January 31, 2012

MRIs--Where Breathing Becomes Rocket Science

So this morning I had my MRI, which means regardless of the result, I will be done testing for a while.  I have been informed that even if it is consistent with my other scans in providing the wildly helfpful information that I have "either a mass or a cyst," no further testing will be done regardless.  So that's one bit of good news.

On the other hand, the bad part was that my test was at 8:15 am, which I rarely see these days unless forced, preferring to stay up half the night like a vampire and sleeping in all morning.  However, I successfully dragged myself out of bed and over to the testing center, carefully attired in non-metal-laden clothing.  At least I've learned something from TSA.

After removing my jewelry and my voluptuosity containment device, I wandered into the MRI room, where I was given yet more papers to sign to permit the technician to give me contrast.  Um, what?  I knew the CT scan Dr. Stepford was considering involved contrast, but no one said bupkis about contrast with the MRI.  This, as usual, was news to me.  Gotta love Asshat Medical--Keeping Patients Clueless Since 2011.  I still cannot for the life of me comprehend how Dr. Stepford managed to win an award for "Compassionate Doctor" in 2010 and a "Patient's Choice" Award for both 2010 and 2011, given how she's been with me lately.  But I digress.

Once in the MRI room, the lab technician asked me if I had any kidney disease or diabetes.  I said no, wondering how on earth either of these would be magnetically relevant.  I was next invited to hoist my bulk onto the narrow slide.  My head and shoulders were propped up on pillows and I dutifully lifted my legs to allow the tech to shove a pillow wedge under my knees for comfort.  She handed me some earplugs then she started strapping some sort of black band around my chest and put a big grey foam piece (which looked decidedly like a giant belt buckle) across my abdomen.  She kept having me scootch farther up the bed to get into a specific spot.  This was not a particularly easy process; it turns out that there was another giant belt buckle under my backside (which explains why my the bed felt lumpy) making sliding more difficult.  By the time she was finally satisfied with my positioning, I had a giant thong made of ridden-up granny panties imbedded in my butt crack from all the shifting.  It was like having butt floss made up of a 2 x 4.  Fortunately the lab tech allowed me to un-wedge before telling me to put my arms over my head, after which she sent me down the tube.

I don't remember if the MRI I had on my wrist last year was an open or closed machine; I think it was closed, but the perspective is considerably different when on one's back than when on one's stomach.  Last time I was on my stomach and had only one small pillow on which to prop my chin.  My arm was cocked in front of me à la Superman and, while closed in, I seemed to have a considerable amount of room around my head, all things considered.  This time, propped up on the 4-5 pillows as I was, I still made it down the chute, but had at most a 5-6" clearance and so was staring at the top of the tube for part of the time.  I can easily see how people could become claustrophobic inside the machine.

Before I left this morning for the test, some of my FB buddies suggested that I "lie back and think of Englishmen."  And excellent suggestion, that.  As a result, most of the time I was inside the machine I kept my eyes shut, both to be less aware of sensation of being shoved inside a tampon casing and to be better able to fantasize about the Englishmen of my choice.  Colin Firth...mmmmmmmmm....  I must say, though, that it's considerably more difficult to fantasize about Englishmen when some lady is perpetually telling you to "Breathe in...breathe out...breathe in...breathe out...now take a big breath in and HOLD IT."  On the one hand you could say there was a lot of heavy breathing going on, but on the other hand, I just wanted the girl to shut up so I could get on with my mental orgy.  In between the he machine's whirs and clicks as she adjusted it for the next scan and her bossiness about my breathing, I did manage to squeeze in a couple nice visuals of pretty English gentlemen.  They made me smile.  Wise advice, FB friends!!

After four or five scans the lab tech brought me out of the tube so she could administer the contrast.  I'm still not a big fan of needles (in fact, I believe my reaction on hearing the news about the contrast was "Oh, crap!"), but I found it infinitely preferable to knocking back 2 gallons or so of liquid chalk.  Berry-flavored chalk.  I still smelled like contrast when I left, though, but at least I won't be belching it for the rest of the day like last time.  I got to stretch my arms a little before I had to put my arms back over my head once again.  The most comfortable position was to have my fingers laced above my head and resting on yet another pillow for support.  I told the lab tech that I felt like I was posting for Charlie's Angels because of my pointed finger gun.  She just giggled, then told me I was doing very well.  Turns out that not everybody is clever enough to understand complex directions like "breathe in," "breathe out" and "hold your breath."  Personally, I would rather feel smart because I had written a book or won a Nobel Prize, not because I could voluntarily breathe or not on command.  The fact that this is apparently such a rare talent makes me weep for our society.

After the contrast was administered, I was shoved back down the torpedo chute for a couple more scans, then sent on my way, $150 of copay lighter in the wallet.  And now I wait.  For two days.  After which I can bid a fond farewell to Dr. Stepford and her Merry Band of Malefactors.  I will miss one thing about Nurse Medical License from the Honduras; now I'll have to find a new someone for whom to make up creative pseudonyms.  In the meantime, fingers crossed till Thursday, so I can lay all this nonsensical drama to rest and get back to finding the funny in life.

Dr. Stepford and the Deathly Shallow

I have been a delinquent blogger this month.  I realize that.  It's amazing to me that I did so well all throughout November and December, in spite of the holidays and surgery and everything else.  For some reason, though, my heart just hasn't been all the way invested in January.  Well, for several reasons, really, the biggest of which is that I am freaking OVER dealing with medical issues and talking about them all the time.  I hope that in the very near future I will again be finding the humor in daily life and therefore have more interesting things about which to blog than which doctor did what to me when--for the eleventy billionth time.

That said, it's been over a week since my last post.  After my last boxing match with Dr. Earnest, I was just too tired and angry to write.  I'm not now, because the end is near.  Not my end, thank you very much, but the end of my affiliation with Dr. Earnest and, as one dear friend refers to it, Asshat Medical.

After waiting for over a week to hear back from Nurse Vapid about the whole "Am I getting an MRI or what" question, I finally called the office, only to be told by Nurse Attitude Problem that my file was not important enough to peruse  still on the doctor's desk.  Nice.  I lost it, or at least as much as once can lose it without actually going postal.  I flat-out asked Nurse Bite Me if they routinely jerked around ALL their patients, or if it was just me.  Not surprisingly, she resorted to her standard tactic of talking in circles and while saying nothing remotely useful beyond yet again telling me she didn't "see why I was so upset because it just wasn't that big a deal."  Well, maybe not to you, Sweetheart, but shockingly, my health IS important to me.  And you'll forgive me if I don't trust your medical opinion, what with your flagrant lack of a medical degree and all.  I was furious.  This woman, who is probably half my age, has done nothing but condescend to me since I met her.  I find such behavior irretrievably unprofessional.  Finally the cow asked if I wanted the doctor to call me.  Well, DUH--I have been trying to speak to.the.actual.doctor since this all started.  YES, I want her to call me.

I waited the whole rest of the day for Doctor Clueless to call me back.  I practically soldered my cell phone to my hand so I wouldn't miss the call.  I even waited to shower (I had plans to go see "Spamalot" with a friend Monday night) so I wouldn't miss the call.  When I could wait no longer, I went ahead and showered in approximately 3 minutes, after which I ran to the counter to check my phone.  No call.  I got dressed.  No call.  I turned the ringer up, set the phone facing me on the counter so I could see any messages flash by, then turned on the hair dryer.  Naturally, in the roughly 30 seconds I had my eyes closed to dry my bangs, my fool phone rang.  I saw it and rushed to pick up the call before it went to voicemail.  Too late.  I tried to call back, but kept getting the main office number and after-hours answering service.  Two months I've been waiting to talk to this woman, and I can't even call her back.  Yup.  Story of my life.

Fed up, I went the next day to her office.  I walked up to the receptionist and told her I wanted to see the doctor.  She started to mention Nurse Stupid's name.  I said "No, I don't WANT to talk to Nurse Stupid, I want to talk to the DOCTOR."  I should point out here that, while terse and specific, I was in no way rude.  I was rude on the phone with Nurse Buttmunch the day before, but even then I did not call her a single one of the names rampaging through my brain and, while angry, was still civil.  Mostly.

I was sent to the waiting room and Nurse Death Glare came to collect me a few moments later.  She took me back to one of the rooms where I sat and waited for Dr. Earnest.  When the doctor came in, her first words to me were "I thought you were just going to call me back today."  Yeah, right, doc...that was going to happen.  Because communication with you and your office staff is so very reliable.  I don't think so.  I informed her that I was very frustrated over the way I had been treated, to which she replied, "yes, they said you were upset."  No, doc, I wasn't "upset."  I was FURIOUS.  I explained my frustrations, the incredible lack of communication and the unprofessional behavior.  The entire time she sat listening, completely and utterly expressionless.  What I had originally taken for earnestness was apparently more along the lines of Stepfordian.  Occasionally she would interject that lovely psychological cliché "I hear what you're saying..." just to annoy me further.

