Thursday, December 01, 2022

The one that wasn't (and we are glad)


Before the...'thing' happened

Recently, I underwent a procedure familiar to all breast cancer survivors, The Yearly Mammogram.

But not just ANY mammogram, oh no.  The 'screening' ones most women only ever have are simple affairs by comparison, with only a couple of shots ('vertical' and 'horizontal,' if you will) to check for any suspicious entities.  The ones we lucky survivors gets are so so so much more, with top and bottom and sideways and slantways and rounds and rounds of them, focusing on iffy areas until the radiologist on duty is satisfied (or not) with what they're seeing and can release you, either to the wild or with an order for follow-up work.

I got the order for the follow-up work.

Specifically, a biopsy.

In the boob that didn't previously have the cancer in it.

You might imagine how very worrisome this is, and you'd be halfway there.  

Thankfully, I'm good at ignoring unpleasant things, so was able to enjoy Thanksgiving with our little nuclear family and have a chance to relax a bit, relying on the radiologist's statement that she was ordering the biopsy out of an abundance of caution, but still there was a whiff of terror wafting around if I allowed it to. 

Plus, needles and lidocaine were to be involved, which I am not a huge fan of, or really even a fan at all.

At last, today was the day, and as I drove to the the appointment WAY THE HECK OVER THE OTHER SIDE OF RALEIGH the thought of 'oh God, what if it's THAT again?' was very hard to ignore. What if the big C has popped up on the other side?  What will I  do? The brain was working a tiny bit overtime as I headed west on 98 then south on 50.  Of course I missed the turn into the parking lot, but I never don't.

One there, stripped from the waist up and begowned and with my belongings in a lovely plastic bag, I sat in the 'gowned waiting room' (no, really), with 5 other women all similarly attired and toting their possessions too.  We all knew what we were there for, and all of it had to do with boobs.  Sisterhood carries some heavy burdens, far outweighing a sack of clothing.

My turn came, I sat in a remarkably comfy chair that the tech wheeled me around on like I was Captain Pike until I was within boob-smashing range of the Little Plates (the better to see you with!).  She had warm hands, which is a nice touch (ha!), and got Old Gal in position to take some pictures of the suspect area.  Then another couple of shots.  Then she went and fetched the radiologist, who was going to perform the numbing and cutting and biopsy-ing acc'd to the prophecy and Good Medical Practice.

After the introduction to the doc and me gawping at her absolutely glorious head of hair, skintight pants, and totally awesome boots (listen, the lewk made an impression!), she and the tech had a confab over the images, probably discussing where to stick me with the numbing to best effect before cutting me open and doing the deed.

But no.

The tech pulled the gown up over my nakedness, spun me around ('beep boop!') as the doc was saying 'Good news! The spot the radiologist saw last week isn't visible on the pictures we just took and must have resolved itself in the week.  There's no need to do a biopsy and you can go.'

 It is at that point I lost 10 pounds of anxiety and floated out of that building, after getting dressed, of course.  The day was more beautiful that I remembered, the people more lovely, the birds gifted me with a 'congratulations!' poop on my windshield, all was right with the world.

I took the long way home to avoid a meeting I probably could have made it to at work, because I Simply Did Not Feel Like It.  Not sorry about that, would recommend an amble home after getting great news.

So, this was the one that wasn't.  No new scar, no wait for the biopsy results, no worrying about what happens next because it's already happened.


Tiff out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Duolingo gets me


Our guide and hero

 A couple of months ago my Mom and I were having our regular Monday night chat on the phone and she said that she was going to learn Spanish this year using Duolingo.

Y'all, my Mom is in her upper '80s and is sharper than me, so I figured I needed to do that too.

We were chatting about how 4 p.m. is just a weird time of day - too soon really to start dinner prep at our stages of life, late enough in the day that it's not right for a nap, just one of those 'what do  I do NOW?' kind of times in a day that needs a something to anchor it to the clock.

Learning Spanish, for now, is that something.

Most days I get on the app and do a few minutes of learning, at least enough to get my 10xp and meet my 'goal' that I in fact did not set up but I'm kind of competitive so, yeah.  

It's fun, with cute cartoony characters and lots of positive reinforcement and also, many learning modalities in employ.  See it, translate it, hear it, write it down, engage in 'chats,' etc. I do get caught up from time to time thinking I know what's expected of me and do a translate instead of a 'write it down' and then have to re-do that to 'pass' to the next level, so mild humiliation isn't out of the deck of learning strategies.

