Happy To Be Alive

I may be kicking myself this time next week; of course, I won’t be able to kick anything given my feet will be in special hard-soled boots/shoes healing up from some much needed surgery. However, there was a method to my madness in scheduling my foot surgery so soon after the culmination of my radiation treatments. I figure that since I will not be very ambulatory, I will be forced to relax, sit on my tukas (yes, it’s a real word) and heal up, in every sense of the word. With two weeks off for the Christmas break, my natural tendency is to fill each day to the brim with post-Christmas shopping, chores, projects, and other things. I tend to return to work after the new year – exhausted. Well, not this year.

I haven’t written much these last several weeks mainly because I’m just trying to keep myself together by taking each day at a time. Wake up at 5:30 a.m., start work from my home office by 6:00 a.m. then take off at 7:30 for my radiation treatment session, then either head back home to work the remainder of the day or head in to the office (Tuesday’s and Thursday’s).

Most visits to the radiation oncology center are uneventful. I go in, change into my hospital gown and wait in the women’s waiting area with several others for my name to be called. I read magazines or occasionally stare at the puzzle table hoping to find the key piece before it’s my turn to burn. At some point, the technician comes and gets me, walking me into this vault-like room with a huge machine with a narrow table in the center. It takes several minutes to position me properly then proceed to take two x-rays (sometimes four). Then the technicians come back in to make some adjustments, then leave again. I lay there with my eyes closed and hear the slamming of the 2 foot thick door. Then comes the whine of the machine being moved into position, pause, and then the high-pitched sound that signifies the start of the radiation beam. After another pause, and the swoosh of the heavy door opening, the technicians enter again and switch a plate over the “eye” of the machine and then they march out again for another blast. I get two 30 second blasts of radiation each day. Once a week they take extra x-rays and a photo and I have a consult with the Radiation Oncologist (the doctor). The last five days were my “boost” days. They attach a special adapter onto the machine that gets the beam nearly right onto the scar area and concentrated right on that spot instead of the larger field of the previous weeks.

I’ve met some amazing women during my 6 ½ weeks there. Some are clearly dying, others, like me, going through a shorter and less invasive treatment plan. I feel very thankful every day that we caught this cancer in its early stages.

My last day of radiation treatment was Tuesday, December 15, 2009. It was to have been Monday the 14th, but on the previous Friday, the machine was broken and it meant I had to tack another day onto my treatment calendar. It was a bummer. I will say that I felt like a kid when I walked out of there on Tuesday. I almost danced a jig on my way out to the car. It felt like a huge weight had lifted off of my shoulders. The daily trips in were certainly a schedule nightmare, but the continual frying of the skin also took its toll. I’m happy to be done. I’m happy to finally be on the mend and hopefully getting my energy back. I’m happy to that my skin can finally heal and stop hurting. I’m happy to have finished before Christmas. I’m just plain happy to be alive.

A dear friend, Brenda Frank, gave me a helium-filled pink breast cancer balloon a few days before I started my treatments. I’ve had it flying from my upstairs banister from day 1. It had been my secret hope that it would remain aloft for the duration of my treatment, kind of like my secret hope to stay up and filled with hope throughout. I wasn’t so sure it would make it this last week as it began to sag and dip down lower and lower. But make it, it did. Even today, two days later, it still flies above my living room proudly. Now I’ve adjusted my goal to see if it will make it until Christmas. Hopeful, I know, but it just might make it; thank you Brenda, for the constant reminder to keep my head up, my hope up, and my chin up.



Yvonne's last day of radiation was Thursday.  I've gotten to know Yvonne a bit since we both sit and wait for our turn to burn each day.  We sit in our flimsy hospital gowns and chat a few minutes before the attendant comes to take us into the radiation vault.  We didn't talk the first few days, but eventually we loosened up and started to get to know each other.

I clearly am one of the lucky ones.

Yvonne is probably in her mid-sixties and it was obvious that she had chemotherapy as her hair was just starting to come back in.  I could see the bright red burn from her chest as it crept up past the neckline of her gown.  She says it has gotten quite painful of late; blistering and peeling.  I'm almost in week 3 and have had zero burning so far - again, lucky.  She has had a double mastectomy. 

The first conversation we had was when she giggled and bubbled about how her family surprised her with a trip to Maui a month or two back.  She had just finished her chemotherapy and was on the mend when a sister offerred to travel with her to visit another sister somewhere in Idaho. Yvonne met her sister at the airport for the quick hop to Idaho and both sisters were there and ushered her to a different flight - to Maui.  They spent a week there basking in the tropical breezes, experienced a luau, and generally had a wonderfully relaxing time.  Yvonne had never had a trip like that before in her life.  I heard Yvonne tell others of her trip time and time again.  Clearly it was a highlight of the last few years of her life.

On Tuesday Yvonne came in, clearly down.  Her doctor has ordered another round of chemotherapy.  She had been so looking forward to being "done" with cancer treatment.  Yvonne is still fighting for her life.  They don't know if she'll be successful.  The cancer has spread to her bones.  The day she told me that, I pulled her out of her chair and hugged her.  I immediately prayed for her asking God to bless her, comfort her, and heal her.  I only had a few seconds because I was being beckoned to my radiation chamber. 

I can't stop thinking about Yvonne.  She doesn't have anyone close by to help her through this.  I need to figure out a way to be there for her.  I don't know how yet.  But I'll figure something out.  I don't even know her last name.

I need to help Yvonne.


Quirks & Phobias

I do not have an obsessive compulsive disorder, at least that I know of. However, I have noticed that I have two strange habits that, should I submit myself to a therapist, might likely put me in a borderline category. What are yours?

1. Public Restrooms - Even in very familiar surroundings, I find I check, check, and re-check the WOMEN/MEN restroom signs. I think I have a deep rooted fear of going into the wrong bathroom. I got thinking about this yesterday and decided it was due to being dragged into the boys bathroom in 6th grade. Several "girlfriends" couldn't figure out why I never got mad at anyone and decided to step up their efforts by dragging me into the boys bathroom. Needless to say it didn't work. I didn't get mad. I was very exasperated at them and didn't call them friends anymore; that's for sure. It was a stupid prank that I think has me obsessed about checking, double-checking, and triple-checking each and every time I need to use the girls room.

2.  Typing - a job I had in college was for Sears.  I worked 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. or so typing mail orders into the computer system: data entry.  We were "encouraged" to keep our keystrokes above 10,000 per hour (I think).  I remember each week we would crowd around the printout that showed our speed, errors, etc.  I remember feeling proud one week when I had really progressed and finally hit a 14K mark.  I literally typed in my sleep.  After that job, typing became second nature.  To this day I find myself mentally typing out things all day long: signs, things people speak to me, billboards, scriptures quoted in a sermon, you name it - I type it.  Thankfully I "type" pretty fast.  Things have gotten better over the years, but even now, almost 30 years later, I still "type".  It seems pretty stupid to be 50 years old and still typing out lots of the things I see and hear throughout a day. 

3.  Fear of heights - I cannot explain it.  But I literally have a panic attack when faced with things high up.  I'm OK if I drive over a bridge, but if I have to walk - ugh.  I panic.  I remember when James and I were in Germany by the Neuschwanstein castle, there was a hike and a bridge where one could get fabulous views of the valley and the famous castle.  The bridge was wide and very sturdy.  It could easily have held a car or three.  The problem was that it was steel girders with wooden boards.  The drop was easily several hundred feet down.  I could see between the tiny slats on the wooden boards.  No good.  I literally froze.  Knowing I'd kick myself for not traversing this famous bridge and likely miss the spectacular view, I walked.  I barely made it though.  I clung to James for dear life and couldn't even enjoy the view. Thankfully I did manage to get one or two camera shots when I made it to the other side. I remember that someone jostled me and I nearly climbed onto James in abject fear.  My heart was racing so fast I thought I'd have a heart attack.  Needless to say, I made it.  I survived.  Oh, and the picture turned out great.

What are your quirks?


Radiation Therapy

I've made it through 5 days of weekday radiation treatments so far.  Only 4 of them have actually been radiation treatments; the first being additional x-rays and positioning efforts.  I am going to be doing this every weekday for a minimum of six weeks.  My daily appointment is at 8:00 a.m. 

I see some of the same people here each day. I am feeling pretty lucky. The two ladies I see look like they have it much worse than I. One is probably doing chemotherapy in conjunction with the radiation therapy as she has very little hair. The other must be suffering from lung cancer as she is on heavy oxygen. Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer for women. They are both quite a bit older than I. While this has been scary, seeing them has made me actually thankful for the situation I am in. It could have been so very much worse. But for the grace of God, go I.

The women's waiting room has lockers, three changing rooms and probably 3 dozen wall cubes for our gowns. I was assigned a cube and given a gown that will be mine for the next 6 weeks. Each day I come in and change into my gown and lock my belongings into a locker. The keys are on elasticized bracelets we wear around. I then wait until they call for me. There are magazines and a table with a puzzle. I suspect a new one will be there by Monday. There were only a few pieces remaining as of 8:00 a.m. Friday. Becuase I have the early morning appointment, I don't have a long enough wait to start working the puzzle. I would imagine that those who have late afternoon appointments get the accumulated schedule issues and have time to tinker with the puzzle.

