The Stacey Report

Oh, the drainage!

Posted in Stacey Updates, Warning: Eewy Medical Stuff! by dbancroft on February 7, 2008

So, some administrative stuff first: I’ve decided that y’all are savvy enough to see the date on a post, so I shall forgo repeating it in the title. (Also I rarely know the date right off the bat because that would require remembering a number and my brain doesn’t do that. Last night Chris asked me if I remembered our phone number in Brooklyn. I gave him the “you are clinically insane” glare, and he rattled off the number no prob. I don’t get it. But don’t challenge me on theme songs from 80s sit coms! Most singable? Theme from “Dear John” starring Judd Hirsch of “Taxi” fame.)

But I digress…

I never got back to the OOF!-ectomy (which, apparently, I am unable to spell correctly, mostly because I don’t really care): but it doesn’t matter because it hasn’t happened, but Stacey has been wallowing in the wonderful world of DRAINS!

This gets really gross, by the way; fair warning for those with a low yuke threshold.

So, when you have surgery someplace where there is generally a lot of goo, like your abdomen (where the flap for the reconstruction came from) you get to have drains. These are just about what you’d think: tubes sticking out of your body, dripping eewy mystery fluids. There’s some apparatus to keep you from leaving puddles everywhere, but I don’t know what it is because Stacey wouldn’t show me (thank God).

So, two disgusting things happened. OK, just the drains alone are disgusting. But this stuff is more disgusting: the first thing was that one of the drains fell out. Just, SPLOOP!, out.  So what does my sister do? What any right-thinking person woul d do… she shoved it back in. “BLEEECH!” I hear you cry. Yeh, but she said that the popping out was the most disgusting part: she said she kinda went weak and everything went dim and she had to lean against the wall. OK, that’s called fainting, dude.

Second disgusting thing happened when she went back in tohave the drains removed. The doctor first had to aspirate (suck out with, like, a turkey baster dealie) a whole bunch of remaining fluid. Stacey said that she didn’t feel anything, but that just the idea of it gave her the wooze. I asked her what it looked like and she said (in that special “what the hell is wrong with you?!” way she has) “I didn’t LOOK at it! Geez!”

Hey, man, you said you wanted to know what was going on with Stacey… that’s what’s going on.

December 23, 2007: God Bless the Weinsteins

Posted in Stacey Updates by dbancroft on December 23, 2007

Kerry and Judi Weinstein of Acupuncture Family Practice (978443-6789) are the bomb. I brought Stacey in for a treatment this morning, got my own treatment at the same time. Acupuncture is especially good for systemic things like boosting your mood and outlook and immune system. Stacey’s been going since her diagnosis, even when she was cancer-free, and I’m sure that has something to do with her speedy recoveries: the plastic surgeon, on checking her out before she left the hospital, said that she definitely “heals faster than the average Joe”.

The other thing in Stacey’s favor is that she’s just really healthy. She and her family have a beautiful diet, as organic as can be afforded, and although she (like most of us) doesn’t have a formal exercise regimen, she’s constantly on the move, especially from spring to fall when she’s out working in the garden.  Our society is really not able to see her as being healthy because of her figure, but she’s showing her true colors through this whole thing.

For example, this morning after acupuncture we went to do some errands, to Dunkin’ Donuts and Whole Foods and the grocery store. We even jumped two deaf women.

(Uh… that didn’t come out right.  We jump-started a car belonging to two deaf women.)

So, there was more to do after the grocery store but Stacey wisely said “Home, Jeeves” so we did. Go home, that is.

 And that is all. Oh, by they way, the new boob looks great. You really wouldn’t notice the difference if you weren’t engaged in a formal comparison study, and Stacey offered the information that the new one is oddly perky. Reduction on the other side is still undecided, but I say, if the insurance will pay for it, why the heck not?

Unless something cuh-razy happens, I’ll be posting updates after the holidays: have some happy ones!

December 22, 2007: OK, Lazybones, Enough Recuperating!

