Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What not to do -- prof with breast cancer edition...

Dear Students,

I may have no hair and one boob -- BUT, you will not be able to use an aunt with breast cancer to get an extension on your papers.

I received this at 6:15 AM -- he sent it at about 1:00 AM...

This is X from your 7:45 class. My Aunt has stage 3-4 breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes. She has recently gone through the double mastectomy and i will be at her bedside tomorrow, i will turn in my work asap but family comes first. I would like to learn more about the disease from you if i can thatnk you.

Context -- they've had 8 readings they could write about -- today the last possible one is due. His is due in class at 7:45. Obviously, his work isn't done... duh.

What I'd like to say:

Hey Dumbass,

Did she have an emergency double mastectomy in the middle of the night? I think not -- mine took at least a week to schedule...

In fact, you really sicken me -- when they took my boob they didn't take my brain, nor did chemo reduce my critical thinking skills. Trying to use my breast cancer as a way to connect with me to get an extension is bullshit.

Further, I'm sure this IS a lie -- to some degree. If you are, right now, at your aunt's bedside -- GO AWAY... she needs to sleep, you moron. She doesn't want her nephew hanging around.

Finally, you can have an AUNT with breast cancer and do your work. There will be plenty of time to help a woman with stage 3-4 breast cancer. Next week go over and clean her house on your day off. Drive her to chemo. Go get her groceries. Do her laundry. Rake her yard and walk her dog. All of those things are compatible with writing your paper about feminist philosophy.

As a move, this was a really bone-headed one -- not cool, not effective.

Monday, September 29, 2008

How to get a D in philosophy....

There are several quick and easy steps to a D on a philosophy paper... really, this is a modular system, so you can do the following as it suits you...

1) Ignore your instructor who tells you to do the earlier philosophers, who really are easier than the later ones.

2) Ignore your instructor who tells you to start your paper early.

3) Don't take reading notes and try to figure it out yourself.

4) Don't do a quick google search on the author's name and the kind of philosophy they do -- because that won't get you anyplace, right?

5) If the assignment is to read, report and object -- leave off the "object" part, because you say you agree with the philosopher. Nobody actually agrees with these guys-- (and one feminist).

Job market question for the intrnets....

If you were (or are) on a search committee what would you think of the following situation...

On the due date, the applicant's file contains all the information that is usually sent by the candidate. It has a nice CV, a good cover letter, requested writing sample etc.

What is missing are the letters of recommendation. Obviously, those are being sent by other profs.

If a candidate were a potentially good fit, would that eliminate them?

Notes from grading jail... Rawls edition...

To my dearest -- procrastinating -- students...

Please don't make me want to retreat behind the veil of ignorance after reading your papers.

That wouldn't benefit either of us -- you'd never get your papers back and they'd consider my mental state to be a complete loss.

We are heading there --- the first few papers really are scary.

your philosophy prof -- for now.

ps -- if you want to plagiarize, the trick is to change some words so that it doesn't come up on a Google search of "Rawls's attempt to formulate a philosophy of justice and a theoretical program for establishing political structures" -- because, if you are one of those girls who sleeps in class, I might get suspicious when you turn in sentences like this...

edited to add -- Also, the argument that "I wrote my own objection" is NOT a good response to "this isn't your work, you copied this off of the internet". I couldn't believe she actually wanted credit for the part of the paper she didn't copy and paste directly.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Home again...

Mom and I had a lovely weekend...

We started by meeting Bardiac

.... who is a wonderful sort -- and well worth the trip off the highway to her lovely town! We had some coffee and a chat, and went on our way to our next destination...

My great aunt Hil's house :) -- She's 86 and spunky -- While I was there, I got her on Facebook :).

Saturday we took a trip to an apple orchard -- and then to an up-scale Culver's... especially since the company was good, it was a really fun time!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Headed out of town...

This summer and fall have been weird for me -- because of the chemo, I've been in town for a much longer stretch than normal... My previous lives have included debate coach and frequent traveler to Red State.

Tomorrow, provided chemo goes as planned, Mom and I will head over to visit my favorite great aunt -- and, we plan to have a blogger meet-up along the way!

I doubt my aunt has wireless -- so I'll have to let you know how it goes when I get back to BNstate..

Until then, have a great weekend-- and, know that even if your weekend is fantastic, mine will be equally fantastic!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yummy stuff -- and mostly yummy stuff...

I'll start with the mostly yummy --- I went to a local Indian restaurant for lunch today. Of course, I wasn't impressed, because I have a really high standard for Indian food (if you go to Omaha, let me know and I'll tell you where to get the BEST in the world...). I think it will do if I have a real craving, but the local place isn't a real temptation.

The actual yummy stuff -- Kraft mac & cheese with IKEA Swedish meatballs... I've had a bag of frozen IKEA Swedish meatballs in the freezer for a long, long time (probably at least a year, maybe longer because we could have moved them). Last night I made mac & cheese for dinner and got the inspiration to throw a few frozen ones into the boiliing water. They were really good -- excellent even... So good that I may make a double batch tonight -- eat part for dinner and take the rest for lunch tomorrow. It didn't matter that the meatballs were icy and likely freezer burned -- they were good in the cheesey sauce.

A few thank yous...

Besides Mom and Hubby --- who can't be thanked sufficiently in a year of blog posts... there are a few people I wish I could thank personally -- but, I've either lost track, or didn't know their names at all...

First -- the radiologist who found my lump. He kept looking because he wasn't satisfied with the rad tech's results. He poked around with the sonogram and found a lump I couldn't feel. He then decided, immediately to do a biopsy. Quite literally, those actions might well have saved my life.

Second -- the recovery nurse who took care of me after my lumpectomy. My surgeon came in, told me I'd need chemo and left again. I was nauseous,in a daze and clearly was about to cry. He took my hand, told me that chemo wasn't nearly as bad as it looked on TV and reassured me that the new anti-nausea drugs were amazing. He was so right... and he reassured me when I needed it, talk about good nursing.

