Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wonders of Not Commuting

I worked from home today. The kids had a snow day, I had no meetings, and I have a cold. So I kept my germs to myself and worked from my bedroom.

The cool thing is that after working a nine hour day, I had time to get to my son's school to set up his science fair project (I was the taxi, he did the work of course). Boy that was fun. I loved looking at all the projects. My favorite explained that phosphorus is the stuff that glows in black light. They had a black light set up on a box with various objects in the box. Some glowed, some didn't. There was a bowl of detergent you could dip you hands in, then put your hands through holes in the box to see the glowy splashes where the detergent was on your hands. They also suggested that you put a $10 or $20 bill in to see the strip glow. Cool!

We went from there to the education store to get some division/multiplication supplies. I found flash cards in the form of wheels that have one side with the muliplication facts, the other side has division. I also got a book of exercises, and this neat tool that looks like a pile of big plastic keys with string. Each key represents one set, you know 1s, 2s, 3's. You start by putting the string through a groove for the first number, then go over the front to put the string through the groove for the answer. When you are all done, you flip it over and plastic guides show if your string ended up in the right place. I really like it!

Then we came home and I made dinner with the kids, we cleaned up the dishes and I was supposed to go to the belly dancing class that the city is offering. My friend that I wanted to go with didn't call me and I don't feel all that great, so I stayed home instead. My son and I did math exercises that used all of the tools that I bought. Then I took a bath (Eucalyptus to help my poor stuffy nose), finished an issue of Smithsonian, and had time to sit and watch Battlestar Galactica with the kids.

I had so much time!

Under the Weather

We've had a lot of snow and ice over the last couple of weeks.

We had rain and snow yesterday, and a little more snow last night, so my kids have yet another snow day.

And I have a cold. The first time that I've been sick since last spring. I think that is a miracle. When I was going through treatments, I was still working and going into the office one or two days a week. I fully expected that some time during all that exhausted immune compromised time, I would catch something. Not so. Once again, I'm left feeling lucky.

And I'd much rather have a run of the mill cold than the flu that has been going around the office. I've been coming down with it since Saturday. It was only last night that I could tell it really is a cold and not just a temporary sore throat and congestion from teaching so much lately.

I've arranged for my son's driver's test to take place on the 4th. And yesterday I learned how to make my own ring tones for my phone from any MP3 file. A friend at work taught me how! It's fun! Good, clean, total geek ball fun.

I've lost a little weight too! Yeah!! That's pretty astonishing considering that I have not exercised (except for dancing) at all for weeks. It bugs me that I'm having trouble pulling that part of my life back together again.

I'm going downtown after work tomorrow with two of my friends. We are going to go do a little shopping (it is Saks beauty event time again), then go out to dinner. There is nothing like having some good friends who share your pathetic addictions! LOL

I'm starting to get pretty excited about my birthday coming up next week. I'm just looking forward to going out to eat, having cake, you know, just celebrating in general. I also think turning 45 is a respectable milestone, so is your first birthday after facing a health crisis. All good reasons to gather around all the people you love and make a big deal out of it!

Oh yeah, and I forgot to tell you what a friend at work did for me on Monday. I had a meeting come up off site. It thought it was going to be an hour long. Wrong. It was two hours and it ran late. I finally had to leave since I had a webex to teach. So I ran into work, running late, knowing I had to prepare for the class and that I would have to skip lunch. I hate skipping lunch. I hate rushing. I hate feeling unprepared.

Well, when I got to my desk, my friend was standing there with a hot bowl of soup. She was sharing her lunch with me! She had chicken soup that her Mom had made. I had hummus to share too. And she had already done the preparation for the class for me! So all I had to do was slurp that soup, down in record time, gather my laptop and stuff and run to the class room. I ran into another friend on the way there, and he helped me carry all my stuff. I was still a total mess because I hate to be rushed like that for a class. I had the shakes pretty bad for the rest of the afternoon just from adrenaline (and maybe not enough calories). I wish I was one of those people who can just remain calm no matter what. I've really been working on that lately and so far, I gotta say, I have not seen any progress. Of course, maybe yelling at myself to relax doesn't help either! LOL

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wonderful Weekend

Yesterday was the perfect day.

