Day 2 – 30 Days of Thanks – A Little Dog’ll Do Ya!

I had decided we were not pet people.  Jim and I had the most amazing dog ever when we first got married, and she passed away peacefully when she was nine.  Then we hit a rough patch.  I made it my mission to only find pets that would destroy my house, terrorize my children, and cause pet behavioralists to run screaming from my home.  No, seriously.

The nail in our family pet coffin came when we realized our Irish Wolfhound, Rosie, was the reason our Irish-American baby, Granuaile, was breaking out in horrible rashes and experiencing breathing difficulties.  She had dog allergies.  The pet nazi voice loomed ominously in my head – “No dog for you!”

But kids and dogs seem to go together, and it wasn’t too long before we started looking at pets again.  In the end, we decided to bring home two dogs with good reputations for being hypo-allergenic.  Lusi, who came to us from Italy, is a smart, amazing, and eager to please Lagotto Romagnolo.  She is a one of a kind dog who will do anything you ask.

And then there’s Harper Vee Marti.  Named after (a) a character from the Wizards of Waverly Place (b) the amazing Dr. V – Nestor Veitia and (c) the famous Cuban poet/patriot, Jose Marti, she is a Havanese.  Fuzzy, compact, and a little bit aloof, there’s something special about Harper.

Harper’s special talent is knowing.  When I was recovering from my kidney failure last summer, she would sit on the arm of the chair while I slept, knowing that I needed her company.  When the kids want to put bows in her hair and dresses on her fuzzy butt, she knows not to snap or growl while little hands manipulate her into humiliation.  And when Jim has two pieces of lunch meat in his hands, she knows just which side the big piece is on, and that’s the hand she sits near.  She knows when Lusi needs someone to play with, Eilis needs someone to talk to, or Jim needs someone to laugh at.  She just knows.

I love both of our dogs.  It’s almost like we’ve hit the dog lottery not once, but twice.  I am thankful for both of them.

But I am so, so thankful for the things that Harper knows.

2011 – What I Learned This Year

I could sum up my year in one word.  School.  I feel like the entire year was consumed by my educational aspirations.  But aside from all the -ologies I studied in 2011, I’ve learned quite a few other things.  With a year that saw me recovering from last fall’s bout with MRSA and then a stay in ICU battling kidney failure, I had lots of time to reflect on things – the good, the bad, and what was more important.

So here goes:

I learned that it’s perfectly okay to be sad about the things I’ve lost.  My sister, who died way too young; my dad, who fought for the last ten years of his life to make sure he snatched every bit of joy and happiness he could in the time he had left; the five babies I never got to hold or cuddle or sniff the tops of their tiny heads.  I know now that it’s okay to still find myself in a puddle of my own tears over not having those things.  But it’s even more important to celebrate and appreciate the things that I haven’t lost.  I have three amazing daughters, who can melt my heart with their beautiful smiles and warm me on my coldest days with their giggles.  I have a husband who loves me – cherishes me – and through all of his own battles, always manages to make me feel like his number one priority.  I am blessed with an awesome sister, terrific parents and step-parents, and extended family and friends that I adore.

I learned that it really does take the worst to make you truly understand and appreciate the best.  The worst snowstorms help you appreciate the warmest days.  A bad grade on a test makes you truly grateful when you get an A.  A bad eye day for Jim makes a good eye day such a gift.  Laying in bed in intensive care helps you to remember to find gratitude when “it’s only a cold” or “it’s a small cut”.  I’m going to bitch way less about how sore my nose is when I get a head cold and be happy instead that they discovered Puffs with Lotion!

I have finally figured out what a “good” doctor is.  I’ve had the same primary care doctor for almost 30 years.  While I’ve appreciated everything he’s done for me, I never really appreciated what a good doctor he is.  He’s funny.  I don’t mind going to see him, because I feel I will surely be entertained, but this year, when we needed balls to the wall, he stepped up to the plate.  And you already know that I truly believe I found God’s gift to medicine when I found Dr. Veitia.  So if you’re in the area, and need a primary care doctor, it’s Dr. Gary Heck.  Looking for a phenomenal surgeon?  Dr. Nestor Veitia.  And you’ll love them as much as I do when you meet some of the other doctors that are out there.

I”d like to say that in 2011, I figured out the meaning of life.  Well, at least my life.  I haven’t.  But I have made huge strides in figuring out what was important.  Family, friends, health, education, and Mickey Mouse.  If you discover the joy in all of that, you don’t really need to know the meaning of life – you just need to enjoy it.

Save the TaTas, Stress Out the Mamas

I have happily gone along for the past ten or so years avoiding getting a mammogram.  I had one once, after losing my mother’s aunt and my father’s mother to breast cancer, and I figured no cancer on the planet could be as painful and humiliating as a mammogram.  I vowed to do whatever necessary not to have one done again – even if that meant getting the name of Chaz Bono’s doctor.

Well, as you can imagine, Chaz and I don’t travel in the same circles, so it was becoming quite obvious I wasn’t going to run into him, and when my doctor shoved his “it’s breast cancer awareness in here every month” prescription for what should be a yearly mammogram, I figured, what the hell.  I had these old boobs lifted last summer, and rarely have a chance to show them off, so why not?  And really, could the mammogram be as bad as I remember?

