Tag Archives: Cancer

A day like today

I do not, as a general rule, sleep well or much. My family knows this because they have to put up with my oddball hours. Friends and clients know this because it is not rare for them to receive an email from me at some horrible, zombie-like hour where I, fresh from about three hours of sleep, have logged on to see what is happening in my little corner of the world.

Most of the time, this does not bother me overly much. After all, I have a great deal many more hours at my disposal than most people, meaning I can come up with grandiose plans about various things, and also cement the reputation I have garnered of being a robot rather than a human being. Since the radiation from the cancer treatments still has not brought me any real superpowers, I suppose it’s as close as I will ever get, although I won’t be doing this anytime soon.

Some days, though, the lack of sleep brings out the cranky, especially if I am also not feeling well. Like today. This makes me want to kick someone’s ass right off the planet for tossing a nonsensical legal threat our way about information in a domain registration that she provided, even though we have pointed out what she is saying means nothing and she readily admits she doesn’t understand the “jargon” – and by “jargon”, I mean English. Apparently, she is simply terrified that one of her “fans” (she is an actress, apparently) will find out her address from a years-old cached pieced of information on google, something that we do not control, last time I checked, and do some stalker-like thing, or kill her, or both. Or something. This is the time when I want to state it flat out for people: you are just not that important. You are not fodder for the next American Justice where some crazed, obsessed person hunts you down and kills you. You may tell yourself, actress aspiring to be famous, that someone would care that much, but let’s face it here: you provided your own biographical information to IMDB which is quite handily on your own web site, and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist or some weirdo even slightly off their meds to find you. I know: I tracked down someone, including their name, date of birth, current residence, current hobbies, other web sites they visit, and the fact that they coached little league from a single piece of information (an IP address attached to a comment they left on a blog we host). With all the information you have provided on your own, deranged psychos could track you down if they wanted. They haven’t. This should tell you something about your place in the greater universe.

A day where you think it would be nice to be able to eat and drink the way you used to. That an icy cold beer and a pile of wings would be great after sweating off a couple of pounds working on the ranch, except that you can no longer drink alcohol due to the radiation burning off the lining of your mouth and you really can’t eat wings any more because the chewing issues make it virtually impossible. That it would be great to settle in with a margarita and a blackened chicken burrito with extra sweet and hot chile sauce, but the spicy foods are offlimit now for the same reason alcohol is, and you know even as you sow the seeds in the garden that you’re unlikely to ever be able to eat habaneros or even jalapenos again any time soon, if ever.

On the other hand, on a day like today, where I’m having some trouble catching my breath and generally feeling like crap – oh, not to mention having a slight bout of anxiety over the fact that the doctor wants me to have a chest CT because of something they saw on the chest x-ray they wanted before I started hyperbaric dives after having yet another tooth pulled – it’s nice to Get Shit Done. Like sow the cukes from seed that I’ve wanted to do for several days now, for a total of about 140 seeds planted, with a little overflow from my nephew helper, who put half a dozen seeds in several holes while I tried to convince him that really, one was all that was required. I also directly sowed some more tomatoes and peppers, because let’s face it: there are rarely enough, and we intend to do a lot of preserving this year. If we have the space, I want to fill it with something. That includes the newest 8 x 4 frame I polished off today in the herb garden, with a little assist by my sister, who hauled a load of dirt and poop for me amongst the five others that I brought over and mixed in. Tomorrow, while we wrangle a scheduled CT from the hospital people and I stay out of the hyperbaric chamber until we determine what the hell is going on – and if I have walking pneumonia, I will, as I have told several people, be pissed – I will begin work on the final 8 x 4 frame for the herb garden. Tonight, I may just go ahead and sow some things in flats that really want the much hotter weather we will no doubt be heading into very soon, and set them up on the heat mats in the garage, turning on the lights for them in the morning.