First I went to get a massage. The therapist that I see has all of her services listed on her website (www.nitarosemassage.com if you are curious). The week before my appointment, I go browse the site and pick one. I have been doing the Indian medicinal massages, but this time I was drawn to something called Lomi Lomi. It's Hawaiian and it sounded restorative.

Well, that was one of those lucky accidents, because just like the other things I have tried there, this was the right thing at the right time. Lomi Lomi is sacred massage to help you get through life transitions. It is ceremonial and designed to bless you and help you "die" to your past, and be "reborn" to face your future. If ever there was a time I needed to let go of the past this would be it. I spent the time there consciously letting go of myself as a sick person and letting go of myself as grieving friend. I think I really needed to do that. I think our society underestimates the power or ceremony and the power of deliberate intention, and I am so glad that I found a soothing, supportive ceremony to help me conciously move on.

So, that was my morning.

I got home in time to realize that my youngest was 15 minutes late to a lazer tag birthday party (ooops, I thought it was at 2:15, not 12:15). My husband and I raced to get him there. He got there in time for pizza, but missed one round of lazer tag. He was pretty upset about that until the hosts gave him some game tokens and he started winning lots of tickets.

So my husband and I left him there with his friends and we went to lunch just the two of us. We ended up at a little Greek place. We split a Greek salad with gyros (my husband it vegan so I got all the gyros), vegetable soup and fries. I ate a ton and was instantly sleepy. By the time we finished, it was time to pick our son up. After we got home, I took a nap! For two hours! A massage and a nap! Both in the same day! What could possibly make a day like that even better? Well, dancing of course.

So our oldest son drove us an hour and a half north for a dance to raise funds for the Tacumseh Land Trust. This was killing two birds with one stone. We wanted to go to the dance since it featured our favorite caller and one of our favorite bands, we haven't been to Yellow Springs in years, so we were looking forward to seeing how it has changed, and our son still needs a few more hours for his driving log so he can get his license. He drove the whole way and back, so he only needs a few more minutes today and he is done with his log! Yeah! We started teaching him to drive when I was still doing chemo and trying to get his hours in was like moving through molasses. I thought we would never get it done! Ah, it feels so good to make progress on this! Now I just need make the call to his driving school next week to get him scheduled to take his driver's test.

The other benefits of going to that particular dance were supporting the fund which preserves agricultural land and restores barns in Ohio, and the crowd. Quiet of few of the Cincinnati dance regulars were there, but of the 150 or so who showed up, I would say more than half were first timers, many of them in their 60's and above. I made a point of asking the people who looked the most lost to dance so I could teach them the moves. One man had to be in his 80's and he was having so much fun! His face just lit up and when we spun he would say "wheee!". As I went up and down the line, I kept running into people who were saying "wow, this is fun!". So that really made the trip worthwhile.

Today, my knees are a bit sore (gymnasium floor, not hardwood, and I haven't been dancing much so I'm out of practice) and I have a sore throat and some congestion from teaching so much last week. I'm taking little rests in between doing chores.

We have had snow today and for a little while we had my favorite snow in the world. Here are my rules for the best snow:

We all have to be home
I have to be in bed under a comforter, looking out my bedroom window into the back yard
The flakes have to be big, fat, and fluffy and drifting down in the lazy, whirly style that I call "snow globing".

One other good thing. My memory is coming back more and more. I still pause a lot when I talk (especially if I'm tired) because I'm searching for the right word. Probably a good thing really since I used to talk pretty rapid fire and this has forced me to slow down. But just today, I was able to remember the name (names have been particularly difficult for me to recall) of a man that I worked with 6 years ago and the name of his wife. I was also able to remember which cookbook had my favorite recipe for Garlic Broth. This is a wonderful soup that I enjoy anyway, but I also use medicinally. All that garlic just has to be restorative, I figure.

