Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The recheck

Went for my biopsy follow up on Monday and thankfully got to see the doctor though it's generally a surgery day for her. We took a look at the incision site, which appears to be healing okay, though each end seems a little 'hard' and raised from the middle. In a few days I can start using the scar-reducing cream on it, which hopefully will work well, though I understand it takes some time to do its magic.

Anyway, got the pathology report and the ok from the doc to go back to annual mammograms. All in all, it was pretty much what we expected: little calcifications that weren't very likely to turn into anything concerning.

Now I just want the damn scar to go away. As it is, the top of my breast looks as if I was cleanly stabbed with a penknife. Hmm... maybe I can conjure up a good story to go along with it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Like the wallpaper? Let me tell you about the servants' wing.

Another day at Edison National Historic Park, another day at Glenmont.

If I didn't know better, I'd think I was being pigeonholed, even just a little. When I arrived at the Park to volunteer yesterday, the head of interpretation told me they'd like me to hang out at the house for the day. Fine, cool. No problem.

When I was up there a couple of weeks ago, I dipped my toe in the water and gave the patter for part of the tour. A large group was booked, and the rangers decided we'd all take one portion of the house, stay there and explain as the group filed through, then shuttle them to the next ranger. It worked out pretty well: I took the servants' wing, which is really the easiest part of the whole thing (not a lot of tchotchkes to explain). Basically, you just stand there and talk a bit about the kitchen, laundry room and servants' dayroom. The weirdest thing is the interlocking dreadnought linoleum tile, which always catches the attention of at least one person in the group.

This time around, the more senior-level ranger I'd be with asked how much of the tour I'd be comfortable doing on my own. Given that it's hard to come in cold, not having been there in two weeks, I asked to get grounded by backing up the first one, and then I'd take parts of the next few. And that's the way it went. On the first tour, I explained the servants' wing, and listened carefully to the ranger as she did the rest. On the next two, I took the welcome, ground rules and entry parlor to the house, plus the servants wing, and answered random questions as they came along.

I anticipated that the first few minutes would be a little awkward, as the Ellis Island patter always is, but once I covered the ground rules, everything was fine. Once you get into the house, there are so many visual cues that it's not hard to keep the dialog running pretty well.

While I'd give myself a solid B for output, the rangers were very complimentary, told me I sounded really professional and didn't make too many errors. Even the conservator, who knows the house better than I know my own, said she was impressed. So... it looks as if I may be ready for prime time.

The great part, too, was that one of the rangers took me aside to point out a few more things and give me some guidance on how to address some of the more unusual situations that might come up during the tours. This is leading me to believe they're getting confident enough in me to put me into the rotation. They do need people up there -- most of the volunteers prefer to be at the labs -- so it's a good opportunity to get experience and get known. The park is significantly smaller than Ellis Island, and getting known by the right people could be a heck of a lot easier.

And maybe I'll get to do some crawling around the upper floors...

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I hate wearing a bra 24/7.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And the results are in...

Heard from the surgeon's physician assistant this afternoon: test results came back. The calcifications are benign. All's good with the world. I was so relieved that I didn't really ask any questions. I'll bring them all on Monday when I visit for the check on the incision.

I slept in this morning, rather than do my usual Tuesday at Ellis Island. I figured that given the rain, the drive would be awful, and I also didn't want to risk keeling over while I was giving the hospital spiel on the tour. In honesty, I feel pretty decent, so I'm sure I'd have been okay, but why take the chance?

The incision seems to be okay - maybe just a bit sore. The dressing will probably come off when I take a shower tomorrow, so I may actually get to see it.

Oh, and last night? The tube top thingy gave no support at all as I was moving about in my sleep. Put on a sports bra this morning and instantly felt securely supported. I guess I'll be wearing that for the next few days, oh joy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The girls are back...

So the deed is done -- got the biopsy out of the way.

At the start, we thought it might be a bit easier than first supposed. The radiologist who was placing the guide wire (same doc as last time) had an inkling that the spot in question might be closer to the skin than thought earlier. Apparently that hadn't been so clear in the mammo since the compressions can make it harder to gauge depth in some areas. In any case, her supposition meant taking a whole bunch of extra mammos until they could make the determination. Turns out the spot is just beneath the skin, but I certainly didn't mind the additional work done to check it out. The smaller the 'dig,' the better. I didn't look down much, but when I did, I saw they'd marked the spot with a metal pellet the size of a BB. Kinda looked like one of those odd piercings the kids are getting these days, but smaller. They took it off when they inserted the wire, and replaced it with a piece of tape to secure the end of the wire.

The extra work made me a little late getting to the surgical area for my 9 a.m. appointment with destiny, which I was whisked to via wheelchair. (I really wanted to put the "whee!" into wheelchair, but alas, could not.) I'd been warned not to move my right side too much, because the inside end of the wire locator could easily migrate from its original spot. That made it so much fun to change into the next hospital gown and sign all of the consent forms with my right hand.

All of the nurses, techs and the anesthesiologist were super nice. For the most part, I was relaxed and not stressing over anything, even before the 'who gives a shit?' juice got shot into my drip. And the sedative took over before I even realized it was coming -- all of a sudden I was waking up and they were wheeling me to recovery. Then I was sitting up, drinking ginger ale and eating graham crackers, just like after giving blood. Oh, and they'd dressed me up in this stylin' pink floral smocked tube top with velcro in the front. For support, they say. Ah, the irony: I never wore those ridiculous things in high school, precisely because they provide no support at all. I've gotta wear something to keep the boob in place for a night or two while I'm sleeping, so I guess this will be more comfortable than a bra.

So far so good, as far as recovery. The actual incision is obscured behind a pad that's about 1.5 inches square, so I haven't seen it yet. I'm not feeling any real pain.

