You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2008.

So, as grad students, if we want health care, we can get it through the school, but then we have to go to the undergrad student health facility. It’s not bad, it’s just not excellent.

The lady I normally see is great. Very professional, helpful, friendly. Wednesday, when I had my physical, she asked if I was close to graduating, and then said she’d look forward to seeing me next year when I said I wasn’t. She took the news of my mom okay and asked how I was doing, especially mentioning the mental health care–we get 10 free visits if I’m at my wit’s end. After the 10, apparently they just cut you loose? No idea. She talked with me when I asked about the possibility of starting mammograms and gave me a referral to the Breast Clinic, who then said I didn’t need a mammogram and that’s that. WTF??? And she’s always very upfront about some of the issues I’ve been facing. So, she’s great.

However, by routine physical, I mean they take my weight, blood pressure and do a pap. Umm? There’s more to me than that.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the lady’s great, and she does what she can. It’s some of the other people I’ve seen who I don’t trust. See above: Breast Clinic. See below: lady I saw about ringworm. See: anyone else I’ve ever seen there. Why do you think I always request the same Doc?

When I first got here, they asked what prescriptions I needed and then just wrote them out for me. No proof needed. No prior medical records. Kinda scary, actually. I could have claimed to have needed any number of things. Or had any number of diseases. Or not had any number of diseases.

And the majority of the people I see care about two things: Do I need a flu shot? Do I need birth control?

Hi, I have a broken arm. Have you had a flu shot yet?

Hi, I’ve got ringworm. Do you need your birth control prescription refilled?

For undergrads who are still on mom and dad’s insurance and can go elsewhere, this is fine.

But it does kind of suck.

Take the ringworm, for instance.

I went in last week to ask about it. It had spread to my face and lower arms, when it had initially just been my upper arms. It took me a day (yes, reasonably fast, I know, but they don’t really plan ahead much so it’s usually not too bad of a wait) to get an appointment that lasted less than 30 seconds. And given that I came in with something potentially contagious, the chick was remarkably casual about the whole thing. She said she didn’t know what it was and she’d write me a referral to Dermatology. No poking, no prodding, no investigation, no nothing. Just a brief shine of the light on one spot and a referral slip to take to the referral office, where I waited. (And waited.)

Dermatology couldn’t see me for over a week, and by the time I got in, simply told me I had eczema and to put lotion on everything. Again, the appointment lasted about a minute, unless you count that the resident then had to go get the actual doctor to confirm, etc, etc, etc, and that I’d waited for over an hour in the cold little room with nothing to do. Except read all about the Civil War from some magazine. Woot. Not much poking and prodding at all.

I’m happy that it’s eczema, just dry patchy skin and I should put lotion on it, and that it’s not actually ringworm again and is horribly contagious. But…

I was, needless to say, somewhat unsatisfied with the whole experience. But that’s just how health care is around here. You have to go have an appointment to get a referral, and then the referrals within the system take forever cause you’re a student, etc.

I’m glad they provide some coverage on health care, and that they have given me things like referrals to the endocrinologist with little protest.

But I repeat, there’s more to my body than the possibility of flu or pregnancy.

And Stanford theoretically has some of the best health care.



He had done something other than play that video game today. (Laundry was promised, and I was looking forward to clean sheets.)

He hadn’t walked into the house and picked up the xbox controller directly upon getting home. (I’m home early and he’s had the day off. Time together? And this is why I turned down Amelia and Rhiannon for drinks and girl time?)

He hadn’t left the TV on while we were gone because he couldn’t save the game (and somehow turning off the TV but leaving the Xbox on would interfere with that?)

He had been waiting outside like he said he would when I gave him ample warning. (Instead, I had to call again.)

He didn’t keep getting incredibly mad every time he died because “the screen doesn’t give me a good view” or “the game doesn’t load the new fight move fast enough” or “it won’t switch to the mode I want it in”. And he keep slamming the controller down. (It’s a game, dude. It’s not real life or death, trust me.)

EDIT: He hadn’t given me an “I’m almost done” an hour ago.


In other news, I got my car back today. It looks beautiful and smells like paint. They had to replace/repair a whole bunch of stuff in the back, and thank god for insurance. I have 3700+ reasons to appreciate AAA right now. Did have to pay the deductible, but we should get that back when AAA and the guy’s insurance get things sorted out. In the mean time, I wanted my car back.

So the cute little rental car will get returned in the morning and I’ll be happily driving my car around again.

That is, if I can pry the controller from him and get him to follow me at least as far as Hertz.