It’s a day where you also get nice, chatty mails from certain clients, about their newest projects, and about being a test case who found a bad link on our site. Or from someone who understands the information (some of it erroneous) at some random, invisible data mining company is not the end of the world as we know it, which then leads in a roundabout sort of way to a discussion about critters and gardening/sustainability. Or from someone who congratulates us on ten years of putting up with all of this. Or where a pooped out puppy sleeps on the back of the couch while you work from home on a laptop, ass planted on the couch yourself, his tail slapping against the cushion now and then, his nose crinkling as he sniffs out a rabbit or turtle or whatever populates puppy dreams, every now and again his paws wiggling manically, chasing down a bird he will never catch, growling and then squeaking out what would be a bark were he awake. Or where you watch as your nephew, having discarded his swimming diaper at some point, stands on the patio in the shade, fresh from the pool, with only his water wings on, downing saltines with a slab of cheese between them, crumbs falling from his mouth and sticking to his wet chest. Or where you decide, apropos of nothing, that Saturday would be a great  time for a spaghetti dinner night, and that homemade pork/beef/veal meatballs in homemade sauce, with homemade Italian bread as a vehicle for carrying butter and garlic, would be a rather fine thing indeed, even as you muse about the possibility of making homemade pasta, just to top it all off.

Or where, in general, despite never having as much time as you think even though you don’t sleep, berating yourself for not writing nearly as much as you would want to (or anything at all, for that matter), and having a list of todo items that is constantly expanding, you think this is a pretty damned good life, overall, and that you wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything.

Forced downtime

Three consecutive days of dentist/oral surgeon visits have resulted in forced downtime for me on the ranch. On Wednesday, a visit to the dentist to address the broken tooth slated for a crown. While much of the shearing off was the buildup, some of it was the actual tooth, and what was left after that was one little stub, resulting in yet another unrestorable tooth. Luckily, we had already made an appointment with the oral surgeon for Thursday, because I could tell what was coming: an extraction of what was left.

And that’s what we did on Thursday: appointment at 10, and by 11:20 I was walking out the door, my mouth yet one more tooth lighter. This was a bit more difficult an extraction, as the top stub broke of and he wound up using forceps to dig in and grab the root, but he managed to pull the root out in one piece. No cutting! Gauze, the usual prescriptions, and off I went back to the house. Because of the additional rooting around (no pun intended) this one hurt quite a bit more than the last one, and my lower jaw started to swell fairly immediately. I also felt quite a bit more nauseated this time than last, but sleep plus the various drugs made it all slide down the list of my concerns, even if it did put me behind on various things and make me a bit foggy throughout the evening. My oral surgeon – Dr. Tayapongsak, by the way, if you’re ever in this area and need a very good one – also mentioned to me something I resigned myself to three years ago as I began the never-ending dental work: eventually, all my teeth will probably have to come out. For now, though, I’d like to retain what I can.

Friday, back to the dentist for what was actually my scheduled appointment for crown preps, now on a single tooth instead of two. That didn’t make it hurt any less, as my jaw had swollen further through the evening, but I went ahead with this appointment to avoid having the other tooth meet the same fate as the one requiring extraction. As he shaved away the buildup and shaped the remainder of the tooth, of course some of that work wound up going right along the gumline. Ouch. Then the impressions, and me trying to open my mouth widely enough to get the trays in, which were then jammed up against the teeth and held there for several minutes. Then the even greater challenge of getting the trays out through my limited opening, without destroying what we’d just managed to create. Then the temporary crown, on the tooth, off the tooth for shaping, over and over again, every time jammed up against and into the gumline until it was shaped properly.

After that adventure, off to the hospital and an EKG and a chest xray, so I can begin hyperbaric dives on Monday to promote the healing of the socket where the root had been. While I was in xray, getting lined up for the second shot, a code blue in MRI comes over the intercom. Such is the ebb and flow of the medical world.

All of this adds up to no work outside since Wednesday. My face is still swollen today, although less so than yesterday, and there is no heavy lifting permitted anyway for a day or so after the extraction, to avoid the potential of dislodging the (very nice) blood clot that formed in the empty tooth socket. Since I feel like someone has been beating me with a lead pipe – and look a bit that way, too – this is disappointing, but sort of welcome at the same time.

