Easter Egg Stuffer Ideas, COVID-19 Edition!

Normally I go out and browse stores to find little tchotchkes to stick in the kids’ Easter eggs, but this year that’s obviously not in the cards, so I browsed around Amazon and found some cute non-candy items, and thought I’d share in case anyone is in a similar position! I can’t officially vouch for any of these items yet because I JUST ordered them but hopefully they’ll work out.

Two VERY IMPORTANT notes. First, many of these items come in bulk, so if you have fewer than 12 kids, maybe go in on some of them with neighbors and friends. And second, you’re going to have to hop to it if you want these in time for Easter – Amazon is prioritizing shipments to get necessities out first.

Have other great egg filler ideas? Please share!

Love in the Time of Corona

I guess I’m a crisis blogger. I mean I often think about blogging, but it only seems to happen when the proverbial shit has hit the proverbial fan. And here I am again.

Monday was nice, wasn’t it? “We can do this! Let’s educate our children! Clean our house! Telecommute! Make a family dinner! Full-steam ahead!” I think by Wednesday I had started stress-eating, and I haven’t stopped. A friend posted, “Remember the ‘freshman 15?’ I’m working on the ‘COVID 19.'” So at least I know I’m not alone.

My body’s also trying to tell me I’m depressed. I’m having trouble getting to bed before midnight or 1am (so Seattle friends, feel free to holla at me after you put your kids to bed!), and having trouble getting up before 10… or sometimes noon. I don’t feel the typical mental anguish I do when my meds stop working and I spiral, so I guess this must be what they call “situational depression.” I told Julian I feel almost bipolar – I go from feeling like we’ve got this nailed to feeling absolutely hopeless within minutes. It’s an emotional roller coaster for sure.

I’m doing things to keep myself positive, though.

  • Writing letters to friends and sending them via snail mail.
  • Making dance play lists on Spotify.
  • Cross stitching.
  • Going for walks.
  • Talking to neighbors when I get the mail (minimum 6′ distance, don’t worry).

And I want to start doing other things, too. Like a self-portrait series. And designing greeting cards and selling them on etsy (I already did a couple!)

What are you doing for self-care? And do you want to be my pen pal?

Sometimes ya just gotta blog it out.

Well, first of all – still in menopause. Hormones still whack. But a dubious psychic told me Saturday night that I’d have twins in 2 1/2 years. So, you know. Stay tuned for that.

I was scrolling through Facebook today when I came across this outstanding article: A Woman in China Tried to Cure Her Cancer by Swallowing Maggots Oh yeah she did! Because “someone told her” it would work. I read the article, while trying to stop my eyes from rolling out of my head, but here’s the thing – although I’m sure most Americans are like, OH MY GOD THAT IS NASTY WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE THINKING, it is no worse than some of the other wacky, stupid sh*t people have suggested I try to deal with my cancer. Like this bananas “cure.”  Or of course let’s not forget the “doctor” who “blew the whistle on chemotherapy.”

In a twist of fate, mere hours after I read about ol’ Maggot Snacker and mused on all the cancer misinformation there is out there, I saw a post about thermography being the new “gold standard” in breast cancer diagnosis, better than mammograms. I was immediately intrigued, in spite of the web address (Dr. Jockers? Uhhh…) A brief Google search turned up an article by the FDA regarding the fact that thermograms should NOT be used in place of mammograms and an NIH study that indicated they are less effective than mammograms but can be used as adjunctive diagnosis tools. Bummer. Nobody hates a mammogram more than this large knockered lady, believe, but I’d rather have a million mammograms than cancer again. I posted these links to my friends post, and her very kind reply was one I have come to expect, much as I loathe it: that the FDA is not looking out for us, they are following the money, that they have a hidden agenda (I guess they prefer squashing boobs to heat scanning them?), that ethical healthcare practitioners are few and far between, and that in other countries with better healthcare systems than ours, thermography is treated as equal to mammography. I asked how she explained the NIH study, and a friend of hers chimed in with a quote about how studies now are unreliable because they are done only to support (you guessed it) the FDA/the government. I also asked which countries specifically believe thermography is equivalent to mammography but she has not seen my question/not replied yet.

Guys, I don’t trust the government any more than the next guy. I think our healthcare system is jacked. I hate that so many things follow money, and I have a HUGE problem with Big Pharma. But at the same time, there are things that don’t make sense to me. If thermography is so great, why wouldn’t the FDA/other healthcare agencies be investing in that and jacking up the prices? Why wouldn’t insurance be covering it (it doesn’t) at a premium, like they do with everything else? Are we really to believe the government wants us not just sick, but dying of cancer?? That they like the additional (small but real) risk of cancer presented by the X-ray technology in mammograms? I just – I can’t buy into that. I don’t think my oncologist likes me sick. I don’t think my amazing, kind-hearted brother-in-law is becoming a doctor for the express purpose of making money by deliberately keeping people unhealthy. And I have to wonder if the people who believe these things actually personally know any doctors. (And I don’t mean Dr. Jockers – whose house, incidentally, you can apparently get a tour of on YouTube. Cool!)

