Monday, August 22, 2016

Retirement Location, Check!

Ben and I are so, so blessed sometimes.  Yes, "sometimes."  I mean, breast cancer.  Children with mental illness.  Me with mental illness.  Job issues.  'Nuf said.

But then, sometimes, something amazing happens:
(Ugh, I'm using Ben's work computer, which is an Apple, and it took like ten minutes for me to figure out how to put this picture here.  Me no likey.)

I guess one of the "perks" of Ben's job is that he has a few clients with a few properties.  And these clients really are just so nice.  We went to Hawaii last year and stayed at a client's rental in Oahu, free of charge - we just had to get there, entertain ourselves, and get home.  Amazing!

And then these clients, at whose place in Portland my mom and I stayed after surgery (Ben calls it "surgerrhea," and now I mentally say that every time I say "surgery"), have a place on the Oregon coast, Cannon Beach to be exact.  They're all, "Go stay at our beach house, free!"  The nicest people EVER!!

Because of some weirdness in scheduling with a checkup appointment for me in Portland and dropping the kids off at Camp Kesem, or, as I like to call it, Free Camp for the Rest of Your Life for the Price of a Parent Having Had Cancer, we came to the coast last weekend, dropped the kids off at camp yesterday, then Ben and I came back to the coast for the entire week!!  Then we'll grab the kids and come back to the coast this weekend, and then home.

I quite honestly think that this is our first family vacation since...Dylan was a baby?  Usually, if Ben and I are able to scrape together enough money, we just go by ourselves - vacationing a family of six is really spendy.  But having the kids with us is actually pretty fun!!  Even though we forgot Dylan's ADHD meds.  That makes things pretty tough.  But he had lots of places to gallop around like a little colt.  That boy is all limbs right now.  And almost as tall as me.  It's so weird to give him a hug, and he's, like, my size. With bigger feet than me.  And he could probably beat me up, if he wanted to. Which he wouldn't. He thinks I am the BEST.  The feeling is mutual.

Haha!  He asked to be buried in the sand, and Gage kept just kind of throwing sand in the general direction of Dylan's face.  He kept having to spit it out of his mouth.  And Sadie garnished Dylan's head with a sprig of some nearby bush.  Haha!  When we checked the kids in at camp yesterday, they did a lice check, and this girl is like, "Whoa, I'm seeing a ton of black dots on this kid's hair; can you come over here, Sass?"  (They go by nicknames at Camp Kesem.  One of the nurse's names is Sass.) I was like, "Um, well, we did bury him in sand yesterday..."  They determined that yes, indeed, the black dots are sand and not lice babies.

So.  Cannon Beach is a really small little town - it does have a small grocery store, but it's really overpriced, so you have to drive down the road to Seaside to get food for a decent price.  Depending on the time of day you go, it could take you five minutes or an hour.  We ended up going over there twice on Saturday to get supplies, and I'm pretty sure half of Portland was clogging Highway 101, desperate to get out of the heat.  We've been mainly staying put, but I'm begging Ben for a little detour to Tillamook (Cheese!!!  My obsession!) and a Geek Out Trip to Astoria to see the places they filmed Goonies.  We'll see how the week goes.  We have to be judicious in our spending.  August is an expensive month, what with Gage's and Sadie's birthdays.

When we got here on Friday, we made a beeline for the shore - just a short walk from the house.  I dropped all my stuff and walked straight to the water.  There is just something about the ocean.  I LOVE the beach.  It's just so healing.  Huge.  Majestic.  I don't ever do a ton of swimming in it - saltwater makes me yak - but I appreciate it so much.  I got a little weepy, standing there.  It had been...9 years?  Since I had seen the ocean.  Far too long.

