The Breakfast Routine

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photo (2)Two mornings a week I don’t go in to work until noon. On the other three mornings, it ranges from 7:30 to 9:00, depending on the day, the schedule, the position of the sun, the stock market in Japan, or whether I’m wearing socks. Seriously, some Nobel Prize mathematician would have to come up with a chalkboard-sized formula to correctly predict my schedule.

But on my early mornings, when I get to the office I have my breakfast preparation process for my bagel and coffee in the staff break room. I have my coffee cup, my butter, cream cheese, my own coffee creamer all splayed out on the counter next to the microwave. On many of these mornings, I encounter D from our marketing department.

This morning he remarked on my routine and how meticulous I am. “I’m jealous of what you’ve got going on here with your routine and all. I wish I could keep something up like that,” he said.

“Because it’s food,” I said.

Marco Polo and Cancer Can Bite Me

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Until I was around 14 or so, my family and my dad’s sister’s family (including her parents-in-law) went to North Myrtle Beach together during the third week of July every summer. When they were in high school, my older cousins each brought a friend as well, so I remember several years when there were 13 to 15 of us in a three bedroom condo.

Every morning the living room was a minefield of air mattresses and snoring teenagers, and to this day, these weeks remain my favorite vacations ever. They’re probably the reason why I feel like a road trip feels incomplete without at least five or six people with me.

swimming poolDuring these beach trips, my brother and I spent the majority of our days submerged in chlorinated water until our skin shriveled to the point where even a prune would be like, “Damn…” Attempts to keep us properly sunscreened proved futile, and our fair, freckled skin turned angry pink in just the first day. Eventually, mine settled into a reddish brown with extra freckles.

Sometimes we’d see other kids in the pool playing Marco Polo — a game that never interested me. Who wants to be the one kid standing alone, eyes closed, flailing about in desperation to tag someone else who stays just out of reach and then disappears only to pop up again behind him or beside him?

Just don’t get tagged, you might say. But sometimes you slip up. Perhaps you lose your footing on the bottom of the pool and fall within reach. Perhaps the “Marco” ends up being faster than you. Sometimes, getting tagged is just a matter of time.

I find the game as sick and twisted as Dad’s lymphoma. At the beginning of January, the doctors sent out all their Marco calls in the form of scans and tests and nothing answered, so they said Dad was in remission — except there was this pain that had started in his hip, like his sciatic nerve had started acting up.

Then the pain was in his back, and last Friday he ended up in the ER with a bunch of jackasses who had less compassion than a drill sergeant. Dad had an MRI, and despite not having done a spinal tap yet, one of the a-hole doctors swaggered over to him announced that the lymphoma had moved to his spine.

Unfortunately, the spinal tap did show lymphoma in his central nervous system, in the blood-bone barrier — a hiding place that would not have shown up on any scan or bone marrow test. Polo

The Leukemia and Lymphoma society predicted that almost 70,000 Americans would be diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2013. For ease of math, (which I’ll still be doing with a calculator because… English major) we’ll say 70,000. Of those 70,000, five to ten percent will receive a diagnosis of mantle cell lymphoma, the type of lymphoma Dad has. Some statistics say it’s closer to four to six percent, but let’s be generous and say it’s ten percent.

Then 7,000 people should have gotten the mantle cell lymphoma diagnosis. Of these 7,000, LESS THAN FOUR PERCENT of them will have their lymphoma move to their central nervous system. We’ll be generous again and give it an even four percent calculation, which equals 280. Two hundred and eighty people will wind up with their lymphoma moving to their central nervous system, and Dad is one of them. How sick and twisted is that?

If my advanced math skills hadn’t vanished after my first semester of college or if I had the patience, I might try and figure what the odds of this occurrence would be, but I’m not attempting those calculations because they don’t do anything to change our new reality.

The new reality is that he has to have weekly chemo shots into his spine along with a daily dose of a new drug approved by the FDA in November. The new reality is that the doctor is not as optimistic about remission; however, this new drug in its trials reduced or eradicated the cancer in 66 percent of the participants.