At no point whatsoever during the interview did her facial expression or vocal expression alter one whit.  I was beginning to think that she was secretly a cyborg.  She did not appear concerned, angry, upset with her staff or upset with me.  She was just...blank.  It was tremendously disconcerting.  Eventually she apologized for the confusion (which I did not find sincere) and said she agreed that her staff should not be treating me as if my health were irrelevant or insignificant (also without changing any expressions).  She said that in future she would personally check into their communication practices, particularly as they pertain to ME (translation:  "I'll call you more often if I have to, but you need to know that you are the only whiny baby who complains about our procedures").

Next she flatly informed me that "the past is the past" and that if we were "going to continue to have a relationship" that I would have to "behave more professionally" when talking to her staff, because she couldn't have them "afraid to come to work for fear of being berated."  Oh, no.  No, no, no, no, no.  Your Nurse Victimized treats me like a waste of space from Day One for having the cajones to advocate on behalf of my own healthcare, jerks me around for 2 ½ months, then runs crying to you because I am justifiably frustrated and you have the nerve to treat ME like some deviant teen in the principal's office??  NOT.  COOL.  That thunk you hear, Dr. Stepford?  That's the last nail being pounded into the coffin.  I told her that I would stop "berating them" if they would stop giving me reasons to do so.

Shortly after this astonishing display of F.U. and the horse you rode in on, she sat and told me that "these things are really very common and generally nothing to worry about."  I pointed out that we should have been having this exact discussion two months ago.  "Okay" (no expression change).  I asked what the usual procedure was should it turn out to be a cyst and was informed that it would basically become an eternal "wait and see" proposition, requiring me to get re-scanned every 6-12 months to monitor any growth.  Yay.  Because I want to do this all.the.time.

We then began the negotiation for how best to test me once again.  After discussing it with the radiologist, Dr. Stepford "recommended" another CT, but with a different type of contrast.  I was patently against this, considering that a contrast CT had already been performed.  Dr. Cyborg admitted that she was fine with an MRI, but that the advantage of doing any tests at the hospital was that the radiologists would compare all test results, even though they aren't supposed to.  I don't know about all of you, but I don't feel particularly comforted to know that some random radiologist is consistently bucking the rules to compare my multiple scans, or even multiple radiologists, come to that.  I realize this is their specialty and you can color me picky if you like, but I prefer my ACTUAL DOCTOR to read and interpret my scans.  Dr. Stepford then told me that she doesn't read anyone's scans, and nor does any other internist in town.  I was instructed that internists maybe read chest x-rays, but that's about it.  How comforting to know that my healthcare is being determined by someone who lacks the ability to blink, never mind to interpret my actual tests herself.   Charming.  Clearly I've been watching too much House M.D., because I have the apparently foolish belief that all doctors should be able to read all results.  What was I thinking??

Negotiations continued.  Dr. Nonexistent Bedside Manner also agreed that an MRI at the diagnostic center would be acceptable (though gosh darn it, they wouldn't compare results).  By this time I was so beyond giving a flying fart in space and I just wanted it all to be over.  "You look unhappy (don't blink) with this decision..." (OMG, she's secretly a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who!!).  I told her I was past caring whether I did a CT or an MRI or what or where, as long as it could be done as quickly as possible.  She said that the diagnostic center would almost certainly be quicker, though either would require a few days to make sure my insurance would cover it. 

In the end, Nurse Bitchy came back with times for each place...on the same day.  Well, that was a pointless exercise.  She then told me I couldn't have anything to eat or drink for 8 hours.  (For an MRI???  Since when, Nurse Head Up Heinie?)  We negotiated times some more, deciding on this morning at 8:15.  At the DIAGNOSTIC CENTER.  So I got my way, but mostly only because they were trying to placate me and make me leave.  Nurse Bitchy came back with the order for me, and told me that since they had "switched it" to an MRI instead of a CT, I didn't have to not eat.  And this would be why I loathe you, Nurse Needs Slapping--no one changed the order.  Please try to pay attention and have something productive and non-asinine to say in future, won't you?  Or is that too "unprofessional" of me to say??

I left with my MRI paperwork and an appointment to get the results on Thursday, after which I hope never to see either of these signally ineffective medical practitioners.  If I merely have a cyst, nothing's gonna happen before I can find a new PCP.  If it's cancer, I'll have a different doctor--a specialist who presumably knows how to read a freaking scan--anyway.  Either way, after Thursday it's Hasta la Vista, Baby to the most inexplicably useless medical practice I have ever had the misfortune to visit.  Needless to say, Thursday won't get here soon enough.

January 20, 2012

Roller Coaster Week

Have you ever had one of those weeks when things seem to change so quickly that your brain can't quite absorb it all?  It's kind of like when the weather switches back and forth between extreme temperatures so rapidly that you end up getting Weather Whiplash--one day it's 70℉ and you're running errands in flip flops, then 10 hours later it's 33℉ and you're digging through your closet, trying to find a scarf and mittens.  By the time you find them, it's back to 66℉.  You utter a few choice words and then spend the next three weeks sick because your body simply can't adjust that quickly.

My week has been a little like that.  The extremes have perhaps not been quite so severe as in Weather Whiplash, but they've made for an interesting week nonetheless.

I spent the majority of last week trying to cram in all those last-minute things like doctor's appointments, procuring textbooks, running errands and bonding time before the girlie had to head back to the frozen tundra for her spring semester on Monday.  In the midst of shopping for new luggage and bonding on Thursday, I paused long enough to call my doctor's office for the delinquent ultrasound results.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, not much came of the results.  When I finally talked to Nurse Attitude Problem, she told me I had exactly the same thing that the CT scans told me I have.  I was also told that Dr. Doofus (neé Earnest) thought I needed to do another CT scan or an MRI so they could finally figure out the apparently incredibly complicated task of determining whether I have a cyst of a tumor.  I never would have dreamed this process was so inexplicably difficult.  Anyway, Nurse Snotwad informed me that she would call later with any appointments, etc.  Whatever.  I'll be sure and write rude things about you both in my will--just in case--since you clearly have no sense of urgency regarding my kidney and its mysterious mass.

Anyway, I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with my girlie and watching movies and TV around her doing laundry and packing and such.  On Saturday we went to a puppy sale at Petland and fell in love with an adorable Pomeranian puppy who was very playful and full of energy.  I would have taken him home if it weren't for his low, low pedigree price of $1300.  Bye-bye, adorable puppy!   Over the weekend I also made the girlie a couple of her favorite dishes for her "last meals" at home, feeling somewhat macabre while I did so because I couldn't think of a better term than her "last meal," which just made it sound like I was going to fatten her up with French toast and then stuff her into my car trunk or something.  It was all a little on the creepy side.  Then, to make matters worse, I started getting sniffly on both Saturday and Sunday nights, crying myself to sleep in a combination of already missing her and of being annoyed at myself for my crying before she'd even left. 

Cutest.Puppy.EVER.

I always miss the girlie when she goes back to school...most moms do, right?  But I don't usually become quite such a mess about it.  With each trip, it's gotten a little easier to let go, though admittedly after having her home longer in the summer and at Christmastime makes it a bit harder.  For some reason I don't entirely understand, though, this time seemed worse than usual.  Perhaps it was a result of all the medical uncertainty currently surrounding me as several of my friends have suggested; I don't know.  In any case, I got her safely and punctually to the airport on Monday morning, enjoyed breakfast with her at an Atlanta Bread in the food court, then saw her off to security like a good mommy.  I hugged her and kissed her goodbye, smiling and waving at her as she passed through the checkpoint and onto one of the many scanner lines.  Then I headed to the restroom stall to take care of business and promptly lost it.  A few minutes later I pulled myself together then headed out to my car, intending to wait there till I knew the plane was safely off.  Don't judge me--you know a lot of you do the same thing.

Once I made it to my car, I started sobbing again, this time as though the pour child were dead instead of just on a freaking plane.  I mean seriously--what the heck?  I haven't been this distraught since taking her to school for the very first time, a mere three weeks after moving here and having to come back to an empty house in a town where I knew no one.  I cried like a fool for the better part of an hour, till my flight tracker showed her in flight at last, at which point I again forcefully pulled my big girl panties up and drove over to the Kilwin's in Atlanta for some consolation fudge.  Naturally, they were completely out of the only kind I wanted--the basic, no frills, milk chocolate fudge.  To make it even more annoying, this was the third or fourth time in a row they've been out on one of my post-airport runs.  Grumbling, I went back to my car and headed over to pick up our pottery.  The girlie's turned out beautifully, with some of her SCA logos rendered free-hand in astonishing detail.  My tray came back chipped.  On the front.  Yup.  After that I just headed home, where I found that Barnes and Noble had sent not one but two identical textbooks for the girlie.  At least they didn't double-charge me for the extra book, though I still have to return it now.

Girlie's goblet with the Raven of Thescorre.

Pretty red inside...great for disguising the blood of enemies.

Alanna's rampant lion.  From memory.

Aethelmearc's heraldry...also drawn from memory.

A very uninspired tray I made to hold toiletries in the guest bathroom.  I was completely lacking in design ideas that day.

