Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Research Nerds

I had my post-mammogram follow-up with my surgeon today.  All good news!  She said the results were clear and no issues whatsoever.  She did an exam, and said everything felt great.  They also altered my testing schedule.  I was going to be on 6 month mammogram check-ups, but my surgeon and oncologist were speaking recently and exchanging thoughts on the latest research.  Such a high frequency of mammograms has proven not effective, and also poses the risk of too much radiation exposure (and I've already had quite a BIT of radiation exposure, considering...)  They both agreed that myself (and another patient who is even younger than I am!) should minimize the amount mammograms in our lifetime when possible.
So I've been demoted/promoted to just yearly mammograms for the next few years.  And then bi-yearly from that point forward.
She brought up that the question of "what about MRI's?" might come up.  Well, that poses some risks as well.  Research shows that the contrast dye injected into patients before the MRI may be linked to a higher risk of developing neurological issues (Alzheimer's, etc).  So, again, I'm young.  If they are injecting me yearly for the next 60 years, that could cause a whole 'nother set of complications!  So, unless they have a specific concern they want to look at, they will use the smallest amount of testing recommended.

So...Okey Dokey.   I like that my doctors are research nerds.  I don't, however, like the little voice in my head worrying about radiation exposure and Alzheimer's disease.  Bleh.
It is unnerving to think about all the abuse my body has gone through the last year with chemotherapy and all that.  I noticed the other day that my driver's license still says "organ donor" on it, and I was a bit disturbed when I thought to myself "I need to get that taken off."  Don't want to run the risk of giving someone tainted organs...  Who knows what kind of evil is hanging out in there.
Add THAT to the list of uncomfortable thoughts that accompany a cancer diagnosis.

Not to linger on uncomfortable topics or anything, but I took myself out to brunch after my appointment today and perused the section in my "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book" (the breast cancer bible!) regarding reoccurrence.  I'm not particularly worried, but it is naturally a topic that crosses the brains of breast cancer survivors occasionally.  Its smart to read up and just be aware of the worst case scenarios and possible symptoms, so that I am EDUCATED!  I'm following the example of my awesome research nerd doctors. :)  I'm not dwelling.  Just being smart.

Speaking of uncomfortable thoughts/conversations accompanying a cancer diagnosis, this conversation was the opposite and super awesome:
I was talking with a co-worker friend about our trip to Las Vegas and she said, "Well if anybody deserves an awesome spontaneous trip this time of year, considering your experiences a year ago, it's you!"
I know, right?!  <3

Saturday, March 19, 2016

54 hours in Vegas

This post is a travel journal, more than a blog today.

So a few days before Spring Break, I texted Superman:
"I think we should just go to the airport and take a Spring Break spontaneous mini-vacation to where ever is the cheapest available flight."
"Where would you like to go?"
"I don't know.  A getaway somewhere.  Just for a day or two."
"The cheapest flights right now are to Las Vegas."
"Vegas would be cool..."

We booked our tickets Saturday, and left on Sunday.  Boom.

Vegas, Hour 1:   landed.  10pm.  Heather's in a good mood, but tired, sniffly, and hungry.  Superman, who has been to Vegas before, is pointing out all the big landmarks as we ride through the city towards the Strip.  Heather nods silently, stunned, by ALL THE THINGS.

I'm thinking, YES, PERFECT,  a place completely different, intriguing, a place where I can get out of my head.  And a place for celebration.  Cuz, if you remember, a year ago, I was doing chemotherapy.  I came down with shingles over spring break last year.  I experienced a huge "I HAVE CANCER" meltdown during spring break last year.  Superman shaved my head during spring break last year.   It sucked!   (not to override the gratitude I upheld through the entire experience... but wow, that was hard times.)  So, HECK YEA.  Let's go to LAS VEGAS!!!!!

Vegas, Hour 3:  first item on the agenda - Food - check.  With a belly full of late-night breakfast from Hash House A Go Go in the LINQ Hotel and Casino, our home for the next 2 nights, Heather takes the best and most needed shower in recent memory.  She climbs into bed looking forward to amazing slumber, while Superman explores and finds himself his first game of poker across the way at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, the Strip's original home of cool, a tropical oasis with a central location.  He returns a few hours later to Heather, still partially awake due to her friend Advil Cold & Sinus and the thumping music from the nightclub right under her window. 

I actually googled:  "Introverts Las Vegas".  It came up with several hits:  different tips on how to cope with the loud flashy activity and masses of people.  One of the things off the very short available list, take a nap in your hotel room.  I did that one a lot.  Can't really say it did the job though.

Vegas, Hour 10:  renewed from mildly successful sleep and a fresh dose of Advil Cold & Sinus, Heather and Superman set out for the day's adventures.  Superman loves his wife, and came back from Starbucks with COFFEE and FRUIT for her.  She is fueled and ready to go.  They purchase 24 hour passes on the Monorail, and Superman proceeded to annoy Heather with frequent references to the Simpsons.  The monorail....the MONorail...

