Friday, April 29, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Medical Comedy Scripted By The Marx Brothers

I, too, am tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane.

So today I get a call on one of the internal phones. These phones have super top-double-secret numbers that are only dialable from other phones in the hospital system. I pick up the phone. The voice on the other end asks for me by my real, long-form name, the one that I normally keep hidden in a Hawaiian records office.

It's the scheduler for the OB/GYN, reproductive endocrinology, reproductive oncology people. She wants to know if I've scheduled the ultrasound followup for the hot spot they found on my PET scan. The one on my right ovary.

(*sound effect of screeching brakes*)

Me: What? What motherfucking what?

Her: Uh....has Dr. Crane's office not called you with the PET results?

Me: No. How 'bout you tell me what the fucking motherfuck is going on here?

Her: Well, they found a hot spot on your right ovary and I'm sure it's benign most of these things are it's probably nothing but we want to check it out right away so how's tomorrow at two o'clock?

Me: (trying not to sound panicked) Fine. Whatever. Great. *click*

After I hung up the phone, I yelled to my partner that I was heading downstairs for a bit, then borrowed the boss lady's office to have a nice thorough bout of hysterics (I made the appointment for the ultrasound and follow-up first, though). Hot spot, PET scan, ovary, age 41, adenocarcinoma already, holy crap.

Boss Lady sent me home. She didn't even give me a chance to argue, just called in somebody else and shoved me out the door. So home I came, and watched Dr. Who until my brain exploded. Then I took a nap.

When I got up, I discovered two things: That Dr. Crane had left me a detailed voice message after the tone, and that he'd also sent an email. His communications had crossed with the phone call from the folks at OB/GYN, so I had missed 'em.

In both messages, he said that the "hot spot" was something that, according to the radiology people, looked consistent with a dermoid cyst. They'd seen it six months prior, on my first PET, but given that we were busy with other stuff, had elected to advise a wait-and-follow approach. The thing, whatever it is, is unchanged in size and uptake from the last scan, but it's still there. Given that dermoid cysts (those are the weird things with teeth and hair in 'em) can burst and cause peritonitis and so on, the Radiology Guys figured a diagnostic u/s would be a great idea. I agree with that, so I'll be prodded with a wand tomorrow.

I just love incidental findings.

So, yeah. My head, by the way, is fine. My neck and chest both look lovely. My belly, aside from the fact that I have Animal from the Muppet Show on my ovary, is pristine. My adrenal glands were a little overactive, but as Dr. Crane said, that's to be expected on a follow-up scan for cancer.

Teeth and hair. On my ovary.

This explains why I've had the compulsion to floss my Fallopian tubes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Endings. Beginnings. (Dude. I know you follow me on Blogger.)

My ex-husband is selling the house we bought shortly after we were married. It's the house I grew up in; Mom and Dad sold it to us for super-cheap. He's asking about five times what we paid for it.

And you know what?

He ought to get every penny. It's totally worth it. He's prettied it up with refinished floors and fresh paint and a deck, but more than that, he's rewired the whole darned 3200 square feet and put in new windows and insulation. I heard all this from guys that I'd hired to do the same work on Casa Del Animules.

The kitchen looks great. The second-floor bathroom is a vintage dream. The room I called my study, where I first started to get online, is gorgeous.

Clint, dude, you do good work. Despite all our differences, that is one thing I will never, ever dispute: you do very good work.

So that's the end of a chapter. The house I knew is bordering on unrecognizable: for one thing, the kitchen is both more attractive and more usable than it ever was when I lived there either time. For another, did I mention that he added this huge, gorgeous deck where once was a totally worthless and dangerous set of concrete steps? Seriously, this is a great house.

Another thing ended today: I got a pretty good preliminary report from Dr. Crane. Although the finals from the PET won't be back until tomorrow at the earliest, and yes, I plan to risk a written reprimand to sneak into the computer system and find out what they are, the basic report looks good.

I seem to have a cure.

I am now a person who had cancer. Subject, of course, to any revelations contained in the report from the radiologist.

I seem to have a cure.

