27 December 2011

The Higgs Mushroom Incident

Reese will eat anything small enough to fit between her jaws, and she'll do it in the blink of an eye. For instance, during the three microseconds it took me to open the gate, she took a bite of mushroom from the one that some mensa candiate pulled out of the grass and left on the edge of the sidewalk. I turned around just in time to see something white disappear into her mouth. By the time I bent over to pry the mysterious object free, it was too late. At least she left behind the telltale mushroom with an incriminating bite-shaped piece missing.

Well, fuck.

Not being a mycologist, I declared the walk over and dragged the disappointed dogs back inside. Matt found out what the suicidal puppy did while I was en route to the phone to call the vet. Not surprisingly, the receptionist said to bring her in immediately, with the remnants of the mushroom if possible. Matt loaded the puppy while I ran back outside to retrieve her leftovers.

The one benefit to emergency vet visits for poisoning is that your furry moron gets bumped to the front of the line. Of course, you get to pay the emergency fee for this nifty benefit, but we'll just ignore that for now.

After explaining Reese's new diet to the vet, I got to call poison control! Poison control, veterinary edition, charges $65 per case number, payable via any major credit card, to offset the cost of offering their services. But if the vet calls, poison control tacks on an extra $25 because they can. So the vet offered us the option of calling ourselves to save the extra $25, and I started dialing.

I had a nice little chat with the lady from poison control, in which I got to describe the offending mushroom in graphic detail. Of course the stupid thing matched three possibilities, one of which was nice and poisonous, and "not uncommon" in our area. Great!

She described exactly how the evil mushroom would soon destroy the poor puppy's liver and the symptoms for which to watch. I took notes. Then she described a host of precautionary procedures to cure Reese of the mushrooms.  I took more notes. Finally, she gave me a website with the email addresses of volunteers who identify mushrooms in possible poisoning cases. I ran out of space on the post-it note. Luckily, the vet picked that moment to reappear and I handed the phone over. I suspected that the professional would do a better job of describing the proper protocols to follow than I had any hope of doing.

First, they induced vomiting. Some poor vet tech got to examine the results and reported a small amount of white chunks. Next, Reese was given activated charcoal to absorb any poison that made it to her intestines. This delicious snack was followed with medicine to protect her liver from doom. And finally, they drew blood to establish a baseline for liver function, which they would compare with blood drawn 24 and 48 hours later.

When we finally made it home, we took close-up pictures of the offending mushroom and went to the internets. The website to which the poison control operator directed me didn't list anyone who was anywhere near Southern California. After a bit of debate, we chose the expert with the Stanford email address under the theory that it was the most prestigious sounding of those located in the state.

The expert replied the next day with the good news that Reese's preferred nosh was not poisonous. He did, however, decry the quality of the pictures. But that wasn't nearly as important as the no dead puppies part of his message.

Matt noticed the email address from which the expert replied - cern.ch. As in those guys who tried to destroy the universe with their Large Hadron Collider. Since we no longer had to worry about Reese keeling over, this email address was hilariously funny. Unfortunately, most of the jokes were so horrible that I will not risk ruining the internet with them.

No puppy story is complete without pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

I'm on the right
A less vomit-inducing meal 
She never stops barking, even in her sleep
Reese's opinion of Zero
Dog fight!
I will sit on you until you shut up!

11 December 2011

Save money... kill hookers

I've been so preoccupied that I completely forgot to put Zero's embarrassment on public display. So, without further ado, I present Zero The Advice Dog!

Zero The Advice Dog
Needless to say, he did not appreciate his Halloween costume nearly as much as I did. But his opinion didn't matter nearly as much as that of my brilliant coworkers, who awarded him best dog costume. For those of you keeping track, that is two years in a row. And don't bother feeling too bad for Zero. He got a hot dog for lunch that day, followed by half a steak bought with his prize, a $50 gift card.

Fast forward six weeks to the holiday party. I wasn't sure until the last minute that I would be able to go, so I didn't get the appropriate supplies until the last minute. The sparkly dress was quite easy to find; Loretta had ordered one online that didn't fit her properly, and she was more than willing to give it a new home. With that accomplished, it was time to find masks. After all, I had no intention of attending a masquerade without one, and I certainly wasn't going to let Matt walk around with a naked face.

I got lucky and found the perfect mask at the first store we visited. Silver rhinestones over the face, a giant plume of real black feathers. And just $30 for a two day rental! Sold! Oh, and Matt found a cheap piece of crap mask that didn't look entirely hideous.

I'm the one on the right
Between the lack of interior lighting and feathers covering my eyes, I had a tad bit of trouble in the vision department. As a result, I may have looked a bit like a chicken when trying to follow a conversation.

Chicken problems aside, my mask achieved a high level glory. A level right around best female mask. Which makes it two years in a row for me as well. The best part was that my prize was a spiffy new Kindle Fire! A much tastier prize than last year's scotch.

Of course, all this victory comes with a price: I must continue my reign next year!

06 December 2011

Since Play-Doh isn't FDA approved

There is only one way to remove a boob, and that's with a rusty spoon. Boob replacement, on the other hand, comes in three flavors.

Option one is an expander, in which the surgeon puts a glorified balloon behind the chest muscle. After it has about six weeks to heal, they numb the skin and inject saline until the expander reaches the desired size. Then the expander is replaced with a silicone gel implant. If only one boob is being restored, the other one often receives a small implant to achieve symmetry in the perkiness department.

All breast implants go behind the chest muscles, otherwise they would slip down and result in a belly button boob. There is only so much existing room behind the muscle, which is why the expander is used. However, since an expander starts out small, their is an initial asymmetry. Plus an additional surgery to switch the expander for the permanent implant.

Option two uses a different muscle, the latissimus dorsi. The medically inclined may have noted that this is a back muscle, and most people prefer their boobs on the front. Well, the surgeons don't let that little detail stop them. The muscle is detached at the bottom, swung around to the front, and used to hold an implant in place. This creates a horizontal scar along the bottom of the muscle's usual position on the back. However, it creates an instaboob of the correct size, and the implant is not a temporary one.

The obvious drawback is that you lose use of that muscle. I am assured that people with this type of reconstruction don't miss the muscle, and that the other back muscles compensate for the missing one. Oh, and there's a large scar on the back. Sadly, the muscle is numbed so there is no accidental or purposeful boob flexing.

Finally, option three is a tram flap. There are four vertical muscles in the abdomen. One of these is rolled up and used to create a boob. Like with option two, the muscle is numbed and there is no ability to perform boob flexing. On the other hand, there is an instaboob without the no longitudinal scar on the back. But that's all moot as I do not qualify for this procedure. All the surgeons agree that I don't have enough belly fat to use, plus things would become messy if I were to get pregnant. That leaves me with only two options.

Option one is much less complicated, so there is faster healing. However, it does require a second, though fairly routine, surgery. Not to mention I'd have uneven boobs for a couple of months. Option two is more complicated and has a longer healing period, but the end result tends to feel more like a real boob since it uses more of the patient's own tissue.

Then there are considerations involving the implant itself. Generally, they last for somewhere between ten to twenty years before requiring replacement. The new silicone gel ones feel more correct that the saline ones, plus the gel is cohesive and will not leak out should the implant burst. Choosing the silicone gel over saline was the one easy decision.

After much consideration and discussions with four different surgeons, I have selected option one. Why start with the more invasive procedure, when I have a good shot at getting the desired results without rearranging extra body parts. Should things not work out well, they can always take out the implant and switch to option two with a different implant. On the other hand, once muscle is detached and numbed, it cannot be restored to its former glory.