While we knew the chance of relapse was present, we hoped that we’d have more time to enjoy the good news. Instead, the road has narrowed and lengthened and developed potholes that make this nightmare of a journey tougher to handle.

However, Thursday morning as I sat and listened to the TV on ESPN at work, I heard Curt Schilling’s statement regarding his cancer announcement, and despite talk of him being the occasional a-hole himself1, I found comfort in the following statement:

Tough times don’t last, tough people do.

And if there’s anyone who’s tough enough to outlast this lymphoma (or a rousing game of Marco Polo), it’s my dad.

1 — With the exception of the Atlanta Braves in the early ’90s, I’ve never been a huge MLB follower.

Sunday Selfie: 1985-86 Edition

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Kids, many years before selfie became the word of the year and got added to the Oxford dictionary1, before smart phones, before cell phones with cameras, almost before cell phones themselves, if we “old folks” wanted to take a photo of ourselves (a self-portrait, if you will) we had to turn the camera toward us and hope that our aim didn’t cut off part of our head or look blurry or angle too sharply because there was no way to “delete” the photo. Once you took it, you had to develop it, and you had to wait at least a couple of days to find out the result — unless you were fortunate enough to have Polaroid.

The idea of the selfie never occurred to me until I saw this movie:

Desperately_Seeking_Susan_movie_poster

It was May 1985, and for my 13th birthday, my mother let me invite four friends over for a sleepover.

Not pictured: My lime green lace socks. Also, apologies to the innocents I'm dragging along with me in this photo...

Not pictured: My lime green lace socks. Also, apologies to the innocents I’m dragging along with me in this photo…

To get five giggling 13-year-olds away from my father for a couple of hours, she took us to see Desperately Seeking SusanMadonna mania was in full swing. I had her first,  self-titled cassette as well as her second, Like a Virgin. I knew all of her songs by heart. While not pictured in the above photo, I owned the lace gloves, rubber bracelets, even a scarf/belt-looking thing that I tied vertically around my head to create a big, floppy bow on top of my hair. 

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Second-Choice Saturday Snuggle

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Snuggle Saturday copy

 

A little more than seven years ago, this cream-colored, flame-point, blue-eyed cat scampered out of a bush and up The Husband’s leg. When The Husband is home, this guy is never far from him, but when I’m the only human in the house, he supposes I’ll have to do. Hashtag: chopped liver

Hello, This is the Concierge at the Hotel of Life with Your Wake-up Call

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retro phoneFour days after I wrote that letter to 2014, I found a lump in my breast. Good one, 2014! Way to listen to my request there! ‘Preciate ya… sure do…

Then I did what any person does when they find some sort of bump, lump, or pain — I Googled it. The first information I found sounded promising. The lump moved around easily, so it was most likely a cyst. Then I came across another cite that said you can’t always go by that because sometimes malignant tumors are movable.

My lump is in the lower inner quadrant of the breast, so  one site said that only six percent of breast cancers are found in that area. Well, that sounded good until I realized that the variety of my dad’s lymphoma makes up only six percent of lymphoma patients. Fun fact: Medical issues in my family freakishly happen in similar numbers. The sebaceous cysts I inherited from my dad? My first one popped up on my chin in the fourth grade. My dad’s first cyst popped up on his forehead in the fourth grade. My father’s father died at age 57 of a heart attack. My dad turned 57 while in the hospital recovering from bypass surgery.

Those coincidences were in the back of my mind as I read another website that said breast cancers found in the lower inner quadrant can be difficult to stage correctly because they sometimes spread to mammary lymph nodes between the breasts, making them harder to treat.

So I stopped Googling… Public service announcement, peeps: Do not Google symptoms. No good comes from it. None.

