Books and Books and Books: 2017 Edition

Happy New Year!

I love the new year. I love goals, fresh starts, new planners…I am quite geeky about it all. Which reminds me of a funny/sad story…James and I went to Target the Thursday before Christmas because I wasn’t thinking at all about the Christmas rush and was instead laser-focused on picking out my new 2018 planner (and I was pretty peeved because the last time I’d gone to Target they didn’t seem to have their planners out yet even though it was DECEMBER. Turns out they’d put them in a different place this time which was annoying since I’m sure someone had already chosen The One Planner To Rule Them All/The Planner Meant For Me since now I was planner shopping in late December.) So, yes, Target was brimming with last-minute holiday shoppers. When we finally found the right place for planners, I dove in, lining up the ones I was considering. After 10 minutes, James got bored and clearly just didn’t get it. I zoned him out and re-laser-focused. I peripherally noticed a couple saying hello to James, but since I was focused on planners, I didn’t at all care or try to engage. In fact, I was happy to buy myself a few more minutes with my planner options while he socialized. Both of us would be in our elements, separately and satisfactorily. Anyway, I heard James say, “Have you met my wife? She’s right there, looking at planners.” I turned and gave a perfunctory smile and wave, then turned back to my treasure. James made some joke about how long I’d been looking at planners and I turned back around and said, “It IS a big deal–I use my planner every single day!” And I was not smiling or joking and was in fact very serious, bordering snappish. I had never met this couple, but figured they were somebody James knew from high school or something. Graciously, the lady said, “Oh, I know what you mean–you’ve got to get a planner that you’ll love for the whole year.” And I earnestly nodded and said, “I need it to do what I want it to do. I know bullet journals are all the rage right now, but I’m not into those because you have to make the structure yourself…I’d rather just get the one I’m already used to since I already have my own system down.” She said she’s been thinking about buying a Commit Planner (?) but is hesitant because they’re a little pricey, but might just pull the trigger this year. I said I hadn’t heard of them and whipped out my phone to look them up, because what if this planner was way better than the ones at Target? At about this point, James was wrapping up his conversation and I was buried in my phone and the lady had walked back over to her husband and she wished me luck in planner shopping, I said thanks for the tips, and they meandered into the toy aisles. Then James told me that was the new VP at his company and his wife. =| What a shining first impression for me. Word for the wise: if you see me in the planner aisle of Target during the end of the year, just walk on by. It will be better for us both.

Anyway, I typically make categorical resolutions (mental, emotional, physical, social, financial, environmental, spiritual, etc.), but this year I decided to do an “18 in 2018” list instead, which comes from the podcast “Happier” (read/listen about it here) and is more of a things-I-want-to-do-or-accomplish list that can encompass LOTS of things, even silly things. Another difference this year is that my “resolutions” list is a joint endeavor! James and I made our 18 in 2018 list a few days ago and it’s already hanging on our wall. Excited to dive in!

I especially love reflecting and reviewing, which is why I love writing my yearly Books I Read Last Year post. I’ve already blabbered on so long, I’ll dive into my book list for the year shortly. But first I have to say: I had a goal of reading 100 books and I exceeded that goal. I had an insanely good reading year. Probably because I took some time off from working for many months. It was a much-needed break and clearly worked wonders on my reading list!

First, a key:
WJ = read aloud with James
AB = audiobook
RR = re-read
BC = book club (could have been any book club I’m in–which is 5 this year I think. Some I’m just a ghost member in, though, simply reading along without participating/attending discussions)
NF = nonfiction
F = fiction

