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There is little in a not-so-good week that a good meeting with the boss, leaving work a smidge early, a trip into the city, a visit to the Nightlife at the Cal Academy of Science, a gin and tonic, good friends, a glass of red wine, some Thai noodles, and a lot of good conversation, not to mention some very cool exhibits, can’t fix.

Not even an anaconda in the tropics tank can bump all that! Or the baby snakes in the aquatics area!

Here’s to Friday and a lovely weekend!

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Do you ever have days like this?

On one hand, you’re to exhausted to even be exhausted. Where the stress, the working, the menial tasks, the meetings, the talking, the stress, the just being are far too much for you to handle? Where you finally get to the point where you can go home to your couch, only to realize how daunting the walk to the car is? Where, as much as you long to go home, all you kind of want to do is stop right where you are and lay down and cry?

Yeeaah, that’s about where I’m at.

On the other hand, days like this make the simple pleasures in life seem so much bigger and brighter: I remembered to bring my new tube of chapstick into lab!! And I just got to open it! Wheeee!!!

You just had to go and jinx it again, didn’t you?

Gah. No more references at all!

So, how about those Mets? No, Julie doesn’t like baseball. How about those Oscars?

No jinxing things, okay?

So, what else to mention…

Well, I’m still working on writing my paper, which is great fun, let me tell you! Despite not providing too many comments on my writing, my boss commented to me on Wednesday that if I’ve got a committee meeting coming up, I should try to have a final draft of my paper by this weekend. Yeeeaaahhh. I’m working on it. And progressing, theoretically.

Hrm, fun things to talk about…

Oh, my shoulder/neck is getting better! I was pain-free for nearly a week leading up to my appointment a week ago, then made the faulty decision to do some cardio kickboxing with minimal punching moves on Monday. And then proceeded to have mild neck pain for the rest of the week. Apparently there’s a difference between feeling fine and being fine!

And here I was, about to make diving plans with Sydney and whoever else was interested. D’oh! Maybe I can convince people to carry my gear into the water for me, so I don’t have to carry the weight.

But at my last doctor’s appointment on Friday, she said that despite the pain, I was less tense, or whatever she’s feeling in my back/neck/shoulder, than I had been, so things are progressing towards being okay despite my bad decision.

And John has been absolutely wonderful. He told me I was going to my club meeting Wednesday night, despite whether I wanted to or not. It was actually a great decision, and I met someone who might help me with finding a job in the next year or so, as well as someone who had some good information on finding a new place to live! Productive night! Then I went to dinner with Nate and Shelly and Rae and Aaron, who were great and distracting company.

Then, Thursday, John took me to see the Sharks game. Just so I wouldn’t be sitting at home worrying. Lovely boy, eh? The Sharks won, which was also good. And I reconnected with three old friends over the course of the day.

And yesterday, when a headache came out of nowhere and blindsided me, probably a result of the stress and worry of the week, he made me a lovely dinner and helped me relax.

Now I’m sitting at home, on the couch, drinking coffee and watching the Sharks game and theoretically working on my paper. Clearly that’s going well, as I’m writing this and not it! But I’m feeling good, and things (all of them) are well. That’s what counts, right?

Plus, I think there’s a chocolate banana cake recipe calling my name. Anyone want to come by for a taste???

My grandma was fine as of 12:30 am this morning. No word since. Probably means nothing has happened. I hope.

My mom had some “minor” complications, according to the surgeon, in the wee hours of the morning. It involved more surgery and a blood transfusion. She’s theoretically fine now.

I thought we were out of the woods. And I’ll admit that while I’m getting through this, I am also pretty damn scared.

Fun times.

I’m still trying to find out details–apparently cell phones aren’t allowed in the ICU. And there isn’t a phone in the room. Bah.

My mom is fine. My grandmother is fine. I’m fine.

John Bridger: I feel so optimistic. How do you feel?
Charlie Croker: [shrugging] I’m fine.
John Bridger: Fine? You know what “fine” stands for, don’t you?
Charlie Croker: Yeah, unfortunately.
John Bridger: Freaked out…
Charlie Croker: Insecure…
John Bridger: Neurotic…
Charlie Croker: And Emotional.

Yeah, we’re all fine.