Third -- all the people who have told me their cancer stories. From the BNstate radio personality who had breast cancer last year, and talked about it on the radio -- to everyone who responded to my news with 'my mom/sister/aunt/friend had breast cancer years ago and is still going strong.' Every one is encouraging and welcome. The news that there is life after breast cancer is very welcome -- and I'm looking forward to being able to tell my own 'I had breast cancer once' story.

Fourth -- the people who set up the 'in network' chain of a good clinic, the breast center, a good hospital and a very professional oncology clinic. I don't know how all those negotiations happened, but I'm happy to be in that chain. I've also, so far, been quite satisfied with my insurance company itself... since the little glitch of them initially no approving an ER visit which started with a call to 911 -- things have been good. I've asked several questions and had decent answers. What more could I ask for?

Calling out Republicans on sexism re Palin...

Right now, on the radio, I'm hearing Campbell Brown call out the Republicans on their behavior toward Palin.... and she's right to do so.

Brown's contention is that they are preventing Palin from being interviewed -- and thus not letting her show how strong she is. Brown argues that all other candidates have to face reporters etc... and treating Palin differently is sexist, as well as no way to support the claim that she should be the VP.

Oh shock, Republicans acting sexist -- who'd have thought?

Of course, I am completely against the attacks on her family and am insulted on her behalf that the question of whether she can be a Mom and VP at the same time. On the other hand, we need to hear her express her positions and the only way that will happen is if she's allowed to actually speak to the press.

I'm also secretly hoping that the country will see how wrong she is about stuff -- and vote for Obama as a result.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Long distance relationship rituals...

We have the 'normal' ones -- talk several times a day etc..

And then we have the TV virtual date.

It is pretty simple. We'll watch a TV show while discussing it in IM.

It is a bit more complex if we have to use the TIVO/DVR, because we have to start on the phone and synchronize our 'start' time, so that we don't ruin it for the other person.

This ritual does require some level of discipline if one of us isn't going to be home when the TV show is actually on -- as the other has to resist watching it live.

Tonight's Boston Legal is going to be a challenge. Tomorrow is the new NCIS -- yet another challenge.

What to say to cancer patients...

I'm going to make this a running feature -- of course, this is all from my own peculiar perspective, so adapt as you will.

1) I love it when people offer to do specific things. A very sweet friend offered to bring over dinner. Another offered cat box cleaning, and another has made a standing offer for rides to doctor's appointments/tests etc. I haven't neede their help, but I might not have even considered asking for one of those things in the 'let me know if there is anything I can do for you' category-- and, if I didn't have those things handled I might not have even realized those things would have made my life easier until they suggested it. I really am fortunate to have the basics under control for now, as Hubby and Super-Mom are taking good care of me.

2) Ask about how we are doing -- and be ok with either details or a quick "things are fine" or "a bit tired, but otherwise coping". Sometimes we need a sympathetic ear and other times we don't want to get into the details -- we'll let you know which is which.

3) Don't call me a hero for living. I'm doing chemo, I have no hair and one boob. All but the boob will be resolved sooner or later -- I'm not a hero, at least not yet. If things get much, much, much worse and I live to be 109, then you can dub me a hero. I'm not a hero for working during chemo -- most breast cancer patients work nearly their normal schedule. I'm just doing my thing and dealing with the inconvenient stuff -- you do your thing and have challenges too, and neither of us are heroes.

A short parole from grading jail...

Today I went to lunch at Panera -- because they are quasi healthy... and I seem to get grading done.

My plan was to grade until 1:30, which would put me in the pool by 2:00...

Folks, I finished my grading. The grading I've been hauling around since late August (a syllabus quiz all students take and that I always forget are very fast to grade).

Then I went to the gym -- and the water was warm, the pool was women and children only -- (by accident...) which makes it very tranquil.

Yes, it was a lovely afternoon. I hope Hubby' afternoon is going equally well.

Now, perhaps a nap and then laundry later -- how exciting is my life? I'm sure you are jealous.

It pays to do the math...

Sorting out insurance/ hospital bills is a whole new world to me.

I'm lucky that my insurance is generally quite good.

I'm lucky that my out of pocket maximum is very reasonable.

I've been paying in bits and pieces since my diagnosis, but there is a difference of about 128.00 between what the hospital says I owe and what I've paid -- i.e. they think I owe them 128.00 more than my out of pocket maximum.

I finally sat down and sorted it out -- before I paid the whole bill...

So, today the hospital got most of the rest of what they think I owe, and ALL of what I know I owe.

Now the trick will be persuading the insurance company to figure out that they either owe the rest or for them to tell the hospital that they just aren't going to get it.

On not having anything of actual value...

Hubby and I aren't good with money. We can pay our bills, we just like to spend -- and we do. We have student loans and credit cards -- and if we live long enough we may even pay off the student loans. We also rent an apartment and have the basic stuff set up for retirement -- but, we haven't been putting in anything extra.

And until this week, that sounded pretty stupid.

But -- we aren't depending on the stock market to retire, probably because we'll never retire. We don't have a house that has lost value or for which the mortgage payment has risen so much that we can't pay it. We haven't put lots of money into our own 401K that is losing value.

We can spend a lot less, so we have room in our budget for prices to go up and we won't be hungry. Plus, we have a CostCo membership so we can buy a lifetime supply of toilet paper and goldfish crackers...

Good ideas and boomers...

My mom is brilliant -- really brilliant, particularly about dealing with people. She's been a nurse for about 45 years, so she has some experience with people. She's also been in the position to manage others off and on over those 45 years -- thus even more experience. Finally, she has my grandma's intuitive sense about how to get people to do what she wants them to do. Yea -- Mom rocks!