Posted in Stacey Updates, Uncategorized by dbancroft on December 22, 2007

We got Christmas shopping to do!

No, actually, Stacey dealt with all of that before she went into the hospital, and anything left undone I shall do for her (whether she wants me to or not).

So, Stacey is home, discharged at about 3:00 yesterday (it was s’posed to be 10:30, but who’s counting?) She’s feeling well (all things considered) and sleeping and bathing and all that good stuff.

By the by, they didn’t do the Oeufectomy (Oeuf = egg en Francais. Why they use the French word for egg I do not know unless it’s because it’s just really fun to say Oeufectomy.) The Oeufectomy (Oeufectomy Oeufectomy Oeufectomy!) they’ll do in about a month, no idea whether they’ll do the follow-up to the breast reconstruction at the same time although that would be pretty good because being in the hospital Suuuuuuuucks! Although Stacey does want to tell everyone that the nurses were, in general, wicked awesome and totally nice to her.

Stacey says she feels best when she’s up and around, and she’s sleeping pretty well despite the fact that she’s got an incision going from one hip to the other (makes it tough to get comfortable; no matter how she lies, she’s lying on a scar. She says it’s still waaaay beter than trying to sleep in the dang hospital.)

A nurse from the Natick VNA came out today, just to check things out; she’ll probably be back later in the week. All is well, but Stacey feels better having someone who knows what she’s doing check out the scar and the drains and other eewy stuff.

Also, bye bye Pain Buster! It was empty, and she didn’t need it anymore, and it didn’t hurt to pull it out, but woah. I’m impressed. Because if I had to pull 6-8 inches of tubing out of me I would just never stop vomiting. Also fun and disgusting are the drains: apparently most of the fluid that’s leaking out is the stuff they use to flush things out during the surgery, but there’s also lymphatic fluid and blood and other repulsivity. Useful, though, for torturing teenagers: Lyle has been surprisingly helpful lately and all Stacey has to say is “Lyle, go get me a glass of water please or I’ll show you my draaaaaaaaaains! Ooooooooooh!

December 20, 2007: All is Still Well

Posted in Uncategorized by dbancroft on December 20, 2007

There was, however, an interesting bump in the road yesterday.

Sometime in the late morning, Stacey’s nurse became concerned about the amount of swelling around her incisions. So, what better way to make sure they heal properly thaaaaaaaan… open them up again! I don’t think it was as simple, or as far-reaching, as all that, but they did cart her back downstairs, prep, knock her out, and re-surgify her for a seven minute exploratory that found that she is very swollen. No broken vessels, no gangrenous pooling, no emerging alien invaders, just all swole up. So, back up to the room FOUR hours later: rest up, sweetie! (kthx.)

After that all went well: lots of checking and poking and prodding, but everything is cool. Stacey just called to say that nothing more exciting than that has happened, except that she’s received “a buttload of flowers”.

And also, she’ll be coming home tomorrow. “Oh, no!” I hear you cry, “that’s much too soon, how dare they throw her out so early…” Your concern is admirable and, yes, the health insurance companies are, in general, a bunch of… well, that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Stacey wants to come home, so she can take a shower (only sponge baths and no hairwashes at the hospital) and get some sleep! Oy yoy yoy, with the blood pressure cuffs and the meds and the walking in and out for no apparent reason and the switching the light on with no warning and the waking you up so you can take a sleeping pill (ok, that didn’t happen, but it’s a nice example, n’est ce pas?) Nobody gets any sleep in the hospital, ever, and that’s what she really needs.

So, a 10:30 discharge, theoretically, and she’s all set to stop and have an acupuncture treatment on the way home. Then we’ll be there to wait on her hand and foot. Until she starts throwing things at us. Which should take all of five minutes. I just hope she chucks the new Janet Evanovich mystery at me, because I haven’t read that one yet!

Update tomorrow.

December 18, 2007: All is Well

Posted in Uncategorized by dbancroft on December 18, 2007

So Stacey got started a bit late this morning, apparently — our Dad called this afternoon to say that they thought she’d be out of surgery at 8-ish. (He was at Newton Wellesley for a physical therapy appointment, took a detour to check on Stacey.)

