Wednesday, February 24, 2021

I’m getting rid of my boobs before they get rid of me

March 3rd. A week from today. Disappointed smile

That’s the day that my currently healthy boobs will take leave of my body. I’m still in disbelief that I’m about to do this, and I have the urge every day to cancel the upcoming surgery. But I know that logically I’m doing the smartest thing, hard as it is emotionally, and as hard as the surgery will be physically.

I was born with the BRCA2 gene mutation (which I blogged about last year, after I found out about it). Instead of a 3-ish% lifetime chance of getting breast cancer, I was born with about an 80-ish% chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime. (Think Angelina Jolie, who was also born with a BRCA gene mutation and had a prophylactic mastectomy.)

Mast cartoon rosalarian.tumblr.com(Thanks, rosalarian.tumblr.com.)

So far, my mammograms and recent breast MRIs have been clear, but it’s likely just a matter of time before I’d be faced with a breast cancer diagnosis. And if that were the case, I’d have to go through this surgery AND chemo/radiation. No thanks!

I’m 64. That means a few things in regard to my mastectomy situation.

One, I’ve already worked through a big chunk of that 80+% chance of getting breast cancer, so my chance at this point is about 35%. I go back and forth, from thinking that 35% is perfectly tolerable and I should just take the risk, to ‘no way; that’s still a huge chance of breast cancer,’ and back again. Round and round and round. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting!

Two, I’ll be starting Medicare on November 1st of this year, the month in which I’ll turn 65. I was hoping that Medicare would be optional, but for me, it’s not. On the day that I’m eligible for Medicare, my other coverage is hugely affected. Long story short, I will be starting Medicare on November 1st of this year and MEDICARE WON’T COVER PREVENTATIVE SURGERIES. Nope, they want to wait until you actually get cancer, and only THEN would a mastectomy be covered! Yes, this is insane, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

So my hands (or rather, my boobs) have been forced. If I’m gonna do this, I need to do it now. The reconstruction process involves numerous surgeries, so I need to allow time for all this to happen before I begin Medicare.

There are three basic options after a mastectomy – “going flat,” flap reconstruction (which is harvesting fat from other locations on the body and transferring it to the breast… a very long and complicated microsurgery with a long, complex recovery), and implants. Because of my abdominoplasty thirty years ago to repair damage from my twin pregnancy, I’m not a candidate for the most common (DIEP) flap reconstruction and, although I’ve considered it, I’ve decided not to “go flat.” That leaves “gummy bear” silicone implants. This is the one I explored during my appointment with the plastic surgeon. I kinda like the shape, and the smaller size!

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It’ll be months, though, before the gummy will be in my body. Expanders will be placed next week during the mastectomy surgery, and then those will be filled a bit at a time over the next couple of weeks, until I’m at my desired size (smaller). At that point, I’ll undergo an additional (“exchange”) surgery to replace the expanders (which I hear are awful) with the final gummy implants. Fun. (Not.)

Kat’s wedding will take place on May the fourth (of course, Star Wars fans that she and Ian are!) and will be off the grid at Danny’s prospecting claims, where they got engaged (including a very bumpy dirt road – gah!) in California, so we’ll need to work that into the scheduling.

Am I ready? NO. But I don’t know how I ever can really be ready to basically amputate a body part that’s integral to who I am. I’ve chosen to look at it this way: my boobs have nourished four healthy children and have served me well. Now they are trying to (or will likely try to) kill me and they need to go. That’s my logical approach, anyway.

My not-so-logical approach consists of feelings of sadness, loss, and fear.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Preparing for a very Covid Christmas

2020 can’t end soon enough. What an absolutely craptastic year it’s been, ending in another solitary holiday for Tom and me.

Fortunately, all four of our children are happily partnered and cohabitating, some even with a new Covid puppy, so no one will be spending Christmas alone. THAT would be heartbreaking.

Just as we spent Thanksgiving alone, Tom and I will also be spending Christmas alone. It’s simply too dangerous now, with Covid numbers surging to unprecedented levels in every corner of the country, including our little upper left-hand corner. Vaccines are being distributed now, but only to frontline health workers. Shannon, a nurse at Virginia Mason, will receive her first dose on Christmas Eve and Elisabeth, a nurse anesthetist at UW will receive her first dose on December 30th. But we don’t know yet whether that vaccine also protects those the recipient comes in contact with. Until we know the answer to that question, we just can’t risk seeing our kids and their families without being masked and outside, where we can socially distance.