Compared to choosing the number of boobs to remove, that was an easy decision. I still haven't made a decision on that front, and I very well may end up talking with yet another doctor. I figure if I talk with enough doctors, eventually they will converge on a number. Of course, with my luck, that number will be something like 1.47, which is as useless as it gets.

05 December 2011

A delicious new puppy

Way back in the before time, Matt and I visited a Swedish Valhund breeder to get Zero a spiffy new puppy. After I got sick, we waitlisted ourselves for a myriad of obvious reasons. Then, on Friday morning, Matt got an email. A female, long tailed puppy was returned because the couple that took her home were not actually ready for puppy, much less a squeaky one. Would we care to take her home?

It's one thing to say no to a theoretical puppy. It's quite another to say no to an actual puppy shown in actual pictures. In other words, by the time Matt called me at work, the decision was already made for me.

We tossed Zero in the car and drove up to Morro Bay on Saturday. On Sunday morning, we went to the farm to retrieve the puppy currently named Ginny. Pure bred puppies require long fancy names, so she also ignored her full name, Ginevra Weasley.

Ginny, Zero, and a couple of the other dogs got to know each other during a boat ride on the creek that runs through the breeder's farm. The breeder gentle paddled, while pointing out the various sites along the haunted Halloween cruise. My personal favorite was the gnome village, complete with gnome houses and staked gnome vampires. Apparently Zero agreed, as he picked that point to jump in the 28°F water for a closer look.

He instantly regretted that decision and hauled himself out of the water, onto a mostly submerged tree. The breeder was closer, so she scooped him up and deposited him back in the boat. As Zero had no intention of freezing alone, as I was soon equally wet, despite having wrapped him in my now filthy sweatshirt.

Upon our return to dry land, I hung out by the nice, warm fireplace. Zero alternated between cuddling with me and barking at the cat. Ginny happily ran around her exercise pen. And Matt got to discuss important things with the breeder.

The car ride home took forever, but that did give me plenty of time to decide upon her name. Eventually, I chose Rhys, a Welsh name meaning enthusiasm. Matt objected to giving her a male name, despite the fact that he kept using a male pronoun when referring to her. I acquiesced, and she was duly crowned Reese.

29 November 2011

How things ended up being sucktacular

The past month has been particularly awful for me, mental health wise. To put it mildly, I haven't exactly been dealing well with my upcoming boob replacement. I lost all desire to write, or even just talk, about what happened. I don't even have much desire to transcribe all the recent fun, but I'm forcing myself to do it. I figure that I'll want to start complaining to the internet soon enough, and without backstory, it won't make sense. So now, without further ado, what went wrong!

Way back in March, Dr. Surgeon scooped out some boob. That piece of boob was then chopped up and dyed and poked and prodded. For simplicity's sake, let's say it was spherical. The entire piece is surrounded by some amount of margin. In a perfect world, the every cell in the margin would be analyzed. Alas, that's not possible, so the guys in lab coats typically take six samples and look at them. Since a sphere does not actually have six sides like a cube does, the sites that are chosen with some degree of randomness. It is that randomness that screwed me.

The sides that were chosen on my scoop came back negative for cancer. Dr. Oncologist postulated that if thirty sides were tested, they would have found at least one that was positive. But they didn't, so the end result was a false negative. The surgery was deemed successful, and I was subjected to chemo.

Prior to starting radiation, it is standard to take before images for a variety of reasons. My images showed very tiny pre-cancerous calcifications. Their size and location indicated that they had been their all along, and that they were so small they escaped being sampled.

After the second lumpectomy, the margins of the scoop were checked. This time, the positive cells did not elude the lab technicians. Unclear margins mean more surgery.

Prior to the second operation, I was informed that regardless of the results, this would be my last lumpectomy. Clear margins would also mean it was my last operation. Unclear margins, well, like I said, it was the last lumpectomy. In other words, I'm now in mastectomy land.

Shockingly, mastectomy land is filled with a gaggle of doctors, otherwise known as those things I'm totally sick of seeing in those buildings I'm sick of visiting. And I promise to tell you all about it next time.

16 November 2011

I've seen things that no one should see

I've been going to various surgeons a lot lately, and I have to admit it has taken a bit of a mental toll. I will  provide details when I stop having nightmares about the horrible pictures I was forced examine. Don't worry; I'll tell you about them in excruciating detail. Emphasis on excruciating.

29 October 2011

Eviction notice

Yesterday, we arrived at the hospital a few minutes late, so I wasn't planning on complaining when I wasn't called into a chamber for fifteen minutes. However, after waiting an hour in a frigid examination room, I sent Matt on an exploratory mission. Of course, he didn't even make it to the door before Dr. Surgeon'sAssistant finally appeared. My elation at noticing the continued existence of the outside world was short lived.

The pathology results were about as welcome as a jab in the eye. The margins were not clear. Dr. Surgeon may be willing to try another lumpectomy, but at this point it is not likely. In other words, Lefty has officially been given an eviction notice.

I have an appointment with Dr. Surgeon himself on Monday. At that point, we will discuss what to do with the useless globule of fat that was previously known as my left boob. Will he remove one boob, or, just to be on the safe side, two? Will I have reconstruction at the same time? If so, what plastic surgeon?

Considering the recovery time, I'm currently thinking this great adventure should commence shortly after Thanksgiving. I've already missed enough things this year, and I'm not missing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, for which we have bleacher tickets. Did you hear that stupid boob? I'm still in charge! And you are expendable! So there.

26 October 2011

I took a shower! On purpose!

After surgery comes the pain pills and pathology report. Oh, and the wearing of the surgical bra, which cannot be taken off. In other words, no showering for a week. Believe me when I say that baby wipes are no substitute for a proper washing.

Remember the horrible nightmares from Mr. Percocet? Well, Mr. Vicodin brought them back, in full force. Of course, who needs to sleep for more than a few consecutive hours? Especially when I can randomly pass out during the day? Today was the first day I didn't take a single vicodin, and I'm seriously hoping that I actually sleep soundly through the night.

Moving on, the pathology report is just super very extremely important. It contains all sorts of things, such as whether the margins on the removed tissue are clear and the makeup of the removed cells. If the margins aren't clear, it's back to the cutting board. You could say that I'm anxious to get the results.

I had a post-op appointment scheduled for Monday. After determining that no green puss was leaking from the incision, I was declared shower-safe. Dr. Surgeon'sAssistant also said something about the incision healing nicely, but by then I was too busy dreaming of a shower.

Then came the horrible news - the pathology report was not ready yet! It would probably be ready by Thursday, but I'd have to come back to the hospital. Apparently it is against hospital policy to give pathology results over the phone. Seriously. WTF.

I was going to have to come back next Monday, regardless, for Dr. Surgeon to take a look at his handiwork. I could wait until then, at which point my results were nearly guaranteed to be ready. Or I could schedule another appointment with Dr. Surgeon'sAssistant for Thursday. Let's see, I am very patient and capable of waiting an extra four days for incredibly important news. So I agreed to call her on Wednesday afternoon. If the results were in, I'd come in Thursday morning. Otherwise, I'd be waiting until Monday.

Today I made the call, and lo and behold, my results are in! But she wouldn't even give me a hint. In fact, she was completely monotone the entire time. I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow morning. I promise to let the intartubes know. Well, after I tell my parents. And close friends. And coworkers. But before I tell the mayor and his henchmen.