Whenever people post about or message me with junk science – and make no mistake, this is junk science – with regard to cancer, it both personally offends and outrages me. The spread of this misinformation is so pervasive and SO DAMNED DANGEROUS that I just don’t know what to do or say about it. I pray none of the women in my life are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, even as I know that is an impossible wish. I celebrate when there are REAL SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGHS – like the one detailed here by CNN, wherein the big, bad, malicious FDA has approved the first immunotherapy treatment for breast cancer. (I do not know how they will continue to thrive as an organization without all that chemotherapy money, but I guess time will tell.)

I guess my plea is this: Please just research. Ask questions. Ask not just Facebook and Dr. Google, but real doctors, real nurses, friends, colleagues, and survivors. Ask everything and assume nothing. Advocate for yourself, always. Stay on top of your screenings. And don’t spread cancer diagnosis or treatment news or rumors as gospel unless you know they are corroborated and vetted and safe. Because someone is looking at you as an an intelligent advisor – maybe even as an expert – and you don’t want to be the reason they make a decision that could result in their death.

Unless you’re the FDA. Then I guess you want death and discomfort for all.

Pet Funeral Service

So this is random and unrelated to anything else I’ve posted BUT. Every time one of my pets dies (yes, it’s happened FIVE TIMES now with cats alone), I have a funeral service and I force my long-suffering atheist husband to participate, which he gamely does.

Over the course of time, I have collected and cobbled together a funeral service that gives me comfort. I thought it might be helpful to provide it here in case anyone else might find it useful. I typically cut out some prayers to make it shorter, but I am including all of them in case some speak to you more than others. I have given credit when I could find authors.

At the end of the doc is a Euthanasia Prayer I just found, which is very sweet and resonated with me.

A note that this IS a religious service, though it spans several different religions. And it could probably be edited to suit your personal belief system.

If you’re reading this or have found this because you need it, please know I sympathize and understand. May you find comfort in your memories.

Animal Funeral Service

Hi, stranger.

It’s been awhile.

I don’t remember where I left off, and now that I have finally started writing, I am loath to stop and go look. So I’ll just give a quick and dirty overview of where I am, health-wise.

So I had cancer, I had chemo, I had radiation. Chemo plunked me directly into menopause, as it is wont to do. I struggled hard with menopausal symptoms for two full years. A short list of such symptoms would be hot flashes (~20 a day, on bad days), night sweats (did not get a full night’s sleep for 2 years), skin thinning (I would bump into something and start to bleed), wrinkles appearing literally overnight, hair thinning, weight gain, breakouts, irritability, mood swings, and depression (even while on medication). I basically made it through the first year clinging to the “knowledge” that chemo after-effects wear off after a year. And I made it through the second year thinking that surely, I must reach that light at the end of the chemo tunnel soon. And as the third year approached and I seriously contemplated suicide, I went to my oncologist and my gyno and said, “I cannot live like this anymore.” The agreed and in spite of the fact that I have hormone-receptor positive cancer, put me on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – estrogen (a patch applied twice weekly) and progesterone (a pill taken nightly). This went fine, hot flashes disappeared, I finally started sleeping again, and my period came back. Unfortunately you’re not supposed to have a period when on constant progesterone, so I had to go in for an ultrasound and an endometrial biopsy. (Gosh I hope I didn’t blog all this before, but if so, sorry.) The endometrial biopsy sucked ass but turned up nothing bad. The ultrasound actually showed follicles (eggs) in my ovaries, which of course sent me over the MOON – a previous blood test had shown I had no eggs left.

Per the two doctors, I went OFF hormone therapy, because it appeared my body was bouncing back. Oh, not so! All my symptoms came back with a vengeance. I went back on HRT at a lower dose of estrogen (0.05mg to 0.025mg) but the symptoms continued. So I am now back on 0.05. Well, actually not today. But I’m getting there, hang on.

I guess the first thing to note is that my gyno was well aware of the fact that I wanted another child. I discussed it with her in depth on multiple occasions. However, when I called her at one point and asked what to do if I became pregnant while on HRT, she told me, rather coldly, that I should not become pregnant while on progesterone, and that J and I should be using condoms. I told her that seemed counterproductive to me conceiving, and her reaction amounted to a shrug. I then proceeded to switch gynos. (It wasn’t just this – I also could never get ahold of her, and her office once refused to refill my estrogen prescription, stating that their notes showed my oncologist had said I shouldn’t be on it, which was completely – not just incorrect, but an outright lie.) Yesterday I got a letter in the mail stating that she is retiring, and I am not surprised, because I didn’t get the vibe she really cared about me as a person. I don’t think she was loving her job.