My mom is out of surgery, doing well. My grandmother had another potential heart attack last night, but is doing well right now. I’ve kept busy all day and done pretty well, given that my job was easiest. More details to come when I feel up to talking about it.

Thank you to you all, too!!

Note: I’ve been working on this post for two days, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say, to describe how I was feeling about the situation. Debating whether or not all that I wanted to say was truly relevant.

And then today I found out that my grandmother experienced chest pains in the wee hours of this morning, which doctors are tentatively calling a heart attack. She’s in the hospital, and doing well, and that’s about all I know. Various aunts have promised to call me back when they can. I’m so thankful that my grandparents live down here now, just several miles away from relatives instead of a two-hour drive. Thankful, also, that if I’m needed, I can be there in just a few hours instead of waiting for a plane. So if you could keep my grandmother in your prayers, as well as my mom (see below), I’d be grateful.

Now here we go…

****

My mom’s breast reconstruction surgery was moved from April to tomorrow. We found out Friday that someone else had backed out, and my mom felt she was ready. So she’ll be in surgery tomorrow for 10-12 hours, and in the hospital for 3-5 days, and then at home for 2-3 weeks. Good thing I hadn’t booked tickets home for April, right?

You all have been so good about wishing us well and everything for over a year now, and I can’t tell you how much I do and have appreciated that. It’s made a huge difference on the days when I was freaking-the-fuck-out, but it’s also made a huge difference even on the days when I knew she’d be okay.

For all of that, thank you. And if you could think of her tomorrow, and keep her in your prayers, then hopefully this will be the last chapter of this saga. There are no guarantees in this game, I know, but for now I’m hoping this is going to be the end.

My mom has made it through an amazing amount in the last year–finding out she had breast cancer, finding out it was likely metastatic and already in her bones, finding out that it was only (thank God) stage 3C (the last and worst stage before metastasis, but the before part was all that mattered), going through weekly chemo for 6 months, going through genetic testing and having to wait a month to find out the answers, going through physical sickness and lack of strength and energy, going through anemia that resulted in her need for a blood transfusion, going through a double mastectomy, going through 5 weeks of radiation, going through an additional 6 months of the “good” chemo drug herceptin (a miracle drug, if you ask me). Going through pain and worry and fighting against her own body for control, for life.

But through it all, she’s been relatively okay. She’s always faced it instead of hiding from it, and she’s done so with grace and serenity for the most part. She’s made jokes, she’s been pretty cheerful. She’s said that if she dies, she’ll get to see her mother again. My grandmother died fourteen years ago from colon cancer, less than two weeks after my grandfather died from brain cancer, and I know my mom misses them. To her, it was a comfort to think of seeing her parents again. And so, to her, even in the beginning when we thought we had maybe two years together, she was fairly serene about any outcome. Worried, but serene. Granted, she likely had her moments of weakness, of freaking out, of anger and helplessness, but overall, she was stronger than the cancer. She always said she was going to fight, and that anger wouldn’t solve anything. True, it doesn’t. The situation is, was, what it was. And so she fought.

Tomorrow, for her, marks the last step in this horrible journey. She’s chosen to go with the longest and most intense reconstructive option. Implants are painful to enlarge, the radiation probably makes the tissue on one side less stretchy and thus it may not accept an implant, and they tend to leak and require more surgery every 10 years or so. The other option was to have a implants made from her belly fat, either buried up along her rib cage, or completely removed and reattached via microvascular reconstructive surgery. The first option takes muscle, and means she likely wouldn’t be capable of doing a sit-up ever again. The second option is a long and intense surgery, but she thinks it’s what’s right for her. There’s a chance the tissue won’t take, that it will die, or that she’ll need a second surgery to reattach it again. But when you lay out all the pros and cons, to her, having one big surgery weighs out over many smaller ones, and health and physical fitness and being able to exercise weigh out over possible complications with the tissue.

I have to admit that I’d be perfectly okay with her simply using prosthetics and having no more surgery, but that’s not what she wants and so I’m going to stand behind her and her decision. I can’t tell you want I’d do in the same situation, so who am I to judge? It’s selfish of me to wish otherwise, simply to not go through the worry during the surgery.

