Monday, November 23, 2020

Just stuff, and oh I'm cancer-free now.

 Well, hey there.  It's been a minute, hasn't it?

Yes, yes it has.

There's not much really to report, the pandemic has taken care of going on exotic vacations or getting together with friends or going out to eat (again, now that lockdown is back upon us because certain IDIOTS can't STAY THE FUCK HOME so that OTHER PEOPLE DON'T GET SICK) or hugging people with whom we do not live or in fact even TOUCHING them or seeing the bottom half of their faces, which, admittedly, wouldn't make such great blog fodder but I think you get what I mean.

While still enjoyable, life just doesn't seem to have those 'big moments' right now, if in fact it really ever has in the last few years.

Well, I did replant the planters on the new front porch, and they look nice with the ornamental cabbage and pansies, so there's that.

My hair continues to grow.  This is 5.5 months after I first noticed there was a little peach fuzz happening up top:

It demands some arranging after showertime, but not much can be done with it as it's so dang springy.  I shall keep trying.

Also, the latest scans and tests indicate that I am CANCER-FREE!  That's pretty big news, right?  Like, ultra-great big news, yes?   No sign of any activity in the original area or the left boob or the abdomen (that the CT scan looked at). Bloodwork and labs are coming back fine, so yeah.  It looks like the months of agonizing chemo and radiation did what they were supposed to do.



I have just discovered something about a family member that has me absolutely SEETHING, but it's not my story to tell.

What is the word for 'angry beyond words'?  There has to be one, and that is what I am.  Sick of the bullshit that fomented the situation.

Tiff out.

Friday, October 09, 2020

The man on the porch


Maybe a hunnert years ago, IDK

There's a fellow out front of the Tiny House right now who looks very troubled.  He seems to be about to saw something off the new porch that he's spent the week adding to the house.

This man is Biff, of course.

He's putting on a new porch because, reasons.  Like:

  • We had to replace the front door because the frame was rotten.  Or 'eaten,' more like.
  • Then it was clear that more of the house was being eaten, so a feller came out to treat the areas where the FUC-ing termites were still noshing, but to do that he needed to drill 17 million holes in the FUC-ing concrete porch in order to douse the sill plate with bug-b-gone, therefore ruining the tile flooring and, of course, any hope of water-tightness of the porch and underlying aforementioned sill plate.
  • Thus, the porch was ripped off of the house because holes and things.  Biff didn't really like it anyhow.
  • One thing leads to another, and in the end it was discovered that more snacking had been done, which meant that the sill plate (I think that's the term) had to be completely replaced on the front of the house, many calculations made as to the proper and correct way to ensure the house didn't in fact fall in on itself while the replacing was being done, and many man-hours spent doing heavy man-things like hauling, and hammer wielding, and toting, and sweating, and eeeeech.
  • Then foundation piers needed to be sunk and poured, drains needed to be placed and arranged to ensure the water flow will henceforth be OUT to the yard instead of IN to the foundation, and subsequently the deck framing needed to be built (that was today) and!
  • Decking needed to be installed so that a ladder could be placed on top to ensure adequate access to the top of the porch roofline which is exposed to the elements and needs to be Tyvek'ed in so that the forecast rains of tomorrow don't soak the insulation and further fuc-  things up. 

Still not entirely certain what the saw was for, I'll admit.


BUT!! As much as all that is to take in, that's not even the guy on the porch of which I intended to speak, it just so happens that Biff is the current guy on the porch, and he's darned cute and a hardworking Summasumpn besides, so he needed a lil' spotlight.

Here ya go, sweetie: 

Bask, Biff, BAAAAAAASK!!

No, the other guy on the porch is one who showed up yesterday evening, about an hour before sunset. 

(cue sounds of clinking spurs and lonesome harmonica wails)

I was a-settin' in my recliner here in the living room of the Tiny House, from which I have a pretty good view of whomever approaches the front door.   Note: This was at a moment during which there WAS no front porch, but rather an impressive construction zone of red clay, concrete piers, and various stages of Something's Happening Here.  NOT a place in which you would expect to ascertain a certain man's head approaching the front door, undeterred by obstacles.

And yet, there he was.  Bespectacled, dark of hair and beard, kind of eye, unsure of what the heck he's gotten himself into, but determined to finish whatever task was at hand.  He approached the front door, appeared to place something against it, then began his retreat.

Out of curiosity, and a faint notion that he did not in fact look like a bomber, I went to the door and opened it to see a small package place on the doorsill.  Recognizing the bag, I shouted to him "Hey, you from the bookstore?" to his retreating back, to which he turned, waved, and answered in the affirmative before continuing his walk back down our street to some unseen conveyance.

Y'all, I think he might have walked all that way back to the store.

It was a lovely evening, after all.  Who could blame him?

And so, this is how we know that, even with the sprawl happening all around us, we do still live in a small town, in which bookstores deliver, sometimes on foot, and almost never with a bomb.

Independent bookstores matter.  Thank you, Page 158 books here in DTWF - we LOVE y'all.

Tiff out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hair sitch 29 Sep 2020, and domestic products are hard to find.

 This'll be a quickie, more for my memory than anything else.

I've been tracking hair growth since the time it was evident that hair was going to grow again on the ol' noggin' and all other places where hair is supposed to grow (read: ERRWHAR).  The first inklings came back in early June, when lil' bristles started to who up some 10 weeks or so after chemo had finished.

It's been a little over 6 months since chemo finished up, and almost 4 months since I noticed the hair was coming back.

For the curious among you, here's what it looks like today:

Ignore those holes in the wall - they are not from target practice but rather mark where some photos had been hanging before we had to tear the house apart because freaking termites.

Dig those sideburns, y'all.  Out. Of. Hand.

As you might be able to tell, it's coming in a little bit curly. *Ahem*

My hair was curly before it all fell out, but except my hair was much longer and so the curl couldn't have as evident.  It was mostly just really wavy, instead of curly.

So, as things go, this is kind of a fun look, except that the 'wings' on the side of my head are getting a little out of hand.

Also, this is the natural hair color of a 58-year-old lady.  It's so shiny! :)

In the cancer SAHGAH, I go in tomorrow for more lab work, but the scheduled port flush is postponed until November due to a shortage of port needle assemblies available.  I'm really hoping that the labs turn out good enough to schedule a port removal before November.  Fingers crossed all goes well!  Would love to have this holiday season free from Borg-itude.

Speaking of which, I've begun Christmas shopping.  It's harder to avoid products made in China than you might (but maybe not) think.  Just finding sheets NOT made there is quite the treasure hunt.  Not that anyone's getting sheets.  Family, if you're reading this, pretend you didn't see that last part, because you may in fact NOT be getting sheets for Christmas.  But only some of you.  Only three more months to wait to find out!

Tiff out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

4 p.m. and it's meetin' time.

Always with the yelling, I tell ya.

One of the things that happen after you, as a proud pharmaceutical company employee, have worked with a global team to submit a new drug application, is that you breathe deeply for 20 seconds.

That's it, that's all you get.

Then the 'new project' train starts rolling and you'd best be on it or you're going to get so FAR BEHIND that catching up will quickly become nearly impossible.

Which is why, for the past couple of weeks, it's been awfully, terribly quiet around my desk, with an emphasis on terrible.  After the rush and bubble of the past 18+ months, it's weird to not be chained to my computer working toward the goal line or some OTHER measure of success with some new project.

In other words, I've been breathing easy lately.  It's kind of nice, if a touch boring.