Did I mention it's free?  Check it out if you need a way to re-plasticize part of your brain. 

And if you decide to learn Hawai'ian, more power to ya.


Had the yearly mammo yesterday.  It took forever.

No evidence of anything scary.

I'll take it.


Tiff out.

Friday, November 11, 2022

A sure-fire diet plan (not really)


Me, just now.  I grew a beard for warmth.  Should I keep it?

Ever since I was, ever, I do attract viruses.

All KINDS of them!  When I was in high school I had a cold and the flu at the same time (and my period too), for example, and laid on the big brown couch in the family room, half sensate, watching game shows and napping through the soaps.  And not eating, like hardly at all.  My stomach could not HANDLE food; just thinking about it made me run for the bucket.  I went on the ginger ale and water diet for a week because of it, and because of THAT, I lost a noticeable amount of weight which at the time I might have thought was a good tradeoff. I'm different now.

Some things don't change, it's apparent, at least as far as me and virii.

I had COVID earlier this year, and it too settled in my stomach with largely the same overall effect.  Can't recall what other symptoms there were; the GI aspect really took over to the point that I just kept a barf bucket with me wherever I went. Dry heaves became a particular specialty that I wish I could get paid for, such was there vigorous nature.

My abs were very fit by the time the 'rona moved out, let's just say. (And no, I would NOT like to be paid to perform the heaving.  My nose and eyes run and the noises that are made are truly primeval).

Since then, my stomach has been HUGELY touchy, which isn't great as it was very prone to being a bad actor in times of stress, which for someone with anxiety is like from 8am to 10pm every day.  Sleep is a gift. 

So, anyhow, at the beginning of this week a lil' flu virus entered the chat and headed straight to my belly.  Of course it did.  Biff got it first; it took up residence in his lungs.  I would have traded him, but he hates barfing and isn't as good at it as I am, so I took the hit. As if there was ever a choice.  

Ah, the low-grade fever, the bone aches, the hot flashes, the river of snot that flows if you bend over, the impending sense of doom when you just know it's going to be 'heave-ho' but can't pinpoint just when...a truly reprehensible state of affairs.

Good job, virus.

I'm on day 5 now, and while evidence of healing is present, we're still not back to 100% yet and I still do not go anywhere without my bucket.  It's not worth it, even yet.

My pants are fitting better though, so there's that.

Y'all stay safe out there - we're nowhere near out of the woods, RSV is getting a foot in the door, and this winter's going to be a corker.

Tiff out.

PS - get vaccinated.  If I'd been quicker to schedule my flu shot I'm sure I would be better by now.  I regret procrastinating. 

PPS - it might also be a cold, IDK.  Whatever it is, I'm not a fan.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Out the kitchen window


At this time of year, the sun sets through the leaves and branches of a giant oak tree that lives on the lot south/west of us.  This just happens to be the view out the kitchen window that we get of that phenomenon in the autumn times, and can be quite a spectacle.  

Just mind the gap(s), because that sun will smite your eyeballs if it's not peeking picturesquely though the foliage.  So, no doing dishes around normal dinnertime if you want to preserve your peepers.


As it happens, today is another beautiful day in the neighborhood, and because I got done with work a bit early, I decided to take a Walk With Wern.  Normally, this is something that the LOML does, but it was seriously too gorgeous to NOT do the WWW.  

Wern agreed.

We started with a bit of a ride around town, because I had some thought about exploring one of the small parks downtown (this one), but it's too close to where folks are going to do their early voting (VOTE!!!!) and parking wasn't great as a result.

I do love to see a crowd of folks doing their civic duty, but that is a tangent.

We wound up driving up to the town cemetery, which is nice and peaceful most of the time, as you can imagine.  I like cemeteries, and our town has a great one.  It's where I will be, or the corporeal remains of me will be, when my time comes to be stored conveniently for friends and family to come visit.  Naturally, we parked next to 'our' columbarium to wave hello at the Final Resting Place before Wern had a sniff-round of the place.

He sniffed the Barhams and the Sherrons and the Holdings and all the nearby graves of persons for whom roads are named in this town.  It's very historic, my future neighborhood.  And beautiful, with tall trees and gently sloping land around family plots that are well tended to.  There's an enormous pin oak that has dropped a ton of leaves that smelled quite lovely to the canine, and certain boxwoods that needed to be watered by him, so it was a busy time in the graveyard.  