If you can tell me how to do that, I’ll owe you. Lots.

But maybe I just need to get out more, give my mind something more to occupy itself with.

Amelia called late last night.

“Is your husband on the way home?”


“Oh, okay then.


“Well, I was going to see if you wanted to go out for a drink.”


I’ve been avoiding alcohol since I didn’t want to use it as a way to deal, but John and Amelia both pointed out that an occasional drink is not a crutch. It can relax and sooth and all, but it’s not a crutch. Not until I start having them all the time, and more and more. Which I don’t like alcohol enough to do.

So we went out. We went to a local burger house, and had burgers piled high with calories (mmmm, calories), and I had a root beer fizz. Tasty. And for all that there was vodka in it, it simply tasted like root beer, which is my kind of drink.

And I went from sitting at home and randomly bursting into tears, first at the end of Scrubs (for no apparent reason) and then when The Italian Job started (when I remembered that the Dad dies in the beginning) to being exhausted but feeling pretty good.

I think rambling a bit yesterday helped, too.

So my new plan is not to sit and dwell or stew or whatever, but to get out and be out and thinking about the normal, everyday stuff for a bit of each day, and to put stuff into words as much as I can, even if I feel like it doesn’t all make sense.


I haven’t had a lot of them lately, but they do seem to be bouncing around inside my head.

It’s strange how your priorities suddenly realign when a loved one is sick. Missing the Stanford-Arizona game to be home suddenly didn’t matter. Work didn’t seem as important.

But I can feel it creeping back in.

Work is taking over the little energy and attention I have left.

Basketball is crowding in to give me something of a distraction. Arizona’s even winning, and so is Stanford.

I keep trying to pull friends and family in close, but I don’t want to smother them.

I want to call my mom and talk to her every day, but I don’t want to hem her in or make her talk about herself if she just wants to live like everything is normal. I hate being here, in California, where I can’t be any help. But in some ways I’m feeling somewhat glad that life can go on normally, or at least superficially normally.

With Amy visiting, and then the crash of the jet lag, John and I haven’t, ahem, properly spent some quality time together, and that’s some comfort I’m missing. This probably isn’t helped by the fact that given the slightest provocation lately, I snap. We haven’t argued, but I’ve been standoffish and have taken offense at even gentle teasing.

And the stress dreams have started again. I dreamt Saturday night that I’d forgotten to put together Journal Club for lab Monday. I hadn’t, but I still had two days to do it in. I have a number of them each night, and I tend to wake up panicking about whatever, only to realize it’s okay. My subconscious is running through my mental ‘to do’ list and making sure I don’t forget anything, apparently.

But I’ve been having trouble laying this all out lately. I think I’m just overly stressed and worried and anxious. Big surprise, huh? But it leaves me feeling like I’ve got so much going on inside that I can’t seem to let out.

I’ve always dealt with things by talkingtalkingtalking. By saying what I’m feeling as if that will let me let it go and move on. Usually it works pretty well. Apparently, cancer is one of the things you can’t talk your way out of.

I feel like we’re in as much control as it’s possible to be with this disease. I feel like I’m done being angry, and I’m ready just to fight for my mom in any way I can. I feel like I need to concentrate on work right now, to live life like it’s normal. My brain, apparently, feels differently.

And all of this has been bouncing around inside my head lately, and I can’t seem to let it all out. So I’ve been left with both nothing to say and no way to say all the things I want to say.


Like the bumper sticker John gave me awhile back for my desk:

Life’s a beach, then you dive.


I guess what I’m trying to say, oh so eloquently, is that my life is going on like normal for the most part, but at the same time, life is no longer normal for me. And the extra emotion I have invested in both the normality and the unusual is getting to me right now.

Yeah, just a wee bit.

For all the things I could have done without in the past week, there has been something to balance it out. But I’m feeling the need to rant just a bit. Terribly sorry.

1. The big one. The “C” word.
1. Getting to see my mom for a week and mostly being just the two of us. Getting to take care of her as a “payback” for the first 18 years of my life when she took care of me.