I'm all caught up on training.  I've organized email and deleted THOUSANDS of now-useless messages.  I've moved necessary files into document management systems.  I've jettisoned drafts and saved items that no longer are considered an official copy of anything.  I've even asked coworkers if they need help with anything, such is my desperation.

But not for much longer.

The 'new thing' train is all fueled up, the boilers are about to the right temperature, and the conductor is walking down the platform calling 'all aboard that's coming aboard!' in preparation for the next big journey.

I'm ready.


Too much or just enough for that next videoconference?

So yep, that's what the title of this entry is about.  4 p.m. meetings.  And 8 a.m. meetings.  And pop-up meetings.  We can't do 'walking meetings' right now, obviously, unless it's the kind where a person just stalks around their house on a mobile or wireless headset while in attendance.

Audio, sure, but never EVER with the video on.  Not for me.  No thanks.

I am one of those people that fidgets, BADLY, in most meetings.  I tic, and scratch, and get distracted, and pick my nose, and rub my eyes and am a general visual mess when I'm supposed to be well-poised and paying attention.

No.  None of that.

Plus which, I haven't yet figured out a good 'lewk' for video calls for me.  I'm sure it would involve wearing actual clothing and maybe makeup to put a little life into my sallow mug.  That's just too tall a bridge to cross!  At least I still don't have to comb my hair or worry about a style right now, so that's good, but the rest of it is just too much.  Nobody needs to see me that bad.

And yet, there are people who ALWAYS have their video on.  ALL WAYS.  I do not understand them.  I hope that you, dear reader, are not one of them.  If you are, please tell me why so I can learn from your mysterious ways.

Tiff out.

Friday, September 18, 2020

We were going to put in a new front door anyhow

The new door.  Siding goes back on next.

Yesterday I alluded to the fact that, once again, our house has been visited by a scourge of termites.  This may or may not be the proper terminology for a bunch of frigging homewreckers, but to me it's apt and I'm not going to go scrounging for the correct terminology.  This isn't science, no need to be so pedantic.

They had visited a couple of years ago, having snacked mightily on our living room floor.  We were going to be working in that room anyhow, refinishing what we thought were the original 100+-YO hardwoods, but had a concern about a certain springiness to the floor that seemed 'a little much.'

That's what happens when termites eat your floor.  It gets springy.  In a dangerous way, might I add.

So, we initiated a relationship with a pest control company to come on out and treat the house, then inspect yearly to ensure they're not on a reunion tour.  Worked well for us for several years.

The tech came out in June this year and declared the house free of any termite activity, but unfortunately he wasn't able to look behind the front door frame. *Ahem*

Sometime around the June timeframe we started to notice the door was getting really hard to close.  Seemed to be 'sticking' at the top, like it was not aligned correctly with the frame.  Maybe it was the heat?  Hmmm.  Adjustments were made, but they didn't last long.  Biff tried to reposition the hinges, but wasn't able to, because the door frame was the approximate consistency of DUST and weren't no screw gonna hold fast to nothin'.

So, OK, SOMETHING was going on.  We, obviously, were not thinking termites just yet, as we'd been assured there was no sign of them just a few months ago.

We got a new door to replace the old one, just for fun and because we wanted to rid ourselves of a few hundred (many few hundreds) of bucks on one we both really like (I was not a huge fan of the old door).  Biff put a couple of coast of Candy Apple red paint on it (love me a red front door) and got ready to hang it yesterday.

Once the old door came off, the problem was evident.  Termites.  Frigging termites.

Y'all, I nearly went out and bought a flamethrower.  

Instead, we called the pest company, secured a time for bug eradication for this morning ('no, I will NOT wait until next Tuesday for a tech to come out - there's NO FRONT DOOR ON MY HOUSE'), and Biff plywooded up the door opening like we were preparing for a hurricane.

Which, you know, we were (hello Sally [not Stella, like I said yesterday]), but boarding up the door would have been rather an overkill for what was largely a rain event.

Get a call this morning from the pest control folks, saying the tech that was supposed to come today called out sick (turns out he'd been contact traced to a COVID victim - yikes!) and the earliest they can come out now Tuesday.

Well, no.  I put Biff on the horn to them and through his charm and no-nonsense conversational approach the company found a guy to come out pretty much right away.  The tech was a nice guy, did the work quickly, and left us with some of the nuclear-grade bug stuff in case the stupid effing termites happen to show up again.

Also, there will be another tech coming tomorrow to re-inspect the crawlspace and treat down there too.

So, on this temperate September Friday Biff has spent hours putting up the new door.  Seriously, it's like 6+ hours just to get the door in properly, and that's with 2 guys on the job!  Fussy work, that door installation.

The pot is slightly sweetened though, because he will actually get paid for the work he did putting in the door, as the pest control folks would normally pay for a team to come out and address the carpentry and access issues that resulted from the termite buffet.  So, Biff was truly 'working for himself' today, which is a nice bonus when it could have just been a lost day.

And that is how we got a new front door.

It didn't need to be that complicated.  Honestly, 2020, when will you let up?

Tiff out.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

I declare I am a hedgehog


Me right now, pretty much.

 The saga of my hair continues, lucky for me.  It's getting to the "Eastern European coal miner" look, sorta bristly and gravity-defying.  More accurately though, I look more like a Steiff hedgehog, with about the same care given to overall grooming and style as the wee cutie above.

I can do nothing with this hair.  Combing it is futile, trying to make it DO something is impossible.  I suppose I could bust out some hair gel and slick it back?  Is that back in style yet?

Perhaps I could take a lesson from someone at work who was on a training call today.  Platinum blond nearly-Jedward quiff and shaved back and sides.  MAN, she looked great in that hairdo.  Of course she also is a drop-dead gorgeous person, so no risk of her being mis-gendered.  Wearing great earrings and lipgloss might help that understanding along too.

Maybe in another inch of growth it might start bending to my will, but as I'm not much on hairstyles, especially short ones, I will probably remain at a loss for many more months until I can once more just sweep it off my face with a headband and rock on.


In The Joys of Homeownership files:

The termites are back.

Effing stupid termites.

The house was inspected 3 months ago, with no sign of activity noted by the technician.  I think he might have missed something, like the FRONT DOOR FRAME being reduced to dust.   They are sending someone out tomorrow to re-inspect and take care of the issue.  We are under warrantee, happily, so I expect the amelioration fee to be minimal.

Currently we have a piece of plywood over the front door opening to keep the wild things out.  Wern is understandably concerned.

I, on the other hand, am pissed off.  I'd rather have a wall full of spiders than a board full of termites.

Thank my lucky stars to be married to someone who knows how to work on houses and has the tools to do so.  Having to hire someone to take a load off my mind would be yet another expensive straw's worth of aggravation at this point. 


And we're getting a hurricane's remains through the area tonight.  While it's not forecast to be as big an event as what pummeled the gulf coast yesterday, Stella is expected to dump a few inches of rain on the area, and bring some mighty winds to central NC.  Maybe even throw in a tornado for fun.

It IS the South, y'all.  There's not fun like tornado fun, amirite?

Tiff out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Maybe it was a bad idea


A couple of months ago our lil' town got its first Indian restaurant.  It was LONG overdue, and enthusiastically celebrated.  A critical void was filled.

Now see, down RTP way, there are all kinds of Asian-Indian (like from India or India-adjacent regions) places from which to choose, Morrisville is practically overrun with them!  Not so much here in the 27587.  The closest place was several miles down Capital, not nearly close enough for a casual dinner run.

But no more!  No, now we have the Curry House, and life is great! Lovely Indian dishes close by for the eatin', it's time to wake up those taste buds, bud!  

