Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Month In Review... April

The Statement for the month... There is no way that April is almost over... I don't even have my garden planted yet!!!

  • I am 10 months past the resection of my brain tumor
  • It has been a full 6 months since I completed radiation
  • I am in month two of being stable (No laughter now)
Medically - Everything is stable medically for the time being with the exception of the teeth issues and the doctors freaking out about my neck, blood pressure, and optic nerve. *sigh* If it isn't brain cancer it's four others...

I guess I'll take these one at a time since at least one of these things has never been mentioned in my blog or updates before. Start with the teeth. Where my two teeth were pulled earlier this year, I have been having pain because my other teeth are moving into the gap. This isn't a big deal, easily managed with a bit of over-the-counter medication but now my dentist is telling me it will be 8 more weeks before I can get the temporary partial!!! I have never heard of the like. Unfortunately, the dental plan I have has only a few dentists in my area and I mean only like three and none of which are accepting new patients. Therefore, I'm kinda stuck. I fear how much damage will be done to my teeth (or my stomach from the OTC meds) before I actually get my partials. Have I ever mentioned I hate dentists?

The second thing is my neck. Way back when I mentioned this in my blog but it was probably lost in the middle of getting ready for surgery. It was over a year ago when I was having issues with my neck and my chiropractor became leery of working on it because of the pressure in my head. He was concerned that my whiplash injury from two years previous was masking problems caused from my tumor. After weeks of dealing with the issue, it landed me in the ER in excruciating pain. Never did see anyone after waiting for several hours. Long story short they ordered a head/neck MRI. They found a spot in my C3 vertebra. Hemangioma. Benign spot. A birthmark. He worked on my neck after this but now it's been a year and he is worried about the C3 again. None of my other doctors think it is anything to worry about so I'm having trouble getting any tests run on my neck to prove things are still fine. This leaves me dealing with the post trauma of a whiplash injury by using my own methods.

The third thing is my blood pressure. This seems to almost directly correlate with two things: my stress level and my weight. I used to have naturally low blood pressure. My average was 100/50. Note that I said average. It wasn't unusual for me to see 80/43 or something similar. The first time I ever had issues with it was when I was pregnant with my son. It reached 198/110 when the OB said it was time to induce. It took it about eight weeks to get back into an "acceptable" level. (new born baby, 50+ extra pounds...) It has been something we have watched but never seriously concerned with from that point on. About three years ago, following a rather rough stressful time when a possible heart issue was discovered, it spiked again. This time the doctor wanted me to watch it very closely and I started frequent appointments with him. After losing 35 lbs, my pressure got back into check. It stayed relatively well, despite the stressful situation, up until after I had surgery. After gaining back almost 50 pounds thanks to the steroids, dealing with the stress of having been told it is cancerous, and let's not forget radiation treatment; my blood pressure was around 135/85-95. My doctor was freaking out. Not only was my blood pressure high but he didn't seem to remember that steroids cause weight gain. He became almost obsessive with my weight. Anyway, I had a recheck with him on Thursday. My blood pressure was a very acceptable 110/80 and my weight is back down to below what it was when I had surgery. He's happy now; I'm happy now; hopefully this doesn't fire back up anytime soon.

Then we have the whole optic nerve fiasco. I understand, my optic nerve looks strange. If it were to appear this way in a normal patient it would indicate something wrong. Here's the thing they forget... We KNOW something is wrong. Did they miss the memo that I have a brain tumor? Or what about that I had brain surgery? Oh, and did they miss the part about brain radiation that would affect parts of my optic nerve? *sigh* So my optic nerve looks weird and they don't know if it has always been that way or if it is caused from what I've been through. Does it really matter? As long as I am not having vision issues, headaches, or anything along those lines; does it really matter that my optic nerve looks weird? It's not like they are going to do anything about it. They want to watch it. That's cool. I don't have an issue with that. But when I have to take time from work, not once but three times, for a single appointment and pay $90 in co-pays, it IS A BIG DEAL!!! So you want to do this once a year. I can live with that. But we're getting ready to have it done the second time since December. I think I will have to have a long talk with my two eye doctors. This thing of having to have a field of vision test (even though I aced the first one) with one doctor before seeing the specialist and having two more tests run before seeing the first doctor to discuss the results is going to get old VERY quickly. I know, I know, they are just being cautious. But enough is enough.

So there's the medical scoop beyond the world of cancer. In dealing with the issue that could some day take my life... I see my specialist in July and my next MRI is August. It's kinda interesting that the most serious of my medical issues is the one they are least worried about. Then I wonder why I've had to take my own care into my hands in order to keep the whole things sane.

Emotionally - I will admit that I'm a bit stressed at times trying to find time to do everything that I need to and still get the amount of rest I need to properly recuperate but other than that I feel really good. I am very excited about being a captain for a Relay For Life Team and it feels good to be doing something in advocacy for cancer. I feel physically good and this translates into wanting to do some good.

