Footloose & Fancy Free

On a scale of a regular person, I am totally not footloose and fancy free, but I broke that scale 8 months ago. Fuck that scale.

I got my last drain out on Wednesday which was excellent. I get to resemble a normal person at my friends’ wedding next weekend and not look like a science experiment. I got it out early because I’m local and I can come in next week and get a giant needle stuck in my booty/hip to drain the excess fluid there. Glad you read that one right? What kind of fucked up world am I living in that I actively chose to make an appointment to get a giant needle stuck in my ass and am happy about it? This is what cancer does to you.

I am doing well though. My comparison is of course not a healthy/normal person, but my first surgery and chemo for 4 months. I’m doing awesome compared to both of those. I have had 5 surgeries since this all started, not counting the biopsies. I really am in crazy town.

I’ve also been only taking advil the last few days so I am back driving again. Miracle upon miracles. I am still wearing my slutty superhero costume, but it’s a lot easier to hide under regular clothes without tubes. I am going to have to start taking something to sleep again as a consequence of not being on pain meds anymore unfortunately. I’ve got these crazy leg things that are like a blood pressure cuff around each of them and squeezes my legs on and off throughout the night to prevent blood clots. I also need to sleep on my back propped up a bit. Totally not how I naturally sleep so it’s a bit tough getting there naturally. Side sleeping is still weeks away unfortunately.

I also stepped up my prematurely 70 years old life style with an elderly person’s shower chair. Pretty tight right? My parent’s shower is huge and has a seat in it so I was good there, but our bathtub doesn’t have that option and I’m not quite dependable to stand that long or be able to bend over and wash my feet easily so I’m rocking the shower chair. Also in the beginning, showering was super complicated right after surgery and I had to sit to do it.

My hair is actually thick now, which is just lovely. Waiting for it to get a little longer so I can actually get it shaped into a style instead of it’s current “Look I have hair!” status. I’ve also got full-blown eyebrows and eyelashes again. Looking like a person more and more.

Walking is still pretty rough, I can go 3-4 blocks currently, which isn’t enough to accomplish much unfortunately. However, we live a couple of blocks away from a lot of things so it’s enough to get what I need in the neighborhood (ice cream, sandwiches, chocolate cake, etc).

Anyways it’s Friday and I’m doing pretty good, so have a beer for me. I’m still on antibiotics, so I need y’all to step up.

(click the photos for captions)


Puppy Love & Insurance Nonsense

Sorry, couldn’t resist. So most of you know that A. and I have wanted a dog for years now. Long ago before we were dating I got a dog in college and he was actually my number one puppy sitter. By the way kids, getting a dog in college is a bad idea, getting a dog because you’re having trouble getting over a bad breakup is an even worse idea. Just. Don’t. Do. It. The only good thing that came out of it was my ex dog sat for me one night that my house was having a party and it was going to be too loud for Layla and she freaked out at his place because it was a strange place and I wasn’t there (plus she was kind of prone to freaking out in general). Long story short, she kept him up all night. A little bit of karma there which he even admitted at the time. But anyways, that has little to do with this other than I was a terrible dog owner once and I have been not so patiently waiting about 10.5 years to try again and do it right this time.

We didn’t get a dog in SF because we were traveling too much and two cats plus a dog in a one bedroom apartment is just too much. Then we finally decided to make the move to New Orleans. My favorite moment in telling someone that we were leaving was with my agency’s head of HR, her immediate response was “Jenna you can get a dog now!” (I’d spent a lot of time with her yellow lab, hi Lux!) We spend over 5 months at my parent’s house with three cats, two dogs, and assorted farm animals. I loved having dogs around again all the time. Especially my bad dog, but good girl, Lola who is a yellow lab/retriever that I was home for when my Mom got her as a puppy. She is the most optimistic creature in the world. Just seeing how happy she was over such simple things lifted my spirits when everything was crappy.

I knew I wanted to get a puppy for several reasons: 1. Not having successfully ever raised a dog (either of us) it seemed best to start with one without baggage, 2. I knew I was going to be home for a bit before getting a job so it was the ideal situation to get a puppy, 3. They are so damn cute.

We started looking on PetFinder weeks before we could bring one home. I used to do this every now and then in SF too, so I’m used to this form of torture. We mainly looked at shepherd and lab puppies. The goal was a family dog that was trainable and we also wanted a big dog if possible. We moved into our place on January 2 and went to look at puppies in Mississippi the same day. There was a litter of 7 shepherd puppies available and it sounded like the perfect situation. We liked the idea based on the advice from our puppy book of being able to get a feel for their personality with their siblings. We were looking for calm. We got to the shelter and were told to just wander around and look at dogs. We found the puppies which were not the cleanest looking group, but still pretty damn cute. It was a really hard decision with 7 adorable puppies all vying for attention. I was glad we’d read the puppy book because we both would have gone for the more outgoing guy who was of course super cute, but from what we read, he would be more challenging to train and require the most attention which wasn’t necessarily on par with our experience and lifestyle.