We all attempted to wade in the water, but it just, um, HURT.  There are a select few of you that will understand this comparison, but here's the best way I can think to describe it:  When I was a young woman, we went to camp every year at Camp Darby.  Running through camp is a creek.  With the COLDEST water.  Snow runoff.  Straight from ice form to water form.  You can earn a bead for your camp necklace by doing a thing called The Polar Bear - I think you have to sit to waist-deep in this creek minute?  Five?  I can't remember.  I just remember sobbing from the pain.  Everyone sobbing and screaming.  Haha!  I have pictures.  Proof!  They're at home.  I'll have to put some on here.  It's intense.  But then you get this really awesome bead for your necklace.  And bragging rights.

So yeah, this water is painful to stand in.
So I just parked my bumb in a chair 'neath an umbrella and watched the ninos attempt to make sandcastles sans sand toys.

Yep, we forgot to pack them, along with Dyl's meds, AND Micah's meds. Sigh...  I was wondering why Micah had been so very emotional the past few days, and had been complaining of stomach pain.  Duhhhhh.  I hadn't refilled his meds, and he hadn't told me he was out.  And I was on hydrocodones.  I was doing well if I was able to just keep my eyes from crossing.  I had to literally concentrate to keep them from just....woop!....meeting each other at my nose.  My poor son has been going through withdrawals from going without anxiety medication.  Trust me, that is no picnic. Luckily, Sass has my back and was able to pick them up from a local Walgreens today.  My son will be back to his usual sullen self, rather than his Actor-in-a-Melodrama Self.

Friday was just perfect.  In fact, it was just plain old hot.  I have been assured that this is weird for the Oregon coast.  Ben, having had melanoma, doesn't take any chances in the sun anymore:
Micah is on a quest to find seashells.  He made quite the haul of broken ones.  Danged seagulls.
Cannon Beach has this huge rock outcropping called Haystack.  You can see it in the background. Gorgeous!  So that's the view to the left.  The view to the right:

And, you know, sunset.  I can't get enough of sunset on the coast:

Saturday was reeeeeeally cold and foggy.  We spent most of the morning indoors.  Which was an interessant situation, because cable is currently not installed.  So no TV.  No electronics.  Just us and some puzzles and games.  And can I just say that it was so much fun???

Do kids ever play dominoes like they're meant to be played?  Haha!  Actually, Sadie and I had a rousing game of Mexican Train after the boys got tired of standing them up and knocking them down. In Dylan's case.  In Micah's case, they kept falling before he got them all ready, and he would break down sobbing.  Or Gage would come over and mischievously knock them over.  And Micah would break down sobbing.  Or he didn't feel like the dominoes were divided equally among the brothers. And he would break down sobbing.  Poor kid.  Anxiety is a beast.

It was a blast.  It reminded me of staying at my grandparents' cabin at Palisades Lake.  Playing Blackjack and betting with Skittles, packing all our food there and eating in every night...  such good memories.

Oh, and Dylan was introduced to the VHS tape.  Haha!  The owners of the beach house have a VHS player and a bunch of tapes, so he and Sades watched Back to the Future and E.T.  A sample from a conversation between Dylan and Ben:

Dylan:  Dad, why won't this play?
Ben:  Um, it looks like you need to rewind the tape.
Dylan:  Re....wind??
Ben:  Yeah.
Dylan:  What does..."rewind" mean?
Ben:  Oh!  Um, you push this button right here to make the tape wind backwards to the beginning. See this brown tape stuff here through the clear plastic window on this tape?  The images are on the brown tape stuff.  And it slowly winds onto this spindle as you watch the movie.  So you need to wind it the other way in order for it to play from the beginning.
Dylan:  Whoa.
Ben:  And don't forget to rewind it again after you're done!
Dylan:  Why?  Can't the next when they're ready to watch it?
Ben:  It's just a courtesy.  Be kind, rewind!
Dylan:  Huh?

Haha!  Priceless.

Even though it was still butt cold, the kids wanted to play on the beach again that afternoon:
You can't even see haystack!  It was so foggy, all day.  Sadie is also all arms and legs - did you notice?  I have gangly kids.  She'd better get a volleyball scholarship.

