Monday, May 21, 2018

MY BREAST CANCER JOURNEY

MY BREAST CANCER JOURNEY

2007
In March of 2007 we began a huge remodel on our home. The master bedroom and bath along with the front driveway and the entire backyard was to be ripped out and redone. I went for my annual mammogram at the end of February 2007, and was called back. As I waited to make an appointment for the second mammogram, I felt disappointed in myself for not having discovered the lump sooner. The radiologist showed me a lump the size of a quarter. He couldn’t tell me if it was cancer, but he said that if it was his loved one he would recommend having it removed.

I was referred to a surgeon who performed a biopsy on March 16th. I envisioned God enfolding me in His arms throughout the procedure. I was fascinated by the ultrasound images of my tumor. And the needle gun with a cooling element that took the core biopsy. I took a quick look at the core samples before they were sent off to the lab. During the biopsy my breast was numbed, but I felt the warm blood roll down my body.

On Friday, March 23rd I received the news that yes I had breast cancer. Before that I had gotten quite comfortable in “I don’t know” land.  I couldn’t believe what the doctor was saying. I was so afraid I stopped hearing. I could see his lips moving but I could not hear what he was saying. I stopped breathing for several moments. Once I started breathing again, the tears started to flow. I was planning my funeral. I thought that I was going to die that day. Thank God my husband Earl was there to tell me what the doctor had said when we got home.

I started telling people the news and I found that the more people I told the better I felt emotionally. People care but they are scared and don’t know quite what to say. It got even more uncomfortable if I started to cry. I learned to keep my tears in check, so people would not be reluctant to talk to me about what was going on. I learned who I could cry with and not.

On March 28th I had a partial mastectomy (essentially a lumpectomy) and by the end of the month I would start chemotherapy. The surgery was scary. It was made a little less scary by the daily prayer that was broadcast over the hospital intercom. Just at my most vulnerable moment, when I was alone in an exam room right before surgery. I was awake as they rolled me into the operating room. The medical team there impressed me. Everyone shouted out, “OK, this is Denise B., and we are going to operate on her left breast!” Around the room they went, “Left breast,” “Left breast,” Left breast,” until it was my turn to say, “Left breast!” I got caught up in the excitement and was very happy they were going to cut the correct breast. Having heard horror stories of people having the wrong leg amputated.

Hours later I awoke in the hospital room. Earl was there and medical people were coming and going. And there was Chaplain Diane. A beautiful black woman with dreadlocks like mine. She had come to bring a special prayer for me. I was concerned, did I need a chaplain, was I dying? No, she wanted to give me the copy of the prayer she had said for me. I wasn’t able to read it then as I was full of drugs for the pain, but when I read it days later more tears flowed. That prayer was just what I needed.

The first time I felt my left breast after surgery was nerve wracking. I was afraid that the entire breast would be gone. What a relief to find it still there. Then I was curious about all of the dressing and the discovery that there was a drain hanging from my body. What was a drain? Oh, it is going to continually fill with blood. And someone will have to empty it. Oh. OK.

That was a whirlwind month of doctor’s appointments and procedures. I hardly knew what was going on. Earl was keeping up with my appointments. I just showed up, at the beginning that was all I could do. My attitude about the whole ordeal was adjusted when my husband told me early on that, “Yes, you’re going to die, but not from this.” I was able to breathe again after absorbing this new reality. My sponsor said that no one dies from breast cancer anymore. These were words of hope that I clung to. Over time I became more proactive in my treatment. When I was able to drive myself to appointments I was so happy. I felt semi-normal.

I wondered though, what might have caused this. Was it something I ate? Was it the wild and crazy behavior of my youth? Was it the fumes I inhaled from the car painting business I ride past on my bicycle everyday?  Was it the plastic I microwaved my food in? No one knows. I just know that this is what is. I have to deal with it.

The results of my pretreatment PET/CT scan showed what was thought to be more cancer in the lymph nodes in my shoulder and behind my breastbone. These areas cannot be reached with surgery. I was preparing for chemo and radiation by having a portable catheter implanted, one more surgical procedure. I discovered that I’m not a candidate for chemo pills because my cancer is triple negative, no estrogen receptor (er), no progesterone receptor (pr) and no human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (her-2). Turns out that this first PET/CT scan was over read and the cancer had not spread as they first thought. What a relief.

Around this time I started wishing that I could turn back the hands of time. To live without this horrible, life threatening, new knowledge. Cancer was now a permanent part of my life story. Ugggggh. I wanted to have big old pity parties, but that wouldn’t help anything. My husband and doctors encouraged me to keep living, keep moving. I forced myself to do so. Walking and riding my bike as much as I could. These activities reminded me that the rest of my body still functions. I am not just my left breast. I needed to stay strong to fight chemo.  I didn’t want to waste precious time being pitiful.