And believe me, worry I will. This will be the second surgery she’s had that I’ve known about in advance, and I’m just about as nervous as I was last time during her mastectomy. Who wouldn’t worry about their mom?

I mean, she’s had plenty of surgeries and hospital stays in the last however-many years. Pulmonary embolism while on a plane to New Zealand, but we didn’t find out until she was already in the hospital. Emergency gall bladder removal, then an emergency appendix removal, but in both cases my dad couldn’t get ahold of my sister or me until the surgery was over. Those are quick little surgeries, believe me. By the time I got home to the “your mom is in the hospital” note, it was over. In all cases, we were basically informed post-fact. We didn’t have the worry to go through during the actual thing. Just the recovery, and the relief that it had been dealt with and that she was okay.

Here, now, I trust that my mom will be okay. She has to be. And I have to trust that. She’s strong, and she’s never had problems before in surgery. I liked her doctor. I trusted him. Even if it’s a tricky surgery, and long, I have faith that she’s going to be okay. That he’s going to do a good job.

I reserve the right to, as I said before, freak-the-fuck-out tomorrow, but I also know I’m strong enough to be strong for her. For myself. For whoever else might need it now, or in the future. I may not have shown or expressed that over the past year, but I know I am.

I think that’s something that’s occurred to me only recently. I’ve expressed my anger and fear and helplessness when I’ve felt them, and again, I thank all of you who were there for me, but I’ve never really talked about the times when it all felt okay. When I knew we were all going to come out the other side, changed a bit but together nonetheless. At those times, there didn’t seem much to say other than “She’s fine.” She was, and I was fine, too, after all, and not consumed by fear. At that moment. So mostly all people heard about was when it wasn’t fine, when I wasn’t fine.

I think that that lack made me appear weak to some people, and the end result was that they didn’t trust me to be strong enough for them and for our friendship when they needed it, in spite of what fear and pain I might be feeling. They may have thought they were protecting me in the beginning, but when they threw it in my face, it became just another way that, to them, I’d failed them. And without ever having been given the chance to prove that I might have been capable, that I had the strength. That lack of faith and trust hurts a lot, much more than I’ve been able to put into words until now, but maybe it’s somewhat justified when the only face I’ve presented was the one when I was been scared. However, friends should, above all else, have faith in each other, right? I’d like to think so.

I was so astounded and hurt at the time by the accusations, all of them, that at the time I couldn’t put it into words, that I could only say what needed to be heard and not what needed to be said. It was fairly clear after a few moments that defending or explaining myself wasn’t going to be listened to–I’m not saying the accusations were completely unfounded, but it would have been nice to have my side listened to instead of spoken over or dismissed. So I just said the only words I could, that I was sorry. And really, I am. As much as I’ve longed to have that conversation back to redo, to express my side, my case, my hurt, it wouldn’t change anything, so I’ve tried to move on. In many ways, I think that the lack of faith and trust said all that needed to be said. I’ll admit to feeling better just to say this much, to get this much off my chest, so I can stop rehearsing what I’d like to have said. What I wish I’d been strong enough to say at the time. Instead I walked away, and my brain at times has mocked me as being cowardly for not having my say. It was a great friendship, and maybe worth fighting for, but this kind of incident also seemed to be a cycle we couldn’t break out of and which only lead to pain for both of us.

Being strong, I’m discovering, is a constant growing process. And being strong in some ways doesn’t translate to all situations. Maybe the strength to fight against cancer with my mom is different from the strength to stand up for myself against someone I thought I could trust. What I was strong enough to do, I suppose, was to philosophical shrug and walk away from a relationship that, although valued, clearly wasn’t healthy for the two people in it. It may have been cowardly, but I think it also took a lot courage to just let it go without making the situation worse by forcing my need to have my say.

And strength and health, both mental and physical, seems to have been a common theme in my life lately. Strength is something I’m working on, and I’m channeling it elsewhere now. Into a healthier outlook on life, into healthier relationship with those that do have faith in me, into relationships with those in whom I have faith. Into the strength to make it through 10-12 hours of waiting for word to come tomorrow.