  1. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling: AB, NF
  2. Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling: AB, NF
    I listened to a surprising number of celebrity books this year and last (surprising because I’m not a celebrity-follower) and now feel entitled to critique them. Mostly by saying of all the memoir-ish ones, Amy Poehler’s is BY FAR the best.
  3. The Orphan Keeper, Camron Wright: F
    Based on true events that are heart-breaking and compelling, but the writing in this book is really, and very unfortunately, horrendous. I felt like the author kept getting in the way of the story by over-dramatizing and generally being an arrogant show-off. The only reason I could even consider continuing to read is by merits of the story itself. If this book weren’t based on true events I really could not have stuck it out. I kept reading to honor the real people and their story, not the way it’s written here.
  4. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell: AB, F
  5. The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale: AB, F
  6. Fortunately, the Milk, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
    Hilarious. I will memorize this and recite it to my future children and unabashedly claim this as my own. Sorry, Neil. But: thank you, Neil.
  7. You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero: AB, NF
    Not everyone’s into this kind of thing, but I really loved this one. I’ve always wanted someone to call me a badass, and so thank you to Jen. But really, I need to re-read this one because I remember it being exactly what I needed when I read it and I want to feel the way it made me feel again.
  8. The Animal Dialogues, Craig Childs: NF
  9. Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis: BC, RR, F
  10. H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald: AB, NF
  11. The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo: AB, F
  12. A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle: AB, F
  13. The Other End of the Leash, Patricia B. McConnell: NF
    Okay, if you’re training a dog, or have a dog, or like dogs, I recommend this one. It may be considered blasphemous to lots of people under the spell of Cesar Millan because it doesn’t agree with a lot of his ideas (especially about dominance), but this was a good book for someone like me: I am super into the science behind things, and this one focused on HUMAN behavior around dogs–why we act the way we do around dogs and how and why dogs respond to those behaviors. It was fascinating and really helped me feel informed and mindful as I trained–and continue to interact with–Maeby.
  14. A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle: AB, F
    A Wrinkle in Time was my favorite book as a kid, so I was excited to find out that there is a whole quintet of these books. #2 and #3 were still interesting, although nowhere near as wonderful to me as A Wrinkle in Time (so excited for the movie!), but at least they dealt with the same central characters. I tried #4 and I think #5 too but didn’t last long at all because they weren’t focused on Meg and Charles Wallace anymore and it just didn’t feel worth it.
  15. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck: RR, BC, F
  16. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
    Another treasure, of course. I’m starting to sound like I’ll just recommend any ol’ Gaiman, but I truly did enjoy this one immensely. It was a longer book, more fit for an adult audience, and very intriguing and eerie. I still find myself thinking about this story months later.
  17. Z, Therese Anne Fowler: F
  18. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates: AB, NF
    Just lovely. And important. Extra wonderful because I’d recently gone to hear him speak at the U for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And THAT was an event I treasure.
  19. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave: F
  20. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, Art Spiegelman: BC, NF cartoon
  21. Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli: RR, AB, F
    Read this one again to see if I’d still like it or if it was one of those books you read as a kid and then it turns out to not actually be a good book when you return to it as an adult. Turns out I loved it more this time around; the characters and messages resonated with me more now that my brain is fully formed.
  22. Gratitude, Oliver Sacks: AB, NF
  23. Coraline, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
  24. The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton: RR, AB, F
  25. Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, Alice Walker: AB, F
  26. Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams: NF
    Just beautiful. Different than I expected, but a visceral, quiet beauty.
  27. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead: AB, F
    Over-hyped, unfortunately.
  28. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath: BC, F
  29. Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman: AB, F
  30. Instructions, Neil Gaiman: AB, Poetry/F
  31. Steering the Craft, Ursula K. LeGuin: BC, NF
  32. Becoming Wise: An Inquiry the Mystery and Art of Living, Krista Tippett: NF
    Oh, this was wonderful. So wonderful that I just let it wash over me. Meaning I don’t even remember specifics because I was so immersed in the feeling and beauty of it all. I do want to re-read it and take copious notes, though. It’s that good.
  33. The Zookeeper’s Wife, Diane Ackerman: AB, NF
    Really enjoyed this one. I do not tire of WWII stories that are genuine and well-told, and this was both. I have added “zookeeper” to my list of things I want to be when I grow up.
  34. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill: BC, F
    If you read my Christmas letter, you know how I feel about this one.
  35. The Inimitable Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse: WJ, F
  36. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff: AB, F
  37. Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou: AB, NF
  38. Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, AB, F
  39. The Bitter Side of Sweet, Tara Sullivan: AB, F
  40. The Chemist, Stephanie Meyer: F
  41. Every Falling Star, Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland: AB, NF
  42. Sadaku and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Eleanor Coerr: F
  43. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss: WJ, F
    Okay, I’ve read a lot of fantasy since marrying James, and this is my favorite series. I was quite upset when James told me the third book has no release date yet. It’s a super interesting construct and I am compelled by the characters and society. Pretty invested in a third book.
  44. Heterodoxologies, Matthew James Babcock: NF
    You can find my extended review of this one in Dialogue, but you’ll have to pay for it =) Spoiler: Great collection of essays by the professor who first introduced me to the personal essay.
  45. The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens: AB, F
  46. The World is on Fire, Joni Tevis: BC, NF
  47. The Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson: F
  48. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Raymond Carver: BC, F
  49. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple: AB, F
  50. Global Mom, Melissa Dalton-Bradford: NF
  51. The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss: WJ, F
  52. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin: BC, F
    Delightful. I would have loved this as a kid. I love it now!
  53. The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison: NF
    I started this a few years ago but stopped reading partway through because the essays weren’t doing it for me. I returned to it and gulped the rest of the collection down. Perhaps the first ones were lower quality, but I also suspect it was timing. I think so much of our enjoyment of books comes from what we bring to the book–timing is not everything when reading (the book’s merit cannot fully come from when in life a reader encounters it), but it can account for quite a lot. The timing was right the second time around.
  54. Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan: AB, NF
    Laughed out loud as I drove and listened to this one.
  55. A Book of Uncommon Prayer, Brian Doyle: BC, NF
  56. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss: WJ, F
    Very strange and intriguing, but a too-slow regard of silent things for James. I appreciated its creative merits as a writer myself.
  57. Sublime Physick, Patrick Madden: NF
    Read an interview I conducted with Pat here =)
  58. The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis: RR, BC, F
    This is decidedly NOT doctrine, people. I have a very different idea of heaven than this book. We had a somewhat heated but very interesting and useful book club discussion on this one. Be open to what resonates with you, but also be willing to question it. The first time I read this was in a CS Lewis class in college that was more like a religion class than a literature course and I remember liking it, but I also didn’t dive very deeply into it. This time around I found myself resisting so many things. Questioning is very important to me.
  59. The Only Alien on the Planet, Kristen D. Randle: BC, F
  60. Alicia: My Story, Alicia Appleman-Jurman: BC, NF
  61. The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson: AB, NF
  62. The Wet Engine, Brian Doyle: WJ, NF
  63. Hoot, Carl Hiaasen: F
  64. A House Full of Females, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: BC, NF
  65. ‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman: BC, Drama
  66. The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin: BC, F
  67. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles: AB, F
  68. Rising Strong, Brene Brown: NF
    Of course I recommend this to everyone ever. Please: read it. Change your life and the lives of everyone who interacts with you.
  69. Number the Stars, Lois Lowry: F
  70. The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
    I really resisted reading this one because I like the Mistborn series and this is an extension from that series, but in a different time period. So all the characters I liked in the originals are no longer the focus and it is set in a sort of Western era. Two dings against it, IMO. James finally convinced me to read it, and it was pretty fun.
  71. Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
  72. The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Steadman: AB, F
  73. Maude, Donna Mabry: BC, NF
  74. My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, Fredrik Backman: AB, BC, F
  75. The Bands of Mourning, Brandon Sanderson: WJ, F
  76. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver: F
    I’ve been meaning to read this forever and oh, how I loved this book. Loved it loved it. Beautiful, important, worthwhile, compelling, painful, glorious. Please read this book. The story of a family who goes to the Belgian Congo in 1959 on a mission trip as the father is a pastor. This story, among other things, shows the repercussions of being entrenched in our own shortsighted perspectives. I love learning about other cultures and being transported and being swept away in a book and this book accomplished all those things with so much more importance and beauty than this sad little summary can do. Please read it.
  77. Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper: BC, F
  78. Idaho, Emily Ruskovich: AB, F
  79. Matilda, Roald Dahl: RR, WJ, AB, F
  80. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous: BC, NF
    Wow. Just, wow.
  81. Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: BC, F
    Another wondrous book that I continue to think about long after I closed the cover.
  82. Food: A Love Story, Jim Gaffigan: AB, NF
  83. Portrait Inside My Head, Phillip Lopate: NF
    I feel blasphemous as an essayist in saying that I did not love all of these. An important lesson. (Not that it’s blasphemous, but perhaps an opposite.)
  84. The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley: WJ, F
    I’ve heard about this forever, and mostly from people who really loved it, and there are lots of merits to this book (I definitely appreciate it as the first fantasy novel with a female protagonist), but it didn’t do it for me. Possibly because of when it was written (1987), but I felt like it took me a long time to get into the story (the beginning is slow and dry and not everything is necessary) and I always have beef with books whose protagonist is simply a conduit rather than an active agent. I felt like Harry/Harimad-Sol was simply acted upon by bigger forces and almost completely guided, puppet-like, through the most important parts of the plot. Of course, she was willing and talented and dedicated and courageous, but I wish she would have had a bigger conscious part in the way things turned out. The society and cultures and conflicts and characters were interesting to me, though. And I’ve heard The Hero and the Crown is/may be better, so maybe I’ll give that one a try when I feel up to it.
  85. The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin: AB, NF
    Okay, I fell out of love with Gretchen Rubin after reading Better Than Before last year (I felt like it was decidedly un-groundbreaking—but that’s probably only from my myopic view. I mean, I feel the same way about Marie Kondo–it’s just because I don’t need that kind of stuff since I’m a little OCD about things like cleanliness/clutter and habits/goals–but that doesn’t mean these ideas aren’t of big worth to others). But I still listen to her podcast as a source of nice, happy tips while I’m doing dishes and decided to listen to this book since it was available from my library audiobook selections. I’m glad I did–I got more out of it than I thought I would. Mostly because I felt like it helped me understand James a little more and myself a little more. I think I changed my self-assessed Tendency from Questioner to Upholder–except that my Upholderness is only a small proportion stronger than my Questioner nature. I think I’m like nearly a tie between the two. Rubin would say that’s not a thing–everyone has a secondary but you can’t be two Tendencies, but I’m always resistant to too-boxed-in “definitions” of my person/identity (which she would say is a Questioner trait) and I just think it’s too limited to catch everything about a person. Regardless, perhaps surprisingly, I still found this little book valuable in helping me reevaluate my own motivations and perspectives and, importantly, my understanding of James. I think the things I do that drive him crazy most are because I’m more of an Upholder and the things he does that drive me crazy most are because he’s a Questioner. Anyway. It’s interesting. And I count anything a win that helps me want to try and understand and empathize with others better and thus improve how I interact with them.
  86. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri: BC, F
  87. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman: WJ, AB, RR, BC, F.
  88. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson, BC, NF
  89. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay: BC, NF
    Wonderful. I should have read this while I was working on my thesis.
  90. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng: AB, F
    Not to my tastes. Way over-did the whole “my parents ruined me” trope. I mean, it’s always a good reminder to parent out of the child’s needs and unique personhood rather than living out your dreams through them, but that was hit on way too hard for me.
  91. The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking: NF
    Cute little book with nice design elements that made it even more beautiful. I’m trying to embrace winter, hence this book. I’ve got half the stuff down: lots of candles, books, coziness, but I’ve got a long way to go on the food elements….
  92. Ellen Tebbits, Beverly Cleary: F
  93. The Radium Girls, Kate Moore: NF
  94. Martin Marten, Brian Doyle: BC, F
  95. Wonder, RJ Palacio: F
  96. Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher: F
  97. My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, Paul Guest: Poetry
  98. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens: F
  99. Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick: AB, NF
    This was fun way to pass time while I drove to Boise for a quick trip while James was on a business trip, but now I’m wanting a celebrity memoir from an actor willing to talk about the artistic side of acting, not just the personal side for entertainment’s sake. Anyone know of something like that?
  100. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho: F
    If you haven’t read this one yet, do it.
  101. The Nutcracker, E. T. A. Hoffman: F
  102. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy: AB, F
  103. Enna Burning, Shannon Hale: F
    I was a little nervous about this one because sequels can really suck, but it was a lot of fun! These Books of Bayern (so far; haven’t read #3 or #4 yet) make me feel like a kid reading again–full of magic and tough decisions and bravery and a different land and just a fun YA book to get swept away in.
  104. Seriously…I’m Kidding, Ellen Degeneres: AB, NF
    I like Ellen; I think she’s funny and a genuinely good person. So I was bummed this didn’t have more about the latter and instead was just being funny most of the time. Are any of her other books more focused on real stuff rather than telling funny stories?
  105. The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh: AB, NF
    This is possibly the worst book to listen to as an audiobook. It’s all about being mindful and focusing on the present moment only and has meditations to practice. The irony of listening to the virtues of washing the dishes only to wash the dishes while I was washing the dishes and multitasking by listening to the right way to wash the dishes was a funny lost opportunity. But not really: I can re-read and access the book and its teachings in a much more accessible, lasting way by just reading it slowly and mindfully. It really is important stuff, but don’t choose the audio version or you’re essentially un-doing the miracle of mindfulness! Ha.
  106. Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison: NF

