Warrior Princess

August 21, 2007

Manifestation of Grace

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

I just hugged someone who betrayed me several years ago. I thanked her for stopping by. I’m not sure whether that means I’ve moved farther down the road to forgiveness or that I’m not brave enough to continue on with my cold indifference. I could say having cancer makes a difference in one’s ability to see past human frailty, but I’m not sure that’s true.

Every day, I pray for and work towards forgiveness and the abandonment of rage and hatred. In this particular case, hugging was a manifestation of grace in my life. There’s still a small part of me keeping track of the things she did. Maybe someday I’ll stop remembering. I’m not quite that strong yet.

Surgery countdown: 7 days

August 20, 2007

Surgery Countdown in Crazy Land

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Office Hell, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 7:35 pm

M.D. Anderson is clearly in sight now.  I’ll be leaving Wednesday to ensure I get to an early morning sonogram.  Later on, The Beloved Dr. Ross.  I’m hoping on this trip, he’ll ask me to move in with him so he can take care of me forever.  Let’s not forget that I have hair and muscle tone now.  Anything could happen. (Obviously, I’m hard-pressed to contain my anxiety.  Dr. Ross is the perfect antidote.)  Friday, I drive back to Austin.

On Monday, I drive back to M.D. Anderson for pre-op consults and an appointment with Dr. Kronowitz early Tuesday morning.  Wednesday:  Surgery.

I got all new “roll out” materials to their appointed destinations and provided on-site managers with extra copies of required forms.  I rock.
For all the lovers of Crazy Land tales, an encounter with Foot Lady for your pleasure.  I went downstairs to her office to provide her with the extra forms to take to her supervisors.  Guess what we talked about next?  Yes! Yes!  Her feet!  She did not plop her foot on the desk for illustrative purposes, but she did flop it on a nearby chair.   Some things simply will not change.  Foot Lady’s ongoing foot problems is one of them.

The workers’ comp company is driving me to distraction.  I received a new claim today  for an insect bite.  I recently allegedly gained the ability to submit claims online.  Twice I have tried it, twice it has not worked.  I called tech support today, told the guy the problem, and he says, “Well, you got me stumped.  I’ll have to have someone call you.”  Great.  I’ve got all the time in the world.
I submitted yet another paper claim, after having wasted a fair amount of time and an enormous amount of patience trying to get the lightening-fast online reporting system to work.  I got the letter to the employee printed, but that’s as far as I got.

Crazy Land denizens kindly held a Team Ggirl meeting, complete with warm, homemade cookies (of many kinds) and a lovely parting gift.  Let us all celebrate my upcoming surgery!  My friend the Information Superhighway did lots of shopping and arrived with a whole grab bag of cookies, magazines, crossword puzzles, toiletries…all gifts that were useful and touching.  I like to recount the foibles of my co-workers, but my feelings for virtually all of them are quite cordial.  Clueless though they may sometimes be, frustrating in the extreme and wildly annoying though they may be, I’m very deeply touched that they care.  Not to be cynical, but warm cookies is a Team Ggirl event that’s a win-win for everyone and is not necessarily a reflection of how much I’ve endeared myself to my coworkers.
That completely halted the workers’ comp paperwork fiesta, which just means I have to focus on it immediately tomorrow, along with getting my biopsy slides sent to M.D. Anderson.  There will be plenty of faxing going on.  I got a call on Friday from my dermatologist’s office, letting me know they sent the biopsy results, instead of the slides.  No one told me that’s what they were sending.  Nor did they tell me whom to call to arrange it for myself.

I have a late afternoon appointment with the dermatologist tomorrow.  I’m sure we’ll be covering all of this. That means my last day of Crazy Land will be a short one.  That would be great, but my tasks require more time than I may have at my disposal.

I guess that’s another antidote to anxiety.  Owner asked me today how I got all of the new insurance stuff taken care of.  “I worked my ass off.”  I will be working said ass off again tomorrow.  Lots of the workout will be personal, so I don’t suppose complaint is order here.

The upshot is that I may be away for a while from my online friends and my own weblog. Rest assured that all is well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. (Bowing to Julian of Norwich.)  I’ll see you when it’s all over, if not before.

P.S.  Sorry for the wholly unimaginative title line.  What can I say?

