Monday, September 29, 2014

The State of the Union

Don't mind the political nature of the title of this post. ...  My couch and I have been spending a lot of time with my friends in The West Wing this month. (I'm about seven episodes from the end of the series. ... I can't say any more than that, because I'll probably start to cry about it. Again.)

But for real... here's what's going on in my world:

Lots of TV watching. Usually because I'm too tired to do more than sit/lie/fall asleep in a sitting position on my couch... but sometimes because I wake up in the middle of the night with a busy brain and can't go back to sleep.

Lots of crying. ... See the statement above about how I keep waking up in the middle of the night with a busy brain. I happen to live in a body that needs 8 hours of sleep to function. ... And I haven't had a solid 8 hours of sleep on the reg since, oh... August. (I did get a solid 10 hours Saturday night. - Thank you double dose of Ativan combined with two Tylenol PM! - Which gave me hope that maybe I'd be in actual control of my emotions yesterday. Uh, no. No, I was not in any kind of control. And if you don't believe me, feel free to ask my sweet little 6 year old niece, Hazel. The poor kid was sitting on my lap in church when I could not get it together. Shoot. Me. Now.)

Lots of weird little projects. (Walk-in closet cleaned out? Check. Kitchen towels organized in the hall closet? Check. All hot pads washed and mended where hot bacon grease may or may not have incinerated entire sections of yarn? Also, check.) See statements above about the busy brain. My options, when my brain is this busy, are to either make my hands just as busy as my brain is... or to sit on the floor and cry. Sometimes, I get a lot accomplished. Sometimes, I don't.

Here's the thing: I am tired. More tired than I think I have ever been. (And, kids, I have been tiiiiii-red.) This has been the busiest month, bar none, of my life. Which, truly, I think has been a good thing... because without all the stuff that's been keeping my hands busy, I'm afraid that my super-active brain would have imploded on itself and killed me on the spot. But still, I am tired.

So tired that I can't handle talking on the phone, unless I'm driving at the same time. ... Because I need the distraction of driving to keep myself from bursting into tears. So tired that I still haven't counted the cash from the bake sale/Jester'Z fundraiser of last week. (Seriously. I haven't even unzipped the bag it's been sitting in. On my table. For almost a week.) So tired that I honestly considered sleeping on my closet floor on Saturday, because I wasn't sure that I had the energy to pick myself up and put myself to bed.

If it wasn't so laughable, how tired I am, it would be pathetic. I mean, I'm so tired right now that my gums are swollen and my teeth hurt, which is a new low, even for me. (It's awesome that I think that's funny, right?!)

The good news is... (drum roll, please) Dr. G fought a good fight with my insurance company, and I'm scheduled to have my radioactive injection on Thursday.

The PET is Thursday morning at 7:00, and I'll get results on Friday around 10:00.

And as much as I am a leery of getting the results (at this point... and trust me when I say that I've thought of and through ALL of the possible scenarios here - usually in the middle of the night... there really isn't a scenario/treatment plan/surgical option that I'm a fan of), I am hopeful that once I have concrete information as to what's causing the cramping on my left side, I'll be able to sleep. For at least six hours. And then maybe the swelling in my gums will go down and I'll be able to smile a whole smile. (A girl can dream, right?)

Until then, I have six and a half episodes of TWW to get through. (Yeah, I've watched a good half an episode while I've been typing. Remember how I told you I have to multitask, or I cry? Case. In. Point.)

As always, more details will come as I have them. For now, I just wanted to check in with ya'll (I thought maybe it was time to talk about more than the Neon... and no, I still don't have an answer there, the latest is that they'll have final word by Friday this week) and let you know that while I am one tired girlie, I am still kicking. I may not be answering my phone or making any unnecessary public appearances, due to lack of social (or any other kind of) energy, but I'm hanging in there. I'm grateful that it's FINALLY scan week, and am super hopeful that the (okay, my) hyper emotional insanity is about to end.

Friday, September 26, 2014

This is what happened this morning...


That's right, the Neon got towed away.

Now, before you get all excited, thinking the saga of the flooded car has come to an end, please let me assure you that we are SO not at the end of this story.