Mom is not a boomer -- she's too old. I'm too young to be one... and, at times the boomers make us a bit nuts. A while back Mom went to a seminar about generational differences as part of her nursing continuing education requirements -- and she learned a lot. One thing she learned is that it is a boomer trait to have to be RIGHT. Those with this infliction behave as if the good idea MUST come from the boomer, otherwise it simply could not be the way to do things.

I'm dealing with exactly this situation now --

Last year I had a discussion with a Boomer I'll call Boomer X (or BX) for short.

BX is a pretty darned smart person, with advanced degrees and kids about my age, maybe 5ish years younger perhaps. BX treats me like one of her children and/or someone who needs to be mentored.

Last year BX rejected my objections to one of their planned actions (how's that for vague :) ). I, being a gen X er and a philosopher / debate coach at heart, gave BX about six justifications for my position -- and BX rejected it anyway. Being used to being dominated by boomers, I accepted that the planned action would continue.

Fast forward -- to this week.

BX gives me back my ideas from last year as their own.... using my own words! Trying to 'teach' me this good idea-- passing on the wisdom of BX's experience to a young (folks, I'm almost 40) person who can benefit from it...

Of course, had BX agreed that I was right last year --- they would have had to be wrong, and BX simply can't have that. The good news is that BX can learn and I eventually got my way on the next go-around... The bad news is that I'm going to propose some new stuff in the next week or two -- and I don't expect BX to agree -- that is, until next year when I hope to be on sabbatical.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Feeling spikey and at loose ends...

Hubby's visit was too short -- and he has a challenge in the next week that I think I could help him with if I were in Red State... So, I'm feeling quite torn. I'd love to be down there rubbing his feet and making him comfort food, but my job is here.

It seems to me like it is Monday night and that I got cheated out of a Sunday with hubby. It seems like I'll have to teach tomorrow... but I don't teach until Tuesday.

After hubby left, I'd intended to go to the gym and then for coffee to grade, but lunch upset my tummy a bit and I decided it would be better to stay close to home -- or, at least out of the pool... so I did.

I got the minimum amount of grading done so that I can face my classes on Tuesday. I found that watching Eddie Izzard while grading papers on Kant and Mill helps a lot.

I have some laundry folded and more is in the machine.

I watched the candidates on 60 minutes -- and didn't really hear anything that changed my mind --although I am less scared of the old guy winning, as it might be ok...

I also ended up with a Dean meeting in the time I normally go home to take a nap on Tuesdays -- maybe I'll call tomorrow to see if I can change that, as I don't know if I should try to do a long Tuesday without a nap. Maybe I can get the appointment moved to a day or two later in the week.

On the plus side -- next weekend I'll be (I hope) meeting a cool blogger on the way to a fun weekend with my mom and great aunt. It will be a good weekend with fun, funny and wise women.... maybe that is what I need.

Also, Mom and I are planning to go visit Hubby in Red State. I think she's realizing that I could end up there forever and ever, so she should see a bit more of it than you can see from the highway... Also, there are just so many good places to eat -- and I think I'll be able to do the mild versions of some of my favorites by the time we go down there... ymmmm. Also, that will mean 3 weekends with hubby IN A ROW!!! Yippeee!

I think I'll eat a little something and go to bed early. There seems to be a string of Simpsons episodes on, so maybe a little TV in bed will put me in a better mood.

A Sunday -- in two parts...

Normally, at least this semester, Hubby goes back to Red State on Monday.... This week he has important stuff to do tomorrow (send him good vibes, please!) -- so he'll leave this afternoon.

So -- this morning -- a little coffee, a drive to Big University to return books, lunch at a local joint that will be on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in November -- then he hits the road out of here...

This afternoon -- I'll go to the gym, maybe somewhere for some more coffee and grading, a trip to CostCo for food and then back home for some TV or a rented movie.

Dang it, I hate the long distance thing -- a lot. One way or the other we'll be living together next year -- even if the job market fails to see his brilliance and he ends up going to law school instead, we'll be living in the SAME hovel.... a hovel that allows us to have cats.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A note to my students...

Dear Ethics Students,

Your papers should be better than the Wikipedia article. This is your notice that, due to insomnia and the fact that I've read all the blogs in my reader AND the debaters on the forum are behaving themselves today, I've read the relevant Wikipedia articles on the ethical theorists in my class. You can and should either a) just write your own paper or b) find other sources I haven't read from which to plagiarize.

Because I've been to grad school and have read the book(s) your readings come from, I know reading original source material is usually at least one or more of the following:
  • hard
  • boring
  • confusing
  • demoralizing
  • time consuming
That is why we call it philosophy, not 'easy, interesting, easy to follow, perky and quick' studies. That is also why you need to pay for this class, as it isn't a book club. If you knew this stuff already, then it wouldn't be worth your time and effort to take the class. If the college thought you knew this stuff already, I'd be teaching a class that was much more interesting to ME -- and I'd then have to give you other ways to challenge yourself. Since most of you came in without a working knowledge of ethical theory, we need to teach it to you. Also, those of you who are familiar with the ethical theory are the first ones to admit that you can learn more about it -- and you are my favorites :).

someone who wants to to read the actual work -- not the cliff notes of the cliff notes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Scenes from a Friday night...

  • I'm already in my PJs -- it is 7:00....
  • I've just finished a Marie Calendar pot pie -- yummmmm.... but, they take forever to cook. 20 minutes to get the oven to 400, plus 48 minutes to cook.. I only have that kind of time over the weekend.
  • Hubby is playing a computer game and I'm writing this.
  • We are listening to "Dirty Dancing" as it plays on HBO. We (rather I) have a rule, if "Dirty Dancing" is on, it must be watched....
  • Part of me wanted to BE Baby -- now Hubby is alternating between making real-time suggestions to changes in the content and being the movie critic. I still don't care -- I wanted to be Baby -- and I'm sticking to it.
  • We should have named New Kitty "Baby" -- because "nobody puts Baby in a corner".
  • New Kitty is not so subtly snubbing Hubby -- after she forgave him and slept on his feet last night. This is a new variation, as last time she did a complete snub before she forgave.
  • Old Kitty is just hanging around being a good boy -- except he likes to wash his feet in his water bowl, an he can't keep the water IN the bowl.