Chips Ahoy.

I was a mess for the rest of Monday, and cried on and off all day Tuesday as well.  I threw myself a pity party of epic proportions, and I cannot even claim hormonal influence fueling the fire.  I still don't know why this time was so much worse than usual, but there you go.  I went to my choral rehearsal Tuesday evening and felt better while there, though I practically had to drag myself out of the house kicking and screaming.  After rehearsal I took myself out for a late dinner, during which I chatted with a favorite server.  I left feeling better, at least till I got home; at least that self-pity relapse was relatively short-lived.

By Wednesday, I was starting to feel a little more myself again, not that I accomplished much.  My blogiversary whizzed by unremarked upon by me.  I ate, I mailed my daughter a late textbook, I went to choir practice.  It was all very unexciting, at least until UPS dropped off a box of delicious cherry-flavored goodies sent from my dear friend G.  Earlier in the month another dear friend sent me some lovely fudge from See's.  Having loving friends rain yummy food on you is awesome enough by itself, but having treats arrive at the height of Wallow Week is simply spectacular.  Timing is everything, you know.

How can you not love a place called the "Cherry Republic"??

Yesterday I was back to doing mundane chores and starting to sift through all the crap on my desk that got shunted aside during the girlie's last week of break, such as depositing her monthly allowance, writing checks, and making appointments.  I realized at the end of the day that it had been a week since my last chat with Nurse Bitchy, and I still haven't heard anything about either a CT scan or MRI.  Clearly they found my insistence on doing the scan at a diagnostic center instead of the hospital inconvenient and therefore selfish and are therefore punishing me by maintaining radio silence.  It's truly frightening to me that Dr. Doofus actually rated so highly on RateMDs.com.  I have yet to speak to her personally about any of this; meanwhile Nurse Buttmunch continues to display all the consideration and efficiency of week-old tofu.  The Edsel was more freaking successful and useful than Nurse Buttmunch.  On the plus side, I did get some bedding washed and I got to make fun of the hubs for laughing hysterically like a 13-year-old boy at the incredibly puerile "wood" jokes on Big Bang Theory's 100th episode last night.

Awesome fan art.

Now it's Friday (and if you start singing that Rebecca Black song I will have to cut you), and I've still accomplished precious little this week.  The fudge I ordered online from Kilwin's in the middle of my wallowing (which I ordered as much to thumb my nose at Kilwin's Atlanta as to actually gorge myself on pity chocolate) arrived; not surprisingly it was far less satisfying in reality than in theory, not that I still won't cram it down my throat this weekend in an attempt to purge a largely unpleasant week, before settling down to the business of getting off my rear and making some attempt at becoming healthier.  Even though my chocolate horde was somewhat of a disappointment, by contrast my mail retrieval was not.  When I walked out to the curb with my dog to collect the day's postal offerings, I was elated to see a small container of Honeybell oranges jammed inside my mailbox.  Although there was no card enclosed, I can only assume that they are from yet another dear friend--one LCM--who sent me my very first Honeybell last January.  These lovely little gems come with a plastic bib and instructions for eating.  Laugh if you will, but these oranges are so juicy that the bib is more than warranted.  Having been forewarned by both LCM and the instructions, I cautiously broke into the first orange while stationed over the sink and swathed in my plastic lobster bib.  What followed was nothing less than an explosion of ambrosia, which I subsequently scarfed down in an orgasmic paroxysm of joy.  Needless to say, I have the best friends EVER. 

I can almost taste them just from this picture.  Juicy, juicy oranges...

So this has been my last week or so:  Crappy nurse, shopping shopping, movie, movie, Five Guys, French Toast, laundry, packing, tacos, TV, airport, crying like a rejected Idol contestant, wallowing, Barnes & Noble shipping fail, wallowing, wallowing, rehearsal, dinner, wallowette, awesome cherry noms, boring chores, choir, tv, boring chores, laundry, bank, toe starting to look normal, boring chores, anticlimactic fudge, dysfunctional printer, heavenly oranges, blog.

Aren't you glad you missed it?


Edited to add:  On later inspection, I finally discovered a greeting typed on the box label that had been folder over to the back side of the box and therefore causing me to miss it originally.  Turns out the delicious oranges are indeed from the very generous and lovely LCM, and I look forward to drowning in their succulence for dessert tonight.

January 14, 2012

Pizza and Partings

Today was a fairly quiet day at the old homestead as we continue to wind down towards Monday's flight.  Mostly I have bagged all the cleaning that still needs to be done; I figure it will still be here after the girlie goes back to school, and I'd much rather spend my time hanging out with her.

As a result, we didn't do too much beyond sitting beside a fire this evening while she caught up on episodes of Doctor Who and continued to work her way through Season 1 of Friends, courtesy of Netflix.  It's more television than we probably need to be watching, but since she doesn't really watch any during the semester, I figure it balances out.  I even made a homemade pizza for the occasion.

Mmmmm...pizza...
Tomorrow is church, after which will begin the last day flurry of activity--doing laundry, packing, and all those other last-minute preparations that inevitably come up before a big trip.  Somehow, in the blink of an eye, that almost-month of break will be gone and I'll be driving her back to the airport once again bright and early on Monday morning.  I'll drop her off and wait till she goes through security, since we can no longer wait with people at the gate.  Afterwards, I'll go and pick up the pottery we painted on Thursday, which she will have to wait till Spring Break to see because it won't be ready till after her flight.  Then I will come home, feel sorry for myself for a while, and get back to daily life without her.  I will clean house, I will find a doctor whose staff is not incompetent, and I will set aside whatever things she forgets so that I can send them to her next week.

Saying goodbye is bittersweet.  And while it gets a little easier each time, I'm never going to get entirely used to it.

January 13, 2012

The Countdown

Today I realized that I only have three full days left with my girlie before she heads back to campus.  Personally, I much prefer the countdown to her arrival over the countdown to her departure.

Still, we're trying to make the most of it around the inevitable last-minute chores like laundry and packing.  We had brunch with a friend this morning, then went to size a ring with shield very like her future SCA coat of arms.  We attempted to tweak an incorrect eye prescription so I could order her more contacts, though sadly we just missed the staff, who left at noon.  Sounds exciting, right?  But we were together, and that's all that mattered.

On the way home we stopped at the store to purchase supplies for making tacos tonight and pizza tomorrow, then we settled in to watch more of the shows we'd saved on the DVR for her.  We finished up House and Bones, then started all the Doctor Who videos she'd been saving for last.

Now there are only two days left, really.  Times like these are difficult for me (for any mom, really), because I am put in the awkward position of being simultaneously happy and excited for her and all the promise of her new semester, particularly since I know how much she loves it all, while still being sad for me that she's leaving and maybe even the tiniest bit jealous that she is in the midst of one of the most exciting times of her life while I seem to spend the majority of my days typing and staring out my window (I gotta work on that).

But this is as it should be.  It is the natural order of things.  I'll miss her, but I'll see her again for Spring Break.  And again in May.  She will still come back to me.

I've decided that college is not just a gentle way (or "safety net," if you will) of helping young people segue between adolescence and adulthood, but rather also a gentle way to help ease parents into that inevitable moment when their grown children leave again--but don't come back.

No matter how gently one has been eased into it, that day will still suck donkey toes.

January 12, 2012

Fun with Nurse Insert-Name-Here

Most of you know that I had a renal ultrasound Tuesday morning.  While there, I asked the technician when my doctor would get the results; I was told within 24-48 hours.  On a whim, I called the doctor's office just after lunch to make sure they'd call me after getting the results since they've so far shown a marked indifference about telling me much of anything.  Nurse Vacuous said that the doctor had to "sign off" on the report, after which she could call me with the results, probably late afternoon or Wednesday morning.   Okay.  I should have results by Wednesday morning.  I figured that meant I'd probably get them by February 15th.  Also, what does "the doctor has to sign off" mean, exactly?  Makes it sound like they are writing me off, which they seem to have largely done already.

So I waited.

No calls Tuesday evening.  I even kept my ringer turned on and up so I wouldn't miss any calls.

And then I waited some more.

All day Wednesday I waited.  Nothing.

Thursday morning I called and was sent to Nurse Vapid's voicemail, where I left a message.  Then the girlie and I headed off to Atlanta for some shopping and good, old-fashioned girl-bonding time.  While eating an early dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (yum!), I called Dr. Earnest's office once again and after being kept on hold for 10-15 minutes was finally put through to Nurse Bitchy.  She didn't apologize for never having called me back.  Then she told me that I had either a mass or a cyst.  Get the f*ck out of town--really???  Okay, now tell me something I don't already know. 

"We compared it to the CT results which we don't have the software to read, so we used our magic guessing powers and it hasn't grown any."

Nurse Attitude problem next informed me that the doctor was trying to decide between making me do another CT scan or an MRI.  Correct me if I'm wrong here, people, but wasn't a CT scan what got all this insanity started IN THE FIRST PLACE?  What could possibly make you think that a new one is going to tell you anything different than the first one if you can't even get any useful information off either it or the ultrasound?  Hello???

