Quarterly Update: Un-fucking Myself

In December, i set forth to un-fuck a few aspects of my life.  Nothing huge, just a few necessary course corrections.  It’s going well…

Finger Un-fucking:  After a referral by my general practitioner to a hand surgeon, i was dreading the complications of a surgical “slice and dice”.  Fortunately, this particular surgeon is not a meat cowboy, and wisely prescribed a bit of physical therapy.  Not ruptured tendons, but shredded ligaments.  The resulting scar tissue was keeping my finger curled up like a claw.  Three weeks of PT, and significant improvements had been achieved by mid-February. i continue to sleep in a splint, do my finger exercises, and occasionally wear the spring-loaded torture device prescribed by my therapist.  95% recovered, without spilling blood. Although i will continue therapy on my own,  i consider my finger officially un-fucked.

Check!

Space Un-fucking: January saw me tearing through boxes in the garage and storage room.  Many of them full of shrapnel moved into the new place in 2008 by my daughter – she had been preparing for her studies in Beirut as we prepared to move from our previous home.  This led to many boxes of “un-sorted shit”.  Much of that shit has now been sorted.  The trash disposed of, treasures re-packed and safely stored – and dozens of bags and boxes taken to the local thrift store for recycling.  Not only tackling her stuff, i got through much of my own.  Two Jeep-loads* cleared in January.  February and March have been full of entertaining distractions, but i plan to get back to this in April.  My goal is at least one Jeep-load per month removed from my home – trash, or thrift store, i will continue to reduce my footprint in the homestead.

Progress?  Check!  An on-going battle, though…

Body Un-fucking:  It hasn’t been fun, but it’s working.  As of this morning, down 15 pounds since the end of December.  Picked up a regular gym habit, wearing (and using) my fitbit for accountability, and making changes in my food habits – to include portion control, calorie counting, and ‘just saying no’ to the things that will slow down progress.  i feel better, have more energy, and have noticed looser clothing.  Granted, this is my ‘fat’ wardrobe, but being able to take off a pair of jeans without unbuttoning them feels good – especially when they were a bit snug a few months ago.

Having Studley as my ‘accountability buddy’ has been essential — he’s down 35 pounds, and has already approached his goal for the year.  i am both delighted and annoyed by this… He promises to remain my accountability buddy, and workout buddy.

Hmmm…. i guess that makes him my “un-fuck” buddy…

Whatever…

So there’s the score card for the first three months.  Not bad.  There’s another thing that’s been dogging me that i’m going to add for the upcoming quarter.  A project that stalled due to a vexing technical challenge – the holidays got in the way, too.

A year ago, i tackled a ridiculous project.  Tearing down a broken upright piano at the theater, i carted it home piece by piece, and re-assembled it in my basement.  It is going to become something else – a Frankenstein piece for my party palace.  When i hit a serious hurdle in November, i parked the project, with hopes of getting back to it in January.

But i didn’t.

So now, i shall un-fuck my MacGyver project, and get back to work. Leaving such things unfinished is simply not how i like to roll.

gutted piano

There will be another quarterly update at the end of June.  It is my intention to have hauled at least three more Jeep-loads of ‘stuff’ out of my home.  It is my intention to be at least 15 pounds lighter than i am today.  It is my intention to have overcome my technical roadblock, and be well on my way to completing the piano conversion.

———-

* “Jeep-load” is an acceptable volumetric unit of measure in these parts.  For conversion purposes, “10 Jeep-loads” = “1 Shit-load”.

 

 

How to die

She’s 80 years old, and weighs less than her age.  Pound for pound?  The toughest woman on the face of the planet.

Edna was my admin assistant when i did my reluctant tour as branch manager a few years back.  We joked at the time about her diminutive size, but no one was ever going to deny her a request for documentation, signature or assistance.  Bottom line:  Shit got done.  We were at the top of the admin heap in a large research organization simply because of her knowledge and tenacity.

Her trials and tribulations would have destroyed most mortals.  Pregnant with her second child, her husband was struck by lightning and killed on a golf course during a Father’s Day outing, throwing her into the ranks of “single mother” before the days of affordable child care.  She continued to work, and her children never went without necessities, discipline or love.

Tough as nails, she also demonstrated solid home defense skills. A dumb bastard attempted to take advantage of her situation for his own benefit.  He entered her garage late one night, and attempted to break into the house.  She heard him.  “If you open that door, you’ll regret it”.  He did.  She shot him in the thigh, and watched him bleed while she called the police.