I like Friday nights like this -- we are just being us... and we are all together.

Is it odd...

... that I'll miss having discussions with my oncologist when I'm finished with chemo?

He's fun to talk to -- the kind of guy I'd love to have as my favorite uncle.

He has interesting things to say about life in general, he likes to read books and he understands the challenges of college teaching as his daughter did some before she changed careers.

I think I'll need to take him to lunch, bring him lunch or something when I'm done... just so we can chat about life.

I wonder if he'll come to a family reunion? We could use an actual physician in our family -- pretty soon we'll have 3 nurses, 3 academic PhDs and someone with a terminal degree in psych, but we won't have any MDs... especially since I don' see my youngest cousin becoming or marrying an MD...

also -- today's chemo was pretty dang easy. We went out for burgers afterward, then came home to chill a bit.

Chemo -- again...

I'm sure that this weekly chemo will become so routine that I don't even think to blog about it...

I'm doing Taxol in weekly doses.

Last time the side-effects weren't much more than feeling a bit tired -- which could have been because I taught all week and haven't learned that when I teach at 7:45, I need to go to bed before 11:00...

Last time I had a bit of an allergic reaction to it - -nothing major -- so, we'll see what happens...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Advantages ---

I'm finding that having one boob and no hair have their advantages...
  • In the pool, when the water is cold -- only one boob gets cold (the other side is kind of numb all the time..).
  • No worries about chlorine hair.
  • Getting dry in the locker room is much easier without hair.
  • I don't need to carry hair products in my gym bag.
  • No worries about getting your hair wet during water aerobics.
Can y'all tell I went to the gym this morning?

Edited to add --
  • Showers and getting ready in the morning is VERY fast --
  • I don't have to worry about having bed head when I get up from my nap.
  • I don't have to think about having 'just f-d hair' -- I only think about that every couple of weeks during the semester, but now it really isn't a concern.
  • When I'm warm, the first thing I can take off is my hat -- not a piece of clothing.

Whatever, Marth... my new favorite TV show!

First of all --- a disclaimer... I secretly love Martha Stewart. I've even considered doing some of the things I've seen on her show... I also have a sign outside my apartment door that says "Martha Stewart doesn't live here".

So, of course I love "Whatever, Martha" -- which is a show in which Alexis Stewart and her friend watch old segments of Martha's show and 'comment' on them -- in their own sarcastic way. The show seems to have Martha's blessing -- so the commentary isn't uber-harsh, but it does reflect what us 'normal' people tend to think while watching the show -- plus Alexis' unique point of view as Martha's daughter.

The show is on FLN -- really, watch it.... especially if you've ever been intimidated by Martha's domestic prowess... her daughter puts it into perspective.

Another job I couldn't have...

I decided last night that I couldn't have been an oncologist.

One of my favorite students told me that her breast cancer was back -- and then some. She meets with her doctor today to find out the details, but it doesn't sound good.

I'm not sure of her details, but it sounds like she might have had a lumpectomy and radiation -- and her most recent check-up showed several lumps in her breast. Of course, I told her that a mastectomy isn't something to fear and that chemo can be much better than they tell you on tv... I also gave her my oncologist's name -- in case she can end up at my cancer center.

It is hard enough telling students that they've failed a quiz or something -- I can't imagine telling people that they have cancer. Worse (much, much worse) that their cancer isn't responding to treatment etc...

I left my office yesterday with a much deeper appreciation for my oncologist. He admits that he gets emotionally involved with his patients and that he wouldn't have it any other way. A month or so ago he told me he was headed to a memorial service for a patient he'd had for 13 years -- this patient wanted to talk to him before she gave up fighting her cancer... because she wanted his perspective/permission to quit. She died the day after she spoke with him...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Something Breast Cancer has excused me from...

.. I feel that, since I've had a mastectomy and am in chemo, I don't have to buy anything with a pink ribbon on it.

Y'all are buying that stuff for me -- and I really appreciate the thought.

I also think that there has been an explosion of pink ribbons, and that it seems to be a bit of a marketing ploy.

Really, I don't care if y'all are buying them because you don't want to jinx yourself -- or because you want to feel sorry for me -- or because you want to feel special or that you are helping... whatever the reason, if it keeps others from getting or dying of breast cancer (hell, especially if it keeps ME from dying of it) -- go ahead..

I just think that actually having it excuses me from the pink ribbon marketing campaign.

A good day...

Today was a bit of a scheduling puzzle... how to get in a trip to the gym, a pedicure and a trip to get a 'big girl' fake boob.... since I'm completely healed up etc..

I started with phone calls to track down the 'boob store', as I'm going to call it from now on. They really sell a variety of medical equipment and things -- but, this is where I'll get my left boob -- so, it will be the boob store from now on.

After I figured out where the boob store was, I called my insurance company to see what is covered. After using a big word like prosthesis (which must have confused the guy) -- he put me on hold for a long, long time. When he came back, he started talking about surgeons, hospitals and things -- mostly asking questions about when my original surgery was etc. Finally it dawned on me that he thought I was asking about reconstruction instead of a lump of silicone so I don't look funny in public. After we got that cleared up, he didn't have a good answer... thanks...

I ended up with the following plan for the day...

1) Pedicure at 12:30 -- this was nice, but a bit more expensive than it was worth... I was at a new salon and I think I'll go back to the old one next time...

