Friday, August 31, 2012

Talking to my Surgeon

Another dialect I don’t speak – Surgeonese.

I went in for my 4-month checkup after mastectomy.

I never wear the paper costume. It wastes trees. I wear a front button blouse when I have medical appointments.

I’ve been to this office about a dozen times now. Still when I arrive, the assistant or the surgeon instructs me to take off my clothes and put on the paper costume.

I skipped the explanation. Went into the room. Removed my bra with the prosthethic and put my blouse back on unbuttoned.

The surgeon entered the room.  She didn’t ask how I’m feeling. She just told me to lie on her paper-covered examining table.  I didn’t see any way around wasting that paper, so I did it.

The surgeon told me to raise my arms over my head.  I told her that hurts. She said I need to stretch more.  This surgeon didn’t ask me what stretches I do. She didn’t suggest any specific stretches.  


I hang by my hands from a chin-up bar and do a set of 15 abdominal curls at least once a day

I do a back bend over a ball and use my arms to push my weight up off the ball

I do downward dog

I lie lengthwise on a 3-foot long by 6 inch diameter foam roller, and do snow angels with my arms

I do arm / leg opposite lifts

I do upper spinal floor twists in which I let gravity pull my shoulder to the floor

I put my hands behind my head and push back with my elbows

I’ve been swimming half a mile almost every evening for the past 3 months. I do mostly freestyle, but all swimming strokes stretch both chest and arms.

I don’t know any other stretches. And I doubt my surgeon even imagines I’m doing this much. But I don’t know how to get her to help me. If “that hurts” doesn’t elicit any helpful advice, I don’t know what would.

She felt both my breasts and was about to leave the room, without comment.  I figure if there was a problem, she’d have told me, so I didn’t ask about my health.  Instead, I asked about the scar. It looks like a gathered skirt. I asked if this was normal. I’d already checked the web.  Other women have asked this question.  The only answer they get is that it is caused by the stitching and that it will go away when the stitches dissolve which usually takes about 8 weeks. But it’s been about 18 weeks and I’ve still got that tight feeling puckered look.

The surgeon told me that I have forgotten how swollen the site was after surgery.  Like I could forget having to come in every week for about a month to have her jab a needle in and suck out tube after tube full of red fluid which she squirted down the sink drain.  I didn’t see any point in telling her that I do indeed remember.

“Is there anything that might help?”

She stared at me, and then said, “You could try massaging it. Some women say it helps.”

Then she left.

This surgeon was difficult to talk to before the surgery. Her main redeeming feature is that I’ve seen the lab reports. She got all the cancer out. I’ve heard other people say similar things about their surgeons.  Surgeons seem able to do their cutting and cleaning up, but they don’t know how to talk to people.  

Either the rest of us need to learn surgeonese, or surgeons need to hire somebody to do their talking for them.  Healing requires more than just surgery. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Roar Updates

Roar loves Buffy’s bunny.  When we first got Buffy, I went to the thrift shop and bought her a stuffed animal to sleep with.  That animal was shreds within an hour.  After that I tried an official pet toy from the grocery store. It lasted a few days.  Then I tried a mail order catalog – I ordered two bunnies – a white one and a blue one. That way I could have one to wash while she had one to play. 

These were odd little bunnies. Cut face forward with their ears sticking up and their hind legs sticking down – sort of a cross between a gingerbread man and a bunny.  These bunnies lasted her throughout her life time.  She ripped at them with her fangs. She played tug of war with them with humans and other dogs. The blue bunny got lost.  But the white one waited patiently in the basement until Roar arrived.

Roar ripped at it with his fangs. He played tug of war.  He got onto his dog bed and let me pull him around the livingroom while he held onto the bunny with his teeth and I held the other end with my hands and walked.

Roar has saliva that rivals snail slime.  The white bunny is turning black. I want to get that bunny away from him so I can wash it. So, I tried searching the web for  “stuffed bunny”. Nothing even close. I tried “plush bunny.” I found something similar – a plush bear with the same look of being cross-bred with a gingerbread man.  It’s on order.

Meanwhile Roar passed the incubation period for kennel cough, without getting sick. Yay! Plus double yay – this meant that our local groomer would now be able to see him. His hair is thick. In this heat, long thick hair is miserable.  He looks much more comfortable now.  Our groomer took over 4 hours with him because he is so much fun to play with.  He also marked her office as his territory.  