 

That’s it! I exceeded my goal of 100. It was a fun, full year of reading. Just for kicks, here’s a break-down:

40 Nonfiction
2 Poetry
1 Drama
63 Fiction
7 Re-reads
11 Read with James
25 Books read for a book club
43 Books listened to as audiobooks

This was a fun year, and I read mostly whatever I picked up, whatever I felt like, or whatever was available to me. Last year I read a lot of what I have on my shelves, but this year I relied on the library a ton. I just decided that in 2018 I want to read at least 20 books that are from others’ recommendations! So that includes you! What book(s) do you recommend I read in 2018? I’d love if you included why you think I’d appreciate it or even just why you like it, but I’ll take recommendations sans explanation as well =) I’m going to try and exclude book club books from that number, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.

100 books has been my goal for the past two years, and it’s a worthy goal, but I’m re-evaluating it. I think I’ll lower my goal to 75. Why, you ask? Because I can get carried away with numbers and read too fast, without relish, or read to widely, without scrutiny. I listened to a lot of audiobooks simply because they were available and weren’t a romance novel. I’d like to raise my bar a little there…Also because I’d like to read long books if I feel like it or spend time doing things other than reading, too. I’d like to spend more time actively working on my health, for instance, rather than spend a lot of time reading as recovery from health misadventures. So we’ll see what 2018 brings!

Happy reading!

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Books and Books and Books: 2017 Edition

Christmas Catch-up

Happy Christmas!

I hope your Christmas was full full full of all the wonderful things that matter most: love, family, friends, spiritual nourishment, a keen sense of gratitude, and a spirit of generosity.