2) 2:30 appointment for a fitting at the boob store. This let my polish dry for a while before I left the salon. Since trying on bras and things doesn't include my toes, I was safe letting my polish dry a while more... This trip was less than fruitful, as they only have a few cotton bras and we ended up ordering one. I'll probably order my own from a catalog from the American Cancer Society. When the bra comes in, I'll go over an pick out a boob that works. The woman at the boob store was kind of weird -- and she told me her kids think she needs prozak... I tend to agree, at least from what I could tell of her.... Hopefully I'll get someone else next time, I can't handle the pity she was trying to dish out at me.

3) The gym -- after the long time at the boob store, I went to the gym for a swim. This is what was tricky about today-- because I wanted to go home after the gym AND I needed dry toes in order to get in the pool. Thank goodness the boob store thing took a while, that let my toes set up and everything was fine. After a medium length swim I sat in the sauna --- and came home.

Yea -- a nice day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The truth about Chemo... fact vs. fiction

Because I think this post may be found by more than my few (and greatly appreciated) regulars -- here's the background...

May 2008 -- Diagnosis of breast cancer -- small but aggressive lump in my left breast. Found by sonogram and confirmed by needle biopsy.

June 2008 -- Lumpectomy / sentinel node biopsy -- and then mastectomy because they didn't have clean margins. Results showed that the cancer was in the sentinel node, but not in the next ring of lymph nodes. In the end, the diagnosis was as stage 2b cancer -- with an aggressiveness rating of 3. The 2b indicates a total lump bigger than 2 cm and lymph node involvement. I had no evidence of metastasis..... and even an MRI in August showed no evidence of metastasis.

July 2008 -- I had a port installed. Counter to what I thought, it is completely under my skin. You wouldn't see it unless you were looking close-- it feels like a small, triangular lump under the skin about 4 inches below my collar bone. The purpose of the port is to save my veins, as chemo is very hard on your veins. Breast cancer patients have to be very careful with their mastectomy arm -- so they can't have blood pressures or any kind of IV in that arm -- so our 'good arm' can get into bad shape... Accessing the port is much less painful than getting an IV. They have a special needle that pokes through the skin and into a membrane on the port. The other advantage is that you really have use of both of your hands when you are getting your infusion...

General thoughts on breast surgery -- really, not all that bad. Sure, it is an incision that needs to heal. You'll probably have a drain or two, bandages to change etc. But, the surgery doesn't involve cutting muscles etc.. So your mobility isn't all that limited. You can't lift for a while and, like any surgery you'll need some time to recover. Since I teach college, I probably could have gone back to work about 10 days post surgery, if not sooner. I was off over the summer of my mastectomy, so I can't be more specific.

I do have a convex place where my left breast was. I have to be careful with my left arm, which includes no blood pressure or IVs on that side. I also have to watch for lympodema -- which is a collection of fluid on that side -- because they removed several lymph nodes, and it is the lymph nodes that regulate the fluid. I also can't wear anything tight on my left hand... so I need to get my favorite watch band adjusted and make my wedding rings larger.

July 17 I started chemo. The plan is to do four two-week courses of Adromiacin/Cytoxin (A/C) followed by 12 one-week cycles of Tomaxafin... (I don't know how to spell the drugs, sorry).

Currently, I'm done with the A/C. That was supposed to be the 'bad stuff'. Yes, I did start losing my hair -- which was kind of traumatic, until I shaved it off to stop the shedding... The list of possible side-effects were scary -- and I didn't get most of them.

--- Actually getting the chemo...

A typical appointment starts with a port access and blood draw. That only takes a few minutes. Then you see the doctor, with the usual fun of a weigh in, blood pressure and temperature. The doctor discusses your blood results, side-effects and anything else that may be going on or coming up. My doctor listens to my heart and lungs and does a quick breast exam and feels up my mastectomy scar. He also likes to talk about how I'm coping with life -- last time he found out that hubby was a national championship debater, which let him understand hubby quite a bit better.

Actually getting the chemo is probably the most boring part. The room looks like a kind of weird lounge. The room is large and has windows along the back. There are hospital recliners and IV poles at every station. You sit down, they hook you up, and you wait for the stuff to go in. Usually it takes a few hours to get all the anti-nausea drugs and the chemo drugs. When you com in, you are assigned a nurse who will change your drug bag, get you things and give you information about the drugs you are getting. My cancer center has a chemo class taught by the nursing staff -- it was very helpful, both in giving us an idea about what to expect AND because it let us know that the nurses are very knowledgeable about the process.

The Adromiacin is so caustic that it has to be infused by hand, by the nurse. They want to make sure that it doesn't leak in any way-- because it will erode the skin it touches... The chemo nurse sits with you and pushes it in by hand. All the other drugs get hung, either using a pump or just gravity to put them in.

For a while, I was on the same schedule as another breast cancer patient -- we had some really good talks about life and the world-- one week her daughter was there and we discussed the colleges she wants to go to, Harry Potter and a whole lot of other stuff. Sadly, I had to move to Fridays -- or I'd get to see her every week. I've had other good conversations with folks -- and I've really considered starting a book club --- we'd need to be able to have overlapping appointments and get to sit together, but I think it could be arranged :). Maybe it just takes someone who is done with treatment to get it up and running...

-- Side Effects -- Typically, people dread the side effects. TV shows people getting chemo as bald, pathetic and just lying in bed.. not so much for me. We took a vacation, I'm teaching full-time etc...

I did end up with some 'bowel upset' -- you don't need the details -- but it wasn't all that bad.

I did end up with taste changes. I can't eat spicy foods, because they tend to feel like they are really burning my mouth. I try to eat pretty plain foods, because I know that they'll settle better. I was fortunate not to get mouth sores -- but, part of that is probably because my chemo nurses had me suck on ice when they infused the Adromiacin... research shows that if the mouth cells are frozen when the drug goes in, the instances of mouth sores is significantly reduced.

