Sunday, July 10, 2022

Vacation

Last month my mother, brother and I drove to PEI and stayed for a week at a beach house (pink star). Our family used to vacation on the island when I was a teenager.  I got to live out my Anne of Green Gables dreams and discover the Emily of New Moon series.  My mom's family was originally from the island.  It's neat going to a place where a good part of the population looks like me. Same skin, same body shape.  I have had random locals come up to me and ask if I'm someone they know.  So, the island felt like a good place to go for a first vacation since the pandemic.  Also, we had wanted to spread some of my dad's ashes there (black square).

The beach house was gorgeous.  The beach is lovely. Two downsides were the deeply rutted unpaved road to the house that scraped the bottom of my mom's car. The steep wobbly stairs down to the beach were a scary chore.  It is a three bedroom two bath place with basic wi-fi and not much TV but that is okay.  We had planned to unplug and relax.

What we did not plan is that none of us are talking to each other now.  The vacation highlighted that our family still has deep painful problems that we chose to ignore after dad died because we needed something stable. So we pretended to be stable for two years.  

From my perspective, the vacation was painful because I was very much a third wheel. My mom and brother have similar personalities. I didn't have dad to balance me out.  My mom also does not know how to talk to people who aren't her students. We fought constantly all week because we kept talking past each other - she didn't listen to me and I got so frustrated, I didn't listen to her.  Additionally, she refused to let me drive her car. I felt all week that she didn't like me and I could do nothing right in her eyes.  I spent a lot of time on the beach just to get away from her.

Spreading my dad's ashes was very nice and sad. I had a dream with him that night for the first time in years.  My brother was very kind and supportive during the week and even offered to take me on a drive to let me get out. Both of us cried a lot that week.

Not to end on a down note. We spent almost every day on the beach and since I have the PEI skin, I didn't get burned and now have a pretty awesome tan. I slept a lot and ate a ton of good food.  For most of my life, I haven't had well prepared mussels so it turns out that I don't hate them if they are done right!  Also, Molson's beer is yummy.  I got back into reading after decades of not really being able to focus and commit to a book. I got through two of N.K Jemisin's "Broken Earth" trilogy.  There were times when all three of us could just relax and hang.  My mom read a bunch of crossword clues out loud and we tried to help after a couple Molsons - which was hilarious.  Also mom and I loved watching Canadians reporting on U.S. news.  We really are the downstairs meth lab to them.  The drive home was a lot of fun because I was allowed to play the road trip mix I had put together.
 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Don’t Have a Mammogram at Tufts Medical Center

 Fall 2021 I had my annual mammogram at Tufts. The tech just pushed the go button on the hydraulic press with no adjustments. It was very rushed and I didn’t know what to do.

I started crying on my way home. My entire chest was black and blue for weeks. I needed to ice the area and only wear sports bras. I looked like I had been in a massive car accident.

Around the holidays I noticed a lump in my right breast. I kept an eye on it for a couple weeks. It grew and shifted location so I saw a doctor. She was about to order a consult to Tufts Breast Center but I stopped her and got a referral to Mass General Hospital.

January 2022 I went to MGH. The Breast Center is clean. Personnel is very kind and attentive. I did not feel like an annoyance or inconvenience. I had an ultrasound and a mammogram. My stars, a mammogram done well is sooo much better! I didn’t know some machines have different squishing paddles and knobs to adjust pressure. Dread turned into relief. 

I was approached by a doctor as I walked to the waiting room. He told me the scans are concerning and I should have a core biopsy. Inside my depression and anxiety nodded and said “Of course”. There was time that afternoon to do the biopsy so I agreed. I am really impressed with the kindness and professionalism at MGH. A staff member held my hand during the biopsy and told me I was doing great as tears trickled out my eyes. It didn’t hurt I was just feeling scared and overwhelmed. There is a tiny metal tag left in the biopsy spot and I had another mammogram to make sure it looked okay. I had to ice the biopsy spot and wear a sports bra. The bandaging was great - good coverage and no skin shredding removal.

So of course the next couple of weeks, I read up on breast cancer treatments and staging. Some late nights I looked at post op mastectomy pictures as mental preparation. I got the news I don’t have breast cancer. The lump is necrotic tissue from injury. Gee when was I injured recently?