Here's where we are as of now: (buckle up, because you might fall off your chair when you read this), my ins co thinks the car is salvageable. Even BETTER, they think the value of the car is around $4,400. (Sure it is. It's a 2001 Neon with 160K miles. It blue books at $2500. But whatev.)

Anyway... the cost to replace the seats (cushions and upholstery) and flooring is around $2800. So, this morning the car was towed to a body shop. If there's anything electric (like that car HAS electric ANYTHING) that would bump the cost to repair closer to the estimated value of the car, it could go back to being totaled.

My life.

The Neon being totally out of commission was, pretty much, the one thing I thought was a guarantee in my life right now. I guess The Universe is out to teach me a lesson on making assumptions...

Hopefully, I'll know more by Monday. (Which will be the three week anniversary of The Flood.  Ha!)


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2,000 Words

Tonight was the Jester'Z fundraiser. It was everything I had hoped for, and more. (Not only did we sell out... WE SOLD OUT BY 3:00 IN THE AFTERNOON!)

I'd love to stay up and tell you all about it, but I'm too tired for words (typing them, speaking them... thinking them). And then it hit me that I could use a couple pics to show you the current state of my very tired union.

If a picture's worth 1,000 words, well then... let's give you 2,000!

This is my kitchen.

It is a MESS.

Judy taught me to always clean up as I go when I'm baking. I haaaaaaate to see dirty dishes on a counter, and don't even mention the egg carton. (That's right, I have TRASH on my counter!)

And yet... it's been like this for DAYS. Because I'm tired to clean it up. 


And then there are these bad bous.

Do you know whose hand this is?! ... MINE!!!

I know, I look like a homeless person.


This is how tired, I am people: I have trash on my kitchen counter and chipped nail polish. And I'm going to bed in this state

*Note the time of this post actually hitting the www: I started it last night, fell asleep while the pics were uploading... and then finished this morning. Today, MAYBE I'll do some dishes or paint my nails (oh, and tell ya'll about the Jester'Z fundraiser). Then again, maybeI'll take a nap. Only time'll tell...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Stilllllll waiting

The insurance adjuster came out to look at the Neon yesterday. (I know this, because he was kind enough to call and let me know that he was rolling my windows up so it wouldn't re-flood during yesterday's torrential downpour. Never mind that the first time the car flooded, the windows were all rolled up. And that the insurance company is who told me to leave all the windows rolled down in the first place. ... Oh, and that the damage has already been done.)

As per the insurance adjuster, the car is most likely totaled. (He can't make the actual decision. It's his job to assess the damage against the estimated value of the car, then he sends the numbers back to the claims dept, and THEY make the official call.) But - and there's no surprise here - to quote the man, "the cost to replace the seat cushions and floor boards would exceed the value of the car".

(Insert raucous laughter here.)

That's right... even if the flood didn't wipe out my engine, the car isn't worth the cost of replacing the FOAM (okay, and upholstery) of four seat cushions.

But the insurance company still has to rule.

It's Thursday morning and I need to hear from them by 5:00 tomorrow, otherwise I'll keep the Jeep through the weekend. (Fingers crossed, because I freaking LOVE driving that bad boy!) Given that it took over a week to get someone out to look at the Neon is helping me feel pretty confident that I'll be driving my (free) high-riding 4x4 until Monday. Wahoo!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

So, here's the latest on the Neon...

There isn't one.

True story.

When I talked to my insurance company Tuesday morning, they asked if they could leave my car where it was instead of towing it to a body shop. The reason being that, with the influx of claims in the Phoenix metropolitan area, they didn't know how soon a shop would be able to look it over... and if (just laughed out loud at having used the word "if") the car ended up being totaled, there was a good chance they'd have to pay tow fees + storage fees at a shop, and then tow it again to be destroyed.

Because I really didn't care where my soppy little car was sitting, I told them that was fine with me.

On Tuesday, I was told that everything should be resolved by Friday.

(Insert maniacal laughter here.)

On Friday, I called the insurance company to get an update on my claim and was told that the adjuster hasn't made it out yet... but they believe he'll be here either Monday or Tuesday, and everything should be resolved on Wednesday.

(My gut says it'll be the end of the week before I have anything concrete.)

The good news? I have been paying for comprehensive coverage on my 2001, and that covered a rental. So, I do have something to drive for as long as I need it. (Yay for that extra $60 a year that I've been forking out for full coverage. It's paid off, just with the savings of a rental for the last week!)