I know these are the things I really treasure most, especially during the holiday season, but also are all things I’ve been working very deliberately and mindfully on cultivating continually. I could write all day about the things I’ve learned and thought about as I’ve been working on this project, but I have a weird embarrassment of talking about myself too much…weird because, well, we’re all here on my personal blog… shrug.

I’m not ready for the holiday hygge to be over yet, so I’m sending out another round of Christmas cards–and by that I mean: I’m just gonna post our Christmas letter here for those of you who didn’t get on the snail mail list because I don’t have your address or you prefer digital reading. =) So here we go:

The Tidwell 2017 By the Numbers

2      years married
1      trip to Disneyworld in which Elizabeth learns she prefers Disneyland and James learns he prefers to stay home
10     work trips James traveled solo
1       work trip with an Elizabeth accompaniment
1       move into their first home as homeowners
19     gallons of paint used in said new home
8       times the guest rooms were utilized
9       stitches (first stitches ever for Elizabeth!)
113   books read between the couple
11     of said books read aloud together
1       court hearing to avoid a misdemeanor
3       soccer games before one or both of the couple was injured too much to play in the next game (not even counting current lung capacities)
1       hike in Zion National Park in which James’s fear of heights was revealed
9       plastic bones Maeby chewed down to nubs
1       weekend in which the couple tried to own 2 dogs
176   bars of cold process soap made
28     letters to say we wish you a wonderful Christmas!

Most of the stories behind these numbers you already know if you’re caught up on this blog. If not, feel free to ask! (Here’s looking at you, misdemeanor story! I don’t think I’ve told many people about that particular incident and yet no one has wondered within my hearing about the circumstances surrounding a misdemeanor charge…)

Oh, while I’ve got you here–another Christmastime news of note: I finally got results back from my scalp scoopings and my margins are all clear! That means there is officially no more cancer on  my head =) Preeeeeettttty pleased about that.

And now for our annual virtual Christmas gift: our book recommendations for the year!

I heartily recommend The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. It’s a young adult story with magic and mystery and happiness and surprises. I love children’s books, and this one is the best I’ve read in quite a while. I loved the characters and their stories, their struggles and wisdom. I love books that teach me something, and I learned a lot about goodness and the dangers of assumptions and even of good intentions in this delightful, beautiful book. Read it and be happy.

James suggests you read Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. Another one we read aloud together because we have a serious obsession with Neil Gaiman over here. His stories are always a treat and this one is no different: bizarre, hilarious, fun, and bizarre again.

Merry Christmas! Wishing you all the very best of everything important,

These Tidwells

 

 

Christmas Catch-up

Readathon Wrap-Up

I have now completed my first readathon. Actually, I think I remember some sort of readathon in elementary school that I looooooved that had some element of competition in it, so maybe this was my second readathon. Either way, I was in my element.

Actually, I didn’t actually spend as much time reading as I thought I would. Wednesday was half over by the time I got around to reading, and I didn’t read much at all on Thanksgiving Thursday. Lots of reading Friday, no reading Saturday. Lots of reading Sunday. So I kind of did an every-other-day-thing, but it was still great to give myself permission to just lounge and read and feel really great about it.

Here are the goals I had for this readathon:

  • Read as much of my library books as I can since they are due in early December.
  • Read a solid portion of The Way of Kings with James.
  • Read one kids’ book.
  • Read Martin Marten for book club next week.
  • Read something Thanksgiving-y.

And here is the breakdown of my progress:

  • Read The Radium Girls in its entirety.
  • Read 75 pages of The Way of Kings.
  • Read Ellen Tebbits in its entirety.
  • Read Martin Marten in its entirety (but AFTER the readathon ended..read this one yesterday and today).
  • Read 30 pages of A Renegade History of the United States for my “something Thanksgiving-y.”

readathon

Wednesday was dedicated to The Way of Kings and it is a HEFTY book. So it took a long time to read those 75 pages. Tiny font, small margins, huge pages. And I’m still near the beginning of the book and the pace hasn’t picked up yet, so it was a little slow. I didn’t actually read aloud with James though because he actually started a while ago and wants me to catch up to where he was (another 200 pages away) before we read aloud.

Thursday I dedicated to reading my Thanksgiving-y bit and the start of The Renegade History is all I read that day. It’s going to be an interesting book, I think. I like nonfiction and history and definitely like reading about little-known events/movements/groups/subcultures that really shaped the country, which is what this book is all about. This book likely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s not the point. And that’s kind of the point for me. I like trying to see beyond the way we normally see things and history is a big place where the “normal view” is just so widely accepted and narrowly defined that it’s important to push beyond that. I learned some really interesting things in the first 30 pages…like early Americans drank A LOT of alcohol. In some industries employees expected to get beer breaks in the afternoons–and the beer was provided by their employer. And the workers determined when they would work rather than the employer, which I thought was pretty cool. The author sometimes pushes how we “should” celebrate some group or anther a little too much for me at times, but I’m interested enough in the new take on pre- and early America that I’ll likely let it pass. It did make me think of this country and all the large and small things that have and continue to shape the story of this country. This is an interesting place. And there’s danger in the single story of this place–it is more than one narrative arc. So I was grateful to be looking into more stories, more ways of seeing, more ideas of America and its creation.

Friday I read Ellen Tebbits in the morning. It was fun and fast and just what I expected…but with a little more 50’s culture than I remember being in the Ramona series. Just gender things and working mom things and probably a few other things that I don’t remember now. It’s interesting to read a kids’ book for simple pleasure and also be reminded that it is also a cultural artifact.

Once I finished that one I moved on to The Radium Girls. James asked me how I liked it while I was reading it, and I said I don’t know if that’s the way I can describe this book or books like this–it’s not a necessarily pleasurable experience the way that “liking” something might connote. I appreciate the story, I very much value these girls, I think this story is important. I was of course rooting for them and sad with them and appalled with them and felt betrayed with them and anger for them and sad foreboding for them. I wildly admire their continued, united legal action in the face of a huge adversary and also in light of their culture’s view of women and so many other things. So many good things exist in our law today because of these girls. That said, the book was overwritten. The writing got in the way of the story at times, which was powerful enough on its own and didn’t need the extra cheap drama or sentimentalism. It was annoying but still not a deal-breaker, so there’s that.

And that’s all the reading I did during the actual readathon! I was glad I gave myself so many options–I never used to like to read multiple books at a time, but now I like the freedom. In the future I’d choose shorter books–all of the ones I read were pretty dense and not huge page-turners (except Ellen, of course), so that slowed me down some. I would have enjoyed finishing more books, just because I like to. And if I’m imposing a deadline, I like to feel like I’m making progress and accomplishing a lot and closing a book is an excellent feeling of accomplishment.