It was hard to believe such harsh words were now connected to me. Breast cancer, chemo, radiation, surgery, porta-caths, PET/CT scans, MRIs, biopsies, and drains. I had been skipping along through life without having any really serious hardships. Well, it’s my turn now. Everyone goes through tough times. Everyone has to face life or death possibilities. I just wasn’t ready yet for it to be me.

As my treatments continued, our home remodel went on. What else was there to do? One of the best days I had at this time was when Yosi our landscaper for the garden, took me to the local nursery here in the San Fernando Valley. There were acres and acres of beautiful blooming plants. We were there to pick out the vines and plants for the backyard garden. Earl hung back while Yosi and I sped all over the place on a flat bed cart making selections.

It was so much fun because we were buying nearly 200 plants. Yosi knows the place like the back of his hand.  We filled up the cart 3 times. Yosi would ask me if I liked this plant or that one and when I said, “Yes,” he’d load on 5 to 10 pots of that plant. It was my HGTV dream come true! I forgot for the day that I was waiting to find out the results of my biopsy.

Chemo was weekly for 6 months, beginning April 30th, with daily white blood count booster shots and anti nausea shots in between. As I recovered from the effects of the chemo, I had the fantastically beautiful and peaceful garden as a source of positive energy.

A second bit of happiness during my treatment was that my son got married. He was so happy and I was so happy for him that I felt like I had yet another reason to live. He had been depressed for a long time and I hadn’t seen him smile in years. He sent pictures of himself and his fiancĂ©e’ and her daughter, with a big old smile on his face and I was filled with joy. They were even talking about having more kids. I could be a grandmother, something I never thought I’d be excited about.

April 24th I had the first teaching session with Nurse Barbara, to tell us what to expect in the chemo treatments. All of my questions were answered and I came away with a lot of hope and information overload. She was very competent and thorough.  She did not however mention that to get to her office we had to walk through the chemo room. What a shock. What a reality check.  Everyone looked so pale and sick. Hooked up to the IV s. It’s not a pretty sight. I tried to smile at a couple of the people but I couldn’t sustain it, and I looked away. I would be in that room soon. I hoped to bring some color and life with me. I did bring color to the room, first because there were very few black women in there and second because I wore a deep purple wrap to stay warm and I brought my surgeon teddy bear. (Everyone fell in love with him.) I wore lipstick and new shoes every week. As I reclined in the chemo chair, I enjoyed looking at my shoes. I was told to wear grubby clothes for chemo, but that was not me. When I dressed becomingly in that chemo room, I felt a bit better.

Nurse Barbara said that in 3 weeks all of my hair would fall out. It did. I was OK with that, I would get to wear hats and scarves, or just be bald. I was. First a hair stylist friend cut my long dreadlocks off into a short Afro, as suggested by the nurse. Everyday as I combed my hair more and more hair came out in the comb. Finally there was a big bald spot on the back of my head. I asked my husband to shave my head. It was a great relief to make the decision. It was one of my most loving and intimate experiences ever. I was glad it was Earl doing this for me. He had said he would shave his head, too. I thought he meant some time in the future. But as soon as he finished mine, he shaved his right off. I was very moved by this. My best friend Marsha and my mother asked me to save some of my locks for them. So I washed my hair and had some lovely smelling locks to send to my loved ones.

Later we took pictures. I wanted my family at home to see that we were still standing and smiling. Being bald was strangely liberating, though it took a while to get used to my new look. I was no longer studying my pillow in the morning looking for patches of hair. Plus the fiery tingling in my scalp stopped. I was excited about wearing hats, but now the hats that fit with my dreadlocks were too big. I asked a friend if she would get a hat for me in her shopping travels, she asked if I wanted to go shopping with her. The chemo had me too fatigued for that. A few days later my friend and her husband came by to sit on the patio with us. She had a large bag and I assumed she’d brought something for the house. What she had was a hatbox full of hats, ten hats in every color and style. I was so happy. I was undone by her love and generosity. That was the power of friendship keeping me in the fight.

At one point I just got weary of talking about cancer. I needed to distract myself. Hear someone else’s story. Talking to my support group friends helped with that. I could call people who didn’t know what was happening with me and just listen to what was going on with their day. Listening with joy and much interest. All of this was a part of what I called my Life Saving Procedure. Including all of the gazillions of side effects, too numerous to list here, but worth enduring to keep living.

Some nights the chemo chemicals sparked off me like crazy. They flushed from my eyes and scalp. I could smell it coming from my pores. There was a chemical taste in my mouth all of the time. I couldn’t taste my food. That was the hardest part of the treatment. I was forcing myself to eat then. Food tasted terrible, but as a compulsive overeater, it was easy to force down food, even if it tasted like metal. I did like the fact that no matter how much I ate, I stayed thin. I loved the way my clothes fit.