I had very little nausea -- and no actual vomiting due to the chemo. They gave me a good anti-nausea drug via IV during my appointment and then there are two follow-up pills I took the following two days.

I did catch a couple of bugs -- a UTI and a cold, probably because my white count was a bit low. But -- they weren't any worse than had I caught them otherwise -- and my doctor proscribed a booster shot for my white count to be taken the day after my infusion -- so it wasn't all that bad.

What's coming up...

They tell me that I may get some numbness in my fingers and toes, and that it will be cumulative. Otherwise, they say this drug has fewer side effects than the other. They also said that my hair might start growing back, and after a while my taste changes will change back -- as the A/C works its way out of my system.

Long term, I'll have to have fairly regular scans for re-occurrence, but the 5-year disease free rate for my cancer is 85%. Since I currently don't have any observable cancer sites -- I'm pretty confident that I'll hit the 85% (knock on wood!!! Several times!!!).

I could have reconstruction, but I'm not all that sure I want to. I'm getting used to having one boob -- and as long as I can manage well with a prosthesis, I don't want to spend another summer or break doing surgery. Also, I'm fairly large chested -- so they'd have to do a lot of skin stretching first -- which can be painful and prone to infection.

My best bits of advice...

First and foremost -- get any new lump checked out. My hubby felt something unusual, I went to the doctor who felt the same lump and immediately sent me for a mammogram and a sonogram. Initially, neither of them showed a problem, but the radiologist looked around some more and found a different lump --which was the problem. He did a needle biopsy in the office, which showed the cancer. I didn't feel that lump at all -- but it was the trouble. Had I waited a few months, it could have been much, much worse.

If possible, go to a breast center for your follow-up care. I'm sure that is why the radiologist found the lump in the first place - because he was an expert in breast sonograms...

Second -- be comfortable with your oncologist. If you don't connect on an interpersonal level, you'll have a pretty long treatment -- and you won't feel as comfortable sharing important information with this person. They will, in essence, BE your primary care physician for the length of your treatment. You should see them many more times than you'd normally see your primary care physician.

Also, being comfortable with your oncologist also includes being comfortable with your cancer clinic. You'll spend a lot of time there, so make sure you like the energy of the place. It shouldn't be depressing -- it should be like any other good doctor's office. The staff should be helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. They should treat you like a person and not a number -- and you should feel that you can call them with questions or concerns.

Third -- if you think you have sleep apnea, get your sleep study and CPAP machine before you start chemo. After my first cycle, the anti-nausea drugs had me pretty sedated -- and I ended up stopping breathing and had a seizure. The only reason we can find for it is that my sleep apnea stopped me breathing and the sedation kept me from waking up like I normally did... The machine isn't bad at all -- it just takes a bit of getting used to...

Generally, don't be afraid of chemo. It is inconvenient, sometimes a bit icky, but otherwise not terrible. It will interrupt your life, but it also has a good track record of saving lives. The folks who really understand it, and who have been around a long time, see that the process has changed significantly in the last 20 years -- and that the common perceptions of it haven't caught up. Even when I saw other medical folks, they really didn't understand the realities of chemo -- and a few wanted to blame my trouble on the chemo, when it really wasn't applicable.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chemo update...

So far, so good... I had some minor symptoms of an allergic reaction, but they went away while I was at the clinic.

Mom and I went to Olive Garden for lunch afterward -- and now I'm feeling a little sleepy, but otherwise well.

If this is how the rest of chemo will go -- I'll survive quite well, thanks!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mom's on the way...

... with dinner,

YEA Mom!

The dinner is coming from a local Chinese food chain that used to be really good -- and had excellent buffets... but, they sold to someone who turned it into one of those places where the food sits in the sauce under heat lamps all day... Then they opened up some "fresh" versions, which were good -- but then they sold those locations... and I swore I wouldn't go back, because the stuff that sits under the heat lamp all day makes me sick -- without chemo.

But -- today I got a craving for their fried rice and their cheese puffs... So, that will be dinner.


Also, tomorrow is the first of the new kind of chemo -- which means that it is the first of the last 12 rounds... and I can start counting them down! What is really good about that (besides the no chemo stuff) is that we're also starting the countdown to the time when my hair should start growing back!!!!! It takes quite a while for the drugs to leave my system etc -- but while I'm still injecting the stuff, my hair has no chance at all... So, the countdown is really the countdown to my hair follicles having a fighting chance :).


Three vivid memories...

1) Seeing the second plane go into the tower, live on TV. I don't usually watch morning news, but I happened to turn it on because I wanted to get a jump on some boring grading.. of course, things were already nuts --- and one station had the first tower fire in a minimized screen. Pretty quickly the second tower was hit. I went in to tell sleeping Hubby -- and when I told him both planes were jumbo-jets he woke pretty quickly.

2) We ended up with a few debaters at our place all day. Somehow Hubby and I were surrogate family for them -- they felt comfortable with us and we had two computers so they could check on-line news often and watch CNN. Later I found out that the IE (individual events, like poetry reading etc) gathered and watched MTV news for their information...

3) I hoped to God that GW Bush wouldn't be somehow killed while he was in Omaha -- I didn't want to live in the place where the President died on 9/11. I knew he was in a safe place, as he was in the area Hubby used to work in... but someone could get him on the way in or out, or crash a plane into him or something... It was weird seeing Bush go into the doors I used to wait for Hubby by --- and it was weird seeing the on-base neighborhood we'd just moved out of protected by armed guards.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How teaching is like getting chemo...