Tomorrow, though: full steam ahead. Lots to do. Not many people to do it. It’s time to really start ramping things up here on the ranch.

You say tomato

Make that tomatoes, plural.

This is Stupice, a Czech early variety. It is also one of the handful of transplants that survived being put out.

Poor planning on my part and poor weather on Mother Nature’s part conspired to kill off or stunt many of the stunningly healthy transplants that had been started in the garage just before the new year kicked in. Next time, I will keep two things in mind: first, in addition to the other care I gave the seedlings in their sheltered quarters, they need a little opposition as well, to help toughen them. A fan to force strength into their stems is going to be a requirement, not an afterthought. Second, they really do need a proper hardening off period, no matter how much the weather outside seems to be cooperating when I make the decision to put them out. It may seem to be overcast and mild enough to put them in the frames and let them be, but it would be better to have the babies mobile enough to be able to bring them back in before, say, a massive windstorm or two straight days of pounding rain come along.

After that, though, they’re fair game for the elements.

In the morning, a visit to the oral surgeon, at which point he will probably decide to go ahead and pull this one tooth right then and there. Since my emergency visit with the dentist today interrupted my day, no work outside for me. Tomorrow, after what will be a difficult pull, it’s likely I won’t be working outside, either, which could get bad as the rain that we’ve had is going away for awhile, and there is irrigation to be worked on out there. Friday morning, back to the regular dentist, for the crown prep on the companion tooth to the one being yanked out – so far, that second tooth is hanging in there, with no cracking, shearing, or other disintegration before my eyes. Lucky me. To top things off, I’ll have to do ten hyperbaric dives after this pull, to help the healing process, which will further interrupt my early morning hours and is likely to leave me low on energy, putting me even further behind in the work that I need to get done.

Will it all ever end?

Getting corny

It rained today. Usually, in Florida during the summer, this is not exactly newsworthy. After all, for all the years, off and on, that I’ve lived in Florida, summers typically have the same forecast: partly cloudy, highs in the mid-90s, afternoon thunderstorms.

Then I moved out of the city and into this very strange, Bermuda Triangle-like plot of country only to find that if the forecast calls for anything under 50%, it can generally be ignored, because the rain will blow itself apart before it gets to us, or slide off to the north or south, leaving not a drop here. The other extreme, of course, is the tropical storms that come and hang out for a week, dumping two feet or more of water around the property. Most of the time, it’s the former rather than the latter.

Still, it rained today, this afternoon, which meant I hauled myself outside very quickly this morning and managed to get straw put down around the garlic – one variety of which is turning into a tremendous disappointment – as well as move almost 1300 pounds of dirt and poo. Keep in mind that here on the ranch, almost nothing is mechanized. That’s right: hauling this sort of stuff around is done by human power, not machine power. By the time I think a tractor is worth the investment, it won’t be necessary because all the work for which it was intended to be used will be done. While I’m sweating out the latest activity, I sometimes wonder if this is what it was like for the earliest settlers, although I have the benefit of being able to escape into more comfortable quarters for a break or before the rains come (after battening things down against the storm).

The good thing about the rain is that it makes the irrigation line running less of an issue. That’s good news for the silver queen corn, which currently occupies three frames of an incomplete six frame row. Even though I made good progress today on the remaining frames in that row, I can’t run the lines until they’re complete, and that means hand watering. Unless it rains.

As with most of the rest of the planting, this was delayed by family issues. The vendor had stamped an 85% germination rate on the pack, so I overplanted the rows, planning for a less than optimal germination. As it stands, it looks to me more like 95%. I consider that a good thing, and I am ever hopeful that we may actually harvest corn this year instead of losing it to deer romping through it (not an issue now with the fencing) or to bizarre weather that flattens it to the point of nonrecovery or alternately drowns it/droughts it.

I also put in another variety as a test: Vision F1.

