages of Alzheimer's Disease? Nope. Something worse. She has "S.H."
Last week, I spoke to her doctor's office nurse and told them her symptoms. "That certainly is a sudden change." the nurse said. Then I began to understand. As bad as what I was thinking sounded, it would explain everything. So I made her an appointment then put a plan in place.
The day of her doctor's appointment, I asked an aunt of mine to call and check on Mom for me. I told her I was concerned.
"She seems fine to me." she reported.
Then I called and asked my mother if she needed anything from the store before we went to the doctor. She said she did so I told her to go ahead, make a grocery list and I'd be right over but then I said, "But don't pull any of that crap you pulled the last time or I'll have to tell your doctor."
"Okay." She said and hung up.
We got to the store and I said, "You go on ahead, I have to go back to the car." She proceeded to get a cart and head down the first aisle of the store. I didn't go to the car, I basically hid and watched my mother shop as independently as you or I would. Suddenly, the woman who couldn't identify a box of Raisin Bran with me by her side was reading labels and comparing prices on her own. I waited until she got to the checkout counter (which she could never seem to find with me) and stood beside her. Suddenly, she couldn't open her purse, find her money etc. I was onto something. I just turned to her, told her I'd be waiting in the car and walked away. She proceeded to buy her groceries, walk over to a separate counter, buy cigarettes then come outside and put her groceries in my car.
Later at the doctor's office, I went in the exam room with my mother. I ordinarily didn't do that but today, I was on a mission. I spoke privately to her doctor in the hallway after her exam.
"Why is my mother unable to shop when I'm with her but is fine on her own?" I asked.
The doctor just smiled at me and said, "Dyane, you're mom has one of the oldest conditions in existence. She has 'strategic helplessness.' "  A-ha!!! Gotcha!

Friday, January 17, 2014

'Ads' Suspended--Gone But Not Forgotten

I was blogging along, minding my own business when I started noticing the ads on the blog sites I'd visit. Ads, ads, everywhere. I didn't have any. Why not? What did 'they' know that I didn't? Was I missing out on something? I did some research and thought everything I read sounded harmless enough so I decided to have ads on my blog. Why not? Sell, sell, sell! That's the name of the game! Go forth and make a nickel or two. I followed all the tips about 'increasing traffic' and using social media looking forward to 'raking in that dollar.'
I noticed a little increase in my pageviews from time to time but nothing major. I started feeling like I had put on my big girl panties and entered the business world. Yea me! WooWoo!
Today I got the news---I had been suspended for 'invalid activity.' WHAT? I've never been suspended from anything in my life. No inquiry, no 'exit interview'--just judged and executed. What is 'invalid activity'? Sure, I read everything about the do's and don'ts of advertising/hosting ads before I signed up but they are simple and clear. Nothing to be misunderstood. So how does something like that happen? I hadn't checked any of my own ads and nobody I know has a blog or is interested in such things to be frank but something looked wrong somewhere in Cyberville and I got the ax! I'll never get that $12.22 total I made the last couple of months---there goes my home in the Hamptons!
I felt a bit silly 'filing an appeal' but it had to be done for no other reason than my self-esteem. I'm used to being in control of everything I do and "if there is a problem, yo, I'll solve it..." ala Vanilla Ice etc. I knew for certain was that I hadn't done anything to violate policy but in my mind I could see  HAL the Computer blocking my re-entry. Surely this 'wrong' would be made 'right' and I wouldn't be on the outside looking in with my nose against the glass. Alas, I have indeed been banished.
There strangest thing to me was how clean and final the cut was. Maybe if it had been face-to-face or by telephone, I could have been informed as to what exactly had happened that required the suspension...pled my case...been given another chance. "Throw myself on the mercy of the court." But that's where we are now. Impersonal and final. Business not personal. Dollars not 'Sense.'
Judged and executed.
I lived and learned.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Caught My Pastor Cheating!