She loaned me a copy of Way to Go – How to Housetrain a Dog at Any Age.  Roar is partly trained. He loves to poop on walks. And he knows how to use the dog door into the back yard.  But he goes where he is when ever he wants.  I’ll be posting about whether the ideas in this book work.

Friday, August 17, 2012

His Name is Roar

It’s been two years since we buried Petruccio, the Incorrigible. Three years since Buffy, the best dog ever, died.  We weren’t in a hurry to get another.  Then I got a hip replacement, and had to learn to walk again – dogs need walking.  Then I got cancer, and had to get my right arm working properly again. I hold my dog leashes with both hands.  Finally, about a month ago, I felt strong enough both mentally and physically to get another dog.

Adopting a stray dog is becoming almost as difficult as adopting a human child. When I filled out the adoption forms for approval, I felt pressured not to admit that I hadn’t liked Petruccio.  I wrote about the good times with Buffy and about how she selected Petruccio when we took her to the shelter.  I filled out forms for 3 animal rescue agencies.  I gave them names of neighbors who had known our dogs. And I waited.  

One agency called and interviewed me.  When I said that I let my dogs have free reign in my home and 24 / 7 access to the dog door, the interviewer disqualified me.  She believes in crating dogs and not giving them freedom.  That left two agencies.

One called to tell me that the dogs I had wanted to meet on their website had already gone to their forever homes. I asked about other dogs.  She said to check the website.

The third one called my neighbors.  Both neighbors told me that the interviewer could have given me 3 human children in the time it took for them to be interviewed. These interviews lasted over an hour. Both my neighbors stressed that my dogs have freedom to use the dog door which lets them into my fenced yard.  My dogs get walks. My dogs get fed with home made chicken soup poured over their official dog food.  My dogs get plenty of playing time.  I told the agency interviewer that the thing I want most from a dog is the dog should like being with us.

Finally, I got the call – there was a male shih tsu mutt I could meet downtown.  The adoption agency had named him Jeff Spicoli.

My husband, the alien, and I, biked 4 miles to the rescue center.  There, a 3-year-old human boy was visiting the available animals with his family.  The family was there to donate their deceased dog’s food and toys.  The boy wanted to meet the shih tsu mutt.  The shih tsu mutt wanted to meet the boy.  The three of us went into the room.  Jeff only had eyes and nose for the boy.  He ignored us.  He played very nicely with the boy. He was gentle. He was enthusiastic.  And when the boy left, he looked out the window in the door, watching after the boy.

We told the women running the center that we understood if they’d rather give the dog to the boy’s family.  They said the boy’s family wasn’t ready for another dog yet.  They suggested we go for a walk and come back after the boy and his family had left.

We went for a walk.  We stopped at a snack shop and ordered Dark Side of the Moon just because it had a silly name.  I make much better chocolate cake, but we split one slice and ate it.  We went back.  The Shih Tsu mutt (I couldn’t make myself call him Jeff Spicoli) was willing to play with us since there was no human boy available.  He brought us a green plastic toy.  We threw the toy.  He brought us the toy.  We threw the toy.  It was sort of a truce.  We weren’t as much fun as a 3-year-old boy, but we would do.  He wasn’t Buffy, the world’s best dog ever, but he had potential.

I told the women who run the center that I’m not going to adopt a human child to go with this dog, but that the dog seemed like a good fit for us.

We biked home.  We rented a car from our car share group, loaded it up with our dog carrying box, and went back to get him.  We talked about the Shih Tsu Mutt.  He needed a name. This little dog looked like a small version of those stone lions outside of restaurants in Chinatown.  We decided to call him Roar.

Roar only took a few days to master our dog door.  He has also mastered our stairs.  The adoption center gave us the green plastic toy.  He loves to chase it and bring it back.  He loves to go for walks.  We aren’t supposed to let him sniff other dogs for 2 weeks because he has been exposed to kennel cough.  If he gets it, they’ll give us medicine.  If not, he needs to be cleared by our vet.  Then he can sniff and be sniffed.  

Roar alternates between high energy play time and lolling time in which he is awake, but observing us without moving.  I’m thinking of giving him the middle name of Zen.

It’s odd to have a dog again.  I have to remind myself that I have to walk a dog first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  I have to add dog food to my grocery list.  I’d gotten out of these habits.  But being greeted by a dog when I come home. Wiggle. Wiggle. Jump. It’s time to sit down and let me lick you and climb in your lap. That’s a good human.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Optioning My Screenplay

It’s not just my screen play – it’s also my co-author Jean’s.