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Dear 2014

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I’m not sure if you’ve spoken much to your older brother 2013, (I actually quit speaking to him in August.) but let me tell you that you’ve got a lot to make up for. Sorry to put that kind of pressure on you, but 2013 was one of the shittiest years on record. He was shittier than the year of June 1994-June 1995, but it’s still a toss-up as to whether he was worse than 2010. 2010 sent me back to therapy and medication and has been dubbed “The Year That Cannot Be Named,” so he hasn’t quite hit that achievement.

You see, 2013 was all tricksy and things started out just dandy. The Husband and I went to Charlotte in February to see his all-time favorite NASCAR driver, Rusty Wallace, get inducted in the Hall of Fame. Not only did he meet his idol, but he also got to meet several other racing legends as well. And you haven’t been entertained until you see The Husband do his happy dance. There was much happiness and much dancing and much entertainment.

But faster than you can say “ha HA!”, 2013 pulled the rug out from under me in April with a speeding ticket and broken tooth IN THE SAME WEEK! And? On the morning I was supposed to get my root canal (oh yes, root canal AND crown), I came down with the frakkin’ Stomach Virapocalypse of 2013! Forty-eight hours of bodily functions from both ends. Oh what fun…

Then in May, he was like, “Oh, I’m sorry about April, here — here’s a promotion for The Husband with a nice raise.” And I’m all, “Thanks, 2013!” Then he was like, “No problem! Oh, by the way, your mom probably has ovarian cancer.”

But then in June, we found out that Mom was okay, so The Husband and I did our yearly trek to the Heroes Convention in Charlotte and had a good time. Of course, this month also started The Wettest Summer. Ever. (Okay, perhaps not ever. But if you ask my friend whose condo flooded twice and totaled her car each time? She would totally agree with me.)

In July, your douchebag sibling sent things downhill quickly. Mom was okay, but Dad got diagnosed with lymphoma. The Husband’s grandmother also took a turn for the worse, and he had to spend his weeknights taking care of her because his mom and brothers worked in the evenings and were gone until 11:00 or later. That meant seeing him (awake) for less than an hour a day during the week and having to catch up with what’s going on with each other on the weekends.

I spent the first week in August going back and forth from work to the hospital because Dad collapsed at the doctor’s office and they couldn’t decide if his hemoglobin was low because of the lymphoma or from bleeding somewhere in his digestive system.

In September, I went to the doctor because my monthly cycles had become more of a train wreck than Miley Cyrus was this year. I thought I was premenopausal, but according to the doc, my hormone levels were normal so his suggestion was that my symptoms were due to an abnormal amount of stress.

Stress? What’s that?

October and November were okay, but 2013 struck again for the first weekend in December when The Husband’s grandmother slipped into a coma. We held vigil at my mother-in-law’s house for an extended, emotionally exhausting weekend before she passed on the 9th. Of course, whenever a loved one passes during the holidays, said days are merely a reminder of who’s missing from the festivities. Never have I felt so much relief from the holidays being over, and yet I’m overflowing with guilt over that relief at the same time.

So when you see 2013 as you drop in at midnight tonight, please tell him (for me and at least a dozen other friends and family) not to let the door hit him where the good Lord split him.

Or perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the door did give him a swift kick in the ass…

Sincerely yours (unless you follow 2013′s lead),
Carla

P.S. I managed to find some good moments from the year and have put them together in a slideshow. All photos are mine, but the music is Jazon Mraz’s “93 Million Miles.” The Husband is gonna bitch about so many photos of him in here, but oh well… He’ll get over it. Oh, and don’t go full screen with the video or else the pics will be all pixelated. I didn’t upload full resolution. 

In Case I’m Not at Work Tomorrow

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The other weekend, Mom had two scratch-off-at-the-register coupons for a department store that had a max discount of 40 percent. She mentioned this to my 86-year-old grandmother who then replied, “Maybe one will be 40 percent. I’ll pray about it while we’re in the store.”

When they got to the register, the first coupon was 25 percent — the second, 40.

So I have a MegaMillions ticket for tonight’s $586 $636 million drawing, and Mom is supposed to task Nanny with a new prayer request.

We’re really gonna test this power of prayer thing.