Oddly busy, too, with visitors.  One fellow pulled up right as we did to visit someone in the columbarium area (there are several of them nestled in their own little neighborhood) and we had a quick chat because he called Wern beautiful and that deserves at least a couple of minutes of small talk.  He asked me who I'd lost that I was coming to visit, and in true awkward me form said 'oh, nobody yet, but that's where I'm going to be when the time comes' and did not EVEN ask him who he was there to visit, because I lose my mind in social situations and forget how being polite works.

Another visitor pulled up to the other side of the cemetery, and stood quietly near the final resting place of someone who I hope passed after a long, good life.  Just...stood.  I didn't get close enough to hear if he was talking to the dearly departed; it looked more like a personal communion, without the wine and baguette.

There were workers there too, out at the back, tending to the grounds, making sure things were tidy and safe and clean.  That makes me feel good about our future home, that it is maintained by both the town and people who have a connection to the ones who can no longer tend to themselves.

Once Wern's sniffer was full we of course came back home, wherein he has spent the last hour knocked out on the couch from the sheer thrill of the graveyard ramble.

I think we'll do it again tomorrow.

Tiff out.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Hot second date, the insulting version


Charlette and Jacob were having a second date at the second-fanciest coffee house in the town a middle distance for both of them to travel, that's how well the first date had gone.

Charlette comes from a medical background, Jacob is from Scotland.  Their conversations have been interesting as a result, both from an accent and topic perspective.

For this date, they've agreed to come up with insults they wish to introduce into the world; insults that haven't yet been snickered over and might get them to go viral, as viral is a thing that one would like to be, as it's as infectious as a real disease and may make you far more money.

The rules of this game are to 1) make the insult a medical thing that has actually happened to them, and 2) remove acts of violence from the insult.  One cannot be 'a stab in the neck,' for example, even if it happened to them and does carry some implication of being very unpleasant.  One CAN be 'a blow to the bollards' if a results of game play, either through innocent or competitive sport.

Charlette begins: you infected cyst

Jacob: you absolute ingrown toenail

C: you cracked molar

J: you crushed thumb

C: you inevitable period stain

J: you're an absolute spit stitch

C: you avulsed thumb

J: (interesting, I'll ask about that later) You are, in point of fact, a thick scab

C: I believe that it's no secret that you resemble nothing more than a copiuos green loogey dislodged in a violent fit of sneezing in front of your middle-school class.

J: Wait...did you attend St. Stephens School for Honest Boys and Girls in Upper Needham for a year?

C: Um.

J: Oh my God, tell me it IS you!

C: Um.

J: You are the very BEST memory of my time as an exchange student there!  I got such a chuckle out of that, many times!

Holy mother of God, it HAS to be you!

C: Um...yes?

J: you absolute infected respiratory system.

C: thank you?

J: But of course.  Another coffee?

C: Yes thanks, you nicked leg.

Seems to have worked out pretty well, so far.


If you had to play this game, what might your favorite insults be to fling?

Tiff out.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Bang bang whirrrr CLUNK (Storytime)


This one's got some mood lighting - a nice touch.

Intro:  Lately I've been on a hunt for answers to 'why do I get sudden attacks of vertigo with no discernible cause, which then usually make me barf?'

A question for the ages, for sure.

One step is to, once at least 2 experts are consulted, get an MRI of the skull to 1) ascertain just HOW thick it is, and 2) what might be going wrong therein to precipitate the issue.

Buildup: So, I had an MRI a couple of days ago.  It was, eventually, quite loud, and I say eventually because it took 3 needle sticks before a vein would accept the introduction and allow the sweet sweet flow of contrast dye.  My veins, they are shy.  And prone to 'blowing' (heh) if they don't like what's coming at them.  Coy move.

Back to the noise.  If you've never had an MRI, the noise is there to frighten you into a stiff fear of things exploding around you and thereby staying on the wee sliding table you occupy inside the tiny tube that is surrounding you with the bangy noise machine inside.  Also, there are magnets.  Have you seen and MRI in action when metal things are where they shouldn't be when it's powered on?


Now imagine having a pacemaker or other ferrous-containing material in your bawdy ol' self. Those babies will find their way to the mama magnet when possible.  It doesn't sound nice.