I got a call from Michael at about 7:00 — Stacey was out of surgery and in recovery, everything went just fine.  They’d be taking her to her room, uh, sometime.

 I just now got another call from Michael: as of 9:30 pm, she is still in recovery,  sleeping off and on. They’ll take her to her room, uh, sometime. However, we do have a room number, which is 652B.

So anyone wishing to send a lavish gift (or a lovely card) to Stacey at the ‘spital should address it to:

Stacey, Room 652B
c/o
Newton-Wellesley Hospital
2014 Washington Street
Newton, MA 02462

Updates as we get ’em.

December 17, 2007: You want to do surgery WHEN?

Posted in Stacey Updates by dbancroft on December 17, 2007

Well, actually, tomorrow.  Thanks to TFDB’s vigorous advocacy, everything fell together: all tests were run, all specialists lined up and given orders, butts kicked, names taken, all that good gravy.

So let’s bring us up to date, shall we?

The first test that was run was the pet scan, which is really the best indicator for these things (thank you TFDB for ordering the best test right up front).  The scan was of all the relevant body parts, and found four very small nodules in her left breast (the troublesome one). 

Then, a bunch of follow-up tests (paraphrase: “let’s run every test in the whole world so we can find out as much about this as we can.”):

I. The MRI
Notable Notes: this test took SIX needle sticks, made by three different people. As you may recall, Stacey’s veins are “deep, wiggly, and hard to get.” Delightful mental image though this may be, it makes injections decidedly unpleasant. 
Results: MRI confirmed 4 nasties.

II. The Mammogram
SQUAAAAAAASH…. 4 nasties.

III. The CT Scan
Notable Notes: a CT scan starts with a luscious tumbler of barium sulfate solution on the rocks.  Post-quaff,  they start stickin’ needles. (“Uh, yesterday it took three people six tries…” “I’ll call the IV nurse.”)
Results: A CT scan is a whole-bod deal, and showed no areas of concern except the 4 nasties.

IV. The Biopsy (of the 4 nasties) and the Placing of the “Seed”. 
So, this is kinda cool in the abstract — when the Breast Center does a biopsy, they put a teeeeny little ball bearing dealie in the area they checked; they call it a seed. That’s so in later scans, the techs know where to look for trouble. And yes, then you have a ball bearing in your boob forever. Unless you’re Stacey. And then you only have it in there until tomorrow. (See? Life gives you lemons, you make Lemoncello.)

V. The ANOTHER Mammogram
Just for grins.

Then, a meeting with the plastic surgeon, because they’ve decided to do a reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. “Well I should hope so,” our mother said, “otherwise she’d list!” (I checked with Stacey, you have permission to laugh at that one: Stacey sure did.)

For the reconstruction, they’ll be doing a tram flap. “Cool!” yer thinkin’, “Boob job and a free tummy tuck!” Well, no, you’re as wrong about that as I was: not quite that simple. For flap reconstruction they do take a hunk of tummy to construct a new breast (which, depending on your tummy, could be a good or a bad thing).  But they also take one of your abdominal muscles out, and that’s just creepy. I asked Stacey how a person continues to, like, remain vertical without all the tummy muscles. She told me what the plastic surgeon had said, that if she was a high powered athlete (ok, Stacey laughed there, use your judgement) he wouldn’t recommend it, but most people do just fine.

And then, everybody was going to be ready on Tuesday, so here we go.

Stacey has to go in for pre-op stuff at the butt crack of dawn (o’course) and they told her that it’d be about a 7 hour deal. True to form, when I asked whether she wanted me to be there, she said “Why? So you can sit around in the hospital while I’m unconscious and don’t even know you’re there?” Well, okie dokie, man — I’m asking Michael to call me when she’s out of surgery with an update, and then planning to go in on Thursday morning to see how things be.