The funny thing about that recipe is that I started to think I should go looking for it this week, then today I get an e-mail from a dear friend asking if I happen to remember that recipe since she wants to make it for her sick daughter. I went straight to the right cookbook. Yeah!!

I recently read Stephen King's new book, Duma Key. I won't give the whole story away here, but the protagonist of the story has an accident that affects his ability to recall. Stephen King did a great job of describing how scary and frustrating it is to have your mind not work the way that is used to. I really enjoyed reading it. I took some comfort in seeing someone else struggle with something that I'm experiencing too. And like the bladder infection in the "Green Mile" story, this character's physical condition is so much a part of the story that it really is another character. That is one of the reasons that I keep reading Stephen King even though I'm not really into horror, he is one amazing story teller and he really has a gift for making believable and memorable characters. By the way, his wife is an excellent story teller too. If you ever get the chance, read "Pearl" by Tabitha King.

Friday, February 22, 2008

She Works Hard For the Money (apologies to Donna Summer)

Well, I have to say that it is still hard. Not impossible, but hard.

The real world wants me back at 150%. I'm still at about 80%.

The kids need me for science fair projects, birthday parties, rides to activities, and oh yah, three meals a day.

My work has returned to the usual complete frenzy. I have classes to teach, books to write (each with a deadline looming), new features to learn for our latest release, a difficult presentation to prepare for our user's group meeting in May, and up to 10 hours of meetings a week regarding software development projects. While it is great to be back in the thick of things, to be needed, to be productive, the daunting hours, long commute and sheer volume of work are overwhelming. Add that to losing Mike. Geez the last five weeks or so have been brutal.

Not to mention the weather this week. We had snow and ice earlier in the week, and last night I had a two and a half hour journey home through heavy snow and ice. My car was encased in a sheath of ice by the time I pulled into the garage and my windshield wipers could not reach the glass any more since they were both totally coated in their own blocks of ice. Considering how bad the roads were, I am amazed I got home that quickly. Trips like that have taken me over four hours in the past. The new car got me home safe (handles great in the snow and ice, God Bless front wheel drive!) and my new direct iPod connection was just perfect. Having good tunes made the trip go by fast. I also had a lot of friends and family call. We were all checking on each other to make sure we all got home safe. Everyone did.

What I do it the best I can. I take it day by day. I try to balance my physical needs with my work and family obligations. I'm not sure I'm doing the best at that. I can't remember the last time I worked out. I do have a massage tomorrow and I do still see my healer every month. I dropped acupuncture. No time for it, and the need to save some money somewhere.

To try to drink enough water, I kept a big bottle of Pellegrino next to me each day in class and I made sure it was empty before I went home. That was 25 ounces a day anyway. And it reminded me of Italy which was a bonus. I bought a case at Costco and kept it in the trunk. Made me laugh after there were only a few bottles left in the box. If I hit the brakes, there would be clinking in the truck and it sounded like I had booze back there!

I sleep better than before. I'd say I get two or three good nights a week now. The rest are spent tossing, turning and hot flashing, but at least I get a few good nights in. Sometimes I can even sleep in until after 8 on the weekends. I love it when I wake up late!

Yes, I still hot flash. Less often and less severely than I used to, but I'd say it probably still happens at least 10 times over a 24 hour day. For some reason, it happens a lot as I am starting to fall asleep, and that is one of the reasons why I have trouble sleeping, just when I start to nod, I feel like I'm in an oven.