August 17, 2007

Bang Bang Bang

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Office Hell, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 8:12 pm

Craziness abounds, even over and above my daily sojourn in Crazy Land.  Crazy Land continues to spin, though, and I’m definitely caught in its many manifestations of nuttiness-inspired stress.  My anxiety about getting everything accomplished before my Wednesday departure is significantly diminished.  Nonetheless I’m always aware of the endless shiver of anxiety burrowed under the level of my daily consciousness.

In the middle of conversations, I suddenly notice the lunacy in my voice.  The more I try to tame it, the loonier I sound.  Very disconcerting.  I wish I could preface every interaction with an explanation that I’m soon having my fourth surgery in two years and that I’m therefore virtually unable to think clearly.  As a matter of fact, I’m virtually unable to function.

Now and again, it strikes me that, since everyone around me seems to expect me to continue on as usual, I should most certainly be able to do that.  Maybe I should be able to, but my mind periodically goes blank.  The brain keeps track of pain and it will not be distracted from  another imminent  physical insult.
“How can you possibly expect me to do anything more than arrive at work and stay there for 8 hours,” I think. Actually accomplishing things is simply completely out of the question.

Sometimes there’s no choice.  I’ve had the infamous “roll out” to orchestrate, a major coup considering the daunting amount of information not available. It’s been a struggle to simply find out how many sites each manager services and how many employees are at each site.  Is it any wonder my mind goes blank from time to time?  It’s a little like a cultural adaptation in this case.  Everyone else is in some information-deprived haze.  I’m just doing my part to fit in.  Now there’s a good excuse.

When it rains workers comp claims, it pours.  Unfortunately, lately it’s been pouring guys who’ve chosen to not report their work-related injuries for a week or so.  The amount of paperwork alone that has to be generated and disseminated  wears me out, even when reporting is prompt.  When our employees wait to illuminate anyone about their hurties, my work becomes even more time-critial and positively stuffed with paper to be printed, faxed, copied, printed again and mailed to several people.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve been having serious issues with my dermatologist’s office.  When I visited, at their insistence, to discuss my diagnosis and treatment, the nurse practitioner was completely useless.  No need for treatment, or maybe there is, who knows?  Nonetheless, they called to make a six-week follow up visit.  I also have an appointment with the doctor herself on Tuesday.  To top it all off, I’ve been unable to have biopsy results successfully sent to Dr. Ross.

See?  This is another moment when the mind goes absolutely blank.  I have no idea what to do now.  The nurse tells me to call the Pathology Lab and arrange it myself.  They might have shared that with me when I called last week specifically to have them do that.  I  can’t.  The new hill of endless paperwork seems too big to climb at the moment.The noise you hear is my head as I beat it against the wall.

August 15, 2007

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Faith and Spirituality — ggirl @ 11:39 am


Important information about inflammatory breast cancer from a woman who knows.  She’s amazing.  Check her out.

August 14, 2007


Filed under: Destroying My Childhood, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 2:54 pm

“Time engraves our faces with all the tears we have not shed.” ~ Natalie Clifford Barney
My mom talked me into calling my psychiatrist today.  We’ve been eliminating pills like crazy and I’ve been feeling psychopharmacologically triumphant.  (Yes, it’s a great word and yes, it was hard to type.) There’s that one tiny problem of crying all of the time.  My mom suggested that, since things seem to be getting worse instead of better, maybe I should clue my shrink in on how things are going.

I’ve been rolling along, thinking that the crying jags come with the territory.  I have new cancer checks and another surgery looming.  That would make anybody cry, wouldn’t it?  My mom pointed out that it’s been getting worse.  In fact, even talking about crying makes me cry.  Bad sign.

So I called and we added in another 150 mgs. of one of my ongoing get-me-through-the-day drugs.  My doctor said that crying just because you’re talking about it doesn’t, in fact, go with the territory.

Moving on.  Reason number 5,000 for crying:  an episode of Dr. Phil.  Dr. Phil is always tricky.  First of all, I live in terror that one of my relatives is going to show up on the program, although it’s really more likely they’d have made an appearance on the Jerry Springer show.  (Is that still happening?)  Then there’s the subject matter.  I’ve had personal experience with most of the really bad stuff he addresses and it’s not always a good thing to be reminded of that.