We took a little break from treatment and doctors for a trip to Jamaica. I saw a picture from that trip and I thought I was looking OK when I took the picture. Looking at it later I saw that I could barely keep my left eye open. My face looked so tired. I’ve since shredded those pictures. I had chemo brain, I could hardly spell, reading was difficult and reading is my favorite past time. Thinking and speaking was hard, words got turned around. Some days I was thin, some days my face was puffy. I hated that chemo. Even though it was saving my life, I still feel that there must be a less toxic way to treat this illness.

Sometimes I would just cry. Sometimes being upbeat and positive about breast cancer would be more than I could manage.  I would get frustrated at trying to work up an outfit and then remember, oh, what will I put on my bald head. I did like my cheekbones and thinner thighs, not having to shave my legs and underarms or wash my hair. I’d just put my head under the shower, wipe it and go.

It took about three months before I really came to the leading edge of acceptance of what I was going through. When I looked into the mirror I could literally see the barest essence of myself. With no hair, eyelashes or eyebrows my eyes looked darker and deeper.

The breast cancer information said not to try to lose weight during chemo. It was tempting with no appetite and all, but the burn was too much. I could feel that chemo burning through the food I would eat. The info also said that life after treatment might not be the same as it was before. That it takes six months to a year to get back to your previous physical condition.

The arm where my surgery was will never be the same. I will always need to exercise it to avoid swelling from the lymph nodes removal. It said there would be a kind of post-treatment depression once treatment is done. That wasn’t my experience. I was so happy that I didn’t have to keep going to doctor’s appointments. But what did happen is that my body went “kaflooy”, that’s the medical term my radiation nurse used. I had all kinds of breakouts and infections that needed treatment. So it took another month after treatment to kind of get back to semi-normal. They talked about the anxiety that comes before future check ups and the concern about recurrence of cancer. I do worry about that.

Two weeks after chemo and before radiation my hair started growing back. The radiation didn’t take out the hair on my head, only the hair near the radiation site. Still didn’t have to shave the underarms. I’m still waiting for my eyelashes and eyebrows to come back in completely.

When my chemo treatments were complete I had a second PET/CT scan that came back normal. I broke down in tears of joy from deep in my gut. I had a few weeks break and then radiation began for 6 weeks everyday 5 days on 2 days off. Radiation was a cakewalk compared to chemo. I was told that I would feel some fatigue by the end of the treatments. I had 33 treatments.

During radiation, which was so much easier than chemo, I was able to drive myself to the daily treatments, which lasted about 15 minutes each. At first it was easy on my skin and I was given some creams and potions to apply to the affected area. Over time that area darkened and at the end in the last 5 treatments it became painful. It was like a really, really really bad sunburn. The last treatments concentrated the radiation beams on the area where the cancerous lump was removed. Owww.

In the radiation waiting room a sort of camaraderie developed. We’d sit there, men and women in our skimpy hospital gowns trying to hold on to our last shreds of dignity as we’d shared our stories. I was able to put my illness into its proper perspective when I heard the others’ stories. Some were getting their heads, faces and prostates zapped. Some didn’t have enough insurance and weren’t able to complete their treatments. Some didn’t have transportation to the hospital. Some had been shuffled around from hospital to hospital piecing together their treatment plan. One nice lady would bring insurance information to the waiting room to share. We counted down the days and then we all celebrated when it was the last day of treatment.

I was reluctant to celebrate too much when my treatment was complete. I don’t want to temp fate. There is still that fear that the cancer will return. But whatever happens I will keep moving forward. Keep fighting.

I had no choice but to fight. I had my husband pushing and pulling me through recovery. I have my support group fellowship, my prayer warriors, my family and friends, who I think of as my Village; I have God who is with me always. So I get to step up to the plate and handle this with grace and courage.

My support group fellowship was and still is a huge help to me. They shared their experience, strength and hope with me. Showing me their breast cancer scars and telling me how long they have survived, one for eight years, another for 12 years. They let me cry on their shoulders when I was first diagnosed and afterward. I could share with them my fears and concerns and they didn’t recoil. They had already faced this fear and were no longer afraid.

2017


My Village lifted me up in prayer. Many times I literally felt lifted. Our neighbors prayed for me. Across the street, Rose told me that the whole Armenian Church was praying for me. She brought home cooked food for me. Evelyn next door sat with me and assured me that she would see me riding my bike in the neighborhood again soon. My cousin in Texas is a prayer warrior (who knew?). She drove to San Marcos from Houston to lay hands on me when we visited there. Kathy came and brought soup and sat with me in the garden some days. Jill and Lynn brought flowers and sat with me. Barbara brought me books that I read in the garden.   Juanita helped me pack for a trip. Marsha and Bootsie flew in from my hometown just see for themselves how I was doing. Pam sat with me even though she had recently had surgery. Gina, Eve, and Barbara drove me to chemo on the days Earl couldn’t.  They all helped me make it through. I am eternally grateful to them all. I have survived incest, domestic violence, drug abuse, compulsive overeating and lots of other things that could have killed me and I’m still here, I’m not ready to die, I’m still standing.