So that’s what we did last weekend! We met outside at Elisabeth and Danny’s new house in Sammamish. Our assumption was that we’d meet under their covered front porch (it is December in the Pacific Northwest, after all)…

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(Look at the sky. This photo was NOT taken this month. Duh.)

But the weather cooperated and we were able to meet in the fenced  backyard. This was especially good news for the four dogs (two of them, puppies), as well as the one toddler in attendance.

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Coincidentally-on-purpose, it was also someone’s “Medicare birthday”! How did that happen?! Tom and I met when we were barely 19 and 20. The thought back then of us ever actually being OLD was just… well, pretty unfathomable. And yet, here we are!

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Something from “the olden days” is back, though. Tom had relatively long hair when we were dating…

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I think he’s trying to relive his youth with what he calls his “Pandemic hair”! A little grayer and not as “coiffed,” but equally as handsome.

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It was so good to see our kids with their significant others and fur babies!

Alex and Erin, with Misha…

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…who loved the cold waterfall!

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Peter and Shannon with (camouflaged) Masta-dor (Mastiff-Labrador) pupper, Chessa…

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… who ran around acting like she was already 130 pounds and tall as a horse! (Give her another month or two…!)

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And the Markus family, with Grace (who IS actually as tall as a small horse) and sweet Santa-Baby Leo…

IMG_7942…who I wanted so badly to snuggle! I mean, look at this adorable little Christmas elf!

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Kat and Ian are quarantining at their home in San Francisco. The plan had been for them to drive up to Seattle in their new camper, but obviously that’s not gonna happen. Sad smile We were able to FaceTime with them, though which, for this year, will have to suffice. But oh, how I miss them! It might be that the next time we see them will be at their wedding!

This Covid fiasco has changed everything. Who would have thought that families who normally gather for the holidays would need to stay home? But I think there’s actually an upside to this Christmas celebration apart, at least for our family: each couple is going to be alone this year, freeing them to establish some tradition, big or small, that will persist long past the end of the pandemic, when they’ll remind each other, ‘Remember when this tradition began…?’

And that will have to suffice as the upside to a very Covid Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

A very Covid Thanksgiving

Anyone who knows us knows that Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. It’s rare that we have fewer than 15 or 20 guests (a bunch of them as houseguests for the whole week!) and we cook and bake for days on end in anticipation of a house filled with great smells, happy conversation, and lots of holiday spirit.

Last year, for example, was epic:

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This year’s Thanksgiving celebration was very different. With Covid numbers skyrocketing around the country, we made the heartbreaking decision not to gather at all this year. It just isn’t worth the risk. The news on vaccines is promising – if we can just hold out for the next few months, excruciating as it will be.

So it was just Tom and me on Thanksgiving. Very weird! But, actually, it was kind of nice, too. We have absolutely nothing to complain about (other than not being able to be with family, of course) and everything to be grateful for, so we decided to make the most of this very bizarre situation.

In the morning, we decided to head just a few miles north to Manchester State Park. The idea was to scope out some good campsites for spring, but we also enjoyed a nice walk around the park…

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Who knew that there was such a great view of Seattle from the sleepy little town of Manchester?! Once that fast ferry to Seattle from Southworth begins this coming June, this area will explode!

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Last week we decided that if we had to be alone for Thanksgiving, we might as well make the most of it, so we ordered take-out dinner from one of Gig Harbor’s nicest restaurants, Brix25. It was delicious – and clean-up was a breeze!

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We weren’t alone, though, as each of our four kids and their partners checked in remotely…

Peter and Shannon

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Alex and Erin

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Kat and Ian

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Elisabeth and Danny

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…and then we all hopped on a Zoom call for a fun game of remote trivia. Tom and I actually didn’t feel alone at all, thanks to technology!

We’re so grateful that our kids are happy and healthy, riding out this bizarre pandemic with someone they love.