The two older boys and Dad took a little trip down to the shore at night, during low tides, to check out the tidal pools and now-bare outcroppings:

The green things in the below picture are anemones.  And you can see the starfish in the above picture.  On the way home, Dylan told Micah a scary ghost story that he learned at Camp Caldera, where he was last week, or, as I like to call it, Two Years Ago a Boy Bullied Me and I Overreacted and Made Threats and Was Suspended for Two Weeks and Invited to This Club for Troubled Teens Which They Call Camp Caldera But Nobody Ever Really Says that It's for Troubled Teens Camp.

So then Micah comes into the house just fa-reaking out, refusing to stay in the cute little room that he had decided was his room to sleep in for the weekend...  Poor little anxious kid.  He did NOT need to hear ghost stories.  He's going through anxiety pill withdrawals, for heck's sake.

Then, of course, Gage fed off of Micah's freaking out and freaked out himself, and then HE decided not to sleep in the little room that he had decided was his for the weekend, so he and Sadie squished on a floor mattress, and Micah, uncharacteristically, ASKED to share with Dylan (those two rarely get along), so he slept on a couch and Dylan slept on a hideaway bed, and Micah, having Anxiety Bladder, peed on his couch as he slept.

Poor kid.

Don't worry.  I cleaned it really good.  It's not like the pee couch in Seinfeld.

Yesterday, we took the kids to Camp Kesem.  I didn't take any pictures - I should have.  But we got them all squared away.  We had really prepared the people in charge for Gage and his needs, and he has his very own counselor!  The counselor's name is Brick.  He has a family member with autism and knows his stuff.  He seems really compassionate and awesome.  Another counselor helping Gage is named Sports.  Gage picked his bunk bed and unpacked his little toothbrush and everything, and I talked to Sports and Brick about some good strategies to help Gage deal with transitions, his sensory issues, etc.  I had prepped Gage all week by making a Social Story for him - ideally, a social story is a little book with pictures to show where he would stay, what it would look like, where he would eat, etc.  I was lazy and just showed him all the pictures on the computer.  Which worked just as well.  He did great when we dropped him off.  No tears.  The kids will have a great week.

We're back at the coast today, and it is quiiiiiet.  Ben has to work 8 hours a day from here, still.  I'm making sure the house is spic and span and cooking for us two.  And....putting together a lot of puzzles.  And doing a ton of reading.  Haha!  It's a little weird.  But lovely.  I'm healing wonderfully, standing up a little straighter, able to do more, totally off hydrocodones (but still relying heavily on ibuprofen and Tylenol), etc.  This is a great place to heal.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The New Ladies

Heyyyyyy!  I'm back!  And trying to type while mainly reclined.  So far, just these past 16 words or so, it's hurting me in this general area:
Right??  So I came out of surgery with like 14 tubes coming out of me, which I expected.  What I did not expect was random bruising on my arms:
I wish these pictures could do it justice.  Seriously.  I don't know WHAT went on there.  I remember them putting in two IV's, both on my right arm, because my left arm has lymphedema and had a big old pink bracelet to remind them about that - it is a no cut, no pressure, and no beat-it-up-with-baseball-bat zone.

My mom and I have been trying to figure out what on earth is going on there (and I kept forgetting to ask the surgeon when she checked in on me each day), and she said that she heard that sometimes, a patient is under, and the surgeon is hooking up monitors and stuff, and even though the patient is out of it, they aren't, like, fully out of it?  And they start fighting the nurses and surgeons and assistants or something??  I think that is terrifying and fascinating.  It makes me a little proud of my bruises.  I mean, attackers, beware!!  I now know that I would fight like crazy if attacked.  I'm a little scrappy. Who knew?