Your welcome

Yep, Vegas was exactly what I needed.  As vacations do, it wiped my brain clean and I feel renewed with refreshed Heather-perspective.  It may sound like I had some huge revelation or something while we were there.  I didn't.  And that's not what I expected for the trip.  It was just awesome to get away and reconnect with myself and with Superman.  As we are compatible in life, we are also compatible travel companions.  He's my favorite travel partner.  However, I wasn't always pleasant on the trip.  Luck would have it, after we booked our trip on Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon I felt the beginnings of a cold. A real one.  (Not a phantom one; that tends to happen to me.) It was realz.  And super annoying.  Superman commented in the taxi on the way into the strip: "You are going to get really tired.  Everything is bright, flashy, and loud.  I know my wife."  At first, I was like, Psssh!  Whatever, I got this.  But, boy was he right.  And I was suffering through the typical stages of the cursed winter-to-spring cold at the same time.  I'm not sure if my experience would've been different without the stupid cold.  Probably similar, just with less Zombie-behavior.

Vegas, Hour 13:  Circus Circus.  The top of the Stratosphere.  After about 3 miles of walking in and out of Casino Hotels in the older part of the Strip, Heather declares it time to eat FOOD.  They head through Paris to the Bellagio in search of the buffet.  Food.  So much food. 



I loved it and hated it at the same time.  VEGAS = SENSORY OVERLOAD.

Vegas, Hour 18:  Upon waddling out of the buffet, Heather declares it is nap time.  She is starting to feel the effects of all the lights, noise, people, and flashiness combined with her friend Advil Cold & Sinus.  But first, they watch the Bellagio fountain show and then walk through Caesar's Palace.

Vegas, Hour 19:  Superman plans the evenings activities while Heather slumbers.  He then frolics over to the Flamingo for some more poker.

With more time and energy, I would've liked to have done the following things:
-watched Superman play poker
-maybe engaged in some games of my own.  However, because of my complete LACK of skill, I did not participate
-instead of napping, I would've laid by the pool somewhere, and explored more places.  I didn't see the Venetian or the Mirage.  They were both on my list.  I also wanted to check out the Mob Museum.   However, there's NO WAY to see everything.  There's just TOO MUCH!  Not sleeping at all isn't an option, haha!

Vegas, Hour 21:  Heather is refreshed from her nap and a double-dose of her friend Advil Cold & Sinus.   They head to "Vegas! The Show", located in Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, a classic Vegas variety showcasing Vegas history and showgirls.  That was 7pm.  Heather and Superman aren't done.  They immediately taxi over to the Luxor for their second show of the evening:  "The Blue Man Group".  Front row poncho seats!  

Vegas, Hour 26:  Heather has no idea what time it is or where she is or how long she's been there.  Officially a Zombie.  She lasted 26 hours.  Stopping at The Luxor's convenience store, she picks up Nyquil so she can get a good night's rest to enjoy tomorrow's adventures.  In a blur, she takes in the nightlife of the Strip, and then, after another awesome shower, collapses into bed in a deep Nyquil-assisted sleep.  Superman enjoys a midnight poker tournament, while she slumbers.

If I ever come back to Vegas, I will ensure to do the following things:
-Bring a sweater with me everywhere.  Many of the indoor places had THE AIR ON FULL BLAST!  And the fact that you're in the middle of the desert can make you falsely believe that you will be warm all the time.  Nope!  The sun goes down, and its actually quite chilly.
-I would also have tennis shoes on my person at all times.  So much walking!!!  Cute shoes vs. happy feet?  such a dilemma.
-Not stay right on the Strip.  I would need a quiet oasis away from all the noise and lights.  Let me introvert for a bit, and I'm ready to go again.  I loved all the action, and lights, and being apart of all the happenings.  However, when I "go home", I'm ready for some peace and quiet so I can recharge.  I never had a chance to recharge with a booming nightclub right outside my window.  Blah...

Vegas, Hour 36:  Superman, bearing coffee, leads Heather on another day of adventures.  Headed out again to the Strip to explore, they have loose plans for a brunch buffet.   Superman annoys her again with the Monorail song.  They explore the MGM Grand, over to New York, New York.  They take in the Hershey's Chocolate store, and briefly walk through the Excalibur.  

Vegas, Hour 39:  They set their sights on the Wicked Spoon for brunch, located in the Cosmopolitan.  Amazing.  Food coma commences.  Superman finds himself an afternoon poker tournament at Mandalay Bay, while Heather returns to the LINQ for another well-deserved nap.  In the past 39 hours, she has walked over 30,000 steps or 12 miles!!  Heather officially enters Vegas-Zombie mode.  Her friend Advil Cold & Sinus has served her well, but she is beat.   Must sleep before their evening's entertainment.