Once I'm called into my radation room (there are several) they have me lay down and then position me on the table. Both arms go high above my head, where I grasp handles. They take 2 x-rays each day and then proceed with about 15 minutes of other positioning of the machine and actually zap me with the radiation. I swear I can feel it tingle and heat up a little. I don't know if that is just in my head or real. Hard to tell. I've already developed a pinched nerve in my left arm and it hurts like heck to put my arm up there for 20 minutes straight. It's a killer. Hopefully a chiropractic appointment or two can help set that straight.

The doctors and technicians have warned me about the burn my skin is likely to get, so I have armed myself with aloe vera and apply it regularly to help keep my skin intact as best I can. I've also been warned to expect fatigue within another week or two. They don't know what causes the fatigue, but nearly everyone who goes through radiation experiences it. That side affect does bother me. I am concerned about my job. How will I be able to keep working at the break neck speed my job requires? Thankfully my bosses are aware and say they will work with me, but it doesn't assuage my own expectations of myself. I'm prayerfully hoping I can give my own self a break. I need to just take each day at a time.

Each day I try to do something to stay active and not just sit on my butt. So far I've been walking the mall every week day. I manage about 2 miles or so each time. I'm hopeful I can keep that up forever. Once weather gets good again, I can go back to walking my neighborhood or trails here in Sumner. Doctors say that being active means I'll have a 60% better chance of NOT having a recurrance of cancer. That's better than any pill I could take. It makes it VERY worthwhile. I have to do this.

I need to be cancer free. I will survive.

Not Sure I'm Ready

I had my first visit with Dr. Sanders, a Radiation Oncologist, on Thursday. James and I spent over an hour with him peppering him with questions about the risks of radiation, the methods, and whether or not I would see enough benefit to even undertake the schedule-defying therapy. I had read pros and cons of radiation therapy and had concerns. I really was interested in this new method where they implant a device and set one up with doses over about a week, and then you're done. That sounded like a better option to me compared with daily trips over 6 to 7 weeks. Dr. Sanders was patient and answered every question we had. Unfortunately, the implant device was not suitable for me since the placement of the device would be too close to the surface of my skin and could risk seriously damaging it. If he lowered the dose so keep the skin safe, then the benefits of radiation would be almost nil - not even worth doing.

Radiation therapy reduces my risk of cancer recurrence from residual cells that may be lurking - down to about 5%. Without radiation therapy my risk of some rogue cells that may be lingering, goes up to around 20%. We weren't willing to take a 20% chance of recurrence, so we are opting to go ahead with radiation. My next step was a CT scan of the site so they can properly map out the location. I got marked with ink and taped with little bee-bee's, dotted with two tiny tattoo's, and then scanned. The doctor then prepares a radiation dosage plan which I will start on Monday October 26Th. I go every single day with the exception of weekends and holidays, for 33 sessions. I should finish around mid-December.

This is going to be troublesome with my work schedule. Thankfully my manager will work with me. On the days I work from home, I am freer in when I can go. The days I work in Renton (Tues & Thurs) are much trickier. Turns out they offer radiation only from 7:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) I did launch my complaint that they should be open longer hours to help accommodate those of us who need to continue to work through the therapy. Ah well. I'll just have to do the best I can.

I have been fully warned of what to expect: sunburn-like symptoms on the site, and fatigue. I would imagine I'll also become exasperated with the schedule as well.

Since just a few days after my last surgery, September 30Th, I've managed to let this cancer thing be waaaay in the background. I have felt great, my energy level has been good, and my job is keeping me very, very busy, and occupied. I've almost forgotten about the cancer. However, these daily trips will likely be an ugly reminder of this ugly disease.

One other really good report here though; my genetic test did come back negative for the two DNA markers that have been found. Yeah! Now my sisters and daughter don't have to worry so much. However, the doctors were quick to point out that those are only two of potentially many markers that are still left to be discovered. I am going to remain an evangelist to the women in my family to check themselves and to have regular mammograms. There is a lot of cancer in our family and I want to make sure we are ALL survivors!


Can I Hold???

For the last six weeks I have put considerable effort into changing my overall lifestyle: eating, sleeping, activity-level, and more. I want to do everything in my power to keep cancer away from me for the rest of my life. I've been reading book after book on health, exercise, and cancer-fighting foods. Whew, there is a lot to learn. That said, I know I have to be realistic. I know if I did everything I've read, all put together, I'd hardly be able to eat a thing. Assuredly I'd be a vegan, with no dairy, no meats, zero sugar, and mostly just whole fruits and vegetables.

That is not realistic for me. I'd never be able to follow something that strict. I'd be off the wagon in mere days. However, I think I'm getting closer to a general understanding of how I can live a much healthier life. Oh, I didn't do too badly before, but in retrospect, it wasn't too good either. Sure, I tried to stay active, didn't do much red meat, and ate lots of salads, but it wasn't enough. I've had a diet high in processed foods (they're so convenient), and had a secret love of fast food for years. I also love eating out in general.

I've put into practice several key things that I hope I can stick to. I'll admit I'm nervous about being able to stay the course.

1. Regular walking - I've been walking my neighborhood, the river paths, and friends neighborhoods of late. I'll begin walking the SuperMall here as the weather turns. That's one thing friends can do for me: walk me.

2. Juicing - I've been juicing fresh vegetables that are high in antioxidants,

3. Natural herbs and supplements - I've been working with a naturopathic oncologist and have several supplements that are fairly inexpensive that I've added to my daily routing: high dosages of Vitamin D3, green tea powder (add to my juice), Turmeric, among others.

4. General eating - I'm going to turn to whole grains, nuts, and legumes and hormone free chicken and fish. I want to learn to cook fabulous foods, full of flavor, that help me love this new plan.

5. Reduce Sugars - I allow myself a treat every couple of days, not every day. I will also regulate my portion size so I don't over indulge.

6. Fast Food - I made a pact with James that I would only do fast food once a month. Two months down. So far, so good!

7. Push Away - When I do eat out, I'm going to save part of every meal for later as portion sizes are usually way more than I need.

So can I hold to this life-long plan? Can I stay the course. I sure hope so.


Fall is Here

I love fall; the cooler temperatures, the colors, the early morning fog and the crisp nights. Oh, I love summer, but there's something refreshing about fall too. This fall is no different. I'm through my end-of-summer anxiety of my breast cancer discovery and multiple surgeries and am soon to embark on my final leg of this journey: radiation.

I'm counting my blessings.

1. My emotions have settled down considerably and I'm taking each day as it comes. I find myself looking forward to the holiday season as I should be done with radiation by then too.

2. I'm coming up to being in my lovely home for nearly a year too. I love this neighborhood, my house, being just doors away from my family has been a real blessing as well.

3. My new job is going well. I've been given almost a carte blanche to get the team together and running smoothly. It currently is a non-cohesive team with little to no standard processes regarding their projects as a whole. I am good at setting up standard processes and getting teams working together. This should be good.

4. My grandchildren are so adorable. I love seeing them often. I have toys, a bed for them, and lots of hugs. I am excited to be a part of their lives and not having my kids spread out elsewhere country like so many of my friends. I can't imagine not being an integral part of their lives.

5. My Husband. I can't even comprehend these last few months with out the encouragement and support of James. I am beyond grateful for his love, compassion, and care. He is the best. Thank you Lord for hooking me up with James!

6. My Friends. Friends I haven't talked to in years have rallied around me in support, prayer, and comfort like I never would have expected. I am truly blessed to have so many fabulous friends.

7. My Family. My parents, my siblings, my aunts, cousins, and more have been unbelievably wonderful. I love the cards, the flowers, the calls and emails. Thank you so much.

I'm saving the best for last: Jesus. I can't even articulate what He is in my life: my rock, my salvation, my peace, my joy, my everything. I can't imagine going through this with out Him by my side. People can be great, but having someone way bigger than I in charge and watching over me during my journey is an unspeakable blessing.

There are so many other blessings I haven't written of here. There are only a few (and not in order). But I couldn't let this day pass without listing out a few.

God is good.



I've actually felt normal the last two days. With the optimistic oncologist report on Tuesday, and the beautiful fall weather, things seem to be pretty normal again. Sometimes I even forget about the cancer. I love that.

I've started to feel creative again and the need to try a project or craft has skyrocketed into the forefront of my brain. My fingers are itching to paint something. I don't know how to paint anything really (except I can paint walls pretty good), but I really want to learn how. I'd love to get a large canvas and play with different mediums to see what I could come up with. That could get expensive though. I'll have to figure out how to re-use them if I mess up. I also dreamed up something I want to do in my living room finally. The room goes all the way up into the 2nd floor where the upper floor has a balcony looking down. The walls that are there have a lot of angles and ledges, so I've been somewhat stumped on how to decorate the room. Currently the whole room has drab flat beige painted walls which, in contrast to the beautifully textured kitchen walls, look quite boring.