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review of Destiny Lingers by Rolonda Watts

I must issue a disclaimer: Rolonda is a friend of mine. But I don't think I'm being biased when I say you will like this story. Rolonda as, Maya Angelou, says is a good writer and good story teller. She pays great attention to very fine details of life. Her description of the perfect martini is mouthwatering. Or like a woman wiping excess lipstick off the corners of her mouth after application. The nuances of night club public women's restrooms.

Character development is fantastic. The cheating husband was getting on my motherfuckin' nerves. Not just because he was unfaithful to Destiny, but because he's a rude asshole. I'm wondering why she liked him in the first place.

This is a juicy story. That bitch Eve got the choking and hair-snatching she so richly deserved.

I like how Rolonda refers to the sun and the sea as "she". The ocean is "frisky", but "nowhere near the pouty little girl she was last night. Or "Mother Ocean."

This is a good drama, it has everything. Racism, kidnapping ,hostages, shooting, island life, hurricanes, infidelity, taboo love. I was caught up in the story right away.

It's a good thing Destiny has her good friends, Kat, I love Kat's cursing, and Hope to keep her grounded. I had to keep reminding myself, though, that the story is set in a time before cell phones.

I haven't read a romance novel in a long time. I would probably read them more often if they had characters like Kat, who say things like, "Girl, you better getcho happy ass off that island!"

See what I mean?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

 
by 
13596608
's review 
May 12, 2013  ·  edit

it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read August 6, 2017 to August 15, 2017.

A gripping story that says a lot with an economy words. By page 16 so much had happened to four year old Richard, I could barely sleep thinking about what I'd just read. The story begins in about 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi and goes until 1926 when young Richard finally escapes the South where is brilliant and hungry mind just would not allow him to remain. If he stayed there he would have died or certainly would have been killed.

His family and friends could not understand why he wanted to read and they definitely could not wrap their minds around him wanting to be a writer. He might as well have told them he wanted to walk on the moon. When he mentioned reading to his friends they constantly asked him why. Why did he want to read those books? Why did he want to read when he didn't have to?

"I was building up in me a dream which the entire educational system of the South had been rigged to stifle. I was feeling the very thing that the state of Mississippi had spent millions of dollars to make sure that I would never feel; I was becoming aware of the thing that the Jim Crow laws had been drafted and passed to keep out of my consciousness; I was acting on impulses that southern senators in the nation's capital had striven to keep out of Negro life; I was beginning to dream the dreams that the state had said were wrong, that the schools had said were taboo."

This was true in 1924 and apparently is still true today.

When Richard's friend's brother was killed he thought "Bob had been caught by the white death, the threat of which hung over every black male in the south." What he heard "altered the look of the world, induced in me a temporary paralysis of will and impulse. The penalty of death awaited me if I made a false move and I wondered if it was worth-while to make any move at all."

Fortunately he had the wherewithal to push past this hopeless feeling. He was a conscious boy living in a world where that attitude would get him killed. The kids today would say he's "woke". He resisted and no one understood why he resisted. Everyone in the black community was simply trying to stay alive. Going along with the Jim Crow ways was the easiest way to do so.

"I had begun coping with the white world too late. I could not make subservience an automatic part of my behavior. I had to feel and think out each tiny item of racial experience in the light of the whole race problem, and to each item I brought the whole of my life. While standing before a white man I had to figure out how to perform each act and how to say each word. I could not help it. I could not grin. In the past I had always said too much, now I found that it was difficult to say anything at all. I could not react as the world in which I lived expected me to; that world was too baffling, too uncertain."

He had been relatively sheltered from white people during his childhood. He had people in his family who looked like white people. He didn't grow up seeing colors. But now, if he did or said the wrong thing, and he never could be sure of the right thing, he could very easily die.

He finally saved enough money to move from Jackson Mississippi to Memphis Tennessee. There he was still trying to read as much as possible. Still people around him, blacks and especially whites couldn't understand why he wanted to read and discouraged him at every turn. He had a job running errands for a white man. Sometimes he was sent with a note to the library. Blacks were not allowed in the libraries at that time. He found a way to get books by forging notes from his boss, with the boss's permission. This particular white man was a Catholic who was shunned by the other southern white men. He went back to the library again and again. The more he read the more he wanted to read.

I related to how he said the books were like a drug to him, like dope. The books helped him understand the narrow lives of the white men who had so much power over him. Books kept his hope alive. Showed him other ways of life. To me that is the beauty of books. The beauty of this book is that it showed the world what life was like in the bad old days. It showed that things have changed but we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Necie's Knees


Until July 17, 2015 both of my knees were shot.  I'd been complaining to my docs for some time. Asking them if they could hear the crunching that I heard when I bent my knees. One doc said she heard it, but it was no big deal. She blew it off. At the time my docs were rotating like crazy, in and out of Toluca Lake Medical Center.

The last one promised she would stay around a while and she took me seriously when I told her about the crunching and pain in my knees. Right away she referred me to Dr. Robert Klapper, the knee guy to the stars, who works out of Cedars Sinai.