My bonus book was Martin Marten, which I read after the readathon period ended, but I just finished it so I’ll mention a few quick things while I’m talking books. READ THIS SLOWLY. I wanted to finish it before book club tonight, so I read right up until I had to leave for book club and I started it yesterday. This book is 300 pages, but you really cannot read it as quickly as I did and come out better than you would had you slowed down. It begs for savoring, for a slow devouring. It’s an interesting book in that it doesn’t have the typical central character or story line or much of a story arc to speak of–I’d say it’s more the story of a place–a mountain and a river valley–and the lives that are lived there. We follow quite a few characters throughout the book over the same period of time, but there are also lots of offshoot stories that fit in just because they were lives that lived in this place. As a writer, I found that interesting. At times it was a little too didactic for me, and I thought all of the characters were incarnations of Brian Doyle (who I love, so that’s nice, but it was a little overwhelming and didn’t ring true and complex enough for me), but I feel like I would have enjoyed all of that more had I given myself a long time to read this. Like, two months, maybe three. This is a book about a mountain that is like being in the mountains: slow, quiet, a smorgasbord of a zillion interesting sensory experiences and billions of interwoven lives and their stories–even when we’re not aware of them.


 

So that’s a wrap on my Thanksgiving readathon. Books are the best, and a pleasure I am always grateful for. I love learning, I love feeling, I love entering new worlds, I love the swish of the page turning, the coziness of my library or couch or anywhere I turn into a Reading Place. I am grateful for books.

Other things I’m grateful for this year:

  • Maeby. I know they say dogs are man’s best friend, and this girl really is my best friend. Love her way more than I thought I could love an animal. She’s around me all day and still gets crazy excited to see me if I leave for 20 minutes.
  • Friends. I’ve been making a more deliberate effort to populate my life with meaningful relationships and it makes me grateful for the good people in the world and that I get to know them.
  • Family. This is an “of course” one, but I love my crazy families. It’s nice to have three families now: Bradys, Tidwells, and me and James.
  • Holidays. I’m so, so ready for Christmas season this year! Moving out of a basement really amped my holiday cheer and I am loving this feeling. And there is so much of it.
  • James. I married a guy who is kind and generous and good and who makes my life a million times more fun than it would be otherwise. I am thankful for that. And just for who he is. He is a wonder.
  • My health. Every Thanksgiving reminds me of the 2009 Thanksgiving when I sat in a chair for the first time in a month after being bedridden with a bad go with Crohn’s. I remember the joy of sitting in a chair. The joy of sitting at the table with everyone else instead of lying on the couch in the adjacent living room. I remember the wild moment of not being able to lift a glass bowl filled with probably mashed potatoes, how that inability to heft a bowl laid bare the fragility of body, the quickness of descent, but also my presence at the table clarified the elasticity of the body, the promise of returning strength and health one day. I always think of that Thanksgiving this time of year and I’m glad for the health I enjoy now; even if it’s not perfect health, I can heft potatoes.
  • I’m grateful for the fact that we get to choose so much of what we have in our lives and who we have in our lives and how we experience our lives. I’m grateful for change and how crazy it is that humans can change. What an awesome concept. The evolution of the individual is something that fascinates me and drives me. I’m grateful to be able to evolve.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and I hope you got to read some books!

Readathon Wrap-Up

Thanksgiving Readathon

Just caught wind of a Thanksgiving Readathon and immediately thought: This is my kind of marathon. I’m in much better reading shape than running shape. And I’m constantly training for a readathon (and never training for a marathon…)! And frankly, I’m like 1% interested in a running marathon and 101% interested in a reading marathon.

Plus, it’s time for something on my blog other than medical stuff. Just to throw you off. (Sorry this is none of the stuff I promised months ago…and that I still haven’t gotten around to posting about those things. I loved your votes for topics and encouragement, though! Promise I’ll get there.)

So anyway, this readathon is basically reading as many books as you can over Thanksgiving weekend. Today (Wednesday) through Sunday. So you’ll see a post from me after the weekend detailing my progress.

Not gonna lie, the first thought I had was, “…as many books as I can? Well, get ready for lots of Beverly Cleary and all the kids books I own…” But there’s no prize associated with the number of books you complete, and while I do love kid lit and will likely read at least one kids’ book this weekend, I’m not super focusing on number of books.

Elizabeth, you might be wondering, don’t you have a goal to read 100 books this year? Shouldn’t you actually be in it for the number of books you complete? Goals, Elizabeth!

Yes, thank you for remembering. I do in fact have a goal of 100 books this year. Good news: I’m definitely going to achieve that. I think I’m on 93 right now, but I’ve started like 7 more and December is prime reading time for me–I’m a huge hygge hibernator.

So my Thanksgiving Readathon goals are:

  • Read as much of my library books as I can since they are due in early December.
  • Read a solid portion of The Way of Kings with James.
  • Read one kids’ book.
  • Read Martin Marten for book club next week.
  • Read something Thanksgiving-y.

Let’s dive a little deeper here. Which library books do I need to complete soon?

  1. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
  2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  3. The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination by Ursula K. Le Guin
  4. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön

See, there’s no way I can finish all of these books by midnight Sunday. That’s why I said read as much of them as I can.

I want to read a “solid portion” of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson with James because he just got Oathbringer in the mail and is so, so excited to read it, but wanted to catch up on the series first, and also wanted this to be our next read-aloud-together book. (Which, if you notice, isn’t just a book, but three, and all of them are like twelve-pound behemoths.) So anyway, I’m currently on page 202 and would like to get to around page 400 or 500 this weekend. The book has 1,007 pages. This is clearly not a book to pursue for a readathon if number of books were my actual goal. But it’s on my To Be Read list this weekend because James is so excited, and it’s something we can do together, which actually counts double in my book (ha!) since he’s been out of town for work this week and I’ve missed him terribly.

Next: Read one kids’ book. I want to read Enna Burning by Shannon Hale because James bought it for me a coupla months ago and it’s just been prettily sitting on my shelf since. (It’s a sequel to Goose Girl, which I liked last year.) OR I wouldn’t mind reading Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary because I’ve been working through the boxed set I got for Christmas last year and haven’t ever read that one PLUS my little neighbor borrowed it yesterday and said she liked it.