We went with the puppy formally known as Oblong (seriously what?) who mostly sat around and watched as his siblings mobbed A. He wasn’t scared, but he also was content to just check things out. We brought him up to the front desk and filled out the paperwork and were told we could come back the following Weds. This actually worked out perfectly because it gave us more time to unpack, puppy prep, and get the cats calmed down from the move.

Weds came and I hardly slept from excitement. We felt super prepared to get him with our reading, ok I’ll come clean, Caesar Millan’s puppy guide. I totally agree that Caesar is a bit of a blowhard (he refers to one of the puppies in his book as a canine Gandhi/Martin Luther King), but he also has a lot of good points for puppy training aligning with dogs’ natural behaviors. We were so ready to do everything we were supposed to do with the new puppy, starting with getting him to get into the car on his own and into the kennel using a bully stick (aka dog treat that is made from bull penis, I kid you not). So none of that happened. He just looked at us. We put him in the crate and he was silent the whole ride.

We’ve had Wallace/Wall-e/Buddy/Little Homey/Mcmuffin/little terrorist for three weeks now. We’ve also totally changed training techniques after starting puppy class with the local SPCA. Not because the Caesar stuff was wrong necessarily, but since we’re going to class regularly it makes sense to stick with that training. Puppy class is the fucking best. There are 10 puppies of varying sizes and ages and most of the class is spent watching them play. Wallace’s bff right now is a pomeranian puppy about the size of your hand. I promise I will work on getting a photo.

It’s crazy how fast puppies grow up. See the size difference in three weeks below

He’s also started understanding us better, can go up and down stairs, can sort of run, likes being outside now, and is starting to help a bit on letting us know when he needs to go outside. He unfortunately does not like car rides yet or cuddling. Cuddling with him his hilarious. He screams bloody murder, which we of course ignore and act like he’s into it. His toy collection is extensive. He has tons of stuffed animals (we went to the thrift store and loaded up) and various chewing on toys. He is starting to understand “no” and other displeased noises like “HEY!”.

Soccer puppy

Soccer puppy

One of my favorite things is watching him and Myles (aka the Poop) learning to have a relationship. Myles is very interested in him and will hang around quite a bit. Myles has finally started smacking him instead of just running away (we think it’s best for Myles to try and get the upper hand while he’s about the same size as Wallace and outweighs him). Myles has this intense desire to have someone lick his ears and Nero has never really been into it, so he lets Wallace lick them which inevitable turns into chewing on them and Wallace getting smacked. However, cranky Uncle Poop doesn’t give up. The ear thing happens probably 20 times a day at least. They also play fight a little which is pretty damn cute. I’ve only seen Myle’s tail get fluffed up once with Wallace so at this point he’s less afraid of the dog then he is our niece. Myles also swishes his tail constantly, and even more when he’s annoyed, which is not the best move with a playful puppy.

How weird uncle Nero feels about Wallace

How weird uncle Nero feels about Wallace

Having a puppy while recovering from chemo is harder than I thought. After spending the last 6 months just concentrating on myself getting better and taking care of, it’s hard to have to focus so much time and energy on something else. When I’m tired or need a few minutes I’m used to just being able to respond to that, but Wallace can’t be left alone and if he needs to go out, he has to go out. A. definitely takes the lion’s share, but it’s still tough. I think it’s tough in good way though. It can be frustrating though with being overly tired and I also have a lot of achiness in my hips that make getting up and doing stairs rough at times.

Puppy selfie

Puppy selfie

So insurance nonsense (I wanted to post about both of these and decided to combine into one unrelated post). So as most of you know, I had good CIGNA insurance that I had to give up Jan 1 because they don’t offer it in Louisiana (I had it through California). This really sucked because the best reconstruction place doesn’t take any of the insurances you can buy through the bootleg Louisiana insurance marketplace, but they do take CIGNA. So I bought the best insurance I could (Platinum baby!) and thought I’d be ok because it has out of network coverage. It’s Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. Prepare for another lesson in fucked up American insurance.

So I called the center for restorative breast surgery and spoke with one of their insurance reps there. They have people come from all over the country because they’re hella good so they have a lot of experience dealing with all sorts of insurances. Apparently even though mine is the best I can buy in Louisiana and is costing me $470 a month, it still sucks. The scheme that the insurance company runs with out of network is this:

In-network means that the insurance company has an agreement with your provider on what the maximum costs for the procedure can be. Neither you, nor the insurance company will pay more than that and your costs are only up to your out of pocket and deductible maxes usually. I think this should sound familiar to everyone. So out of network means there isn’t an agreed upon costs for the service which means that your out of pocket and deductible tend to be much higher. Mine, for example, has an out of pocket cost for in-network providers of $250 and out of network is $1000. Out of network deductible is $3000. So I thought based on everything that I read from the insurance company while purchasing that once I paid my $4000 that they cover the rest. Nope. There’s something called the “allowable amount” which was not mentioned at all in any of the literature when I purchased my insurance (why this is a scam). If the costs for a service are over the “allowable amount” then you are still responsible for the difference. The boob people told me that would be around $32000. Holy shit right? I am now in a very frustrating email exchange with my insurance to figure out how to get an accurate estimate for costs with their “allowable amounts”. So far I’ve just had them email me back telling me I haven’t met my deductible or out of pocket. Clearly a bunch of rocket scientists over there. I tried the phone, but the person was an idiot and no help and it required a 30 minute hold time. I’m also filling out a financial aid request with the boob people to see if they’d be willing to do it not charging me $32,000. I’m not holding my breath (they’ve got to pay for those rhinestone shirts somehow), but worth a shot.

