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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow Boots and Jammie Pants

We're expecting an ice storm tonight.  The temps have warmed up just enough to cause our snow pack to melt, so we already have ice issues.  Our roof was still buried under most of the sixteen plus inches of snow we got before Christmas, so I asked Walker to get the roof rake down and clear some of it off.  Freezing rain on top of a mound of wet snow is a recipe for roof failure.  We had to get it taken care of.

Well, Walker kind of forgot.  He has family in town for the holidays, and he made plans to take Diva bowling with them.  By the time they get home it will be dark, and most likely raining.  The roof rake is stored in the rafters, where I can't reach it even with the ladder. Walker does that on purpose, so I can't try to tackle the heavy stuff when he's not home.  Unfortunately for him, I don't give up easily when something needs to be done.  Did you know that a soft bristled broom makes an excellent tool for lifting the pieces of a roof rake out of their cubby in the rafters?  The bristles will grab and hold those pieces like they were made for the job.  Guess I showed him.*grin*

So I got the thing together, all 18 feet of it. In the beginning, I raked that darn roof pretty well, too, I have to say.  The snow was absolutely soggy and heavy as hell, which wasn't a problem until I had to clean up the mess in the driveway.  It was literally up to my waist and weighed about as much as a baby elephant.  A chubby baby elephant.   On the back side of the house, the snow isn't shoveled. There's no sidewalk so really, no need.  Or so I thought.  I was still wearing my fuzzy jammy pants and in about four seconds they were soaked to the knees.  The real problem back there though, is this:

This, my friends, is an ice dam.  A good four inches of ice that built up when the snow melted, ran into the gutters, and froze there.  It doesn't look as menacing in the photo as it does in real life, but if it doesn't melt off it can lift the shingles right off the roof.  Then you've got leaks and water damage and maybe mold come spring and really, who needs that?  The problem is, there is not much that can be done except to watch it and keep the snow away from it.  There are chemicals, but they don't work well. Hopefully the warmer temps and my raking efforts will put and end to the ice dam in a couple days. 

The last side of the house is too high for me to get at, even with a 15 foot reach on the rake.  Walker will need to get the ladder out to take care of that tomorrow if it isn't raining.  Right now, I have dinner in the oven and I need to get ready for work.  The days just go too quickly.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Holiday Ruby Tuesday

We didn't get holiday cards done this year.  We didn't put up a Christmas tree.  But we did take a few minutes to dress up our home on the outside.  Happy Holidays!

To view other Ruby Tuesday photos, click here.

Quality Time

Diva is spending the week with her Gramma, my mom.  Normally she'd be sleeping here tonight, since I don't have to work, but I'm so far behind on things I told her we could have a sleepover on another weekend. I really need to catch up on my housework and get my medical bills in order before tax time.  This week and next will be crazy busy at the office so this weekend was my best chance.  It's hard for me to say no to Diva, especially  now.  Spending time with that kid is my favorite thing to do, and I feel like our play dates have been too few and too far between lately.  We both need some quality time together.

With that in mind, when Diva called me after supper to ask me to take her to see the holiday lights at a local park, I didn't have to think twice.  Fifteen minutes later I was bundled up and on my way.  We drove through the display, then parked the van and walked through it.  Of course we had to stop for some hot chocolate, as we do every year.  The only problem with that is, every time I tried to take a photo of this kid, she had the cocoa cup in her face:

It makes me just a little sad to see this little girl, who used to have to be lifted into Santa's sleigh, now climbing in easily on her own.  At least she still believes in Santa, though I'll be surprised if that's still the case next Christmas.  Ah well....for now, she's still my little girl.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'M DONE!!!!!!!!!!

I had my last radiation treatment today ~ Wahoo!  Thirty five down, NONE to go!!!!!

After my treatment I was presented with a celebration cake. Then I had a meeting with the cancer guide, who officially proclaimed me a "survivor".  She gave me some info on upcoming survivor programs, and had me ring the bell mounted on the wall in the waiting room to signal the end of my program.  Everyone stood and cheered.  It was a pretty awesome moment.