2. Getting rear-ended.
2. Well, I can’t think of anything, but other than delaying my night by about 2 hours, this wasn’t too bad. His insurance is covering my repairs, and my insurance is giving me a rental car. Serves him right for being an Arizona State fan…

3. Ringworm. It’s a fungal disease like athlete’s foot, only not on your feet. It leaves little dry, red, scaly patches of skin and itches. I’m allergic to it, so it spreads like crazy, especially when my skin’s all dry and cracked anyway.
3. Getting to see the dog and play with her. My dad has substituted “See you later, alligator” with “See you later, Pookie-gator”. We always responded with “After while, crocodile”. (Is anyone else’s family weird?) The dog, being the dog, just looks at him with either a “You’re not taking me with you on the car trip?” expression or a “Leave, already! I want to go nap!” expression. Pookie is a nickname for Pearson, btw. And I’ll hopefully be seeing the doc tomorrow to get something stronger than OTC meds.

4. Drying out in the cold of Iowa. Getting several inches of snow and the negative degrees.
4. Getting a massage. Seeing my parents. Seeing the dog. Being home. (And how is it, that even when John and I have made our home here, there is still home? Does that ever change? And what if my parents ever move, meaning I won’t be able to go home to a house where I have “my room”? Bah.)

5. Spending the week cooking and cleaning and errand-ing and all. Getting up early and going to bed late and doing lots. Not sure I could ever be a care-taker unless I really did care about someone.
5. Helping out. Being home. (Again.)

6. Getting delayed coming home and spending the night in Minneapolis.
6. Getting to stay in a fairly nice hotel, and coming into the same airport this morning as Amy, which started off our visit nicely.

7. Arizona losing to Stanford.
7. Stanford notching another win. Stanford pummeling Arizona State to hand them their first loss of conference play. Arizona beating Cal in what was probably a pretty good game.

8. Getting up early and generally being at appointments by 9am at the latest, which is approximately half an hour after I normally get up.
8. Being around to find out what was truly going on. Helping.

9. Missing John.
9. Bringing home Iowa chops and some Maytag bleu cheese, both of which are expensive and not as good here.

10. Spending time with the one relative I don’t always get along with particularly well. Having her countermand direct orders from the doctor to my mom because she read something holistic medicine-y somewhere.
10. Getting to see some other relatives. Knowing that she’s only trying to help. Knowing that my mom is hopefully smart enough to smile, nod, and not necessarily take her advice.

11. Eating A LOT.
11. Getting to eat at the one restaurant that I’ve truly missed and can’t find a replacement for her in the Bay Area.

12. Realizing I don’t quite remember my way around town any longer. Or at least not the street names, even if I do vaguely know where I’m going. Have to stop and think about how to get places before I go now.
12. Getting to drive a stick shift. Yay control!

13. Missing a scuba class. Not being there to help out when other staff bailed on Greg and James F.
13. Not having to work a scuba class in what is generally the coldest, choppiest time of the year. (They ran Maverick the same weekend, if that tells you anything.) Not having to be there to step into the breach when staff bailed, and trying to figure out how to be both staff and friend, or where the line is between “That’s okay, go ahead and sit out” and “Suck it up and do it”.

13’s a good number for rants, right?

Hrm, there may be more, but I’m out right now. I’ve been awake for 12 hours, and there’s still another 5 to go before John gets off work and we can go to dinner with Amy and Amelia. I’m off to take a nap.


Two of the top three reasons I left Iowa are the weather. One of those two is cold. We’re about 8 degrees outside, with wind chills that are supposed to reach -20 to -35 degrees tonight. Just about the time I have to drive to the airport. Bah.

Good thing I love my mom!

Not much to report. The chemo went okay. She’s been tired, and taking the nausea medicines, but has been okay. She spiked a fever, and we dutifully took her to the ER, but they think it was just a reaction to the drugs. So, so far, so good!

I’ve been working on some papers for work, chatting online with whoever is available, haunting news websites and blogs, and generally wearing as many layers of California clothes as I can fit on. The current record for my top half is a long sleeve shirt, a fleece vest, a fleece jacket, a wind-proof fleece jacket, a down vest, a down jacket, gloves, scarf, ear muffs and a hat. Sadly, there’s just not a good way to layer the bottom half. I used to own fleece-lined pants, but of course don’t any longer.

Two aunts are coming in this afternoon and tonight, so my mom and all her sisters will be together for the first time since my wedding. Should be fun. We’re theoretically getting massages tomorrow, and my skin is literally crying for the added moisture of massage oil.

The problem? I’ve got ringworm, a fungal disease like athlete’s foot. I get it every time I come home in the winter and my skin dries out. I probably get it from the dog. We’re washing her in anti-fungals the moment I leave so she can’t infect my mom. And trust me, I’m staying far away from my mom, applying anti-fungals, and washing my hands so often that they’re incredibly chapped. Rather me than her, though!

Yep, definitely love her.