Dr. Klapper is a busy man. It was 3 months before I was able to get in to see him. Before he entered the exam room he ordered more x-rays, because the ones I brought with me weren't clear. Dr. Klapper has every x-ray machine known to man, right there in his office.

He came into the exam room with my x-rays and said, "I hate to say 'Hello, I'm Dr. Klapper, and you need surgery', but......" He showed me the shots of my knees, that look so much thinner in the x-rays, and told me that I had no meniscus. None. My knees were bone on bone. He listened to the crunch as he moved my feet up and down while I sat on the exam table. He said you could hear the crunch from across the room. He told me not to let anyone give me shots in the knees, because there was nothing to put the shot in.

He ordered physical therapy for me while I contemplated surgery. Before I left, he said, "I can't tell, you, you can't tell you, but your knees will tell you when it's time for surgery." Hmmmmmm.

He told me to keep riding my bike but to avoid hills. And that ice is my friend.

I went ahead and scheduled my next appointment, 3 months out. When my appointment rolled around, I was more than ready. I came into the exam room and told him, "Cut me doc!" My knees were killing me. Making me a crippled old lady, I was not ready to be. I appreciated Dr. Klapper's confidence. He told me that the surgery takes and hour and a half for most surgeons, but for him only 45 minutes because, "I measure twice and cut once."

The right knee gave me the most pain and that's where we started. My surgery was scheduled quickly because someone else had canceled. I had less than 3 weeks to get all of the pre-op blood work and tests done. My blood was typed, crossed and checked for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I donated a unit of blood for the surgery. This was a challenge as I have slow moving blood and rolly polly veins. The nurses call it a hard stick.  It's hard alright. Hard on me. Especially when there is an inexperienced nurse poking around in my arm.  The folks at Cedars are pros, though, and they made it happen.  If they had been unable to get my blood flowing, I would have had to ask someone to donate a unit of blood for my surgery. Who knew?  I also didn't know that my slow flowing blood could have lead to a clotting problem during surgery.  My blood flow speed just barely made the time cut. Whew.

Then there were teeth to clean, because after the surgery there would be no more dental visits for a year. There was a class to take. A two hour pre-surgery class. I've got to give it to the people at Cedars, they are thorough as hell. They leave no stone unturned. During my numerous trips back and forth to Cedars I saw how vast an organization it is. It's like a small city. There's a Starbucks, clothing stores, gifts shops, of course, and all manner of food shops.

Then there was a pre-op exam by my internist Dr. So. A mammogram which was already scheduled before the surgery. Then before you know it, it was the17th. July 17th is my beloved Grandmother's birthday, so I thought it was the perfect date for the surgery. A good sign. Some nice person called the night before to let us know what time the surgery was scheduled. I was ready.

A couple days before the surgery date, the husband, Earl, was cleaning the gutters on the back of the house. I came home from running some errands. I greeted him and he asked me to spot him on the ladder. I was hungry and he'd asked me to change clothes, into"grubbies", to better help. I wanted to get something to eat first. He said go ahead.

I was eating when I heard a thump. I ran to see what happened and there he was, going down. I got there just in time to see his head hit the ottoman cushion. His arm took the brunt of the fall. He sat up in shock. I helped him up, saying to him, "No more ladders!" He'd missed the last step on the way down. He insisted on finishing the job. I spotted him. It was too late. I told him,"You can't be broke down now, you've got to help me next week!"

Later that day his arm swelled up and was terribly bruised. I felt really guilty. The only good thing that came out of this is that he is absolutely through with ladders. Later I said to him, "If only I'd spotted you." He blew it off with, "That's split milk." I didn't want to keep bringing it up. He gets annoyed when I do that, so I just tried to do all I could to help him feel better.

He went to the doctor and then to a specialist. He thought the wrist was broken as it was the most painful. It wasn't broken, but he wore a brace for a while. He took muscle relaxers and stumbled around like a zombie. He was exhausted at the hospital and I felt bad to have to ask for everything after my surgery.

At the hospital I had the wonderful nurses to help me. I needed them, too. They waited on me hand and foot. Even putting in my prescription eyedrops for me. I missed them when I got home. The surgery went well.  I slept through the whole thing, of course, amazed when I awoke to a 26cm scar from above to right below my new knee. Held together with 65+ staples. I had the nurse take pix so I could post them on Face Book. I almost lost a few friends behind that post. LOL! Some people are so sensitive.

The first two nights were ass kickers. The pain brought me to tears and nearly to my knees. Dr. Klapper said my high pain tolerance is a blessing and a curse. I endured too long and that increased the damage. He said when he cut me open it looked like someone had poured battery acid in there, it was bad.