I’ll be posting a mailing address at the hospital as soon as I know it: I bet if you sent it to Newton Wellesley Hospital and mark it for “Patient: Stacey” it’d get to her ok. I’m making an executive decision on flowers, to send or not to send: Send. There are always fresh flowers in her kitchen, believe it or don’t, so I think she’d dig ’em. I know she’ll be in the hospital at least 3 days (gee, plenty of time to recover!) so there’s time for cards or whatever you’d like to send.

On this note, if anyone would like to send anything that won’t get there through the mail in time, and it’s a thing I can get here and just bring in, please let me know. We’ll figure it out.

OK, kids. Stay tuned.

November 29, 2007: A lump in the road

Posted in Uncategorized by dbancroft on November 30, 2007

Sooo… Stacey got her scan reports back, and there is what TFDB has called “a small recurrence”. Which means, a small lump in the area where the other lump was. Given the treatment history, TFDB recommends going with a mastectomy: she said she tends to be over cautious, which we appreciate very much.

So that’s pretty rotten.

Also rotten is the second recommendation, that being to remove Stacey’s ovaries. Why? Because the next drug regimen TFDB wants to go with is quite effective, but for whatever reason you have to be in menopause to use it. That could be accomplished chemically, but given the fact that Stacey’s cancer is hormone receptive, it makes sense to start from a guaranteed zero.

Cool.

Dredging up some good news, if Stacey does have to do chemo with this one, it will be a kind that doesn’t make her hair fall out. Also, Stacey said she gave herself a couple of hours to freak out, and then (she said) she got back on the train and feels very confident and optimistic about all this.  So, so do I.  And so shall you all. Because this is Stacey, after all.

November 19, 2007: Stacey on the Writer’s Strike

Posted in Uncategorized by dbancroft on November 19, 2007

From Stacey:

I love TV. I probably love it entirely too much, but I grew up with it and it has treated me well. I feel no need to watch less tv. In fact, with the wonder that is TiVo I can watch even more now than I could before, with fewer commercials. Oh, man, I love TiVo.
 
TV has kept me company in the middle of the night while I nursed babies. It made me laugh when I was feeling my worst during chemo. It has enabled me to get regular fixes of Doctor Who (thanks, Sci-Fi, BBCA, and NH public television!) I’ve even discovered books that my teenager will read. Really! Sure, there’s a lot of crap on the airwaves, but, if you know where to look, there are a ton of quality shows, too.
 
It is because of this love that I fully support the writer’s strike. Did you know that of the 12,000+ members of the WGA (Writers Guild of America) fully half of them don’t make enough money each year (30K) to qualify for health benefits through the Guild? The big 6 media companies are making scads of money from new media, but they are unwilling to pay the writers anything from these new revenue streams. Ever watch a show online? The media companies made money from those ads you were forced to watch. The writers made NOTHING.
 
If you’re interested in learning more, check out these links:
WGA site: http://www.wga.org
Unofficial blog maintained by strike captains: http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/
Blog maintained by Late Show with David Letterman writers: http://www.lateshowwritersonstrike.com/
Blogs by former www.televisionwithoutpity.com writers, now working in LA:
http://www.pamie.com/
http://www.plaintivewail.com/
Breaking news about the “infotainment industry” (ugh, really?): http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/
 
Am I going through withdrawal because I haven’t seen any new The Daily Show or Colbert Report shows for almost two weeks? You betcha! Will I be even worse off next week when there are no longer any new episodes of The Office? Oh, my, yes, and it will only get worse. But I’m not complaining, because I believe in what they’re doing for their own members, and for the precedent they’re setting for other unions who will be going through the same process next year and down the line.
 
So, to support their efforts I have stopped watching any online programming. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because even with a dual tuner TiVo sometimes the schedule is too busy to record everything I’d like to watch, so I’m missing shows already. Once the new shows have been shown and the networks start giving us repeats, I won’t be watching. Oh, and I signed the petition that you can find at the United Hollywood site.
 
If you’re a fan of TV, a fan of unions, or just against corporate greed wherever it’s found, I humbly request that you take some time to learn about the issues and support the WGA in any way you see fit.
 