Yesterday was a 90 minute MRI. It is a good thing I'm not claustrophobic. The MRI should tell the doctor whether the rest of the cancer is localized and can be easily excised with another surgery, or if it is wide-spread and requires a mastectomy. I will get the prognosis on Wednesday when I have my next appointment. I'm hoping for the former followed by the 6 weeks of radiation. It looks like I won't have to have the 5 years of Tamoxifen, which can have some bad side affects, because I can simply stop my hormone creams which will essentially do the same thing. Nice. Though James is concerned for himself about the possibility of me getting all cranky on him.

So, all in all, this week was a good week. Things are looking up. I'm starting to look up and take note of my beautiful life again.


Weight Lifting

James and I spent Tuesday afternoon (the 15th) with some new physicians that were recommended to me by two cancer survivors. I decided that two recommendations meant they must be good, and we both wanted a second opinion. The Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center is one of only a few cancer care clinics that combine medical oncology with naturopathic oncology. We met with the medical oncologist first for about an hour and then with the naturopathic doctor for another hour.

As a result of this visit, I've now made a choice to get my care from Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center in Renton. It is a lot better commute, close to my new job location which I'll be going in to at least 2 days a week (I'll be telecommuting the other three days). So convenience was also a factor.

After our first oncologist visit over a week ago, the strong recommendation to have a mastectomy didn't sit well with either of us. Our visit with Dr. Cunningham yesterday was a visit filled with optimism. We both left feeling a weight had lifted off of our shoulders. Barring a bad MRI on Friday, we can still proceed with breast conservation/preservation. Yeah! It will most likely mean I'll have another surgery to remove some more tissue and then commence radiation treatment. Given the family history of cancer on both my maternal and paternal side, they are doing a heredity test if insurance will cover it (it costs $3000). A positive results may mean a long-term care path that is much more watchful and full of even more preventative measures. I don't know what that means yet, but we'll cross that bridge when/if we get there.

I'm also excited to begin the naturopathic remedies given to me. There are a lot of non-medicinal things I can do, eat, and supplements that will work towards keeping me cancer free for years to come. I was happy to hear that many of the things I've been doing were high on their list, so it won't mean a huge life style change; things like eating organic, juicing, high vegetable intake, lean meats, and minimal red meat. It did become apparent I have to step up my exercising though - no surprise. They also recommended supplements that will take into account my low thyroid, fibromyalgia, and the cancer. It felt good to be looking at the big picture instead of just the cancer itself. Next week I'll be getting started on the supplement regime with things like: Ashwaganda, Turmeric, ground flax seeds, green tea, and more.

So, all-in-all, I feel uplifted with this new opinion. I feel a return of hope that I may actually be able to proceed with a more minimally invasive approach.

I can do this.


Naked Vulnerability

I finally said the words out loud. I'm scared. I was talking with my daughter a day or so ago, and I said it. There's something about the "C" word that spawns this ugly fear. I've known several people who have died and several who are survivors. But the fact that there are non-survivors sponsors the fear. The statistics, though improving over the last 25 years, spawns the fear.

Being brutally honest here, the idea of looking down and seeing a vacant spot where my breasts were doesn't sit well with me. The idea of putting on a cute nightie and having the bodice hang loose and unfilled sounds grotesque. How can I be attractive to my darling husband with a scarred, or two scarred remnants of breasts? How can he possibly be attracted to this misconfigured person? Oh my head knows he loves me, and my heart loves him deeply to the core. But I'm struggling with reconciling the knowledge how how men work and how my husband has cherished me and my body all these years. I don't understand. My sorrow is deep.

But then my darling husband, hoping to cheer me up, said he could only handle a half rack anyway. (He had just watched an Outback Steakhouse commercial touting their ribs). Silly James.

I'm feeling better now.


Mortality Musings

Finding out I have cancer really opened up a lot of avenues of thought I've never really pursued before. Specifically, I have been re-thinking my priorities. Relationships take a front seat, that's for sure. Even though my cancer is in the early stage (stage 1), it makes the life I do have on this earth very precious. None of us really know how much time we do have. I have found some silver in the lining of my cloud. Finally some things are coming into better focus; things I should have paid more consideration to now have my full attention. Other things are moving into the background at a rapid pace.

I was snuggling next to my six year old niece the other day while watching the NASCAR race. She was trying to pick a new driver to follow (she's bailing on Biffle for some reason) and I offered to share my driver, Denny Hamlin. She liked that idea a lot. During this and other meaningful discussions with her, like what to name a kitten that she wants for Christmas, a thought crossed my mind. What if I knew I only had one year left with her? Ten years? Or only twenty? How would it change me? How would it change my relationship with her and others I love? The magnitude of that thought brought tears to my eyes. Normally I would shake it off and not even consider dwelling on such a morbid thought but this time I let myself. Immediately I teared up. How precious she is to me. How painful it would be for her to experience the loss of a close family member. Now, I plan on being around for dozens and dozens of years to come, but it did bring some poignant thoughts about priorities.

Climbing the corporate ladder - I am realizing my top priority is keeping a good job, not putting myself into a stressful one, or clawing my way through the anxieties of the corporate political game. I've been doing that for years and now I don't care so much. I just need a good, safe, well-paying job - with insurance.

Acquiring Things - Instead of spending thousands on a new couch or wall hanging, or purchasing the newest gadgets or updating our vehicles, the thought of spending that money to go places with my sweet husband and build memories with him are much more to my liking; his too. We both have found that our longer trips of 3 to 6 weeks build some amazing camaraderie and strengthen our bonds of love when we have that uninterrupted time together. Needless to say, we both are really craving that right now.

Time-Wasters - This one is a little harder. I have a lot of things that I do that are time-wasters: internet browsing (it's research, right?) and TV are the big ones. There are a lot of things I like to do that have sat dormant for a long time. I'd love to learn how to paint. I like to cook. I like to write. I need to exercise more. There are so many activities that I've pushed aside for the stupid time-wasters. I really need to get a grip on that and start living my more creative life.

I have always been very goal oriented; writing them down annually, both long-term and short-term goals. This process has been very successful in helping me achieve the things I want to. But I'm considering re-doing my list now that I think I have a much clearer picture of my life in general. Even though I'm not dying, waiting for diagnosis and prognosis for a span of 10 days makes you think about life and death. How would I live different? How should I live different? How would God want me to live? I believe His answer would be the same whether I had 1 week to live or 50 years still to go.

Now I just have to figure out what that is.


Back to Square One

One of the doctors warned me, saying that this whole process would be a "hurry up and wait" situation. He was right. Now, not only do I have to keep waiting, I have to start over with more tests and the possibility of more surgery. The oncologist I saw yesterday met with his team about my situation (which apparently is not that common) and they are even recommending a full mastectomy now.

I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon on Thursday September 3rd. The good news is that all of the invasive cancer is gone and none of the lymph nodes were compromised. The troubling part is that the tissue sample did not have "clean margins" where there was good cancer-free edges. It turns out there is another type of cancer in the tissue, albeit a non-invasive type (DCIS). But the sample had a lot of it. So we are now faced with trying to figure out the best course of treatment for that.

James and I left the appointment pretty bummed. We were hearing suggestions to have a mastectomy, more tissue gathering surgery to get clean margins, MRI's, and genetic testing. All this would be minimized if I had just had the bad girl amputated rather than opting for the breast preservation route. The idea of still having the possibility of losing my breast, or both even, is very discouraging. James and I both were pretty frustrated and full of even more questions. By the end of the day we were both just plain tired of talking about it and even thinking about it.

The same "hurry up and wait" doctor also said this was like putting a puzzle together. We have to get as many of the pieces of information as we can in order to find the best course of treatment. We all thought we'd have the information needed by now, but now we need to know more before we can finish this particular puzzle. The oncologist office scheduled and MRI for Friday next week. They need to get a better picture of how much of this other cancer is there and if it wide-spread, in the side, or is it just that small area. Their recommendations will largely be determined by the results of that MRI. Then we can find the right path and start our journey.

People have been great. I've had lots of suggestions, advice, prayers, encouragement, and more. My family has come forward with great love and care as well. My sweet little sister found a pretty pink sapphire breast cancer cure ribbon necklace that I now wear every day close to my heart. Another sister got me a basket for my bike (gotta stay active you know) so I can take my little dog, Trevi, with me on rides. My brother-in-law brought me a DQ Peanut Buster Parfait! Yumm, chocolate and ice cream. What a treat. My niece came and worked in my flower garden. My older sister brought me her juicer and showed me how to juice vegetables for their antioxidant properties, and I now juice lots of stuff and love it. There are so many other wonderful things people have done that I can't even mention them all.

One thing I have discovered, is that James is going through this almost every bit as much as I am. He is with me every step of the way. He has stepped up to this challenge with me like I never thought he would. I cannot imagine not having him with me. He is my sounding board, my shoulder, my pillow, my personal trainer (he makes me get up and be active when I don't want to), my food police (have to eat healthier than ever, right?), my psychiatrist, my retriever, and everything else I could possibly need. He is here and feeling it all the way through step-by-step with me. God sure loved me when he gave me James.