All the fun of an alien abduction... without the benefit of aliens

I realized this morning that I forgot to mention an important consideration in my internal debate. The lumpectomy is drive-thru surgery, with approximately seven days recovery at home. The mastectomy requires four to seven days in the hospital for pain management, followed by multiple weeks of recovery at home.

Despite being outpatient, the lumpectomy was done in two phases. Phase one started with me replacing my shirt with a very short cape that did nothing against the arctic temperatures of the hospital. My theory is that if you are freezing to death, you won't complain about the little things, such as nurses opening the door to leave and showing your boobs to the entire world.

The procedure room was a modern torture table. One of the horrible biopsy tables was in the back. A mammogram machine, with a chair for the victim, was next to the door. In between, were portable tables covered with sharp, pointy instruments. I got to sit in the chair while the nurse squished Lefty with the mammogram machine. After confirming that my boob was adequately squished, the nurse projected a shadow over the exact spot. Dr. Pokey numbed the area with lidocaine, then shoved in a long needle with a yellow plastic thing at the end. I elected not to watch.

The nurse then extracted my boob from the machine, which was nontrivial due to the yellow plastic thing sticking out. The yellow plastic thing, as well as the needle, were hollow tubes, through which blue dye was injected. Then an even longer, but thinner, needle with a tiny hook at the end was threaded through existing needle. Its job was to hold the first needle in place, and it was twice as long as necessary for that job. The nurse taped the extra down, surrounded the whole mess with gauze, and taped the whole thing in place.

While this was going on, I was just staring down at the creepy needle sticking out of my boob. And staring. And staring. I couldn't pry my eyes off the disturbingly fascinating sight. It looked like a situation requiring an emergency room visit, yet there was no pain. Weird.

Anyway, I was re-caped and led to the surgery wing, where pre-op and post-op patients mingle. I had the fun experience of replacing my remaining clothes with a normal hospital gown without dislodging my new appendage. Then came the real excitement - an IV!

The easy veins in my right elbow were destroyed by chemo. I am not exaggerating when I say they are so scarred that it is difficult to get a needle in, much less get any blood out. The nurse, a new one, tried to use a vein in my arm. Let's just say she failed spectacularly. A "specialist" was brought in to use the veins in my hand. Alas, they weren't thick enough, and I had to lie there with my arm wrapped in heated blankets. Eventually, the IV was successfully inserted, and my shiny new husband was allowed to come sit with me.

I don't really remember what happened after that, though I have vague memories involving backgammon on his Galaxy Tab. I assume I won, because I'm awesome.

At some point, presumably after surgery, I woke up. Matt kindly informed me that my legs were still properly attached, in response to my queries about their whereabouts. He also fed me the best tasting graham crackers in the free world. That might not have been true if I had been allowed to eat in the past twenty-four hours, but I can definitely say they tasted better than the liquid vicodin. Oddly enough, it was a bright, translucent yellow. The same color as the magic boob needle! Coincidence? I think not.

There is a universal law requiring patients to be wheeled out of hospitals. Since I was unable to stand up without falling over, I decided not to complain. Well, not complain about the ride. I'm sure I complained about something.

I vaguely remember demanding bubble tea, but that's pretty much it for the following day or two. Well, that and a certain Matt refusing to give me vicodin every time I asked. He clearly would not make a viable automatic morphine drip. :-(

24 October 2011

The return of the surgeon

And now for the exciting conclusion continuation of Boobectomy!

Before being probed by the surgeon, any visitor must first be groped by his gaggle of minions. Unfortunately, the first doctor-level minion had the bedside manner of starving bear. The first words out of her mouth were "blah blah blah mastectomy blah blah." Uh, what happened to lumpectomy?

While possibly not the smartest decision, I chose to ignore Dr. Oncologist's warning that I might lose a boob or two. It made me happier about the situation while I was busy with the whole wedding thing. But this evil minion (are there any other kind?) had ruined that fantasy seconds after entering the examination room.

Luckily, Dr. Surgeon, with the help of further mammograms, was of the opinion that a lumpectomy would suffice. Of course, he was careful to always use phrases such as "I think" and "should be". More importantly, he was willing to try, though would be the last time. Ultimately, it was my decision as to how much of me he would remove.

Well, gee, I rather like me, so let's go with the lumpectomy. Surprisingly enough, I did not make that decision easily, even after a million questions. For instance, Dr. Surgeon mentioned that other doctors were in favor of the mastectomy route. The other doctors turned out to include Dr. Radiologist, who was taking my age and family history into account. And if I did choose mastectomy, it would probably be a double, due to the aforementioned factors and so that I would look even. Each side would require a drain, and the only thing worse than one drain is two. Then there would be the reinflation phase. A plastic surgeon would insert expanders, either during the same surgery or a separate one. The expanders would be injected with saline, over the course of weeks, until my new boobs reached the desired size. The end result would be good looking, but lacking in the sensation department.

Of course, going the lumpectomy route wouldn't be fool-proof. Should the margins not be clear, or if more evilness was found during surgery, I would end up losing everything. And it goes without saying that even if everything goes well this time, should more calcifications of doom appear, there would no longer be a lumpectomy option.

I also consulted with Dr. Oncologist before making my final decision. She said that if Dr. Surgeon believed that my boob could be saved, then it was worth a try. And with that, it was time to schedule surgery. Oh, and just for fun, more Herceptin! My next tri-weekly dose would be postponed a week and moved to Friday, to allow sufficient post-op healing. Then the next one would be two days early, as no one wanted to deal with chemo the day after Thanksgiving.

Fast forward a week and a half, and my parents arrived. In other words, time for surgery!

23 October 2011

Brun injuries?

I assume the "98% success rate" refers to their copy editing.

22 October 2011

Look at me! I've got girl boobs!

To fully appreciate the title of this post, imagine it being read by Patrick Stewart. While holding coconuts. See? Hilarious.

Now, we step back in time approximately six weeks. Remember how I was about to get covered in polka-dots? And then I failed to mention any further details? Well, I was a bit busy at the time with the whole wedding thing. Also, I didn't want to share my horrid story with the world until after the wedding. And here it is!

Prior to beginning radiation, Dr. Radiologist followed normal procedures and ordered a mammogram. Lucky me, the images showed calcifications. Admittedly, I didn't take this news particularly well. In fact, I may have yelled a few impolite words. However, the doctor was quite nice about it, and even encouraged future outbursts if they would make me feel better.

Yelling quickly changed into crying, as I tried to explain that how my mom was just about to start radiation when a mammogram showed calcifications. She ended up losing her boob. And while I still needed a biopsy to determine if my calcifications were even a threat, I just knew that it would come back with unhappy results.

Since the radiation planning appointment scheduled for after the mammogram was now moot, I tried to replace it with the evil biopsy. Alas, it was not to be and I had to wait until the next morning, not to mention miss an extra day of work.

My first biopsy was merely not fun. This one was downright miserable. Picture a long, lightly concave table with a boob-sized hole in the center. Now raise the table up five feet, remove all padding, and place it in a cold room. Jealous yet? Anyhow, this marvelous set up was designed to allow the doctor and nurse access to both the suspicious boob and piles of equipment.

Just for fun, included in the pile of equipment was a giant needle, about two feet in length. I'm reasonably sure it was six inches in diameter, though that may have merely my perspective. Thankfully, they started with a much smaller needle, containing lidocaine, to numb lefty. After that, I didn't feel much, until I felt a giant splat, complete with warm liquid hitting everything exposed to the hole in the table. 

