Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Mishaps in the house, more messes on my skin

New sleeping quarters
My squamous cell radar, like my New York parking radar, continues to point me to the right spot.

Which is to say that after I realized that squamous cell cancers in my case at least are areas that won’t stop flaking, I’ve recognized the difference between dry skin and something suspicious. Unconsciously while I was writing (or pondering), I rubbed my finger along an area at the top of my cheekbone near my ear – the sideburn area – and came away with blood. This was a while ago. I forgot about it and then did it again more recently and realized I was picking at some spots that were flaking.

I also felt something scaly behind my head, at the bottom of my hairline.

This happened a few months ago and so I made a dermatology appointment in Boston. Dermatology appointments are not the easiest to get. I went Monday and sure enough ended up with four biopsies. Three for the little cluster near my ear and one down at the back of my head. I assume that I will end up with at least one Mohs. Which means missing a couple of weeks of tennis, sigh.

The after visit summary sounds sort of creepy:

  • Neoplasm of uncertain behavior of skin
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Actinic keratosis
  • Personal history of other malignant neoplasm of skin

Actually a skin neoplasm is just an unusual growth that could be cancerous but also noncancerous.  Those stupid actinic keratosis are red spots that have reappeared on my hands and arms. They could be precancerous. I’m supposed to retreat them with a chemo cream combination. I feel like I already did that. Because I did, several times. You are supposed to wrap your hands up in Saran Wrap or some other but I told the doc that was very hard to do, and she agreed. Wearing purple exam gloves to bed is the next bed option. It is supposed to turn the spots bright red and since I'm doing some holiday visiting, I'm not quite ready to do it.

Here's something I wrote about a pill that is supposed to cut down on skin cancer incidence. 

Usually I try to combine dermatology with something else, but the appointments are hard to get – I couldn’t even get one with my regular doctor – so I took a “stand-alone.” It was kind of silly because I also went on Friday, for ECP (the light therapy), which I had absentmindedly changed from Thursday because I thought we had book group Thursday, which is our usual day. It had said right in the emails that we were doing it Friday for our holiday party, but despite telling myself repeatedly to write things down, I didn’t do it. So I went down to Jo’s on Thursday and was uncharacteristically early, as in, a whole day early.

 Luckily I made an early appointment on Friday, 1 p.m., so despite getting caught in Friday traffic, I made it to the meeting almost on time.

It might sound like I’m launching into my version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, or – take your pick – the dog ate my homework. Because Maddie decided she is done with stairs so we changed our routine, and this caused me to break my glasses. Not direct cause and effect, but you will see. She also decided she didn’t want to jump up on the couch. I remember when we wanted to keep her off, and now I’m sad for her that she can’t get up. In addition to glucosamine, I got her some CBD dog biscuits that seem to help; one night she even ran up the stairs. But that was the only time.

I got her a new big bed for the den. For our morning routine upstairs, I would lie down and put my glasses under my dresser and then snuggle with her, arm over paw, or paw over arm. When we changed to downstairs, I didn’t have a habitual place to put my glasses. I should have put them on top of something but instead I put them next to me…and rolled over onto them and heard a crack. Then I had to hold the broken glasses up to my eyes to find the spare pair. I ordered a new pair from Village Eye Care, at the Commons. I know you can get them cheaper on line or elsewhere, but I want to support my local business.

The doctor (my friend Steve Markow) came out to chat. I told him my eyes felt all squinty and dry. He went into the back and came out with some sample drops and put them in my eyes. We gave each other an update on our families and had a hug. You couldn’t get this if you ordered on line.

Yesterday at the end of the storm, with mush on the ground, Maddie and I walked to the corner and across the street. A man shouted out from a car, “Come on old lady, you can do it!” I said, “Are you talking to me?” He laughed and said, “No, the dog!”

Earlier in the day, when we were taking a walk down Sycamore Knolls, a car slowed down, and dog biscuits flew out the window. It took me a minute to realize that it was Bert Willey, my painter. A few got lost in the snow, so he threw out another. Then she found the rest in the snow.

 Guys in cars, talking to dogs.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Big hugs for fantastic kindergarten teacher

With Patty Bein in Village Commons gift shop
The world has it back-asswards by rewarding multi-millionaires who do crappy things and not rewarding teachers who shape children in their formative years. I thought of this when I bumped into Pat Bein – Mrs. Bein – who had all three of my kids in kindergarten in a sweet little school, The Horizon School (no longer in existence) in South Hadley Falls.

Of course I had something to do with my kids turning out as great as they are, as of course did their father, but I wasn't exaggerating when I told her that my kids are who they are because of her. We were shopping at the Village Commons in the Arts Unlimited Gift Gallery, where most items (except the earrings I wanted to buy, insert frowny face) were 20 percent off during the annual Village Commons Days. We gave each other a big hug and talked for a few minutes. I showed her photos and she said their grownup selves looked just like their kindergarten selves! She remembered how worried I was when I left Ben for the first time and he cried his little heart out as I went to work. I called her as soon as I got to the newspaper, and she said he had stopped crying right away. She made me feel confident that they were in good hands. I did the glasses on, glasses off, photo in the middle of the displays at the store. At this point, my honey turned to leave. The store owner said he had lasted longer than most.

Glasses off

Meanwhile, Thanksgiving seems in the distant past, but I forgot to write that our little gathering of Joe, Katie and Jim went well. When I learned that it would be just us three, I felt forlorn. Then I sat back and thought about how silly it is that Thanksgiving is supposed to be big. In this post for, I wrote about how Thanksgiving with my former husband is easier than it was during our married days when he got annoyed with the mess that my mother and I made in the kitchen.

I wrote, "It is easy to lose perspective when you’re as far “out” as I am. But periodically I remind myself to read what I wrote on my blog when I relapsed for the second time: 'I have been crying a lot, picturing myself at the end of the road. Thinking I won’t see my children finish growing up, won’t see my grandchildren.' So what if I don’t see them on a certain day? I’m thankful that the generosity of my bone marrow donor made my predictions wrong on the dark relapse day."

By the way, the post was dated Dec. 25, 2008, and I gave it the headline, "Downhill all the Way."
Those were the days that people commented directly on the blog rather than on Facebook after I share. Twenty-five people commented. Two of them have died. One of them is my friend Patricia, aka PJ, my doppleganger until she wasn't. She wrote, "Adding my support to all the comments here. I wish I could do more than sit on the sidelines watching as you deal with this. Even though I can literally picture where you are (you could be in my old room), I can't imagine what you're feeling. It's all too much, and just wrong."

I really miss my friends PJ and Ann and our little sisterhood of leukemia survivors. We all knew what the other was going through, and we could sometimes even joke about it.

But I have digressed, as usual.

Oh, by the way, circling back, I'm sure that Jim, my then-editor, wasn't the first one to say back-asswards instead of ass backwards, but I first heard it from him during my cub reporter days at the Holyoke T-T, and I thought it was so clever and it has stuck in my head.