When Walker got home from work, I took him out for lunch, where  I ordered a margarita as big as my head.  Can I tell you - we work nights, and not on the same days, so going out for drinks has become a major event reserved for very special occasions and vacations.  I usually don't miss it, and I can't even begin to guess the last time I had a margarita.  But: I have been dreaming of this cocktail. Every. Single. Day.   I have no idea why, and there was absolutely no reason why I couldn't have had one during the treatment phase. I just never did.  I would lay on the table, looking at the cherry blossoms painted on the light covers while the machines buzz around me, and I would tell myself that as soon as I got through my last treatment I was going out for margaritas.  It got to the point where I could smell the lime, taste the salt....Bizarre, I know.  It would have been more like me to give myself a big basket from Ghiradelli or something.  Generally, chocolate is my bribe of choice *grin*.

Having taken these treatments for over seven weeks, I've pretty much gotten my afternoon routine down.  I was thinking that I should take advantage of the time I've carved into my day and spend it alternating between exercise, which I've sorely neglected since my surgery, and taking care of the little "issues" around the house that have cropped up.  If I spend an hour a day on one or the other, I should have both me and the house in shape by spring. 

Right now, though, I'm focused on Christmas.  We didn't get cards sent out this year, and we didn't put up a tree.  We didn't host our annual Thanksgiving dinner.  We aren't hosting Christmas.  But I shopped for gifts online, and I'll be there to watch my not-so-little niece and nephews open those gifts after we sit down for a delicious dinner at my baby brother's house.  That, for me, is the best part of the holiday season.  The only part I don't want to leave out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Who Needs Sun?

The weather outside is frightful, but inside my home, we're Florida dreaming.  My miniature citrus trees are blooming their hearts out, and it smells fantastic in here.  This is my Meyer lemon tree.  It is absolutely covered in blossoms.  Mmmmmm.......

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ahhh, the Weekend......

I'm not feeling so hot today.  I think it's just the combination of not getting enough rest and then over caffeinating myself to get through the day that has me off balance.  I've been a little shaky and a little foggy feeling all day.  You know what I mean - that out-of-it feeling you get when you've been sick.  You're getting better but you're not quite there yet.  Like that. Only I haven't been sick.
I got home from work a little while ago, and I should be in bed, but I'm overstimulated from too many Diet Cokes.  I need to wind down a little bit.  I'd like get a jump on my weekend to-do list, but I'm just not up for that.  My body has no energy, it's my mind that won't calm down.
Used to be, when I felt like this, I would crawl into bed with an old movie.  Something I'd seen a dozen times, so I didn't get engaged in it.  I'd be out in no time.  But we got all fancy and replaced the bedroom TV and VCR with an upgraded model that has a built in DVD player.  That's fine most of the time, but all my old movies are on cassette.  The VCR has been relocated to Diva's room.  Her bed is not that comfy for an adult.
By this time next week, radiation will be in my rear view mirror.  Hopefully, then, I can get caught up on my rest and back to my normal life.  For now, I think it's time to get some sleep.  Goodnight, friends.....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Boobs are Making History!

Okay, that's kinda misleading.  Well, maybe not. Here's the story; you can decide:  the radiologist I go to works for Mayo Clinic.  Before I started treatment he showed me a breathing technique called "gated breathing" that involves taking a deep breath, then breathing in and out in shallow breaths while trying to keep your lungs full. They strap a belt around my ribcage that attaches to a set of lights over my head.  The goal is to keep the center light lit up through each zap of radiation.   I don't know if the technique is new, but the device that measures the breathing is new for the clinic.  I am one of only seven patients who have used the device at this facility.  The staff kept telling me I was really good at gated breathing, but I thought they were just being encouraging.  Apparently not.  Yesterday, the doctor told me that the CEO of the company that makes the monitor was visiting the clinic and they wanted him to see me in action.  The doctor asked my permission and of course I said yes.  I would do anything to help anyone who is developing equipment or treatments or anything that helps patients.  The purpose of gated breathing is to create an air barrier between the girls and my heart.  The air barrier helps prevent the radiation from damaging my heart and causing a heart attack down the line.  Gated breathing is reducing the radiation load on my heart by over 50%.  So absolutely - it's important, and I don't care who watches me.  Hell, if it would do any good in the fight against breast cancer, I'd put the girls on a billboard in Times Square.