"Uh, what was that?" I expected her to say blood, but the nurse claimed it was just some lidocaine that had migrated to my skin, which can cause warm tingling sensation. I decided that was completely plausible. Yes, it had definitely happened that way. Now I shall return to thinking about rainbows and unicorns and glow-in-the-dark glitter.

After the doctor and nurse finished taking little pieces of boob for their experimentations, the table was lowered and I was allowed to dismount. At this point, the nurse admitted that she had lied so I wouldn't freak out. Ha! It was blood! And holy crap was it everywhere! The nurse had blood splatter on her formerly white jacket. The paper covering various parts of the machine were soaked to the point of dripping. Then there was me. As I'm used to being covered in my own blood, that wasn't so bad. But my eyes kept going back to the dripping paper. Yum.

The length of the wait for results is inversely proportional to the amount of blood removed, so I had to wait what felt like six years. You, on the other hand, merely have to wait until you finish reading the next sentence. The stupid calcifications were not only cancerous, but they had the same hormone receptors as the previously removed tumor. Well, fuck.

With that pile of good news, just days before my wedding, it was time to go back to the surgeon. The scheduling nightmare ended up keeping me home from work for a day just to deal with all of the phone calls. However, the end result was an appointment with the same surgeon, at his new hospital, for the day after we returned from our honeymoon. If there was ever a reason to not want to go home after vacation, that was it.

What happened at the aforementioned appointment? You'll find out in the next installment of Boobectomy: A Tale of Stoopid Boob Cancer.

17 October 2011

Last chance to offer bribes...

Our wedding pictures arrived today! All 1081 of them! Having looked through them all, there are certain people who might want to consider offering me cash incentives. You know who you are.

In other wedding related news, I started the dreaded thank you cards process. I recall a few people mentioned having made donations in our names, but I don't remember who confidently enough to send thank yous. If you are one of those generous people and you didn't give us a card clearly mentioning this, please let me know.

Finally, Zero is doing much better with his friend Mr. Steroid. The only problem is that he now has to pee ALL THE TIME. Just a few hours ago, while we were looking at our shiny new pictures, a certain dog joined us at the dining room table. He whined once, and then we heard a strange noise.

Holy crap the dog's peeing under the table! And still peeing! And peeing some more!

At first we considered killing him, but as a giant lake appeared under him, we couldn't help but laugh. And Zero just kept on peeing. When the torrent threatened the office, we stopped laughing long enough to get paper towels. How could such a small dog hold so much pee? Especially one that had just been walked?

Eventually he stopped, at which point Zero wasn't sure if he was going to survive the evening. Neither of us wanted to punish him when he clearly couldn't have helped it, so we just glared at him and got out the mop.

Fast forward an hour, and Zero appeared by our feet, whining. This time he immediately got taken outside. Well, it's a good thing we didn't wait, as he peed out another great lake. Perhaps I should stop refilling his water bowl?

15 October 2011

If its Tuesday, this must be the surgeon

Since returning from our adventures on the high main, Zero and I have been locked in a battle for who has the most doctor visits. I may be winning in the number of unique doctors category, but Muttley has the gold for overall quantity.

He was absolutely fine when we picked him up last Wednesday. By fine, I mean eating, bouncing up and down, and being a small fury pile of squirmy. Come Thursday morning, he apparently changed his mind. MilkBones were no longer good enough for him. I shrugged it off as I had more important things to worry about, namely my own appointment with Herceptin for which I was already running late.

Come dinner time, Zero still showed no interest in getting out of bed, much less walking all the way into the kitchen for food. He's been picky about morning MilkBones before, but never apathetic about dinner. I offered him the god of treats, a chicken strip. He barely sniffed it before turning his head away. Well, there was only one thing to do in this situation. "MATT! The dog's broken!"

Trip number one to the vet commenced soon after. Zero didn't have a fever, but he did have a history of expensive gastrointestinal problems. The vet prescribed anti-nausea and appetite stimulating pills and told us to email her in the morning.

The anti-nausea pill shoved down his throat by the vet's assistant had him acting normal before we even made it home. Not even the appetite stimulant could convince him to eat, however. After refusing breakfast, it was back to the vet for him.

Zero was even less appreciative of that car ride, so it wasn't much of a surprise when he turned out to have a fever. The vet still couldn't give an official diagnosis. She did speculate that it might have been a virus from three weeks of daycare, or possibly Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). A blood test showed nothing, and an ultrasound showed inflamed intestines. She gave him fluids and sent him home, with the same email me in the morning instructions.

The dog clearly didn't want to go back to Dr. Vet, so he did try to eat a bit. Just not enough for him to go back AGAIN for the third day in a row. Luckily, his temperature was back down. More fluids, more keeping an eye on him.

Finally, Zero got the point and started eating again. Granted, he would only eat chicken strips, and not that much, but it was food. I strongly suspected that he figured out that ignoring the main dish would get him extra dessert, but his lack of jumping up and down squashed that theory. Upon hearing of this on Monday morning, Dr. Vet suggested we get a thermometer and take his temperature at home. Since I was at work and not taking any part of this, I agreed whole-heartedly.

Apparently Zero recognized the thermometer from his adventures at the vet and immediately hid. Sadly, hiding under the coffee table with his backend hanging out isn't very effective. Especially when someone is trying to measure his temperature... rectally.

Matt discovered that dogs can clinch their butts shut, but he managed to get the thermometer in there. His temperature? 96.7. In other words, failure. Dogs normally run around 101-102. Take two! This time Matt took no prisoners and really shoved it in. Luckily for both of them, the thermometer read 100.5.

Come Wednesday, Zero was still not eating, except for chicken strips. Fine then. We tried to avoid it. We really did. But now there was nothing to do but shove an endoscope down his throat to do a biopsy. Of course, we could have just opted to go straight to treatment, but if it was a virus, the steroids would have done a number on his immune system and muttpie would have been in trouble. So on with the freaking expensive rotorooter down the throat!

No one was surprised when Dr. Vet reported a visual abnormality. The official results would take two days, but she was confident enough in the diagnosis that it was time for Zero to start steroids. The first dose was injected immediately, and it worked nearly immediately. When we picked him up forty minutes later, he was already acting normal. Then, lo and behold, he ate dinner!

He also ate breakfast, more dinner, and more breakfast before the shocking results came back. Zero officially has IBD! He'll be on steroids for the near future, and quite possibly for the rest of his life. Personally, I think he did it on purpose, just so he could get a delicious Pill Pocket twice daily. The nerve!

03 October 2011

This one's for you, Mom

Apparently satellite intartubes aren't just expensive, they are also completely unreliable. Luckily, I was able to ward off withdrawal symptoms by taking an excessive number of pictures of food. They are proof positive that there is at least one chef with too much time on his hands.

ant made of watermelon, pineapple, and apples
birds made of carrots and coconut; nest made of block of cheddar
fish carved in block of cheddar
chicken made of coconut; nest made of lemons
mouse made of lemons; island made of pineapple; trees made of lemons and carrots 
heads carved into watermelons
martini slide carved in ice; martini made of Bombay Sapphire, vermouth, and three olives 
bunny head made of cantaloupe and radish; carrot made of carrot and pineapple leaves
monkey made of cantaloupe, apples, and oranges; drum made of apple; drumsticks made of grapes
owl made of pineapple, oranges, and watermelon
dog made of orange, grapefruit, and cantaloupe
fish made of watermelon
flower carved into watermelon
All of the eyes are made with grapes. Most of the photographs were taken with cell phones in poor lighting situations, as I didn't want to put the DSLR between cruise goers and food.