Vegas, Hour 42:  Superman is still in the tournament.  Heather gets sparkly, and takes a taxi to their evening location to meet him.  They are seeing "The Rat Pack" at The Copa Room, in the Tuscany Suite & Casino.  Front row seats!  Folks, Dean Martin is alive and well.  It was the REAL Dean Martin.  Dean Martin likes Heather.  She received several kisses, and odd gifts from him (empty drink glass.  Sheet music.)  Afterwards, Heather runs and hides.  Too much attention from the real Dean Martin!  They enjoy a nice late-night dinner.  However, Heather is having trouble holding up with all the rich food.  She is grateful for the to-go cup of ginger tea the restaurant sends her out the door with.  

I didn't realize until this trip, how much of a pansy I can be!!  I need a tri-fecta of things to be happy:
1.  adequate sleep.
2.  adequate warmth.
3.  food providing energy.
Vacations can sometimes make it hard to have any of these things.  Man, I used to live the travel life.  What happened to me?  Good thing I have a tolerant and loving Superman, in moments of unhappiness.  I mean, I'm not an ogre, or anything.  But with the combination of my cold, and a sampling of different variables, the struggle was real...

Vegas, Hour 46:  Superman takes Heather on a bus down to Fremont street, old downtown Vegas.  They take a nice stroll through The Golden Nugget, and other various hotels and they enjoy the big screen canopy of lights and music.  They watch as tourists zipline down the street.  More lights.  More people.  More noise.  More glam.  Heather suddenly becomes weepy, tired, and overwhelmed from ALL THE THINGS, from the past 45 hours.  She requests that Superman take her back to the hotel so she can....introvert.  Because he loves her and is a tolerant wonderful human being, he does so.  She falls asleep to the rumblings of the nightclub outside the window, while Superman finds more....you guessed it!  Poker.  

Vegas, Hour 54:  Superman quietly comes in after an overnight of mild poker winnings.  Both are tired and ready to go home.  Good bye, Las Vegas.  Maybe we'll be back sometime.  And maybe then Heather will actually drink and gamble....haha.   Isn't that at the top of Las Vegas requirements??  Smooch!

Lawrence, KS, Hours 1 - 48:  Heather sleeps, and enjoys being ALONE, and QUIET.

Lawrence, KS, Hour 72:  Heather actually MISSES Las Vegas and wishes to return sometime.  She watches "Ocean's Eleven" and delights in all the places she saw in real life.  If only she wasn't such a highly-sensitive, introverted empath, what would her life be like?  Its ok.  She loves her life.  And after 54 hours in Vegas, her vacation gave her renewed gratitude as she charges forth into Spring, looking forward to what new opportunities life will offer!

#Acceptance #Gratitude #Healing

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Collective Sigh of Relief

Got my hair did today.  It is getting quite long!!  Long enough to get HiGhLiGhTs.  :)  I stuck with the "walnut" brown, which I love, and yes, is quite dark, but added golden highlights.  Fun!

Loving this almost-spring weather.  I think the entire city of Lawrence is experiencing a collective sigh of relief.  Winter is almost done!

Speaking of winter....my mental state is much better these days.  My cup isn't empty anymore.  I have room to pour into others.  I had two field trips this week, which both went well, but struggled with stubborn hard-headed students making poor choices.  6 weeks ago, I would've imploded over these things.  This week, I had the resiliency to deal with it and move on (even if I made a regretful parent phone call in the process...should've cooled down before I made that one....but oh well.  It was blunt, but true.)  

Still haven't reached any answers regarding career path choices, but I have received some good advice from colleagues and planted some possible seeds of movement.  But no official steps have been taken for anything.  Just waiting to see if an opportunity arises.  If not, I have a list of ways that I am currently coping and improving my current place.

Something that has been helping ALOT is simply acknowledging emotions in myself and my students.  Emotions of joy, excitement, frustration, anger, struggle, apathy, etc.

"I'm noticing [this type of body language], which leads me to believe you might be frustrated.  What can I help you with?"

"This is what disrespect looks like to me.  [this this and this]  You have done [this this and this] all in the past three minutes.   That disrespect makes me feel [....].  Are you intending to be disrespectful, or are you experiencing a different struggle and how can I help you with that?"

Just a few alterations to my wording that has produced positive results in the classroom culture.   Though I'm not doing wrong things, there are ways that I need to improve and prevent creating a teacher-against-student environment.  Calling on a student when I specifically notice they aren't paying attention.  Automatically assuming that a certain behavior means they want to disrupt the class.  So, little by little, I'm becoming more aware.  Using little tricks and ideas to slowly change my room's energy.

Kind of like making life-style changes since cancer.  Making little changes here and there and hopefully it results in a life-time of health and happiness.    Every little thing helps.  :)

Well, I am now going to work on my next Elephant Journal article.  Topic:  The Lymph System!