I’ve never had a fondness for city or town life. In my opinion, the best neighbors are the kind you can’t see or hear. Ever. Although my house sits on a small parcel of acreage, I’d be perfectly happy living smack-dab in the middle of several hundred acres. During the spring and fall I try to get outside to walk several miles every morning. I’ll usually say it was a good walk if I’m able to complete my hike without seeing a soul. That’s my idea of quality time.
Anyone who has been reading my blog for the last year knows I went through a buttload of eye surgery and problems. I’m glad to report that a few permanent changes aside, the affected eye is doing good. Translated, that means it sees pretty well most of the time. Occasionally it hurts and I’ll get a day where it’s achy or feels like there’s a grain of sand in it. The rods and cones that make your eye adjust to different levels of light are significantly damaged. So, for example, when I come inside on a bright day it’s a bit like walking into a black wall. I’m trying to learn to give my eye time to adjust to changing light levels, but sometimes it catches me off guard and I get frustrated. Especially if I’m moving from room to room looking for something. But considering what I went through I’m relieved that I have any vision at all. I dodged a bullet there.
While trapped in the continuous loop of repeated eye surgery, I was forced to post-pone a couple of the preventive tests that the average woman will routinely endure to assure optimal health. Let me just say one thing now and get it off my chest: Men, you have NO idea. None. About any of it. And I’m pretty sure there isn’t a woman alive who, in the midst of a mammogram or PAP test isn’t thinking the same thing. I know women are supposed to get used to having their bodies poked, prodded and palpated by complete strangers, but really, who does? So guys, next time you break out into a cold sweat at the thought of a five second prostate exam just know that no woman alive feels you or cares. Get over it.
Last week, like any well-trained middle-age woman, I went for my slightly overdue mammogram. I’ve been going to the same imaging office since I started this yearly pilgrimage eight years ago. I went somewhere else the first time and was totally and thoroughly traumatized. I mean, who created this torture anyhow? The radiology tech was young, impatient and rough, and it took everything in my power not to kick her in the shins. I promised not to come back and didn’t. Instead, I found an office with a slightly older than middle-age tech. Having been though a mammogram or two herself, Cindy is compassionate, professional and very good at her job. I’ve been going there ever since.
Over the years a few things have changed. For one, x-ray images are now digital, which means they’re “processed” in the same room where they’re taken, and it takes a lot less time to know if you’re done and can be off on your merry way. What hasn’t changed is how the images are taken. The patient steps up to a machine with two small, square plates that close together like a vice. One by one each breast is then stretched out and placed on the lower plate as the tech moves the coordinating arm and shoulder either into or out of the way. The idea is to get not only a picture of the breast, but as much of the surrounding chest wall as possible. This is not an easy feat to achieve, but try they must. Yes, its a little weird to have to watch a stranger manipulate your private parts. It’s not like you can look away. I mean, it’s easier to accomplish the job if you cooperate and …. well, gee … they’re right there under your chin! Sheesh! When the tech finally has your body contorted into the right position she steps on a foot petal that lowers the top plate toward the lower plate and literally flattens your breast between the two plates like a pancake. Yes, it fucking hurts. And if that’s not enough indignity for you to endure, she then has to take a second view from a different angle. This time you turn sideways and step toward the machine so it can squeeze your breast from side to side instead of from top to bottom. Good times, not. Then you get to repeat the whole procedure for the other breast.
The other thing that hasn’t changed is that the tech can’t tell you anything about the x-ray. Now I’m not idiot; I worked in dentistry long enough to know that the person developing the x-ray can probably read it just about as well as the radiologist. Especially someone like Cindy, who’s been taking mammograms since the beginning of time. But her opinion isn’t worth diddly squat and by law, she’s not allowed to share it. But, that doesn’t mean every woman won’t ask. I did. I always do. And she kindly and compassionately deflects. It’s a game every woman probably plays to break the tension. Otherwise it feels a little too much like going to see a palm reader who pours over your hand, then smiles and says, “Thank you very much” and dismisses you without ever telling you what she saw. So we make small talk and babble about the hot weather while I try pretend the whole procedure is really quite routine. Actually, it’s not. There’s nothing routine about getting your breasts manhandled and smashed, then not knowing the results for a week or more. However, once the test is done and I’ve left the office I’ve never worried about the results. I don’t have any real reason to be concerned and I’m usually just so glad to have it over that I tend to put the whole experience behind me for another year. I’ve always gotten a letter in the mail about a week later telling me everything is hunky-dory and they’ll send a reminder to schedule an appointment in a year. It’s kind of like going to the dentist only it’s booby recall.
So now I’ve crossed one thing off my “to do” list and in two weeks when I go to see my doctor for my semi-annual PAP test (another wildly enjoyable event) I can say I had my mammogram done. Dr. C will be so pleased. And I was pleased too, until yesterday when I came inside from riding and found a message on my answering machine. It was the message no woman ever wants to get: the hospital asking me to call and speak to Lesley in radiology. Shit. Your mind just kind of wigs out. You have to call, but you don’t want to call. Finally the suspense is killing me so I dialed back and asked for Lesley, who, after the initial pleasantries says I need to come to the hospital to have “more views” taken. “Why?” I ask. Lesley can’t say. “Right” I think, “you’re scaring the crap out of me, but you can’t say why.” Makes no sense whatsoever. Leslie patiently went on to explain that this is not uncommon and it happens a lot. “What … so this is some kind of breast lottery and my number just got picked?” There’s a small pause in the conversation while Leslie thinks about that. “No” she says finally. “Sometimes the breasts are dense (as in stupid?) or sometimes the radiologist wants a different view.” (Ding! Ding! Ding! Red flag alert! I’m not fooled! How many different ways can you squeeze a breast? I’m guessing that means they think they see something and they want to clarify! ) Leslie didn’t know what my specific case was, but those were the two reasons she gave to help alleviate my fears. (Not!) I scheduled an appointment. They could see me the very next day and oh, by the way, the radiologist will read the films right then and there so I’ll know what’s going on before I leave. Nice touch.
