My World Turned Inside Out

I have been sitting here trying to think of something witty or profound to say and nothing comes to mind. I’m not feeling especially wise or funny right now. To be honest, I’m feeling lost and scared. Every year I go get my basic health exams done, you know the ones, Pap smear and mammogram. In the past both have come back questionable, so I always keep my annual appointments religiously. I had my first breast biopsy when I was eighteen. I’ve had three more since and so far they have all been benign. After the mammogram the technician put me back in a tiny room to wait half naked for the radiologist to read the X-rays and pronounce me free to go. There was a knock on the door and the technician said the radiologist saw something he didn’t like and wanted more x-rays.

After more smashing, contorting and discomfort I was sent back to my tiny little room to wait. Everything was going to be fine, I told myself, the same as always. The knock on the door and look on technician’s face said something different. The radiologist wanted to do a sonogram because he wasn’t sure if he saw something or if it was a shadow from the scar tissue made from the last breast biopsy I had done four years ago. Off I went to get a sonogram. This day was not turning out the way I had planned. The technician completed the sonogram and took off to show his work to the radiologist telling me to lie still and wait until he came back. I waited for what seemed like an eternity thinking what was wrong, how difficult could this be? The technician knocked on the door and in walked the radiologist with the technician. This was not good. The last time I saw the radiologist was four years ago when he saw the last lump. The radiologist explained that he wanted to watch the tech do the sonogram to see exactly what the tech was doing and what was showing on the screen. Oh goody, now I have two men looking at my naked chest and not in a good way.

After ten minutes of rolling the wand back and forth across my breast, the radiologist explained that the “lesion” or “mass” was new and not a shadow from the scar tissue of the previous biopsy. He said he would call my doctor and recommend either an MRI or a needle biopsy to find out if the lesion was benign or not. The technician made a DVD copy of the x-rays and the sonogram for me to take with me to the surgeon for show and tell. G-Rated of course. My gynecologist called and we discussed how to proceed. Once again it would be the needle biopsy, fun, fun, fun. She also explained that since I had been on hormones for seven years and if the mass turned out to be cancerous that I would have to stop taking the hormones. I told her that wasn’t she just the bearer of more bad news. I was not looking forward to hot flashes. Of course, I figured that it would be another benign tumor just like the previous three times. I called the surgeon’s office and made an appointment for Friday, October 11th, giving me a week and a half to stew about it. Outwardly I knew it would be nothing as always, but inwardly there was this little voice inside my head saying, “are you sure? What if…?”

I played off the impending office visit, telling Mitch and myself that it was no big deal, then immediately following up with a statement about just lopping both breasts off and not having to worry about this in the future. Friday finally came and I was so keyed up about going so that I could get this over with that I totally forgot to take my boob DVD with me. I walked into the reception area and signed in, making a joke about being early. The receptionist smiled, asked for the DVD and I gave her this stricken look, I couldn’t believe it, I forgot it. I knew exactly where it was, sitting on my dresser. I apologized profusely and walked out to call Mitch and ask him to drop what he was doing and bring it to me. What a nincompoop, I suck. Mitch being the saint he is, brought it to me in record breaking time so I could still make my appointment on time.

I took my prize back inside with me and handed it over to the receptionist to give to the surgeon. Once ushered in to the examination room, I got undressed from the waist up, donned the fashionable gown and waited for my surgeon to come in make it all better. We crossed the hall to the room with his sonogram machine so that he could find the lesion again and know where to stab me so he could take the tissue samples for testing. His nurse squirted the lubricant on my skin, and it was off the races with my surgeon rolling the wand over the area marked on the sonogram and x-rays searching for the lesion. He couldn’t find it. Back and forth he rolled it over and over and didn’t see anything suspect. He was getting frustrated and I was getting worried. Was I wasting everyone’s time on a witch hunt? Of course I wasn’t the one that found it the first time, but my brain works in a weird twisted way, I blame myself first. After about fifteen minutes of a fruitless search for the mass, my surgeon decided he wanted to call in the big guns.