Now if only Arizona had pummeled Stanford…

So, long story short. Maybe.

Friday, we (Amelia and I) sat around waiting for my parents to call after talking with the doc. The meeting was at 3:30, which I translated to 5:30 my time, but then realized was actually 1:30, and completely freaked out. So she “babysat” me all afternoon. We had lunch, did some errands, ran by her work, ran by my work, got rear-ended, had some coffee, did some laundry, had dinner…

Wait, you say. Back up a minute. Rear-ended?

Yeah, not exactly how I would have wanted to spend my evening. The guy two cars back didn’t stop at the light or something at which the rest of us were stopped and hit the girl behind us, who hit me. Good thing I’ve got a Toyota 4Runner with a hitch. The back door’s dented but otherwise pretty okay. The tow hitch probably hurt her more than her car hurt mine. She was taken away by the paramedics, Amelia and I were checked out, and I have no idea what happened to the guy. He was wearing an Arizona State jacket, which immediately got my hackles up, but I wasn’t too pissed until he tried to tell the chick in the middle car that she didn’t need the paramedics. At that point, Amelia and I were calling them, regardless. Insurance is taking care of it all, CHP was great help, and neither Amelia nor I were hurt that we know of. We’ve got a year to sue the pants off him.

So, I still got my laundry done and my suitcase packed and the bottle of wine for Amelia for Christmas picked up and given to her, but I didn’t get to bed until 12am. And then barely slept at all, probably through a mixture of restless thoughts over my mom, adrenaline from the accident, and fear of missing my alarm and thus my plane. Luckily, when the alarm went off at 5:45, I’d already been wide awake for about an hour, just laying in the dark taking comfort in John and the cats.

I made it through all the airports and whatnot just fine, and got to Iowa, where my parents and aunt picked me up. We went to dinner at an Indian restaurant, which was tasty, then headed home.

Sunday was church, lots of talking after church, and then just sitting around discussing the clinical trials that the doc had offered participation in to my mom. We were debating yea or nay on them. The cancer was preliminarily termed metastatic, meaning it had spread: possibly to bone, possibly to neck lymph nodes. Not good. 2 year survival average. Incurable. Sarah breaks down. John and Amelia talk her out of it. (But hold your horses, it gets better.)

There were also lots of basketball texts to let me know that Stanford almost beat Oregon. No luck. I am missing the Stanford-Arizona game Thursday to be here, but really, priorities are right with this. It sucks, but not in a way that matters much. Go Zona!! Basketball is a good distraction from pain and worry, but in the grand scheme, just that.

Monday, we went off to have various heart tests done to make sure her heart was working well for the chemo drugs, and then had a port put in that they can administer the drugs through. Minor surgery, and she was gone for about an hour and 3/4. Sarah breaks down again after she leaves.

Then lunch, where my mom and I had a picnic on the living room floor: tomato soup, crackers, hummus, tea, banana bread.

Finally, off to meet with the doc again to hear the final results, since most of Friday’s were preliminary.

And… (drum roll, please)

Not metastatic. Not in the bones. Not in the neck lymph nodes. Just the breast. Large, but treatable. Curable. Sarah doesn’t break down, nor does mom, but I think it was about the best moment of our collective lives. Honestly. Tops my wedding easily, which is currently supposed to be the highlight of my life. Dad arrives, we tell him. I call John, then Amelia. I can’t keep from laughing, crying. It’s officially Stage 3C, which isn’t great, but after you hear things like “incurable”, “metastatic”, “2 years average”, it’s damn good.

I fully believe in the power of prayer right now. I’ve probably prayed more in the last couple days/weeks than in a really, really long time. Thank you again to all those who did so as well.

So there was much celebration, by which I mean we chased the dog around the neighborhood after she realized I was a pansy who thought she could be trusted out at the end of the driveway without a leash while I got the mail, ran some errands to the grocery store, Target, Panera, flower store and gas station, and made dinner and watched the movie “Frankie and Jonny”. Have to say, it’s not a very good movie. James F called me part way through to talk about the dive class this weekend, which I missed, and I was glad for the half-hour interruption.

So today, we’re at the hospital (yay high speed internet!!) starting chemo. My mom’s asleep in her chair after all the anti-nausea, the first and part of the second drug. We’ve got one more to go after this. My dad’s off at the pharmacy getting the anti-nausea meds. Life is incredibly good.

Keep us in your thoughts. We don’t have this thing beat, but we know now it can be beat, not just held in check.

Brat-I’ll let you know about the cancer caps. I really appreciate the offer!!