I really don’t have any reason to be worried. Thing is, I’m sure plenty of women thought the same thing and were wrong. But worry never made anything better, so I’ll put on my big girl panties and get myself over to the hospital today to have my boobs assaulted. Again. After all, how much fun can a girl stand?
We’ve made progress getting the basics dug out, which is a good thing because today we’re supposed to be hit with round two. Not snow, but rain and freezing rain. I’m not sure where all this participation is supposed to go, but I suspect a good portion of it is going to end up in places it’s not supposed to be. As of this morning we’ve been unable to clear the barn roof … just too much manual labor for two middle-age people to handle in 24 hours. I can only hope the roof holds up under the weight of all the rain and ice we’re supposed to get. If we can hang in there another day or two the temperatures should begin to rise into the 40’s and perhaps some of this mess will begin to abate on it’s own. Here’s to the power staying on and everyone staying safe even if they’re stuck in their own home!
New year, new beginnings. Lots of stuff going on here right now. My father-in-law has been in the hospital since early Nov. That’s wearing everyone down. No idea if or when he’ll be moved to a nursing home or if he’ll recover enough to come home. Lots of stress and anxiety for the family around that. We’ve had his elderly sister, niece and grand-nephew visiting from Croatia. I’ve yet to see his sister but word has it she’s got some sort of nasty upper respiratory bug. Being here on a visa means no insurance and one more thing for Mom to worry about. Mom’s acute sciatica has run it’s course with the doctor-ordered physical therapy …. to no avail. Basically, they just put off doing what I’m sure they knew needed to be done and let her suffer for two months while trying to cope with her husband’s health problems. I’ve tried encouraging her to push for an MRI so they can move to the next step, which will probably be an epidural injection. She can’t stand or walk, so something needs to be done. Yes, getting her to and from the hospital (daily) has been a tall task.
The animals have all been great … thank goodness for small favors! Gus is fully into his “terrible tweens” and is a chewing machine. (Minor destruction of small abstract objects included) I was contemplating getting him into another basic obedience class … mostly for the benefit of proofing some of his training, but I’m not sure if I can juggle it with my schedule right now. The class I’m thinking about starts tonight, so I’d better decide soon!
I’m starting a new nutrition program with my long-range goals set on getting certified to coach the program somewhere down the line. I’ve been lifting weights and staying fit for 33 years, but like anything else you do long-term, my goals have changed and my routine has grown stale. I’ve been thinking about doing this program for a good four or five years and I’ve finally decided this is the year to take the steps in that direction. I’m doing the course as a participant first, because it’s my opinion that’s the best way to learn it … from the inside out! With my own training and nutritional program needing some tweaks and new enthusiasm, this should be a lot of fun. Besides, I don’t feel I can authentically help others unless I’ve walked the walk myself. So wish me luck … I hope to be in even better shape in just a few months!
Unless the weather takes a sudden turn in the right direction I don’t expect I’ll be posting as many photos. Certainly not landscapes. It’s been several weeks since we’ve had a photo-worthy sunrise and I’m not going to get out there at the crack of cold dawn unless I really think the payoff is going to be good. Of course that can change tomorrow, but be forewarned that a few days might go by with no new posts.
Finally some white stuff, but no spectacular skies or great light yet. So …. meh. I got out and shot a few frames only because it’s been so long that I needed the practice … use it or lose it and all that rot. I’d forgotten how cold my fingers can get in a matter of minutes. Spring and fall are my favorite times to shoot. Freezing cold winter and the heat of summer … not so much! While sitting in the comfort of your home it’s pretty easy to forget what a good photographer must often endure to catch a great photo op!
The Consequences of Falling by K.D.Lang from Invincible Summer
I remember that feeling …. the one that sits now, deep in the woods like a rusty old hunk of discarded metal.
I’m a little behind getting a photo posted today. Yesterday was (overall) a nice day with family and friends. I was blessed to have been able to talk to all of my siblings in one day, which always makes me feel kinda warm and fuzzy. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve been “home” for Christmas, so talking with each of my sibs on the phone is the next best thing.
Unfortunately, we started our morning with a trip to the hospital to visit my father-in-law who’s been there since early November. It was probably the worst I’ve seen him since his initial operation over six weeks ago. Since then he’s had multiple organ blowouts and failures, fevers, infections, high blood pressure and the inability to eat anything by mouth. A feeding tube was placed late last week and it’s taken several days to get him up to speed with it’s operation. Just when we thought he might finally be able to get downgraded to a rehab facility (oxymoron, since he’s not going anywhere from there) he developed yet another complication. As it stands, I don’t think he’ll ever come out of the anesthesia-related dementia/psychosis. He had a touch of moderate “forgetfulness” going into this, but now ….. well, he can’t comprehend what’s going on or communicate a thing. The family imported his 85 year-old sister from Croatia in hopes that might bolster his reserve, but this has done little more than add another stressed person to the chaos. I vocalized my disagreement about this decision when it was in the process of being made, so now I just need to shut up and stay out of the way.
While this isn’t one of my best pictures, it’s a reminder to enjoy each day as it comes. Our time here is fleeting.
May the spirit of Christmas be with you today and through the new year!
It looks like it might be another a soggy, foggy Christmas this year.