My world is still upside down and I don't know when things will begin to right themselves. It looks like I have a couple more weeks of information gathering to go before we are going to be able to chart the course.

I must work on keeping my chin up. Lord help me.


Bright Spots Here and There

Little Kayla Joy was born this week, on Tuesday.
She weighed 7 lbs 13 oz and is 19 1/2 inches long. She's beautiful. Daniel couldn't be prouder of his new daughter; he grins from ear to ear and loves holding her. Mandy is recovering and they both are home learning the ropes of being new parents. It was the really bright spot of my week.

On Thursday I had my return visit to the surgeon who peformed my lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy. He had the pathology reports at hand and was able to tell me the results. It was primarily good news, (bright spot) but with some bad news thrown in. They got all the invasive cancer and there were no other remnants in the tissue surrounding the area. So that means I'm at Stage 1 (five stages: stage 0 through 4) - bright spot. The bad news was that they did find DCIS, Ductal carcinoma cancer in the surrounding tissue. DCIS cancer is generally not life threatening and has a 99% cure rate; another bright spot.

However, given that there is this other cancer in the tissue and the hormone receptors in the cancer cells tested out positive, it looks like I may have to have long-term hormonal treatment which can be a variety of different drug treatments that I have to do for anywhere from 1 year to 5 years. We'll also have to keep a very close watch for years to come. Apparently they think my recurrence risk is high. Not bright.

So as I began to research these follow-on treatments, I got pretty discouraged. There are a lot of side effects to be aware of. I started checking into these on Friday and spent part of the morning crying in James' arms. Then I went and cheered myself up by visiting Mandy and holding my new little granddaughter for a few hours. That really helped.

I'll find out more about what is likely to happen on Tuesday morning when I have the appointment with an Oncologist (cancer specialist). I'm hoping for a bright spot.


Weekend Update

The last few days have been very interesting. Not bad. But not good either.

My new granddaughter, Kayla, is still in the womb. She is now about 4 days overdue. Mandy, as expected, more than ready to be delivered! We're all waiting, not-so-patiently, for Kayla's arrival. So that didn't happen.

My grandson, Judah, got sick while Ricky and Rosie were on vacation in California. They came home early and had to take him to the emergency room on Sunday because he was having trouble breathing. Highline Hospital transported him up to Children's in Seattle. Judah received several treatments to help his breathing throughout the day and they finally let them come home late Sunday night.

My sister, Janet, came down from Bellingham on Sunday and brought her juicer with her. She showed me how to juice vegetables and fruits for high nutritional value and antioxidant juices. My goal is to do that in order to help my healing process and to get as healthy as I possibly can. It was good seeing her, and it was a BIG help.

So Thursday, the day after surgery, was good. I had energy, only moderate pain as long as I didn't move my arm or get bumped. Friday was not so good. I don't know if more drugs were wearing off or what, but I hurt everywhere and had a hard time doing anything. I had hoped to work, but I just couldn't get myself going. So I didn't work at all.

My emotions still kinda go everywhere though they are stablizing. I do have a dilemma facing me though. The day before surgery, I had a job interview for a new position in another group (still under the same VP). They offerred me the job and wanted an answer right away. So the conundrum is do I take it (probably in a safer position should there be downsizing) but starting a new job means stress. I DO NOT want more stress at this juncture. That is one thing I'm reading about - minimize stress. It also is not in a system development area, it is for sustaining systems. I'm very passionate about my current project, even with all of its problems. So what do I do? Go for the safer job, or stick where I'm at? My current situation is 100% virtual so I work from home. The new job is probably only about 40% virtual. I would have to go in. My current group would really work with me through my plethora of dr. appointments; I'm sure the new one would but I would not have built up the relationships to carry me through some of my potential "cloudy" thinking days.

Ahh, what to do. I've been tossing it around; thinking, praying, talking to folks, and am still up in the air. I gave a tentative "yes", but left an out, which I might need.



It's Been One Week

One week has past since the awful diagnosis.

I had my lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy yesterday and I am happy to report that the preliminary lymph node biopsy came out clear. They send it out right in the middle of the surgery for pathologists to take a look so that the surgeon could remove more if needed, right then and there. There are additional tests they'll be doing on the node as well as the other tissue they removed. I won't have the results on that for about a week or so. From there they'll be able to tell me what stage of cancer I'm in: stages 1 to 4. I am calling on my friends and family to believe this is in stage 1. I believe we caught it early enough. The ongoing care for stage 1 is a much easier road to travel. I am also very glad I did not opt for a full mastectomy.

I made it home by around 2:30. We had to stop for a bite to eat since I hadn't been allowed to eat. I was starved. I spent the afternoon in bed of course. The hospital has a cancer care nurse who supplied James with a bag full of books, pamphlets, and two miniature pillows. I snorted when I saw them and said "what in the heck would I want with those!" Well within a few moments of settling down in bed, I realized exactly what they were for. I needed a tiny pillow to rest between my arm and my side so they wouldn't touch. Smart lady! I've had that little pillow with me ever since; tucked up under my arm, keeping my icy pouch company.

I've been getting flowers, beautiful cards, wonderful emails and notes on FB and this blog. I couldn't ask for a better bunch of friends and family. I am truly thankful for the outpouring. I can't imagine people having to go through the fearful journey alone. I can't imagine it particularly if someone were in the advanced stages where the treatments nearly kill you.

Today I will rest, read and paw through the material I got at the hospital. I haven't decided if I'll try to work tomorrow or not. I think it will largely depend on my pain levels and how tired I get. It is not a busy day, so I may be able to simply catch up on email and work on one small item I've got on my plate. Nothing strenuous of course. I promise!

Thank you everyone for your prayers and comfort.



Say "Bye Bye" to the Shock

The last 24 hours were better. I think the shock and fear are starting to settle down some. The fear is still there, but more like a stalker waiting in the shadows; annoying and troublesome and something I'm going to have to deal with more permanently at some point. The "restraining order" put out by dozens of people who are praying for me keeps that devilish fear away from my minute-by-minute thoughts.

Tomorrow looms large. My surgery is at 8:00 a.m., though I have to show up at 7:00 for some pre-tests, dye injections, and the like. I hope to be home around 2 or so. I most likely will sleep for the following 24 hours.

The analytical side of me sprang to life yesterday. I called the doctor and had him fax me my pathology report from the biopsy (about 10 days ago). Nearly everything was gobbledy gook to me except for the word cancer, so I hit the internet to find out what they all meant. There are Nottingham grades, Bloom-Richardsom scores, and mitonic rates, and more. Whew. I sure don't know anything yet. I most definitely have to get myself educated. I know I'm sure getting lots of information from family and friends on vitamin, mineral, herbal cures, books to read, websites, doctors, and the like. I hope to read through most of them, digest them, and make sound judgements and decisions on my health armed with all this information.

One thing that has amazed me is the huge outpouring of support, encouragement and prayer from my friends. Some of them are people I haven't talked to in years (I guess I can thank Facebook for that. I have been able to re-connect to dozens and dozens of precious friends from years ago that are now standing with me.) That has turned out to be a big blessing. It has surprised me the ones that respond are many times not the ones I would have expected. It sure helps my heart feel warm. I most certainly do not feel alone.

My family has also really rallied around me. They all come close. I get LOTS of hugs, phone calls, and emails that are warm and full of offers of support. I still don't really know how to let them help yet, hopefully that will come. But I am beyond appreciative of the warmth and love they've extended. I feel very cushioned in their care. I have a great family.

Thank you everyone for being here with me. I love you all.


Roller Coasters

I've been on an emotional roller coaster: up one minute and down the next, then a huge curve with a spiral loop that turns one upside down. When you get done, you're nauseated and not sure you made the right choice to ride the thing. Unfortunately, I don't have the option of getting off this monstrosity. I'm locked in for a undetermined duration.

I'd been looking forward to church for a few days; thankful I could hear a positive message and get some good prayer warriors surrounding me in agreement. But when it came down to less than an hour to go, I got the butterflies again. My normal private self dreaded seeing people who might know and might ask questions that I was unprepared to answer. It was James' week for 3rd/4th grade Sunday School, so I knew I would be without my brick by my side. I struggled for a bit, but gritted my teeth, tucked my giant Bible under my arm (couldn't find my little one for the life of me) and headed out.

It didn't turn out so bad. I was alone for the first bit, but sat there, with seats saved for my son and his wife, and just took in my church family as the sanctuary transitioned from one service to the next. I listened to the recorded music and closed my eyes, one minute hoping no one would come and accost me, and wishing someone would the next. I'd then berate myself for wanting the attention one minute or berating myself for wanting to hide away in a cocoon of isolation. Very weird emotional swings going on. Seeing my little grandson, Judah, is very good. I forget everything and focus on his sweet little face. He's such a sweet boy. He had on his Seahawks jersey and was sporting a mohawk fashioned out of his white/blonde hair with lots of gel. His little dimpled grin scattered away the darkness within fractions of a second. Judah makes it easy to forget.