We have been experimenting, mostly, with their menu.  They do some dishes (styles) that we've never heard of, which is fun.  Oh, they have the butter chicken and the saags and tandooris, but they have new-to-us things that are really opening up new taste horizons.

One thing I'd not seen on a menu before is chaat.  It's not a particular dish, but a style of preparation that is largely street-food based and thus is a kind of gmish of a base ingredient plus chickpeas and some crispy fried potatoes with some yogurt or chutney to top things off.  Yes, I had to look it up.  I also gave samosa chaat a try in our latest order, and WOW.  Spicy, fragrant, silky/crunchy, and FILLING.  I can't believe that what the Curry House hands out is meant to be only one serving; my order made 3 meals worth of vegetarian yumminess.

Which is where the 'bad idea' part of this post comes in.

Remember the part about chickpeas?  In both the samosa AND the chaat bowl, might I add.

Chickpeas give me horrendous gas.

For days.

Y'all, the situation is so dire that I have been avoiding MYSELF for the last few days.  It was obvious to me that there was just one thing to do for this dreadful situation.

That's right, I ate the last of it for for lunch today.  

Yes, I'm old enough to know better.  I still do it.  Yes, I'm smart enough to eat some Gax-X or something before consuming flatulence-inducing foods.  I still don't do it. 

All I do is tough it out, turn on a fan (or open those windows), and tell Biff not to come into the room I occupy quite yet, thanks.  

It's a  darned good thing I didn't have to have a colostomy all those years ago when part of my large intestine was taken out.  Me and the bag would have floated away by now, I'm sure.  Wait - How DO people with ostomies handle this sort of situation?  Is there some kind of flap you use to release the gas?  I'm genuinely curious now, and will probably spend the next 20 minutes researching this most pressing question.

So yes, this is in fact a post about how much I'm farting.  This is where we are now.  This is 2020.  Welcome to my Southern Asian-spiced current reality.

More updates as warranted.

Tiff out.

PS - FYI, there's more than one way to deal flatulence if you have an ostomy.  Filters, flaps, valves, burping, diet changes, etc.  No floating required.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Now what? AKA - Where do we go from here?

Clearly not me.  Yet.
 Hey y'all!

So now that it appears the first part of my journey with breast cancer is over, and I feel like I have some energy to spare, the question is begged: to where do we go from here?

First item for me is, as my oncology nurse profession continues to allude, physical fitness.

No kidding, eh?

Since last YEAR I've been mentally and physically sidelined by this cancer thing, sometimes so much that staying OUT of bed was an impossibility for more than 30 minutes at a time.  Sometimes bone pain would keep me up all night, the pounding heartbeat caused by chemo resonating in my ears, the malaise of treatment after treatment the kind of hurdle you just want to punch the hell out of if you only had the energy.

Well, guess what.  I have the energy now.  It's punchin' times.

So, in order to get less fat which will in turn lessen the chance of fat-sequestered estrogen coming back for an encore in some other tumor-show, and to ensure my cardiovascular system is as strong as it can be, and to help my bones stay as strong as they currently are (a nice surprise, that one, esp. after chemo), I need to get off my ass and move.

Starting tomorrow.  I feel like I did enough today, to be honest with you.  Sure, sure, walking around the house, cooking and baking and doing dishes and stuff isn't 'exercise,' but in comparison to what I've been able to do over the last few months, it's HUGE.

But there's more to do,  On purpose this time.  Now that I can do much more than I could even a couple of months ago, it's time to take the next step.

My goal is humble -  a half-mile a day for the first week, then 3/4 per day for another week, then a mile a day thereafter until I feel like I can take another tenth or so per day.  I might just see how long I can plank for the hell of it, and work up to a couple-minute stretch goal.

It's now or never.  I'll be 60 in another couple of years.  More time behind me than in front of me, and I don't want to spend that time behind a walker.  Unless that walker is Biff. ;)

Tiff out.


Pee Ess: 

Current BMI: 30.8.

BMI prior to cancer treatment: 32.7

I know, I know, BMI is a shit way to measure fatness, but it's understandable to most.  I don't have a body fat percentage to give you, which would be way better, so for now BMI must do. I I want to get down to a skosh less than 'overweight,' I need to lose 45 pounds.  That's still 30 pounds more than what I thought was 'fat' back in my 20's.  Welcome to my body dysmorphia.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Cancer 1 year later: retrospective on my experience.


Can't WAIT to get the all-clear to have this removed.

 It was around this time last year that I felt a lump in my right breast.  It was a different sort of lump than I normally feel in my fibrocystic/dense breasts, so I scheduled a mammogram posthaste (it was time for it anyhow).

The 'gram came back s 'suspicious,' so a diagnostic mammogram was performed very soon thereafter.  Suspicious status was confirmed.  Things started to turn serious.

Core biopsy confirmed cancer roundabout September.

Lumpectomy in October.

Port placement in November.

Chemo started in December, ended mid-March.

Radiation started in May, ended mid-June.

And here we  are, a year later, with the news yesterday from the 2020 version of the diagnostic mammogram of 'looks great, no sign of suspicious activity.'

It's been a year.  I have had, and continue to have, amazing support from family and friends, a village of prayer warriors keeping me front and center with God, and tremendous treatment by the good folks at Rex Hematology Oncology and Rex Radiation Oncology.

 Of course Biff was tremendously supportive and took on 110% of the housework and care and feeding of his wife (me!) while I was knocked out by treatments, so tired I needed at least  daily nap.  What a hero he is, honestly.

My kids were a great support as well, carting me to and fro when needed, dropping off notes of support, doing what was asked of them with no complaint.  They're good men.

At no point during all of this past year did I truly break down in hopelessness.  I believed the doctors and care staff when they said they were going for a cure, and I still do.  I figured that drowning in sorrow was not the way to move forward, and just had to accept that treatment and the associated discomfort was my lot in life for a year or so.  

I was able to stay engaged with work, though I did have to give up a status role in the major submission we worked on.  There's no way I had the hubris to think I could do a high-stress job while getting treatment.  It was the right thing to do, and in stepping back I was able to focus my energy on 1 big thing and see it through.  We finished it just a little while ago, and the whole submission was filed last week.  That's HUGE in my line of work.

What does the future hold?  More scans, more port flushes (at least for a little while longer), more monitoring, more of That Sort of Thing.  I have to take an aromatase inhibitor daily for at least 10 years (block that nasty estrogen), and otherwise work my way back to full health.  Energy returns bit by bit, day by day, to the point where I now feel like I could go for a walk or do more than just exist. I didn't know how truly awful I felt until I started to not feel like that anymore.

So, a year into this journey, and there's a lot to look back on.  Even more to look forward to.

Updates will be provided as the occasion demands.

For now, it's back to our regular program.

Tiff out.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Hairy situation, late August.

 For those of y'all playing along at home and who somehow have managed to maintain some interest in my stupid cancer journey, here's what my hair looks like about 20 weeks after the last chemo (I am on the left):

Looking rather Eastern European middle-aged man here in the hair department. Thanks again to Mrs. B for the photo.


With vacation over (which is what we were doing in the above photo), here's what's been going on lately:


It was an easy entry back to work, as I'd taken the corporate computer with me to the cabin just in case there was no phone signal (there wasn't) for folks to reach me, and because the internet was claimed to be good at the house in the middle on nowhere.  I spent about 15 minutes a day checking in, no more.  I could clear out the garbage instead of coming home to a wall of unread messages, which was nice.

This week has been easy so far, because the big work completed last week.  Now it's just getting ready for the next round of processing/document building/query responses, which will start up here pretty quickly.  

I ain't skeered.