Yesterday’s episode was about a grandfather who abused his five year old granddaughter.  It reminded me that my own sexual abuse started sometime before the age of five.  I managed to place it in time by asking my mom about the events that surrounded the first episode of abuse I remember.  It had happened before then, I know, because I recall being afraid and, later, trying to hide from him in the bathroom.

I hate it when I’m reminded of just how young five years old is.  It’s different when you see it through the lens of your own personal experience.  I forget just how tiny and defenseless I was until I see other children that age, going through a version of my own life history.

My husband was in the room when Dr. Phil was on and I told him how young I must have been when the abuse started.  I’m not sure I’d ever shared that with him before.  Why?  It’s not a thing that comes up much in conversation.  It’s something that makes me feel permanently wounded.  I might even use the word “damaged.”  Consequently, not many people who know me know about this part of my life.  As I think I’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of things people don’t know about my life.  It works better for me that way.

The grandfather was just like all child abusers.  It wasn’t his fault, you know.  It was that seductive five year old.  He was the victim.

I never talked with my uncle about why he sexually assaulted me, time and time again.  I don’t need to talk with him.  I know all of the answers he’d ever give me.  It was my fault.  Everything he ever said to me spoke to his belief that I was the real perpetrator. The sad thing is that all sexually abused kids (all abused kids, generally) think it’s their fault.  I spent a lot of my life feeling guilty and dirty and, yes, damaged.

Sometime around the age of 40, I finally figured out it wasn’t my fault.  I’d been in therapy for many years by then and I’d dutifully absorbed my therapists’ mantra that, indeed, it wasn’t my fault.  I never really believed it, though.  I’m not sure why.  I guess that’s part of the power of childhood sexual abuse, especially when it starts at such a young age.  It’s a poisonous root that takes hold and wraps itself around every fiber of your being.

Here’s something funny.  Writing about this does not make me cry.  I don’t think it ever has.  I can cry for that little girl whose grandfather used her for his own sexual pleasure, though.  Someday maybe I’ll cry for myself.

August 13, 2007

Things You Can Be Sure Of

Filed under: Uncategorized — ggirl @ 3:03 pm

“Everything Must Change” recorded by virtually everyone, my favorite of whom is Nina Simone.

Everything must change
Nothing stays the same
Everyone must change
No one stays the same

The young become the old
And mysteries do unfold
Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged

There are not many things in life
You can be sure of
Except rain comes from the clouds
Sun lights up the sky
And hummingbirds do fly

Winter turns to spring
A wounded heart will heal
But never much too soon
Yes everything must change

The young become the old
And mysteries do unfold
Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged

There are not many things in life
You can be sure of
Except rain comes from the clouds
Sun lights up the sky
And butterflies do fly

Rain comes from the clouds
Sun lights up the sky
And music
And music
Makes me cry

“Everything Must Change,” Bernard Ighner

Time is limited these days. I’m trying to clean up a workers comp mess left by Loathsome, “roll out” a new workers comp insurance program and forestall the complete rewriting of the employee manual. Patience is also limited. So is emotional stability.

I cry at least four times a day every day. Today has actually been a really good day. It’s 2:00 p.m. and I’ve only cried once. Crying is impromptu, it’s always a surprise. Just thinking about crying can make me cry. I’m loads of fun to be with.

Every once in a while, the thought breaks through, “I’m having surgery on the 29th.” That’s when things really start to get out of hand. Every surgery is cause for new terror, if only because every surgery still hurts. I never cry when I see it coming. I do, however, freeze for a moment or two and wish there were some way to escape this life I’ve been assigned. The thought of another surgery is dumbfounding.

I’m out of sorts these days. Everything seems bleak. The future seems not worth living. I wonder why I tried so hard to stay alive. What exactly did I have in mind? Did I believe things will someday improve in my life in any meaningful way? If that’s what I thought, I can’t imagine why I believed it.

I’m angry at the universe. I keep thinking back, wondering what it was exactly that I did to deserve my impossibly difficult life. It’s not just the breast cancer. It’s the years and years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. It’s the rape. It’s the suicide. It’s the job I hate that just won’t stop. No matter what, I have to be here. All of those things seem beyond the boundaries of good taste when heaped upon one small person who’s made a lifetime career of not passing along the violence and pain.

