Screened

I remember seeing this pretty great Christmas card. A family of four, all festively coordinated in their best holiday red shirts, sitting on their couch, next to their lit Christmas tree. All staring down into their iPhones, iPads, iSomethings. You can’t see their faces, but the dad in the picture is holding up his one finger, (the pointer) in a gesture of “wait one sec…”

I chuckled and said to myself, “that won’t be us.”

And it wasn’t. Because we were not keeping up with the Joneses at all. We had one lap top, one television and the wii. That was it. I have, and still do, a crappy phone, with no data plan and 200 texts per month. (And  I am almost there, so call me if you need me, kay?) My husband has his work laptop and his Blackberry. We were bare bones.

And, according to an article in Woman’s Day in October, really behind the times.

Panic set in as I showed the article to my husband.

The kids will lag in school! Their friends will make fun of them! They’ll be shunned from society! WE NEED TO UPGRADE NOW!

After I calmed down, we decided that it really was time to bite the bullet and get caught up with the rest of the world. At least partially.

So I did some research and we decided that Christmas would be a good time to introduce some technology upgrades to our household. I went to the ATT store and looked at all the new fangled phones that you could actually text on without sliding up half the phone to reveal the keyboard. Wow! (But there were too many choices. I got scared. So I still have my old phone.)

We  did, however, decide to purchase an iTouch for our 10-year-old son. It had been on his Christmas list for the last three years. Though oddly, he hadn’t mentioned it at ALL this year. I mean at all. (Though given he was in a phase, a World War II phase that meant EVERYTHING on his list had to do with outfitting him to be a reenactor of sorts.)

So I looked and found last generation’s model, which by the way I just don’t get. Even when you are trying to upgrade, you are still behind the times with Apple. The cool people have the new one. The uncool people have last generation. What evs. The iTouch 4 was cheaper and I am nothing if not cheap.

I also decided to get an iPad for the “family.” Although granted it was high on the list of my 7-year-old daughter’s wants from Santa, it would be for the family. I was certainly not going to get my daughter a piece of technology like an iPad solely because she wants it. I mean, we are behind the times, but going from 0 to 60 for a 7-year-old was out of the question. Right? Right?

ipad

I settled on an iPad (again, last generation — am I a glutton for punishment?) from Wal-Mart. I think I got a good price, certainly the best one I could find.

And boom! We are in the 21st century. Or sort of.

When I found out about my upcoming surgery, I figured an iPad would be just the ticket for me while I lay in bed recovering. So, since I was going to be monopolizing the iPad, I decided to get my husband a Kindle Fire. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I did actually blog that I would never get a Kindle. I meant for myself. I swear.)

Anyway, so I went to Staples, got the Kindle Fire HD and I swallowed hard.

We just bit the bullet.

So in the month of December, we tried to fish around with the kids about technology. My daughter was still firm on the iPad. But my son said he did not want an iTouch. At all. Great. Just great.

Anyway, fast forward to Christmas morning and everyone was thrilled with the new electronics under the tree. Even my son, who jumped for joy with his iTouch.

Over Christmas break, I walked into the living room where my family was. The cat and dog were in front of the blazing fire, the Christmas tree lights twinkled and the boughs of holly that hung gleamed bright over my window panes.

And there was silence.

My daughter, with her new pink headphones, was plugged into the iPad playing Temple Run. My son had his head buried in his iTouch playing some army game and my husband was fiddling with his new Kindle Fire HD.

They didn’t even know I was there. At all.

Guys? Guys? Family?

So I shouted, “Isn’t this bliss!” And got a chuckle or two, but no one raised their eyes from their iThings.

Okay then. We are now that family on the Christmas card.

I realize things are new, and I hope that the desire to be on the damn things constantly will dwindle.

It will dwindle, right? We won’t be that family that grunts answers to each other because we all have our heads buried in some screen will we?

I think I miss being blissfully under the technology bar.

Well, at least I have an idea for next year’s Christmas card.

Happy Screen Time.