It was decided that I would go to the Women’s Center and get a sonogram needle biopsy there by the hospital’s radiologist. Evidently the women’s center had a bigger better sonogram machine and they would stand a better chance of finding it than the surgeon’s office machine. Since it was after four on Friday, I would have to wait until Monday the following week for the scheduler at the women’s center to call and set up an appointment, another weekend of waiting and wondering. The stress was really starting to build and the little voice was getting louder, the “what ifs” coming more and more. I still presented an outward, “this is no big deal.” But inside I had a bad feeling and told Mitch so that night in bed.

His response was, “What do you want to do?”

“There’s nothing I can do but wait. I just want it done and know the outcome, that’s all.”

Monday afternoon on the 14th I got a call from the scheduler setting up my appointment for that Wednesday at 2pm. I wish I could have gone right then, I don’t do waiting well. You should see me during the Christmas season, I make Mitch crazy. Thankfully I was not responsible for taking the DVD to the center; my surgeon’s nurse ran that over for me. The staff at the Women’s Center was amazing, caring kind women that treated me so wonderfully. I can truthfully say that everyone I had dealt with so far have been the most wonderful caring professionals in the healthcare field. These are special people to do what they do every day.

As the radiologist took the syringe and prepared to stab me with it the technician reached down and grabbed my hand and held it. I looked up at her and she had such a soft sweet smile on her face, it was almost like having my mom standing there holding my hand telling me that everything would be alright. That was so unexpected and reassuring, I almost started crying. I felt like I wasn’t alone in this, that they were there rooting for me as much as I was. I felt a sharp prick and then a burning sensation in my left breast; I looked up at the screen and could see the needle moving back and forth squirting the lidocaine around the area to be snipped. It was weird and a little creepy looking at the screen and seeing the needle then the fireplace log starter moving around inside me while the radiologist hunted for the best site to take tissue samples. Again it was time for more waiting. Two to three days before I would get the results and since it was late Wednesday afternoon, I probably would not get the results until Monday.

Monday came and went no phone call; does that mean good or bad news? Tuesday I called the doctor’s office finally out of patience and was told that the results had just gotten there but the doctor hadn’t read them yet and would call me back as soon as he read through the report. My world stopped as soon as I heard the doctor’s voice on the other end of the phone, “I’m sorry, the pathology report shows you have breast cancer. It’s a small mass, which is good…” he droned on. But that was all I heard, “breast cancer” then there was a roaring in my ears and my chest tightened. I squeezed back tears, took a deep breath and clenched my jaw shut to keep from blubbering out loud. No, my mind screamed, no not now, not today. Like any other day would be a better day for cancer. I focused on what the doctor was saying. He said that he wanted me to come in and talk to him and discuss our plan of action. The sooner the better, I could come in today or tomorrow whichever was better for me. I could get a mastectomy or a lumpectomy and get radiation therapy.

I told myself I could do this and called Mitch to tell him. As soon as I started to tell him, I couldn’t talk, tears ran down my face, I took a breath and blurted it out. In his usual calm voice he said that we would get through this. We would go to the doctor’s office discuss our options and go from there. “WE” being the operative word. Not you but we. We were a couple, a team and we would fight the fight together. I don’t think I could have loved him more than at that moment. Mitch had my back, no matter what.

It is funny how you can read something and it doesn’t affect you as much as saying it out loud. I could see the words breast cancer in my mind or even say breast cancer out loud, but when I added the two words, “I have”, I would tear up, my voice dropped to a whisper and I could barely speak the entire sentence, “I have breast cancer.” It took me three days to be able say that without crying, but now I can and I can smile and think about the positives in my life. I am working with the surgeon, doing research and talking the best source in the world, my friend who went through this last year and is amazing. She is the strongest woman I know who has inspired me to try to be half as strong as she was.

I gave myself a wallow time to feel sorry for myself, but now it’s time to get beyond that and fight the fight of my life. I’m done wallowing it’s time to put on the boxing gloves.