28 September 2011

We only lost one person in the rainforest

After another sea day (backgammon, bingo, and blackjack), we finally reached Costa Rica! I've been wanting to go there for quite some time, so I was particularly excited. Then I saw the size of the bus. Remember the bus from Guatemala? Well, this one managed to have even smaller seats. I had to turn sideways and duck down to get through the aisle. And somehow, it was more comfortable than the Guatemalan bus. Go figure.

Upon our arrival, we were immediately attacked by strange bugs. Thankfully, the one person who remembered bug spray was willing to share, or there might have been a riot.

Here's a question: should people who are afraid of heights go zip lining? I'd say no, but clearly that thought never crossed the mind of half our group. A few even started freaking out just climbing up to the first observation platform. 

I was the last to climb up to the first platform and zip across. By the time I arrived, backwards I might add, there were seven or eight people hugging the tree for dear life.

Granted, the platforms were all of eighteen inches wide, but we were all clipped in. Also, I had to wait until I was firmly on the ground to take that picture, since Matt refused to take his gloves off and get the camera out of my CamelBak while we were up there.

The employee on the right in the picture below, Oscar, was always the last to go.

Once he landed on the platform, the employee already there would move on and he'd hook the remaining explorers onto the lines. His English vocabulary was limited to giving zip line instructions, but I managed to have a semi-decent conversation with him in Spanish! Matt may have helped me a bit, and Oscar may have limited himself to words I was likely to know, but it still counts.

There were over twenty people in our group, so we were already running almost an hour behind schedule when everyone was safely on the ground. We were herded back into the bus almost immediately, where it was discovered that someone was missing. After recounting us twice, the tour leader got on his radio to see if anyone knew where the missing guy was. None of the other employees knew, so he was declared to have been eaten by tigers and we headed off. There were two other tour groups from our ship after ours, so if he wasn't eaten, he could ride back with them.

As I mentioned before, we were already running behind schedule. Just to make things worse, there was some sort of parade going on. 

We spent a good fifteen minutes behind a sea of people walking the street until the driver passed them. Over a double yellow line. Going up hill. With oncoming traffic. But we survived!

That was nothing compared to the u-turn the driver made when we finally arrived at the pier. He drove all the way down to the ship, at which point the pier is approximately twenty-five feet wide. The ends of the bus were definitely hanging off the edges. One of the old ladies who experienced heart palpitations from the heights actually cried out. But once again, we survived!

What happened to the missing guy? I'll let you know as soon as we find out. Stay tuned!

27 September 2011

Guatemala hates us

When we first boarded, we only bought tickets for the shore excursions that looked interesting. There was nothing of particular interest in Puerto Quetzal, so we decided to do our own thing. The night prior to our arrival, just before dinner on Day 6, I asked the internets what to do. The internets just laughed. Not even tripadvisor.com had a single activity. Uh-oh.

Clearly it was time to sign up for a shore excursion. Any would do. Actually, that wasn't true. Any that left after 9:00 would do; no one in their right mind wakes up for a 7:30 tour of a coffee farm on vacation. With that in mind, we bought the last two tickets for a self-guided tour of Antigua. In other words, we bought bus tickets.

I can only assume that this bus was designed to make airplane seats appear roomy by comparison. There was, and I kid you not, barely eight inches between my seat and the one in front. Just in case that wasn't painful enough, the bus came with a tour guide instead of air conditioning. About twenty minutes into the ninety minute ride, a fellow passenger asked if the a/c could be turned up. The guide said that wasn't necessary as we'd soon be arriving in the mountains. Let's just say that the increase in altitude did not convert the sauna into a palatable environment.

For most of the journey, there wasn't anything of value to point out. That didn't stop the guide from yapping, each sentence punctuated with "you know" at random intervals. Clearly he didn't know.

Having studied a map during the ride, we immediately headed towards Museo de Armas de Santiago, home to weapons used by the Spanish and Mayans during the conquest. When we arrived at the location indicated on the map, we found the wrong museum. However, we planned on visiting the Museo del Libro Antiguo, so we went inside. It was going to close in fifteen minutes for a two hour lunch, so we elected to do the same.

After lunch and ice cream in freshly made waffle cones, we still had an hour and a half before the museum reopened. Since we'd be coming back anyway, we headed towards Casa del Tejido Antiguo. Big mistake. The light drizzle turned into a major downpour. Neither of us thought to bring our rain gear when disembarked under sunny skies and into the humid port.

The rain didn't stop us, and we made it to the museum. A nice, big padlock indicated that we wouldn't be going inside any time soon. And there were absolutely no signs indicating when that might change. Fine. On to the artisan market.

Just our luck, the market was outside, with bootleg DVDs and t-shirts as far as the eye could see. Clearly they have a different definition of artisan and we high-tailed back to the cafe to wait.

We discussed the prolific security guards everywhere while waiting out the rain. All of them had pistols, but many had pump-action shotguns as well. The one in the cafe had one sticking out the top of the back of his jacket. A debate ensued on how effectively he could pull it, but neither of us wanted to test our theories.

At 2:00, I practically pushed Matt out the door and into the now-open book museum. He knows some Spanish, but the desk clerk pretended to not understand Matt's questions about payment. The guard was nicer and told us that they only accepted Quetzales.

We returned to the museum after a quick trip next door to BAM, Banco Argomercantil, to exchange some money. Even though I handed him a 100 Quetzal note, he purposely ignored my outstretched hand to give Matt the change. I demoted him from asshat to douche-nozzle. 

Once inside, I was rather disappointed. The only book of interest was a first edition of Don Quixote. Even worse, the 1660s printing press was made in 1974 from the archived plans for the original.

I inadvertently discovered the weapons museum soon after we left. It had been misplaced down the street, but that wasn't a big a deal. The sign saying that it was going to close starting on March 22nd for renovation was.

By then it had finally stopped raining, so we headed back to the bus stop/market via the jade museum. We wandered around the small market, looking at trinkets, until it was time to play sardines again.

While the bus ride back was equally uncomfortable, it was marginally more bearable due to the active volcano just waiting to be photographed. I was more than happy to oblige, but not nearly as happy as I was to take a long, hot shower as soon as we got back on the boat.

Nothing good is ever named Hillary

Due to the Puerto Vallarta diversion, we found ourselves facing two days in a row at sea with a tiny little class five hurricane named Hillary. In other words, two thousand people stuck inside a wobbly ship instead of outside working on their carcinomas. But at least there was bingo!

Sea days come with two doses of bingo. The morning game is only one card, but you have to fill the entire card. And, of course, there are raffles, drinks, and contests to see who has the most great-grandchildren. There are also surprises for those who are adventurous enough to wakeup before eleven while on vacation. For Day 5, everyone in attendance received a pass to visit the navigation bridge later in the cruise. For Day 6, everyone received a free bingo card for the afternoon. I also won a beach tote bag in a raffle, though I am more excited about getting to see the navigation bridge. I'd prefer the battle bridge, but, hey, maybe I'll get to steer!