While handling the necessary and potentially crippling administrivia that daunted my organization, she also battled a chronic form of leukemia.  But Edna was no stranger to cancer, having survived breast cancer (double mastectomy) in her 50’s, and colon cancer in her 60’s.  For her?  Another annoyance.

She kept working part time for a few years after i’d moved on to the new job, but finally retired for good two years ago.  At 78 years old.

Last summer, i got word that she’d been hospitalized with pneumonia.  They found metastatic cancer in her lungs.  She decided to try some “gentle” chemo for a bit, but it made her weaker, so she told them to shove it.  Her son and daughter-in-law lived near by, and were providing daily care to help her maintain independence.  It was the hip-breaking fall in the bathtub in October that set the final showdown in motion.

Her daughter-in-law and son moved in to provide round-the-clock care.  Hospice was notified, and home medical care was kicked into play. 

Today?  A pizza party at her house, with a few of us from work.  The people she liked.  Edna never suffered the office fools with much humor, and was quite specific on who she didn’t want to darken her doorstep. 

Worried about the needs of her son and his wife, she insisted that they take next weekend off… and invited a neighbor to come and stay with her so they can return home for a little respite care themselves.  Her neighbor, a gentleman in his early 70’s, was glad to assist.  Edna informed him in no uncertain terms that sex was out of the question… mainly due to the fire hazard from the oxygen!  Sparks would be bad…

Speaking of fire, she’s still smoking.  With an oxygen hook up, i did a quick safety check.  Separate room for the oxygen and the smokes.  As she said “What’s the point of quitting now?”

Weighing in at 61 pounds, the cancer gets more nutrition than she does when she eats… and she’s too stubborn to feed the cancer.  Perhaps a month or two before she’s gone.  The toughest broad i’ve ever met tackled life Edna-style.  And is taking on death the same way…

Phun with Phyzikz…

Even i have limits.  i can tolerate a rather remarkable amount of pain – particularly in regards to enduring meetings, workshops and technical conferences.  i have developed tools and techniques for staying awake

Physiologically?  They call me “The Camel”, as i am generally able to drink my weight in coffee in a half-day meeting and never require a mercy break*.   That – and my ability to sleep on airplanes – is one of my most important business skills….

Friday was Day Four of a Hardcore Tech Workshop.  The first three days of the meeting were at our on-site conference facility – allowing me the option of sneaking home for lunch and avoiding getting my leg humped by aggressive and/or needy academics looking for research funds.  They often have no table manners, and will corner me during lunch, sharing the merits of their particular microcosm of the research universe whilst spitting chunks of squishy pasta salad in my lap. 

The final “invitation only” geekfest was held at a downtown hotel… less convenient for an escape.  With about 200 people at the events earlier in the week, it was easy to disappear and escape notice.  The final day consisted of a smaller subset of researchers, maybe twenty folks total.  This presented a much greater challenge – especially since i was one of only two “senior leader” types in the room…

So it had to tough it out.  This little topical workshop was focused on a piece of my technological pie.  Since i’m the techno-strategist du jour for my new group, i felt obligated to feign as much interest as possible. 

i pulled out all of my standard tools.  Fantasize about someone in the room?  Umm… right….  Mostly physicists.  Next trick, please?  Discreetly surf the news on my blackberry?  Nope.  Seats were crammed too closely together in a small room.  The speaker would see me doing it… just too rude. 

Oh, for the love of Maxwell, these fuckers simply would not shut up!  We were destined to run late.  On a fucking FRIDAY afternoon.  But i was hangin’ tough.  Going through my “to do” list for the weekend in my head.  Playing games with the words being spewed**….

At 1:30 pm, i began to squirm… the dreaded “Post-Lunch/Pre-Cookie Break” chasm of death.  Nowhere to stand and pace in the back of the small meeting room.  i was trapped.  When the final speaker of the session launched into an impassioned discussion of non-hermitian hamiltonians, i cracked.

Looking at my blackberry, with my trademarked “Oh, There’s A Highly Urgent Management Matter I Must Attend To” furrowed brow, i stood, grabbed my coat and briskly walked out of the room, off to the parking garage and squealed my tires outta there. 

Sometimes they simply can’t pay me enough…

AAAARRRRGH!

Phuck all y'all!