 Last Tuesday, I met my old college friend in her hometown instead of having her come to me. Quick little trip, friends reuniting--dinner at a swanky restaurant. We met in the parking lot, went in, were seated and started catching up. I began looking around admiring our surroundings when I saw them being escorted to their table. It was kind of cute to see the man gently pat the fanny of his date as they walked to their table...they'd probably just started seeing each other. But the guy suddenly seemed  familiar to me. How did I know this guy? OMG!
     "Lisa," I said, "you know the saying 'it's a small world,' right?"
     "Sure." she replied.
     "My pastor is here."
     "The woman he is with isn't his wife." I said.
     "Okay. It's probably his sister or his mother."
     "Well, my pastor's mother passed away a few years ago and he doesn't have a sister."
     "And, they are kissing."
     "Then I guess you just caught your pastor cheating!"
I kept thinking of Bogart in 'Casablanca' saying "of all the...why did he have to walk into mine?" Or something like that. Was it him? Was I sure? I mean, it wasn't like I went to church every Sunday. I had never done more than shook his hand in the reception line and I tend to sit towards the back of the church. Maybe I was mistaken. I had to be wrong. Please God, let me be wrong. Then almost on cue, I heard the woman laugh and say his name. Unfortunately, my pastor has a very distinctive name. No doubt about it. It was him.
What do I do now? Go over to his table and 'let him know that I know'? Expose his obvious affair with righteous indignation and wait for the lightning to strike? Maybe I could drop a note in next Sunday's collection plate that reads, 'I know what you did last Tuesday.'
It's not really any of my business, right? So he preaches Bible principles and talks about sin Sundays and Wednesdays. This was a Tuesday. Maybe this was an 'off-day.' Surely, there's a perfectly logical explanation for him to be kissing this woman, stroking her hair and patting her bottom. Don't all pastors do that?
I decided to do nothing. I'm not going back to that church, of course but other than that, I'm going to forget what I saw. Yes, the image of  Rev. ******'s hand on that redhead's butt seems burned in my memory but maybe I can "pray that day away." What do you think?


Friday, January 10, 2014

Bye Bye, Love

We met because I lost my ride at my friend's 'Sweet Sixteen' party.  I was stranded in the lobby of the hotel because my friend had just driven off in the brand new Z28 Camaro her parents had given her. Sitting in that lobby across from me were two guys that had also been at the gathering. One cute, one not. Guess which one spoke to me?
As it turned out, the three of us knew some of the same people and the conversation went by quickly. "Cutie's" name was Alan. He was already out of high school, working at a grocery store and we had a lot of things in common. We talked to each other like we were old friends.  After a while, Alan said,"Don't take this the wrong way but do you need a ride home?"
     "Well, kind of "I said.
     "Would you let me drive you?"
     "I don't know."
     "How 'bout this. You call home and ask if it'd be ok for me to bring you home, then I'll talk to them and hopefully, they'll see that I'm trustworthy. If they say it's ok to take you home, then we'll go." he said. Twenty minutes later, I was riding in a 1968 Mustang with my knight in shining armor...and his sidekick. Ten minutes later, I arrived safely home almost hand-delivered to my grandmother.
As a teenage girl, the entire thing went through my head the rest of the night. Oh No! He didn't ask my phone number! Maybe he didn't like me? He acted like he did. He must've liked me. He was so nice and so cute! What was a girl to do?
 I decided I'd send him a 'Thank You' note. He had 'rescued' me, right? The least I could do was send him a letter! But how? My teenage mind decided that since I knew his first and last name and where he lived (a very, very small town) all I'd have to do is address the envelope with that information. So a letter with my contact info was sent in a blue envelope sealed with a kiss along with a prayer...four days later, he called.
We were together four years. After my high school graduation, I went to nursing school so to think our relationship would last forever was unrealistic but I decided that with his brains, Alan should go to college, too. I got him interested in an orderly position in my hospital and ultimately, he became a radiologic technologist who landed a job with a firm providing this service all across the country. Our lives (and loves) went in different directions.
Through the years, my grandmother kept up with his life and periodically, gave me updates. She thought we'd end up together. She found out through his mother that he'd be doing X-rays at a local physician's office a few years ago and tricked me into taking her. The only thing more stunning than when we met again face-to-face was the smug look on my grandmother's face as she admired her own handiwork.
A few months ago, Alan committed suicide in the garage of his brother's home. No one knows why and it doesn't matter. Memories do. A song he used to sing to me has a different meaning for me now.
                                                         He'd sing, "Bye Bye Love."