"Well, she's "leaning" towards an MRI.  Can you do a CT or an MRI?  Because it couldn't be an open MRI..."

"Well, yes, Nurse Head-Up-Ass, I can, in fact, do a CT or MRI, considering I've just done one."

"Do you mind going to the hospital for an MRI?"

"Actually, yes, I do...I'd rather go to the diagnostic center."

"But it would be much easier for us if you went back to the hospital because they already have your other test results because clearly we are not competent enough to have them sent to us from another location."

"Well, God knows I want to make all this nonsense easier on you, Nurse Needs-to-be-Slapped, but it's three times cheaper at the Diagnostic center."

"Is that a problem?"

"Well, duh, Nurse Can't-Comprehend-Basic-Math; while I do have insurance, and while the entirely pointless ultrasound you just ordered blew out my deductible, there's still the little matter of my CO-PAY on all these outrageously expensive tests and, surprisingly, the co-pay on a $15,000 test is noticeably bigger than one on a $5000 test.  Shocking, I know..."

"Um, okay...I'll talk to the doctor and see what she wants to do and call you back with your appointment..."

Needless to say, I have heard absolutely nothing since this conversation on Thursday afternoon.  I have still not heard a solitary word from Dr. Earnest herself.  Not only is Dr. Earnest totally fired the second I get this all sorted out, but I'm thinking it might be time for a visit to a specialist, preferably one who does not have his head lodged firmly up his keester.

I am so over this.  Why is medical competence so difficult to find these days?  Or is it just me?

January 11, 2012

Junk in the Trunk Antiques

Today, while on my way to the post office to mail yet more cookies, I saw a sign for a shop called "Junk in the Trunk:  Antiques and Home Decor."  Is that not one of the most awesome signs in the history of ever?  Here's a photo of another sign in front of the store:

Would that removing junk from one's trunk were so easy...

Nothing like having a store name which legitimizes one's weight problems.  More power to them.

January 10, 2012

Lab Techs and Kidneys and Daleks, Oh, My!

This morning I had my appointment for the renal ultrasound that Dr. Earnest's office so helpfully scheduled without bothering to inform me of either it or the need for it in advance of giving me the appointment.  For those of you just joining in, I had an appendectomy 4 days before Thanksgiving last November.  I was given a CT scan in a local hospital to confirm the diagnosis, after which the radiologist flagged a potential "renal mass" in my left kidney.  The scan results were then faxed on November 28th to my new GP, who then decided to wait until January 4th to order a follow-up ultrasound.  It's been special.  Dr. Earnest and her office staff are on my list of people to hit with sticks should I ever decide to become a SCA fighter like my daughter.

Anyway, I dragged myself out of bed around 8 am to go take a shower before my appointment, after having already spent a half an hour hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock in a Herculean effort to pretend I didn't have to leave my warm and cozy bed.  As I passed by the front window, I noticed a fog outside so thick that I couldn't even see the street.  Suddenly I had visions of Heathcliff materializing from the foggy moors, ultrasound gel and scanner in hand.  If I'd had any doubts about the dubious merits of being conscious (as opposed to awake) that early in the morning, they were rapidly squashed by the specter of Radiology Heathcliff (New!  By Mattel!!  Only $19.95!!!) in all his foggy glory.

I trudged to the bathroom to begin my shower, shaking off this unfortunate vision as I went.  Once vaguely revived by the warm water, I got out, re-bandaged my now disgusting-looking toe, and got dressed.  I had a few extra minutes before leaving, since I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything, so I threw the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, packed up my morning meds, and headed out the door.

The outpatient diagnostic center to which I was sent was actually not far from my house, which made a nice change from all the times over the last 12 months that I've been summarily shipped clear across town.  I arrived almost on time, only to discover that the radiologist was delayed by a hospital call.  While waiting, I was checked in by a woman wearing enough scent to suffocate a herd of buffalo.  She informed me that it was a new year--wait...REALLY???  Thanks for pointing that out, Eau de Bronchitis--and that I would therefore have to meet my $300 deductible before the insurance would start kicking in their subsequent 90%.  Personally, I think this is medical code for "your ultrasound will cost approximately $12,000--just for the squeezy gel--so you're getting off lucky with paying it all up front.  Will that be cash, check or charge?"  Heck, that personal ultrasound machine for my wrist was over $4500, just by itself.  How foolish of me to think I'd go in and only have to fork over a copay rather than enough to buy a new set of tires for my car.  Typical.  I ended up giving her half of it; they can bloody well bill me for the rest, since I'll still have to give up that extra 10% anyway.  On the plus side, it's a mere 10 days into 2012 and my deductible's already been met.  On the down side, given the way my last year went, it's probably not a great idea to give me carte blanche to break or damage whatever body part I want just because my deductible's been paid for the whole year.  Hello, Appendectomy--why did you have to wait till freaking November??  I should have been able to get some more mileage out of you!

After signing over my firstborn half of the deductible, Ms. Malodorous snapped on a hospital bracelet (Seriously?  You're gonna tag me for a 30-minute test??) and sent me off to wait for the radiologist.  I only waited for a couple of minutes before she called me in and told me to hike my shirt up to my bra and climb on the table, after which she began to stuff washcloths under my bra and over the waistband of my jeans, presumably to protect my clothing from the ultrasound gel.  The weird part was that she did this on my right side, as opposed to the left which was the one originally flagged.  When questioned about this she said she was doing a renal "study" and so would do both kidneys.  Um, okaaaay.  Gotta get that basis for comparison, I suppose.

Next she squirted me with the gel, which was mercifully pre-warmed, and began the process of jamming in her handheld scanner hard enough to push a kidney out my navel.  She had me roll up on my side, put my arm over my head and hold my breath on and off while she continued to jab the scanner into my waist, back and ribs.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to hold one's breath while being whammed near the diaphragm with a very hard hunk of plastic?  She kept saying "hold your breath...excellent...now another...stop breathing in through your mouth, you're putting too much air in your stomach...excellent..." over and over till I eventually learned that "excellent" was code for "you didn't screw it up so you're allowed to breath now."  She spent a surprisingly long time on the right kidney, far longer, in fact, than she ultimately did on the left unless I'm very much mistaken. This puzzled me, considering it was the left kidney that brought me in in the first place.

She cleaned me off and then had me flip over to do it all again on the left side.  I'm not sure why, but it was less uncomfortable this time; she seemed not to be jamming the scanner into my flesh as hard.  She also made me hold me breath for longer stretches on that side for some inexplicable reason.  I watched as she highlighted spots on the screen in red, typing something illegible from my viewing angle.  I commented on it, and she insisted it was no big deal because she'd done it on the other side as well.  "Um, I couldn't see you do it then.  "Exactly!"  Whatever, Radiology Lady.  Meanwhile, while all this was going on, she had Yanni blasting out of the speakers.  Better than rap, I suppose.  While lying there with my arm over my head listening to Yanni and reverse-hyperventilating, I noticed a sign near the sink demonstrating the use of the eyewash.  You know, like in a lab when you accidentally squirt toxic chemicals or uranium into your eye and have to run to the special fountain to wash out your eyes?  Anyway, as I stared at this sign, it struck me that the picture of the water shooting into the eyes looked just like an upside-down Dalek.  Obviously I need to get out more.

After she'd finished jabbing me and dribbling gel all over my left side, the radiologist again wiped off my skin then told me to lie on my back and pull my drawers down over my hips.  Apparently a "renal study" also included my bladder.  I slipped my jeans and undies down to just above my personal bits.  "Excellent."  This turned out to be perfectly pointless moments later when, despite my "excellent" placement, she stuffed a washcloth and her hand all the way down the front of my pants.  Um, exactly how far do you plan on shooting this gel, lady?  I guess she didn't get the washcloth straight enough to suit her, because next thing I know, she was jabbing her hand down my pants again to fix it.  Thank you, Radiology Lady, but I don't know you this well.  Next time you better damn well be buying me dinner first.

She recommenced with the jabbing, this time around my bladder, making me have to pee.  Fortunately the bladder "study" went much more expeditiously than did the kidney "studies," and she was done in maybe five minutes.  She wiped off the excess gel, then left me with a washcloth to finish the job.  What, now you choose a little discretion??  Give me a break.

I finished cleaning off, yanked my pants back up and got up off the table.  She said I was free to go and started to show me the door but I stopped her, saying, "Can I ask a really weird question?  Can I take a picture of your eyewash sign?"  She started to twitch.  "Um...I..." Okay, I was definitely hearing the wind-up for a "no."  "Well...Hippa...Um..."  I quickly added that I just wanted a picture of the eyewash sign, to which I then pointed.  Twitch.  "Well..."  I asked her if she'd ever seen Doctor Who.  "Yes!"  Ha--nerds with gadgets are clearly the same the world over.  I pointed out that it looked like an upside-down Dalek.  She turned her head, the lightbulb went off, and she exclaimed, "Oh!"  She even did the voice.  Then she flipped over all the exposed paperwork on her desk so privacy was maintained and told me to go ahead, saying she'd never noticed it before.  Then I pointed out that I'd been staring at it upside down for the last 15 minutes so it was kinda hard to miss.  She laughed and told me to have a good day.