That's about it for now - not much going on means not much to talk about.

I leave politics and the pandemic alone for the moment.  Don't have enough dander on hand for all that mess.

Tiff out.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Waterworld 2020

A misty Thursday morning on Nantahala Lake

Vacation recap, the third.

We'd had enough land-based exploration for a while, so decided to turn to the water for some entertainment.  

But first, we had to let the guests into the cabin.  Biff's daughter and her baby son showed up on Tuesday, with all the baby paraphernalia required of them and a few other things to boot.  Both daughter and baby are adorable people, but I have to give a few points to baby for just incredible soul-searching stares, even at 2.5 months old.  Kid can see the past, I'm sure of it (please don't let him tell anyone about mine!).

We had a lovely visit, with Biff once again traversing to the nearest town for some supplies (a near-daily occurrence) with daughter and grandson along for the ride.  After that were dinner (lasagna!) and games and chat and baby things and you know how that sort of thing goes.  Time flies, is what I'm saying.

Wednesday was boat day.  We'd rented a tritoon for a couple of days to explore the lake, which turned out to be about 1.5 days longer than needed to traverse it once-'round.  It's not a huge lake, but a very nice one nevertheless, especially if you enjoy stuff like scenery.  There's plenty of that in these parts.

Not scenic, just Wern and me and an icognito baby and DD's legs.  We boatin'!

After a lovely afternoon of snooping and putting around, we returned to the house for a bit of rest, some dinner, and preparations for a sunset cruise.  I didn't go on this one, as the tendinitis in my knee made getting to and from the boat once a day about all I thought I could muster without risking further injury.  I understand the ride was lovely - the pictures sure look like it was.

Sunset on the lake by Mrs. B

There was more gaming in the evening.  Nobody won.

Thursday morning we went for an early-morning boat ride (see lede pic).  It was misty, nearly black-and-white in some places, and in other places un-navigable due to instrument conditions.  Most excellent ride, and Mrs. B even got to pilot the boat for a while, which is a first for her.  Fearless, she is.  I admire that.

Sadly, Mrs. B and the grandbaby had to make an early exit, because baby was behaving unusually and as if in pain.  GI stuff.  Pooping stuff.  Thankfully, they don't live too far from here and so could get home to a  doc visit, wherein the issue was....cleared and all seems well.  It was disappointing to see them go, but glad they made it so he could, uh, go.

In the afternoon we took a bit of a jaunt to replace Wern's leash, as he'd declared himself sick of his old one and had chewed through it in the morning, neat as you please.  Biff found a place not TOO far down the road from here, which is how we discovered Murphy NC, as cute and interesting a little town as you'll find in the long valley.  Sure, it was an extra 15 miles of travel one way, but we got to gawk at stuff and bumble around the town, so not a waste of time at ALL.  Plus which, the new leash is 1) made in the USA and 2) guaranteed for life, even if chewed through.  I did not ask what it cost.  

We picked up a couple of burgers from a place call Burger Basket in Andrews, then back on the boat for a quick afternoon's travel on the lake before turning in the boat to return home to cook supper and take a dip in the hot tub.

Today, we had a nice fire in the fireplace (of course) with breakfast, a bit of a lounge around, then Biff took off with Wern to go get gas down the scary road (Wayah Road to Franklin) then to visit Wayah Bald without me, for which I am happy because me and mountain roads, REAL mountain roads, do not get along so great anymore.  I look forward to the photos.

Doing a little pre-packing now, with a plan to go take a walk along the Nantahala River a little later, knee issues allowing.  I'm content to sit on a riverside rock and let the guys explore if that's what needs to be done - the happily rushing water is a balm to the spirit and I'm sure the memory will be sweet.

As long as it doesn't storm.  Which it might might.  Little hurricane Laura still heads this way, and though I don't think she's till a hurricane, 50 MPH winds are nothing to fool with when you're surrounded by forest.

Now you're all caught up.

Tiff out.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Franklin and Andrews 2020

Corn, airport, mountains, clouds.  Andrews NC 24 Aug 2020.

Hey y'all!

It's the second full day of our vacation in the mountains of far western NC, and so far it's going well.

Except I can't walk, but more on that later perhaps.

Yesterday we travelled to Franklin NC, a trip that we were told would take about 25 minutes in an easterly direction on the Wayah road.  It's a commuter road, we were lead to believe.

I suppose that if you're FROM these parts, it is.  If you're a flatlander with a distinct fear of falling off the side of a mountain on your way to get groceries while navigating a road only 1/2 step less challenging than the Tail of the Dragon, then it's not, at all, a commuting road.

Start at about 15:30 in this video to get a sense of what I'm talking about.  The lovely lake you see in the first couple of minutes is Nantahala Lake, which we will be boating on come Wednesday.  It's quite the drop from the road to the lake, without a guardrail to be found.  I, as passenger, was not very amused.  Wern, on the other hand, seemed to find the constant back-and-forth swaying of the van around those hairpin turns quite soothing, and fell asleep.

We did make it to Franklin (in about an HOUR, not 25 minutes!), and had a nice couple/few hours there poking around, shooping for stuff at the WalMart (eeech, but needed to purchase some swimmies bcs we BOTH forgot ours), hitting up the grocery store, walking a little bit on the greenway.  Wern got to meet a few doggos on the walk, which was the POINT of the walk (in my mind), and I crapped out early because my left knee was getting in the way of perambulating.  Posterior popliteal tendonitis, most likely, which hurts like a bear unless you stay the hell off your legs in order to rest and heal.  So of COURSE I tried to take a walk.  Yeesh.

Today we went the other direction (westerly) toward Andrews NC.  Andrews has a grocery, a liquor store, an airport, and a fort-adjacent type of historical site.  It had restaurants at one time, but only the McDonalds and Subway seem to still be open.  Town's been hit hard, which is a shame, because it's kind of charming and on a major highway and reasonably easy to get to.  We took Junaluska Road to Andrews, and it was a lovely drive.  No death traps atall!  The fort installation at the Cherokee County rest area (right on 74/19) tells a factual and brutal story of the unfortunate history of the Trail of Tears, and just how shittily we treated the indigenous people of this area.  Absolutely horrible.  

Incidentally, the Wayah Road, on which our cabin is located, was part of the Trail of Tears, taking Cherokee from eastern portions of the SE native areas and shuttling them to Fort Delaney in Andrews before force-marching them through brutal conditions on to Oklahoma.  So many died.  I can't imagine being a Cherokee from this area and trying to understand how to 'work' Oklahoma.

It's been an experience, getting acquainted with the history of this part of my lovely state.  Even after the indigenous had been ousted and the white settlers moved in, a lot of history happened.  I've been getting wrist-deep in the history of the Nantahala area, and it's fascinating.  These hills have stories, believe you me.

Tomorrow we welcome  new guests.  Wonder if babies like pontoon boat rides?  We'll find out and report back.

Tiff out.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

In which we head west and find mountains. 2020 version.


Night one delight.

We have made our escape to the mountains, wherein we intend to breathe deeply, see the sights, experience peace, and not kill ourselves on mountain roads.

Nearly didn't achieve that last one, just today.

Maybe that's hyperbole, maybe not, but let me just say here that if I'd been smart and gotten a prescription for some sweet sweet Ativan before this trip I might be much more sanguine (what a word!) about being the passenger in a car traversing hilly, twisty, narrow, shoulderless roads that from time to time featured only the TOPS of tall trees out the window.  These roads do not kid around.  When there's a sign that says the speed limit ahead is 15 MPH, BELIEVE IT.