We’ll see how the next couple of days go with reactions to drugs and all. All of my mom’s sister will be here this weekend, so we’ll be having fun in the sun. At least through windows, as the high’s Saturday and Sunday are a predicted balmy 5 degrees and 2 degrees, respectively. I kid you not. I did not bring enough coats.

Okay, off the read the zillions of emails that didn’t seem important on the first look through, and start to catch up on blogs. I’ll keep y’all posted. Thanks again.

Scene: Me on the couch, playing solitaire gallery on the computer, checking basketball scores every so often on John coming back from the bedroom with a pillow. Sharks hockey game on in the background.
Time: 8:30 or so

John: *plump plump plump*

Me: What’cha doing?

John: Plumping my pillow. Figure if they’re softer, I might sleep better.

Me: Or you could take some of the nighttime cold&cough medicine. Hint hint hint.

John: *plump plump plump*

Scene: Same.
Time: 5-10 minutes later

John: *plump plump plump*

Me: Really? Aren’t you done yet?

John: Nope. There’s still some lumps.

Scene: Same.
Time: 1-2 minutes later

John: *plump plump plump*

Me: *wham* (slamming hand down onto pillow) Enough! It’s plumped!

John: You’ve flattened it! I’ll have to start over!


Scene: Bedtime
Time: Somewhat later

John puts the pillow down, puts the NON FLUFFED one on TOP of it, and sits down.

I immediately flop over onto his pillows.

He tickles me until I get off the pillows.

Repeat scene twice.

After reading, he shoves one of his pillows over on top of my head hands me one of his pillows. The fluffed one. Mwahahahah.

Snuggly good night!

Thanks for your concern, guys.

I talked to my mom this morning, and she’s doing well, or at least sounding pretty cheerful over the phone.

The postponement is actually a good thing. Sort of a “let’s run a zillion tests before we decide to chop off a body part instead of chopping it off and then running tests” kind of thing. So I may not be as helpful when I’m home, more sitting in doctor’s offices keeping company than helping her recover, but she may also start surgery or the chemo, depending on what they decide is the first step, next week, in which case I’ll be there to help.

But yes, it’s good to do the tests, and the oncologist seems very confident and capable, according to my mom, and I think that attitude has helped her (my mom) a lot.

AND my parents are FINALLY getting high-speed internet. You have NO idea how exciting this is. I’m sort of expecting to go home and find that they’re getting cable, too, which would about give me a heart attack from shock. So as of Tuesday night, I should be able to connect and fill you guys in.

So yes, this means more waiting, but we’ll be in a much better position to decide a course of action. Or the doctors will, and we’ll just follow it.

If she does have surgery in the future, I’ll probably most definitely go home for that as well, and possibly again if she starts chemo or radiation.

And Julie, if I do find a cure for the common cold, I’ll let you know. I’d be set for life if I could do that!

The surgery was postponed. My mom is undergoing every test known to (wo)man so her oncologist can figure out what’s going on. Once we know, it’ll be surgery/chemo and them chemo/surgery.

In the meantime, I have a vicious, vicious cold, even worse than the plague of December, and I’m desperately trying to get well before I fly home. The last thing my mom needs is a cold. And John’s sick too, so he can’t even take care of me.

And Arizona lost to Arizona State, of all teams.

And Coach K of Duke is the 6th winningest coach ever.

And my cloning isn’t working.

Can’t a girl get a break?

However, I’m trying to find some normalacy in the mundane. Like the cloning not working.

Or the fact that the gel doc, the machine that takes purdy pictures of our gels, has been moved, so now instead of turning right-left, I turn left-left-left to get to the room. However, the bathroom is a left-left-right turn away. I haven’t carried my gel into the bathroom yet, but there have been several close calls.

It’s the small things right now that are keeping me going. So if I seem trivial or superficial in the days to come, I think it’s because I don’t want the big things to take over. I’ll keep y’all updated, but it may be awhile before we know more about the big picture.

In the mean time…

Q: What do you call a cow spying on another one?
A: A steak out.

There are two apples lying in a crate.
The first one says, “Man, my head hurts!”
The second one screams “EEK! A talking apple!”

Two cows are discussing artificial insemination.
Daisy tells Betsy that she’s had it done.
“Really?” says Betsy. “I don’t believe you!”
“It’s true!” replies Daisy. “No bull!”

EDIT: Stanford won. Woot. Okay, fine, that’s something. Shoulda been Arizona’s win though.


January 2008
« Dec   Feb »

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