Now I'm an eyewash.

And now I'm a Dalek.  "Irradiate...Irradiate...IRRADIATE!!!"

Before I walked out, I asked how long it would be before Dr. Earnest would receive the results.  She replied that it would probably be between 24-48 hours, which means that if Dr. Earnest's office remains consistent, they probably won't contact me with my results till February 26th.  So there you have it.  Now excuse me while I go find a bathroom.

January 8, 2012

Toe Trilogy Termination

My toe has been getting progressively worse.  A week or so ago, a bunch of skin started peeling from the previously infected edge, presumably the result of sloughing off skin damaged by extensive Epsom salting and de-swelling.  While all well and good on the one hand, this apparently exposed my wounded toe to yet more infection, so over the course of the week it has been getting redder and oozier (though not as swollen as before) and ever more tender.  I went back to the 2-3 times daily soaking, which has helped alleviate some symptoms by drawing out gunk and pus--or at least for as long as my foot was in the water, after which the edges would crust back over and start collecting gunk again.

By Friday the toe was very uncomfortable and I was starting to have little shooting pains every so often.  I finally decided that I was getting pretty much over it all and was ready to let my lovely F doctor (or F.M.D., as one friend dubbed him) have his way with it.  I figured the cure couldn't hurt any worse than the daily pain, never mind the break which originally caused all this drama, and would probably be a slightly different, more manageable pain anyway.

While at the SCA Twelfth Night festivities on Saturday, I called the minor med on my highly anachronistic phone to see if the FMD was there like he has been on every other Saturday in which I've gone.  He wasn't.  Bummer.  Then I asked if he would be there today.  Score!  So I decided to tough it out for one more day just so I could let the FMD look after my troublesome toe,  because I have infinitely more faith in him after our short acquaintance than I do with Dr. Earnest, the Asshat Medical Queen or some other unknown doctor.

So after church today I went home and had some lunch, then goofed off for a bit because I'd arranged a chat time with a friend for some undetermined time in the afternoon.  She seemed to be otherwise occupied for the day, so I decided to go ahead and zip off to see the FMD.  I woke my napping husband and dragged him out of his papasan chair (aka the "Posture is for Pansies" chair), telling him that he needed to come with me just in case I couldn't drive afterwards.  I had no idea what exactly today's procedure would entail; all I could think about was the time when I had a mucous cyst aspirated from my index finger by a dermatologist, during which I felt each and every needle used, even after the numbing agent took effect (did the same thing with my epidural, actually), as well as the cautery iron used afterwards to decrease the chances of it coming back.  Ah, the smell of burning skin--especially one's own.  Yup.  Anyway, I figured it would just be sensible (and infinitely safter) to bring a backup since I know how what a wienie I can be when there are needles involved.

We got to the minor med, which was largely dead--only one other person was there--and checked in.  Maybe five minutes later the nurse called me back, stuffed me in a room, and ordered me to discard my Band-aid while I waited.  A couple minutes later, in walked the FMD.  My hero.  My knight in white-coated armor.  Let's just say I am now in love with the FMD, and I want to marry him and have his little Jewish babies.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

When the FMD walked in, I looked up at him and said, "CUT ME."  He smirked, then asked, "So, did it get any better at all?"  I told him that it had indeed, but that after the Great Skin Slough of 2012 it all started going pear-shaped again.  He sighed and said it was cutting time.  I told him that was fine, because I was over it.  I asked what precisely would be involved and whether it meant removing the whole nail, which I was dreading.  He said no, then explained the procedure in detail, saying that he would basically remove a vertical slice of nail nearest the infected edge, then remove a wedge of skin from the tip of my toe to make a smooth, unobstructed "runway" on which the new nail could grow without catching.  After that, he would cleanse the exposed area, sucking out any remaining infection and gunk and spraying down the nail root, which would "cure" me.  Afterwards, I would have a dressing like a cap, which I would leave on untouched and dry for 24 hours, after which I could again begin the thrice-daily soaking, dressing it afterwards with a little Neosporin and a regular bandage.  He also told me that if this didn't work I would have to go to a podiatrist, who would basically kill that section of nail root then do the same basic procedure, after which my nail would die and the exposed skin would eventually toughen and just be uncovered.  I asked what the likelihood was that this could happen.  He said maybe 20%.  Cool.  I like those odds.  Finally, he said it would take 3-4 months for the toenail to grow back out.  Geez, dude--it's already been 7 months, and I still have a quarter inch of old toenail humped over the newer nail like a WWI bunker.  Seriously--my toenail has a hunchback.  It's awesome.  Maybe by the one-year anniversary of the break I'll once again be able to get a freaking pedicure.

Anyway, after this instructive little lecture, the FMD started to go get his implements for the procedure.  I stopped him, saying:

"If we're gonna do this, then there are three things you need to know."

"Okay...?"

"First, I am a giant pansy when it comes to needles, especially needles shoved into non-squishy body parts."

"Ooooh, and this is a nasty one, too."  (This said without humor...)

"Second, I have very sensitive skin--I tend to react to adhesives (I described the after effects of my appendectomy) and I tend to feel every.single.needle shoved in my flesh, even when I'm not supposed to, so if you really want me to be numb, you're gonna have to give me enough anesthetic to fell a Clydesdale."

"We can do that."  (Talk about your "can do" attitudes...)

"Lastly, because of those first two items, there is a distinct possibility that I will let loose a string of obscenities that would make a sailor blush."

"We're ready for you!!"

The last he said while laughing.  Seriously.  This man ROCKS.  I told him he needed to be my GP.  He just smiled.  Afterwards, he went off to collect the necessary surgical items while I sat and waited, slightly less apprehensive, bathed as I was in the glow of his awesomeness.

When he returned, the FMD told me to "try to..." but before he could finish saying "relax," I answered that I would try, but no promises.  The FMD said he would describe every single thing he was going to do to me before he did it so it would be easier for me to relax.  (I love you, FMD.  You understand the way my brain works better than my own husband.  Run away with me.)  Then he gave me a pillow and had me lie back and put my feet on the little pull-out shelf.

Next, because FMD is so awesome, he told me that he was going to numb my skin with a cold spray to make the needle prick less painful.  He warned me that it would be very cold, but I didn't care.  I've had plantar's warts both burned off and frozen off of my feet.  I can deal with that kind of pain,  I'm just not so big on the sharp and pointy kinds.  The FMD said he was actually going to stick me between my first two toes, then down the other side of my big toe which surprised me both because I didn't know there were two nerves that needed to be hit and because I'd just assumed he was going to jam it in the tip of the toe, which I was dreading. The FMD shot the cold spray between my toes till the cold was nearly unbearable, then he stuck me with the needle--which I BARELY FELT.  He warned me that the numbing agent was the worst part and would start to burn, which it did, but compared to a semi-shattered toe, it just wasn't that big a deal.  He told me every step of the way, as promised.  When he was gonna spray me, when the needle went in, when he was shooting the meds, when the needle was out.  Both times.  (Marry me, FMD.  I make awesome cookies and can sew you every white doctor coat you'll ever need).

The FMD told me he was gonna leave me there in the room to numb up good for five minutes or so, saying that oftentimes when someone felt everything during a procedure it was because doctors tended to start said procedures before the anesthetic has fully taken effect.  I told him again that he totally needed to be my GP.  He just snorted.  (I'm not joking, FMD.  Rise to the bait.  You know you want me.  My bluntness entertains you.)

When the FMD came back he did the standard poking-of-my-toe-in-various-spots to make sure I was good and numb.  I felt nothing.  So he started the procedure.  Stab.  I told him I felt whatever he was doing (I'm just annoying like that).  He asked what kind of pain it was, since he'd warned me there would be pressure, etc.  "Pressure etc." I can deal with...I told him this pain was "pointy."  He said "Okay, let me numb you a little more..."  (I love you, FMD.  You actually listen to me.)  He started again.  I said it was still pointy, then said "TOLD you I was a pain in the ass."  He replied, smirking, "You aren't a pain in the ass...you're a pain in the toe."  (You are a god, FMD.)  I don't know if he jabbed me again with anesthetic or what, I sort of lost track--but I didn't feel anything else afterwards other than a little pressure or some vaguely burning (but not really painful) sensations.  He continued to describe what he was doing.  You gotta love a man who keeps his promises.

Turns out it was just as well that I went in to see the FMD.  A couple of friends had suggested I soak in eucalyptus Epsom salts and/or tree oil and lavender and such.  I considered it, and probably would have done if I could have located the items in question, but mostly I just wanted this over and done.  This was just as well, because in the process of performing what amounted to a hangnailectomy, the FMD told me that I had quite a lot of nail jammed up in there, hiding as though under the tip of an iceberg.  Thank you, broken/damaged toenail!   As a result, my toe would have only continued to fester around this ninja hangnail until this procedure was done anyway.  This was the same conclusion I had rapidly come to myself during the course of the week, though of course I had no idea that it would be the result of my toe was being poisoned from the inside out by a giant sliver of nail.  I thought it was just some sort of infection abscess.  Whoops.