So today, after I got strapped into my get up, two guys in suits came in and looked at how the device was attached to me.  They were present through the treatment and the series of xrays that I also had today.  Afterward, I was sitting in the waiting room making a jigsaw puzzle with my mom when one of the suits came over and talked to me.  He was telling me that he was impressed with my ability and that he wished everyone was able to do it, and my mom answered, "Oh, we make puzzles at home all the time."  Gotta love my mom. The doctor also stopped me and told me again how great I was at this breathing thing.  He thanked me for letting the visitors come into my treatment.  He said it was important for them, going forward, to hear from the patients now and learn from us. 

The thing is, I never had a hard time with this technique.  The doctor showed me how to do it and asked me to practice before I started treatments.  So I did.  I had it down pat before I was ever on the table.  The ataff  tells me some people never pick it up.  I did figure out, pretty much right away, that I don't need to take the shallow breaths as often as I was taught.  As soon as I had the lights providing feedback it was a piece of cake.  So while the compliments are nice, they baffle me a bit. I do think it's pretty cool that I got to demonstrate to a big shot how to use his own equipment, LOL.

The other exciting thing is that today, I started getting "boosts".  A boost is a concentrated radiation zap along my scar line.  They do these last, which means I've completed the first stage of radiation treatment.  That's the exciting part.  I get zapped three times a day, instead of twice like the normal treatment.  Other than the extra zap, the boost is the same from my perspective. The skin around my scar is just red - no peeling, no blisters, and no icky bruise color.  I'm not sure but I would guess that the boosts will change that.  I'm hoping that the fact that it's scar tissue means that I won't feel it as much.  We'll see....

The only other boob news is that, while my skin is still peeling quite a bit, there's new skin coming in now.  The burn cream and dressings seem to be doing the trick.  I never did lose that patch of skin under my arm that the doctor was concerned about.  Of course, now that I've said that I'm sure it will come off tomorrow. The doctor told me that my skin is looking better now than they would expect at this stage of treatment.  Wahoo!   Only six more to go.....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Walker is a December baby.  Our first year together, I planned a birthday weekend for him that became one of our favorite holiday traditions.  We take a couple days off work and head to Minneapolis for a long weekend.  We like to stay downtown, and we always attend the Holidazzle.  If you've never lived in a cold climate (or maybe if you have), you might think we're nuts to stand outside in December, at night, to watch a parade, but it's so pretty and we have so much fun.  All you need to do is dress in layers and grab a hot drink and you're fine.  It only runs about thirty minutes.  Jack Frost can't even find you in the crowd in that amount of time.

Last year, we lost my beautiful Aunt Henrietta to cancer the weekend before our getaway.  Honestly, at that point I didn't really want to go.  But my brother and sister-in-law were bringing my nephews up, and we didn't want to miss their first Holidazzle experience, so off we went.  And I'm glad we did.  We spent some time with my Aunt Nade while we were in the city, we had some great conversation on the drive, and we were able to step away from the sadness for a bit. 

This year, it's just not going to happen.  I have radiation treatments every weekday until December 23rd, and I'm too sore to ride in a car with a seat belt on for that long.  Even with a pillow between the belt and my chest (thank you, again, Janine, for that suggestion - it really helps!) I think it's too long.  Add to that the budget busting medical bills and the case is closed.  We're staying home.

Since I won't have Holidazzle 2010 photos to share with y'all, here are some of the floats we saw in 2009:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Janine, This One's for You!