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A little itch, a big itch and some glitter, I think

I have, thankfully, never suffered from allergies — seasonal, food or animal hair. I have “allergies” though they are probably more like just bad reactions to penicillin and some other families of antibiotics. All duly noted in my charts and I am given other types of antibiotics when I infrequently have to take them. Usually under the penalty of death, or I just can’t take it anymore. I just hate taking them. Even for a headache, it’s usually where my head is pounding like I am marching in a band before I open the bottle of Advil.

So having to take all these meds post surgery is well, pretty sucky. An antibiotic until all drains come out, some nerve thing, Valium, and Percocet. I stopped taking that one because frankly it kicked my butt so badly I couldn’t function. And the pain was doable with a higher dose of Tylenol. Like I said I am usually an Advil or Motrin kinda girl, but its a no-no for me right now.

As far as the physical recovery, it’s been pretty ok. I had 3 of the 4 drains taken out so now I look less like a plumbing supply truck and more like a person. One who wears oversized shirts and has pretty smelly hair. No showers till ALL the drains come out. It’s fine. I never sported the grunge during high school. Missed it by a decade. I was ruffles and shoulder pads then in the mid 80s. So, well I guess here we are now. Perhaps the grunge look will come back among stay-at-home-moms?  I’m guessing no. I kid. It’s not that bad. I can bathe just a little bit and have actually been to the salon for some washings.

In any case, things were moving along swimmingly with my recovery. That is until I began to itch. Like really itch. Like give me Freddy Krueger claws to scratch my skin till it comes off kind of itch.

freddy-krueger-glove

Of course I googled “itching after surgery” because, let’s face it, the Internet is here solely for self diagnosis and to keep up with entertainment. And Facebook, of course. But anyway, I found lots of stuff.

Mostly I read that the itch was due to healing. Healing schmealing. The itch on my torso and under my arms sucked worse than surgery itself or even having a catheter up the hoo ha for three days.

Needless to say, after at 2 am I hadn’t had more than 5 minutes of sleep, I said screw it and reached for the Percocet. I had a few hours of uninterrupted unitchy sleep. It was nice.

The next day, however, still the itch and the visiting nurse said to try hydrocortisone. So my husband was able to strategically place the lotion away from any incision site and  give me some relief.

But the next day at the plastic surgeon’s office visit, she took one look at me and my now very red, itchy and bumpy self and said I was allergic to the steritape they used during my surgery. She and her nurse promptly ripped EVERY single piece of tape off me. I mean it when I say ripped. I only wish there was some on my chin so she could have taken those pesky whiskers too. They wouldn’t have grown back in a year. Ouch.

So now I am a reddened, bumpy, little less itchy and tape-free version of my former grungy self. She gave me a prescription for some kind of anti- itch thing, like a Benadryl on steroids or something like that. She said it would make me very less itchy. And sleepy.  I couldn’t wait for that.

I think the lack of sleep the previous two nights combined with this new med to make me not itch, and sleep, was a recipe for a Jimi Hendrix-like out-of-body experience. It wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty funny, at least I think so. So I will share.

Yesterday was a snow day. I heard the phone ring at 5:30 a.m. and I knew it was the alert call that school was cancelled cause there was like 2 inches of snow on the ground. In New England. Where it is supposed to snow in the winter. But whatever. So, I fell back asleep. Then around 7 a.m. each kid came in to tell me that there was no school, kissed me on the cheek and went downstairs.

And here’s where it gets funky.

I feel my daughter take my foot out from under the blankets and start playing with it. Only I can’t really feel it. I thought it was weird. Then I hear her go into her room and come back and begin to outline my face with something cold. Then I hear her pad back into her room and come back and begin to shake something on my face. I realize she has just put glue on my face and shaken glitter on me. I actually feel the excess glitter sliding down my neck. Only I can’t open my eyes or talk. I think I hear myself call her name. I think I open one eye. I feel myself grab her by her pajamas and bring her close and whisper “get Daddy now.” Then I hear her leave. And then silence. I can’t move.

And then all of a sudden, I wake up, my own pajamas balled in my fist, and sit up in bed. No problem. No glitter. No glue. Just happy kids downstairs watching tv on a snow day. Holy Hallucinations.

But as far as hallucinations go, having my sweet daughter put some pretty glitter on her sleeping mommy’s face to brighten things up isn’t so bad, now is it?