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Fall is Starting to Show Her Colors

It was a beautiful fall day and for some odd reason I thought it would be better to take the dogs and my camera for a walk than clean house. It is finally turning chilly after a warm late summer and early fall, plus it’s been very dry here so we’re not having the brilliant colors we have had in the past. But Mother Nature is trying.

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A little color peaking through the green leaves
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One lone tree has turned in the midst of still green trees
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Pumpkins and mums seem to be the fall decoration of choice
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A little more color here and there
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The reds aren’t as bright but it’s still pretty
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Purple mums
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Purple mums
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A giant oak tree is turning a little at a time

Photos taken by Susan Kelly with Canon EOS Rebel

Play Day

Our friends rescued a very skinny Belgian Malinois they thought was about a year old but it turns out he is somewhere around seven months to a year old. Once they got him home fed, rested and feeling safe, Eddy’s energy level raised. Eddy has the inexhaustible energy of an atom. No amount of walking, fetch and wrestling with the other two dogs, is wearing him our regularly. And to keep the other two dogs from eating him, we throw Orso at him and let them wrestle around. Orso is very good around other dogs but even he has his limits too.

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Eddy is super fast and seems to glide over the ground

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A rousing game of tag

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Orso standing and assessing the day

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Eddy looks vicious but that is just the Malinois game face

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Orso had had enough and was going to show Eddy who was the big dog

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Face off – looks scary but all in good dog fun

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Charlie watching ready to referee if needed

Skunk De-Skunker or A Public Service Announcement

Pheasant season is right around the corner and if your dogs are anything like ours, they get into a lot of thick tall grass searching for the elusive scent of a pheasant. Often other creatures pop out of the underbrush, such as rabbits, deer and on occasion, a skunk. That happened on one hunting trip. The dogs were hot on a pheasant that wanted to run through some prairie grass and would not break cover, when the dogs stopped short. As I caught up to Charlie and Orso I could make out something black sticking up in the grass and the dogs were barking at it. I just barely made out the shape and screamed, “Skunk! Leave it –leave it!”

I back pedaled as fast as I could to get out of range, but Charlie and Orso were not so lucky. As Charlie turned the skunk sprayed them catching Charlie on the right side of his face and shoulder, Orso got sprayed on his shoulder. As bad as the dead skunk stench smells when you are driving down the road and get a waft of the road kill aroma, a live skunk spray victim smells worse. It is a cloying sickening sweet, decaying smell that gets in your nostrils and won’t go away.

We took the dogs back to the hotel and first put Charlie in the tub and used all of the shampoo we had scrubbing, rinsing and repeating over and over until the stench was not as overwhelming as it first was. A trip to Walmart for more shampoo and it was Orso’s turn. Even though we were able to cut the stench down with the multiple baths, the stench was still there when you got close to their heads and shoulders. It took almost six months for the smell to completely go away.

After we got back from our fateful hunting trip, we decided to put together a skunk de-skunking kit. In the October 2008 issue of Gun Dog Magazine there was an article about skunks and dogs and it listed a de-skunking recipe. Below is the list of ingredients and instructions for anyone that takes their dogs hiking or hunting and just might need this.

16 ounce bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide (For best results, change out the any unused Hydrogen Peroxide on an annual basis. This is the keep it fresh and active in case you have to use it.)
1 pound box of Baking Soda (transferred to a waterproof container
Dawn Dish Soap
Latex, plastic or rubber gloves (several pair)
A plastic or metal two-quart or larger container to mixing the ingredients (we used a gallon ice cream pail)

Measure one or more cups of baking soda into large container. Add 1/2 cup or more hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Expect mixture to foam somewhat. Squeeze one or more ounces of liquid soap and while wearing protective gloves, hand mix the ingredients until smooth and slightly runny.

Hand rub mixture into dog’s coat with a massaging motion concentrating on the region where most of the skunk oil is located. Leave mixture on dog for 10 minutes or more. Then rinse with ample fresh water. Avoid getting the mixture in the dog’s eyes. Flush well with fresh water if it does get in his eyes.