Oh, topic? I have a scan next week (11/19). Crossing my fingers…

November 19, 2007

Posted in Uncategorized by dbancroft on November 19, 2007

Well clearly I have been in some sort of fugue state because three months have slipped by and I haven’t even finished the # Day story (as a few of you were attentive enough to point out to me, O so kindly, as in: “Finish the flippin’ story already!)

 But NO! Ha HA! Because I have something more important to post today, a note from Stacey about… well, it’s important, so I’ll give it its own post.

August 25: Report from the 3Day, Part the Second

Posted in Uncategorized by dbancroft on August 25, 2007

OK, first day of the Susan B. Komen walk, and I am up at 4:00, otherwise known as the butt crack of dawn. The lovely Brenda picked me up in her most excellent Toyota camper van (that thing rocks, I want to camp in their driveway it’s so cool).  We gathered up Christina and Jen, and all met up with Stalker Bob, Vicki and Judi in the Shaw’s parking lot.

Just a word about Stalker Bob: he’s not a real stalker.  Or, heck, he might be… but I really don’t think so.  Anyway, a “stalker” is sort of a team babysitter, someone who goes up and down the route to make sure everyone is ok, bring things you might need, etc.  This is not to say that the walk crew were anything less than fantastic, attentive, and wonderfully competent — they were that and more.  But is a member of the crew going to meet you a mile up the road with a medium Dunkin Donuts iced coffee with just a little cream and three sugars? Most decidedly not.

Right, so Bob drove those of us with the least luggage to the opening ceremonies while the camper went on to luggage drop off (a complex process of which I know nothing). The cermony site would have been pretty hard to miss: Big pink blown up… I dunno, monolith-y looking things with inspiring sayings and advertising slogans. There was an enormous free-standing stage with a booming sound system. Most of all, there were women everywhere. A swarm, a flood, an avalanche of women, all wearing essentially the same costume: Camelbaks, fanny packs, big ol’ sneakers, and something pink.  I think it was against the rules to be pinkless.

We all gathered in a holding pen in front of the stage for the opening ceremonies, which consisted of speeches clearly intended to make us cry (Stacey will be glad to know that I did not cry, mostly because I was busy analyzing the rhetorical structure of the speeches) and tributes to breast cancer survivors, who did make me well up. A little.  (One of the women up on the stage was our team leader, Vikki. Go Vikki!)

I realize that this is all sounding a bit dismissive, and I really wish I could wax rhapsodic about this thrilling moment, but truly, I just kept thinking: “How much does all of this cost?” I understand that you can’t raise money without spending some money, and that getting people excited about a cause is really important. I don’t know, I don’t have an answer to that, it ust seemed really incongruous, obvious, the kind of problem that the many, many people smarter than I should have been able to solve.

And before I shake off my completely unwarranted snarkiness, I just want to tell you one more thing so I can get it out of my system. Woo. Woooo. “WOOOOOOOOOOO!” This is what we say, we… Americans?  Western Worlders? when we wish to approve or encourage en masse. We say “WOOOOOOOOOOO!” And when we are, or are watching, a large group of women walking 60 miles we say, and hear, it A LOT. By the end of the second day I was completely over “WOOOOOOOOOOO!” and by the middle of the third day I was praying for a slingshot. 

Right, I banish all snarkiness to describe the rest of day 1, which began with the opening ceremonies crowd leaving the holding area and starting the walk.  I was near the front of the stage so I was one of the first ones out, but I hadn’t been able to find my team at the ceremonies, so I waited at the end of the guide ropes so I’d see them when they came by. It was really gratifying to see how happy they were to see me (aw, shucks…) and we all set off together. 

We didn’t stay together for long, though.  Vikki, our fearless leader, has asthma and doesn’t walk as fast as many of the others of us.  Christina and Jen are… insane, that’s what they are.  Zhoomp! Zhoomp! Zhoomp! and they are gone, daddy, gone. I managed to keep up with the middle pack until…

OK, I was originally going to leave this out. Because it is incredibly embarassing, and a whole bunch or people spent time helping me who could have been being useful to someone else, etc. But here we go.

