In which Rolanni picks up sticks

The last couple days have been sunny and warm, with high temperatures near 60F/16C, here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory.  Tomorrow, the weatherbeans predict rain, or possibly snow, with a high around 36F/2C.

Welcome to Maine.

The deck is not quite finished — still lacking a privacy panel and the stairway down to the yard.  But it’s plenty finished enough to put the deck chairs out, so that’s what we did.  It’s nice to sit in the sunshine.  I took advantage of that same warm sunshine to play the games of post-winter trash collection and pick-up-sticks in the yard.  The Lawn Guys promise to come by next week to do a serious clean up — for instance, the branch that fell out of the apple tree needs either an application of chain saw to get it into pieces short enough to schlepp down to the Big Pile of Twigs by the Forest Gate, or it needs a tractor to drag it there.

We have hyacinth and snowdrops in the backyard, and several pods of daffodils blooming by the front door.

So, yes, it is spring, Maine-style.

For those who may have missed it — Splinter Universe Presents! has published.  Here’s a link to Apple, BN, Kobo, and Angus & Robertson.  Here’s the Kindle linkHere’s the link to the paper edition.

Splinter Universe Presents! is a collection of character sketches, discovery drafts, portions of novels, and of stories, that quit before they became whole.  Each piece comes with an author commentary, which may make the volume of value to those who are interested in the writing process, and possibly to those who wish to become — or who are becoming — writers.  All of the material has been previously published to, and all are Liaden in nature.

In other news, I have what I sincerely hope is the definitive telehealth visit with Oncologist the First this afternoon, to discuss the results of the oncotyping.  Today, I should find out what my treatments will be, going forward, and have the beginning of a schedule for same.  Which is to say, Waiting will End, and Events will Move.  That by itself will be a relief.

At the moment, I have two coon cats — Trooper in the copilot’s chair, and Sprite on the desk by my keyboard — snoring in the sun, my mug is empty, and it’s time to make up a list for Instacart, and start the towels to washing.

See y’all on the flipside.  Stay safe.

Whole New World, Part Seven

So, we talked to the radiologist, who recommends going straight to radiation and zapping those lymph nodes into the next universe.

So, that’s The Plan, pending the results of the oncotyping, which I should have on the 21st.  If the oncotype is high, then chemo takes precedence.  If the oncotype is low, then I will be given aromatase inhibitors and can start radiation therapy in May, 5 days a week for 5 weeks.

I am — not in a good place about this, even though I know it has to be done.

I also note that we’re still in Hurry Up and Wait Mode.

And that’s All The News.

Whole New World, Part Six

When last seen in this space, I was waiting for appointments with Specialists.  On Monday, I had an appointment with my surgeon — healing nicely, says the surgeon, we’ll touch base again in two months — and with Oncologist the First, she who determines when chemo will do the patient any good.

In order to determine this, she has to have the results of a DNAish test, possibly called an oncotype.  She ordered that test on Monday and expects results in two weeks.  No, I don’t know why the test wasn’t ordered when it was discovered that the lymph nodes were involved; and no, I also don’t know why they’ve kept my tumor hanging around for weeks.  I hope at least its had books to read.

Anyway, we’re waiting for the results of that test so that we can figure out what’s to do, going forward.

In the meantime, the hospital is trying to limit the number of visitors to it, so my next meeting, this with the Ray Gun Specialist, will be via telehealth, which is a fancy way of saying, “The doctor will meet with you via Zoom conference.”  And that’s what we’ll be doing next Thursday.

Before someone leaps up to Explain how REALLY SCARY AND EVIL Zoom is — this is the doctor’s choice of communication tool; it is far, far better than making a 100+ mile round trip to the hospital, exposing myself to a lot of immunodepressed persons, and exposing them to me, while Steve is excluded from entering at all.  The Zoom conference will allow Steve to attend the meeting fully, and the cats, too; and lowers the risk of infection considerably.  Also, the laptop runs Linux, so considerably less danger than were it running Windows.

So, basically, we’re in Hurry Up and Wait Mode.

The news from my surgeon is that, in the Current Climate, the hospital is reassessing its risk management guidelines, meaning that some procedures which would have been on the front burner, in Olden Times, are now being kicked down the road by two to six months.

In the meantime, I’m working — slowly — on Splinter Universe Presents! and not writing at all.  I’m not particularly happy about that, but it is what it is.

Steve and I have been pretty much staying in, except for visits to the hospital, which — except for visits to the hospital — is pretty much our normal.  The next-door neighbors are looking out for us, and we’ve been using InstaCart for grocery shopping, which has been working out surprisingly well, despite shortages in the store itself.

A kind friend gave us gallons of frozen blueberries, so we’re wealthy in antioxidants.  Today, I made blueberry muffins, and Steve is figuring to make blueberry pancakes over the weekend, which still leaves plenty left over for smoothies, and putting over ice cream, and, and, and…

The cats have been working hard to give equal coverage — right now, Trooper is in my Command Chair, while Sprite and Belle cover Steve in his office.

And that?  Is all the news.

Everybody stay safe.