My energy level is getting so much better now. I made it through working close to 50 hours this week, plus 10 hours or so of commute, plus making dinner and doing dishes by hand every night. Did I tell you? My brand new ultra expensive LG dishwasher broke!! I paid almost a grand for it, got it delivered in late August and it has not worked for WEEKS. It took weeks to get the service guy out. Once he finally did come, he said it had a bad motor. It took another full week to get the part. Now they are supposed to come and repair it next Tuesday. If that repair does the trick, we will have been living without a dishwasher for a solid month. Ridiculous. Learn from me. Don't buy LG, and do buy an extended warranty/service contract for whatever you buy. If I had, H.H. Gregg would have fixed the damn thing by now. Since I didn't I had to go through the manufacturer. They are making the repairs for free, yes, but clearly not in any kind of hurry.

My husband is exhausted too. He is traveling a ton. And when he is home he knocks himself out cooking, grocery shopping and doing laundry so I don't have to do those things on top of everything else.

Still even though I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, when I get a moment to have a little perspective I'm amazed at how far I have come. My last chemo was in August, last radiation in late October. By February I feel much more normal, I can pretty much do anything I want to or need to do, and I act, feel and look so much more like my old self. That's a long way to come in a fairly short time.

My hair is still crazy wacked funky kind of short and curly. Not what I'd pick if I had a choice, but I'm so grateful to have hair that nothing could make me complain.

The sales guy at H.H. Gregg even said he loves short hair on older women. I was cracking up inside because I'm pretty sure he thought he was flirting. If you want to make points, or give a compliment, my advice would be to avoid the phrase "older women" for starts! LOL

Classy Workplace

I was really proud of how my company handled Mike's death. They did so many things right and with dignity.

First, they told each of us in person, an e-mail about it did not go out until each of us had heard it from the Vice President of our division. It had to be hard for him to tell so many people, but he stuck with it and did the right thing.

Next, they cleaned out his cube the next day at 6:30 in the morning so none of us would see them carting his stuff out. I have to admit this was a little disturbing since the next day when we walked in it was like he was never there, but I appreciate what they were trying to do which is not make all of us watch them pack up his stuff.

Our Vice President, almost all of the company's directors from all the divisions and our second highest officer all came to the visitation. I had the opportunity to meet Mike's Mom and she was very touched by how many of Mike's colleagues came. She felt he was really loved and appreciated and she was right.

I could not attend the funeral since I had customers in from Texas for a four day class. That really bothered me. I felt the funeral should take priority over business. But I know that everyone who could attend did.

Next, the company offered grief counseling. I could not attend since I was teaching, but they did offer it and they made sure that I got the handouts when I requested a copy.

Next they sent out an e-mail to our entire customer base. The e-mail explained that Mike had died, gave him glowing praise and asked any customers that had open projects with him contact us so we can make sure nothing gets overlooked.

I am so proud! Management and everyone else went out of their way to handle it with grace and did not flinch from openly showing their appreciation for Mike and their grief at his passing.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lost a Friend

It is 4 in the morning and I am WIDE awake.

Today at work I got called into my Vice President's office.

I could tell when I walked in that something was seriously wrong.

He had to tell me that one of my colleagues died suddenly last night. I completely fell apart. I was shaking and crying. I had a few minutes to hug some friends, then I had to go to meetings, I had to call my team members who were traveling and tell them, and I had to teach an afternoon class. I guess I'm grateful that I had some distractions, but it was so surreal and I kept feeling like I really could not go on, thinking about work things, doing my job, taking care of a client. But I did somehow.

What a shock. His name was Mike. I've worked with him for four years, sat in the cube next to him for two. He was young (mid thirties at most), and one of the wonderful people. Kind, thoughful, smart. A joy to be around, and someone that I truly admired.

I am so sad. Horrified. And oh, I'm angry. This just should not happen. He should have had so much more time. It should not be so quick and easy to lose a whole person. Damn.

I've been through a lot of sorrow and loss lately. You'd think I'd get a little better at it. So far I've seen no evidence that it ever gets easier. I guess maybe it shouldn't.