Since the two things I seem to be doing this semester are getting chemo and teaching, I've begun to see some ways in which they are similar...
  • Both make you sick at first, but then you get used to it...
  • Both make you tired.
  • Neither are as bad as some folks think -- especially A/C and teaching a 5/5 load.
  • In the middle, they suddenly seem to get easier.
  • Both lead to hair loss.
  • No matter how nice the people (students or nurses), when they are over, you have reason to celebrate.
  • Both lead to hair loss -- it is just more dramatic with the chemo.
  • Both lead to time-consuming complications that you can never anticipate.
  • Both have the potential to make you break out in hives.

New Kitty on the run....

I was on the way into the apartment with a cart full of Costco goodies when New Kitty got out.

Usually she takes the first right -- which is a dead-end at the elevator... but this time she saw it was a dead end and kept on running.

She ran all the way down the hall -- the length of the building --- with me behind her, yelling her name.

Every once in a while she'd slow down and sniff at someone's door -- just until I caught up with her, then she'd sprint down the hall some more. I really think she was looking for Hubby -- expecting him to open one of those doors and let her in.

Finally I caught her at the other end of the hall -- because it dead-ends down there too...

RBO another teaching marathon...

  • My morning ethics class is a good way to start the day -- they talk even though the class starts at 7:45. One of my repeat students even said "this was fun" after a discussion of Aristotle... That may be because I used her in an example -- then she asked a question about religion, and I ended up saying that she was Jesus.
  • I'm going to miss my tutor -- she really needs to move on from BNCC....
  • My afternoon class seems freaked out about writing the small assignments -- turns out they are afraid to fail. I'm not sure why they didn't hear that I'll give them another chance if they do -- that whole discussion about how I don't expect them to provide scintillating analysis in their first ethics class must have been when they were thinking about getting high.
  • My evening logic class doesn't seem to get it -- or, rather they don't think they get it. My day class is better about this confidence gap -- maybe because they are younger and don't know what they don't know...
  • I have a whole folder full of grading to do. Most of it is really easy -- but, I need to get moving on it.
  • Due to our stupid apartment maintenance guy and the oddities of my alarm clock, I almost overslept for my 2:15 class. That is the risk of going home for lunch and a nap...

Monday, September 08, 2008

New Kitty's version of 'Hello Again'

Here's the version of "Hello Again" -- dedicated to Hubby -- from New Kitty.

The lines aren't perfect, but neither is she (shhhh, don't tell her).

Hello again, Dad, hello
I walked on you to say 'hello'
I won’t let you sleep at all tonight
Yes I know it's late
But your punishment can't wait

Hello, my Dad, hello
Just yowled to let you know
I think about you every night
When I'm in bed with mom
And you're there in the hall

Maybe I’ve been crazy
And maybe you’re to blame
But I put my pout above my head
We've been through it all
And you loved me just the same
And when you're not here
I just need to hear

Hello, my dad, hello
It's good to kneed you so
It's good to snub you like I do
And to forgive you
When Sunday comes

Hello, my friend, hello
Just need to let you know
I look for you every night
And when you aren’t here
I mess with your gear

Written By Neil Diamond, revised by New Kitty…

Surviving the semester 10 days at a time...

Last night hubby and I watched Jazz Singer... the 1980 movie with Neil Diamond. The song "Hello Again" just fits our long distance relationship so well.. it goes,

Hello again, hello
Just called to say 'hello'
I couldn't sleep at all tonight
And I know it's late
But I couldn't wait

Hello, my friend, hello
Just called to let you know
I think about you every night
When I'm here alone
And you're there at home

Maybe it's been crazy
And maybe I'm to blame
But I put my heart above my head
We've been through it all
And you loved me just the same
And when you're not there
I just need to hear

Hello, my friend, hello
It's good to need you so
It's good to love you like I do
And to feel this way
When I hear you say

Hello, my friend, hello
Just called to let you know
I think about you every night
And I know it's late
But I couldn't wait

Written By Neil Diamond

While it doesn't fit the main characters, it does fit us -- way too well...

He'll be home in 10 days. It isn't all that long, but it is long enough to be discouraging, especially when I'd probably be driving to Red State next weekend...

Of course, as Hubby left today -- we started to revise the song, as sung to him by New Kitty... it was pretty funny, maybe I'll have to work out the new lyrics and post them -- if only to cheer myself up.

Question about campus visits for interviews..

...not that I'm personally on the market -- 'cuz I'm not...

But a friend has a question ---- if the interviewing college is paying, does the candidate have to worry about putting the cash for travel out and wait for reimbursement -- or, does the college handle the logistics and simply tell the candidate when to go to the airport?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

More debate sillyness...

The big organization is making a move I think is 'ill advised'.

I'm watching from the sidelines with popcorn...

Edited to add..

those of you who want to know what's going on can send me an email at my gmail -- first name.last name @ gmail.com.

Really, it would be funny to watch if it weren't so sad, wrong-headed and simply about turf battles... in the end, I suspect the result won't be what they want.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Insurance Sillyness...

So, having a seizure for which my hubby and mom had to call 911 falls into the category of "the condition treated does not meet urgent care guidelines".

Umm -- if not breathing doesn't meet such a guideline what the f does?

No, we won't be paying the $9,516.26 it cost -- really we won't...

Update --- they aren't as silly as I thought -- just behind on paperwork! YEA!!! A phone call to a nice guy in the insurance office told me they processed it a second time and paid it!!

Stay tuned about the next two ER visits... that paperwork has yet to hit my mailbox.

Friday, September 05, 2008

After chemo I will eat...

  • Indian food from the best Indian restaurant in the world -- it is conveniently located in Red State -- and not India. I crave several dishes I can't spell... but I know my tummy won't accept them.
  • Handfuls of M & Ms -- because they are, really, the food of the gods.
  • Costco Salsa --because it has lots of cilantro in it.
  • Spicy Asian food
  • A steak sandwich from the yummy place in Red State.... with plenty of jalapeƱos.
  • A sandwich from Subway with bandanna peppers.