Next: Read Martin Marten by Brian Doyle because it’s a book club book for a meeting next week. So that’s kind of a must. Especially since it was my turn to choose the book =)

Lastly, read something Thanksgiving-y. I like the idea of this readathon not only being about just simply reading for me, but about holidays, and about this holiday. I like themes. I don’t actually have any strictly Thanksgiving books around (do you know of any? I do not. Please share!) I don’t mind “Thanksgiving-y” being defined kind of loosely. Possibly as simple as something that produces many feelings of gratitude. So maybe When Things Fall Apart could fit that bill? Or actually I bet any of my library books would somehow make me feel deeply grateful about something. I’m drawn by the idea of a stronger “Thanksgiving-y” book, like something American history, even if it doesn’t directly deal with this holiday. I would like something from that time at least. I’d love something about indigenous peoples. Or about pilgrims and early settlers. Or both, together. But I don’t have anything here already that would fit the bill I don’t think. But I do have a few America books I’ve been meaning to read: A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russel; United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good by Cory Booker; Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. Hopefully I’ll at least start in on one of those.


 

So, an optional part of this Thanksgiving Readathon is sharing some family Thanksgiving traditions. Which has actually been a big deal to me lately (traditions in general). But maybe that’s a topic for another post.

My family is huge. I’m one of ten kids, so there are a lot of hungry hungry hippos. So growing up, we’d generally just have a lot of food for Thanksgiving. And I’m realizing now that that is a little unusual. Sure, Thanksgiving is typically a feast. But I don’t think you realize–nor did I, until recently–how seriously we took this feast idea.

We have the regular: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, pies.

But lemme just tell you what we also typically ate every Thanksgiving:

Broccoli salad. Sarah salad. Carrots. Peas. Homemade rolls. Raspberry Jell-o with raspberries and whipped cream that always reminds me of my grandma. Frog eye salad. Fruit salad. A fruit arrangement in the middle of table which featured a pineapple with a felt turkey head on a skewer stuck in it. Depending on how many people were there we’d also have a ham.

PIES. (they get their own category) We are VERY INTO pies. My mom starts making pies like a week ahead of time. One year we had 26 pies, which was one per person since we were eating with cousins. Typical pies usually include: At least 2 pumpkin pies. Apple. Berry. A frozen pie (grasshopper or sometimes a raspberry sherbet). Cherry no-bake cheesecake. Banana or coconut cream, sometimes both. Usually a lemon meringue and a chocolate. Typically a new pie, which was just something exciting Mom wanted to try. If I’m home, a rhubarb or strawberry rhubarb. Cherry. Accompanied by ReddiWip, Cool Whip, and vanilla ice cream, depending on the pie and on the person.

The thing is, I’m sure I’m forgetting some regulars. We ate a lot of food. And it was all homemade (except the stuffing was generally Stove Top, but not always. And sometimes we’d have a can of cranberry sauce, but the best cranberry sauce was a homemade compote.)

Clearly, this comes with a lot of cooking. I hate cooking, so typically I’d do the easy stuff and run off. There are four girls and six boys in my family, so I could generally disappear without being missed too much and leave the cooking to my mom and at least two of my sisters. They/we cooked all morning and we’d eat in the afternoon. Generally my mom had been cooking or prepping for days and would also wake up early to get a head start on more cooking. The boys got to goof off and play games or something I guess. Which I always hated. I was a tomboy and always preferred working outside on our small farm to working inside–especially if it was a chore that involved food–prep, cooking, whatever. So I hated that Thanksgiving meant I was supposed to help and full boys and not tomboys got to just set the table maybe and play Risk. Our chores were generally gendered and I was not having it. But every year I’d still make an easy pie or salad or something that didn’t take precision or patience. (I still hate cooking.)

There were other Thanksgiving regulars like the decor. Our house would look like autumn until after Thanksgiving and usually Thanksgiving weekend we’d transition into Christmas. But mostly Thanksgiving meant lounging and eating and The Feast. We’d do different types of gratitude-expressing depending on the year, but it was usually incorporated into our feast. And of course, we’d have leftovers for days, which was all part of it, too. Pie for breakfast. Day-after Thanksgiving casserole.

I remember a few years where we mixed it up–I remember one year we had goose, which we generally thought was a little too greasy. We also tried rabbit and duck, but those may not have been on Thanksgiving. Typically we had turkey and ham. And lots and lots of homemade rolls =)

Now our traditions are different because we’re grown and most of us are married and live scattered all over the U.S. Since I’m #7 out of the 10 siblings, I had a lot of Thanksgivings without the whole family, and on partial-family Thanksgivings we do scale it down a tad, but not as much as you’d think. It’s still a full-on feast.

My own traditions are different now, too, because I’ve been married for two and a half years now so my Thanksgivings aren’t always spent at home. I married a guy who genuinely loves to cook turkey. (Lucky me!) And because of this, already had his own tradition of cooking a turkey for Friendsgiving. So I’ve joined that for the past few years. Last weekend we had our Friendsgiving and this is when I fully realized how seriously Bradys take their Thanksgiving feast–I constantly felt like we wouldn’t have enough food or it wouldn’t be festive enough if we didn’t have X or Y dish. So I was planning on just making mashed potatoes (friends were bringing squash casserole, a green salad, and pies), but I ended up making a fruit salad, asparagus, a no-bake cheesecake, and some Pillsbury crescent rolls. James made turkey, potatoes, gravy, and stuffing. (I almost made peas and wanted to make bacon brussels sprouts or at least bake the squash I had, but I didn’t.) It was all very extra. Unnecessary, even. James was like, “No one would notice or care if we didn’t have fruit salad, asparagus, or an extra pie. The rolls are nice.” hahaha And it’s so true! I made way too much food. And then James went out of town the next day and I’ve been eating leftovers all by myself. And I don’t even super love turkey. C’est la vie. One day I’ll learn to scale it back. Or, like this year, I’ll just embrace that I like and even need traditions and just go for it.

And tomorrow, I’ll have a Tidwell Thanksgiving. Also read all weekend. So stay posted (or not) for the readathon review next week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Readathon

Two Scoops

Unfortunately, this is not a post about ice cream…instead: more on my scalp. Why two scoops, you ask? Well, because I’ve now had this scalp carcinoma scooped three times: the first removal of the Bubblicious; the second scoop I prepped you for in the last post; a surprise third scoop.