I’m a good person, a gentle person, a person with enormous compassion. As if that counts for anything. I’m sure there’s some purpose to all of this accumulated suffering, but lately I’ll be damned if I can see what it might be. Oh. I know. I’ve been sent the plague of my existence to create the possibility for gentleness and compassion. It’s a mighty big price tag and one that I don’t feel much inclined these days to continue to pay.

Last night, I watched a program on the travel channel called “Jeff Irwin Inside Alaska,” or something like that. The vast, primeval spaces reminded me of why I don’t matter. As I watched bears tearing apart salmon they’d just caught in the river, I kept thinking, “Something dies so that something else may live.” That seemed comforting somehow.

Over the weekend, I though a lot about the gift of seeing the end in advance. My life seems broken beyond repair, my body wounded forever, my mind diminished. The changes are irrevocable. It’s the coming attractions, folks.

Unless we’ve somehow managed to find a quick end, death invites us to leave in tiny increments. We lose a little of ourselves, a little of our joy (assuming we ever had any) moment by moment. Alaskan brown bears die because they have cavities in their teeth. They suffer, dying bit by bit. We do, too. Right now it’s not so much the leaving that bothers me as the slow, painful journey to get there.

Day after day. I get up and come to work. My body hurts. I “roll out” workers comp insurance. I cry about the pathos of the universe. I fill out forms reporting an injury. I rage against the injustice of the universe. I proofread invoices and wonder when my damn copies are going to be ready to be picked up at the local FedEx Kinko’s.

When I look at it that way, it makes me laugh. I’m feeling dramatic today. It’s nothing a good surgery won’t cure, though.

August 10, 2007

Which Tarot Card Are You?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ggirl @ 11:59 am
You Are The Lovers

You represent ideal love: innocence, trust, exhilaration and joy.
You demonstrate the harmony of opposites, two sides coming together.
At times, you also represent the struggle between what is right and what is tempting.
Control is an issue for you, especially when you don’t know your reasons for choosing something.

Your fortune:

You have an important choice you need to make about love, and it will be a difficult choice to make.
You are likely struggling between the love you crave and the love that is right.
In the end, you will choose what you crave, even if it’s bad for you.
Because without what you crave, you will feel empty and incomplete.

What Tarot Card Are You?

August 7, 2007

I’ve Given Birth Today To Several Dancing Stars

Filed under: Office Hell, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 2:58 pm

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”~ Nietszche
There simply is not enough time in the day to catalog all of the crappy things going on with me.  Most of those things are work-related and I’m sure I’ll get around to complaining about them in depth at a later date.  For now I’ll just hit the high points.

I saw my dermatologist’s Physician’s Assistant yesterday in the vain hope of finding out the meaning of my diagnosis and potential treatments.  I think that’s why they called me in the first place.  “Come in and discuss the diagnosis and treatment options.”  So I did.

The  PA couldn’t even see the affected area.  That’s interesting because my physical therapist saw it immediately.  I was aggravated yesterday and, when my PT person saw it today, I got irritated all over again.  Dermatologist PA gazed at my file for a while, repeated the diagnosis of morphea and looked a little confused.

That’s it?  That’s what you have for me?  You’re just going to tell me the name again and then tell me you can’t even see it?  Oh my god.  This is exactly the kind of thing that made me stop trusting medical professionals in the first place.  I spent over 20 years rolling my eyes when people tried to make me see a doctor.  Were it not for an abundance of excellent health care experiences the past couple of years, I’m sure I’d be right back to refusing to see any more medical experts after this.

This is exactly the argument I had with Dr. Ross’ nurse the last time I was at M.D. Anderson.  I was complaining that they’d taken my oncologist away and replaced him with a physician’s assistant.  “Oh, I’ve seen them catch things the doctors haven’t,” she confided.

Really?  I’ve seen them miss things the doctor has already seen and I’ve heard them give me incorrect information.  This latest experience doesn’t increase my level of confidence.

I’ve decided to file this anxiety away somewhere in my brain and restrict further access until I see Dr. Ross.  I just refuse to think about it.  Luckily, I have lots of things going on at work to take up my precious brain power.