Perhaps I protest too much, for here we are, still alive.  Pretty sure it's was my clutching at the armrests and hissing through clenched teeth that kept us on the road.  Poor Biff.

It takes about 6 hours to get to this far-western region of NC.  We made it in 7.  I blame the dog.


We also missed the driveway to the house about 50 times (or 2), which is very easy to do on roads that are unfamiliar and might be trying to do you in.  We at last drove to the landlord's house (right across the street, as it turns out) and got actual directions.  Hurrah - we have arrived!

Except...we then had to get back in the car and drive, as there is not phone service at the house (and the landlords had just driven off, so no help from them at this point), which is needed by the person who had the lockbox and wifi code on a PDF on his PHONE, which wouldn't download.  AHEM.  So, we rolled down to the nearby marina, where he finagled enough internet to get the document to open and we were headed to success at last.

Not long after getting packed in, the beauty of the top photo happened.  This is the view from the front of the house - we are on our own little hill, surround by others, and at night the peepers and critters sing their songs above the burble of a nearby stream while dogs who-knows-how-many-hollers-over bark the evening in.  The air gets cool, but the hot tub is warm, so we sat there in the growing dark in the mountains of western North Carolina, talking and sipping and uncoiling from a long day.

Today's been even better.  More on that later.

Tiff out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Labs and sticks and clicks


Pick your fave, the nurse will give you what you need regardless.

 Today was 'port flush' day.  (If you are squeamish, do not watch this video, but it's a darned good representation of what happens.)

What is 'port flush day,' you ask?  Well, it's when a nice nurse who is trained in accessing chemo ports STABS you with a needle right in the PORT, sucks blood from your body to send to the laboratory to test if you've been naughty or nice, then pumps in 10 mL of saline followed by 10 mL of a heparin solution to ensure that your port doesn't clot up (EWWWWW) before it needs to be either accessed or flushed again.

All this falderal for a piece of equipment that I likely don't need anymore.

But might.

Need one more stable CT scan to ensure it's OK to take out the port and get on with my life.

By October we will know more.

Healing takes time.  Like, a lifetime, it now seems.


I let another lady feel my boobs today.  I'm not experimenting with a new and enhanced sexuality, it's just that my oncology nurse wanted to see how the gals are healing after the radiation and needed to be sure that things are progressing as they should.

They are.


In not-cancer-related business, the giant submission I've been working on for the past forever is nearing dispatch, which only means one thing: CLICKING.

Clicky the linkies, all day long.  QC those links, being sure they hit the right target so that folks using this submission can jump right to wherever you intend them to go.

There are a LOT of links in a submission.

I am done clicking.  The end is near.


That's about it for now.  I woke up at 1 a.m. today realizing I'd forgotten to do a thing for some colleagues in the UK, so was at work at 1:10 doing the things I needed to do before falling back into bed to fitfully dream, as I'm wont to do when re-sleeping.

This is a drain on my creativity, as you might imagine, so you get a mere compilation of the day's activities, for what it's worth.

Tiff out.

Monday, August 17, 2020

All's right with the world until something's wrong.


Pays to read the instructions.

Have you ever had a stye in your eye? 

Terrible things. 

The one on my right eyelid has been there for WEEKS now, which is testament to my (probably) continued immunocompromized state of things.  Just a nasty, bulgy, swollen lump that sometimes oozes and sometimes crusts over and sometimes just freaking HURTS so I poke at it a little and then it hurts more because I am an idiot.

It's only natural, the poking at things.

It was obvious that more needed to be done to combat this weirdo, so I went to the CVS and got a 'hot compress' pack that you can stick in the microwave to heat up, then apply to your eye for a few minutes, which is supposed to draw the infection out (SCIENCE!).  I had high hopes.

Which were dashed as soon as I pulled the thing out of its package, and noted that there were little beads of something falling out of the internal pouch of whatever it is that's supposed to heat up.  Fairly certain that this was not a thing that was supposed to happen, I tested the breach and saw some sort of liquid oozing out, which also didn't seem like a thing that was supposed to be happening.  How was THAT going to be comfortable when applied to my poor sore eye?

So back to the CVS it went.  A new item, same make and model as the old one, was chosen to replace the defective unit, and by gosh if it wasn't 1) encased in a sealed plastic covering (unlike the first one), and 2) in two pieces (heater and cover) unlike the first one which came as one piece already put together.

Bottom line: someone bought the first one, used and broke it, and RETURNED IT TO THE STORE, which thereupon put it BACK ON THE SHELF for some jamoke like me to purchase and potentially injure themselves with.

And I know HOW they broke it too.  Those warnings on the instructions to not heat up in more than 10-second bursts in the microwave are the real deal, but someone, somewhere, in my town decided they knew better and BLEW THAT SUCKER UP after cooking it too long.

They must have needed that 11 bucks back pretty bad to return it as defective.

Good news: the original unit is now in the 'defective bucket' that the CVS employees appear to keep under the front counter.  Hoping it gets chucked back to corporate or wherever and not recirculated.

Because, EW.

Tiff out.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Flash floods and shopping


If you shout loud enough, the waters recede.  Try it yourself!

I don't know.  It just seems like blogging is the best thing to do right now while we're all STILLLLLL cooped up and distancing and suchlike.  Getting together to chat is a thing of the past and perhaps future, but not the now, and going to work merely means turning on the computer in maybe a different room than where you sleep (not my reality, but some folks have what's called an 'extra room'), and forget movies and going out to eat and live music and wah wah wah.

We have to do SOMETHING.  Knit, paint, garden, bake, whine, write, read, bike, hike, wander, cook, dance, learn, SOMETHING.

So, I'm blogging again.  There are only so many hours a day one can absorb information before the need to create begins to niggle at a small corner of the brain, begging to be let out into the light and risk suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, so as to die another day and paint the kettle black.

Or is that perhaps my own desire to create, to scream into the void, to wrap a piece of time around an ineffable void and call it 'art' that burbles to the surface?

This is my brain on quarantine.

I also just used the work 'ineffable' correctly.  Had to look it up to be sure.


 I have had a stye in my right eyelid for way too long now.  Started about the time my eyelashes started to grow back.  I am tired of it and will seek a remedy from a professional this week.  This is information you need to know.


There were flash flood warnings today, as half the known universe dropped all its water on our town.  We are under approximately 60 feet of water right now and I am writing this from the back of a blue whale that kindly let us ride along.  

It's only difficult when she dives.

FYI - I can hold my breath for 13 minutes now.


Only the flash flood thing is true.  The rest is a downright LIE.

This is true though: We shopped today.

Next week we start a vacation and so it's clear that what we needed to do today was to stock up on food that we might need to freeze and then bring with us because nothing says 'mountain vacation' like a van full of perishables.

$200 of purchase later and the lasagna is already done, there's chili planned for tomorrow, we will smoke a pork tenderloin this week, and I have had to give a hard stare to someone who thought out loud that bringing along our favorite cooking implements was a fabulous idea.

This will not happen.  The cooking implements stay home.  With the cats.  The dog is coming with us.

Tiff out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Ya gotta stay hydroted!

 A few days-ish ago we got a notification in the mail that the City of Raleigh, which supplies our water, would be doing some maintenance and/or upgrades in our area for blahblahblahwhatever reason.  I failed to note the date of said maintenance, and thus I was surprised this a.m to see at least 6 City of Raleigh work trucks on our street, including a bulldozer thing on tank tracks that rumbled the whole damn house as it trundled to the end of the street.

FYI, this is our street.  It's amazing how long the trundling lasted to get that big boy to the dead-end bit.

Not gonna tell you which one we live in though.