While the FMD continued his slice and dice on my big toe, I queried if I could ask an unrelated question.  I told him about the whole CT report and renal mass thing.   I realized he hadn't seen the scans or report, but figured he'd have some idea how likely it was that I should be concerned.  Also, since he's always been very straight with me (to which I respond extremely well--I despise the beating around of bushes), I figured he'd tell me like it really is, which is all I wanted.  He more or less snorted in derision over my question, basically suggesting that far too many radiologists freak out over every little thing on a scan, which is why he himself only orders them when he absolutely has to (like for my appendicitis).  He also told me they do the same thing to him, though as a doctor he has the advantage of knowing how to hack into the computers to access his results and read them, so he knows when the reports are full of crap and when they aren't.  The FMD told me that in all probability it was merely a small benign cyst, which doesn't grow, doesn't change, doesn't really do much of anything except sit there.  I mentioned the part about the possible gallstones, and he said that could possibly be bad, though he still seemed somewhat skeptical about whether there were any or not.  And while I didn't intend to rag out one of his (indirect) colleagues (though I totally did, but at least I didn't mention names), he agreed the way they informed me was totally mishandled and done in an alarmist way.  He said it might be related to recent issues dealing with customer satisfaction and such, which I guess has been a significant problem of late in the medical profession.  I gather it's becoming increasingly more difficult to balance good healthcare against the demands of the ever-increasing sense of entitlement polluting our society.  Ironically, one of my friends posted this article not long after I got home today, which in part addresses what the FMD was referencing.  Read it--it's a good article.  And I say that, securely smug in the knowledge that I'm usually pretty good about this sort of thing.  I agree that some people overuse the system, but I really think that most just don't know when to go to a doctor and when not to, so they always go by default.

At any rate, I felt much better about the whole "renal mass" thing after having the FMD more or less corroborate what I thought about it probably being not a big deal given the circumstances.  He continued to work on my toe while we chatted, finally getting to the "cleansing" part, during which he flushed out the exposed nail root and tidied up from my flesh wedging.  He said he was going to let me sit for a couple of minutes to finish oozing/bleeding, after which he'd send in the nurse to bandage me up.  Then I thanked him sincerely (how often do you genuinely thank someone for hacking away chunks of your flesh?) and he left the room.  Shortly after, a couple of nurses did indeed come in to clean me up and wrap my toe, which now looks distinctly cartoon-like.  They even used paper tape to wrap my toe because the FMD told  them too; he decided not to take chances with my having a reaction to the tape, even though I'd told him my toes would probably be fine since my extremities tend to react less.  I LOVE MEN WHO LISTEN TO ME.  The nurses finished up, gave me my post-op instructions and another prescription for antibiotics (from the tetracycline family, since he remembered I didn't like Keflex!), and sent me on my way.  As I walked out, I told the FMD that he was my hero, and that I had never experienced a less painful procedure.  (Marry me, FMD...right now!  Or at least consent to be my GP in perpetuity...)

All cartoon toes need to be embellished with dog hair and significant needle bruising.

I went up to the checkout window to surrender my co-pay, laughing (much to the hubs' surprise) and feeling FABULOUS.  The procedure was over, my toe was numbed to non-existence--they said it could take up to eight hours to wear off--and my relief was palpable.  I all but danced out of the office, less than an hour after I went into it.  Once in the car I informed my husband that I would be divorcing him in favor of the FMD.  He just raised his brows.  You'd almost think he was used to my dramatic tendencies.  We drove across the street to Publix to cash in my prescription and to pick up a few groceries and another bag of Epsom salts.  Once home, I put on some jammies and spent the rest of the evening chilling with my foot elevated.  The pangs of shooting pain didn't start till 10 or 11 pm, and even then they were very sporadic and short-lived.

So now you know why I love the FMD and want to run away with him and have his little Jewish babies, or at least kidnap him until he consents to be my personal physician full time.  How can you not love a man with a wicked sense of humor who actually listens to you and who goes out of his way not to hurt you?  That's often a rare commodity these days--even the most fabulous of men (whether doctors or not) don't always listen.  And let's face it, medical competence is just hot.  But hands off.  He's my doctor...

So what is it that makes a doctor great for all of you?  


January 7, 2012

Twelfth Night -- My Day with the SCA

Today I had the pleasure of accompanying my daughter to a SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event, specifically "Twelfth Night."  I realize that technically twelfth night was a couple days ago, but I don't imagine it's very easy to get a bunch of people together around Thursday school and work schedules.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term "twelfth night," it's basically the twelfth day of Christmas like in that never-ending song we all know and love.  Many people today still sing the song without really knowing when the twelve days of Christmas actually are.  They start on Christmas Day rather than before as many believe, ending on January 5th before the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th.

Anyhow, my daughter has become very involved in the SCA over the last year.  She has long been interested in joining a group (though perhaps not as long as myself; I've just never had any groups nearby before now).  Also like myself, she has long enjoyed science fiction/fantasy; in her teens she became enamored of the author Tamora Pierce, particularly Pierce's book series about a girl knight named Alanna who happens to possess a very similar personality to my own danger girl.  Ever since reading these books she has harbored a less-than-secret desire to become a girl knight and, after becoming involved in SCA fight practices near her college, is well on her way to doing so.  In fact, she is due to become squired to her "knight" (also her fight instructor) next month, at which time she will receive a red belt designating her as such; she is so excited she is practically bouncing off the walls.

I myself must admit to a certain fascination with it all.  On the one hand, how many mothers would enjoy watching their only child--only GIRL child at that--running around in armor with a bunch of grown men twice her size and getting battered and bruised by rattan sticks?  Most people, especially women, prefer to avoid getting smacked about.  Even most men I know wouldn't do something that basically amounts to running deliberately into a brick wall (unless drunk), yet many of the Scadians do exactly that in the name of honor and glory (and geekery).  On the other hand, the girl clearly loves it and, while still inexperienced, is actually good at it.  SCA lights her up even more than gymnastics or Irish dance ever did.  In addition, she is quick to point out that kitting herself out with armor doesn't cost any more than her accoutrements for Irish dancing did.  And she does have a point, the little bugger.

Don't get me wrong; I like the SCA, and God knows I'm am a total geek myself.  When I was studying for my Master's in English, my specialties were the Medieval and Renaissance periods, and I've always been a sucker for anything related to Arthurian legend.  True, I've probably forgotten half of what I learned in the last 20-odd years as a stay-at-home mom, but my office shelves are still littered with books about those time periods and I still love reading about them.  I've loved making Medieval costumes for my girlie's youth madrigals every year.  I love the idea of going to SCA events while wearing historically-accurate costumes and learning crafty skills from eras long since past.  I've always been a crafty sort of person after all.  Still, even with my profound affection for the time periods in question, my first choice for the girlie probably would not have been to watch her getting bashed about by men and spending the week afterwards week all bruised and sore.  It all rather defies one's maternal instincts.  But she is now almost 20 (clearly I had her at age 12) and is more than capable of making her own decisions.  She is also the sort of person who would never put up with crap from anyone and can give as good as she gets, so I don't have to worry too much about men twice her age giving her a hard time about being a girl fighter.   Mind you, it doesn't hurt that the whole philosophy of the SCA revolves around honor and chivalry; from what I could see today she is treated with respect, which she says is true in her home kingdom as well.  And as her mother I appreciate that.

Nor can I deny that in many ways her experience with the SCA thus far has been great for her.  I've enjoyed watching her growing enthusiasm over making her own "garb" with which to outfit herself for the various events.  She's always wanted to learn to sew but until now has never been sufficiently motivated actually to do so.  Now, with the joy of SCA coursing through her veins she can hardly stop herself sewing, reveling even in advanced techniques such as patterning her own clothes and hand sewing them (she doesn't have a sewing machine in her dorm room).  She struggled a bit over the summer while trying to make her first gambeson (which is basically a quilted vest/coat one wears for additional padding under armor), though she did remarkably well all things considered.  She'd pop into my office regularly to ask me for advice, then would disappear back into the sewing room till the next issue arose.  Since her successful completion of this first garment, she has practically flown through several additional garments--in spite of taking 31 credits last semester--learning with a speed that is nearly astonishing even to me and I probably know her capabilities better than anyone else.   She made a second gambeson in short order before returning to school; once back in her dorm she also made a skirt and overdress to wear to local SCA events.  This week she made a kirtle and surcoat in anticipation of the Georgian Twelfth Night festivities.  I had to help her finish parts of both garments because of a slight miscommunication about them (I originally didn't realize she was making them for today so I unintentionally delayed her construction), but even so she finished them almost entirely herself.  But this is about more than just sewing.  She's always been one to stand up for herself, but I've had fun watching her confidence blossom even more as her fighting continues to improve, and seeing her increasing maturity in handling any problems both at school and at home.  While a lot of that would have probably developed just by being independent at college and/or through her faith, I know that much of it also derives from the skills she is learning through the SCA and its code of acceptance and respect of others.