* In fact, i have used this particular skill to accelerate the decision process.  After filling the urn in the group conference room with coffee, gathering my management team around the table, and hashing out the advantages/disadvantages of a particular course of action, i can wrap a meeting up fairly quickly with the statement:  “No one is leaving this room until we come to a decision!”  They’ll squirm, cross their little legs, and sometimes even pace a bit, but eventually, we’re done and there’s a mad dash to the cans…  Yeah.  Evil, but highly effective.

** One particularly enthusiastic speaker, who was Greek, managed to hold my attention inadvertently.  Every time he said “PT Phase” it sounded like “Pretty Face”, and therefore made his presentation much more entertaining…

Towanda!

One of the nice things about having breast cancer is that for the rest of your life you visit your oncologist every year. Sort of like having a “cancer-stalking ninja” sitting on your shoulder. During my annual mammogram two weeks ago, an ‘area of concern’ was spotted in my right tit*. Biopsy was recommended.

It wasn’t a tumor, just a cluster of microcalcifications.  These are normally scattered throughout the breast and are of no concern unless they cluster.  Even if clustered, they are usually just indicative of pre-cancerous cellular abnormalities, and generally don’t evolve into invasive cancer.

Bottom line?  It was no big deal.  Even if it was bad, it wasn’t bad. 

So the biopsy was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.  Both of my children, and the two friends i told about it, offered to drive me to the appointment, but i declined.  Hopped in the jeep after lunch and drove myself to the hospital.  No big deal.  Local anesthetic is used for a stereotactic biopsy, and there is no concern about driving post-procedure. 

The stereotactic biopsy is the first approach attempted in such a case.  When the little nuggets are that small, sometimes a wire-localization surgical biopsy is required.  More extensive, still local anaesthetic, and good to avoid if possible.

Joking with the medical staff, i reminded them that these are the Model Year 2007 Bionic Twins we’re dealing with… The objective was to get something for pathology without mashing it into a thumbless mitten…  Given the size and location of the clump, the doc wasn’t sure he’d be able to get it.  The staff prepared me for several attempts, and said it might take an hour to just find it.  It took a full 90 minutes of x-ray imaging before the doc could do the core biopsy. 

That’d be 90 minutes with me lying face down on a hard table, tit through a hole, and strategically crushed between two plates.  While not painful, it wasn’t particularly comfortable.  “Don’t move!”  Right.  i stayed as still as i could.  The doctor, knowing that i was getting stiff, reached up to reassure me, placing his hand squarely on my left ass cheek.  Not sure he realized it… but i still didn’t move**.  Given that the doc was pretty sure we’d have to go back for a wire-localization, i was relieved that he was able to get a sample for pathology.

The doctor and staff said that i had been an ideal patient.  Relaxed, flexible and tolerant – with a fairly high threshold for discomfort.  Otherwise, they said, they’d have referred me for the wire-localized surgical biopsy.

When it was over, i wandered back out the the parking lot*** on a gorgeous autumn day, sucking in the fresh humidity-free air and drinking in the high-pressure blue sky.  Hopped back in my jeep. 

“i am one badass motherfucker” was the random thought that popped into my head…

When i went through the process almost three years ago, i went to all of my appointments and procedures alone.  With the random thought that flashed in my head, i finally realized why i do it this way.  It provides the illusion of power and control.  It makes me feel strong. 

The reality?  i was just as scared on that table as any other human being.  Even though my rational mind knew it wouldn’t be bad, it’s fucking scary.  So i rationalize it into a nice corner, tell myself i’m strong and in control of things and that i’m a badass motherfucker.

Always comes back to that amazing quote, uttered by Jeff Goldblum in “The Big Chill”:

Sam Weber: Nothing’s more important than sex!
Michael: Oh yeah, have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?

Got the call from my oncologist last night with good news:  negative.  So no further need for cutting or cooking my perky and healthy right tit.

Once again, i want to remind all of you ladies to get your mammograms.  The microcalcifications are the size of a grain of salt, and they are distinctly visible on a digital mammogram.  Isn’t that amazing?  Sometimes they can see the fucking cancer BEFORE it’s cancer.  Yeah, it hurts to put your tit in a vise once a year.  So what? 

Excuses are like assholes – everyone’s got one.  Just go do it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Pardon the medical jargon…  i’m a self-taught professional.

** Had he been anywhere near as hot as the orthopaedic surgeon who did my knee surgery, i might have jumped him…

*** i got dressed first…