The theme of the Life Of Jo seems to be this: the things that suck the most are the things that leave me with the most lasting, most valuable lessons.

I hated my first husband for a long time. It wasn't until I started admitting things, like that he taught me how to be an autodidact, and taught me how to wrestle out the important points of an argument, and how to call bullshit, that I realized how valuable he was to me. Most of what I am, intellectually, I owe to Clint. We may have been a crappy match other than brain-wise, but he had a brain the equal of which I have not yet met, even in years of working with neuroscientists.

I hate that I had cancer. I'm still in the process of hating it; hating that I have two plastic palates soaking in water on the kitchen counter, hating that bedtime stories and casual conversation are both limited by whether or not I have my mouth in. Still, it's getting easier: I'm getting more intelligible without the Device in, and I can make jokes about it, like that I sound like an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon without it.

I can't remember now what I sounded like without a palate in. Sometimes it comes back to me, mostly in dreams, but even my dreams now are like my real life: I sound funny without help.

Sometimes I dream about the old house. In one dream, all the furniture was suspended above the floor, and the walls were being replaced with cedar shakes. In another, the entire back yard had been plowed up and planted with soybeans. Mostly, though, they're peaceful: I walk through the house, touching things I remember that have been long sold or destroyed.

I can't remember now what I was like before I met Clint. Five years ago that would've been cause for frustration and anger. Now I'm just thankful that he taught me things that have lasted beyond all the shit we put each other through. Maybe, if I'm lucky, having had (can I say that yet?) cancer will be the same way.

I am full of Valium and Mexican food and this might just be the way to live.

The PET scan went fine. Final results probably won't be back until tomorrow, but Dr. Crane says the look he took seems okay, except that I have a stone in my tonsil. "I don't know why I didn't just go ahead and take those out," he said, referring to my tonsils, "I was in there anyhow."

He got a big ol' side-eye on that one.

Nurse Ames looks like a fluffy bunny that would come apart if you spoke to her harshly, but she drives like a NASCAR wannabe. Even with horrible wrecks between Littleton and Bigton, she managed to get us there on time and in one piece, and with minimal gleeful cackling.

I'm going to go hang up my scrubs now for tomorrow and then try to stay awake long enough to feed Max this evening. *sssskkknnnnkkkkzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bad/Worse/Worst Volume 2: A quick update

Bad: Having a cat try to steal your roasted asparagus while you watch "Miss Congeniality".

Worse: Having that cat succeed. NOM NOM NOM says Notamus, eating asparagus.

Worst: Cat asparagus pee.

Srsly? The worst. Even multi-cat ain't up for this shizznit.

Or peenit. Wev. Ew.


Odds and Ends

Poor Max has had some broken sleep lately. Flashes (the smaller, stripey, smarter cat) has decided that he misses cuddling with a dog at night and so has started sneaking onto Max's bed when he thinks Max is asleep. If Max is asleep, Flashes cuddles until Max wakes up. At that point, Max lies there for a moment, thinking the doggy equivalent of "he's right behind me, isn't he?" and getting more and more freaked out, until he can't stand it any more and has to get up and go sleep in the kitchen. I've been finding Flashes on the very edge of Max's bed in the mornings, looking sort of lonely.

*** *** *** *** ***

Bad is having a tube in your brain.

Very bad is having a tube in your brain that then gets infected.

Worst of all is having a tube in your brain that drains nothing but pus and chunks of brain tissue. Jo went *erp* O_< at that.

*** *** *** *** ***

If you haven't already read Mindpop, go do so immediately.

*** *** *** *** ***

The drought, while not broken, has been moderated in the worst way over the last few days. A series of thunderstorms/tornadoes/supercells dropping golfball-sized hail has formed right atop us this week. While we've gotten some much-needed rain--maybe all of Littleton won't burn to the ground!--it's been exciting. I tried to lie down for a nap today and was disturbed by the howl of the weather sirens and the BANG BANG BANG of hail on the windows.

Max was unaffected. So were the cats. Little bastards wanted to go outside and play in it.