Aside from bingo, Day 5 was mostly spent reading. Matt had this crazy idea that he should buy another book online, as he had already finished two books. I nearly fell over laughing, but he went to the wireless area to try his luck. He was gone for awhile, so I thought he had succeeded in his mission. Nope! Apparently the nook store let him make a purchase and download, just to taunt him with a licensing issue when he opened the book. Gee, I'm shocked.

Day 6 was a bit more interesting, as the weather cleared up we finally made it to the pools. Matt wore his sandals, but I didn't want to get my new ones wet. By the time we found a single empty deck chair, the soles of my feet had moved past lightly seared. I dropped my towel and sprinted to the pool, while Matt looked bewildered at my sudden departure. I was too busy yelling "OWWWIIIEEEEE," to properly explain my singed epidermis.

After Matt's slightly more poised arrival, I discovered that the pool was filled with salt water! How did I discover this? With my very own eyes. And what does one need to wipe salt water out of ones eyes? Why, the dry towel that can only be accessed via ten meters of the scorching hot deck!

Having decided that we've been tortured enough by the supposed amenities, we soon went inside to get dressed for tea. Champagne high tea, that is. In other words, we had pastries for lunch.

Since I had no intention of going anywhere near the evil pool and its cohorts, we went straight to $5 blackjack. I have never seen so many people stand on soft seventeen in my life, and it was by no means the worst thing we saw. My favorite part was a lecture on splitting from a guy who  later hit on his 15 versus dealer 6. He quickly lost his money. We, on the other hand, walked away with over $200 profit.

26 September 2011

Mexico, now with fewer tourist abductions!

The ship was supposed to dock in Acapulco on Day 5, but that plan was scrapped. Apparently someone had determined that if guests were kidnapped by violent drug gangs, then there would be fewer people to buy Brilliant Tanzanite, On Sale for 40% Off MSRP! Instead, we would be spending Day 4 in Puerto Vallarta.

We had tickets to swim with dolphins for the second half of the day, so we spent the first half wandering around downtown Puerto Vallarta. Everyone there tried to sell us something, usually overpriced jewelry or tequila. Having practiced ignoring such proprietors in New York, we had no problem disregarding their one day sales.

We were less successful at disregarding the heat and humidity, so we did the only logical thing: Mexican Starbucks! 

I managed to order the wrong thing, so we were forced to make a second stop: Mexican McDonald's! 

After laughing at various menu options, namely the McNifico, I enjoyed a Coke chica, made with actual sugar, while Matt had a McFlurry, made with actual preservatives. Clearly I made the better choice.

Half the maps provided by the cruise ship were covered in ads for Diamonds International. We summarily ignored them at the first port, but curiosity, or perhaps a coupon for a free charm bracelet, finally got the better of me. I walked in knowing that it was going to be some sort of trap, so I was not surprised when they started trying to sell me things. For five dollars, I could get a punch card good for a free charm at practically every port in North America. I decided what the hell, knowing that it would make a good gift for someone.

A salesman kept trying to convince us to take a look around, perhaps at the Alexandrite? What? You've never heard of Alexandrite? That's because it's so rare that no more mines exist in the world. This is the last of the jewelry that will ever be made of it! Duly noted, we're leaving, toodle-loo. I strongly suspect that if I had been wearing my engagement ring, we never would have been allowed to leave.

After such a wonderful shopping experience, I was more than ready to swim with the dolphins. Our group of six had two dolphins, Luna and Jashuy (there is a slim chance that I spelled her name correctly). They were incredibly friendly and loved belly rubs. In fact, they were basically wet puppies with fewer legs. We danced with them, fed them, and even received dolphin kisses. But the best parts were the dolphin rides.

I was surprised how easily they were able to tow us, as well as how fast. Also, their skin was incredibly smooth. I expected that they would have cilia, or some sort of fine hairs, like other mammals. However, we were both shocked at their picture prices. Not even our waterproof camera was allowed near the dolphins, but their helpful photographers were on hand to capture magical memories! And for the merely exorbitant price of $139, we were welcome to take home as many pictures as we wanted on CD. Yay!

Home of the taco

Day 3 brought us to our first port of call, Cabo San Lucas. Having never actually stepped foot in Mexico, I was quite excited to remedy that problem. But first a different problem had to be overcome: tenders!

The silly port was no where deep enough for the giant cruise ship to get anywhere near the dock, so it dropped anchor in the open water. Tenders, also known as lifeboats under more disastrous circumstances, were lowered and filled with tourists eager to spend money at Señor Frog's. The water was disagreeably choppy, which severely slowed down the loading process.

Eventually we, and the rest of our tour group, made it onto dryish land. I say dryish because it was horribly humid. Just to make things worse, the bus barely had any air circulation. Not cool, in every sense of the word.

I was glad to be out of the slow cooker, despite the sun beating down. We had bought tickets for a 4x4 tour along the beach and in the desert. I was picturing something a little more ATV-ish, but the Honda Big Reds were fine with me. With my left arm still lacking in the strength department, I was willing to let Matt stay in charge of the non-power steering wheel.

The tour was a lot of fun, and I even managed a few amazing pictures. One of the cars in front of us was clearly under the command of a complete moron who was determined to flip his vehicle, but they survived with nary a scratch, much to my disappointment.

Since our intended lunch time turned into tender waiting time, we were starving by the time we got back to the port. I decided it was taco time. Matt was smart enough to agree. I briefly considered Señor Frog's, as we had to walk past it to get to the dock, but I couldn't bring myself to go near the dancing waiters. Instead, I chose a slightly less cheesy tourist restaurant.

The tacos were not amazing, but they were in Mexico. And that made the meal worth it.

While we were still in port, I made another call to the eternal hold line run by Barnes & Noble. This time I used Matt's cell phone, which was slightly cheaper. The disturbingly chipper female on the other end helpfully explained that trying purchases again was not a bug, but a feature. I failed to care as long as she could fix the existing orders. Sadly, she had to individually fix each order, and the whole process was manual. In other words, it was not a short call. Before she could finish the process, the call dropped.

After much swearing like a sailor, in which Matt joined me, we used some more of our closely guarded intartubes to redownload our books, this time with useful licenses for most of them. One of Matt's books refused to correct itself, whether on the tablet or nook. I can only assume that it was lost in the ocean, perhaps being eaten by a lobster.

After much prodding, Matt couldn't find a more logical explanation for the missing license and was forced to agree with my theory. My missing book, on the other hand, fell victim to a worse fate. A fate known as NOT FREAKING RELEASED YET! Yes, that's right, no where did the damn nook store mention this little detail when I bought the book. It was declared to be a successful purchase just like all the others. 

When we return to Los Angeles, I am going to have some serious words with Barnes & Noble. They will be remedying this situation if they know what's good for them. At least we have the majority of our books, for now.

24 September 2011

Of dots and doom

Things got interesting on the second day, our first full day of sailing, starting with a war against Barnes & Noble. We had downloaded books directly to our nook before leaving. Nearly ten books in all, and each purchase was confirmed as having been completed. It wasn't until we were on the ship and attempted to read the aforementioned books did we discover that whoever designed the system should be shot.

Each new book was lacking in the license category. But then why did the damn nook say that the purchase and download was complete after each checkout? Because it is retarded, of course! Apparently if there is an issue charging the credit card on file, it still appears as having gone through on the nook until you try to open the book. Meanwhile, they send you an email saying that there was an issue with the card, and that if you do not contact them, they will automatically try again after seven days. Therefore, if you didn't realize that you had used a now deprecated credit card because CitiBank decided to change your card number again (which is a different rant), you are shit out of luck.