Backstory: On my first actual Mother’s Day, after our daughter was born, Chris gave be a necklace, an abstract of a mother and child, you’ve probably seen them around but thought to yourself “pretty, but it seems to be missing a certain resonance, a certain incandescence, a certain… je ne sais quois. ” Yes, well, that’s because MINE has all of that. I wear it every day, I only take it off when I have to, and so I made a reasonable assumption on that day that it would be there. 

As we were walking along, I pulled out my sunscreen to reapply it to my neck and shoulders. As I went to put it on my neck, I did what I always do, I ran my fingers up along the chain of the necklace to push it around to the back of my neck so I wouldn’t get sunblock goo all over it.

About 50 yards later, I reached up to pull my necklace back down — and it wasn’t there. I stopped and started looking frantically around, my teammates came back and asked what was up.  I said they should keep going, that I needed to look. Which I did, explaining my predicament to other women along the way, all of whom were amazingly kind and very sympathetic to the loss of a special “Mommy” necklace. If that’s not enough, two of the safety bikers (who ride up and down the route, help us through tricky intersections, make sure we’re ok, etc.) were riding up and down this 50-yard span looking for my mythical necklace.

The rest of the day, this is on my mind. I’m bothering people at the pit stops, I’m making people check lost n’ founds, blah blah blah. (I think you see where this is going…)

Anyway, I have now lost my girls, and I show up at lunch at just about the time everyone else is packing up to leave.  I do manage to find Stalker Bob and Vikki. Vikki is lying on her back with one leg up — there is some injury.  Bob mentions that everyone else had gong on ahead and Vikki has no one to walk with, so I of course said “Oh, I’ll walk with Vikki.” And Bob said “You don’t mind?” Which didn’t seem unusual at the time; “no, of course not!”

So this is a tricky subject, because it has not one thing to do with walking with Vikki, a lovely experience in and of itself. It has only to do with walking at a pace that is not your own, which is a difficult thing to do.  If you’re going too fast, after a while your body adjusts, or it says, “Hey! Piss off!” and drops back.  If you’re walking too slowly, you lose your momentum, that little push that keeps you going. It’s discouraging. Again, lest anyone misunderstand, none of this has anything to do with the lovely Vikki, who was wonderful company throughout.

So I was really dragging when we hit about 14 miles — we were told by the safety sweeps that we were NOT the last walkers on the route.  There were two others behind us. We decided not to be demoralized by the fact that they were part of an Extreme Ironing team trying to press 10 shirts per mile.

Well, Vikki got to feeling pretty shaky.  She kept saying “Well, I’ll make it to the next grab n’ Go, I’ll just make it to the next pit stop.”  This was my first walk with Vikki, so I didn’t know how unbelievable it was when she leaned against a lamppost and said, “OK, that’s it.” 

The safety gal called a sweep van, and Stalker Bob followed. We said we’d meet at camp (SB had offered to give me a ride home.) I struck off on my own, feeling full of vim and/or vigor… for about another mile or so.

I had been getting chills off and on since lunchtime, thinking nothing or them because so many many kind people along the route set up their sprinklers so that we could walk through the spray, so I was frequently wet.  But as I went along this next bit, I started to feel chilled all the time. The heat (which at some points hit 100 degrees) started to feel good. I started politely refusing shots from peoples’ hoses.  At a crosswalk, I asked one of the safety bikers: “Uh, I feel cold, What does that mean?” And she said “That means you’re going to sit down in the shade over there while I call a van to take you back to camp.”  Oh. I see.

While we waited for the van, we talked about what this possibly could be. It wasn’t dehydration, as I’d drunk more water than there was in Noah’s Floody Floody. It wasn’t all the way to heat stroke, because at that point I’d be incoherent or something.  It was just heat exhaustion, which sounds like a really lame reason to miss the last 5.something miles of the race. So, sorry, complete failure.

 Next installation: Day 2, way much more fun