 I do not have potential body-ripping implants, though I think the titanium tumor markers MIGHT still be there from the lumpectomy, but they don't react, so neither did I.  

OK, I didn't react also because I was too focused on praying a mantra and holding to the '911 button' you're handed as you're all hooked up to the IV and about ready to get into the machine whereupon the noise-making can happen.

Action scene: One fun note, for head MRIs you get a little cage over your face like shown in the vid above (focusing the magnetic beams straight into your brains?  I don't know), just to confirm that you're totally safe and do not need an escape plan other than the panic button.  Also little noggin stabilizers shoved behind your ears to prevent twitching or whatnot if you're prone to that, which I am, so appreciated the extra support.  It's FINE and built for your comfort, I am sure.

AND, you get headphones, presumably to protect against the appreciable amount of noisenoise, and also so the experts operating the machine can speak EVER SO SOFTLY into your ears to tell you...something.  '3 minutes' or 'you're doing great' or 'just one more scan' (my favorite).  You may also choose some type of music to be piped into the headphones if you like, but I eschewed, as a part of my complaint is sudden and serious hearing loss in one ear.  I don't need no other noise, thanks.

Now, this might sound as though I was in a panic throughout, but that's not really the case.  Yes, the process is stressful, but if you trust the pros who are there to take care of you and also trust in the power of the panic button, and THEN just think happy thoughts about how glad you are to have this tech available instead of potentially having to go through life dizzy and sick, then that makes it so much easier to bear.  Horrifying noises and all.

Denoument:Two hours later I was back in my car with one blown-out forearm vein (my own fault for having wallflower blood vessels) and a fervent hope that nothing is actually wrong inside my head.

I spent the next day horribly dizzy and sick (woohoo magic alignment of water molecules and such?), but perked up when I saw the 'read' of the MRI in the 'my chart' delivered through my doctor's office.  Bottom line is nothing unusual about my brain except it looks like I might a decongestant for 'mucus' reasons.  Awesome.  We'll see what the doc says, of course.

Resolution: not yet.  This is but one chapter in my search.  But a big one to get past.  Scary things seems to be out of the treatment picture, at least for now.

Thanks for reading.

Tiff out.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Smells like ashwagandha up in here (or is that the passionflower)?


I can do that, thanks.

For too many years now, I've been trying to tough out anxiety.  Mind over...mind, I guess?  When you KNOW something's 'all in your head,' it gets tough to pit the brain against itself, because the brain will always win, which isn't fair or nice to the losing side.

Things that make me anxious are:

  • sudden loud noises
  • constant excessive noise
  • decision making ('where do you want to go eat?' sucks, trust me)
  • my heart arrhythmia (a benign condition, but if you have an arrhythmia you know how it can wreck your nerves when it shows up)

Not an exhaustive list. You get the idea.

I can't pinpoint WHEN precisely this started, but it was manifesting right around the time menopause had truly taken hold and my body was working on a whole different hormone system than it was used to for 40 years.  Even something like a nice boat ride on the lake to go get lunch with the family would get me going.

By 'get me going,' I mean vomit.

That's right.

Somehow it seems that my vagal nervous system detects the stress and gives my body something to DO about it, which in my case is puke, or at least spend some quality time dry-heaving as a potential way to tell the brain 'there, I think we have gotten rid of the bad thing that's making you feel bad.  Can we go do something fun now?' and that kind of worked for a few years.  A crap system, but one that worked, kind of.

As time went on, though, the issue (ha!) became more frequent, not helped at all by the development of what may be Meniere's Disease (though we're not yet sure of what's going on with my vestibular system) which is ANOTHER source of stress more powerful than the items in the list above. Adding vertigo to the mix was powerful bad.

Obviously, I needed help, beyond grounding/counting activities or getting outside and being in nature.  Spending the day agitated, dizzy, nauseated, and with my head in a trash can is no way to go through life.  It also, not surprisingly, prohibits one from 'getting outside in being in nature,' in case you were wondering.


At first, I signed up for online mental health support offered by the company I work for.  Very helpful for those grounding/calming tools that can help self-identify triggers and get the brain focused on something other than the trigger, right in the moment.  Not enough to banish the issue, but enough to get over it, momentarily.