Jean and I have a truce – we will fight about plot, about character, even about which of our many ideas we will work on now.  But we will never fight about money. We have lost money together when we ran a feminist science fiction magazine. We have spent money together on vacations. And we have spent money together on classes to improve our writing skills.

Jean and I have the ultimate goal of being able to make a living from our screenplays.  This means we have to sell them.  And if we have to sell the first one for a pittance, just to get a reputation, we will do so.  

Last week we sold our first option for a dollar.  This means that the potential producer gave us $1 for 1 month exclusive rights to try to put together the necessary people and funds to produce our gold-remi winning screenplay.  

The option contract gives this potential producer the additional option of a 2nd and 3rd month at $1 each and then an additional 3 months for $500. And it specifies the terms under which we will sell the rights to make the movie, if / when  he can put a package together. 

Jean and I live over 1000 miles apart.  We’ve written together for over 30 years. At first we did our writing by snail mail.  Now we communicate by email and our discussions go much more quickly.  

I was able to attend the dinner that our potential producer threw for us, our potential director, some of his neighbors, and a woman who wrote a book he is considering producing as a movie. We made an agreement that if we started talking business, we would Skype with Jean.  I brought dessert.

The potential producer introduced me to the potential director. The closest we came to talking business was when the potential director explained to me that what the school teachers called a mimeograph when I was in elementary school was really a spirit duplicator. As he said, I “knew just enough to get it wrong.”  He knew the right names because his father sold and serviced these machines.  There is one in our plot.  It’s a duplicating machine. The operator pours clear fluid in and purple ink comes out from the spirit master sheets. 

The potential director said he would be giving us notes about additional writing he wants us to do. He said he has worked on “a lot of crap.”  And he said our screenplay would give him the chance to be shameless. He could be sentimental with no regrets – it’s that kind of family film.  I had the impression that he has yet to make the movie that will truly satisfy him as a contribution to society. He sees our script as that movie. 

But we did not spend the evening talking about Jean’s and my screenplay.  Instead I spent the evening talking with the woman whose book this potential producer is considering turning into a movie.  I had the idea that she thought I would be the person who would write the script.  I have so many ideas of my own that I want to turn into scripts, that writing somebody else’s story does not excite me.  But I tried to help her focus on her most important story elements because movies only run 90 to 120 minutes and her book was much longer than that. I suggested she take a screenwriting class.

The potential producer handed my husband, the alien, his cell phone and asked him to take a picture of the two of us, as he handed me the signed option contract and my check for 50 cents. The other 50 cents goes to Jean.

Then he asked what I was going to do with the check.  I told him I was going to scan it and deposit it via the web, so I can have my check and cash it, too.  A far cry from spirit duplicating!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My first 2-piece swimsuit in over 40 years

I just bought my first two-piece swim suit in over 40 years.

Those one-piece suits don’t hold a prosthetic very well. Even after I sew a pocket into one. It looked okay while the suit was dry. But when I started swimming, the prosthetic drooped and moved around oddly.

I tried adjusting the pocket, shrinking the pocket, using different prosthetic materials. I think the only way a plastic breast would stay put is if it was stitched into the suit itself.  I actually saw a type of plastic online that looks like it would work.

But I emailed the company and they told me that their flexible bounce-back plastic absorbs water and would have problems.  I suggested they dip it in silicone, and they didn’t write back to me.

There are a variety of companies making breast prosthetics for swimming, but none of them can be stitched into the suit to make sure they’ll stay in place.  All of them say they should be removed, washed and dried between uses.

With a two-piece suit, the prosthetic has no place to sag into, or move around in. There’s the band around the ribs, and the shaping of each breast cover to protect the sides. I wore a two-piece in my 20's, even when  I was pregnant. It was practical then and it is practical now.

All I want to do is swim without chasing my prosthetic around the pool (light weight ones come out of the pocket), or stopping to wring it out, which looks really odd (but is necessary with a bath puff).

I bought a regular two-piece and sewed a piece of old stocking as a pocket on the side that needs to be filled.  It works.  I swam half-a- mile and didn’t have to think about the stuffing in my top, once.  I’m the only gray-haired person at the pool in a two-piece. I’m also the only gray-haired woman who swims.  I told one of my neighbors, who is even older than I am about it.  She said she’d get out her bikini and compete with me.