The message today was very poignant. It was about slaying the giants facing you. Good word. Afterwards I went forward to Tom and Tedeen Franz (they'd been told by my sister the day before) and they prayed for me. I also spotted one of my dearest friends on earth and knew I had to tell her before she heard 2nd or 3rd hand. That was an emotional time. All the time she was being kind and full of faith for me, she was weeping. I took her into my arms, assuring her that I wasn't kicking the bucket any time soon. She knows, I know, but it was still an emotional time. We prayed together and parted, yet joined together.

One minute I'm full of faith, the next I'm not. One second it's as if nothing has happened, and then I remember and I spiral down. I'll go grab my Bible or encouraging words from a friend and then step-by-step move up again to where I can be positive, alert, and upbeat.

So by the time James found me, wrapped in the arms of my friend, my small Bible in hand (someone had handed it to him - I'd left it from the week before), we all hugged and agreed to battle this together. That's exactly what I know I need to do. I need all of you, agreeing with me, that cancer will not be the end of me; not now, not five years from now, not 20 years from now. Cancer will NOT be my demise.


Here's the Scoop

So those of you following the last few days know I'm battling breast cancer. My number 1 suggestion to all women is to do your self examinations without fail! My cancer would not have been discovered had I not dogged a lump I felt from back in February. It didn't even show up on my March mammogram or ultrasound. We could all feel it, but it didn't show up as an anomoly for some reason. It kept bugging me though and I kept a tight watch on it. After a few months of feeling it get a little larger and then a day or two of it feeling tender, I finally called the doctor again and made an appointment.

My family practitioner said it did not act or feel like anything more suspicious than a calcium deposit or maybe a clogged duct but for my peace of mind, referred me to a surgeon who might be able to discern if it would be something I should just have excised. That doctor also felt it was probably nothing but offerred to just take it out so I wouldn't have to be bothered any further with the concern. He took it out; it was about the size of a pea. He then sent it over to pathology just as a precaution. Well, you all now know the story. It was cancer. Had it not bugged me, I would have waited until my next annual mammogram (Spring) and it would have had nearly another year to grow and dig its ugly roots into my system. I'd like to think God prodded me to be inpatient with this lump. I'm glad I listened.

So Wednesday, August 26th is the date they go in and take the rest out. I was given the choice of a full masectomy or a lumpectomy. I chose the latter. They'll get any remaining cancer and then some surrounding tissue for samples. They'll also biopsy some lymph nodes under my arm to make sure it hasn't spread into the lymph system. The results of this surgery will determine what stage I'm in and my follow on care. The follow on care could be more surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, and who knows what all. I'll keep you posted. I have a LOT of homework to do in order to make informed decisions on how I want to handle this thing.

Really awesome news though: my daughter, Mandy, is due to have Kayla any time now. I'm very jazzed about welcoming my little grandaughter into the world. I can't wait! In the midst of this icky-ness comes a sweet little blessing full of life. Beautiful. Just what I need.


No Pity Please

Friday started out OK. On Thursday night I managed to sleep and was blissfully unaware of this cancer and its dastardly plan for over 7 hours. It was a great escape from thoughts and emotions. I had Friday off, save one meeting, but knew that one meeting was going to not work, so I handed it off to a co-worker. I took a leap into the unknown and told them. I hadn't thought I'd tell people; thought maybe I'd keep mum on this whole thing throughout. But after almost 24 hours of mulling it over, I've decided that is not a good idea. My natural instinct is to shut off, defend, be tough. I think that is part of my lesson in all this. I need to, and have needed to for years, learn how to let others support me and be there for me. I don't have to be strong 100% of the time. (Man that's tough to admit, gulp.)

I spent some time yesterday (Thursday) with a nurse at the hospital who had years of experience with cancer patients. She said one the best cathartic things I could do would be to write down my thoughts, feelings, experiences. Well, you know I love to write. So, maybe some of you will actually read this and walk through this with me. Maybe not though. I don't think my readership is that large. But I do know that the ones I know and count on as friends, do read it. You're the ones that really matter. So read on over these next few weeks. You're exactly who I want to share all this with. It is not the best writing style, it most certainly is not humorous, and it is pretty raw. You're seeing the real me here.

Those that I've told have been fabulous. "How can I help?" "What can I do?" "I'm here for you!" What does that mean? I don't know how to receive support. I don't know how to receive very well I'm afraid. I do know that I'm pretty scared. With the probability that we did catch this in the early stages, my treatment plan could be short and I'll soon be given the all clear. I'll then spend the next few years saying "I'm 2 years cancer-free!" "Three years..." and so on. But I'll be honest, there's always this cloud about the possibility of it coming back. That's where I'll really need to put my faith and trust in God. I've had several dear friends lost after a few years of being "clear" when it came back with a vengence. That scenario scares me.

I want to have faith. I want to receive support from you all. I just don't really know how at the moment. I do hope you will all be patient with me as I work through all this with God.

I appreciate my friends and family very much. I need you all.

P.S. For my first post on this click here


Learning to Lean

I don't even know what to say. My mind is all jumbled up with thousands of thoughts and emotions; I don't know where to start. I don't even know if I should start. But I'm going to. I've lived my life as a very independent person, and maybe this is God's test for me to learn how to lean on Him and others.

I learned on Thursday, August 20th, that I have the big C: cancer. Breast Cancer. It's time to get out my pink ribbon pin, pink Susan G. Komen scarf, pink Susan G Komen bag, the works. Fresh in my mind is my last two years of support for breast cancer with the 5K walk and also the 3-Day (volunteering, I most certainly didn't walk the 3 days). This cause has been important to me for several reasons: my mom (survivor), Linda Cobaugh (non-survivor), and Tina Teel (non-survivor). I know of several other women who have fought this battle and won. I too, will be a winner. Watch me.

But until I've won the battle with the cancer, I have to fight the emotional battle. Cancer is a scary word. My emotions have been all over the place. I dreaded my doctor appointment because two of them played phone tag with me all week and both wanted to see me in their offices. Not a good sign; so I was steeling myself for not-so-good news all week. However, when he finally sat me down and said the word, I wasn't sure what my response would be. Oh outwardly I was fine; calm, cool, collected, but my heart stopped, my stomach churned and I think I forgot to breathe. The first few sentences of the doctor's diagnoses were almost like he was in another room far away. It took a few moments for me to get my bearings and start to actually listen. I grabbed my phone, called James and put it on speaker so we both could hear what he was saying. By then my analytical mind took over and I was able to be rational, ask meaningful questions, and understand what he was saying. I did good I thought.

The next few hours were spent making more appointments, filling out pre-operative paperwork, getting oncologist names/numbers, x-rays, blood tests, EKG, and the like. We're going to hit this hard and fast. I'm going to kill this thing. I am a winner.

So, one moment I feel numb and the next I feel scared and ready to cry. I admit it. I feel like I need a good cry. I'm scared I'm going to do it in front of my kids, sister, or husband and they'll get all weird on me. But maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing. I don't know. I really don't know what to do with myself. I don't know how to handle my loved ones reaction to my situation. I don't like attention. But maybe I need it? Again, I don't know.

But, I'm going to beat this. I have an ace up my sleeve: the healing power of God. I believe He's not done with me yet. He doesn't want me sickly or terminal in any way. I am a winner. Watch me survive.

Eat that cancer.


What's in a Name?

Many of us play electronic games of some kind or another: game consoles like Xbox, Wii, PlayStations, GameCube, and also computer games. To many of us it is critical that we name our avatars something pithy, meaningful, or maybe just plain silly. So the question is, is the avatar your alter ego? Do you go for meaningful and use the same one over and over for every game? Or, depending on the game, do you go for the absurd hoping to shock or at least render your opponents/cohorts dumbstruck as they pick themselves up off the floor (a.k.a.ROFL) after meeting you online for the first time.

I've always loved coming up with these alter ego names, particularly the kind that results in hilarity. I want my opponents to remember me. So what is the secret? Well there are a couple of methods by which you too can develop your character name with that extra special twist.

1. Combine two words, one serious/normal and the other a rude, gross, or just plain ugly sounding word or partial word or two. You can throw a middle initial in there for laughs too. It's OK to even misspell either or all of the words. For example: Stu Wee, Bunwarmus (one of my personal favorites), Phlempit, Towpuss, FabReek, Grass E. Bottom to name a few.

2. Prescription medications are a good place to start, particularly the nasal congestion type. I created one years ago for my daughter: Nostrilla. Nasalcron would be good to - very strong, a robot-like sounding name sure to strike fear into your opponents, though I'd take license with it and add an H between the c and r. Lyrica actually sounds like a princess or beautiful maiden. I recommend staying away from the following: Viagra, Cialis, Penicillin, and other very well-known medicinals that could have you shunned by the gaming world for fear of contracting something deadly.

3. A play on words: Lew Skroos, Juanita Ham, Abbey Seenia, Hammond Eggs, Bill Bored, Alaida Bug, Elle Emmeno, Al Beback, Cole Kutz, Gerri Attrick, and the list goes on. These are easy to create and/or find on the internet.