And, you know, I can't show you pictures of my surgery site, because, now, what used to be my muffin top are breasts.  It's so weird.  And amazing!  They're so sooooooft!!  I forgot about how soft original boobs are.  And these aren't original, but they're fatty like unto original ones.  I was like, "Oh yeah!  Side boob!  Women have side boob!!"  And I keep bumping into them when I'm, like, walking. Or pouring myself a drink.  I have to maneuver around them now!  Crazy stuff.

Sorry I'm all over the place.  Blame the hydrocodones.  I guess this should be more of a linear retelling, but I'm just popping all over the place.

So you know, my ma and I drove into Portland, found the apartment, got all settled, etc.  We discovered that the closest grocery store was a Whole Foods, so we walked there and got some supplies for breakfasts and stuff for Mom.  I really wanted to buy these amazing herbal soaps in the doorway, but I kept the urge under control.  I mean, lemongrass basil soap??  So cool!  We ate at what we thought would be a  12-ish dollars per meal place, and it turned out to be a 20-ish dollars per meal place, which was an unhappy surprise.  We should have known.  It is downtown Portland, after all. We drove to the hospital to make sure my mom felt like she knew where she was going.  I showered, and we settled down to sleep (my mom is really a wiggler; I was like, "Are you Gage?  Hold still!"). We woke up, I did all the anti-bacterial washing stuff yet again, and we headed to the hospital.

And you know, it takes forever to talk to 25 people about the procedure you're doing, making sure everyone is on the same page, etc.  They gave me my IV to put me to sleep, and my mom got really weepy.  She's just so awesome.  I love her.  I bid her adieu, and that's really all I remember.

After a couple of hours, they came out and let my mom know that it had taken a really long time to get my body ready for this surgery.  Something about low blood pressure (it's been a prob ever since chemo).  But maybe this is when they struggled with me and decided to get out a hammer and hit my arms repeatedly. As a consequence, I didn't get out of surgery until after ten at night.

They had me in the intensive care unit for the first...two or three days?  It was just supposed to be one day, but my new left boob was struggling.  They have these monitors that they use to check the blood flow, and you actually listen for the flow.  If things are going well, you hear the blood flowing back and forth, back and forth, with each heart beat.  It sounds, to me, just like an ultrasound, when you're pregnant, and they listen for baby's heartbeat.  So when the blood flow is working well, you hear this whoosh-whoosh!  My right boob is an A+ student.  My left boob is like a C student.

Apparently, they use fat from your lower right abdomen for your left boob, and vice versa for your right.  I'm not sure why.  I had a hysterectomy several years ago, and my surgeon said that there was soooo much scarring in my right abdomen, the worst she's ever seen.  THE WORST SHE HAS EVER SEEN.  What???  I mean, I knew that it was a hard recovery after my hysterectomy, but...  it makes me a little mad at my former gynie/surgeon.  Anyways.  For whatever reason, I was really scarred up on my right abdomen, so it was hard to harvest fat/blood cells from there.  She even had to take some of my muscle right there in order for the operation to work out at all.  As a consequence, my left side feels a little harder and a lot more perky.  It feels a little bit like a tissue expander again. Maybe not as uncomfortable.

So it was a little nerve-wracking to have them check my boobs every single hour for three days straight, praying that the boob was there to stay.  It fought well and is doing great.

My tummy is now...tucked.  It feels really, really tight.  I have to always have a pillow under my knees for a couple of weeks, because if my legs are straight while lying down, it's just too dang tight in my lower abdomen.  I swear you could bounce a quarter of my tummy, guys.  It's crazy and really, really wonderful.  And my new belly button looks like a heart.  Not kidding.  When it stops looking gross, I'll take a pic and put it on here.