First things first: The Second Scoop.

As I mentioned last post, on October 23 I went in to get my scalp carcinoma removed. Since I waited so long to post about this, it’s a little hazier than I’d like, but that’s really fine because I tend to linger too long on details you probably don’t care about =) So anyway, James came with me and while we waited in the office we analyzed the (really awful) doctors’ office art. (This is the kind of thing I get distracted by while blogging: It was a painting of penned sheep…but the fence looks like barbed wire and they’re all clamoring to get out…so not super soothing art for a medical office. Even though I’m sure they were simply going for a pastoral effect. I digress.)

Anyway, the dermatologists come in and at first they’re considering NOT doing the surgery yet because of an insurance complication–apparently ours has a “global period” where you can’t do additional procedures until a certain amount of time has passed and since  I had the pre-melanoma removed so recently there was a chance our insurance wouldn’t cover this. Bah. He ended up calling in his office manager for her opinion and she said she could bill it in a certain way that it should be fine, so we went ahead with it anyway since we were already there and had already paid our $50 co-pay and also I’d like to not have cancer on my head. So fingers crossed on the insurance front…

So Dr. Parkinson kind of does a quick run-down of the carcinoma. It’s not the kind to jump and cause larger problems; once we cut it out, it’s out; he wasn’t sure if it was this kind of cancer, but he had another team of doctors at another lab look at it and they finally convinced him it was a BCC; we’re going to cut this out today and then that should be it. A review of things I already know…which again makes me wonder if he’s reminding himself of my case or if he gets a lot of patients that forget the conversations he has with them about their bodies and even their cancers? idk.

Commence surgery. First, they have me find the spot with my finger, they measure to make sure we’re on the spot they have in their notes, then they bring out the scissors. The nurse and Dr. Carly apologize that they have to cut some of my hair and I’m like, Oh do not worry about that. I’m so fine with having a shaved head, or a scar, or whatever you’ve gotta do to get this guy out. Dr. Carly replies, “I’m glad you’re okay with that because it lets me be able to do whatever I have to here and make sure you’re really taken care of.” So they get out the clippers and shave a little bigger circle. (It’s the first haircut I’ve had in like….two years? Uh wow. Did not realize that until this second…)

Then it’s time for the needles. I tell them to make sure it’s good and numb because when they removed Bubblicious it hurt like a mofo, so they give me two syringes full of a topical numbing agent, then check to see if I can feel things. It just feels like the top of my head has a square block of void instead of my typical head-top feeling, so we’re good to go.  They have me lie down on my back and Dr. Parkinson tells Dr. Carly he (Dr. C) should cut and he’ll (Dr. P) hold. So Dr. P grips my head really hard, I think to push the skin together so they can cut it since scalp skin is stretched over your skull and doesn’t have much give. And Dr. C cuts. I mostly don’t feel anything and the procedure only takes a handful of minutes, but I scrunched up my face and James came over to hold my cold-sweating hand. Which was nice. =) I frankly anticipated a lot more pain because of the last procedure, but it wasn’t too bad. However…when they brought out the flame to cauterize it, I could feel it. I must have grimaced and said ouch or something because Dr. C was like, “Oh I know that hurts, but that’s good–it means we’re getting deep enough; below the point where you’re numb.” In my mind I’m like…just put in more numbing stuff then? Haha but it was over soon.

The nurse cleans up the blood and they put some healing ointment on my head and tell me about post-op care: Keep that ointment on for three days, which means no showering. And once I do start showering again, be gentle and slather on the petroleum jelly to keep the site moisturized and protected as it heals. Dr. P says he thinks he’s got it all, that he’ll personally call me in a few days to tell me I’m cured of cancer. I tell him I have some questions.

First: I tell him about my visit with Dr. Maxwell and how we found that study that says I may just be more likely to get skin cancers just because I have Crohn’s. He pretty much dismissed that, saying that’s not been the case in his practice and probably that study was done with some weird sample size or location or something. I didn’t communicate this well, but all I was trying to say was that I had talked with my gastroenterologist and am now comfortable with staying on Humira, in part because of the searching we did in medical studies. Sure, that is just one study and it may not have the most excellent and pure data (always a good reminder to be a critical thinker and consumer of information–even scientific studies. Check out this John Oliver bit on the telephone game that is medical studies and how they’re reported, among other issues.) So, if you have IBD and you were freaked out by my last post, don’t waste your time and health worrying. On the other hand, I’m also always cautious about doctors who say they haven’t found something specific in their patients–because they’re just one doctor in one area with a pretty small sample of people that they see. You know? So, of course, be balanced and think critically.

Next: James found a mole on my back that looks suspicious. I want them to check it out. So they do. But instead of being in a paper gown like I have been for my other mole checks and Frankenboob procedures (that’s what I called my boob mole surgery site since the black stitches reminded me of Frankenstein’s monster and it’s on my boob…you get the idea), they just have me lift up the back of my shirt. Which is rather hard to do since the mole in question is kind of in between my shoulder blades, so then James holds up my shirt, and Dr. P grabs some shirt, and Dr. C does too and I’m seriously being pulled by the clothes in a weird few moments that feel like either monkeys grooming each other or that moment in Cinderella when Drizella and Anastasia snatch away her pearls and sash and dress and all of it.

giphy

Only with less malice. Dr. P looks at the back mole, tells me it’s just a seborrheic keratosis, then does a quick look at the rest of my back, moving my clothes, and even does a diaper-check down the back of my leggings. What I mean by that is, he pulls out the band of my leggings (which go to my waist) and looks down and around at my low back and love handles and who know what else he saw. It did definitely feel like I was getting checked for a poopy diaper. James and I laughed about that one for days.

So he assures me the spot is this seborrheic keratosis thing, which, he explains, is just sometimes how skin grows, and hands me a pamphlet about it. That leads me to my next question: Is a monthly self-check and back-check-by-James good? How do we know we’re doing it right? This he says Dr. C can tell me about, and makes to leave, so I plow through my other questions: Should I be worried about these red dots? Suggestions for moisturizers with sunscreen? How often should I reapply? etc.