This planting went in earlier than the silver queen, and is a sugary yellow variety, slightly shorter on harvest time than silver queen. Corn really has turned out to be my personal windmill here on the ranch, a la Don Quixote, and it would be nice to see some through from seed to harvest.

My dental saga continues apace. I’ve had four teeth pulled recently, and it looks like another one is going to have to go: cracked down the middle of where the temporary build was done, awaiting a crown – ironically enough, the prep date was supposed to be this Friday – and the actual tooth part is loose in the socket. No sense capping something that is going to fall out or snap on its own, so it’s time to call the dentist to see if he can work me in for ten minutes to give me a thumbs up on the pull of that one, and I’m thinking we might as well pull the opposing tooth, also slated to be crowned. The oral surgeon will love me as much as the dentist by the time all is said and done. Radiation and chemo are hellish things. Eventually, I will probably end up with all my teeth pulled, which would mean dentures – and that means I have to really get going with the torture device meant to help stretch the scar tissue created by the treatments and assist with the trismus. The only problem with this is when I have one or more teeth that need attention: I need to use the device in order to help with dental treatment and try to hold on to my teeth, but it is quite difficult to use it when I have teeth that require attention. Yet another lingering gift from the big C.

A peaceful sleep

Back on the 18th of February, I mentioned that my cat, Boots, was dying. We knew it wasn’t going to be much longer, and so it wasn’t – after all, she was about 18 years old. I had been sleeping on the couch for about a week or so, Boots with me, just to have some time together and to be with her in the event she happened to go overnight. The Wednesday after posting that, I had gone to the NOC to do a few things, and when I got back after midnight, I found her on the floor, back legs splayed out, on the threshold between the dining room and kitchen. She couldn’t stand well and couldn’t walk, and I knew that this was not the way it should be. I scooped her up and laid down on the couch with her. At some point, I drifted off, and when I woke up around 4 AM Thursday morning, found that she had pulled herself out of my lap, to the floor, and over toward the front door. I picked her up again and made her as comfortable as possible until we could call the vet to take her in.

We did, speaking to the very nice folks at a new vet’s office, closer to the house. They told us to go ahead and bring her in. I wrapped her up in a towel and carried her outside to show her the spot we’d picked out for her: the west side of the property, near the very largest tree on the property, with lots of sunshine (because she loved rolling around in the sun and being outside) and a place where I could get some flowers to grow (because she, although the smallest cat, was bold and in another life was probably a jungle cat of some kind). When I took her outside, she turned her face toward the sun and I could see her nose twitching, sniffing the fresh air. There was a bluejay in the big tree, chattering away at us as we looked at the spot.

I started back across the property toward the house and the car, and Boots had her head hanging over my arm, still sniffing the air. As I reached the front porch, I turned her head toward me, and saw that quite clearly, she was, at that moment, dying. We called the vet’s office back and told them we would not need their services for this after all. I sat down on the porch, Boots wrapped up in my arms, the sun on our faces, a slight breeze brushing us, and then she was gone. Peacefully. At home. With her people.

The flower seed we planted that morning over her is already starting to come up.

RIP Bootsie

No doubt that’s one of the things she would dream about when she slept like she did in the picture above, taken a day before the new year arrived.

Rest in peace, old girl.

Endgame

My cat is dying.

Boots

She’s been dying for awhile, of course, just as we all are at our own varying speeds.

Boots outside

Her time is simply coming to an end sooner than that same end is coming for the rest of us.

In the sunshine

For now, she occasionally gets outside to sun her old bones, but mostly she sleeps. She eats a little here and there, drinks a bit from time to time, but not much and not a lot. She’s still affectionate, and her motor still runs harder and louder than you’d expect from such a small cat.

Buddies

And she still has her buddies to keep her company until she’s finally ready to move on.