When I went to see the fertility doctor in October, she was surprised that gyno had me on a steady dose of progesterone while knowing I wanted to conceive, since PROGESTERONE IS BIRTH CONTROL AND KEEPS YOUR UTERINE LINING THIN. So even if I HAD conceived, I would not have been able to carry the baby because there was nowhere for an egg to attach. 😡 She switched me to – gosh you know I can’t even remember. I think it was supposed to be two weeks on of a double dose of progesterone, then two weeks off. But the double dose of progesterone made my hot flashes come back like whoa, so she cooled it to two weeks on of a single dose of progesterone, then two weeks off. That’s been fine.

Last month, two days before Christmas, I got a period for the first time in four months. Super normal, just like the old days.

This month, on the 21st, I got my period – not even for a full day, for a few hours. A one-tampon period. Then nothing. Honestly, guys, my body has been so jacked up for so long that I didn’t even think anything of it. Just typing that somehow made me want to cry. I guess – here’s the thing, I never thought I’d still be dealing with this shit three years after completing chemo. I thought I’d be, you know, worrying about whether or not I’d have cancer again. Maybe even having cancer again. But not dealing with shitty shitty bullshit fallout related to my treatment. What a load. Anyhow. Four days passed and then it’s like the floodgates opened. I woke and was bleeding again so I put in a super (if any dudes are reading this, that’s the strength) tampon. Four hours later I went to pee and had bled completely through the tampon, through my underwear, and into my pants. I replaced. Four hours later, same deal. THIS WENT ON FOR FIVE DAYS. I was exhausted, demotivated, and had some of the worst cramps of my life for those five days. It’s now day 7 and I am still having slight old blood (brown) discharge.

I conferred with my gyno (new gyno, much better) and have again gone off HRT (as of yesterday). I will remain off for a week and go in Monday to have my blood tested and see where my hormone levels are. Best case (please cross your fingers) scenario – my hormones are returning/have returned to normal and I can stop HRT and go back to having a normal monthly period. I don’t even – I mean I’d still love another kid, but I’m almost 41 now, and after everything I’ve gone through, I’m not even focused on that at this point. All I want is for my body to function in somewhat the same way it did before I had cancer. That’s all.

And here’s the thing. This all sucks so much BUT THIS HAPPENS TO WOMEN ALL OVER THE WORLD ALL THE TIME. Why aren’t we talking about how breast cancer, even when cured, fucks you up for life? Why aren’t we talking about how no one has any answers?!? Like, that is the most stunning and enraging part to me! NO ONE can tell me when/if my body will return to normal. NO ONE can tell me WHY my body is doing the stuff it’s doing. I mean honestly, not even TWO DIFFERENT GYNECOLOGISTS WHO ARE FUCKING TRAINED IN WOMEN’S BODIES UNDERSTAND WHY I KEEP BLEEDING! This is an actual quote from the gynecologist I actually like:

“Interesting that your period comes before you stop your progesterone.”

YEAH IT IS! Everything my body does seems to be “interesting” and “curious.” Could you please tell me why?! I know other women must have gone through this! I don’t believe I am a reproductive freak of nature! I have had ultrasounds and scans and biopsies that indicate everything down there looks perfect and in good working order, so why can’t anyone predict what is going to happen or when or how or WHY?

Sorry I went off the rails there but it is so incredibly frustrating to feel like you know as much as your doctors do about what your body is doing and is going to do, especially when “as much” is essentially nothing.

Also, in conclusion, I am dreading the blood work because I always get my hopes up thinking it is going to be THIS TIME that my blood work comes back normal-ish and it never does. In three years it never has but I know I will still get my hopes up and have them dashed when I find out my damned body is still menopausal at 40 and there is still no one anywhere who can tell me when or if that will change.

That brings everything up to date. I’ll post when I get the blood work back or if anything else happens. And if the post just says “My body still sucks,” you’ll know what that means.

Very brief update – good news!

I am running out the door in five minutes but in the briefest of updates:

Well first of all it’s kind of snowing? On March 23rd? In Seattle? We all know climate change is a hoax, tho.

Saw the ENT and turns out the “mole” in my ear was just a scab from a spontaneous bleed in my ear canal. Which sounds terrible but the ENT says it happens – the ear canal is the only place in the body where skin is adhered directly to bone. So I’m to go back into two weeks for a checkup but looks harmless!

Got an ultrasound yesterday and the doc said everything looked super normal – no thickening of my endometrium, no polyps or cysts, AND – get this – my ovaries appear to be activating…?!??!? She saw active follicles in there. OMG IF MY BODY NORMALIZES I WILL HAVE A PARTY TO CELEBRATE. You would come to my ovary party, right?

Gotta run but I know that all your thoughts and prayers both got me through this AND helped out with my health! ❤