More to come...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Seen in the BNCC parking lot...

... a bumper sticker that irritated me... it said: "So you're a feminist, isn't that cute".

Of course I instantly wanted to rear-end the little jerk...

Then I realized that some other feminist might have already expressed her opinion of the condescending little jerk -- right above the bumper sticker, his tail light was busted out....

take that little sexist-jerk....

Do you teach on-line?

If you teach on-line, I need some information....

1) How many students are in your on-line class?

2) How does that class cap relate to your face to face class?

3) In my college, after the second semester, the on-line enrollment is the same as the face to face enrollment -- this may work in classes with a limit of 30, but it is also the case in philosophy courses with a limit of 50. -- Am I crazy to think this is completely unreasonable?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On Palin etc...

Ya know what -- I like that she'll give her acceptance speech here... I like that she lives by her ideals and I like that she seems to be supporting her daughter in a difficult time.

I don't necessarily share her ideals. In fact, I may be significantly opposite her in most areas... and that is what matters, thus why I can't see myself voting for her.

I don't think that if I had a young special needs child, a pregnant teenager and a husband who works out of town 2 weeks of every month (as far as one can get from DC and still be in the US), that I'd accept the nomination for VP (unless it was from someone with as much GDS as Obama... hmmm, yummm...). But -- that is her decision. Just because she seems to want to take decisions about a variety of things away from me does not entitle me to judge her decisions. She and I are different people with different capabilities.

I also don't buy the BS that if she can have 5 kids, run the PTA etc -- that she has the skills to be VP. If that were the case, one of my favorite students (the one with 11 kids) should be President and Queen of the world -- right? She's a single mom (now) with 11 kids -- talk about organizational and budgeting skills... she kicks butt -- and I might even vote for her, if given the chance...

I don't mean to imply that Sara Palin doesn't have the skills to be VP, only that being a parent and PTA president is no indication of those skills. She'll need to find a way to demonstrate those skills soon... especially since McCain is old.

I also don't buy the BS that calls Palin a bad parent because her 17 year old daughter is preggers... last I knew, 17 year olds have the mobility to get out of the house to have sex -- if the kid was conceived in Sara's presence... then she deserves the title of 'worst mom in Alaska' -- but I suspect that just wasn't the case.

Now that I think about it, I wouldn't even be all that troubled if Sara had supported her daughter's choice to have an abortion. It would have shown me that her daughter is an independent person who is making her own hard choices -- and, in this situation either choice is a hard one.

I am a bit troubled by the idea that her daughter is keeping the baby. Folks, I don't know ANY 17 year old parents who are really able to raise a child. That child should be adopted by a couple who is mature enough to raise and nurture that child. Of course, I think the same thing about EVERY teen mom's decision to keep the child... the fact that the kid might (God help us) be born in the VP mansion doesn't change things.

I also firmly believe that McCain saw Palin as a way to siphon Clinton voters -- and if the Clinton voters fall for it, they are a lot more gullible than I thought they were. Palin does not equal Hillary -- look at her stance on just about any issue and you'll see the difference. I am pretty bothered by the prospect of electing someone as our president who thinks we, as women, would be fooled by nominating Palin -- really, that says a lot about how he sees women... and it ain't good.

Finally --- I think McCain picked Palin because she is in line with his base and doesn't have much actual political baggage (experience) to account for or explain. I do think he knew all about the pregnant daughter and realized that our attention would probably go there instead of to the fact that he picked a woman he could dominate. Hopefully, she won't become VP --- and all of this hot air will be just that come November...

until then, I may just watch DVR'd home shows and read old Sue Grafton books... that is, until I need to get out and vote for the guy with GDS!

Classes, week 2....

I love this time of the year -- I'm not worn out by teaching in the philosophy factory (teaching 180 students AND being department chair this semester... about the same next semester...).

Most of the students are in the 'I'm going to try REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard' phase. Of course, I wish they'd save this effort for later in the semester when the material gets more difficult -- but, I do appreciate their effort.

My ethics students are reading their first primary source this week-- a short bit of Mackie on subjectivism in ethics. I think it is pretty clear and straightforward (but, not right... ) and they treat it as if they are reading the most confusing thing in the world. The thing is, when I ask them to tell me what they think it means, they generally get it right.

My logic students are learning the joys and sorrows of symbolization. I tend to minimize the actual translation from English to Logic -- because the ambiguities in bad writing become significant... and those ambiguities are frustrating to all of us. Next week they'll take their first quiz and then start learning truth tables.

I have a few slackers -- and I can identify a few of them already. A couple of boys who are way too sexy for their shirts --- and way too cool for logic are slouching in the back, thinking about doing their girlfriends and probably smoking pot on class breaks. Right now they don't bother me -- I know they'll probably fail their first quiz and either shape up or withdraw.

So, how's it going for you??

Monday, September 01, 2008

What they don't tell you in grad school...

Every year I meet people who are in their first real academic gig...

Since I'm at teaching focused schools, so are they -- Naturally, I remember my first weeks of school and the lessons I learned more or less the hard way.

1) Teaching takes a lot of energy -- especially the first week or two. This gets better, as the classes get to know you and vice versa.

2) Things don't always go as you'd planned -- either the discussion is shorter or longer than you thought -- that's normal.

3) Some of your students are idiots --- this becomes clear early in the semester.

4) Some of your students are brilliant -- this becomes clear a bit later -- and the waiting time between 3) and 4) can be difficult at best.

5) No matter what you do, your students will surprise you. That's what is fun about teaching. If you are lucky, you'll have a few students in every section that will read the assignments and ask good questions. They'll help you see the familiar works in a new way.

6) If it isn't too late, put presentations at the end of the semester. Each presentation you hear and assess in class is a paper you don't have to read before you start your Winter Break!