Anyway, the second night, no strange and sparkly hallucinations to speak of. Now as far as the itching madness from the steritape, it’s better. I won’t talk about the other itch that comes with antibiotics. Unless of course you want me to.

I don’t think you do.

One drain to go and then I’ll stand in the shower for 6 days. And frankly, I can’t wait.

Life, Boobs and Meds on an Empty Stomach

I can’t actually call myself much of a blogger anymore since I looked back at my stats and, gasp! the last blog was in October. Yikes. How times slips by. But thismomisalwayswrite is still my blog and I can come and go as I need to. It’s been an outlet for me. Where I try to be witty at times, poignant at others and then just darn corny at others. Cant help it. It’s just me.

In any case, so much has happened in the last several months, I don’t even  know where to start.

I guess the beginning would be good.

We can really talk first about Sandy. The hurricane. Remember her? Darn bitch too if I can be truthful here. Caused soon much physical damage, and pain and anguish to so many people it just is unimaginable. Sure up here in the sticks, we lost our power for a while but we a did get a generator the day before and a kind electrician trudged through downed limbs and floods to hook us up the day after. And I picked up my mom who lives near the Connecticut shoreline and she stayed with us for a while until her town’s power came back on. No biggie. A Halloween Trick or Trunk event where the town’s park was lined with decorated cars and people gave out candy to kids was a sure light in our darkened town that Halloween night.

But then seeing the photos of Staten Island and Queens and Far Rockaway, a place that my own mom had lived for y ears,completely decimated, and I just couldn’t bear not to try to help. A teacher at our town’s middle school grew up in Breezy Point and did an everything drive for residents out there. Me  thinks I bought out the whole Kmart store and packed bins of whatever I could think of and dropped them off in the lobby of the school that was already so full of things from people willing to help. A beautiful thing in the aftermath of the awful.

Ands then there was the other Sandy. Sandy Hook Elementary School, just a few short miles away from here. Words can not even begin to express the sadness and grief the world is feeling. For most of us around here in our little Connecticut neck of the woods, it was not a six degrees of separation situation. It was one degree. Everyone knew someone affected by this awful tragedy. A child, a teacher, a principal, a mom, a dad, a first responder, a friend, an ER doctor, a funeral director. Someone. And the dark grey cloud has been over us since. Yes, life does go on and the kids are now back in their new school thanks to the kindness of neighboring Monroe. And everyday gets easier. Maybe. I don’t know and can’t even imagine. But yes life does go on. We pray everyday for the sadness and heavy burden to ease.

So that brings this to my own life. As I type this latest blog, I am resting in bed after surgery. I was diagnosed in early November with breast cancer again. Not a recurrence. So that part is good. It’s a new breast cancer, in the other breast. It’s been 15 years for me, so needless to say, it was a shock to hear the words again.

For those who know me, since I came out of the closet so to speak as a breast cancer survivor prior to my first Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in 2007, I have been a diligent and perhaps at times annoying advocate for early detection, breast exams and mammograms at 40, regardless of what new AMA directive came out. Every year I wish my friends, family and those brave enough to be my Facebook friends a Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October with a little reminder to get checked: how ever you need to. Dense breast ultrasounds, regular mammos whatever.

I even had my annual mammo on 10/10/12. Looking back, that sounded like a lucky number. In early November, my breast surgeon’s office called to remind me of my annual appointment with her. I hadn’t written it down, forgot about it and almost canceled. I thought better about canceling because she is the lady and I may not get back on her crazy schedule for a looooong while. So I went.

And when I got there, she threw my mammos up on the xray film thingy and said “They missed something. Here.” I didn’t have my cheater readers on so I couldn’t make out the microscopic things she called calcifications up there on the film. She even called the radiologist while I sat there and basically asked him WTF? How did you miss this. (She’s awesome by the way. I love her.)

In any case, she immediately set me up for a stereotactic biopsy the following Monday. In case you don’t know what that is, you lie on a table, boob through a hole, they squeeze it in a mammogram machine from underneath and then take samples. Yeah.

