Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Patient Recovers - Details at Eleven!

Hi Everyone.  I came home Tuesday and although I'm kind of a wet noodle at this point, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  How's that for mixing metaphors?  It's the way my poor brain is working right now.

I did finish the Anne Morrow Lindbergh book in the hospital and will hope that I have the strength to review it tomorrow.  I really enjoyed it.  Oddly though, I haven't been able to read much.  About all I can do is watch television with Dave and enjoy not having to move.

Friends, neighbors, and family have all been so good to us.  I appreciate their help and their good wishes.  Between them and the surgeon, I'm sure to be okay.  I'm just waiting for path reports on lymph nodes to know if I have to have chemo or if I'm home free.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Bump in the Road of My Life

As other bloggers have done, I've puzzled over how much of my own life to write about on this blog.  But also as other bloggers have done, I've decided it's my blog and I get to decide what to write about.  The whole point of it, after all, is to keep me writing through thick and thin.

So, I will tell you that I've been diagnosed with lung cancer.  Fortunately for me, it's a small nodule in my left upper lobe and it is removable.  I've been referred to a surgeon I like very much and have heard nothing but good things about his skills and personality.  Therefore, I believe I'm in good hands as I enter the hospital Thursday, June 21st, to have my left upper lobe and several lymph nodes removed.  He believes I will do just fine - and just as importantly perhaps, so do I.

It's quite a shock to learn you have lung cancer.  I mean after all lung cancer used to be a death sentence.  It was caught only because I had shoulder surgery with a nerve block afterward in April which limited my breathing so much that Dave took me to the emergency room that evening.  Among the tests done there was a CT scan which showed the nodule I had known about for at least 7 years had changed drastically.  As of 5 years ago it was benign and we were convinced it was simply scar tissue from pneumonia.  Not any more!

I had a PET scan, which lit up like the 4th of July, followed by a biopsy which proved malignancy.  The waiting in between scans and tests drove me crazy so it was almost a relief to have the final verdict.  Almost.  

Since then I've had periods of worrying about my life expectancy alternating with periods of optimism that I will return home after a week in the hospital cancer free and ready to go on with my life.  There are so many things I want to do before Thursday and yet somehow I can't bring myself to do them.  I seem to be in a limbo-like vacuum where nothing is changed and yet so much is.  

I'm feeling very well so it seems odd to be going to the hospital where I will feel very ill for a while.  I just keep telling myself that the 6-8 weeks of my recovery before I'm allowed to do much are just a welcome respite from yard work, the bane of my existence here in the country.

Meanwhile, I'm mowing (of course) and reading the diary and letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh from the 1940s through I think it's the 70s.  Her introspection and understanding of life is a comfort to me at this time.  

I expect to write more before Thursday, but then will be absent from my blog for a week or more.  Thank you for indulging me in releasing a little tension and steam.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Devil's Claw by J. A. Jance

I've loved J. A. Jance's books for years and this 12 year old paperback given to me by a friend is certainly no disappointment.  It's part of the series starring Sheriff Joanna Brady of Bisbee, AZ.  In this one Brady and her boyfriend Butch are nearing their wedding date when a 15 year old part Apache girl, Lucy, and her pet red-tailed hawk disappear.  That same night Lucy's mother is murdered just after being released from prison where she had been because she confessed to killing Lucy's father.

As if that isn't enough, neighbor Clayton Rhodes is found dead and Brady learns to her surprise that he has left her his large ranch, and his only surviving child is a woman who is a handful to say the least.

Lucy is a sympathetic character.  She loved her father and after his murder she was sent to live with her grandmother.  She has no friends other than her hawk and so she leads a lonely life as she suffers bullying from her classmates.  She is also a very brave girl whose journey in this book is something not many 15 year old girls could accomplish.

Joanna's extremely critical mother is a character you would just like to smack around, but in this book she actually does some nice things, and Butch's mother turns out to be made of the same cloth.  Oh boy, Joanna is in for quite a wedding!  All the regular characters are part of the story making Devil's Claw a suspenseful but also fun read.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"War Horse" - I Should Have Known . . .

We received the movie "War Horse" from Netflix several weeks ago, but life has been just too much lately and with the NCAA softball and baseball tournaments under way, we hadn't had time to watch it until Sunday afternoon.

This movie is a strange combination of Disney and Spielberg, although the latter is responsible.  The story is wildly unbelievable.  We follow a fictional horse from the day it's born.  It doesn't look good for the horse until he is bought by a poor farmer whose son has always adored the colt.  He names his horse Joey.  So far this is Disney.  

Then World War I breaks out and throughout the British countryside young men are volunteering and the army is looking for horses.  Dad sells Joey to be a war horse.  Now the Spielberg begins.  I won't spoil the story for you if you haven't seen it and still want to, but the rest of the movie is just plain fairy tale with graphic details.  There are horrible scenes of cruelty to animals and civilians and soldiers; it is a war movie after all.  I should have known that those war scenes, although probably fairly realistic except for Joey's part in it, would be too much for me.  