Because of the major pain, as the anesthesia and pain blockers wore off I was taking high doses of pain meds. Norco 10 - 4 x a day. There's a Norco 5 but I didn't think that would cut it the way I was hurting. Norco is hydrocodone/acetaminophen 10-325mg. I think it's what they make meth with. What I know is that it knocks down the pain and drys out my mouth and intestines. Bringing along nausea and dizziness. In hospital, I was given stool softeners and anti nausea patches. When I left I didn't get any to take with me. I felt OK. I didn't feel constipated but everyone insisted it would happen. More on that later.

In order to be released from the hospital, I had to walk the halls and take a step on the stairway to be ready for the one step we have at home. My blood pressure kept dropping when I stood so I had to stay an extra day to get my BP stabilized. I'd heard that they would have me up and walking on the same day as surgery. It was true. It hurt like hell, too. Just getting out of the bed was a supreme challenge.

The night before surgery I was to shower with Chlorhexidine Gluconcate 4% (CHG) antibiotic soap. I was instructed to shampoo my hair with regular shampoo and shower again the morning of surgery with more CHG.  Once I got to the hospital they had me wipe myself down with CHG towelettes. They're not playing with those germs! The nurses prepped me and of course my rolly polly veins held up the works. The anesthesiologist ended up getting my line in. The nurses were out in the bay describing how they'd never seen anything like them. I wanted to say "I can hear you!" I tried to tell them they would need their needle expert. Anyway, it got done and they rolled me into the biggest OR I'd ever seen. Everyone introduced themselves. One guy was named Earl. Earl the Pearl he said. We got my knee marked and that's all she wrote.

As I said before, I woke up amazed. My knee was all bundled up and nurses were asking me questions. Can't remember any of them now. My room turned out to be the very same one that our friend Richard Gant had occupied a month earlier when Dr. Klapper replaced his hip. He and his wife Jasmine sent beautiful fragrant flowers.

Brent visited. I was supposed to be in the hospital 1-2 nights. Turns out it was 2. Earl went home every night. He had done that staying overnight thing in 2007 when I had breast cancer surgery. No one offered him a cot back then and this time he was all cramped up from his injuries from the fall. He didn't take the cot they offered as he remembered what it was like in 2007.

Juanita visited the next day, after a lot of confusion about where I was.  She, like the others, insisted I not get too constipated. Another friend said that her constipation was worse than the major surgery she'd had. I was still feeling OK. I hadn't eaten much. The food was too terrible to eat. I ate less each day. My mouth was too dry to taste anything. I had never suffered from constipation in the past. Diarrhea, yes, constipation, no. Maybe that's TMI.

Anyway, I finally caved and purchased some stool softener and laxative and prunes. I got the works. This was after being home a couple days and seeing a doctor for dizziness and nausea. He said I should cut back on the Norco 10. The nurses had suggested cutting back when I was in the hospital. The pain wouldn't let me. In time the nausea and dizziness were too much so I relented and I cut back. The doc said to take some ibuprofen along with the Norco.

The day I saw the doc, I came home and launched a 3 prong attack on my long lost bowel movement. It had been a week. I took Senekot laxative, Myralax stool softener and ate a whole lot of prunes. The doc said I should have a movement by Sunday. It was Thursday. Happy to announce my bowels moved the same day. Now I had to remember to keep taking all of the above as long as I was taking the Norco. Who knew, I was to have this much discussion of my bowel movements?

In cutting back on the Norco I had a bad pain experience that night. Didn't make me cry. Did make me moan and reach for the iburprofen. I worried that I would run out with only 3 tabs left. The pain episode passed and I was OK for the moment.

Lance visited the next day and brought flowers. He did a few thing I didn't want to want to bother Earl with as he was exhausted handling the basics of cooking, washing dishes and making the beds all with a bum arm from his fall. Lance went to the store and got me some more ibuprofen. I could relax then, knowing I had my stash.

Every other day or so a physical therapist came by. A nurse came by regularly to take my vitals. I didn't need the nurse so much as I needed Ash the PT. I needed to get my knee stretched out so it would heal correctly. I had been doing so well with the PT that I overdid it on my own the next day.

It was time for my 3 week post-op doctor's visit. Overdoing it had set me back and I was in a lot of pain. Kathy drove me to the appointment that day because Earl had to work. My appointment was at 8am in Beverly Hills. I live in the Valley, an hour's drive during rush hour. Kathy picked me up at 6:30am. We got there early and there was nowhere to sit outside the locked office doors. There were benches in the downstairs lobby where we'd waited earlier, but we were hoping the doors would open a few minutes early. It was tough trying to stand in pain. I was using the cane then, but I probably should have used the walker that day. Kathy grabbed my sweater and purse to make it as easy as possible for me. At last the doors opened. That was a tough day, but I got a good report nonetheless. I don't have to see the doctor again for a year. Kathy made the day better by taking me to breakfast afterward. My friends are the best.

There were some rough days when it was super hot and Earl was tired, I was impatient and unwashed. I didn't want to risk an infection by getting my bandages wet. I could have put a garbage bag and duct tape over my leg to shower, but I didn't want to take a chance. I just washed up at the sink. I was on a walker and using a commode. I hated that commode at first then hardly wanted to give it up when it was time. I kinda liked having armrests on the toilet.