I go to see the surgeon's assistant on Monday for a check on the incision. Should hear something about the test results before then.

Off to save second base

Today's the big biopsy. I'm leaving for the hospital in about 45 minutes and right now I want to use the bathroom but am not doing it because they need a urine sample and I can't have anything to drink till this annoyance is over. No food or drink after midnight, in case they have to use general anesthesia.

Odd as it sounds, I took a picture of my breast this morning. Figure I'd like a shot in the event the procedure leaves a scar.

And yeah, I'm apprehensive. I just don't like the feeling of being put out. Or cut into. After all those years of joking about the Ramones song, I don't wanna be sedated. I know it's no big deal, but I just don't. And I'm not big on looking at other people's incisions, let alone my own. It's funny - when my dad's had surgery, he's been almost eager to show me the area and explain it. I never want to look. This one I don't even want to think about, however small, and it will be staring me in the face.

I'm sending a few words up to the Big Guy, and thoughts up to my grandmother. I'm getting the early warning and information she didn't have, and hoping my news is better than what she ultimately heard and experienced.

So if you get the chance, send up a few words for quick, painless and the right test results. Thanks.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Off to Princeton

Today's the big Princeton garden club lady tour. I'll be doing the talking from the tour's origin in New Brunswick, down Route 1 to Washington Road on the outskirts of Princeton.

Wanna know why Princeton history goes as far north as New Brunswick... and even Elizabeth? The garden club ladies are gonna find out from me!

Hopefully I can keep from sounding like I'm babbling -- we're trying to fit 20 pounds of talk in a five pound sack. Chances are they won't care, anyway. They're in it more for the gardens they'll see once they get into town, and fortunately I don't have to talk about any of them. I just have to herd the troops back onto the bus after each stop. That's where the real test comes in. Can I be firm yet polite? Will I make it through the day without doing bodily harm to anyone? Will anyone be able to come up with the bail money if I get arrested for assault?

In any case, it'll keep me occupied and distracted from thinking about Monday's biopsy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More boob news

I've kept radio silence on the breast issue for a few months as I've waited for my six month recheck. Now... some news.

My April mammo showed the spots in question are still present, and while the radiologist said they're probably benign, I made another visit to the surgeon to get her opinion. She's strongly recommending the surgical biopsy. With this one, they do a mammo or ultrasound to locate the spot, place a wire as a guide for the surgeon, and then she goes in to excise sample. The advantage of this approach over the core sampling is that if she runs into any blood vessels, she can cauterize them to prevent excess bleeding.

Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled about this, but she told me that she won't declare me 'clear' of any problems until she's seen no change on seven years' worth of mammos at six month intervals. Thank you, no. Thus, her people are working to schedule the procedure for May 17. I should know the results a few days later.

For the most part, I'm dealing okay, but every once in a while, I get a little freaked and emotional about it. I don't like hearing the word 'surgical' and any part of my body used in the same sentence, even if it's just for a test.

Then, on the other hand, I think of my grandmother who died from breast cancer that went undiagnosed far too long. If her doctor hadn't been such an arrogant bonehead and actually listened to her concerns, it's likely I would have had the chance to actually meet her.

Best to find out now and deal with it, than to live with uncertainty.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

And then there's....

... Princeton. (I'll bet you thought I was going to say "Maude!")

The big, full-day Princeton tour for the garden club ladies is coming up in the next couple of weeks. And I'm not nearly as prepared as I would like to be.

What does this look like? Garden club people from around the country will be descending on New Brunswick, and Mimi and crew have been hired to help run bus tours of P'ton and local gardens on the last day of the conference. Total attendance will be around 600 people -- 12 buses in all. What a megillah. And what a nice opportunity to get more experience and perspective.

Sat down a few weeks ago with Mimi and my bus partner for the tour. The partner is a woman who's an officer of the local garden club and a major planner for the gathering the tour will be part of. She's a lovely person and also has the benefit of having been a docent at a few museums, so she knows her way around a tour and has realistic expectations. At the same time, she's going to be extremely busy during the weeks before the conference, with little time to prep for the tour, so she asked if I'd be willing to take the lead that day. No problem. Just let me know what route we're taking. Otherwise, these people are going to be hearing a ton about the Rutgers/Princeton rivalry, and not much else.

She sent me several pages of her thoughts about the front end of the tour, and Mimi provided some additional speaking points, but I'm still not entirely clear on the mid section. We're filling eight hours here -- probably about 90 minutes for lunch, and then some stops at private gardens -- but other than that, I don't have an agenda or anything. Logic tells me that we're really only filling the start and end parts with patter, and then the gardens will be the bulk of the day (and not my responsibility to narrate), but I've gotten no confirmation on that.

This is where the insecure kid part of me comes in. For a fair chunk of my life, my flash assumption when I don't understand something is that it's probably because I missed something. More often than not, it turns out that the other person didn't provide enough explanation or wasn't clear enough (and often others are as confused as I am), but still, the self-doubt makes me hesitate to ask too many questions. I guess I also don't like looking stupid. In this case, I don't want to have that supposed stupidness or lack of preparation reflect on Mimi, either.

I drove down on Wednesday to check out the areas I know will be on the tour, plus a bit of the campus I hadn't visited in a while. All's pretty much good there, though it seems a bit ambitious to cover as much of it as my partner seems to want to. Nonetheless, it's all workable. I just need to know what ELSE we need to cover. I've got to study! I figure if I don't have at least some answers by Monday, I've got to get really aggressive about finding out.

Somewhat relieved yesterday to get an e-mail from my tour partner, asking if I can join her, Mimi and another garden club person Wednesday to discuss. Phew! Just in time to get my questions answered, information gathered and part secured. Then all I have to do is memorize.

This is gonna be interesting.