In any case, I’ve worked through all this with many other people supporting me, worked through the fear and helplessness and anger, and I am and we are about come out the other side. In many ways, stronger together than we were before. I’ve had faith in myself to be strong for myself, for my sister, for my dad, for my mom, and I’ve had faith in my mom to be even stronger. I’ve been supported by many good friends, family and a wonderful, wonderful husband who has gone through a similar process with his mother and also lost his dad to cancer. In turn, I hope I’ve supported my family whenever they’ve needed it, and even when they haven’t.

And my mom? My mom has been incredibly strong, despite the weakness her body has caused her. She’s fought this terrible thing whereby her body is threatening her life, where the most outward sign of her femininity, where she nursed my sister and I, is turning against her. I can’t imagine how hard it’s been, but I’m sure it’s magnitudes harder than what I’ve been going through. There are no words to express how amazed and proud and happy I am to have her in my life, to have received this lesson in how to live from her.

And so, at the end of every freak-out, at the end of each day, I know that if she can be that strong for herself, as well as for me and my sister and everyone else, if she can appear to get through this as gracefully as she has, then aren’t I strong enough to stand by and watch and help how I can? Even if it’s as simple as sitting with her through a chemo session, or making dinner to give my dad a break? And though I sometimes need to cry or scream or eat chocolate or drink or cope how I can, I know I’m strong enough to see this thing through. Strong enough to believe that tomorrow, despite it’s scariness, will bring an end to this chapter and journey of my mom’s bout with cancer. I hope there’s not another one, but if there is, I’ll be strong for that, too.

And so, tomorrow, I’m going to be strong enough to go about my day, to hopefully not freak out, to simply wait for the phone call telling me she’s out of surgery and safely installed in intensive care, that she’s doing okay. Because if she can fight this, I can too. If she can be strong enough to chose surgery, and specifically this surgery, who am I to not be strong enough to simply wait 10-12 hours for her on the other end? After all, my waiting tomorrow is going to be the easy part. The hard work is hers in the recovery, and I’ll be there for her however I can.

But your thoughts and prayers would be greatly, greatly appreciated tomorrow and in the coming days.

Since John’s had such a crazy schedule recently, we went out for Valentine’s day on Thursday. No, not really, neither of us felt like cooking, and so it seemed as good an excuse as any. Besides, Thai food is tasty. And I ended up with lunch for both Friday and Saturday!

We’ve approached this holiday along the same lines we did Christmas: let’s enjoy each other and not worry about spending money on presents. Economy and all, people. Besides, we’re going on three fantastic trips in the coming year and a half, and I’d rather save my money now and spend it then.

At Christmas, we bought a new TV, as the picture on the sides of our old one was going. Other than that, our purchases were mostly for family.

At Valentine’s day, John lucks out easily. The jewelry is mostly tasteless, I don’t want chocolate that I’ll eat a ton of, and if he gives me flowers, the cats eat them and then puke everywhere. *sigh* I lucked out easily because there was nothing he even wanted.

So instead we had Thai food Thursday, then spent Friday night at a bar by his work, enjoying happy hour (mmm, free appetizers with the tasty purchase of a strawberry margarita!) with James and Cara and watching the Sharks game. They lost. Now let us not speak of it again. Regardless, it was a fun evening, and we hadn’t seen our friends in awhile so it was nice to catch up.

Saturday, John worked, and I spent the day alternately glued to the TV, or doing my own work (damn paper!). The glueing to the TV part came from the Arizona-UCLA game, in which Arizona took off with a double-digit lead around 12 minutes into the first half and never looked back. Granted, UCLA was down 25 points at one time, and came back to be down only 9ish when Collison remembered how to play the game, but my boys pulled it out in the end. Woot! I was jumping up and down in the living room, and when I called John at the buzzer, I think my message was totally garbled.

Then, to celebrate that night, we did what all romantic couples do.

We went grocery shopping.

What, don’t you do that too? So romantic, to wander the aisles, trying to remember if you needed milk or not.

Okay, okay, fine, then we came home and cooked ourselves a nice steak dinner, popped open a bottle of champagne, and enjoyed the evening. All in all, a pretty darn good three days!

And now I’ve spent all of yesterday (except when I was watching the Sharks lose…again) working at the kitchen table, and a good chunk of this morning, and I’m thinking I should probably drive into lab just to get a change of scenery. Oh, and to take care of all those cells that don’t celebrate President’s Day. Bah.