One thing I remembered well from the pre-op class is that when friends and family ask what they could bring, ask them to bring prepared food. Carolyn and Brittany visited and brought the veggie salads I had been craving. The Farquhars visited bringing flowers and more delicious food. I was hoping I wasn't too funky for a hug. They graciously hugged me anyway.

I lost a couple pounds. The pain subsided and I could feel the extra weight of the titanium where my meniscus used to be. I took a couple steps without the walker and Ash began talking about a cane. Soon it would be time to start water therapy. I had planned to go back to the Motion Picture Hospital where I'd gone for pre surgery therapy. I thought I would need a driver but I realized one of the exercises Ash had me doing was preparing me for driving a car. Yessssssss.

Barbara came by and washed my hair for me and rebraided it. I was so grateful. It had gotten pretty smelly. I love my friends. I can't tell you. So many people were supportive. Barbara came back by some weeks later and followed up on her promise to treat me to a mani-pedi. I didn't think I wanted one as I usually do my own nails, but it was so great to get out of the house and hang with my girl. Talking and catching up with each other .

By week seven I was walking without a cane. The knee was stiff but not too painful. I tried to cut back on my pain med dosage but it was too soon. I was taking something every 9 hours or so. I've learned to practice patience with this as Dr. Klapper said it would take a whole year to be completely healed.

I was so looking forward to driving. Earl was doing everything including driving me everywhere and cleaning up my bathroom accidents in addition to his regular stuff. Plus his arm was still healing. He said that if I could walk, then I could drive. I decided to take his word for it.

At the beginning of September I drove our car! I was sooooo excited. OK, I only drove it from the driveway to the street. But then I knew I could do it. I didn't think about my knee at all. Only driving. And it didn't hurt. Now I would be able to drive myself to physical therapy. Three times a week was a lot to ask of poor Earl. I dismantled the commode, too. As much as I liked the comfort of an armchair toilet, I was sick of looking at it. Tired of being an invalid. I thought of putting the area rugs back down, too. They had to be removed while I was on the walker and cane. I was still kind of dragging my right foot and the last thing I wanted to do was to trip and fall.

Good thing my recovery was moving along well, because in October the hubby got a job that took him out of state for a month. By then I was pretty darned independent. I was on Earl-cation. No making the beds and washing dishes. I stayed up as late as I wanted. Watched what I wanted on TV. Did laundry when I felt like it. And ate my favorite foods from restaurants he's not interested in. Yum. Oh, and listened to all of the music I want, really loud!

Earl left me a honey-do list. Can you believe that? Not easy stuff either. One item was taking one of the cars to the dealership for work that would take a week. Not too bad. I dropped off the car and they brought me home. They would come get me the next week so I could retrieve the car.

Item number two was replacing the front door. This was more than a notion, as my Grandmother used to say. I have an inch of paper work to show for it. We had been talking about getting a new front door for at least 5 years. He picks now to actually do it. So before he left town we went to Home Depot and made our selection. Home Depot doesn't tell you until it's too late to refuse, that you'll need a permit and an inspection. The installer didn't tell me until he was done that I would need to paint the wood door frame within 2 weeks to avoid water damage. That meant right away because it was supposed to rain in a couple days.

After inventorying our painting supplies and 3 trips to Home Depot, limping along on my new knee, the door installation was complete. It was not a pretty sight, limping up and down a step stool trying to prep and paint the door frame without getting paint on the rubber seal. The neighbors walking their dogs looked on curiously. None offered to help.

Physical therapy was going well. I may have lost a couple pounds without feeling like I worked very hard. It was an hour and 20 minutes of non-stop activity in the nice warm pool. The first few times I was exhausted afterwards. Soon my stamina built up enough to do more after therapy.

By the end of October I was able to get back on my bike.  It had been over 3 months and it felt really good to have the wind blowing in my face as I coasted along. The 18 sessions of pool therapy were a huge help. It almost made me want to take swimming lessons. Almost. Each day my muscles and ligaments felt more connected to my bones.

A friend who'd had her knee replaced a month after me said she watched a knee replacement surgery video on You Tube. I thought that was a good idea for me, too. I like watching that kind of stuff, anyway. It turned out to be surprisingly helpful. I understood why my knee and leg felt the way they did. The muscles had been cut away from the bone and now they were reattaching. I could feel it happening. A healing pain. Sometimes I can't even call it a pain. The medical people say that the swelling is part of the healing. I think the swelling kind of holds things together until they are reattached.

It's now 6 months of recovery and I can do just about everything I used to do. I learned the hard way not to skip the daily stretching exercises. The pain and stiffness comes back like gangbusters. I'm picking up speed on my bike. I don't know if I'll ever ride the distances of the past, but I'm just happy to ride again. Dr. Klapper said that the best thing I could do for my left knee was to get my right knee fixed. That's pretty true. Now my poor left knee has to try to keep up with the new titanium knee.