People, get your mammograms done at MGH. Always speak up if you are in pain or confused about a test being performed on your body.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

I Have Breakthrough COVID


 

I was vaccinated with Pfizer Jan 11 and Feb 1 2021. Those vaccinations were pretty uneventful.  Just a sore arm and tiredness afterwards.

Last weekend I traveled to Hampton Beach to actually get away and enjoy beach life. I don't think I contracted COVID from Hampton Beach but the no mask atmosphere got me lulled into a false sense of security.  On the drive home I used a restroom at a rest stop that I'm suspecting could have been the exposure location. 

On Wednesday Aug 18 I was sneezy with a runny nose. The pollen report was pretty high so I thought it was allergies. So, no big deal. On Thursday, I was completely congested with a sore throat. I thought the allergies might have progressed to a sinus infection. But I was having a bloody nose and developed a low grade fever.  I reached out to my PCP.

Friday Aug 20 I was told to get a COVID test.  The exhaustion and body aches were hitting bad. I got the CVS ellume take home test.  My results were positive but apparently it isn't that accurate so I booked a PCR test for Sat.  I could not find an available free testing site until August 24 so I opted for a paid place that comes to your home. I got my positive results from them within 12 hours.

I am very lucky I am home stuffed up and tired  watching Netflix and not in the hospital.  That is how I know the vaccine works. A couple things:

- If the only available testing centers are booked out four days, that means four days of potential virus spread is going undetected. Governor Baker needs to get on the ball.

- It's okay to be cautious.  Being the only person masked, is okay. It is very hard to resist the crowd especially for something that is uncomfortable. Being safe is worth it.

- Listen to your body and trust your instincts.

- If you do get sick, it's normal to go through a lot of emotions. I regretted going away, was angry at unvaccinated idiots, scared about Delta/Lambda, and felt like an ungrateful jerk.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Deuxieme Vague

 Welp, here we are Dec 2020. Out of control COVID infections throughout the country. MA ICUs at 80 to 100% capacity depending on area. Baker not rolling back anything. So, my July opinion of him is GONE. I know, I know there isn’t any good move to make everyone happy. Another shutdown will crater the economy. But trusting citizen’s common sense isn’t working. In October, I went to one social gathering. One of the hosts’ mothers is high risk so she wore a mask and she got teased by her adult sons. I left the gathering after 30 minutes. 

Two weeks later, I had a COVID scare. Luckily, it came back negative. I hated the panic and guilt I felt over being a possible superspreader. Unlike certain corrupt politicians, I have empathy. 

Work has been difficult and demanding. Every other week, I was in tears over my workload or some disaster I uncovered. My boss has been very supportive. For months, I felt guilty that I was using his bandwidth especially since he is so buttoned down and quiet. Introvert managing an exhausting extrovert. We had an amazing talk last month where he told me that he used to be exactly like me and it took time and strategies to get to him current calm. He also pointed out that for my own health, I need to develop some strategies. So, so true. Also, awesome insight and empathy! Through this craziness, I had a great performance review this month.

I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy last month. It is called a Double in GI world. I call it the Chinese finger trap. No one warned me about the colonoscopy drink. Ugh, the smell. Now I hate Crystal Light lemonade. There is a completion amount goal during a timeframe. It doesn’t have to be exact. If you have nothing left to evacuate, take a break. The drink prep was actually worse than the procedure. I absolutely love propofol. It’s a nice warm blackout and coming to, I was smiling. I actually said I was an Avenger - ha! My back was pretty sore for a couple days due to funky procedure positioning. The results are that I don’t have cancer. I need an annual endoscopy to keep an eye on tissue in my esophagus. I need a possible surgery consult as well.


Thursday, July 09, 2020

July Check In

Thank God I live in Massachusetts! As of now, I am really happy how our governor handled COVID shut-downs.  We are one of the few states with declining infection rates.  I did take advantage of some of the phased openings. Eating outdoors at a restaurant feels amazing. You have to give a contact name and number.  The server wears a mask and you have directions to the restroom with a log of when it was last cleaned.  Eating food not prepared by my home was fantastic.  I ate out on the 19 anniversary of my stroke June 10 and Father's Day. I spent the former with my mom and the latter with my brother. This pandemic crisis has really brought us closer - which is nice and feels different.  Like, my mom tells my to my face that I have good ideas and gives me advice! That is freaking amazing to me.