*** *** *** *** ***

The interview with the nice writer for Reader's Digest went swimmingly. Thank you for all your suggestions. I have one to add: "I'd never tell a patient that he's a moron for waiting a week for his stroke symptoms to improve before coming to the hospital." Although, you know, I'd like to. Especially when his wife bitches me out because "we're not doing anything" for the guy. Lady, there's nothing we *can* do. Aspirin, make sure he's not in a-fib, make sure there's no patent foramen ovale, rehab: that's the prescription for moronity right now.

*** *** *** *** ***

Nurse Ames and I are making our semi-annual pilgrimage to Dr. Crane's tomorrow. There's one stop we have to make first, at the PET center. My single Valium is safely packed away in my purse. I've gone from unworried to completely freaked out to fatalistic and drinking too much wine. Just as I was reminding myself that nothing was likely to have popped up in six months, the Steel-Toothed Brain Ferrets chimed in with the fact that it was only six months between a clean check-up and the discovery of The Toomah.

Oh, well. If the PET's clean, I'll celebrate for years. If it's not, I'll have more material for the blog.

*** *** *** *** ***

Bad is having a tube down your throat.

Worse is having a tube down your throat and an intensivist that doesn't know how to set the ventilator correctly.

Worst of all is sustaining lung damage because your intensivist set the ventilator wrong. Then you end up with us. Whether or not that is an improvement is up for debate.

*** *** *** *** ***

And finally: A group of us (including the Cute Neurosurgeon and That Other Really Cute Guy and The Third Really Cute Guy, The One With The Crazy-Eyes) from work have started meeting for fun, adult events like going to the kids' exhibits at the science museum in Bigton (with flasks; that's what makes it adult) or going off to the driving range (with flasks). We're all heading out to a burlesque show this weekend; one of the girls from the CCU is making her girdle-and-pasties debut. We plan to dress.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a colleague who can wear a fascinator without looking ridiculous, is lending me a waist cincher. I am practicing using liquid eyeliner to make those little cat's-eyes lines and have bought a new dress. I am stepping up my game. Der Alter Jo has mentioned that she might join the fawn-walking-on-ice brigade in a new pair of FM pumps, and Stoya is going to wear something red and strapless that will make her look tigerish and exotic.

When I asked La Belle Dame what she planned to wear, she said, "Oh, just this black dress I've got. And five-inch platforms. And a fascinator. And gloves." Hence the stepping-up of the game.

Wish me luck. The evening will be a win if I can escape without a broken ankle. I haven't worn heels since I surprised Mom at her own birthday celebration a few years ago.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Last minute request for the Minions:

I have an interview tomorrow morning with a very nice person who's writing an article for Reader's Digest that's to be called "50 Things Your Nurse Won't Tell You." It's in the same vein as the ones she's written about what airline pilots and waiters won't tell you.

What would *you* not tell your patients?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday night fluff:

There's a reason the saying is "Crazy as a pet raccoon."

If you need a little breather from OCD raccoonosity, click here. I fell instantly in love with this platypus and now want to know what sins I have to commit to come back as one in my next life.

Continuing the weird-animal theme, check this out:

I love him, too.

And, finally, the classic site for all Weird Animal Afficianados: Tamandua Girl's Living With Anteaters. The site chronicles her life with Pua, Cinco, and her other critters. Pua was a rescue, as was Stewie (rest in peace, little dude).

This should put to rest Stoya's question, "But what do they eat?"

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oooo. That last song's been up for too damn long.

Try this one instead.

My oldest friend Rob (not Abilene Rob, the Other Rob) posted this to his FB page and I fell in love.

Things here have been... ... ...odd. I've considered, more than once in the last couple of weeks, going back to waiting tables.

The NCCU is under-peopled, so The Big They (aka Manglement) want the nurses to certify as chemotherapy nurses as well, so that we can help out in case of too many chemo patients and not enough chemo nurses. It's an interesting proposition, but I think I might be the only one that feels that way. Two of the other nurses I work with will probably set their teeth and be done with it (though, on second thought, one of 'em is pregnant, so that's a no-go), while the third, Der Alter Jo, has said, "I don't want to be a chemo nurse."