Waiting out the cold

OK, so it isn’t -4F here like it was at Lambeau Sunday night. It’s still cold to someone like me. I don’t like the cold and never have, which made our living in the northern reaches of the country interesting when I was younger. Then, it was just an annoyance because I’m a summer kind of gal. These days it’s actually annoying and painful, because while I’ve never had much bodyfat, since the whole cancer dance, my bodyfat is even lower than it was. A nice problem to have, no?

No.

When the weather cools off and the days only go into the 50s with the nights somewhere in the 30s, my feet never seem to be warm. My hands are cold all the time, making for interesting typing on the computer, and while everyone else is fine in a sweatshirt to combat what to them is a chill, I have a shirt, a flannel shirt, and two pairs of socks on, with my heater going under my desk to try and warm my feet. Going outside on a day like today in particular is rather heinous, as it was also very windy out there. I know my little cat (the one with the wrap around her waist in the photos) feels the same way, since she herself has a tumor that can’t be removed as she’s too old to be put under and she’s dropped down to virtually no bodyfat as well. She spends her days either in the window with the sunlight concentrated on her small frame, or curled up, leaning right against the other heater near my desk.

But I know that soon enough, my kind of temperatures will return, the sun will be out instead of taking the day off as it has this past week, and we’ll have colorful things growing out in the garden and yard. I may still get chilled when I come back in since everyone else likes the inside temp at around 72 (too chilly for me), but at least outside, my bones will be warm again. I can’t wait for summer.

“We know who gets head and neck cancer”

That is a partial quote from this article. The full quote:

“We know who gets head and neck cancer — people who smoke and drink a lot and tend to be at an older age. The problem is that it’s sometimes difficult to diagnose until it’s at its late stages and difficult to treat and cure,” researcher Dr. Joseph Califano of the Johns Hopkins department of head and neck surgery said in a phone interview.”

I’d say it’s even more difficult to diagnose in people who don’t actually smoke, don’t drink a lot, and who are not of an older age. I’m all for things like this where a large number of people who potentially be aided, and all for making known the primary causes of this sort of cancer. But it also pisses me off a little bit: this is exactly the reason the first question I get from people is “Are you a smoker?” and the reason some of them look at me as if they don’t believe me when I tell them I am not and never was.

Sidling into the new year

Once again, here we are at the end of one year and the beginning of another. Once again, it will be time for people to make a list of resolutions the cynic in me says they will never keep. Ironically, although I have never really been prone to making such lists, I had started one the other day, and one of the items on that list was to be less cynical about people and their motives. Another is to be calmer in the face of abject stupidity – I suspect that these two actually go hand in hand. Years ago – and this is many years, since it was two exes ago – I had a fairly profound interest in Zen Buddhism. Not to the extent that I am a particularly spiritual person. I am not. I am also not a religious person, much to the dismay of my sister, who is, and who finally settled on Catholicism as her religion of choice. Most of my interest in this is for the human factor, and to me it’s a lot like any other stress-reducing pursuit. As I was reviewing the past couple of years and all the assorted activities that have occurred, I told myself it would be worth my while to take up that interest again, and so I have. I expect this will help immensely in dealing with the people we have to deal with every day, and also help with the anxiety that every day brings as a result of that one singular day when the biopsy came back positive and the snowball that developed from there.

I also told myself that getting back out in the yard and working around the property will help, both physically and mentally. Getting the greenhouse built – what, you didn’t know that was planned? – will enable some experimentation with growing things out of season, inasmuch as anything really is out of season down here. This is Florida, after all. Plus, I’ve decided to take up another hobby: soap and candle making. Not very complicated (or, rather, only as complicated as you make it), relaxing, and in the end, a useful product, all of which satisfies both the left and right brain requirements. Who knows, that might be another side to the business here as well, but we’ll need a snappy name for it. My lack of sleep combined with one side of that (the soapmaking) may bring about echoes of something else entirely, but I think leaving out the underground fighting and general mayhem won’t be a real issue to overcome.

With all of that, plus two additional brands to finally launch, 2008 should be very active indeed. Here’s hoping it will also be happy, prosperous, safe, and healthy for everyone.