My friend Janine was feeling nostalgic for snow after her move to a more temperate climate.  I can understand that.  Snow is so pretty and it puts one in the Christmas spirit.  Sometimes.  Other times, like today, snow is scary and messy and exhausting.  Well, it's exhausting if you're Walker and you have to shovel.  If you're me, snow provides an excuse to stay in your jammies and make candy with your niece.  Anyway: here are some photos I was able to take without actually going outside. 

This one shows our patio door, from the inside.  Last night, we got snow followed by freezing rain followed by more snow.  Then the wind kicked up, creating whiteout conditions.  The result of all this weather is snow covering pretty much everything.

Then I opened the inside of the patio door.  Snow was piled between the screen and the glass, and the screen was frozen shut.  No photos of the patio - the camera just picks up the screen.

Then I went out to the garage. Here's what I saw when I opened the garage door.

This one shows a big mound of snow on the roof - right over our front step.  Hopefully it won't cut loose when someone is ringing our doorbell.  You have to clean your roof with a snow rake when it gets like this, but with the high winds, it ain't gonna happen right now.  If we tried, all that snow would blow down right on us.  It's not just messy, it's heavy from the rain we got between the snow falls.

So far, we've gotten 7 to 10 inches of snow, with more to come.  The  temp is about 25* with winds up to 40 mph and a wind chill of -5*.  It's still pretty, but I'm not going outside in it until it quits blowing around.  Janine, hopefully this will make you miss your snow just a little less.  If not, well, you can always come visit!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just Stuff...

I'm sitting here listening to freezing rain hit my windows.  It's kind of like white noise - it lulls me.  Right now, I don't think it would take much to put me in a stupor.  I have never experienced fatigue like I have this week.  If I sit still for too long, I fall asleep.  No road trips for me for a while.  I don't drive any further than my office, which is a twelve minute commute.  Even I can stay awake for twelve minutes.

My peeling skin has gotten much worse, and more painful.  I have patches of open skin in several places in my treatment area.  My clothes rubbing cause the discomfort, as does showering.  I can't do much in the shower but the rest of the time, I have these dressings to wear.  They look and feel like the packing material my last computer was wrapped in.  The only place in town that carries them is the home care pharmacy in the hospital complex, and I walked over there on a windy day when we were experiencing single digit temps.  I chose to walk because parking is scarce in that area, but I was regretting that decision as I waited at the crosswalk for ANYBODY to stop.  I can't believe how many drivers, warm in their cars, ignored the few of us standing at the corner in a marked crosswalk.  How incredibly rude, especially given the weather and the fact that we were in the middle of a hospital campus.

I'm down to nine remaining treatments.  I can't wait to be done.  All in all, it hasn't been too bad, but as the doctor told me last Tuesday, it's going to keep getting worse from here. He said that in two to three weeks after I finish treatment my skin will start healing.  Two to four weeks after that, it will be completely healed.  I'm looking forward to that, counting down the days.

Right now, I'm grateful for a warm home. I have Diva tomorrow, and we'll whip up some holiday treats.  Walker will be busy digging everyone out from the snow that fell before the rain, so it will be just us girls.  We don't need to go into the storm at all.  Maybe we'll just stay in our jammies.  I like that idea.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's in a Name?

Cancer patients are encouraged to eat a high protein diet.  Protein helps build strength and keeps energy up, two much-needed factors in successful treatment.  I, specifically, have been asked to maintain my current weight, since before my diagnosis I was successfully working at losing the last chunk of weight I gained when my thyroid went nuts.  Radiation treatment is planned out in millimeters, so losing even a couple pounds could alter my treatment.  My diet is now on hold.

With that in mind, I pulled out some low-carb recipes from the "maintenance" section of my old South Beach cookbook.  Most of them are heavy in meat products, which can get expensive after a time.  Not one to give up, I kept looking until I found my forgotten stash of quiche recipes.  They fit the bill perfectly:  high in protein, fast and easy to make, and made with just a couple cheap ingredients.  There was only one problem:  Walker told me he doesn't care for quiche. 