Very soon after their arrival, the water got cut off.

And has stayed off for the last 9+ hours.

During which time I needed to use the loo, as they say, and not in a dainty way.  TWICE.

Therefore, I was today years old when I re-learned how to flush a toilet with some jugs of water we were saving for when we didn't have any water (like today!).  A gallon and a half in the tank, press the handle as normal, and wash your cares away.

Do not bother with the method that says to dump the water in the bowl itself.  DO NOT.  It doesn't work and you have to have the nerves and hands of a safecracker to get the flow just right.  Use the tank method, as many times as you need to with as much water as you have to spend on toilet flushing.

Here is it 5:30 p.m., and the water's just cut back on, but it'sa comin' out rusty, so we're purging the line for 10 minutes (all of which we will be charged for, I'm sure), let the icemaker go through a few rounds before we keep any more, and run all taps inside for a few minutes before resuming life in the 21st century.  AFTER we get the 'hi sign' that there are no contaminants in the water after the crew does their backfilling/line flushing.

18 to 24 hours from now.

2020, man.  What a ride.

Tiff out.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Status? Here's your status.

 Well hello there.  You're looking well today, al things considered.  It seems you've brushed your hair today and have on a clean shirt, so that means you intend to go someplace today or have already gone someplace.  Was it nice?  Did you match your mask with your outfit?  I assume you wore a mask, correct?

I went to...the Hertz rental car office.  Biff is going out of town and we like to rent vehicles for long trips instead of using our own in case ours breaks down and we have to deal with the mess of having a non-functioning vehicle far from home.  You break a rental, they give you another one!  

But that was it, really.  We ordered lunch from the local Asian place (oh, gyoza, how I love thee!) but Biff went to get that while I set the table all fancy-like.  If we had regular napkins instead of just paper towels I'd have used them, because he's going out of town and the send-off should be a little fancy.  Well, we ate from real plates and had both forks AND chopsticks as well as placemats (they show you care!) so it was pretty dang fancy.  I even took off my Coors can trucker hat for the occasion.

That last part is a lie.  I don't wear headcoverings anymore.  1) Because it's HOT out, and 2) because I now have enough hair that it looks intentional, not pitiful.

These pics are from a few weeks ago, so you get the idea.

Zee back, obvs.

And zee frauhnt.

Color: pewter.

Oh and guess what?  That thing people mention when they say your hair might grow back differently than what it looked like BEFORE chemo knocks it all out of your head?  Is correct, thought my head hair isn't long enough to illustrate this yet.  It's just growing out of my head at whatever angle it chooses, and I can't control it. Pretty much like it did before, and in about the same color.

Let's just say that, well, there are certain areas that HAVE grown back significantly different from what was there before.  If I say that I have always been naturally red-haired but am no longer, is that enough info?  Plus which, if I use the term 'vigorous,' use your imagination.  Oy.  BUT, the leg hair, arm hair, pit hair are all about the same color/texture as before, so maybe that one little surprise, not noticeable to the general public, is OK.  It's just so weird.

My issue now is this: how long do I let the hair grow?  Before chemo it was pretty long, though I'd been cutting it shorter to increase appearance of thickness (though I don't know why because I always wore it up and off my face), and I kind of like the long-hair look because it's dead easy, but it was a pain to take care of and wash and manage and comb and the SHEDDING, oh my.  This shorter hair idea is 'growing' on me, but Biff likes longer hair, and I admit it does feminize my strong features, but how long does hair need to be before people stop calling me 'sir'?  

OK, nobody's called me 'sir' since jacket season ended.  40DD boobs just cannot be hidden under lightweight tee shirts.  Also, capris and cute sneakers help assign my gender.

Still, the hair question remains.

Guess I'm spending the afternoon building my 'hair vision board,' or whatever people do when decisions need to be made.

Thanks for reading.

Tiff out

Monday, July 06, 2020

Scanning the horizon.

Me and my doc today.  We also did a little photoshoot as a side hustle.  I had to hold onto my wig.

Way back at the beginning of this whole cancer thing, many scans were done of my personal person.

Mammogram, another mammogram, MRI, CT scan, blah blah blah. 

It's been a minute since I had anything scanned, unless the multiple x-rays of the chestal region during radiation count (OK, they do), so just for fun, and because my doc wanted me to, I went today to get a follow-up CT scan just to be sure we have run Elvis well and truly out of the building.

Last time we did a CT with contrast I thought I was going to die.  Seriously.  For a minute I thought I was clocking out - the contrast solution they administered made my heart beat so furiously I didn't think it could take the strain.  Fortunately it didn't last long, but death doesn't take long to work sometimes.

Needless to say, I was a bit nervy this morning before the procedure.

No need.

Other than the fact that they didn't use my port to administer the contrast (which is why I've kept that sucker in for an extra 3 months!  GAH1) the procedure went very well once they decided to SLOWLY give me the juice.  No problemo, and out of there in literal minutes.

HOWEVER - and I don't know why this needs to be a topic in healthcare, but if you and your work partner are discussing something about the patient IN FRONT OF THE PATIENT, you are obligated to tell them what you are discussing.

"how long has it been since your last treatment?"
June 18th
*turns to work partner* "so should we?"
'Has it been 2 weeks?"
*hand calculates on literal hands*
"Yeah, it should be OK"
What are you talking about?
"Oh, iif we can take a blood sample to test for creatinine based off the last time you had radiation."
Good to know, thanks.

I mean, how hard is that?  But why creatinine?  And why not just call up the oncologist to find out that my creatinine clearance is fabulous?  My kidneys work great, thanks, it's the boob that had the problem.

I did not ask that question.  Probably should have.

That's it for today,
Tiff out.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Anyone keeping up at home?

Because, where else would you be?

Just catching up right quick, the bnoe scan I had done say I have normal bone mass, so to hell with chemo and what a trot in the bog that might be for bone density.

Which means I'm fine to start the aromatase inhibitor.

 This is going to be a LOT longer journey than I'd like it to be.  *SIGH*  Chin up.


The appendectomy patient appears to be doing fine.  Hard to keep a good man down.


It's nearly 9 p.m and there's a still a rosy-colored glow in the sky.  The night birds swoop and chirp, the cool air settles, the shoulders relax, the doors close on another day.

It's been a good one.

Tiff out.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

It's slow going, this jumping over hurdles

First , let me catch you up on the current state of my hair growth:

This is about 3 weeks after the previous hair update, or a little over 3 months since my last chemo treatment.  It took at least 6 weeks for the hair to start growing back, I recall. 

I have no idea what's going on here on the back of my head - the hairline is all over the place and there looks to be a natural low-left part on the side of my head?  IDK.  I still look like my younger brother from this angle, if he let his hair grow and it wasn't a blindingly gorgeous shade of white.


Had my last radiation treatment on 18 June 2020.

The last few were 'boosters' to the site of the lumpectomy, just to give that effer a strong boot out the door.  Thank God, because the wider-range radiation was becoming problematic, as in 'ouch please I hate this and can it stop now because my nipple has a sunburn and I can't wear a bra and my armpit itches and the skin is falling off.'

All of which is true.

So, all done with that now too.


Follow up with the medical oncologist last week revealed that I am still low on white blood cells.  I am not surprised by this, nor is the doc.  We will monitor in a couple of months.


I am to start an aromatase inhibitor this week.  Estrogen-positive tumors of the breast can be pesky, so this will help ensure that the ol' estrogen can't spur on new tumors.

Time to prepare to join the Bearded Lady Club, I guess.


Getting a bone scan done Monday, for baseline purposes.  No needles involved.

The CT scan a week after that will involve needles.

