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 is...next 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

(From www.roadkilltshirts.com)

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.