Surprise!  We’re “rolling out” a new workers’ compensation program on September 1.  The insurance rep showed up today with a notebook which purports to tell me how to “roll” it out.  The upshot is this.  If I’m working with a client and break my ankle, I’ll need to let my foreman know.  My foreman will make me fill out three or four forms and acknowledgments.   My foreman will then call ggirl at the office and find out who’s close by that I can see.  No.  I may not go to the hospital.  Well, maybe I can.  Only if it’s an emergency, though.  Of course, nowhere is there any definition of “emergency” to be found in any of the “roll out” materials.

I have no idea whether I have to continue to report things to the state in a new way or the old way or any way at all.  Tomorrow, after I clean up the mess created by one of our foremen (that’s right…it’s Loathsome) , I’ll have to try to track down the information on the state website.  You know that will be easy.  After I figure all of this out, I have from now until September 1 to get materials disseminated to four different sites.

I just took a break to have a 45 minute conversation with the Foot Lady about the issue of drug testing after injuries.  Now it’s almost time to go home.  I’m not picking up that damn phone again for the next ten minutes.

August 2, 2007

Why I Have Time For Absolutely Nothing

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 3:01 pm

There are two possibilities for what’s wrong with me.  Either I have morphea (a rare type of scleroderma) or I have morpheaform basal cell cancer.  Obviously, I’m hoping for the latter.  Unfortunately, from all of the credible sources I’ve found on the Web, neither of them match my symptoms.  We’ve got a biopsy, though.

Morphea is an extremely rare type of scleroderma, occurring in approximately 25 in one million people per year.  It’s characterized by red or purple splotches that gradually turn whitish.  I assure you that if I’d had red or purple splotches running down either side of my spine, I would definitely have noticed.  Unlike generalized scleroderma, it will not kill me.  That’s a plus.  No one knows what causes it.  It’s not hereditary.

I don’t even want to talk about morpheaform basal cell cancer.  Will that kill me?  Oh yeah.  You can see why I’d prefer the first diagnosis.

I’ve been searching for information, obsessing, being absolutely crazy about it. Everyone assures me they would be, too, given my breast cancer diagnosis.  Originally, my dermatologist had scheduled an appointment for me on August 21 to discuss the diagnosis and treatment options.  This is after they rather frantically tracked me down to tell me the doctor wished to see me.  It’s not like I didn’t make myself very available.  There are two numbers where I can be reached and both have voice mail options.

I’m supposed to see Dr. Ross on the 23rd of August, so I contacted him and I’m having biopsy slides sent for his review.  I started to think that was a really stupid idea and that I should just cancel the message I left asking for instructions on how to do that.  My mother, my therapist, my co-workers all insisted that I shouldn’t have to wait that long to find out what’s going on.  Furthermore, if biopsy results aren’t examined by a pathologist at M.D. Anderson in advance, Dr. Ross will have no ability to make a reliable diagnosis.  You know how I trust this man, so even if it’s totally crazy and stupid, it will at least ease my mind to have his opinion.

Meanwhile, physical therapy continues.  There are numerous places on my body, both inside and outside that have scar tissue build-up that we’re trying to break down.  I was surprised to find out that I even have scar tissue running from my groin to my new girl from the drainage tubes I had to have after reconstruction.  Obviously, my upcoming surgery will only create more scar tissue.

Breaking up scar tissue is painful.  Now there’s a surprise.  Has anything in the past two years not been painful?  Hell no.  It’s all relative, though, and it’s far less painful than the needles-in-the-breast episode and the whole reconstruction (so far) ordeal.

I have exercises to do every night to get my lymphatic system up and running.  Then I have to use a hand-held massager to work away at that scar tissue.  That’s in addition to the twice weekly manual manipulation with the physical therapist.

It feels like virtually every working moment is dedicated to some sort of body maintenance or bodily healing or trying to get my records sent here and there or trying to get an earlier appointment.  I could go on and on.

But I won’t.  I spend so much time now in my weblogs cataloging the latest events that I never get around to how I’m feeling inside these days.  I guess there’s not much point in examining it.  I’m emotionally ragged and exhausted.  I’m so stressed out that I’m barely functional.  Maybe tomorrow I can think about that a little more and feel it a little more.

Right now, I’m going home to eat something and work out to manage my stress level.  Manage.  There’s a laugh.  There’s no managing to be done; I’m just trying to get through this.  I don’t think that counts as actually coming to terms with anything.

With any luck, I’ll have enough time tomorrow in between resolving more medical issues to chronicle the latest emotional debacle.

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