I do not like needles.


Also, the better half had an emergency appendectomy (is there any other kind?) Friday night.

Nothing but sunshine at the Tiny House, friends. We're all still here and exploring Instant-Pot recipes.  2020 isn't going to be the end of us, if we are consulted about it.


Tiff out.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Hair we go!

I look like my younger brother in this pic.
For those of you following along at home, my last chemo treatment was on 19 March of this year.

11 weeks ago.

It took several weeks for me to realize that my hair was growing back.  At first I wasn't sure it was going to, but here we are 11 weeks after the last infusion and this is what's going on the scalp region.

Count the cowlicks.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Hit up those bald spots too while you're at it, and the weird cranial creases.  There's a lot to marvel at that will soon be obscured by re-growth.  Behold!

Before chemo, my hair was NOT this gray/white/whatever.  It was mostly brown.  I might have to get used to a new aesthetic when it grows in, as I don't plan on using hair dye again, ever.

I was in fact leaning sideways in the photo in order to get some light on the subject, which might affect the apparently color scheme, but not by much.  I'm nearly 60, so whatever.  Gray it is.

Hair's growing back all over too, if you get my drift.  Pretty soon I'll have hirsute knuckles again, and bristly shins, and I'm not liking that all that much.  The low-maintenance lifestyle suited me well.

But yeah.  Hair.  Proof I'm healing, from the inside out.

Radiation is still a huge bore and comes with its own set of insults, but only for another couple of weeks.

And we march on.

Tiff out.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Positively Glowing (at least my right boob is)

FULL of surprises.

Radiation.  That's where left off about a month ago, right?  I was making light of being bare-chested in front of various strangers and bragging about my 4 new tattoos, just as giddy as someone who doesn't know what's about to happen can be.

Kind of like those first two kids who got killed in Friday the 13th.  Remember them?  Weren't they the couple that was about to go at it in bed when they got run through from below?  They for sure didn't know what was coming.

That's pretty much how I was, back at the end of April.  No idea.

OK, I make things sound awful, and we'll get to that in a minute, but it's not all that terrible.  I mean, I've gotten used to being topless a lot more easily than I thought I would, and can position myself on the treatment table pretty efficiently anymore, and the radiation techs and doc are nice and all.  OK, so what does it matter that they've all seen mah bewbs?  It doesn't. 

Lesson learned.  Boobs ain't all that.

Now to the unpleasant 'lesson learned' part, which is: do NOT believe anyone if they try to tell you that radiation isn't so bad.  They are LYING, if my my 4 weeks of experience (2 more weeks to go, if you're interested) is any barometer. 

I thought things wouldn't be so SO bad in the first week, because there didn't appear to be any noticeable effects at all.  Why, this was going to be a breeze!  Jason Vorhees lies in wait, not even making the jasonjason noise.

By the start of week 2, lil' gal (my right boob is the smaller one, so this is what she's called) was a tiny bit pink, which is 'normal' according to the doc and techs, so let's just go ahead and treat you more, as planned.  It sure feels like we're being watched, doesn't it?

By the end of week 3, it was VERY clear which parts of my chest were being irradiated, as they had turned bright red in a very specific pattern.  The bit in my armpit turned a funny color and started to hurt.  'Oh gosh' said the doctor. 'You should do some salt soaks on that and use some steroid creams if it itches and take a pain reliever if you need to.'  Jason rises from the corner and lunges across the room, knife raised and ready to strike.

Today is the end of my 4th week of treatment, and here is what's going on: the underboob itches like crazy, it hurts to touch the center of my chest, the whole breast is beet red, the armpit is weirdly colored and painful, the skin is getting rough and feels thick, and every once in a while the nipple sends out a shooting pain with no real provocation.  Sis is MAD, y'all.  This is for real and happening and I can't stop it and won't someone rescue me?

No, not for at least two more weeks, and guess what?  The damage is CUMULATIVE and might even get worse after treatment stops, hun.  Jason's going to keep on stabbin', I'm afraid. 

 Jason is a jerkface.

Two more weeks.  Ten more treatments.  Keep slathering those moisturizers and don't touch your chest.  This too shall pass.


 Tiff out.
 PS - do not GIS 'radiation dermatitis.'  Just...don't.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

I am a marked woman

So tiny.

There's nothing really like laying on a cold hard exam table with your boobs fully out for the arriving doctor to examine and draw all over while trying to make small talk.  Surely it happens all the time, but this was MY first experience with such and it was...something.

I have had two children and so am no stranger to folks feeling around the ol' bits and bobs; by hour 3 of pushing with Thing 1 I was ready to have the janitor get a good feel in case he/she could just Get The Baby Out Already, but this was different.  So casual.  So matter-of-fact.  So, normal.

And therefore I was comforted.

The doctor and my radiation tech were very appreciative of how well the lumpectomy scar is healing, which I'm sure they tell all the girls, so I called them out on it and they declared as to how I'm a veritable pro at healing up from things. 

Again, comforted.

Then the doctor went away and the tech put me through my paces in a CT scanner to have a good look at my guts (more like my thoracic cavity I guess), while I still was tits out to the world.  The procedure was interesting - I got to watch the spinny thing inside the scanner that was taking pictures of my innards, and that was cool.

Then, I went and got 4 new tattoos.  By way of celebration, as ye do.

HAHAHAHAHAHAA!  JK, the tatts were given to me by the radiation tech, who will use them to align me in the particle accelerator thing so that only those parts of my body that are meant to be blasted with radiation in fact ARE blasted, and nothing else.

I've had tattoos before, and so was ready for the gun.

No gun.

Instead, a drop of ink is placed on the spots marked by the doctor, and a single needle prick gets enough of the ink under the skin to be useful (see picture above for about-actual size).  Amazing.  Each tiny dot counts as a tattoo in my book, though I suppose they could be considered as 1 total work of art.  I like the sound of 'I got 4 tattoos today!' better.  Your mileage may vary.

Finally able to sheath the breasticles in bra and tee once more, I was released to the Covid-infested wild, only to have to return in a week or so to start the radiation process in earnest.

Every weekday for 6 weeks I will rely on my new tats and the expertise of the doctors and techs to administer the right amount of radiation to the right place so that, we all hope, the freaking cancer is chased from the premises for good.

Wish me luck.

Tiff out.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

In which I lose my fingernails

Writing about cancer and chemotherapy for the last few months has been largely for my own benefit, but I do hope that whomever might stumble across these entries looking for information finds some value in what I've written.

I have tried to be honest about my experience, but not too 'down' on the whole swath of Things That Have Happened, because it's just been something to live through and not something to let take over my life.

Until the last couple of infusions happened.  The last one (#6) especially tried very hard indeed to take over my life, but let's not get ahead of the story.

Generally, what I've described in these blog entries has been my experience in the short term; a few days to a week or so after chemo and what happened to me.  One person's journey, as it were, because if I tried to speak for everyone who has walked my path I'd be a fool and more than a little overbearing.  Not this gal.  Not now.

So, let's walk a little further down that path, and review what happened throughout the period of a couple of weeks after the 5th infusion.  I was feeling OK, but had noticed that the after-effects of the chemo had lingered a few days longer with that round (oh naps, how I love thee!) and the damnable bone pain was taking way too long to resolve.  I felt personally attacked, I'm telling you.

And then I noticed something weird was going on with my fingernails.  It seemed like the white part was getting longer, rapidly, and in the wrong direction.  Like, it was expending toward the nail bed, not away from it the way normal nails grow.  What the what?