I have reached a good plateau and my therapist has released me to monthly sessions instead of weekly or biweekly. I have not been on this level since July of 2007. Honestly, we had been more in a "watch how she is acting to see if there's anything that those too close are not seeing" for some time so it was probably even a bit overdue. Our goal since last year has been to make sure and catch signs of things that might not be outwardly showing. When you deal with this type of thing, it can catch you very quickly. It feels good to know that he feels I am in a good enough spot that it isn't going to sneak up on me so quickly that I won't be able to head it off at the pass.

Mentally - I think a few friends who have sent me some brain puzzles via email will agree, I'm as mentally sound as I've ever been even if I sometimes still feel "off color" with it. I continue to surprise myself by getting better with my brain games, have enjoyed doing mental puzzles that I haven't been able to stand for some time, and even dealing with numbers has not become quite as much of a chore. In this sense, I think I'm back on the mark.

One thing I have noticed mentally is the change in my attitude towards things such as money. You can ask anyone, I was a penny pincher. We bought nothing before we analyzed, saved, and wrote a 20 page questionnaire about why we wanted it. (I'm only exaggerating a tiny bit there) We had a budget and we DID NOT GO OVER IT!!! Even going into stores that I have classified as my weakness (office supply and do it yourself stores like Lowes or Menards) I could come out without making any purchases that were not on my list or necessary. It takes everything in my will power to keep from making stray purchases now. I don't know that this is a "chemical" change from surgery or anything like that. I think it is simply that I know life is short and if I want something I need to do it now and not wait until later. I can still keep from spending erroneously to an extent but it takes a lot out of me to do so. Don't get me wrong. I'm still a budgetting nerd and I ensure we have all of our bills paid, budgets set, etc before buying anything but our extra money has taken a bit of a hit in the last year. :)

Physically - I continue to be strong physically. It's not always an easy process, especially since spring and nice weather have set in. I tend to stay up later than I should when the weather is nice and it gets dark later but then I pay for it because I don't get enough sleep to rebuild. I'm learning my limits quite well but it will be a learning curve to find the right balance between going a whole week able to avoid the Friday "can't do anything blues" and having to go to bed at 8 PM to get enough rest. (I'm out to almost 9 PM now and still able to function but need to find a good balance of early and later sleeping to stay awake at work on Friday.)

As I said earlier, my weight is back down to my pre-surgery weight. It's not my final goal weight but I'm happy with it for now. I tend to naturally drop some in the summer anyway so I'm going to let it ride and do what it wants for now. Besides, I'm not sure getting too far down in weight is a good idea in case something does start up in my head and I need to pursue further treatment. I don't think it would hurt to have a little meat on my bones going into it.

Work/Family/Play - Before the second week long layoff that we had at my company, my co-worker was laid off. We all knew that something like this was probably coming, we just didn't know who or when. I miss chatting with him every day but at the same time I know it was probably the best for him. He had been there over 20 years and was aiming to "stick it out". He did get his package and now he has the freedom to try to find something. He's extremely good technically and I know he will not have any problems finding something. I wish him all the luck in the world.

My son has been doing very well in school and otherwise since going on the meds for his ADD. I think he has kept all of his grades above a C this quarter. (We don't have official grades yet but midterm grades should be coming out soon.) I haven't seen any very poor grades so I think this is a very reasonable assumption. He is also growing up quite a bit on me. You can truly see the "young adult" sprouting in him. He still hasn't learned how to pick up after himself but he is enjoying working in the yard with his dad and learning about lawn mower maintenance and things like that.

He's had a rough spring with soccer. A viral respiratory infection made him miss an entire week of it and now he has an ingrown toenail that is infected that will probably make him miss his game Saturday and possibly his practice Monday. It's pretty sore still and on his kicking foot... He is also enjoying some workshops in 4H and has several things scheduled for the summer already including a couple of camps and trips. I told him he better get moving on his projects so that he has them done before he gets too busy. I think he has decided what his woodworking project is this year but not sure that he has worked out how to actually do it and I'm certain they haven't looked at the electricity project yet. (I need to look up the requirements) He and I are going to work on his consumer project in the upcoming weeks as he works within his budget to get what he needs for his Relay fundraisers. Then the cooking one is always fun but other than attempting the recipe, there's not much preparation he can do for that.

John continues to be busy and put in his first set of really long hours a couple of days last week. For the most part he's actually been on time this week but it's been too wet for most to be in the fields anyway. I am hoping he gets off early enough on Saturday to go to town to the "Green Home" show that is at the fairgrounds. I have tickets I won through the local radio station and I think the whole show sounds very interesting and hope to learn some things to go more green and possibly even save some money.