And the fact that it's taking for-freaking-ever to get a solid answer from the insurance company has afforded me time to spend time at dealerships test driving cars against each other to determine which car I really like the best.

Here's a true story: After spending HOURS at dealerships on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon/evening, I was feeling particularly sorry for my sad little self. What with my back hurting because I'd been moving around too much, and my head hurting because I'd been dealing with some pretty special sales people, I drove home thinking, "This is the worst possible timing to have to be doing this."

And then, like a lightening bolt from the sky, it hit me that this wasn't actually "the worst possible timing" to have to be doing this. That, right now, I can qualify for financing, because I'm working full time and can provide pay stubs. That, right now, I do have the strength (barely, but it IS there) to walk car lots and get in and out of multiple cars in a day. That, if I went backwards OR forwards even six weeks in my life, it's unlikely that I'd be able to do either of those things.

It turns out that this freak flooding accident that happened in my parking lot came at EXACTLY the right time.

Don't get me wrong, I am still hoping and praying that the Neon pulls through. I'd reeeeeeeeeally rather not have a car payment, especially as I don't know what next month's scan will bring. But if an act of God is what made the car die... I have full confidence that He'll also help me figure out a way to pay for a new car, if that's what I need to do. And now, thanks to many hours, spread over multiple days, on three different dealerships' lots, I know what I want. And I know I'll be able to qualify for a loan and pick up a new car in one day... if it comes to that. Isn't that lucky?

Monday, September 8, 2014

When it rains, it pours.

The Neon may well have met its watery grave today...


Only time (and the body shop's estimated cost of repairs) will tell.

We had a record-breaking rain here in Maricopa county last night.

For real.


That was the I-10 this morning.

To clarify, the pic of the Neon is in my own parking lot. Not only did I not hit the freeway in my little car... I couldn't get IN it, my own self, to move it from where I'd parked last night. This pic was taken this afternoon, when I got home from work. The water was about 1/3 up the doors this morning, and had flooded the inside of the car up to the top of the seats. (My one regret about this day is that I didn't get a good pic of the inside of my car this morning, while there was still a river running through it.)

I've called my insurance company. Filed an "Act of God" claim. Got transferred to the Catastrophe Team (seriously, that's a DEPARTMENT at State Farm!). I picked up a rental tonight on my way home from work. (God bless Joshua and his truck for... once again... coming to my rescue. He dropped me off at the bank on his way to work, and helped me get to Hertz on his way home. I seriously don't know what I would have done without him!) Tomorrow morning, my car will be towed to the shop and they will determine whether it'll cost more to fix my car than it's worth. (Honestly, my thoughts are that it would probably cost more to clean my car than it's worth. The water that dude's been sitting in all day is pretty grody. Oh, and I think he's probably worth about $300.)

I'm not sure how to feel.

On the one hand, that car's been sooooo good to me. For the last 13 years. So, I hate to see it go.

On the other, I've been driving that car FOR THE LAST 13 YEARS. (And it's been literally a pain to get into and out of since my first tumor. It's so low to the ground that I practically have to fall into it. ... And getting out is, I am not kidding you, a seven-point maneuver that usually ends in a grimace and/or an expletive.) So, I'd love to replace it with something that's higher from the ground. My sad little body's had it with the 4-door sedan.

My emotions have run the gamut today.

I've been cracking up laughing, all day long, about the river that was running through my car this morning. I actually think it's SO funny that so much damage could get done overnight, in a parking lot, by rain. IN THE DESERT.

As much as I'd love to have a reason to buy a new car... it also makes me want to throw up to think about adding another expense to my life when... frankly, it's already pretty expensive.

I've decided to pray that the Neon will make it. If only because I'm pretty sure my medical expenses are going to take another nose dive in the next couple months... and I'd really rather NOT be out another $200-$300 a month for a car payment in the foreseeable future.

As much as I'd really like one of those cute little baby-sized SUV's, I'd really rather keep my crazy old car that's been paid for for almost a decade...

Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Recommended Reading

For those of you who may not have seen this on my Facebook... I think the "My Cancer is Worse Than Your Cancer?" article is too great not to repost it. Click here to be taken to the article..

