Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday: And the Adventures Continue ...

So this has been one of "those" weeks. The great part has been that one of my very best buddies is visiting from Washington state (my home!) -- Tanya (along with her daughter, Leanna) and I have been eating our way around St Louis and it has been a blast! The weather has even been on the cooler side so they haven't been dying from the humidity (well, maybe they have complained a little but this is totally understandable because the 80 degree+ weather we are having this week is almost unheard of in our hometown!). We spent a fabulous day at the St Louis Zoo the other day and I was reminded of how cool it is that we have this zoo in our city (and it's free!). The penguins rock!

So it's great to have an old friend around because you spend half the time reminiscing on all the great fun you had when you were younger (and we had a ton of good times back in the 80s!). It was especially great to have a friend come in to town the day after Bailey died. I still find myself looking for him around the house, sort of not believing that he is gone. Since Bailey and Zora were sort of my first pets to have totally on my own, I guess this was an experience that was going to happen at some point but I didn't feel ready for it to happen just now. But -- I know that I will never ever forget Bailey for the rest of my life. He was my boy.

I'm glad Tanya was here to distract me from Bailey's death and Monday's mammogram. I was expecting the nurse to come out after my mammogram and say, "All great! See you next year!" I think the biggest shock for me was that this is NOT what she said -- it was more like "Dianna, we need to do an ultrasound on your left breast." What! It was my right breast that had the breast cancer -- is my left just looking for a little bit of attention?!

The nurse couldn't get a good reading on the breast so she had a doctor come in and she couldn't get a good reading either so they scheduled me for an MRI on Thursday morning. I am not going to worry too much about this -- it seems like, because I have dense breast tissue, getting an MRI is a typical response. And at least the MRI will make me feel better that there is absolutely no cancer at all in either of my breasts :>

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bailey, My Boy

Yesterday was a tough day. We had to put my 12 year old Maine Coon, Bailey, to sleep. This was the first time I ever had to put a pet to sleep -- but I am guessing that it doesn't make it any easier even if you have had this experience before. Bailey was in pretty good health until about 2 years ago when we discovered that he had a herniated liver. Since he had not experienced any blunt force trauma, the vet told us that he was probably born with it. Anyway, this condition did not stop him from being the free spirit that he was -- Bailey had the gift of getting in trouble. He never acted his age! He liked to chew wires (computer wires especially!), eat flowers and plants (so I could never keep flowers around), chew boxes, lick plastic bags at 2 AM in the morning, cry loudly in the morning for "fresh" kibble (not the "old" kibble from the previous day), and push things off the top of the fridge. Once, before I met Jim and I was living alone, he somehow managed to open the freezer and pushed out everything onto the kitchen floor, ruining $20 worth of ice cream (which was a lot to me at the time!).

About a year ago, Bailey would start going to the bathroom outside his litter box every now and then. And then 6 months ago, he started doing it once or twice a week. We took him to two different vets and did every test and suggestion they encouraged us to do. Nothing worked. In the last two weeks, things got even worse with the bathroom issues happening every day (or even twice a day). At this point, the only test we had not done was a $800 biopsy. We just couldn't do it. If he did indeed have cancer -- which was what I suspected -- we couldn't have done the chemo and radiation for him (not just the expense but it's hard to justify spending that on a cat when there are so many uninsured people out there). So we brought him to the vet yesterday, me hoping that there was one last thing that the vet might be able to suggest.

No dice. So we made the decision to euthanize him and the whole time I was thinking that this action made me a "cat murderer." If he had been really, really, really sick, then I think it would have been an easier decision but the fact that he was OK most of the time made this a hard call. Yes, he was in pain when he went to the bathroom, but it was hard to tell if he were uncomfortable any other time.

The vet took him back and put an IV in his front left arm and then she came and put him in my lap. She then gave him something that was like a sedative and then she followed that up with the one that stopped his heart. Since he was on my lap, I was petting him and could only see the top of his head. I know I was crying pretty hard and trying to tell him what a good boy he was and that I was sorry that we couldn't do anything else for him. The vet was sitting on the floor so she saw him at eye level and at some point she said that he was gone. I had a hard time believing that at first because he felt so warm and usual (like he was just taking a nap on my lap). But then she checked his heart and confirmed he was gone. It was so surreal that he was gone that fast. The vet then said that we could spend some time with him but I couldn't do that. So she took him out of the room (very gently I noticed) and that was the end.

I miss Bailey. I know that he would have just gotten worse and possibly be in more pain but I still miss him tremendouly. He was my boy even before I knew Jim. And he was named after my friend Les who died in December. Somehow it just doesn't seem fair that they are both gone just like that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Productive Day!