You know, it's amazing how easy life is when you know how your partner's mind works.  It didn't take me long to figure out that since Walker rarely turns down dessert, all I had to do to get him to eat quiche was to change the name.  So last night for supper, we enjoyed Egg Pie.  I know.  My creative gene was on vacation.  Anyway: I cut the "pie" into ten slices.  I had two for supper and I took one to work.  There were no leftovers.  Haha, Walker, real men do eat quiche!

Ham & Artichoke Quiche
2 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c light sour cream
4 eggs
1/2 c half and half
2 c shredded Swiss cheese
1 can chopped artichokes, drained
1 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/4 c chopped ham
1- 9 inch unbaked pie shell

Melt butter and saute onions and garlic until tender.  Combine sour cream, eggs, and half and half until well blended.  Add onion mixture, cheese, artichoke, salt, pepper, and ham.  Pour into the pie shell and bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 minutes until set.  Cool for 25 minutes before serving.

** I love the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust in the red box.  It bakes up more evenly than a frozen crust and tastes great.  Also, since this dish needs to set for 25 minutes before you serve it, it works well as a "dish to pass" for a brunch.  I pull it out of the oven right before we leave and put it in a box lined with a couple dish towels so we don't have to carry a hot pie plate.  By the time we get where we're going, it's ready to eat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Looking out for Little Friends

Walker helps Diva knock out her chore list.  One of her jobs is to keep the bird feeders filled. I just love watching Walker and Diva together. 

Monday, December 6, 2010


My skin has started coming off.  As gross as that sounds, it looks worse.  And it doesn't exactly feel good.  The techs noticed it when I had my treatment today, and when I took a look, I don't know how I missed it.  Unless it had just started.  Now, several hours later, the peeling part has more than doubled in size. 

I see the doctor for maintenece tomorrow.  I wonder what he'll have to say about this.  I know the skin sometimes peels but I don't know if mine is better than normal or worse than normal.  Plus, I thought "peeling" would look like when you have a sunburn and it peels. Um, no.  This is way worse than that.  The skin that's coming off is thick and slimy and the tissue underneath is not like regular skin, either.  It's more like the kind of wound you get when you fall down and skin your knee.  Guess I skinned my boob.

Thirteen more to go.....


Somebody asked me, "How is Walker doing?  Is he handling everything okay?"  I realized I didn't really know the answer.  I mean, I ask him, and he tells me he's fine, he's good...but I thought maybe we should talk a little more.  It turns out, we should have talked sooner.

I have a theory that it is harder to watch a loved one go through something horrible that it is to go through it yourself.  Walker can't fix this, no matter how badly he wants to.  He can be supportive, he can be helpful, he can pick up my slack, but he can't fight this fight for me.  So last night, while he was working on the bathroom remodel, I wandered in and asked him, "How are you doing?"  He knew immediately what I was asking, and he just kind of spilled it all: how scared he is, how ineffective he feels, how terrible he feels when he has to wake me up and watch me drag my tired butt out the door for another shift at the office.  He said he was doing okay up until Dr C told us I would need chemo, and that even though the oncologist disagreed and my Onco test indicated that I wouldn't benefit from chemo, hearing that scared the crap out of him.  It bothers him that we can't afford for me to take unpaid leave from my job while I finish my radiation treatment.  I didn't know that he went to his mom when he didn't know how to help me.  I didn't know that his big brother, a friendly but stoic guy we don't see often, called him and coached him through a rough patch.  I had no idea he was carrying all this inside.  I wish I could promise him that I'll be fine, but I can't.  I just don't know. I did promise to follow all the doctor's orders, and to never give up no matter what happens.  It's not much but I think Walker felt better after we talked about everything.  I just wish we had done it sooner.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good Lord, He's got a Nail Gun!