4. Name Generators - go to an internet site and search on name generators and see what they come up with. You'll find you'll get names like: Clotface, Fingerdoof, Dumbsnark, Inelor... Some name generators are very specific to hill billy, pirate, mystical/fantasy, robot, rude/crude, gothic, and lovey-dovey names. These can be quite fun to play with. Here's a link to try.

So if you're determined to strike out and move away from the expected play on your own name: Carl_7982, or Suzie1986, you too can have an online name that is inventive. You too can strike your gaming friends as a creative individualist ready to wreak mayhem on your opponents; or at least have them ROFL.


Cool Websites of the Summer

Here's my pick of more obscure websites I've found that are truly keepers. We all know of YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, but check these out! - daily listings of great deals from DVD's, computers, clothes and more. - I discovered this site from passwird (see above). This is where I got $25 coupons for my local Italian restaurant here for only $2.00! The cost is typically more around $10 for a $25 coupon, but they regularly have sales where they are anywhere from 50% to 80% off. Sign up for updates and don't miss the sales. They have a wide variety of local restaurants; simply input your locale and shop away. You can print the certificates right from your computer. - how to videos on a variety of activities: crafts, piano & guitar lessons, cooking, and even workouts. - weird news of the week. There's truly some odd news out there. Get ready to be shocked, awed, and generally end up feeling better about yourself after reading about all the stupid things people do. - a wiki for photos. Check some of them out (particularly the Jelly fish). Stunning. Add your own photos. - Kim Komando is nationally known for her computer and electronics advice. Her webiste is full of information that has helped me through the years. I've found just the app to help solve whatever issue I'm facing; usually for free. Get those iTunes converted to MP3! Many places on her site do require a subscription, but I've never paid yet. Take a peek. - another user-based how-to site on a wide spectrum of topics: hair styles, cooking, self-help, sewing, and magic tricks, to name a few. - I've linked you to the Kids/Family section of this site which will give you a directory of family oriented appliations or websites that could help you. The main website will give you the directory of all the categories available. I could spend days going through the list. Totally awesome.


What Were They Thinking?

Some would say we live in a "Bedroom Community". I've heard that term a lot and have wondered what that was. Is it all homes, and no businesses? Does it mean there's no living rooms or kitchens? Or maybe it means there are few, if any apartments? Curious, I looked it up. "Bedroom Community can also be called "Commuter Town." According to, these are communities that are outside of close-in city suburbs (think West Seattle, Bellevue and entire the Eastside) that have largely been absorbed by the cities, these bedroom communities are in suburbs that can actually be called exburbs generally with some retail businesses but no heavy industry or technology. That may put Sumner out of it. Oh well, we are definitely in suburbia.

Well our little neighborhood of 20 or so new homes is pleasant and I love living here. My own little slice of heaven. We have a neighbor who owns about 8 acres and they have a peacock we can hear yelling out "HELP" regularly. There are kids riding bikes everywhere, and we all know what vehicles are regulars. We all watch out for each other and most of us know each other by name. Truly this is a "Leave it to Beaver" place. The homes are nicely situation on small lots with just enough yard to let us all play gardener without too much effort. Mornings are great. I like to wander out into the front yard and enjoy the sun and the peaceful setting. I liked to that is until...

Rory the Rooster makes an entrance. Rory is only one of two roosters (though there may be more, they are young yet) that cock-a-doodle-do in about 30 second intervals throughout the day. It isn't just in the morning; it starts in the morning and goes all day. Kind of like morning sickness. It starts one morning and goes on for a couple of months.

It is unclear why our neighbors decided to raise chickens. Several of us doubt they are pets, though they do run loose in his yard for the most part. There is only one larger rooster remains captive in a strange looking cage. It will be interesting to watch (or listen) and see if the herd, gaggle, or whatever they call a poultry group, will dwindle.

What I find strange is that anyone, with homes in such tight proximity to each other as ours all are, would even consider raising chickens and roosters. Of late, every time I walk by their backyard, one vocal feathered fowl actually pops up onto the top of the fence and crows his territorial expletives at me each time I make my circle of the neighborhood. He could easily make the final leap to freedom. If his owners intend him for the cooker, he may be kicking himself later wishing he'd taken that opportunity.

A big why and as Fitz and Mary from 100.7 The Wolf would say "What! Are you kidding me?"


Funky Gadgets Update

Here are some interesting items I found that may help some of you with those last-minute birthday or other holiday gifts or for those who are simply hard to buy for.

Frolicat Bolt - Now you can play with your cat without even lifting a finger. Simply setup the Frolicat and walk away and watch your cat go wild.

Pre-chewed pencils - maybe people wouldn't chew on pencils if it already looked like someone else had gotten to them first! On the other hand, does anyone use pencils now days?

Turn air into water - this is a self-cleaning alternative source for fresh water. The ultimate green choice, or maybe not.

Drum Kit T-Shirt - (This one is for you, Daniel)- Are you always drumming on the desk, your knees, or any other surface at the ready? Try this shirt and share your percussive talents more loudly with all of your friends!!

Nothing - For the person who has everything.
step 1 - open the pack
step 2 - experience nothing

Warranty: This product is guaranteed to do absolutely nothing. If something happens, return for a full refund.

Stay in touch with previous gadget posts:
April 2008
May 2008


Don't Look Up!

Ah memories! I'll never forget the beautiful afternoon walking the cobble stoned byways of Venice with my daughter a few years ago. We were hopelessly, yet very comfortably, lost. Not really a big deal, but we were trying to find a specific church, museum, or piazza for some reason or the other, and we decided to whip out our map of the city. (Maps in Venice are not always useful as some streets/alleys are named and some are not. Sometimes the maps even make it worse.) Either way, we whipped out the map, unfold it to its ungainly size that's almost as wide as the alley we're in, and begin flipping it around this way and that to see if it would help us navigate to the church, museum, or piazza; whatever.

SPLAT! Did I forget to tell you that Venice is overrun with pigeons? Oh yeah. Well Venice is overrun by pigeons. They're everywhere. Most of you have probably seen the ubiquitous Italian travel montages that show tourists besieged by hordes of birds in St. Mark's Square (that's a piazza, by the way), and we found that to only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I'll give Venice kudos though for working hard to keep them in check and minimize their damage. It seems that the pigeon poo was degrading the beautiful structures that make Venice so famous. Just a few years ago they banned the street vendors that sold feed to tourists and started fining people for feeding them. I heard they even set up a government program to help the the vendors find other jobs since most relied on their trade as their single source of income. Some had even argued that the "business" had been passed down through the generations.

Anyway back to the mess on my head. The wet muck struck the map, my sweater, and some got on my hands. Yuck. Our search for the museum, church, piazza turned into a search for a restroom to wash (those are hard to find unless you sit in a restaurant and buy something). I remember I had lost my voice and was scarfing cough drops all day and Mandy had to feed me the next few until I could thoroughly scrub all the pigeon poop away.

I had one other run in with bird guano, years ago. My brothers and sisters and I would walk to the local drug store on a trail through some woods (imagine doing that in today's environment?) and one day a bird found my head. Strange what you remember when you're a kid. It kinda reminds me of the old Gary Larsen cartoon showing how birds see the world: people all with targets painted on their heads. Well that was me. I had a friend with me, so I played it cool and simply wiped it off with my hands and carried on. No freaking out for me. Ugh. I think we went down there to buy candy. I've blocked the rest out.

I venture to guess I'll get nailed at least once more in my life time. I think I'll start planning my response now.

P.S. You can read about the day this occurred on my blog from that trip here. Scroll down to my June 7th posting.

P.P.S. The little video is not mine. Unknown copyright.


How do you Treat Your Lawn Ornaments?

The wind was balmy and the trees swaying in a light breeze. The breeze really helps the 80 degree heat seem very tolerable. Ahh, this is the life. My new backyard is done and I'm sitting in my lounger on the new patio next to my new water feature...

Suddenly I'm awakened by a doorbell and my little dog, Trevi, bounces out of the room barking shrilly, totally ensuring I am fully awakened out of my night time slumber. Darn. It was a good dream. 12:15!! Who on earth would be ringing my doorbell at this hour? I finally get my arms into my robe after about the third try and manage to tie the sash by the time I'm about half way down the stairs. Then the thought hits me. Do I really want to open the door at midnight? Who would be on the other side? Being that James is now working a night job, it's up to me to figure out how I want to handle this perplexing situation. The peephole provides no clues. No one is there. But I do see a Sumner police vehicle outside. Ah, it must be safe I figure, and I open the door. Still no one is there. There are TWO Sumner police vehicles in our little neighborhood. After standing there in my stylish Cat in the Hat pajama pants, Roma T-shirt, and pink robe for a few minutes, the policemen walked around the corner.