I wouldn't mind being a chemo nurse, but what we're being signed up for isn't exactly chemo-chemo: It's bone-marrow-transplant chemo. Which sucks. Because you have to kill somebody's immune system without killing them. And that's hard, emotionally, because the folks in question are really, really sick. So, yeah, I'm with DAJ on this one.

That's the beauty of dealing with primarily neuro patients: although they might have chronic diseases like diabeetus or hypertension, they're mostly pretty healthy. Really sick people don't have strokes and live. Really sick people end up getting bleeds, or falling over from heart attacks, or ending their lives in some way that's pretty darned irreversible. Because my patients have things going on that are reversible or at least work-around-able, I end up doing a lot of education and tailoring treatment plans; things that I'm good at. I spend, in short, a lot of time looking at my patient rather than looking at the monitors above the person. Chemo nursing of the type The Muckety-Mucks want us to do is the exact opposite of that.

On the other hand, if I train for this, I'll keep my job and my health insurance. Which is worth doing. And, to be less cynical, I'll get a whole new set of skills, and learn a whole new set of things that I've forgotten since nursing school. So there's that.

There have been many Interpersonal Dramas of the Irritating Type in the hospital lately. Interpersonal Dramas are hard for those of us who don't like interacting with normal people, and who don't like drama. The hardest part, for me, has been not simply reacting like a tornado and carving a ditch through the middle of the hospital. Instead, I've been reading anthologies of old science fiction on the Kindle and hugging my knees in a corner in the dark. The tl;dr of this is that smart people can be really, really, really stupid, and I don't want to be stupid.

Um....what else? Oh, yes: follow-up PET is on the 26th. I'm not officially freaking out about it yet, though I can feel Intimations of Freak-Out beginning in the pit of my stomach. It's like, the first PET was clear, the sono I had to have for lumpy boobage was clear, so is this the third-time-charm? And other paranoid thoughts, repeated endlessly in a moaning, droning hum under the day-to-day stuff my unconscious has to deal with, until I end up in a corner with my Kindle, hugging my knees in the dark. You know the drill.

In critter news: Max had an existential crisis today. The postman, with whom he has a long-running agreement, showed up in the front yard at the same time that the ice cream truck drove along the street that runs parallel to the back fence. Max moved faster, motivated by the desire to play with the postguy and hatred for the ice cream guy, than I've seen him move in years. All of his Kangal came out and he tucked his butt up and raced from back to front to back of the yard with legs like steel springs. He didn't catch either one, but he had a hella good time trying.

The cats are insane. They're busily deconstructing the closet as I type, and shedding everywhere. Neither one of them will tolerate the Furminator for very long; it awakens a deep desire in both of them to KILL BROTHER. I'm convinced that kitty-eyes are like The Terminator's eyes, with instructions scrolling past in small print for every situation. Unfortunately, the default is usually KILL BROTHER. At least they've grown out of KILL ANKLE. I would hate to see what 24 lbs. of cat could do to my legs that hasn't been done already.

And there's a really cute guy at work. Friend Pens is being encouraging, which is silly. But he's really cute.

And that is all. Go back and listen to that song again. It'll do you good.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unintentional creepiness of the day, brought to you by Ingrid Michaelson.

I hadn't given "Girls and Boys" a really, really good listen until I was on my way home last night.

This song? Is probably supposed to be about unrequited love and should fill me with despair and sympathy. Instead, I find it inutterably creepy. Like Creeper McStalkersons creepy. Like Crazy-Eyes creepy. Way creepier than "Every Breath You Take" creepy. Bunny-boiling creepy.


In other news, it's now Less! Than! A! Month! until Friend Rob graduates from nursing school, and I am just so excited that I could fdafdskaht. He needs to sell his motorcycle, so if you're somewhere out in West Texas and haven't completely burned up in the wildfires, check this out.

Um....what else? Oh, yes. The secretary is painted, though I still have to put the glass back in the doors somehow and figure out how to touch up the paint without messing things up.

Notamus has learned how to open all the step-on trashcans in the house.