The girlie has been encouraging me almost since she herself joined to become involved in the SCA, telling me how much I would enjoy the "Arts & Sciences" aspect of it all.  And no doubt she's right, though I've often felt rather awkward about the prospect of going to an event without knowing anyone ahead of time.  However, this seemed like as good an opportunity as any to go to an event and check things out.  Besides, she really wanted me to see her fight (as did I).   Unfortunately, in the press to get her own garb finished in time there wasn't adequate time left over to whip something up for myself, nor did I had anything even remotely period-like to wear to the event.  Instead of missing her fight because I had no attire, I decided to try throwing together a toga this morning.  While looking for an appropriate sheet, I had a sudden inspiration.  Sitting in the closet before me was a faded plaid king-size sheet.  I immediately thought "Wouldn't it be cool if I could make that sheet into a girl kilt?"  Even though we were getting ready to leave, I grabbed it anyway.  Why not?  I might as well at least try.  I folded the sheet quickly in half, put it around my waist and did some hasty finger pleating to see how big or small I'd have to make the pleats all the way around.  Next I ran up to my sewing machine and, using a basting stitch, rapidly pleated the sheet as I was sewing.  Although the pleats were by no account even, I somehow managed to estimate the size of each well enough that the skirt came out almost exactly the right length, with just enough overlap left to avoid the skirt's gaping open and to give me a place to stick my kilt pen.  I then folded up the bottom of the two edges and quick-basted a hem so the "skirt" wouldn't drag.  Ten minutes later, I had a fake kilt.  I took a matching pillowcase with me; while waiting for things to get started at the event, I pulled out my seam ripper (because I'm geeky that way) and started picking out all the stitching so I could turn the pillowcase into a shawl/arisaid of sorts.    Don't look at me like that...who doesn't carry a pocket seam ripper in her purse?  Men get to have pocket knives.  We all have our own weapons of choice--the girlie uses a sword and shield and I have my seam ripper and blog.

While I proceeded to plunder my pillowcase, the girlie changed into her fighting clothes.  Once I was vaguely garbed (newbies only have to make a "reasonable" attempt at pre-17th century clothing) in my handy-dandy plaid sheet, Celtic jewelry and very non-period glasses frames, I trundled off down to the field of battle to watch the fighting and to see what this passion of hers was all about.  The battlefield was placed down a hill behind the small chapel (which I found somewhat ironic) on the church grounds where the event was held.  Just outside the chapel were a couple of metal benches.  I turned one around and settled myself in for a long winter's watch.  When most of the fighters had finally arrived, the round-robin tournament began.  It was fairly easy to tell who were the more experienced fighters; they tended to have more speed and finesse.  One fighter was nicknamed the "Mace-breaker" because what he lacked in experience and skill as a newer fighter, he more than made up for in brute force.  Then there was the girlie.  She looked child-sized next to most of the men both because of her height and her slender build; she was a veritable pygmy on the field.  I fully expected to sit up on the hill, watching the entire time from between the fingers clenched over my eyes and wincing with every blow.  To my very great surprise, I didn't.

King-size candy bar vs. fun-size snack bar.

One by one the girlie took on her 11+ competitors in the tournament, all but two of whom were significantly taller than she and even those two were still a good bit wider.  Initially I thought she had vanquished her first competitor; while she did take out one of his legs, he still managed to defeat her before the match was over.  She did succeed in conquering one gentleman, however,  who later turned out to be the spouse of the woman I met while watching the combat.  The girlie was thrilled to win her first bout especially after fighting for less than a year.  Several of the ladies watching near me discussed her openly, not realizing we were related; they called her "ballsy" to be out there fighting with the men and were generally quite impressed by her, not the least because of her "stunning" armor.  I must admit it was rather gratifying to overhear my daughter spoken of in such glowing terms.  She told me later that several of the other competitors had been impressed with her fighting skills as well.  She then informed me that while she only won the one bout, she still came very near to taking out a couple of other fighters as well.  That's my girl...kicking butt and taking names!

Facing down her first opponent of the tournament after "taking" his legs.
It's only a flesh wound after all.

And down she goes,  a giant grin on her face.

One skirmish before successfully taking down an opponent for the first time ever.

Travel-size vs. Economy-size, or "better off red than dead."
(Photo credit:  Jessi Moss)

"Might as well JUMP!"
[Ironically, "Jump" by Kriss Kross was the number one hit song during the week
of her birth.  Oddly appropriate, no?]  (Photo credit:  Jessi Moss)

The Baron and Baroness of Bryn Madoc chatting during the action with Illy.

During the battles, some of the church ladies came to clean poinsettias out of the chapel.  One stopped to ask a gentleman behind me what was going on and to take pictures of the action.  He explained about the event, telling her that they used rattan poles instead of actual swords because they have a realistic force but are flexible enough that they rarely give more than bruises.  "We hardly ever get broken bones!"  Um, thanks, dude--music to a mother's ears, that.  But it was funny.  He went on to mention that they even sometimes get lady fighters, directing her attention to the girlie.  Heh.

"Though she be but little, she is fierce."
Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 3, Scene 2.
(Photo Credit:  Jessi Moss)

When all was said and done, the fighters were pretty tired.  Eleven bouts is a lot of fighting to start, never mind when some random duke shows up late in the game and asks to fight each of the other combatants in turn after the main bouts are finished.  Duke Orlando went around the circle of fighters, taking each on in turn.  He lost a few of the battles, but mostly he won.  The entire time I was waiting for the girlie's turn with him, the words "there was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Orlandoooo..." kept running through my head.  Yup.  Because that's just how my brain works.  After the girlie's bout with Orlando, I headed back to the main buildings to get a late lunch of soup and bread and to take a much-needed bathroom break.  The girlie meandered up the hill a half hour or so later, grabbing her own bowl of soup after changing back into her normal garb.  While waiting on her I chatted more with Illy, the woman who was sitting by me during some of the fights and who seems to have a similar sense of humor to mine.  Illy introduced me to some of the other ladies, all of whom answered several of my questions about the SCA.  I then got to watch them work on some of craft projects such as knitting caps and mittens and a scarf that would ultimately become a bag after being felted.  A woman in a fantastic Elizabethan dress had a rather elaborate hand loom on which she was weaving some trim.  I asked how it worked and she demonstrated it.  Later, Illy showed me the illuminated scrolls on which she'd been working, after which she began to work on a needle case.  We all chatted for some time while other people strolled in and out of various arts and sciences classes nearby, such as those on sleeve or hood patterning, Italian mask making, music for beginners and the advanced, and baronial history. 

After her lunch, my girlie wandered off into the advanced music class for a while where she played a borrowed recorder and fife.  When I heard singing in the class, I wandered in as well.  A couple of people were playing various types of recorders and wooden flutes and the like while the leader played an interesting-looking harp.  Another minstrel showed up later and began playing the psalter.  At one point the local baron even joined in on a drum.  I sang a few madrigal-like canons with the group; the young man next to me (one of those fighting earlier) turned out to be a music student at UGA with quite a lovely voice.  I very much enjoyed singing with him and the girlie.

After the music class disbanded, the girlie and I went off to see the vendors' wares.  I told her that since Doctor F was unavailable to look at my problem toe today, she was welcome to stay for court and the feast if she wanted.  Because the fighting took rather a long time and had delayed several of the classes (though I gather that late starts are fairly common in the SCA), court was not due to start for another hour yet.  The girlie didn't feel obligated to stay for the local court since she was visiting from another kingdom; also, she decided that she was hungry from her earlier labors and didn't want to wait another couple of hours for dinner, instead opting to leave early.  She gathered her things and we walked out to my car.  I unpinned my minute-kilt and threw it in the back seat while she threw in her equipment, then we headed over to Applebee's for dinner.  More than a few heads turned when my girlie walked in wearing her garb, even though it was much less elaborate than many of the outfits I saw today.  I kinda wish she'd shown up in her armor, just so I could have seen everyone's reactions.  I'd still like to have seen the faces on the TSA agents when they ran her checked luggage through the scanners and saw her helmet show up on the screen (when she came home from the airport last month, she discovered a note in the bag holding her helmet, or "helm" as it's more commonly called, stating that the bag had been searched).  No doubt TSA thought she was illicitly transporting torpedo heads.  I would have paid good money to watch their jaws drop in a giant "WTF??" when her helm lit up the scanners.

While today was a long day, particularly with my aching toe, it was a very enjoyable one.  I finally got to see a little of what the girlie does for "fun" (though personally my idea of "fun" does not involve getting hit with sticks); oddly enough I actually feel a little better about the whole fighting thing after seeing some of it for myself.  These guys may take it pretty seriously but they are clearly good-natured about it and the fighting doesn't look anywhere near as dangerous as I'd feared, even given the girlie's size.  Besides, she definitely acquitted herself well--though she did receive some bruises from being whacked a few times in the gap between her neck protection and the armor on one shoulder.  She also sustained one really good hit to her wrist, making it bruise and puff up noticeably.  Even so, sore and bruised though she was, when I asked if she'd had fun she replied, "SO much fun!!!"  Well, that's all right then.  Carry on, soldier.