Work is still remote from home. I had moments of frustration and demoralization here and there. I got some pointers from my boss about the tone of my email responses - which initially pissed me off but I did some research and realized that it can be an issue.  Only 50% of survey respondents can accurately identify email tone as a recipient! So, yeah... it is a good idea to phrase things as helpful and positive via email because intent is lost. I also was told to smile by a random consultant on Zoom which pissed me off.  So I mentioned that to my boss, his boss, and the dept VP. The department VP spoke to him and apologized to me letting me know the intent wasn't negative. That helped a lot. How many times have I been told by strangers on the street to "Smile honey" - ugh!

My roommate's cat, Shanna, passed away June 11 from congestive heart failure.  She was fourteen. It was so awful. We noticed she was listless and her breathing came in gasps so we brought her to Angell. They took her cat carrier and called my roommate. We thought it was allergies or an upper respiratory infection.  They called my roommate as we waited in the parking lot. I saw her face fall, tears gather in her eyes, and voice catch. I started crying. So, Shanna was put to sleep.  My roomie was able to see her afterwards - not me.  Damn COVID! This is the 3rd cat we have lost in my 4 years here. It is absolutely gutting. Angell, as always, was fantastic.

After this shock, we reached out to Fi Fi's former foster mom through Boston Animal Rescue. Now, we have had Ciarwyn for a week.  He is a black male with accents of white. He and Phil are best buds.  Fi Fi has been really skittish an dweirded out but is warming up to him. He is so cute. Fearless, curious, and a snuggle bug. Having him around has been wonderful. We love him!  The foster mom is an absolute cat whisperer.


Finally, I saw Hamilton July 3 on Disney+. I am officially obsessed. I've watched it twice. Bought the soundtrack, watched all the interviews I could. Read articles and cannot get the soundtrack out of my head. I was a drama/musical nerd in high school so I can see the genius of the show plus I am a history major. It is magnificent.  I always cry in the second act.  It has given me more appreciation for my mom and music theory.

Life is pretty good. I'm surviving. My roommate got a COVID test the other day which was negative which means to me that the precautions we are taking are good.  I got involved with the push to remove the Emancipation Group statue at  Park Plaza. I testified at the Boston Arts Commission hearing.  It is being removed. So I feel pretty great about that.  Tory Bullock was the main driving force he -  created a petition and pointed us towards the correct government contacts.
This does not say freed slave.To me, it looks like a shoe shine or Lincoln as Jesus giving a benediction. I was full bore removal going into the hearings but heard great arguments about moving it to a museum or recasting the slave as standing. I'm so glad I got involved. I used to work less than a block away from it and had a pit in my stomach every time I passed by it.  Also, fun fact there is going to be someplace in Boston a Frederick Douglass statue eventually someday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Anxiety During a Pandemic

This is my second week working from home. It has highlighted that I need to upgrade my desk with a monitor eventually. Right now, I am hunching over my work laptop. At least I have a fantastic office chair! It is over twenty years old - something I bought after lumbar disc removal. That gives you a clue on the great back support. I also love the chair because every single cat of mine has perched on the back.
Handling the current national crisis and uncertainty is a daily battle. Since I'm a number's nerd, this site makes me feel a lot better. Dr. Fauci makes me feel better too. Guess who doesn't make me feel calm?
I have been visiting family and friends via Zoom. That is a joy and solace. My mom is 68 and has respiratory problems so we set August 1 as the next time I can visit her. My uncle has instructed us to track our tenperature daily. It is important to do the little things you can control. This past weekend my roommate and I ran a couple quick errands. That made me feel better - things were different but it wasn't The Apocalypse. But I didn't got into the grocery store. My roommate said that was really scary and weird. I'm taking a lot of naps when my brain needs to peace out from the stress.
On bad days, I wake up with this tiny voice in my head saying, "They are going to let us die" and throughout the day, that voice becomes a scream. The hospital I work at needs mask donations and so many of my friends and family are on the front lines treating patients. But as long as the stock market is doing well, right guys?