If, like me, you can't bear to watch people and animals on the front lines of a brutal war, I suggest you pass on this movie.  If, unlike me, you can keep in mind that it's just a movie, maybe you'll want to try it.  This is merely my opinion, and fair warning.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Cost of Hope, A Memoir, Amanda Bennett

This memoir is the superbly written story of Amanda Bennett and her husband Terence Foley from the time they met in Peking (correct spelling at the time), China until Terence's death more than 20 years later from cancer.  It is also the story of how she went back through all the records with a colleague after Terence died, trying to figure out what happened and what it all cost, while she was either in denial or in a blur as they tried desperately to buy him more time.  

Given the topic, this could be extremely sad and painful to read, but she includes wonderful descriptions of the China they knew, the U.S. cities they lived in, Terence's quirky habits and hilarious ways, their delight in their children, and her career as a reporter then newspaper editor.  As a result, the book isn't at all depressing.  I was moved by the way she told about his life and his death; she loved him so much.

I loved their personal story, but I think the account of his medical history and its costs should be required reading for politicians who have the power to do something about our health care system.  (Party politics be damned for a change.)  Bennett had four different insurance companies during the time her husband was ill when she was selected for ever better editorial positions in different parts of the country.  At the end she was the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, which oddly enough was dying at the same time that her husband was dying.  She was grateful that she always had good health coverage.  That saved her from worrying about confusing invoices at the same time her husband was going through pharmaceutical studies for new medications and having countless tests.  

Afterward, for six months she and her colleague tried to make sense of all the paperwork.  She traveled across the country talking to the different doctors they had seen, and tried to figure out who all those doctors and labs and other entities were that had billed her insurance company too.  Her conclusions are well worth reading; she's a journalist after all and researched this just as she would any other important story.  There was a personal question to answer as well - had she pushed him too hard to try to live?  Was that an additional burden she put on him?

I was engrossed in this book from page one to the end.  I greatly admire her strength, her adaptability in the face of countless problems that would flatten many people, and her journalistic abilities.  I'm very glad she wrote this book and hope it will reach people all across this country.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ozzie's School of Management by Rick Morrissey

One of the many reasons I love baseball is the characters you find associated with the game.  Since a prime example of those characters is Ozzie Guillen, I was happy to win this book from LibraryThing.  I thought it would be full of hilarious stories from his many years in the game, and since Morrissey is a Chicago area journalist, he should know the "real" Ozzie from Guillen's years with the White Sox.

The subtitle is "Lessons from the dugout, the clubhouse, and the doghouse."  Even more reason to believe this would be funny.  Now I wasn't born yesterday so I'm well aware that Ozzie's language is offensive, but I figured it would be easy to overlook.  Well, this isn't the first time I've been totally wrong.

Ozzie cannot form even a partial sentence without saying F--- at least once, if not two or three times.  Just for variety he often precedes this with "Mother" and he uses these words as nouns, verbs, adjectives and in every conceivable situation.  And he's LOUD.  It sounds like he's actually proud of his language, and yet he brags about how he learned English when he came here from Venezuela so he could fit in!

This book would have been excellent as a longish magazine article, but it just isn't right for a book.  Morrissey tells the same things over and over so that as you get into the book you feel like you've read it before.  And many of the stories just aren't that interesting, seemingly chosen more as examples of his foul language than for humor or insight.  

I don't mean to completely demean either Ozzie or the book.  Ozzie is a dedicated husband and father.   He can be brilliant as a baseball manager, and there's a lot to be said for his way of communicating with his players.  The cover shows him in full rage, right up in the face of an umpire, but that's his way of defending his players and showing them he's on their side.  I think it would take a special person to get along with Ozzie but if a player can get along with him, he's got a friend for life.

When he's criticized for the way he spends money lavishly on his family, he tells people he works hard for his money and intends to enjoy it.  He doesn't wish to save it up so his widow's boyfriend can have a good time with it.  Now that's funny!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Surprise Visitor

Dave and I have always said we didn't have any snapping turtles in our lower pond, just small box turtles.  Well, surprise!  This morning Dave found a large snapper in the garage driveway.  By the time I went out to see, she had made her way almost to the pond and one of our red-winged blackbirds was watching her and squawking.

I watched the tall grass and cattails mark her progress back into the water.  Then I noticed in an area where no grass is growing there is a circle of disturbed soil.  Apparently she had buried her eggs and then got turned around trying to go back to the pond.  

Now I'm glad I didn't venture into the pond to pull cattails.  Ouch!  I remember once in NJ when Dave was using a metal rake to pull some water plants out of the lake we lived next to and a huge snapper took offense.  He grabbed that rake and nearly pulled Dave's hands off.  Wow, was that turtle angry! 

We're in the midst of a difficult time for keeping our yard nice.  It rains buckets, then clears up just long enough for the grass to start drying, but no sooner do I go out to mow than it pours again.  Between that and some health problems yet again, our yard is starting to look like the town dump.  Very discouraging.

Oh well, obviously the turtles are happy.