Then the nails started to discolor, turning a gross-as-heck yellowish color, some nails even looked like they has some kind of brown smudge under the yellow.  It was hard to tell.  Unsightly, for sure, and in an evil turn of events, very painful if they were bumped or pressed on in any way.

You have no idea how many times a day a person bumps their fingernails.  It's a lot.

There was, of course, a visit with the nurse practitioner before infusion #6, at which I showed her my nails and she said 'oh yeah, that will happen.  Just keep them cut short and they'll grow out.  Is the same happening to your toenails?'  At the time the answer to that was 'no' (talk about your blatant foreshadowing...)

And so, over the past 3 weeks, ever since the last infusion, the nails have indeed been growing, I have been keeping them short, and now would like to share what they look like in case you see me out and about and think I'm turning into a fungus, because I am not, it's just that chemo killed my fingernails just about dead and this is what happens, sometimes.
Those lines in my thumbnails represent each time I got an infusion and the nails died a little.   They're called 'Beau's lines,' which I don't think is very funny.

ALL THE NAILS.  Not to be too gross, but they can be lifted off the finger surface all the way down to the pink part.
While it's not uncommon for people to experience some changes to the nails during/after chemotherapy, it is very uncommon to lose a whole nail.  It appears that once again I am a unicorn in the world of health care, being all rare with the side effects and in addition taking things to the limit of the possible overall experience.

Why, just to add insult to injury and possibly make me a liar to my care staff, even my toenails have decided to get in on the fun.  Nobody gets a break in MY body, oh no, everyone gets to experience some flavor of weird!  Good thing I don't have to wear fancy shoes very much, or ever, because that's not going to happen anytime soon (or, you know, ever). 

So that's been happening, along with daily afternoon dry heaves, which, apparently, can continue for WEEKS after chemo ends.  WEEKS, I tell you, and no surprise that the woman who didn't get nauseated for most of the chemo journey is now getting it because, obviously, my body misses being poisoned every few weeks.  Figures. 

2020 is proving to be an interesting year, and one in which I had better be learning a lot about myself because the lessons are there and I can't risk ignoring them.  Best to not tempt fate, right?

Tiff out.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

My chemo regimen

Almost done with the last one.  

To wrap up my chemotherapy journey, here's a bit of background -

I was diagnosed with estrogen- and progesterone-positive, HER-2-negative breast cancer in September of 2019.

I had a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node dissection in October 2019, and a power port placement in November 2019. 

Chemo started 04 December 2019. 

This is my treatment regimen, once every 3 weeks:

  • Day before and after infusion - 4 mg dexamethasone BID

  • Day of infusion - by mouth - Pepcid 20 mg (antacid), Decadron 12 mg (antiinflammatory),  Ativan 0.5 mg (sedative)

  • Day of infusion - by port and in order saline 500 ml bolus, Aloxi 250 mg (nausea med), Cinvanti 130 mg (nausea med), Taxotere 133.2 mg over an hour (anti-cancer chemotherapy), Cytoxan 1065.6 mg over 45 minutes (anti-cancer chemotherapy), then a heparin flush.

  • Day after infusion - Neulasta 6 mg subcutaneous (stimulate white blood cell production).


Translation of brand names to generic:

Pepcid: famotidine.

Decadron: dexamethasone

Ativan: lorazepam

Aloxi: palonosetron

Cinvanti: aprepitant

Taxotere: docetaxel

Cytoxan: cyclophosphamide

Neulasta: pegfilgrastim


Common effects of this treatment regimen for me have been:

  • Irregular/rapid heartbeat for a couple of days after infusion - a known side effect. Can be ameliorated somewhat by heavy hydration to flush out the meds.
  • Bone pain starting 3 or so days after infusion, 2 days after Neulasta.  This is a known side effect.
  • Fatigue.  Obviously a known side effect.
  • Nausea about a week after infusion.  Also a known side effect for which medications were prescribed.

Oh, and my fingernails are in the process of falling off.  This is common and is the same as hair loss, which is an expected effect of both Taxotere and Cytoxan.  I expected the hair loss, but  was hoping to keep the fingernails.  No luck.  Oh well.

All in all, while chemotherapy isn't something I'd wish on anyone, it wasn't so bad and certainly a better experience than I would have had a few years ago.  Treatment options and medications have improved since then.

That's it.  One for the memory books, that I probably won't whip out for the grandkids.

Tiff out.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Chemo's over. Done with. I hope I never have to go back.

The magical unicorn stage has been reached!  Pretty soon that ol' port can come out!

Dose #6 happened today.

The. Last. One.

The last PLANNED one,  I should say, because never say never when it comes to that rat bastard cancer.  That's a bet you shouldn't hedge.

So yup - last one.  The process went well, as usual, with supportive nurses and The Comfy Chair (I never did use the massage function), and Biff the Bagel-Getter.  We were lucky, today is the last day they're allowing visitors in the ward.  Tomorrow I would have been without a delicious breakfast bagel unless I went before the appointment!

After I was unhooked from the machine and was getting ready to go, all the nurses came over with noisemakers and harmonicas and shout-sang 'For She's a Jolly Good Fellow!' with gusto, right at me, then gave ma graduation certificate and a bag full of what I think is Aveda body lotions and stuff that volunteers make to hand out to us graduates.  Pretty neat, and I apologize to anyone on the ward who was trying to catch a few winks as I was leaving.  I hope it's your turn to be feted really soon.

So, yeah.  Done.

Pretty happy about that.

Now comes radiation, so we're only done with stage 1 of treatment.  But still, chemo's done.  That's huge.

Tiff out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The one with all the nausea

It's caught up with me, the chemo has.  Four rounds of it and I didn't really experience many issues, but that fourth round, the one that saw my neutrophils plummet and got me on an antibiotic and made my fingernails hurt?  THAT one set me up for some later-stage nausea that just Would. Not. Go. Away.

I did not take medication for it, being the fool I am, even though I've had the medication at the ready since chemo started in December.  Didn't really 'feel bad' enough' for me to put yet another chemical in my body.  Powered through, like we're all supposed to do.

Idiotic?  Oh my yes.

Then came round 5, which started out fine but then my fingernails started to delaminate (at least I THINK that's what's going on, as the nail bed is turning white from the tip toward the base and it feels like they are separating from the finger itself but I'm not testing that theory too much because it's gross and I'm not about the life right now), and I have had some muscle aches (likely from sitting around all day), and then, a few days ago, the nausea struck again.

Oh the nausea.  I'm OK-ish in the morning, but by mid-afternoon I'm praying that my stomach would just go ahead and heave already to satisfy whatever demon has poking my vagus nerve and playing the world's WORST game of 'tickle fight' that invariably ends up with my face in a trash can, coughing and heaving and crying and blowing snot.  It's not a great look, and it feels even worse.

What prompts me to write this is that I just had an attack a few minutes ago.  I'm sure it was great fun for Biff to listen to, what with all the choking and gasping and shit.  Thankfully, nothing generally comes UP, so it's just a lot of terrible noises and some sweating going on, but still, there's no good way to puke, is there?  Heaving brings momentary relief, but only momentary.  It may come back, certainly by tomorrow.  At this point I have to admit defeat - chemo has gotten the best of me, and I'm quickly giving up even some 'not-great' parts.  

Time to go bust open that bottle of pills.  Idiot no more.  I'm going to chase that fricking demon out and grab back some goodness in my current living situation (such as it is with all the coronavirus sequestering going on.  I don't leave the house much/at all right now, being as how I don't really relish the notion of heaping a potentially deadly respiratory infection onto my current list of issues).

Silver Lining: Final infusion is in 2 days.  Praise be!

Tiff out.