So after being in the ICU for a few days, they put me into the cancer wing of the hospital, which I liked.  It was very quiet.  The view from my window:

My nurses were nice - my night nurses were nicer than my day nurses, and I wondered why that is... It's like the meaner, older, stricter teachers in the day, and the young, fun teachers at night.   I found that I'm a little bit of a rebel when I have narcotics in me.  I was only supposed to go pee if I called a nurse first.  And I'm like, I'm fine.  I kept moving my arms outside of the range I'm supposed to, but that's more forgetfulness than willful disobedience.  I wasn't walking as hunched over as I was supposed to...  I pulled out some staples with my fingernails...

Kay, these staples were RIDICULOUS.  You don't need to staple a cord to a person's chest to keep it in place.  It's called medical tape, friends.  And they itched so badly.  So one day after a disgusting dinner, I dug those suckers out and gifted them to the food person to take away.  I have all these red dots on my tummy and between the two mounds on my chest.  I thought I had scratched hard enough to draw blood (I didn't react very well to the IV painkillers I was first put on), but no, those marks are from STAPLES.  All over my tummy.  I did remember to ask my surgeon about them, and she said that sometimes they need to hold some flesh somewhere for awhile during surgery.  So they use staples, apparently.  I can't pretend to know their business, but it just...makes me uncomfortable, you know?  I'm not un piece du papier!

The catheter left me with a UTI, and the doctors wanted this culture to come back instead of taking my word for it.  I've had so many of these, I know exactly what I'm dealing with, but...we had to wait for the results.  The results showed that I was right, and they put me on a pretty powerful antibiotic, but they had to change my anxiety sleeping meds because of drug interaction stuff.  So I didn't sleep for a whole night, which I wasn't a fan of.  After that, they gave me a sleeping pill until the end of my antibiotic.

Luckily, the days went by quickly (thank you, Olympics!), and I was released Wednesday to go to the apartment in Portland.

My surgeon said I could just go all the way back to Bend, but I worried about driving that far so quickly after being released, so Ma and I settled in at the apartment.  Mom took excellent care of me. Washed my hair, changed my dressings, made sure I was taking my meds on time, etc.  It was so nice to have her there.

My hair has been looking a lot like Ted's in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.  Good times.

On Thursday night, I had a full-on panic attack.  I'm starting to recognize these better now.  I was certain that the hardness in my left boob was because it was being rejected by my body, and that I needed to go in and see the surgeon STAT.  And I missed Ben and the kids so badly.  I just sobbed and sobbed and begged my mom to take me home right THEN.  Luckily, the lady at the surgeon's office kind of calmed me down, and my mom promised that we could go home yesterday.

The ride home ended up being a bit of a fiasco.  We went a different way than usual, which was beautiful, but very windey.  I spent much of the time feeling nauseated.  And it took twice as long as it should have to get home.  Lesson learned.

It wiped me out pretty badly, our driving misadventure.  So I've been resting all day.  Mom, Ben, and the kids went swimming, and I wanted to go watch, but it's an outdoor pool, and it's hot outside, and I just feel kind of gross today, so I'm chilling inside.  And writing this meandering post.  Sorry, guys.  My razor-sharp wit is temporarily dull!  Hahaha!

I had another sobbing episode last night at bedtime.  I think it was partially because of relief; I just can't believe that this long, long road is, for the most part, ending.  It's been two difficult years, and I just can't believe that I don't have to have this surgery weighing me down anymore.  But I also cried because I'm trapped in my body yet again.  I keep getting knocked down hard and having to climb back out, and it's just getting really old.  And I'm still at the place where I need help getting out of bed, showering, etc.  That's tough.  I'll just have to really take it easy and rely on the help of others. My  mom went above and beyond to help me, when she was feeling pretty crummy herself. Thanks so much, mommy!!  And Ben's mom is coming tonight to help for a couple of weeks.  Thank heavens.

So yeah, if you're in Bend, come on over and say hi!  Because I'm just friggin' stuck inside for awhile. Sigh.  But I have to remember how blessed I am, and how thankful I feel. With the Lord's help, I can get through these next several weeks of recovery.  Peace out!
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