Then, some nerve-calming yummy gummies were brought in to play.  Lemon balm, natural remedies, etc.  Good news - they seem to work.  Tried a couple of varieties, with the same ingredients by and large, and the calming effect is noticeable (currently using the OLLY brand, which I bought online but I believe are now in CVS stores and presumably other pharmacies). Can recommend. 

Then, I saw an ad for 'nerve patches' that were getting good reviews online, so I bought some of those for extra-horrible days.  Full truth - I have not yet used one, because I'm a little intimidated by the full power of one patch, but having just read that they can be halved or even quartered depending on the dose needed, I'll be busting them out this week to handle what promises to be a VERY DEEPLY challenging work week.

Here's hoping that at least I won't have to work with a trash can in my lap, as it has potential to mess with the acoustics of team meetings.  Nobody wants to hear that mess going on.

Next is to figure out the whole vertigo thing, because that's not normal.  And so, we press onward and hope for a simple, manageable, explanation.

Tiff out.

P.S. - I know the photo above is quoting a verse that is meant to be encouraging (Phillippians 4:6).  Let me take it the wrong way, just this once, mmkay?

Thursday, September 15, 2022

MOTN awakenings

A picturesque sluice for your viewing pleasure.

 It is now nearly 5 a.m.  I have been awake since 4.  This is the new me, I suppose, awake in the middle of the night, trying to get sleepy enough to go back to bed to catch a few winks before having to be awake to monitor the progress of another day.

Thank the good Lord above for being able to work from home.  I'd be a wreck if I had to commute.  I did that for years and years and really got well tired of it by the time I switched jobs, following the money and the comfy work environs of my own bedroom.  Three steps to the desk, no shower required.

(Just a tip: don't ever live west of where you work; you'll be battling the sun both ways if you have to commute.) 

If historians are to be believed, my new sleep pattern is matching up to the typical human slumber cycle of yore, which consisted of a few hours of shuteye, then a couple of hours of being awake, then a couple more hours of nap before really getting going for the day.  Maybe though, that's 'typical' for nobles and gentry only, as I'm guessing that kitchen maids and farm hands and such just took one heroic sleep and got up at o-dark-thirty to get on with what needed to be done while the upper crust in the fancy sheets (SHEETS!  What luxury!) caught up on their beauty rest after writing a few letters to their buddies or whatnot at 3 a.m.  I don't know what they did in the MOTN, but it wasn't sluicing the pigsty or making garlic knots like the hoi polloi, I'm betting.

This whole being awake when I'd rather be asleep is why (in part) I signed up for an online newspaper subscription to a nationally-known entity.  While waiting for something soporific this way to come, I  catch up on what's going on in the world, picking my way around agitating issues and lulling my brain with the softer side of life.  Hard news is digested in the hard light of day, early morning calls for recipes and vacation ideas.

It's just what happens. No sluicing required.


After I catch up on social media, comics, dumb games, email, and such, of course.  Just being honest here.

Tiff out.

Friday, September 09, 2022

I need a hobby, I think (Tales of the lonely pilot's wife)

 Recently, through a tons of hard work and want-to, the LOML became A Person of Worth at a place that is paying him money to be smart, well-spoken, managerial, and competent.

It's not what he's worth, to be sure, but it's enough to keep the lights on.

Which is good, because he works a lot and I'm turning on lights well before he gets home most nights, even though it's only not even mid-September and he left for work at 6:15 this morning, get the drift.

Which is, I'm spending too much time by myself, at home.

Making me realize how MUCH I rely on his company and entertainment of an evening, and just how very boring I am without that company and conversation.

I DO NOT BLAME HIM FOR CHASING HIS DREAMS.  I blame myself for being too damned boring as to not have had anything more amusing to do/develop/depend in these last number of years than social medial and YouTube.  It gets old after a while.

And some things I am NOT going to put on social media, beyond the confines of what we used to consider it be, which is this, right here, da blahg.

Here's the thing about what I'm doing now to kill time: I use my eyes too much.  I devour information and consume, consume, consume, but do NOT create.  My hands itch to draw, my fingers want to write (oh, sure, brain too), my feet and legs want to stretch and MOVE.

Having insomnia might be useful, as by and large these are quiet pursuits.

Maybe tonight then, in anticipation of the MOTN awakening, I'll bust out a sketch pad and pencil, in case the scritch of a #2 on construction paper is more soothing than a half-interesting video.

Maybe I can make a buddy for this guy.

 Or 6.