Turns out PETLO (People for Ethical Treatment of Lawn Ornaments) struck our neighborhood. Apparently the police received a call from one of the neighbors that someone made off with a lawn ornament. The neighbor gave hot pursuit to the perp while phoning the police. They were there now trying to figure out which house was missing the important artifact. I do have a concrete lion (was originally a headstone a few houses ago for a dear cat) in the backyard. We all traipsed through the house to the back patio where the cops shone their lights all over. Nope, not me. Lions is still in my unfinished backyard near a big pile of dirt. Hmmm... the police thought sure the neighbor had described my house as the target. They made off into the night checking other homes and generally scoping out the area.

I went back to bed very satisfied. Sumner is at the ready for every situation. We scored two police for the lawn ornament crime.

I fell asleep not knowing if the wayward ornament had been found. Was it PETLO? Or, like the Roaming Gnome, did it simply decide Sumner didn't have enough to offer and pack up for an adventure?

Now, back to that dream...


Turns out the ornament stolen was a 3' plastic "SLOW CHILDREN" sign/marker that sits on our corner. You've seen them; they look like little yellow crossing guards. While we don't want to admit we have slow children on our block, it has generally been felt that it did present the appropriate cautionary communication to all drivers venturing into our neighborhood. Our police-wanna-be neighbor, that went chasing after the thief, did get a license number, so it is just a matter of time before it is back in its rightful place.

The big question? Why would anyone want to take that sign, thereby admitting they have slow children?

I Get to Go Back!

I'm very excited at the prospect of hiking through the Utah dessert again this fall. I'm dreaming in reds, browns, golds, and lots of warm sunshine!

I'm posting some of my photos that are from my trip to Utah. Have fun looking!

Utah Desert


The Beautiful Dessert

My previous blog entry mentioned my next trip to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. We'll be driving down in our car hoping to take only 2 to 3 days to get there. Once there we'll stay in St. George, Utah and take day trips to the various parks. The drive looks long, but since gas is no longer at $4.50 a gallon, it makes it cheaper than flying.

Our hope is to hike with cameras in hand and capture the real beauty of the area. Neither James nor I have ever seen the Grand Canyon so we are very excited to see this amazing geological formation. I've heard good things about Bryce Canyon as well. I'll try to post pictures or blog as I go if I can.

I really love planning trips. I have several online travel sites that I use regularly and some of you may find of interest in planning out your own summer travels.

1. Driving Costs - calculate your fuel costs:

2. Trip Advice - find restaurants, hotels, activities, and tourist hot spots with reviews and occasionally even photos from real people, not travel writers. I've posted many reviews on this site myself:

3. Find the best seat on an airplane - Seat Guru helps you figure out which seat is the best seat on your airplane. Tired of spending hours in the back with a seat that doesn't recline? Wish you knew where the exit rows were? Check out seating charts for the different airline and airplane configurations in advance at

4. Non-US Low Cost Airlines: Trying to find flights in Romania, Greece, Turkey, Spain, or other country and don't know where to start? Try this site for a listing:

5. Home Exchange - I've yet to do this, but it has intrigued me. This may be a way to experience a new place without the high costs of a hotel:

6. Travel Questions answered - want to ask other travelers for suggestions or ask about train schedules in Italy? This is my favorite site for European travel by the travelers, for the travelers. Check out the forums where travelers post comments and answer your questions: I love this site.

7. Maps - you can get directions to almost anywhere via the Michelin map site:

8. Currency Converter - Find out how much this is really costing you:

9. Plot Your Trip - build your itinerary, see the maps, and even add in activities which are easily printed out. This site integrates in with many airline and reservation sites and pulls in your flight & hotel information for a complete itinerary. You can share your trip map and itinerary with family and friends. Travelers can add in expenses, perform Mobile updates, and integrate with your calendar. Check it out:

10. Federal Aviation Administration - get the scoop on travel advisories, laws, regulations BEFORE you go:

Enjoy your summer travels!


Did I Just Do That?

I had a vacation just a few short weeks ago and it feels like it was last year already. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly those wonderful memories sail past and away into the fog. It's like being on a speed boat and watching a piece of seaweed or other floating object fade so quickly from view. Thank goodness we have pictures!

I'm already starting to plan a get-away with James in September. We hope to do a driving vacation down to see the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. I had the opportunity to visit that general area two years ago and was absolutely fascinated. We hiked every day (in the early morning when it was cooler). The terrain is so very different from Washington, but every bit as breath taking with its vibrant reds and browns and dessert beauty. The fall means we'll be blessed with the fall foliage too. I'm very excited about the photo opportunities this trip should present.

We had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with the family. There was a birthday party for my niece, Alison, who turned 6. I also went to visit my mother in Chehalis. James and I fixed up the bike tires and headed out down the Interurban Trail towards Emerald Downs. We were probably less than a mile away when we decided to switch bikes (mine has a gel seat) and within minutes of James taking over, the tire blew with a huge explosion! We walked the bikes back to the nearest road intersection; probably about 1/2 a mile, and then I waited while James rode all the way back and got the van. We then drove to Emerald Downs and watched several horse races. What a wonderful day in the sunshine.

Ah, but work beckons. Thankfully I have a really short week as Friday is my scheduled day off. I am hopeful for another sunny weekend.


Nothing Pithy Here

I usually love to write something meaningful or humorous on a regular basis. I have struggled lately to find my creative side to draw from and actually write something, anything, worth reading. I think that means I need a vacation.

I can relate to the stories of writers who would consign themselves to some remote cabin or tropical island for weeks or months at a time in order to clear their brain and find their creative muse. While some may argue my creativeness, or even the notion that I possess the mythical muse (or even have the ability to muse) the idea of prolonged peace and tranquility to get the right side of my brain functioning again is appealing. I think that means I need a vacation.

I've plotted and planned my next adventure for a few years nowL: the big 50th birthday trip with a wonderful friend of many years who also turns 50 right along with me. We picked Hawaii because it was close enough to get to and enjoy in a week or less and yet far enough away to feel like a real vacation. Somehow going to Vancouver, B.C. or Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, or even Disneyland wouldn't cut it. But here I am only about 3 days away and I haven't even packed anything yet. Not typical for me, the quintessential planner/analyzer. I have nothing ready save a tan I've been developing thanks to a local tanning salon. My list of things to do before I go keeps growing each day due to the fact I haven't accomplished the list from the day before. I think that means I need a vacation.

My job has gotten more demanding and less rewarding. My house has gotten dustier and more cluttered. I'm behind on watching my favorite shows. My body aches and hurts for no reason at all [INSERT OLDER-THAN-DIRT JOKES HERE]. I haven't gotten through the game Oblivion yet. And, I still have to figure out how to get my costume ready for my 50th birthday party hubby is putting on for me (not to mention a skit to match my selected persona).

I guess that means I need a vacation.


10! 9! 8!

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have a nice relaxing trip to Hawaii all lined up and ready to go. A good friend of mine and I made a deal several years ago that on our 50th birthday we would splurge and buy ourselves a trip somewhere. Well, this is the year and we're actually doing it. So off to Maui we go. We are leaving on Saturday May 2nd, and will be gone exactly one week.

I really need this vacation. Work has been very hectic and my role has me in the hot seat on a regular basis. It is not fun. I need the beach. I need the sun. I need week of doing nothing work related at all. So, I downloaded a countdown clock from the Internet and have been watching the days disappear. Yeah!

But, oh no! My friend, Brenda, reminds me that we should count the same way James does. You can't count the current day, and you don't count the day you leave, so my countdown clock is wrong. Sigh...

It reminded me of a writing assignment I completed about 2 years ago. You should give it a read. It is called "The Wild Side of my Better Half".


So Much To Buy, and So Little Time

While preparing myself for my next trip to Hawaii, I started reading up on old posts from years ago. I'd forgotten about them but really liked them, so I am re-posting them for your enjoyment.

Consumerism has reached a new level. Until now, I have been unfamiliar with the abundance of travel supplies and accessories available. While making my packing list, I've found a veritable bottomless pit of supplies that each company touts as "must haves" for the savvy traveler. Well, not wanting to be un-savvy I took a peek.

Armed with my debit card, I find I'm faced with the daunting decision of what to purchase. Should I get the "Disposable Tan Towel" that gives me a natural healthy looking tan without the harmful effects of the sun, or the "Soothing Sole Towelettes" that instantly refresh, cleanse, and deodorize? Begging for my hard-earned, but casually spent dollars, are the travelers first aid kit, the special "no-wrinkle" (yeah right) clothing, disposable underwear, travel lights, map readers, motion sickness wrist bands, travel fans, and the inevitable, but very stupid looking, "Cloud-Soft Inflatable Pillow" that "makes all the difference on long flights." (Speaking of those little inflatable pillows, I've seen those; they wrap around your neck like the yoke on an oxen. Though they do appear to be much lighter weight and can be purchased in a variety of colors, they still look pretty funny. My sister wore one when we traveled to Italy in 2001. It was a real struggle to keep my hilarity to myself so as to not to disturb her during her slumber. The pillow did work; she didn't kink her neck, but she did keel over and ended up reclining on the very nice Italian lady next to her. This kindly soul didn't shove Linda out into the aisle even once during the entire 4+ hour trip from Rome to Venice. Who says the locals aren't kind to Americans?