Having already paid an exorbitant amount to get online long enough to discovered the emails, we were particularly happy with what we turned up next. Entering a new credit card number online was not sufficient; I was expected to call their standard help line. From a cruise ship. For $7.99 a minute. Well, fuck.

After some deliberation, we decided that two weeks on a ship without reading materials would result in Bad Things, I placed the horrific call. After five minutes on hold, I hung up and swore profusely. There were only so many times I could here the "we will be with you as soon as we help the eighty-seven people in front of you" message before homicidal rage took over. Luckily Matt had the presence of mind to distract me, and we found ourselves playing bingo.

I must say, bingo is surprisingly fun. However, the desire to misuse the bingo daubers is overwhelming; I wanted to put green dots on everything, starting with Matt's forehead. I didn't win, nor did I sufficiently polkadot the world. But I did stop threatening to exsanguinate the product manager who decided to get rid of error messages.

I'm on a boat

After the whole wedding thing, Matt and I drove down to San Diego to stow away on a cruise ship. Despite leaving from the rental car place over an hour late, we found ourselves at the dock with plenty of time to spare. So much time, in fact, that we dropped off our luggage at the dock, returned the rental car, and walked all the way from the rental car lot back to the dock.

Despite increasing Matt's increasing frustration, I insisted on taking pictures of everything. I even got a few nice shots of airplanes taking off and landing, as we were right next to San Diego Airport.

Since the boat only has a pathetic satellite internet connection for which I'm charged per minute, this is the only picture you will get for now:

             / /       /|
            / /       / |
<           \\          |
            \ \
             \ \

Upon arrival at the dock, we played a riveting game of wait in line. There was a line to get into the dock. A line to check passports. A line to go through security. A line to check in and get room keys. The last line wasn't bad at all, but that was because we, as the proud occupants of what is jokingly called a suite, were entitled to skip it.

Upon reaching our "suite", we met both our butler and maid while waiting for our luggage to be delivered. My suitcase was smart enough to arrive soon after we did, but Matt was forced to wait quite some time. In fact, his suitcase wasn't delivered until well after we left port. But delivered it was, and he did not go to dinner naked.

Nothing of particular interest occurred the first night, as we were both too tired to sufficiently care about whatever activities were offered.

23 September 2011

An important family tradition continues

The rabbi showed up, so we figured what the hell, let's get married. And then we did. The end. That's not enough detail? Well, there was music, alcohol, a band, more alcohol, and the peasants rejoiced. Oh, and my bustle broke about thirty-seven seconds after our grand entrance as woman and husband. However, mine lasted ever so slightly longer than my mom's did at her wedding, so I consider that to be a victory. Still not enough details? Well, tough. The internet can wait for pictures until I am no longer on a cruise ship and paying forty-eight cents a minute for access. Besides, I'm sure my myriad of minions have posted a disgusting number of pictures on Facebook and tagged me accordingly.

05 September 2011

A Man's Best Friend

We spent Labor Day in El Paso de Robles. There was wine tasting, kayaking, an awful BBQ restaurant, and a classic car show. Oh, and Zero made a new friend.

03 September 2011

I'm still not green

I spent Wednesday night worrying about my arm falling off due to the mysterious radiation-induced rash. I even called my parents to ask them if my arm was dying. They said no.

Thursday morning, I awoke to a much improved situation. The rash had faded from bright red, though it was still visible if you looked. The worst part? Still no super powers. If comic books taught me anything, it's that I am the only person in the history of mankind to have an allergic reaction to a RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPE and not get any super powers.

Moving on, the Herceptin nurse examined my arm before plunging yet another IV into my veins. She said that it was nothing to worry about. Having a medically-qualified opinion, I finally decided to believe everyone that amputation was not going to be necessary.

After receiving a mere one-week dose of Herceptin, it was time to run to the next doctor, Dr. Radiologist. Dr. Radiologist is a radiation oncologist, whose job it is to plan out the dosing of boobular radiation. I decided that I liked him when he said that I wouldn't have to get any medical tattoos. However, my high opinion decreased when I found out that the tattoos would be replaced with dots THREE DAYS BEFORE MY WEDDING. Not cool. Oh, and we'll be starting the fun two days after we return from the Panama Canal.

In case that wasn't the best news ever, he also mentioned radiation causes cancer in about one in every thousand cases. But I shouldn't worry because the odds are in my favor. After not only getting cancer, but heterogenous breast cancer at age 27, saying that the odds are in my favor does nothing to make me feel better.

One interesting thing that should be mentioned. Apparently radiation oncologist cannot be licensed to operate the radiation machines. They are restricted to merely calculating dosing and planning courses of treatment.

Two down, one doctor to go. My final stop of the day was Dr. Dentist. After three weeks of the final Invsalign tray (number seventeen, not that I was counting or anything), it was time to take the little nubs off and make impressions for a retainer.

While Matt didn't have a choice for his retainer, I was given an entire booklet of colors to choose from. After much debate, I settled on chrome glitter, because it seemed Googley. And I had no other basis for choosing between the glitter colors.

I was uncomfortable while Dr. Dentist sanded the nubs off of my teeth, but it wasn't so bad. What truly sucked was making the mold for my upper teeth. The mold goop has to cover the entire palate, which made me gag severely. Have you ever puked while there is a giant mold in your mouth? Let's just say I don't recommend it. Oh, and of course the first mold wasn't good enough, so they had to do it again.

I nearly forgot about the ants! While the dental assistant was preparing the second mold, I noticed an invading army of ants descending upon the equipment that was to go in my mouth. Unlike certain coworkers, I will not voluntarily put ants in my mouth. Thankfully, the assistant agreed that the ants needed to go.

Three is the maximum safe number of doctors to see in one day, and Matt was more than willing to drive me directly home afterwards. The end.

31 August 2011

Red is the new green

Apparently Herceptin can cause heart problems, so Dr. Oncologist declared that it was time for another MUGA scan. Having not been injected with chemicals in nearly three weeks, I suppose I was due for an IV. Not that I wanted one, but they have become a normal part of life.

Sadly, beating the odds to have something go wrong has also become a normal part of life. That is why I have trouble believing the doctor when she says things like, "You are young, so you're heart is fine. It's usually only seniors that have heart problems from chemotherapy." And I'm so young that it's probably just a benign cyst.

With all that in mind, I flat out refuse to go to the doctor alone. Even for a simple scan. So Matt drove me to doctor's office, via Starbucks, this morning. Things immediately went downhill.

"Your appointment is for September second, not today."

"Excuse me?"

The receptionist pulled up the doctor's order to show me. Lo and behold, I was right! Huzzah! Except that because the date had magically mutated between the order and the computer, they didn't have the radioactive goop ready. Could I wait a an hour and half? Sure, that sounds delightful!

Matt and I decided to be more useful than the receptionist and headed over to the tailor shop to have Matt's new suit tailored. Not the epitome of excitement, but better than waiting in the reception area.

Upon our return to the doctor's office, everything was ready. The technician plunged and IV into my right arm and prepared to draw 3mL of blood. Except blood refused to come out. I was already nervous that something horrible was wrong with my heart, and now he couldn't get any blood out of that nice, thick vein? AGGHHHH! Panic!

He explained that this occasionally happens due to valves in veins. He could keep trying to get blood out of the current hole, or he could poke a new one in another vein. I opted for door number two, if only so I wouldn't have to see my vein, and therefore my heart, keep failing.