During the first 3 weeks of recovery, I thought I would never let anyone cut on me again, I was in so much pain. I thought, forget about the left knee, that's just it! I'm going to go ahead and get my left knee done, too. I'll wait until the right knee has had plenty time to heal and go ahead and get 'er done. I know what to expect and I'm going to go for it.








Thursday, April 30, 2015

MY INVISIBILITY CLOAK







In magazine interviews, sometimes the subject is asked what superpower would they like to have. Many times they say they would like to be invisible.

I didn't ask for it, but invisibility is my superpower as an older black woman in America. Now that I've discovered I have it, I like to put it to use as often as possible. 

When I'm in a department store, I can be assured of an uninterrupted shopping experience. Unless I'm in a really high end store, no one cares if I need assistance. I use my powers then to eavesdrop on conversations. I try not to laugh when they say something funny, but if I do, no one notices.

When I went to an open house a few weeks ago, the relator and his associates talked among themselves as if I wasn't there. I got some good information on the house that way. I waved a cheery goodbye on my way out to remind them that I had been there.

In the grocery store, I'm amazed at what I can do right in front of people who have decided not to see me. I get a kick out of it. 

Even in front of our house, I can stand on our stoop and our newer neighbors will walk right by with their dogs and babies and not see me. Sometimes I stand at the end of our driveway, right at the sidewalk to test my powers. They are strong, my powers. Even that close those who have chosen to, do not see me.

In these days of racial hyper-awareness, maybe it's just that they are afraid. Afraid of any black face. That's what the hubby says. I don't know. Maybe they've had a negative encounter with an angry Black woman. I won't try to guess. I can see why they would be afraid, the media makes all of us look like thugs, hooligans, violent monsters. It's too bad that they are afraid. They are missing out on a richness that could be part of their life. If only they could step outside of the fear and step into their real world. 






Monday, March 16, 2015

Get that Check to the Bank!

The hubby and I were chatting today about someone we know who lost their paycheck. How does that happen? I never in all my working career lost a paycheck. The paycheck actually never made it home. I went to the bank with it as soon as possible. Trying to be sure I covered post dated checks and checks I'd written to the grocery store the day before, knowing I would get paid.

Our bosses didn't expect to see us the afternoon of payday. We'd all be easing in and out of the office going to the bank.

Back in the day I worked at what used to be Pacific Bell on Wilshire Blvd. downtown. At the time there was a bank on the ground floor of the building. On pay day we would sneak downstairs on our break time, to cash our paychecks.

One Thursday there were 3 or 4 of us in line to cash our checks, when the bank got robbed. Yep, the bank got robbed. The bank robber held up the cashiers and we tried to make ourselves small. Backing our way to the door that lead back upstairs.

Our concern was not with the bank robber, but with our supervisors if we were delayed by giving reports to the police. We didn't have to talk to the police, we did have a little trouble when we went back to the office. Of course a new policy was made and there was no more sneaking to the bank to cash checks.

I guess these days everything is done electronically. That would save a lot of sneaking off time.


Old Neighbor Friend

Back in the 1980s I lived in an apartment in Los Angeles' Korea Town. I was in a relationship that was on the skids. I cried a lot. One day I was crying in the shower. Hoping that the water would camouflage my sobs. It didn't. Soon after I got out of the shower there was a knock on my door. It was my next door neighbor. She introduced herself as Cynthia. She asked if I was alright. I was not, but I didn't want to admit it to a stranger.

I resisted her for a while. I thought she would go all Willona from Good Times, on me. You know, just coming in without knocking. Just showing up. She visited a lot. I think now that she needed someone to talk to. Even though she was married to Jess. She was a short round light skinned woman with short straightened hair and too much foundation.  She was smart, funny and caring. Jess was a really tall, dark skinned hulking illiterate gentle giant. 

I would ask her how he managed in the world being unable to read. If he had a job interview, she would fill in the application for him and they would drive together to the address the day before so he would know the way. He drove. He navigated L.A.'s freeway system, which is no joke. I believe he had a driver's license. He could count money and he gambled. 

I think his gambling was a problem. The reason he was always looking for a job. He would spend hours just stroking her arms and legs because he liked the color of her skin. They really loved each other.

She helped me get through a tough time in my life. With a lot of laughs and companionship.  Like the time when we were smoking dope, munching out and playing Scrabble. She laid down the letters I,R,O,N. I challenged her, "Eye-ron, Eye-ron! That's not a word!" Way too much smoking at that point! We dissolved into hysterics.

I helped her and a lot of our neighbors connect their TV to the cable outlet in our apartments. I'd learned wiring skills at the good old phone company. Now Cynthia could better watch her beloved House On The Prairie.

As always when an old friend floats through my mind, I wonder where they are now and how they're doing. I hope she's doing well.