One item reminded me of a conversation some of us had regarding smells on long airline flights. It was the "Personal Air Supply" that "substantially reduces pollutants, dust, fresh air is released towards your mouth, nose, and eyes." You get the picture. I think the $125 price tag means I'll be smelling whatever comes my way during the 9+ hour flight.

Here's a few other items that caught my eye (actual name and descriptions used):

* Boroleum - place a tiny dab at the base of each nostril for immediate relief from dry nasal membranes.

* Skeeter Defeater - portable free-standing insect tent that packs easily into its own carrying sack.

* Flipper - Suctions securely to any smooth surface and its unique springloaded hinge allows it to "flip" open and closed, preventing your toothbrush bristles from coming into contact with surface germs (the picture shows your toothbrush suctioned to the bathroom mirror)

* Restop - biodegradable blend of polymers breaks down waste into a sturdy zip top bag and turns it into gel (I'm not kidding)

* Tush Wipes - I'm not going to explain this one

All this has helped me make up my mind. I'm not buying anything, but I will make James sit at the back of the plane.

4/3/2009 Note: I'm not going on this next trip with James though.


Say What?

We've all heard 'em: popular over-used words, phrases, cliche's, weird pronunciations, or tidbits of nomenclature that we all wish would go away. Here are some that have caught my ear and made me go hmmm...?

1. Again - I've been in meetings day after day (that's my work-life, in a nutshell) and someone will begin a sentence with "Again, I'd like to point out that that database hosting solution requires that we..." and so on. Well, without fail I begin trying to figure out when they had said it before in order to verify the use of the word "again" in their statement. Most of the time they have not been redundant. Clearly the use of the word has become a strange way of starting off a statement.

2. Basically - same as above. In my Information Technology world (IT) I've found that there really are few things that are basic. But hey, maybe that's just me.

3. Monday - pronounced Mon-dee, or Fri-dee, not day. When did that happen? One of our local weathermen uses that pronunciation and it really bugs me. It really doesn't work well with some of the days of the week in particular; it just sound wrong. Try it. Say with me: Satur-dee. See what I mean?

4. In terms of - again, (notice I am using this correctly as the beginning of my statement) this is a case of people finding a not-so-unique way of making a comment. When one thinks about what the phrase really means, it really should go without saying if one has a well thought out statement to make.

5. Right? - I work with a strong contingent of people who regularly finish a sentence with a question by tacking on question "right?" at the end. Depending on the person it may be a result of a couple of things. It could be a not-so-clever way to trying to lead the listeners into agreeing with the tactic or decision. Or, it could simply be an insecure person seeking approval for their comments/statements. I suppose we should also consider that someone has just created the habit and really don't expect everyone to be constantly affirming every other sentence. Goodness knows I've been tempted to interrupt after the end of every such sentence with a loud "YES" or "RIGHT!". Somehow I don't think that would make me very popular, though the possibility exists that I would be invited to fewer meetings which wouldn't be a bad thing after all. I'll have to think on that one more.

In addition to the above more nonsensical words, it seems every year there are new business buzz words and cliches that become popular. I guess I'm a rebel at heart. I purposefully try to stay away from them if I can at all get away with it. I'll never forget a couple of years ago, I couldn't get through one meeting without hearing the phrase "low hanging fruit". I hear it once in a while now, but it is almost gone (good riddance). Hasn't anyone heard that the fruit that is the most available has usually been sprayed with insecticides? Don't eat it!


Is it Just Me?

OK I admit it. I'm a staunch conservative. I didn't used to be. Back in the mid-80's I fled a legalistic and extreme religious environment and spread my wings and swung over to a fairly liberal mind-set. That phase only last a few years. Once my rebellious anti-everything-I'd-ever-been-trained/taught mode waned, I began to pay attention and really examine the political world around me. I attended town-hall meetings held by my state legislator, I talked with candidates that went door-to-door and even started watching websites for current and wanna-be candidates. I started listening to talk radio and forsaking the typical news outlets which seemed very slanted to me. I worked hard to actually be informed. I didn't want to blindly follow anything anymore.

Well the news of late has really got me in a very defensive mode. I am starting to feel like I need to defend my personal property, my finances; my general way of life seems to be in jeopardy. The dollar is falling, rampant inflation is probably less than a year away (keep printing that money!). What now? What if I lose my up-to-now safe, well paying job? What would we do if our money became nearly worthless? How would we pay our bills? Buy food? Keep a roof over our heads? It seems that a lots of things I've taken as a given, may actually be in jeopardy. I'm turning 50 in about a month and retirement usually isn't far from my mind. Will I now have to work until I'm 70? Will I even have a job? Ah, so much to think about.

Should I buy gold? Silver? I most certainly want to pay off as much debt as possible, no question there. Debt is certainly a bad thing in our world's current situation. I don't' want to be beholden to anyone if I don't have to.

But man, do I still want to travel the world, spoil my grand kids, help out my kids as they start up their new families, be generous with my charitable giving. I really want that new computer monitor, new software, iPod Touch (thanks for the tip JD!), camera accouterments, and more. Oh and my tires need replacing, the yard is a disaster and needs new sod, and I need a new wardrobe. My house still has a lot of painting to be done and curtains to put up. I can see that I have a real struggle in front of me to curb my years of easy spending.

I've been very reticent about posting my thoughts on this; worried that some will see me as a conspiracy theorist or just plain batty with my concerns.

Too bad.

I am out in the open now.


Weird News Alert

Student kicked off of a school bus for farting - A Lakeland Florida teen is kicked off a bus for trying to make kids laugh by farting. The bus driver, according to, when filling out his incident form, said ""Jonathan passes gas on the bus to make the other children laugh and it is so stink [sic] that you can't breathe after he does it."

Three men killed while trying to saw through a bomb - surely these men are candidates for the famous Darwin Awards. A policeman reports to the online news source, The Australian, that "The poor men wanted to sell the metal for money. They could not escape the sudden blast."

Vindictive man tries to get back at his neighbor ends up setting his own car on fire - Seattle's own reports that the Florida man couldn't escape a shift in winds that blew the flames from his moltov coctail onto his own property. Authorities believe that alcohol was involved. No kidding.


What? Me Change?

Ah spring is here! With the start of Daylight Savings time, we are reminded by radio hosts and TV special service annoucements, to change our smoke alarm batteries. Well it got me thinking about all the other things we here at the Ochs house usually forget to change. I wonder if anyone else suffers from same.

1. Smoke Alarm Batteries - I suppose I should change them, but they're about 10 feet high and require a tall ladder. What a hassle! They're so obnoxious. If it weren't for that little thing called "safety", I'd be taking those little buggers out. I've boiled a pan dry or something dripped onto the bottom of the oven and my alarms are sent shrieking and our hearts racing. My poor doggy makes a quick bee-line out of the house (via the quickly opened door to waft smoke away) in order to save his keenly sensitive ears. The rest of us suffer while fanning near invisible smoke towards the windows and doors.

2. Soil - potted plants need regular re-potting with new soil to keep the plant happy with sweet soil. Apparently soil can go sour. Well, I don't change the soil and I rarely can keep a plant past a year or so. Go figure.

3. Furnace Filters - We firmly believe in letting the next owners of our house worry about any furnace problems.

4. Mascara - did you know that make-up can get old and breed bacteria and cause eye disease and even blindness? I actually don't forget to change out my mascara but am putting this in here to raise global awareness to the epidemic sure to threaten all females of the human species. CHANGE OUT YOUR MASCARA every three months! Save yourselves!

5. Loofahs (or other body brushes or scrubby-thingies) - ah just scrub off your dirt and old skin cells then set 'em in the shower and let 'em soak up the water week after week. There ain't nothing bad about that, right?

6. Refrigerator Water Filter - most of the newer refrigerators have great water filters that eliminate the need for us to purchase bottled water. Keep that filter changed and you can save yourself tons of money buying what you can get for free.

7. Passwords - please change your passwords regularly; particularly those linked with banking institutions or sites/applications that have personal information. The recommended norm is to change them every 90 days. Also, don't put yourself at risk by making all of them the same. Another tip: don't write them all down and post them by your computer.

8. Sachet - that 5 yr old lavender sachet that is in the lingerie drawer? I think it's time. I suppose you could always peel an orange and stuff the rind in there. They're sure to give off a nice citrus smell.

9. The vacuum cleaner bag - if you do that then it won't take 10 swipes to pick up the thread off the floor. You'll be able to do your vacuuming in 1/10th the time!

10. Glade scented plug-in - things will smell much better if you change out those old crusty cartridges. I hear they have lots of great scents out there.

11. Sunscreens - did you know that last year's sunscreens have lose their potency/strength? Don't kid yourself that your SPF 45 is still providing you with maximum protection. You might burn.

Other ideas on things you can change that help keep you fresh and relevant (and staying away from either being boring or being bored):

- Facebook profile picture
- Try new music preferences - step out of your box!
- Find a new hobby
- Your calendar; throw away the 2008 one with the great picture
- Get a new hairstyle
- The paint color in your favorite room