There has been a horrific bug of some sort going around the hospital. I avoided (strangely) the sore-throat-cough-sinus part, but caught the gack-herk-bleh-tummy part. But now I'm better.

And finally, waiting a week for your stroke symptoms to subside before you present to the emergency room is probably not a good idea. We can't do a whole lot for you.

More later: blood! Bones! Bingo!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Oh, and by the way....

It's really weird to be missing a tooth. Even a tooth you don't think much about.

When popcorn goes to get lost in a tooth, you tend to notice if it's a tooth you've had avulsed. It ought to be there, and it's not.

You never get away from it, do you?

Edited to add:

I know this is really ungrateful, and I should be thankful for what I have, but:

On the 26th, I've got the first PET scan since surgery. What will I do if that PET shows something nasty? I *know* it's unlikely. I *know* that, statistically, my chances of having a recurrance are nil until 15 years post-first-diagnosis, but I still worry. My surgeon, who was one of the guys who differentiated PLGA from things like ACA and HGA, was surprised at how well I was doing. I have a hard time getting past that.

His pessimism scares me. The reaction of my prosthodonsist, Dr. Elf, scares me: he's always so amazed at how well I'm doing.

More than that, I am not whole. I am not whole in a very big way. I will never *be* whole, in that my Brother In Beer will still look at me when I try to talk with my prosthetic out and shake his head and say, "Sorry".

At some point, this thing in my head will stop being a party trick.

I would like to be understood without a plastic bit.

With the plastic bit, I have to choose what I say. Now, and for ever.

Maybe that's the lesson I have to learn.

It's never a boring day when three things happen:

Uno: I got the day off, totally unexpectedly. Which was wonderful, because being cancelled, with the attendant risks of being called in, always makes me super-productive. I now have three clean cabinets and a clean utility room.

Dos: Eyelashes are dyed and cuticles are dealt with. If you've seen either, you understand what a challenge this is. The fact that I did it simultaneously--dyeing eyelashes AND pushing back three months' worth of overgrown cuticles--without injury is amazing.

Three: I managed somehow to draw blood while vacuuming the living room today. Don't ask me how. Stoya responded to my text on the subject with "I don't Even. Want. To. Know" to which I replied, "Don't worry; I have no clue, either." One minute I was sucking up rug bits; the next I was bleeding.

Never a dull moment here at Casa Jo.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Fun links to follow while I'm painting my secretary!

(Ain't come to play; I come to get this job done!)

Elsita has been back for a few months, posting outfits on The Hidden Seed. Sometimes I wish I had her closet, but then I realize I'd just wear the same shorts and t-shirt every day, because I live in a place where the climate is hell.

Think Geek is my go-to for wardrobe updates. I really, really want the t-shirt that says "If You're Not Part of the Solution, You're Part of the Precipitate."

The Mary Sue is a great read for chick geeks, the people who love them, and the people who want to be chick geeks.

Are you depressed by the nosedive that Jezebel has taken? I was, until I found Persephone and The Hairpin. Persephone skews a bit more serious; The Hairpin is the sister website of The Awl, which has the motto "Be Less Stupid." When it comes to girly stuff, The Hairpin certainly makes you less stupid. There are tutorials! on eyeliner! by a producer of "This American Life"!

I really love The Ugly Green Chair. Most people can either write or take pictures. Whitney can do both, and does. Plus, she cooks.

NSFW, Not Safe For Mom! Somebody some time ago sent me a link to Sexy is for Everybody, a body-positive, inclusive, ethical porn site. Online porn isn't my cuppa (the letter-passing scene in Pride and Prejudice is hot enough for me), but if you're looking for something less skanky and weird than, say, Fleshbot, you should check this out.

And, finally, if you are a high school or college student who's having a hard time getting through whatever piece of classical literature's been assigned to you, you should check out Myths Retold. I found this through Antonia Cornwell's blog, Whoopee, which should be nominated for the Fucking Ass-Kickingest Blog Of All Time award. Warning: both blogs contain about as much profanity as this one, which makes them both NSFB (not safe for boss), although Antonia's is all "facking" and "bloody" and "fanny", which just makes me want to drink tequila with her that much more.