As anyone who comes here often knows, I am a sarcoma patient (liposarcoma).

For any of you who've ever wondered what causes this type of cancer and why it has such a high recurrence and mortality rate, this article explains it well. Simply put, it's such a rare cancer (1% of adult cancer diagnoses and 15% of children cancer diagnoses), that there isn't much funding to research it or find a cure.

I'm lucky, in that I have liposarcoma, which has the lowest mortality rate among sarcoma cancers. The young man in the video had osteosarcoma.

Some of you know that my doctors wanted to watch tumor #3 grow, so they could see what it would do. For many, that is a horrifying thought - to keep malignant a tumor inside a person, to monitor growth. For me, it was a chance to contribute something to the cause, to possibly help them understand what happens inside my body. Sadly, #3 didn't grow (and #4 snuck in while they weren't looking and needed immediate removal), so they couldn't learn much. But I would do it again, in a heartbeat.

I am grateful for any exposure that sarcoma can get. This article is incredibly well-written (by a survivor!), and the video is truly moving. If you have a few minutes, please take the time to sit down and read/watch this.

Life is precious.

And much like the author of the article, I am grateful that cancer has helped me learn how to truly LIVE mine.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cousin Christie's Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

As some of you may recall, my sweet little cousins, Elly and Cami, were the brainchildren behind a bake sale fundraiser that my Utah County family threw for me this summer.

Cousin Christie (aka: The Hardest Working Woman I Know) was called in at the 11th hour and asked if she could bake bread.

And bake bread, she did. Roughly five or six dozen loaves. In one day. (I told you. She's super-human!)

And, I'm here to tell you.. I've had multiple bake sale customers talk to me about her poppy seed bread.

By all accounts, the lemon poppy seed bread was joyous to the soul and desirable above all other breads. (Yeah, so I just threw a little scriptural reference in there. Because I believe in likening the scriptures in all things. ... And also because I really have heard AMAZING things about this bread. ... Oh, right. And because I crack myself right up when I talk like a Mormon.)

Anyhoo...

Like I said, the bread was, basically, "most sweet, above all that anyone had before tasted" and "the greatest of all the gifts..."

So I thought I'd post the recipe here. You know, for the folks who've asked who made that bread - and how. And also for my own self, because I can't seem to keep track of a single piece of paper around here. (But, somehow, I can pull a recipe up on my phone in a matter of seconds. ... God bless the labels section of ye olde blog, because it gives me almost immediate access to all kinds of gems. Yea, even those gems that are precious above all.)

That said... without further ado (and before I get myself struck with lightening), I give you...

Cousin Christie's Poppy Seed Bread

1 lemon or yellow boxed cake mix
1 (3 oz) pkg instant lemon pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 Tab poppy seeds
3 Tab flour

Throw it all in a bowl. Beat with mixer for 3 minutes. *Bake at 350 in 2 regular loaf pans or 1 bundt pan for 40-50 minutes, until toothpick comes out cleanly.

*Foot note: I'm assuming these are greased pans, because this is basically a cake. Her instructions didn't specify the greasing of the pan... but you know me. I'm never one to shy away from extra butter. Anywhere, or on anything. I'd butter those bad boys up before I poured the batter in!

And now that the recipe has been revealed, I suggest that ye hold fast to the ingredients as they have been handed down from the house of Ball. Listen not to those jeering from the great and spacious house of "clean eating". Be ye not afraid of processed foods, for the people of Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker and Jello are a blessing in our busy lives. And thus we see that, at times, we must depart from the ways of whole foods and partake of the boxed mixes, that we might find joy.

Now, go forth. Bake. Be joyous, and share the fruits of thine labors with those whom ye love.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My new favorite thing

One of the perks of my weirdie post-operative diet is that sometimes I discover new things that I love.

Things like (drumroll, please)...



That's right. Chocolate almond milk.

Back in the days when my belly was anti-dairy, I saw the carton of Silk dark chocolate almond milk in the refrigerated dairy case in the WalMart and I thought "How bad can it be?"

Answer: Not bad. Not bad AT ALL.

I mean... I think I may love this stuff as much as I love BYU Creamery's chocolate milk. (Which is saying something. Because I'd marry BYU Creamery's chocolate milk. In the temple. Which is to say that I would commit to drinking this stuff for time and all eternity. And that's a lot of love.)