My actual plan is that A. and I are both circling come promising job opportunities and I’m hoping that one of them will offer an insurance that will be in-network for the boob guys. If this doesn’t happen I’ll be back to square one and probably will involve a night of drinking heavily. So let’s all cross our fingers right? My new timing is June (assuming that will work with whatever job I take) and I’d like to go in for surgery on my birthday. I know this sounds totally weird, but if I can’t get it done while I’m 30 (shittiest birth year every) then I’d like to start 31 with fixing things. I have four weddings starting end of March-end of May and I don’t want to miss any so June is the best option also. I don’t feel bad asking a job for 4-6 weeks off because I’m 30 and a chick and normally they’d probably have to deal with my taking 3 or so months off from having a kid somewhat soon, but I can’t do that for a couple of years due to poison and reoccurrence risk, so seems like a decent trade for them

One Down, Two To Go

I had my first surgery yesterday as part of my IVF. Friday night I had a little big picture freak out session, but yesterday actually went really well. I was only out for about a half hour, they got way more than they thought they would, and I woke up and wasn’t freaked out (my previous experiences with anesthesia left me pretty freaked out when I awoke). The most recent time was getting my wisdom teeth out and I woke up during the surgery, not excellent.

So I woke up and they told me how over achievingly successful my ovaries are (Ivy Leaguers…) and I started to cry from relief. It actually felt really good to cry about something that was good news instead of all the sad/scared/overwhelmed crying I’ve been doing. It’s also apparently really normal to cry after coming out of anesthesia, but whatever. So I sat there and cried about how great it was that this worked out really well and that we’ll have popsicle babies on layaway and how fortunate we are to have been able to do this. Also, guess who doesn’t have to give herself shots in the stomach anymore? yeah boy!

Today we got the call that they were hoping that they’d have 60% success rate out of what they extracted and they ended up with 90% which is pretty much unheard of and amazing. So if anyone needs some baby help I probably have some I could sell you, assuming that you don’t mind that their mom had cancer at 30. It’s a huge relief that makes me a little sad though because based on the rate of success I can’t help but think that we’d have been able to have kids pretty easily. It’s not as hard to think about as when I first got diagnosed, but it’s still a sore spot for me. Cancer < Babies

Tomorrow I go in for surgery number two in the early afternoon. They’re taking some nodes (insert Pitch Perfect reference here) and doing something to my abdomen to prep for the tram flap. It’s the start of my spiral of being down and out for a while unfortunately. Still sucks that I’m so uncomfortable right now that I’m not getting some time to appreciate my healthy/paint free body. My Mom is coming with us, because otherwise who knows what she’d do to our room this time while stressing out back at the house.

On a completely unrelated/funny note, Myles, aka the Poop aka Bathmat, fell out of our second story window (he’s fine). He is so fat that he popped the screen out by leaning against it (although to be fair it wasn’t in the greatest shape due to the former occupant of my room). My Mom thought he was dead when she found the screen and was freaking out about having to tell me, but then Myles came walking out from the backyard and was totally fine. This is his second incident with falling out of a window, so the plus side is that I win the argument with A. about whether or not he is stupid enough to fall out of a window. It’s the little things.

And Rena and Vivian are here all week which is also excellent.

Finally Some Good News

When you have cancer, it’s all relative as usual, so you get excited about some fucked up things. Like yesterday I was excited that we were able to switch the needles that I am injecting myself with on a daily basis out for smaller needles. Like actually excited, Like going for ice cream excited. Just weird.

Today we are excited that my bone scan came back clear. yay! We are excited that there isn’t cancer in my bones. It’s a fucked up world I’m living in folks. The CT scan is mostly clear, there is one lymph node that looks odd and they’re going to do another scan to check it out. This won’t interfere with my treatment plan of surgery first and chemo second though so that is good enough for me. Break out the bubbly, oh wait, I can’t drink right now.

Yesterday when I was having a rough day and thinking that it was going to be a really crappy ride home the following happened in this order:

1. One of my best friends emailed to tell me she’s engaged. I think her fiance is wonderful, so perked me right up.

2. A. told a joke and made me laugh, can’t even remember what it was now, but I was impressed that he could make me laugh right then.

3. My parent’s neighbors had us come over and they have TEN Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (click on the link to see what these look like). It was wonderful puppy madness.

4. Those same neighbors booked a hotel for me and A. to go away to this weekend in Boston. Just amazing.

So just like Chumbawamba says (friends recently sent me this CD in a care package), I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.

Here’s what I wore today along with my new pirate sock monkey waiting for me at home.

Belated photo of my pirate punching bag and second mate Matt the cat.