Whole New World, Part Five

. . .in which the Dealer allows the Joker into play.

When last we visited the pathology report, all was well — the tumor had been large, but self-contained; the margins were clear from Bangor to Cincinnati; the estrogen and progesterone receptors were receiving and strong.

There only remained the vexed question of the surveyed lymph nodes.  Pathology discovered that, of the four taken, one was positive (bad), one was negative (good) and two had tiny, tiny, ohsoverytiny, isolated amounts of cancer in them (oh, dear, now what?).

Given the Medical Rule for when to take All the Lymph Nodes, it was a tough call, what to do next.

The call has now been made — the lymph nodes need to go. There are two ways to do this — one surgical, one radiological — and I am being set up to meet with the surgical oncologist and the radiology oncologist.  Based on what little I have gleaned, I’ll probably just jump straight to radiation, since surgical removal has two gotchas — one, if any of the other lymph nodes are found to contain cancer cells, I’ll have to have radiation, anyway, in addition to the surgery.  Two, the chance of lymphoma arising from surgical removal is twice as high as removal by ray gun.

I will of course know more after I meet with the specialists, Steve attending both meetings with me via cellphone from the isolation unit we like to call our car.

So, there’s that.

Whole New World, Part Four

It snowed about six inches on the overnight.

I had an appointment for a drain inspection at the Cancer Center in Brewer at 9:30 am this morning.

These two things are not unrelated.

It was a gorgeous drive up I95 to 395 to Brewer. The roads were clear, the snow clung to the trees, and the sun was a silver disk behind dispersing clouds.  We saw a Cooper’s Hawk shopping the verge for a snack, and a couple of turkeys flying across the road at about the level of my knee.

We left early, as one does when there are 50+ miles to cover on the morning after a serious snow.  It was a little spooky, driving up I95 to the third largest city in the state, during Tuesday morning rush hour.  There was no rush.  There were some few cars, an a goodly number of big trucks, but nothing like the congestion we — well, I — had anticipated.  Maine doesn’t have a lot of people, and its rush hour “congestion” is a thing of much merriment to those from Away, but — not this thin.  In fact, it was a little like driving a ghost road.

Having left home early, we arrived at our destination early.  We pulled into a space in the sparsely occupied parking lot, and sat for a few minutes, listening to the radio, and waiting for time to pass.

While we were engaged in this pleasurable activity, a red car pulled into the space once removed from us and a woman — the driver — and a young man — somewhere between 18 and 24, I guess — got out.  The young man was carrying a bottle of gatorade; the woman was possibly his mother.  They walked in the direction of the hospital entrance.

The song we were listening to went over and another started.  There was a BAM! from outside — the young man had returned to the car, minus the gatorade and the woman.  He threw himself into the passenger seat and began whaling on the dashboard, the inside of the door, the ceiling.  He was also shouting, apparently into his cell phone.

“I guess they’re not letting extra people in,” I said to Steve.

“Let’s go see,” he answered, and we got out of the car, walked by the vehicle where the young man was still throwing his tantrum, and so the front door.

Before us was a man pushing his wife in a wheelchair.  In the vestibule of the building was a table, with three face-masked women behind it.  As we came up, the man had apparently just been told that he could not accompany his wife to her appointment.  He was…not pleased, and was letting it be known.

I hesitated, a hospital employee at the far end of the table waved me in, and I went.  Steve stayed at the door.

“Just checking,” I said, when I got to my helper.  “My husband can’t come in?”

“No,” she said.  “He can’t.”

I turned and waved at Steve.  “I’ll call you!”  He nodded, waved, and went back to the car, as I turned back to the table.

“Thank you,” said the woman helping me.  Beside us, the unhappy man was being unhappy at volume.

I answered the questions put to me, “Pureled” as requested, and was released to seek my doctor’s suite on the third floor.

I was the only one in the waiting room, save the receptionist.  The magazines had been cleared off the tables, the coffeemaker had an “out of order” sign on it, and also the refrigerator that had, on my last visit, been full of bottles of water.

In good time, I was seen by a nurse practitioner, who inspected the drain, removed one layer of dressing from the incision, and did a quick examination.  I am pronounced to be doing Well, though I still need to keep the drain for another week.

We then went over the pathology report, which is not at all clear-cut with respect to the lymph nodes.  I am promised that the surgeon will call me today to discuss options, which include the possibility of another surgery.

We talked a little about the surgical camisole I had been given in the hospital; and I gave it as my opinion that I had been fortunate enough to be able to raise both arms directly after my surgery, which made getting the camisole on fairly easy.  Someone who was not so fortunate, however, would have had to pull the thing up over her hips, which didn’t seem viable to me.  Maybe a camisole that fastened up the front would be better.  The nurse said they were looking into that, so, yay, I got to participate in Research.

Released, I called Steve to tell him I was on the way down, and rejoined him at the car, passing the red car where the young man was still punching the interior, and yelling at his cellphone.

Steve and I drove home through traffic not much increased, admiring the scenery, and spotting a herd of turkeys off the side of the road.

And that catches us up again.