I woke this morning to Diva hunting for her snow pants and the most obnoxious humming noise coming from the hall.  When I investigated, I found Walker in the bathroom with an air compressor, tacking trim onto the bathroom walls with a nail gun.  What started as some loose tile in the shower has become a major project.  We pulled the trim, painted the walls and ceiling, and stripped and painted the vanity.  Tomorrow, Walker's uncle is putting in new lighting (which we actually need as the fixture we currently have has a broken ballast) then hopefully, we can end the phone tag with the shower people and I can get the tub and shower system ordered and scheduled for installation.  Walker decided to replace the trim because when he first installed it, several years ago, he couldn't get the mitered corners to line up.  It's been bugging him the whole time.  This time around, he borrowed a compound miter saw from his uncle, which apparently was the missing link before.  The new stuff looks a lot better.  Now if I could just get him to wear safety goggles.....

Update: so I went back into the bathroom to take a photo of my handyman and discovered that he has REMOVED all the trim he just put up.  He said he should have started from the other side, so he's doing it over.  Sigh. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The snow started yesterday.  Walker and I were driving home from the cancer center when the sky began spitting the first flakes.  Rumor had it we were due for a big snow dump, but we've been dodging weather for months now so neither of us gave it much thought.
By the time I left work this morning, the snow had been falling, light but steady, for about ten hours.  The roads were a mess.  The landscape, however, was gorgeous.  It looked like a Christmas scene.  This time of year, before shoveling gets old, before I get tired of dressing in layer after layer just to run an errand, I love the snow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Radiation Takes the Lead

Oh. My. God.  My boob hurts.  Radiation has started kicking my ass.  After twenty treatments (only fifteen more to go ~ wahoo!) the side effects have kicked in, big time. I am so. Stinkin'. Tired.  Pretty much all the time.  My skin goes from dark tan to red to blistered to dark tan in phases throughout the day.  It itches like crazy, and out of the blue I get these pains that feel like I'm getting stabbed in the boob with a needle.  And I do know, first hand, what that feels like.  The area under my arm is so dark it looks purple, like a big, nasty bruise.

The doctor tells me that eventually my skin will peel, which will make the itching stop.  I have burn cream with Lidocaine for the pain. People keep telling me to take it easy, to rest, yada yada.  Well, believe me, I would love to.  But you know, I have a job and another job and a home and a cat and a family and myself to take care of.  There's only so much resting I can do before things start to fall apart. I'm literally counting down the days until I'm done with the daily runs to the cancer center. The treatments take less than fifteen minutes but the whole process - getting there, checking in, changing clothes, treatment, changing clothes again, driving home - adds up to over an hour.  In twenty more days, I can use that hour for extra sleep. Right now I just have to power through.

In the meantime, I take it one day, sometimes one hour, at a time. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Not-So-Little Girl

Before Diva was born, I would talk to her momma's belly.  I would tell Diva that she had to hurry up and grow big enough to come out into the world.  I could not wait to meet her. I also told her that I would be her favorite auntie. *grin*

She made her appearance after a long week of torturing her momma with Braxton Hicks contractions.  It was bitter cold, and of course, she decided to get born in the middle of the night. Why do babies always do that?
I met her for the first time just a few hours after she was born.  I have seven nieces and nephews, and each one brought the same excitement, the same hope.  Diva was the second girl baby in our family of boys.  Her older sister, Mara, was twelve at the time.  We were all ready for more pink.  I loved her even before I met her.

Nine years later, that kid still holds my heart.  Her parents split up just before she was born. When she was little, I was able to help out by taking care of her much more than I probably would have had they stayed together.  We spent a lot of long nights together, pacing our way through teething, ear infections, colic.  We've traveled together to Disney, to the seashore, the Mall of America, Wisconsin Dells.  We've gone to swimming lessons and football practice and trick-or-treating.  When we moved to a bigger house, she chose the colors for her very own room.  I painted and laid the carpet, and my mom sewed her curtains.  She has a chore list posted on the fridge.  After my breast cancer diagnosis, she  passed out pink rubber bracelets to everyone in her little world.  She may not be my daughter, but she is my little girl. Two years ago, when I was confronted with my own infertility, I told Walker, "It's okay. We have Diva.  She's all we need."  It's true.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful little Diva.  You are the light in my life. I hope you have a wonderful day!