We did dance once this past month but John was working late the next dance so we didn't make it to that one. We will miss the next dance because I will be doing my other Relay and I expect the boys to come hang out for at least a little while. (or drive me home if I've decided to try it all night and not sure I'm safe driving) It was nice getting back on the dance floor. Unfortunately, this spring is not going to be good for the dances. I think we will be able to make the second dance in May but that will be it until the dance that our local caller will be doing at the Relay. The first dance in June we will be traveling.

Relay - Our Relay team continues to do really well. Our Pampered Chef fundraiser ended up earning just shy of $500 for the American Cancer Society. We are now in the process of conducting our final two fundraisers before the Relay. We are selling Pizza Hut cards for $10 that are good for a total of 12 free medium one topping pizzas with the purchase of a large pizza. We are also selling silicone bracelets that read "Say NO to Cancer; Say YES to Cure". These are selling at $3 a piece. We have them in grey, purple, camouflage, flourescent purple, and flourescent green.

Our team has now earned $1715!!! This does not include the Pampered Chef money or any of the money from our current fundraisers. If you would like to see how we are doing you can visit the team site at: or you can donate at my personal site: . Hurry because time is running out to donate and support my team!!! Remember that every penny counts in the fight against cancer. Cancer does not discriminate and can affect anyone at any time.

Well, I think this was very long-winded and I apologize for boring you all to tears. I hope everyone is doing well.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Looking For MY Bailout Plan

Banks get one...
Auto Manufacturers get one...
Our local grade school gets one...
In a round-a-bout way, my employer gets one...

Yes I understand the economy sucks. Yes I understand that I should be happy that we both still have jobs and that we are not in any financial danger at the moment. However, I think it's time that those who ARE financially responsible get their bailout.

I'm not even going to get into the very controversial and public bailouts of the Banks and Auto companies. It's too broad and I don't have the energy to cover it. They got their bailouts... 'nuff said.

Our tiny little school, that should probably give into the inevitable and consolidate with another school now while there are many options open to them, got a bailout. Their bailout is in the form of a referendum that passed that will raise MY property taxes even more than their already over-inflated cost. All the other schools in the county do it on much less than they received BEFORE the referendum. Somehow I'm not sure that putting a bandaid on a broken bone is going to do much good. I refuse to dive any deeper into this subject. They got their referendum... their bailout... 'nuff said. (Note: Now that the referendum has passed I will openly admit that I voted against this bailout. There were a few teachers at the school that I hated to see lose their job if the referendum failed but that is the only thing I saw positive about it. Remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion and I do not wish to see flames on my blog over this. TIA)

My company is getting their bailout as well in a kinda sorta way. Between laying people off permanently and making everyone left take unpaid leave and pay reductions, they are essentially getting their bailout as well.

So tell me, where is my bailout? The cost of everything from electric rates to stamps are going up. My property taxes are going up. My health costs are going up...

We've made it through our own economic hardships that have occurred yearly for the past five years. I mean we survived losing two months of John's paycheck two years in a row, having to come up with additional money for our house when the idiot that sold it to us screwed us over, and the horrendous doctor bills of the past 12 months. We managed to keep it together and make ends meet and still be able to cover car troubles, medical expenses, a septic pump going out, and now our pressure tank. This all has been covered while I am getting the 10%+ pay cut and having to pay out more.

Why am I doing so well and big businesses (and schools) doing so poorly? I think it all has to do with common sense. You have to plan for the down times, have plans of attack set up, and be willing to think outside the box. Yes, sometimes you have to sacrifice as well. Do CEOs really need million dollar bonuses? Do people really have to have private jets to go only a few hundred miles? Should we pay to support things that might be better off being let go? I know that I am prepared to sacrifice. I don't rack up huge debts to buy the ATVs that my family would love to have, the new flooring we desperately need, or even hire someone to do repairs around our house. If I don't have a cushion to fall back on and have the money in excess, we don't do it. Why are the people we are bailing out not having to make these sacrifices? Why is it that those so far in debt they can't live get "bailouts" but those of us living in our means go without? (This is directed towards normal people who live outside their means with the assistance of credit cards. Bankruptcy is a bailout if I've ever seen one.) Again, an argument for another time.

While they are getting billions, what is my bailout?

My merit increase was non-existent as part of cuts taking place where I work. Due to the layoff of my co-worker, I now have more responsibility and work. My pay has been cut by at least 10-15% because of mandatory unpaid shutdowns. My bailout is simply... at least you have a job.

Sure. A job. Twice the work... 10% pay cut... A job...

I guess, in conclusion, I'd like to see a REAL bailout any day now. I'd be happy with just the difference between what I should be making and what I will make this year... that's a heck of a lot more reasonable than the money to pay the outrageous debts caused by poor decision making. I think it's time to reward the responsible... not the irresponsible.