Happy Monday off!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! Hope you’re enjoying the day with friends or family or loved ones.

I’ve spent a ton of time lately working on a manuscript to give my boss, and the more time I spend working on it, the less time I want to spend sitting around writing other things. So, not so many posts lately.

But now I’m just sitting in front of the computer exporting image files to TIFF files, individually, one at a freaking time, in 5 different color combos, and I’m about to go mad from boredom. I’m really hoping the time this is taking is because John’s old computer is so slow, and thus it’ll be faster if I can find a computer at work, but it may just be the program.

One hour and 47 images down, millions of both to go.

So what have I been up to?

1. We went out and bought a couple hundred dollars worth of school supplies for the school in Fiji–it’s amazing just how much you can get for so little. Now, of course we have the problem of shipping this stuff there. That might actually cost more than the supplies themselves, but it’s a price we all (the people from the trip) are glad to pay. I just feel bad that it took us so long to go and do this!

2. I’ve screwed up my neck/shoulder/side muscles through some random combination of work and diving. The extent apparently has to do with my body trying to compensate for, say, my neck muscle being sore, and thus holding my shoulder funny, thereby injuring it as well. I am not amused. The chiropractor thinks she can help, but if not, I’m off to physical therapy. Grouch. That said, I’d like to be able to dive and bike again soon, so I’m doing what I can. Frankly, there are days when I’d like to take a deep breathe (or sneeze or yawn or whatnot) without intense side pain as if from a stitch. Grouch.

3. We’re going to visit my grandparents this weekend. They’ve been moved down to California, although they would probably term it “they’ve moved to California.” They haven’t done so well this past year, and fall (the month, although it did involve some falls) was hard on them. I couldn’t go help out, as I felt like I’d already taken off so much time to be with my mom, but now I can go and see them and take care of them whenever. Or just visit them. They’ve moved down here to be close to two children and their families instead of just one. Maybe this means my parents will come visit more? I hope!

4. Speaking of which, my mom Facebook’d me. I was amused. And yes, I accepted. I’ve always approached that site with the theory that, if I didn’t want my parents/boss to see it, it wouldn’t be on there. So why not? I’m wondering a bit about my sister, though.

5. We have back-to-back-to-back-to-back scuba classes starting tonight. I didn’t go down to help, but I might get in the pool if I can weasel permission from the doctors. This schedule is going to take the combined work of our entire staff. Le sigh.

6. We had brunch a week or so ago with Elizabeth and Mark, and found an awesome crepe place to add to our list of enjoyable restaurants. Plus, it was just a lot of fun.

7. On the opposite side of the spectrum, James M wanted to get together for dinner Tuesday night. When he was late, I texted. And apparently woke him up. Frankly, we were okay with being stood up. Less awkwardness, as he still hadn’t quite caught on to the fact that most of us are incredibly fed up with him and his lack of help to our scuba staff. Especially with the upcoming classes…

8. My goal for 2009 was to declutter my life. Not so much a New Year’s resolution, which is made to be broken, but a plan to feel better about living in a small apartment with a lot of stuff meant decreasing the amount of stuff. To that end, we took 7 bags of stuff to the Goodwill last Saturday. And that was only one room’s worth!

9. John finally, finally, has a full weekend off this coming weekend. First since December. He still has a job, so I’m not complaining, and I understand that his schedule is wacky because his boss is rearranging the whole schedule to maximize the full-timers, thus (a) protecting them and (b) minimizing the amount of time he has to pay his part-timers. This sucks for them, but not much I can do about it. That said, the lack of weekends off together combined with the number of late nights he’s working isn’t fun.

10. Sydney and I haven’t gotten together much recently, what with her crazy shifts around the holidays, my trip home, and now her trip to Thailand. But she’s home and we’re having dinner Monday! Woot!

Okay, ten seems like a good number. It seems like all I’ve been doing lately is working, going to the doctor, or going out to eat. I’m sure there’s more to my life than that, but maybe not.

Oh, yes, there was the massive Target run and clearing them out of all conceivable school supplies. Fun!

Anyways, John’s almost home and the San Jose Sharks are playing, as are the Stanford boys’ basketball team, so I think it’s officially time to call it a day and shut down the image analysis. Gee, darn!

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