Whew ... I have been working all day (on and off) on my literature review for the dissertation and I can say I am now officially over 20 pages (which really doesn't sound like that much in the grand scheme of things) but it's a start. And I think the emotional issues I have been experiencing were kicked to the curb a little bit. You see, there is this huge debate that is crucial to understanding my research (the infamous Hairston/ Berlin debate). For some reason, as I have been working on this discussion the last few weeks, I have struggled to articulate what it is that I am actually trying to say -- even the simple "this is what she said/ this is what he said." Anyway, I think I may have worked out some of the mind crap going on because I managed to work with the material pretty closely today and get something down on paper. Amazing. Now hopefully I can continue this pace for another week or two!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Jane Austen Guilty Pleasure

Since I am having trouble getting started with writing today, I thought why not start with something that feels "easier" -- thus, how about a few thoughts on a Jane Austen remake? My pal Laurie sent this book to me a few months ago and I finally had the chance to read it (I devoured it, by the way, in a mere two days!). George Knightly, Esquire is a re-imagining of Austen's Emma from the viewpoint of, as you can guess, Mr.Knightly. I was prepared for the book to be a bit on the fluffy side but I was suprised to discover how much I got into it.

One interesting angle -- Most Emma adaptations I have seen focus on life in Highbury, Austen's most detailed neighborhood. This book, while also providing those comfortable glimpses of the familiar town, focuses instead on the residents of Donwell, with its own parish, attending rector (Dr. Hughes), a new curate, our old friends the Martins, William Larkins, and an array of colorful tenants. The world the author (Barbara Cornthwaite) depicts is as vivid in my mind as Highbury after reading this Knightly-centered perspective. As a budding scholar who is fascinated with race and class issues, I found this book delightful in terms of bringing all these folks together in one "read."

The only negative? Apparently, this is only the first part (and once I look at the cover after finishing there was a hint with a subtitle called "Book One"!). The book ends just before Mr. Elton brings his new bride to Donwell and Knightly struggles with the Frank Churchill/ Emma entanglement. So .... more work on my literature review for the dissertation = purchasing the second part!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Komen Race for the Cure

Well, it's over. The Komen Race for the Cure was yesterday here in downtown St Louis! Last year I was getting an MRI for the first of two lumpectomies so it was strange to think how much has happened in the 12 months since then. Since I was named one of the top 10 Fundraisers this year (thank to my fabulous friends and family members!), I was able to usher in a new year by helping to carry the banner in the survivor procession.

Because of this VIP status, Jim and I got to hang out at the VIP tent and munch on some free breakfast (provided by Bread Company) and by 7 AM I had to meet up with the other top fundraisers so we could walk together as a group over to where the other 4,000 survivors were already assembled. The only bad thing was that Karen, the women in charge of us 10, walked us over and then gave us the banner, sort of pushing back a front line of women who, I am guessing, thought that they were going to be carrying the banner. I felt bad and a short woman edged next to me, muttering under her breath how unfair it was that we got to take "their spot" -- one of the other top fundraisers said something about raising a lot of money but it didn't seem to make a difference unfortunately. So I was standing there thinking about how to make this situation better when wham! The procession started moving and I am not talking about a snail's pace! The procession was fast! We went around a corner and within a minute were standing in front of the main stage. Now, by this point, a lot of survivors around me were crying -- but I think I felt stunned more than anything. Partly, I was still feeling weird about being pushed to the front of the line and partly I was trying to put my head around the fact that I was indeed a "survivor." And it was at that moment that I realized that breast cancer was just one part of who I am now -- and not the biggest part. I am not sure if Komen will be something that I will do every year -- I just know that now I want to go on with the rest of my life and be strong, happy, and brave about taking on scary tasks (i.e. writing a dissertation that I feel like I can't do).

After the procession, I was "stuck" in front of the stage and watched all the action (i.e. Mayor Slay and some guy from American Idol) and then managed to slip through the crowd and rejoin Jim. The 5K started about 30 minutes later and me and my tutu took off as fast as I could! Thankfully, the really hot weather we have been experiencing this past week took a break and it was in the 70's with a nice breeze. But because I took off too fast, I struggled by about the second mile and came in at a time that I am not happy with: 30 minutes and 24 seconds. i was hoping for something closer to 25 minutes but oh, well. I guess I am still working hard at getting my running mojo back.

And now this morning I really do feel like a new chapter of my life has started. I had the energy to do some errands around the house and I have opened some dissertation notes and will work on that today and tomorrow (I have a Tuesday deadline in my head for a certain section I am working on). Later this afternoon, Jim and I will start a new volunteer opportunity (just a few hours a week at the most) -- walking dogs at the Stray Rescue facility near our house (this is the great organization that we adopted our dear Stella from!).

So I guess I better get to work!

PS: This video from KSDK shows the Survivor Procession -- it's hard to see me but I am at the right end of the banner (purple tights, blue hat) -- and the announcer mentions my tutu!)