I called some friends tonight just to hear their voices. I splurged and took the kids to our favorite Japanese restaurant. It's on the expensive side, so we don't go there as often as we would all like. After that I came home, crawled into the tub and downed a lemoncello. I've come to understand the medicinal value of alcohol. Another friend from work was at his house doing the same (uh, drinking, not bathing, as far as I know anyway!), so we texted back and forth for a while just to keep each other company.

Also, when I first came home, my older son had a red carnation for me. There are few things sweeter than one of your kids handing you a flower on Valentine's Day. And my younger one wanted to give me something, so he fed me a piece of pepperoni while I was talking on the phone. Funny the things we do when we want to take care of each other. I don't know why it was important to him to feed me that one piece of pepperoni, but it was, so of course I ate it.

I had e-mailed my huband, and he called me from Finland when he woke up to start his long journey home. I'm very glad he is on his way home and that it is almost the weekend. I really want to just hunker down and be with my family.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Facing Your Annual Review When You've Had Cancer

I'm all done with de-tox. I made it the full 10 days. It was both harder and easier than I expected. I was pretty sick of it by the end, and tired of eating mostly cold foods when it is cold outside. I think it would be much easier to follow in summer time when it is warm out and there are more fruits and veggies to chose from. A ton of nectarines, cherries and apricots would make the diet far more palatable. I am having trouble even facing a banana at this point since I came close to living on the darn things.

I did a little splurging on my first day back to regular eating. I got shredded pork on my Qdoba. Normally, you could not get me to order that - but I sure wanted it this time. I wanted to feel like I had a basketball in my stomach! I ate it all, I was stuffed, and I still ate a chocolate just because I could.

I plan to do it every six months or so. Maybe. We'll just have to see if I stick to that. Uh. I can already feel myself waffling.

I have been in the usual whirlwind. Husband out of the country, youngest son's 11th birthday party, also his science fair project (affect of weight on flight distance) which we finished just under the wire this evening. The photo lady at Walgreens does not know this, but I would have given her ANYTHING to print my three lousy pictures that we needed to finish up his board while I waited. She did it without my having to resort to bribing, pleading, or threatening to set myself on fire right there in front of the photo counter.

I have also been completely, mercilessly slammed at work. All of the others in my department have been traveling, so I am here keeping the home fires burning, attending every meeting, working on every project, answering every customer or internal inquiry. I am worn out.

It is also review time at work. This is ordinarily nerve wracking. It is not easy to stand and be judged even in the best of times. One year, I had a peer put a lot of effort into giving me a terrible review. Fortunately, my boss completely disregarded that feedback and focused on all the other reports which were positive. I am so grateful that she did that, but all the negative stuff still stung. And every year when I go through the process again, I wince and prepare to get reviewed by some other peer who clearly has a problem with me.

Anyway, this year was even more anxiety provoking than years past because of going through cancer and treatments. Yes, it is true that I worked like crazy even during the worst of it. Yes, it is true that I honestly did my best at all times. But if anyone wanted to get mean about it, they could easily mention how little I was in the office, or anything that I might have missed while suffering from exhaustion and chemo brain.

Clearly, I should have been more trusting that the folks I work with were rooting for me, understanding what I was up against, and appreciating all that I did do because I got my review documents this evening and they were glowing.

I am so relieved.

It is very hard to have cancer. It is very hard to go through the treatments. Everyone knows that. What I don't hear people talking about much is how hard it is to be a mother, an employee, a friend, a sibling, a spouse, all the other things you need to be while you go through it. How are you supposed to be a good employee while suffering that much? Where was I supposed to look for a model of how to do this?

So many things were impacted by my illness. I had the worst time facing this review from that perspective. I didn't know how to rate myself (do I do it considering my circumstances and make myself sound super heroic, or am I supposed to measure myself against my usual goals and productivity in which case I missed the mark?) Do I mention it? Is it professional to talk about such a thing on a review document that goes in your file? Crap! I don't know.

