Monday, February 20, 2012

A Memory Restored

I've told you about Frank Whittemore. Guy saved my life, and I'm not just saying that. I've been thinking a lot lately. About mortality. About the effect we have on people, and how seemingly small things mean a lot. See, when I got Frank in my life, I also got his family. His sister, Janith, and her kids Brian, Susan, Randy, and David. His daughter, Jana.

I also got his other sister, Doris.

Doris was a wonderful old lady (and she was old, even then) who lived on the corner of 7th and Harrison Blvd, right across the street from the Ben Lomond High School track. She lived with her husband. I always thought his name was Roy (because he owned a car lot called "Roy's Cars and RVs"), but it turns out it was Bruce. Bruce Haun. Bruce and Doris Haun.

All these years, and I've been unable to come up with their last name. I finally posted about it to Facebook because--well, because I'm scared, and all those little things I've thought to put off because I can do it some other time? Maybe I need to do them now. Anyway, I posted an appeal of sorts, and Stacie came through! She said, "Doris was my Grandma's best friend!" Stacie wasn't sure, but she thought the last name was something like "Haan" or "Hawn."

She was so close!

I wandered out to the Ogden City Cemetery site (a great, searchable site--all graveyard sites should be like that! The only thing that would make it perfect is images of each stone!) and found that you can search for a grave by the decedent's FATHER'S last name! I searched "Whittemore," and there was Doris HAUN!

Doris has been dead for 32 years, give or take. I can't thank her now. I can't thank her or Bruce (dead 22 years) for opening their home and hearts to me. For never objecting when I would just show up, unannounced, and take over their lives. Doris would make snacks, she'd bake, she'd have sodas and sweets for me. Sometimes they'd drive me to Arctic Circle or Kosmos for a burger. They'd let me (and sometimes Shawn, Frank's grandson who, tragically, died a few years ago himself) trample through their amazing vegetable garden (it took up an entire home-sized lot) in search of edibles. They even invited Shawn and me on an RV road trip to Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier. My mother nixed the idea, and it was years before I forgave that. As an adult, I understand not wanting your nine or ten year old hitting the road with old folks you don't know. Of course, if my mom had put any effort into knowing anyone, all of our lives might have been different.

Doris and Bruce embraced me, welcomed me, and accepted me for no reason other than they were kind and I was needy. I look back now and realize just how incredibly rare that is. In these awful times, it would seem almost suspect. But I never questioned it.

And I never thanked them. Sure, I said, "Thanks!" on my way out the door, but I never really thanked them. And never had the chance--Doris died while I was in high school--the very school their home faced across 7th Street. I never let them know just how wonderful they were to me.

Let them know, huh? People who've done for you, people who've really made a difference. Tell them. Because "too late" comes a damned sight faster than you ever expect. Promise.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cancer, Cancer Everywhere

No, I don't have an answer here. Saw the Urologist yesterday, one of the Washingtonian's "TOP DOCTORS" for a few years now. A bit chilly, not particularly friendly. Of course, my urogynocologist, also touted as a star in her field, was quite personable, and she totally missed the mass, so maybe personality isn't as important as skill. This guy found the mass with no effort and didn't even have to root around or make me hurt for it.

He says he feels confident it's not a diverticulum. That's in keeping with what my gynecologist (not urogynecologist) said, but he's in a better position to make that determination--he's a urologist, and he's seen the ultrasound results. He seemed lukewarm to the MRI idea, whereas my gyno and GP both want it done. So do I. He wants to do a cystoscopy (I was hoping he'd do it yesterday), and he wants to do it at the hospital so he can do general anesthesia AND do an excision of the mass, too. Get it out and get it to pathology.

That scares the shit out of me.

On the one hand, my brain cries that I want an oncological gynocologist, even though we don't know if this is cancer! On the other hand, this mass, whatever it is, is in the anterior vaginal wall, which means it's right up there with the urethra and bladder. One of the concerns my gyno had was not screwing up and damaging the urinary tract, so the uroligist is my guy, right?


He's got a gang of oncology experience, so he knows how to look for clean margins and keep track of what and where, and that was my concern with my gyno-that she'd be out of her league. So this is a good choice, isn't it?

Is it?


I can't even express how terrified I am, how utterly tharn I've gone. I read and read and read, and nothing makes me feel any calmer or more optimistic. This feels bad, and I am scared half to death.

For now, I guess I hurry up and wait. My GP should be calling tonight so I can discuss this with her--I'm outta my league, maybe she'll have some insight about this approach, right? And then I wait on the insurance, make sure things are covered before the disaster hits. I'm already three grand into this, and that's before the gyno and urologist bills hit. Call it four grand. Add the MRI, surgery, and cystoscopy. IF those are clear, we can probably call it an even ten grand.

Oh, please.

But it's not just me. My beautiful Noodle-niece goes in for surgery next week for a recurrence of her thyroid cancer. She's 14 years old, and this is her second cancer surgery. If, at 46, I feel too young to be dealing with this, how's she got to be feeling? I'm scared for her, and I'm scared that, between the two of us, we're not ever going to get to see each other again.

How messed up is that, folks?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another Doc-saster

So, before we left Utah, I went to see my gynecologist, get a clean bill of health so I wouldn't be looking for a new gyno right off the bat.

Or not.

The Nurse Practitioner, a nice lady named Mary, found a "mass in the anterior vaginal wall." 7 mm, give or take, possibly a urethral diverticulum. She described it as "firm, but not hard." My Gyno came in, rooted around, echoed Mary's opinion. Said it wasn't an emergency, but that, once I got settled and got my new insurance squared away, I'd want to see a urogynecologist. Not to be confused with a Eurogynecologist, who would likely charge less and serve wine and cheese.