Why yes, it can!  But I optimistically left the radiologist’s office thinking it went rather well.  I was in and out in just a few minutes; I resisted the urge to belt out a few lines of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It” as the technician was squishing and squeezing me into place, and while it was way more painful than I remembered it to be, I was done for at least another year.  Go me!

Then the letter came in the mail.

Okay, can I stop here for a second and tell you – if you’d like to casually mention to me that I might possibly have a disease that could potentially kill me, maybe you could text me?  Send an email?  Gimme a call?  Something a little more personal than a letter in the mail.

The letter simply said, “The results of your mammogram indicate the need for further studies.  Hope you’re having a nice day!”  Okay, I may have made up the nice day part.

Who doesn’t go into a tailspin with that kind of letter?

I called my doctor – the evil doer that made me go for the stupid test – and they didn’t even have the results.  And it took two days for them to get them.  The surgeon who did my breast lift was quite comforting in informing me the mammogram mishap likely had nothing to do with the surgery he did, but that I shouldn’t worry about what may be just a very routine recheck.  Easy for him to say, as he has no boobs that are in need of a recheck.

I opted not to share the news with too many people in advance, knowing that I’d garner way more sympathy when I had some actual news to share, but I did find tremendous reassurances from a few good Moms and my awesome sister.  I parceled out in my head all of my most valuable possessions – my Moms Panel pink collection to my closest Moms Panel friends; my children to that awesome sister (to kinda get back at her for all the times she was a pain in my arse when I had to watch her growing up); my husband to his good pal Dr. Veitia; my Disney pin collection to Amy and Anthony.

And today was the follow up testing.

Whew, am I glad that’s over with!  I take back everything I ever said about cancer almost being preferable to the pain and humiliation of the mammogram – even though I said it in jest.  If I could have told that woman today to squeeze a little harder to make sure she was seeing everything clearly, I would have.  And then when they did the ultrasound, it was all I could do to keep from taking the wand out of the woman’s hand to find the damn lump myself!

When all was said and done, I do have a little something in there, but they aren’t going to worry about it at the moment.  Their feeling is that it is entirely benign, and really very small.  It may be something I’ve had all along, but at this point, it is definitely not something to worry about.  At least for another six months.

The sweat and tears that have poured out of my body this week living in the FEAR that something COULD be wrong have given me a renewed appreciation for everything my Sisters battling breast cancer go through.  No superhero could be stronger; no warrior tougher; no soldier braver.  I’m wearing pink in honor of you guys tomorrow.

Although not Moms Panel pink – that’s already spoken for in my will.

Latest Update From My Crack Medical Team

I admit it.  I am not the best patient on the planet, which really sucks for my surgeon, who is the most kind, patient, and caring doctor.

 

I have, however, been doing everything I know how to be a good patient this time around.  And for almost a full month, I had absolutely no post-op complications.

Tell me why I don’t like Mondays?

Oh yeah – because that’s the day stuff started really going wrong.

I woke up Monday morning and I was in a puddle of ooze.  I thought I had just gotten really, really sweaty during the night (thank you, menopause); but when I sat up, the sheets were covered with a rather unpleasant drainage of bodily fluids.

I now have two open wounds – one about the size of a dime; the other about the size of a, well, not a dime 🙁

I’m so glad my doctor had a nice week of vacation, so he’s well rested and ready to tackle me!

Back on antibiotics.  Visiting nurses start tomorrow to come and pack and dress my wounds.  And I am under the strictest orders to retract my offer to participate on Dancing With the Stars; Deadliest Catch; Cirque du Soleil; and even, gosh darn it, American Pickers 🙁  I thought I was behaving before.  I’m not even allowed now to reach my arm out of my car window to grab my latte at the Starbucks drive through 🙁

Say a prayer that I stay infection free.  I’m optimistic, but it never hurts to have someone besides me bend His ear 🙂

A Light At The End of the Tunnel?

Today marked visit number I’ve lost count with the fabulous Dr. Nestor Veitia.  I’m going to run out of things to operate on before I’m going to want to give up visiting with this guy!

It was the first time in a long time that I felt restrained giddiness about this healing process!  I look amazing – I don’t say that to be arrogant, I’m just comparing what I looked like before to what I look like now, and the transformation is amazing.  Dr. Veitia has been patient, understanding, caring, compassionate, and concerned – and has worked so hard to get me to this point.  I could not be happier.

The wound VAC is totally gone as of today – the end of my one week test period without it.  How awesome is that?  I’m headed to Florida in a week to do a whirlwind weekend that combines a BFF reunion with a Walt Disney World Moms Panel PR event.  I don’t have to worry about my battery dying, the machine failing, the nurses complaining that I’m supposed to be house bound.  It’s pure pleasure this time around.

People have asked, and I just wanted you to know that I feel fine.  Better than fine.  At some point in the not too distant future, I’ll share the before and afters with you.  I hope you’ll be as amazed as I am.