Hole number two was a success, and I happily escaped to the reception area to wait for them to attach radioactive markers to the extracted red blood cells.

When the blood mixture was ready, the technician came for me, lead medical box in hand. It's always fun to get an injection from one of those. Glass syringes in lead sheathes always make me feel safe.

I started feeling yucky while in the scanner, but that's nothing new. By the time we were in the car and heading towards my office, my face was burning and was noticeably red. Just once, I'd like turn to into a green super villain, but, alas, the nuclear medicine injections are always benign.

Matt pointed out that if I walked into the office looking like I did, it would be "suggested" that I go home. He also had this crazy idea about calling the doctor. Both sounded like excellent ideas. The doctor said that reactions aren't unheard of and I should take a Claritin and call back if I didn't return to normal in an hour or two. More excellent ideas.

The Claritin returned my face to its normal color, but it didn't completely alleviate the general yuckiness. Clearly things were getting boring again, as I discovered an itchy rash while typing this post. An itchy rash right next to the injection site, inside my right elbow.


I left a message for Dr. Oncologist, and as of right now, I am still waiting for her to call back. Further updates as this story develops.

21 August 2011

A.BMW.C. Gum

Something about this squished piece of chewing polyisobutylene appealed to me.


Dear Mr. Mathew Waypost

The <name of hoa, incorrectly spelled> Home Association should assessed the late charges in amount of $20.00 for late payment your monthly due.

Please make the payment of monthly fee $385.00 plus $20.00 late charges, and drop your check in <unit number>.

Thank you.
<name of hoa, correctly spelled>.

So, should we acknowledge this validity of this missive, or should we refuse to pay on the theory that it's Mathew Waypost's bill, whoever he might be?

17 August 2011

I left the house!

I spent the weekend having fun, being social, and acting like a normal person. Or at least a normal person lacking hair. But I didn't let that stop me, though a lack of energy was always ready to step in and knock me down.

Saturday brought Loretta, paint, and twenty-five welcome baskets. The combination of the three resulted in four hours of silliness, with a lunch break provided by Matt. And, yet, we both agreed that it was somehow relaxing to be painting outside, under the trees. Zero also enjoyed his relaxing afternoon in the sun, except when he pretended to guard us from a squirrel.

While I have pictures of our messy victory, I have decided not to share so those receiving the baskets can still be surprised. My decision had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the pictures are all on Loretta's phone.

On Sunday, I got even farther from my front door! Matt and I had lunch with my cousin, followed by mall exploration. We spent the time catching up and talking about her sister's wedding, which I had missed. I also made two high quality purchases.

Yes, that is a Storm Trooper spatula, from Spatula City. I mean Williams Sonoma. How could I not buy such a perfect kitchen utensil? And what is that next to it? Well, that's what happens when Matt buys a Swiss Army golf tool in a knife store and fails to prevent me from looking at all the shiny, pointy objects. This model happens to be called "Shrimp", and it is also available in lavender. But pink seemed so much more appropriate. What will I use it for? I'll just let you ponder that question.

15 August 2011

Herceptin is the new Lunesta

On Thursday, despite much protest, I took a little trip to see Dr. Oncologist, where I was tied up and thrown under a bus. Or I was given a three-week dose of Herceptin. Those of you with memories may recall that I'd been receiving Herceptin during all six rounds of evil chemo. However, the nasty side-effects of Taxotere completely blocked the virtually non-existent side-effects of Herceptin.

The rest of the day, and every day since, were filled with bouts of nausea that magically appeared at the least useful times possible. Of course, the nausea is left over from the Taxotere, and it is theoretically fading into oblivion. The new problem is a complete lack of energy. As in I don't want to change the channel because lifting my arm takes too much effort.

Dr. Oncologist warned me that the Herceptin can make you tired. And when combined with my low red blood cell counts, I am certainly definitely lacking in the energy department. In fact, just typing this post is taking quite a bit of effort.

I did manage to get out and have some fun over the weekend. I'd tell you all about it, but that requires typing, and my fingers are rapidly approaching sleepytime. Ergo, I am simply going to make you wait until tomorrow, or perhaps the weekend. So there.

09 August 2011

Cancerland doesn't suck as much as it used to

Admittedly, I've been more than a little celebratory over the end of chemo, despite the ever present nausea. Of course, this Thursday is my first dose of only Herceptin. I'm slightly nervous about it, but, really, how bad can it possibly be compared to the Taxotere? It's not supposed to cause a week's worth of bed-ridden death, nausea, or further hair loss. Of course, the Taxotere wasn't supposed to cause an allergic reaction and keep me home from work for two weeks at a time. So you can see why I'm a bit skeptical when Dr. Oncologist says that the Herceptin is hardly noticeable. And since I still have eight months worth of Herceptin in front of me, I really hope she's right about the side effects.

In other news from side effects land, my hair is doing a remarkable job of regaining its former glory. Well, remarkable when compared to other chemo patients. The back of my head and behind my ears has a noticeable amount of hair, the longest of which are approaching the one centimeter mark. Sadly, the front and top of my head is more in the one millimeter range. In other words, I won't be needing a hair cut any time soon. But at least it is growing.


Months and months ago, Matt and I decided that when chemo was over, we would get the hell out of town for a few days. Last Wednesday, we decided to implement the aforementioned plan. After throwing around some ideas, we decided that a beach resort with an excellent spa would be perfect. I could get massages, facials, and quality time doing nothing without overexerting myself. And Matt could enjoy the freezing cold Pacific ocean.

It didn't occur to either of us that planning a last second trip to a California beach resort in August would involve fully booked hotels. Our first choice, whatever it was, didn't have any rooms available. We were forced to make due with The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.

Thursday morning, I received a call from the event manager handling our wedding. Apparently I faxed a form to the wrong office. Silly me for using the fax number at the bottom of the form. Anyway, she asked me about my weekend plans, and I mentioned our trip south to Laguna Niguel.

A few hours later, we arrived to the sad news that our room wasn't ready. After a half hour of exploring the resort, we discovered that we had been magically upgraded to the club wing. And while the ridiculous smorgasbord, club-only concierge, and fully stocked bar are nice benefits, the nicest surprise was waiting for us in our room. We found an ice bucket chilling a bottle of rosé Moet Imperial champagne, sprinkled with rose petals, and a lovely note from our event manager. Now that's the perfect way to start a relaxing, celebratory weekend. Except I still can't drink!

I was not missing this opportunity, especially considering our event manager had even remembered that I preferred rosés! I deemed this to be an emergency worthy of calling Dr. Oncologist. And after explaining the dire situation to her, she determined that it would be best for all involved if I had just one glass.

With the help of a wet suit, I actually went in the ocean. But my legs were still too weak to deal with the strong riptides, so I was more than happy to sit under an umbrella and read. Or sit by the pool and read. Or spend quality time in the spa.

Friday morning I woke up early for a 90 minute massage, which did wonders for achy legs. While the effects started fading the next day, it was wonderful to walk around like a normal person for a full afternoon.

Saturday morning I went back to the spa, this time for a hydration facial. Before applying a myriad of creams, the aesthetician attacked my face, along with my easily accessed scalp, with what was essentially a giant electric toothbrush. In her words, my "dead skin just sloughed off" from my scalp. I'll assume this was a good thing as the skin covering my entire head looked much better when she was done. Another successful trip to the spa!

By the time we left on Sunday, both of us were a lot more relaxed, and, in my case, physically better. Now if only the stupid nausea would go away, everything would be perfect.