Well, it turns out my new insurance plan only has one urogynecology office covered, and they were backlogged for months. So it was four months between Utah gyno and urogyno. I did make one attempt to see a local onco-gyno back in October, but he wouldn't see me because the letter from FEHB declaring me insured wasn't enough. He wanted a big wad of cash. Needless to say, I was utterly panic-stricken by the time December and my uro-gyno appointment rolled around.

Met my urogynocologist and fell in love. Well, not like that. But she was personable, warm, funny, and seemed absolutely competent. She got up there, rooted around, and declared me mass-free. Nothing there. My husband could still feel it?  Well, then, he was feeling something that was supposed to be there, and that's why they're husbands and not gynocoligists, right?  Sure, we could do a cystoscopy to make sure there was no diverticulum, but she felt confident there wasn't--it was obviously a cyst that had drained or reabsorbed. No worries! I made the appointment for the cystoscopy (for a month down the road), and felt a weight off my shoulders.

I got an inkling that weight was just hovering rather than gone when I had a menstrual cycle that lasted only 13 days. Yes, at 46, I am almost certainly perimenopausal, but that mantra has always stuck in my head--late periods aren't a problem, but earlier periods? See a doctor. So I wound up cancelling my cystoscopy appointment in favor of an appointment with my new GP to discuss my early period and possible fibroids. She did a pelvic (yes, that was something new and oogy), and concurred with my urogynecologist's proclamation that there was no mass in the anterior vaginal wall. Again, whew, right? She recommended I get a transvaginal ultrasound to take a look at the possible fibroids, and told me to get myself to a gynecologist.

Which I did. Today. And boy, was I right about the hovering weight. It's come crashing down in a big, big way, and I fear its many, crushing friends aren't far behind.

You see, there is a mass. Not only is there a mass, but my new gyno describes it as larger (1 cm) and very hard. If you've spent any time with gynecologists (or oncologists), you know those are bad things. You know that the moment she said (and she said it repeatedly) "VERY hard," she swept almost all of the more benign possibilities right off the table.

I don't blame my GP--she's not a gyno, and that made no difference, time-wise. But my urogynecologist? It's been a month-and-a-half since she told me there was no mass. I'd already know what's going on and be taking care of it (or coming to terms with it), had she been on the ball. But she wasn't. And maybe she would have done a better job of finding it if my Utah gyno's office had actually included NOTES about it in my FILE. But, according to the urogynocologist, there are NO notes in my file concerning a 7 mm mass in the anterior vaginal wall. Which is now, of course, a 1 centimeter mass, accompanied by uterine bleeding.

We won't even talk about the bastard who refused to see me because I couldn't cough up a bundle of money. That was almost four months ago. Four months this thing has had time to thrive.

Sunday, I have a pelvic CT scan plus an ultrasound scheduled. From there? Possible D and C for endometrial biopsy, visit to a urologist to make sure that any vaginal biopsy isn't going to screw up my urethra. And then who the hell knows, really? The treatments for vaginal cancer tend to be extreme, horrifying, life-altering, and often not particularly effective in the long term. So let's cross our fingers and clench our knees and hope it's not that, huh?

I love it here, you know. I was born here. I don't want to die here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Susan G. Komen, Politics, Planned Parenthood, My Body, and My Pennies

I don't have a lot to give to charity these days. A cross-country move, plus a year of unexpected medical costs have left the well near-dry. But when I do give, as I did last year, I usually give to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. A seemingly noble cause, and, until quite recently, a group that seemed to keep itself apart from the rising tide of anti-woman politics. A good thing--last thing we need is a breast cancer charity that kicks women in the teeth and fails to defend their rights and stand up for their physical integrity.


I can't even describe my horror at SGK's recent turn against Planned Parenthood. No organization in the world stands up for women like Planned Parenthood. No other organization can compare when it comes to providing for women and empowering them. Planned Parenthood is the single most important and effective barrier between ME and those who would take away my right to determine my own reproductive fate. We take birth control for granted these days, but just a couple generations back, a woman had no say. A woman was trapped, wasn't able to determine her own family size. Not even if her life depended on it.

Don't think it can't happen again--there are presidential candidates RIGHT NOW talking about doing away with birth control. The past few years have taught me that NO right is a "given," NO right, no matter how obvious, how "self-evident," is safe. If we don't guard them, someone will take them away.

See, the one-eyed, freakishly narrow right will squeal and cry that this is about "murdering babies!" No it's not--it's about not enslaving women. If you're a woman and you think it's about "helpless babies," you've been utterly fooled. Planned Parenthood makes for FEWER abortions because they provide free and low-cost BIRTH CONTROL and SEX EDUCATION; two things PROVEN to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Reduce unplanned pregnancies and you LOWER the call for abortions. You stupid, stupid people, you're attacking the one organization that does more than any other to prevent abortion. And if you're a woman, you're making war against your own because you've had the right-wing wool pulled over your sheeply eyes.

Susan G. Komen's foundation can whine that they didn't really pull funding, that it's about rules and regulations, but that's a crock of frothy feces and we all know it. It's ass-covering and double-speak that even their own people don't believe. Their own administrators are jumping ship, resigning over the politically motivated defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Come on, kids--what happens when you place a famously anti-choice, anti-Planned Parenthood figure in a position of authority at SGK? Well, THIS happens. Duh.

Like I said, I don't have a lot to give, but this year my spare change goes straight to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood, who saw me for free back in my poverty-stricken college days and found those changes in my cervix before they could threaten my life or my ability to have children. Yeah, that's right--I have a child because Planned Parenthood came through for me. Chew on that.

Thank you to everyone who came through for Planned Parenthood after Susan G. Komen for the Cure threw them (and us) under the bus. And to those at SGK responsible for this?

Shame. Oh, shame on you.