A few weeks into my recent addiction to chocolate almond milk, I saw the carton of Blue Diamond chocolate almond milk in the store and I thought I'd give that a shot. (I mean, I used to looooooove the Blue Diamond brand of roasted/smoked almonds that I would sneak out of my mom's underwear drawer when I was a kid. Blue Diamond KNOWS almonds. I know this. So, I figured it would be delish.)

Luckily, I still had a little Silk brand milk in ye olde refrigerator, so when I came home I was able to do a not-so blind taste test. (When a girl lives alone and she is the only one who can pour said milk into glasses, it's hard to be truly blind. But still, I made an effort to be exact and non-partial. ... Ya'll know how much I love science and try to be as accurate as possible in taste-test matters.)

And the survey says: While the Blue Diamond brand is not disgusting, the Silk brand kicks its trash.

So, fellow fans of chocolate milk, I've gotta say that *I fully endorse the Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk.

I am never without it these days. (Seriously. I have a half gallon in my fridge at home. I also have a half gallon in the fridge at the bank, labeled, so everyone knows it's mine.) And the carton says that this stuff has twice the calcium of regular milk. So, it's basically health food -- that tastes like chocolate. Win/win!

* That said, it is my understanding that the quality of the product in the half gallon container far exceeds the quality of the product in the single-serving containers. As in so many areas of life, the slogan "Go big or go home!" applies here.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

One month later

On July 30th, I wrote a status report. It's been a month, so I figured it was time to write one again.

So, here ya go...

I'm okay.

Seriously, I am.

I mean... I'm tireder than I'd like to be. But I still feel better than I have in recent months, so I'll take it.

I take two Tylenol PM every night between 7:00 and 8:00, and I go to bed (by which I mean: fall asleep on the couch, watching The West Wing) between and 8:00 and 9:00. Most mornings, I pound two more Tylenol as soon as I wake up (because everything inside of me shifts when I sleep on my side, and it hurts like the devil), but... that's it. I am no longer watching the clock to pop a couple pills every six hours. Really, I'm down to Tylenol twice a day most days. So, that's a win.

I can walk a whole mile now. Some days, even a mile and a half. (Depending on whether I want to walk for 30 or 45 minutes in the 100+ degree heat. ... Yes, it takes me half an hour to walk a mile. Don't judge!) This morning, was my seventh consecutive mile-or-more walk a day, and I cannot even tell you how happy it makes me that I'm able to walk - on the streets - again. I had to re-learn how to walk this time on a treadmill, and it was brutal. This has been the weirdest surgery recovery ever, in that I've struggled with nausea and other weirdie stomach issues... which made it harder to be physically active. Ten weeks later, I haven't felt like I was going to puke for a week. And I'm walking around the block again. Sans earbuds, holding only a bottle of water... I don't even take my phone with me, because I want to be able to see and hear everything out there. I love it!

I've had several people texting/calling/dropping by to ask what's new.

Uh... Nothing. "Nothing" is the answer to, "What's new?".

My guess is that people are looking for an update, because most cancer patients meet with their doctors more than every 60-90 days. (And, I'm pretty sure that my visits will increase in the semi-near future.) As of now, we're still on the wait-until-October-and-then-we'll-do-a-PET-to-see-what's-going-on-in-there plan. I don't actually have that scan scheduled yet, but I'm guessing that'll go on the books in the next week or two. Which means that I have another five or so weeks of blessed ignorance. (It's true, what they say: Ignorance IS bliss!)

So, I'll keep walking (albeit slowly) around the block, eating peanut M&M's like they're vitamins, and chain-watching TV (God bless whoever came up with the idea of Netflix streaming, for real!) as I ease myself back into working full time and living my life.

Life is good.

I may be slow - okay, let's be honest... I've been slower - but I am moving. My strength is constantly improving. I may not see it in the day to day, but I'm still seeing markers on a weekly basis of things I can do that I couldn't do the week before. I never cease to be amazed at what the human body can endure and recover from (and I think I have a sort of lame body... just imagine what some of YOUR bodies could do!). I'm tired, so I'm not blogging as much, or appearing in public as often, but I'm here. And I'm alright. I promise.