In the end, I did not mention it. But my supervisor did and so did all the peers that reviewed me. They did it in a kind and understanding way and they made me feel very appreciated.

Imagine that! The last thing I expected to feel when I reflect back on those hard months is appreciated by my colleagues. Oh, I felt supported all right, a ton of people were so kind. But appreciated for my contributions whatever they were? Nope, wasn't expecting that.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Detox - Day Two

Well, another day down.

Last night, I had vegetable soup, brown rice and stir fried broccoli. It was plenty of food and I ate until I didn't want any more. Wierdest thing though - about ten minutes after I finished - I was starving! I was hungrier after I ate than I was before I had dinner. It passed in about 15 minutes.

This morning I had oatmeal, almonds and blueberries for breakfast. That's what I usually have, only difference now is that it all is organic.

Lunch was cold salad and sushi at Wild Oats (veggie rolls, no fish). Once again, a few minutes after I finished, I was starving. It passed in about 10 minutes this time. Wild Oats had tons and tons of samples out to get people to buy stuff for Super Bowl Sunday. I didn't find it hard to pass all the samples up. Considering that I all but dove into a vat of buffalo chicken dip this time last year, I guess that is quite an improvement! LOL

Then I had my second smoothie for afternoon snack. After that one, I just could not warm up. I guess that would be my biggest complaint so far - I'm tired of so much cold food.

I still have passing headaches, but otherwise, I feel same as ever.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Camp Detox - Day One

Today is my first day on a ten day detox diet.

My chiropractor recommended it. I see it as pressing a big old reset button for my battered liver, kidneys and immune system.

What is it?
Well, I went to orientation and got a tub o' powder and a bottle of supplements. I'm pretty much supposed to live on that and organic fruits, veggies, and brown rice for ten days.

How did I prepare?

A friend of mine bought one of these kits a while ago. Hers is called "The Detox Box". It comes with a booklet, flash cards and two CD's. I read the booklet and the cards and listened to both CD's. The first one gives compelling reasons to try this kind of thing, it was the best explanation of the theory behind it that I've heard. The second one walks you through recommended yoga and breathing. I see value to that, I just don't know how to consistantly make time for it. I'll try though. I didn't do the recommended yoga this morning, but there is still hope that I'll do the night time exercise.

I attended the orientation.

I read the booklet that came with my supplies.

I stopped drinking white tea, my only source of caffeine, at the beginning of this week. I eliminated white flour at the same time. I attempted to eradicate sugar until a guy at work started selling World's Finest chocolate bars for his daughter. What can I say? I ate a whole bar. I'm trying to regret it - but I just can't!

I made a trip to Kroger's late last night to stock up on organic stuff, distilled water, and epsom salts and backing soda for a bath that is recommended.

I made an emergency trip to Remke's this morning when I realized that I didn't have any organic breakfast options.

What was day one like?

Not bad.

This morning, I was in a rush and had little food available, so I had a banana and some organic roasted almonds. That kept me going until I got to the store.

For snack I had a shake with one scoop of the powder, some fiber stuff, water, a banana, and four different kinds of organic frozen berries. It was good.

I have been drinking tons of water.

I had mint tea twice.

I had a "patty" that my husband made me that was made of quinoa, black beans and pine nuts and a slice of some rice based fruit juice sweetened bread like product that I found in the frozen organics section of the store this morning for lunch.

For snack, it was back to a shake with the powder. I forgot to put the banana in. That was a mistake. Turns out that the banana is essential if you don't want to drink gritty fruit water.

In a few minutes, I'm going to go make a veggie soup and have that with brown rice for dinner.

I had a slight headache a couple of times today, and I noticed that I'm getting cold a little easier (not sure if that is due to the food or to the fact that it is ridiculously cold and windy out today).

Otherwise it has been easy. I don't feel hungry or deprived. I feel fine.