I don't know yet whether or not I will get involved with the SCA.  Perhaps I will; I did enjoy myself.  We'll see how it goes--it partly depends upon my schedule.  I'm a little concerned about the time commitment.  If nothing else, perhaps I could become a garb vendor; I've always enjoyed making costumes.  I'd probably have to adjust to using more period techniques to make my work more authentic, but it could be fun.  At least now I've met some of the local group and can join if I like;  also, I can still go to some of the girlie's events (though I think I'll make an effort to improve on my sad, flannel sheet kilt if I do).  I know some people may think the SCA is full of weirdos (well, duh, that's what makes it great), but how can you not give mad props to a group of people dedicated to learning from history and to recreating a nearly lost code of honor, of which modern society is in desperate need?

SCA rocks.  Period(s).

January 6, 2012

Lasanga

Tonight's post will be short and sweet.  First, we had a friend over for dinner.  We ate a little lasagne, had a little ice cream sandwich cake, and mostly just hung out for the evening.  It was very pleasant.  I also made a nice marble cake, though it wasn't done in time for dinner.  Lastly, I helped my daughter finish an outfit for her Twelfth Night activities tomorrow with the SCA.  So it's been a hectic night, and it's about time for me to go to bed.  But first, just to make you jealous, here's a picture of my lasagna right before I put it in the oven:

Mmmmm...cheese...(and noodles and meat).
Yummy, yummy lasagna.

January 5, 2012

Well, Good Afternoon to You, Too--The Sequel

All last night and this morning I dutifully waited to hear from my doctor about what the heck was going on with this whole renal thing.  I had to take my daughter for her annual eye checkup today before lunch, so I decided that if I hadn't heard anything by the time she was finished, I'd just make a slight detour to Dr. Earnest's office on the way home since I was already in Doctor Central anyway.

We did the eye checkup (all was well, yay) and still no word from the doctor.  Fine.  I drove over to the office.  I gave the receptionist the abridged version; she hardly let me finish before she was jumping up to go find my file, complete with deer in headlights look.  Geez--I hadn't even worked up a good testiness yet.  She told me that the doctor was currently in between appointments and was working her way through all the files on her desk, so mine was probably in the pile.  Fine.  Then she told me to wait in the waiting room.  Fine.  At this point, anyone with sense should be quivering in fear by the number of "fines" being uttered, because they know that when a woman says "fine," the last thing she actually means is that she is, in fact, fine.

I waited a few minutes, then a nurse called my name.  I foolishly assumed she was there to escort me back to the doctor's office.  But no.  Instead, she took me down the hallway and into one of the consultation rooms where vital signs are checked before you get hauled off to an examination room.  Okaaaaay.  The nurse then sat down, turned to me, and quizzically said "You had a question?"  Um, YEAH, I have a question.  I have several, actually.  Like why the first time I was hearing about something as potentially significant as a renal mass was when some random nurse called me with an appointment for a renal ultrasound.  Like why I wasn't given this information in the hospital.  Like why it took over six weeks for me to get this information at all.  Like why the doctor did not call me herself.  Nurse Vacant mostly sat and started at me through my interrogation, appearing vaguely miffed that I was getting all worked up over nothing.  I repeatedly asked why I hadn't been called previously, and she kept answering with "Well, the doctor ordered the test."  Last time I checked, that answer doesn't go with that question.

This dance continued for another 5-10 minutes as Nurse Vacuous continued to be incapable of addressing my concerns, questions, or complaints, always falling back to her position of "Well, the report says..." and similar unhelpfulness.  I asked when they had received the report.  She didn't know.  How do you not know?  I asked when the doctor had ordered the test.  "Yesterday.  That's why we called you."  ::heaaddesk::  I asked what she said about the scans.  "We can't read scans here because we don't have the software to read them.  ::headdeskheaddesk::  I asked exactly what the report said.  She glanced over it and said something along the lines of "they don't think it's any big deal..."  Well, thank you for your expert opinion, Nurse Vapid.  I feel soooo much better now.   Clearly she didn't understand why I was so pissed since, in her expert opinion, it was "no big deal."  I'm sorry, but when some random person calls you in the middle of the day to tell you that you have an appointment for a RENAL ULTRASOUND because you have a RENAL MASS, it's a big deal and should be treated as such.  I don't care if turns out there's only a shadow on the scan, or someone's thumb on my abdomen, or if the scan was misread as in the case of one friend who told me that a similar scan of her father-in-law showed that he had a uterus.  It's still a big deal.  Also, if my ultrasound shows that I have a prostate, there will be WORDS and many of them.  And that's still better than another friend who told me last night that one time when her father was trying to tell people about his appendectomy he got confused and told everyone he'd had an episiotomy instead.  Now that's something I would like to see...I'm sure we all know a man or two to whom we'd like administer an episiotomy.  Turns out this same guy was also trying to tell people he was a kleptomaniac, telling them instead that he was a nymphomaniac.  Clearly someone needs to find this dude a dictionary and fast.

At any rate, largely fed up with the useless nurse and hacked that the doctor couldn't be bothered to see me in spite of the fact that she was between patients (you are so fired once this is resolved, Dr. Earnest), I demanded that Nurse Void make me a copy of the CT report and held out my hand for her to give me the sheet with the ultrasound appointment.  No doubt she said a few choice words about me once I'd left.  Seems only fair; I'm still saying a few choice words about her.

When I got into the car, I handed the report to my daughter and asked her what the date on it was.  At first she couldn't find it, so I directed her to the top where the fax reception markings would be.  Aaaaaand...it was dated November 28, a mere nine days after the scan took place.  "Pissed" gave way to "livid".  My doctor had been sitting on this report for over FIVE WEEKS.  Five weeks is more than ample time for Dr. Asshat to pick up a phone and give me a heads up:  "Hey, they found something weird on your CT scan...it's probably just a cyst, but I wanna do an ultrasound to make sure", even during the holiday season.  How hard would that have been?  Three minutes, tops.  Likewise, whoever called me yesterday could easily said something similar before presenting me with an appointment time (and thanks for checking to see what times would be good for me, by the way).   Doing so would almost certainly have made me a little more receptive--or at least less confused--by the news I was given.   "Paging Unprofessional...paging Unprofessional..."

When I got home, I read through the CT report.  I love the way medical professionals write reports...they are so...clinical.  It seems I was imaged from "the dome of the diaphragm through the pubic symphysis."  Say that five times fast:  pubic symphysis pubic symphysis pubic symphsis pubic symphysis pubic symphysis.  Makes it sound like I have some terrible sexual disease or a parasitic symbiont.  Nice.  They did mention a delayed imaging of kidneys and bladder, so perhaps that had something to do with my not being told about the mass while in the hospital.  (Doesn't change the fact that you had a complete report since November 28th, Dr. Earnest Goes to Medical School.)  On the plus side, my liver, spleen, adrenals and pancreas are normal, as are the "caliber" of my large and small bowels (aren't you glad you now know this much about the internal organs of a random stranger?).  And since when are intestines discussed in terms of "caliber"?  I must have missed this part of health class.  And now I get to spend all day with wildly inappropriate images of the sort of "shooting" in which my bowels might partake.  Stomach flus and gastrointestinal bugs suddenly come to mind...

And, there it is:  "Low attenuation left renal mass.  This measures approximately 1.3 cm in diameter.  Hounsfield units are in the mid-30s range.  This could be a complex cyst or conceivably an enhancing mass.  It might also be a simple cyst with elevated Hounsfield units related to volume averaging.  Consider left renal ultrasound for more complete evaluation."  Apparently "low attentuation" means "who the f*ck cares--make her wait a couple of months" in doctor-speak, in spite of the fact that it could also "conceivably be an enhancing mass."  I don't know what an enhancing mass is.  Does that mean I have a tumor, benign or otherwise, that is vainly attempting to tart itself up?  Can masses have plastic surgery?  More to the point, why would they want to?

So that's my exciting CT report.  Oh, and I might also have some small gallstones.  Of course I might.  Why wouldn't I?  Georgia still hates me.  I know in my head that this is all probably nothing, particularly given the incredible lack of urgency regarding the matter, and that's fine.  I have to think that if it were a bigger deal I'd have been having other issues by now, and I haven't been.  Either that or someone would have been pounding on my door a long time ago.  On the other hand, I am apparently not "normal," at least when it comes to appendicitis, so who knows?  It's still not something I want to mess about with, and it's certainly not something I want to learn about in the way I did.  Now that I have a better idea how Dr. Earnest and her staff tend to operate (or not, as the case may be), I am pretty sure I will be going elsewhere for my medical needs once I get the results of my on the 10th.  Given the way everyone has operated to date, no doubt it will be another 5 weeks before anyone gets around to giving me the results.  Yippee.