At this point, a traditional Christmas is looking very iffy and chances are good that we’ll be celebrating that holiday alone this year, too. We’ll take it day by day between now and then, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, and act accordingly when the time comes.

I can handle everything except Christmas Eve; being alone of Christmas Eve would break my heart.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2020

My father, a German half-Jew, discussing similarities between Trump and Hitler (July, 2016)

 Look what I came upon as I reviewed video conversations I had with my father during the years before he died, when he was finally willing to talk about his experiences as a half-Jew (a "mischling") in WWII Germany. 

Dad wrote prolifically about his experiences, but he insisted that his books and stories be only for family, never for people he didn't know. I begged him to publish his memoir, stressing the importance of his first-person voice during a time when those voices were growing quieter and quieter, while another voice - that of Donald Trump - was becoming louder and louder," but he refused, saying only, "You can tell my story when I'm gone" - which is becoming my life's work.

This video conversation with Dad, shot at his house in Ashland, Oregon in July, 2016, four months before Trump was elected and seven months before he died (I swear, Trump's election killed him), is chilling, prescient, and terrifying. 

As much as I miss him, I'm glad he's not alive to witness what's happening in our country. He totally called it.



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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Tom does it again: A "gar-lodge" project almost two year in the making (and counting)

Back in late 2017, when we decided to scrap the idea of building in Suncadia and instead decided to move to Gig Harbor, we bought a house that kept coming up on Tom's Redfin searches, but never on mine.

Why? Because I checked that box that says "must have a garage" and Tom didn't.

Yep, we bought a house with no garage - and only one real closet! I knew storage space was going to be an issue, especially storage of Tom's massive collection of tools, machines, and other gizmos, but Tom had big plans - he was gonna build a workshop. 

As you probably know from Tom's previous projects in our Woodinville home, he does amazing work. He is truly a craftsman, but he is sloooow, methodical, and meticulous. So when he begins a major project I brace myself for the long haul - and I knew this project would take a while.

It began about a year and a half ago, in February, 2019. The idea was to create a workshop attached to and just behind the car port. The first step would be to grind down a huge stump that was in the way and to pour a large, deep slab. Fortunately, we hired both those tasks out.
 



 
Once the foundation was in, Tom's work began. I don't know the technical terms for everything he did, but I do know that these thingamabobs held some really heavy concrete blocks in place.























Once those blocks were in, "lodge" became the guiding word! Look at these heavy beams!




Next: the walls. For the walls, as well as for the roof, our dear friend Neal came to help Tom. Goodness knows, I was useless as a helper. 





See those three square boxes on the near wall in the above photo? Those will contain windows meant to mimic the three windows way up high on the house.
Before the roof could go on, Tom and Neal had to lay down more big, heavy, "lodgy" beams.

Of course, Tom insisted on the same green metal roof that we have on the house.




Tom's projects live in his mind. No real architectural plans, no formal drawings, nothing - so it was only at this point that I came to understand what his "gar-lodge" would ultimately look like. I loved how it was taking shape!



Being... well, me... I was focusing more on this. The mess-for-months-on-end in the carport was driving me nuts. 

 
Next step: every inside surface was covered with pegboard. This was to be, after all, a WORKSHOP! Tom was going to build a workbench, but then found some adjustable-height work tables. Brilliant! They're on wheels, so can be rolled pretty much anywhere, individually or together, for just about any project.

Finally, it was time to get stuff out of the carport and begin moving it into the workshop. I'm kind of ashamed to admit how excited I was about this milestone.



I just love some of the finishing touches and fixtures Tom insisted on!



Of course, Tom's attention to detail extends to outside the workshop, as well, including shingles all around. I love the little "swoosh" at the bottom of the shingles. Eventually, he'll install rock along the workshop foundation - and he's busy making a gorgeous wood and rock staircase right now.

 
 Eventually, Tom will make a set of shingled barn doors to close his workshop off from the carport. And you know by now that he has to do something special to those as well, right? It'll likely look something like this.

And you KNOW I love this!


 
Next project (because there always is one...): creating a new and improved entryway. 

Tom will work on the entryway (creative and fun) next summer at the same time that contractors will rebuild our deck (not creative and not fun). Our current deck is in desperate need of a facelift. Hell, it's in desperate need of a complete re-do!


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