Whole New World Part Three

So, it’s been a couple days since I’ve updated, but don’t worry — you haven’t missed anything except me sitting over there in the Command Chair, mostly sleeping between exercises, and doing Small Science with the drain, which I will be Very Happy to See the Back Of, just sayin’.

To give you some range on exactly how much I’ve been sleeping — I took Emma Bull’s The War for the Oaks to the hospital with me and also Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called, and was concerned that I might not have enough to read for an overnight stay at the hospital.  For those following along at home, I chose these two titles precisely because they are frequent re-reads, so I wouldn’t lose the train of the story, if — if!! — I fell asleep in the middle of reading.

So!  I have not yet finished (re-re-re-re-&c)reading The War for the Oaks.  Maybe today.

I can say that things (Things) are progressing.  Last night is the first time since coming home from the hospital, and despite all the sleeping I’ve been doing, that I felt like I got real sleep, as opposed to induced rest.  So we can hope that the last of the anesthesia has evaporated.

This morning, I made my own breakfast!  Scrambled eggs and toast, yeah, but I did it myself, though Steve does have to fetch bowls and mugs and various things down from the higher shelves for me.

If I have my way, I will make lunch today — something lentil stewish, depending on what we have in the freezer and pantry.

Plenty of rest, three-times a day exercises, and drain maintenance are still the backbone of the day’s agenda.  Steve is doing all the heavy lifting until I’m cleared, which I’m hoping will be Tuesday, during my first follow-up, but which will, in sober reality, probably be withheld until my second follow-up, the week after.

Still no word on the lymph node survey, which — let’s just say that I’d really like to have that nailed down, too.

Fans of the cats will be pleased to know that they are doing their usual exemplary job of nursing, while also keeping tabs on Steve.

And, there!  That catches us all up.

Everybody stay healthy.

Whole New World Part Two

So, I’m home from the hospital, having had a unilateral mastectomy, left breast, on Tuesday, and an overnight vacation in the Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Short Stay Unit.  I had hoped to be released today, but had scarcely hoped to be in the car with Steve, and heading for home by 10:30 am.  The operation went well, I’m told, and honestly there’s less pain than I had feared.  The nurses were pro-active with the Hard Stuff, it apparently being a Maxim of Nurses — You don’t want a stern chase when it comes to pain.  I had a couple doses of two pain pills, then voluntarily cut myself down to one, and I’m thinking we’ll just try to cope with Extra Strength Tylenol from here on, and the Funny Stuff held in reserve.

The hospital of course was gearing up for the Coronavirus Invasion, and cancelling elective surgeries.  The Short Stay Unit had two over-nighters — myself and a person I never saw.  I did not have a roomie, which was fine by me.

So, here I am, with a series of exercises to do three times a day, a drain that needs to be stripped several times a day, measured twice a day, and orders to move around.  I may not reach above my head, and I am disallowed from picking up anything heavier than 5 pounds.  I must be mindful of which side I’m using — because I’m a converted leftie, and that’s my go-to arm, and somewhere in and around these necessary assignments, I’m to rest.

The results of the lymph node survey are not yet available to use — the doctor will call me sometime next week with those results, and then…We’ll Know All.

As I was getting ready to leave, an engineer and one of the hospital maintenance folks came onto the Unit.  Their task was to find where the old water fountains had been in the hallways, and install hand-washing stations in those locations.  The (male) engineer met the (female) Unit Administrator outside my door, and the Unit Administrator asked how the task was proceeding.

“Well,” said the engineer, “we can do it, all right.  But it’s gonna be ugly (this being the Engineering “ugly” aka “not elegant.)”

To which the Administrator replied, “Well, many things are going to be ugly before we through this (this being the medical “ugly” aka “people are gonna die.)”

It was a striking and chilling scene, that.

Everybody take care.

Author’s Note:  I am still somewhat under the influence of pain killers, be kind to my spelling and sentence structure.

Whole new world

So, this is a catch-up post, and a distant early warning.

First, the warning:  I may be radio silent for a few days next week.  Maybe not.  But maybe.  It could happen.  If it goes that way, this is why.

I have breast cancer and will be having a unilateral mastectomy during the week of March 16.  I’m in good hands, and aside the fact that I have breast cancer (argh!), I’m fairly sanguine about the surgery, which will be what’s called a “simple mastectomy” — i.e. without reconstruction, which was my informed and freely-made choice.

Right now, it appears that I’ve drawn a card from the top of the deck, as the surgeon believes that I will not require either radiation or chemotherapy, though I will have to take an aromatase inhibitor to be named later.  I’ll note that this news is a little previous, since my sentinel lymph nodes still need to be surveyed.  This will happen concurrently with the larger surgery.  If there’s any funny business discovered at that point, then more extreme therapy will be necessary.  I won’t know that for sure until after results come back from pathology, but I’m hoping the better outcome continues to maintain.

For updates until I’m back online, check in with Steve on Facebook, which is where he hangs out most nowadays.  Here’s the link.

. . .I believe that catches us all up.

Everybody stay healthy.

Today’s blog post title is brought to you by Aladdin.  Here’s your link