Rinse the dog with plenty of fresh water.

NOTE: Do Not mix the solution before it is needed. It is unsafe to store this mixture for any length of time, so mix only when needed, apply immediately and discard afterwards.

We haven’t had to use our kit yet and hope we never have to, but we take it with us on each hunting trip. Of course I probably should do that on our hiking treks too.

The Walk from Hell

I did not enjoy our walk this afternoon, no not at all. It started off so promising. Mitch was busy putting brakes on my car when I got home from work, so I fed the dogs and changed my clothes. I put their harnesses on them, grabbed my phone, stuffed a couple of poop bags in my pocket and grabbed the leashes off the coat rack. We walked outside, I leashed each one up and told Mitch we would be back shortly and would fix dinner then. It was a beautiful afternoon, mid-seventies and a light breeze, perfect for a dog walk.

Nobody else was around just the dogs and me; we were about halfway to the dam when Charlie stopped to sniff something in the ditch next to the road, took a step and jerked sideways and sort of jumped and limped to the road both at the same time. I looked at him and he was holding his left foot up as if he had stepped on something and cut his paw or had been bitten. I looked down at his elevated paw and saw something sticking out between two of his toes. It looked like a small stick sticking out of a dark brown rock wedged between his toes.

So being the loving caring pet owner I am, I reached down to pull it out. Imagine my surprise and disgust when I discovered it wasn’t a rock wedged between his toes, but instead it was dog poop. I now have dog poop on my left thumb. Gross! Charlie had stepped in some other dog’s feces and was as disgusted about it as I was when I touched it. I walked over and pulled a leaf off of a bush to try and wipe as much off of my thumb as possible. I didn’t have a Kleenex with me and if I did it would have been in my pocket and I certainly wasn’t going to stick my poopy thumb in my pocket to retrieve it.

After wiping as much as I could off of my thumb, I picked a bigger leaf to try and wipe the poop off of Charlie’s toes. Charlie was being his usual uncooperative self and jerked his paw away from me causing me to get dog poop on my right thumb. Now I have dog poop on both thumbs, I am thoroughly disgusted and feel super gross. I can’t touch anything with my thumbs because I don’t want to get the gross icky poop on anything else. I decided to turn around and walk back home. I held the leashes in each palm curling my fingers around them with my thumbs sticking straight out so I wouldn’t accidently touch anything with my thumbs.

Halfway home and so far so good, no other people or dogs show up and both dogs are behaving rather well, when all of a sudden now I have a goddam gnat flying at my face. There was nothing I could do, I couldn’t swat it, just wave my arms around like a crazy woman and jerk my head spasmodically to try and keep it away. I can only imagine what someone thought if anybody looked out of their window at me.

Where is a wet wipe when you need it?

More Photos From Sunday Explorations

Sunday morning we started off all hyped up in search of a place I read about in one the park pamphlets I ran across, called “Tryst Falls”. What a disappointment! No falls, just a very small shallow pond complete with a sign warning us that there was no diving and no swimming. Not a chance of that, I think we would have been hard pressed to find water above our shins.

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Three droplets of water constitute a waterfall, evidently.

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My friend tried a closer spot and maybe an odd angle would help.

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Farther down the road at Watkins Mill State park we found a wooden bridge that is still in use, in fact we drove over it and lived to tell the tale.

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Underneath the bridge was a dry creek bed that we walked along for a mile or so, a testament to the ongoing dry conditions here.

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More of the dry creek bed, we walked a long way in search of water and never found any.

Sunday Explorations

A friend and I went exploring Sunday with our cameras and found a few things we’ve never seen before.

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This was the church used during the 1800’s at Watkins Mill State Park in Kearney, MO

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This was the school that was used back in 1800’s

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These were the facilities – his and hers I suppose

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The day was a raw windy day with fast moving clouds

I’ll have more later this week. These were taken with my Canon.