So that was fun to look forward to. But while she was examining me in her office, she found a lump, one that I had been feeling but thought it was one of the gazillion fibroid adenomas she’d already biopsied. Nope. New one. Damn. “Have five minutes and we’ll test it now?” Sure. I had time and she, being so diligent herself wanted it done. So one core biopsy (like a staple gun) later, an ice pack in my bra and instructions for Monday at the hospital for the stereotactic and I was good to go. She was pretty confident that this little thing was nothing. She was more concerned about the two other ones she’d get next week. I’d have the results from the core then.

Just so you know, procedures before a weekend suck. Your mind goes to dark places, yup. Dark.

Anyway, Monday came and my daughter was sick. I begged and bribed her to go to school so my husband could drive me. No go. She really was sick. So off I went alone with my very now blue and black and yellow boob from the core biopsy.

I don’t need to go into details. An upside down mammo with your boob in a hole and neck in a funky position — could only have been designed by a man. Maybe a nicer man would have used tempurpedic, but that’s for another discussion.

Anyway, after the first lesion was tested and my doc was getting ready for the second, she sat down in front of me and gave me the results from her office biopsy. “You have cancer again.” It threw me and my initial reaction was a few tears and then anger. Get these things off. Now.

She didn’t even get to the second lesion. I was going to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction and that was that. It was something that I had been thinking about as the one that I had radiated 15 years ago was smaller than the other, which was really now a B long. It hung there and I had to pad my bra to get some symmetry. She asked me every time I saw her over the years about reconstruction and I just didn’t want to do it. I had an excuse every time. Want to breast feed, kids too young, don’t want to go under anesthesia if I don’t have to, there’s nothing wrong with the good one (except the droopiness) blah blah blah.

She looked at me while I sat on the table, wiping away a few tears and told me, “Now you have too. I am making you.” And that was that. My decision was made.

The hard part was the timing. Just my husband and I knew as we hosted Thanksgiving with smiles. And lots of wine. And then we waited to tell the kids. There was always a reason not to. We decorated the tree, my daughter’s annual Nutcracker, my sister’s visit from LA, a party. Just not the right time. And then on December 13, we sat them down and told them about it. My daughter cried a little and my son hugged me and said he would say lots of prayers. It went smoothly. We had prepped each one of their teachers at the parent/teacher meetings as well as the school social worker so we were good to go. I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in a month.

And then Sandy Hook happened and everything, I mean every single thing paled in comparison. I cried for days for these people, did what I could to help with the things happening in our town and tried to tell my own kids that things like this don’t usually happen. That school is still safe and a police officer would now be there making it safer for them. I could not hug my kids and every friends’ kids enough. So close. Too close.

The grief and sadness I felt for the people of Newtown was the one thing that took my mind off of what was happening here at home. It was easy not to tell people about me. And it was good not to think too much about it.

But eventually people were finding out and I felt I needed to explain. So cowardly I did it in an email! Not really cowardly but hey, it was now three days away and I just wanted people I cared about to know. And for them to know that it was caught early and a sentinel node biopsy would determine whether surgery would be enough.

And thankfully it is. Negative node, surgery, lots of pain and some new boobs that will soon stand at attention. Yay!

A downside is the type of surgery I had, latissmus dorsi flap that takes a back muscle and tunnels it through to make a new boob on the one that was radiated 15 years ago. (I know .. TMI.) I haven’t looked but my husband was kind and said the scar wasn’t that long. And one of the visiting nurses said “wow that is a big incision.” Yikes.

So there are a lot of things happening. Recovery, from the cancer, from Sandy Hook and trying to get into a comfortable position. Through this ordeal, all of them really, I have learned that Hillary Clinton, though I don’t agree with most of what she has to say, was on the money when she said “It takes a village.”

The support for Hurricane Sandy by strangers and the world over was really awesome. The continued support for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy is something I have never seen. It makes me cry every time I see someone reaching out to do something. (And if Extreme Makeover ever sees this, please please please raze that school and give those kids a new place to start over.)

And for me, the continued support I have received from friends, family and neighbors is enough to swell my heart to full. I feel like George Bailey. The richest man in town.

And the very latest thing I have learned is two fold: Do not attempt to blog while on Valium and take meds on a full stomach.

I promise this won’t be a blog about breast cancer, but since it is about my life, and there is that, well, bear with me. 🙂

xoxo