I show him the red dots in question (they’re kind of all over me like tiny reddish freckles) and he says they’re all fine and Dr. C will answer the rest of my questions. So he leaves, and Dr. Carly tells me the red dots are also very normal, they’re called hemangiomas and they’re just extra groups of blood vessels. Nothing at all to worry about. But good job thoroughly noticing your skin. The nurse hands me a “The ABCDEs of Melanoma” handout and we chat about how it’s hard to teach someone how to check their skin beyond these guidelines–and the big thing to look for is changes. Checking monthly gives me time to notice changes in the past month (so I’m not constantly checking).

Then I ask him about sunscreens and moisturizers. I’d like a body lotion with sunscreen in it to be really protected, but I especially want to know about facial moisturizers with sunscreen. I had tried just wearing my typical facial sunscreen–Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Broad Spectrum SPF 55–in lieu of moisturizer but I wasn’t getting enough moisture, so I then tried using my regular facial moisturizer–Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel–WITH a layer of the Neutrogena face sunscreen on top but there was some sort of chemical reaction and I pretty much got an accidental chemical peel, so that was a no-go. In the meantime, I’d been wearing my regular moisturizing gel with a foundation that had SPF 20 because I couldn’t find just a moisturizer with SPF. And I have to be choosy about my facial moisturizers because I have oily skin (which is why I use a facial gel rather than a lotion and why I love the dry touch sunscreen).

Anyway. I’m passing his recommendations on to you because everyone should be wearing sunscreen as much as possible, just everywhere, all the time. So, they recommend CeraVe products. They have a facial moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF 30 and zinc oxide and a body lotion with SPF 50, among lots of other things. They also gave me samples for elta MD UV Daily Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Moisturizing Facial Sunscreen and one that’s tinted if I want a little more coverage like a foundation. Basically, what you want in a sunscreen is zinc oxide, broad spectrum SPF of around 30-40 for everyday wear, and reapply every 2 hours if you’re outside a lot that day. So there are your tips.

After trying my samples, I do not like CeraVe for my face. It’s too thick, too lotion-y for my oily skin. I much prefer the elta MD UV Daily (they also gave me a sample of elta MD UV Pure, which I haven’t tried yet) because it feels more like the Dry Touch Neutrogena but adds more moisture without making me too shiny. I hated the tinted elta MD moisturizer + SPF—it smelled funny and wasn’t the right tone for my very fair skin. Plus if I’m wanting coverage I’ll just go with my regular moisturizer and SPF foundation. CeraVe is cheaper and you can find them everywhere, but I’ll just stick with them for body moisturizer with SPF. I haven’t tried layering elta MD with my SPF foundation yet, so I don’t know about any potential reactions there. Typically I either wear just the elta MD moisturizer + SPF or my Clinique moisturizer + my foundation with SPF (I like this one). Just because I still have three-quarters of my old moisturizer left…haha.

So anyway, that’s as close to a beauty tutorial you’re ever going to get from me =) And that’s also a wrap on Scoop 2. I went home and watched lots of BBC and ate lots of Tylenol.


 

Fast forward a coupla weeks and I get a call from one of the front desk ladies from his office telling me unfortunately they do have to go deeper–the last surgery didn’t quite have clear margins. (I notice Dr. P didn’t call me personally…probably because who likes to call and say they have to do another surgery because they didn’t actually get it all out the first/second time especially when he nearly promised it would be gone.)

So this surprise extra surgery was a week ago yesterday. I was out and about so I drove myself to the office and James met me there. This time, I immediately noticed how brusque Dr. P was being. He came in and quite roughly poked the syringe of numbing into my scalp, waited a few moments, then tested to see if I was numb by poking the needle around. It was not numb. A second dose. More poking–just again and again poking this needle into my scalp–and asked if I could feel it and I said yes. The nurse was like, “Does it just feel like pressure?” And I was like, “No. It feels like a needle being poked into my scalp again and again.” I’m thinking, hey, guys, I’ve done this routine many times in the past few months. I know what numbed pressure feels like versus full sensation. This is not numb.

About that time, Dr. Liz comes in and Dr. P says he’s given me two doses and he’ll give it a couple minutes and he’ll check it again, then steps out. I tell Dr. Liz that it’s not numb at all and she gives me a dose of something stronger that should also last longer. And this time it does feel a bit more like the block-of-void-where-the-top-of-my-head-should-be type of numb, so the nurse cleans the area. But it feels a little too much like wiping my scalp and not like pressure in a void so I’m not thinking this is going to be great.

Dr. Parkinson comes back in and Dr. Liz tells him she gave me a dose of the stronger stuff and he says, “We’ll I don’t want to give her anything more. So if it doesn’t numb, we’re just going to have to deal with it.” Cue wide-eyed emoji face.

Dr. P has been weird, I notice. The whole time he hasn’t actually addressed me. He’s kind of behaved more like a surgeon when the patient is asleep. No chitchat, no emotional or technical prep conversation, no addressing me at all. My attitude is less jokey than usual, too, although I’m also not upset or scared or even as scared of the pain since last time wasn’t too bad. Mostly I want to get it over with, this thing that must be done.

So this time he has me lay on my belly, with my forehead pressed to my forearms, which are crossed overhead as I lay on my belly. The nurse asks him if he wants to do a punch but he says no, he’s going to cut. So Dr. Liz grabs my head and pulls my scalp together, which does just feel like a lot of pressure, and the nurse shines a flashlight on my scalp while I lay face-down. Then Dr. P says, “Something’s not right.”

Immediately I’m on a higher alert than I was before (and I was already on a higher alert than normal since he’s being weird and the numbing isn’t working great), and I’m thinking, well those are never words you want to hear from a doctor. Or at the beginning of an operation. Or in regards to cancer. But I decide to just wait, ride it out, see what happens. Turns out Dr. P just needed the nurse to stand over his other shoulder because the light was reflecting at that angle and bouncing into his eyes. Eyeroll emoji.

So then he cuts. And it generally does feel like pressure, but I can tell he’s going really, really deep. So I begin to breathe really deeply, slowly, meditatively, and chant my favorite meditation (Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha…try it sometime). I’m a little torn–I want to be able to get through this painful surgery but I also kind of want to not miss anything…I like to know what’s going on, I like to be there. But I was also worried about pain. So I kind of half-listen and mostly breathe and chant in my mind. They don’t actually say much this surgery–probably because I’m not asking questions and probably because Dr. P is the one cutting and probably because he’s in that weird mood.

Anyway, while he’s cutting, I feel a trickle running down from the crown of my head where they’re operating through my hair, down my forehead, and into a pool beginning to gather in my shirtsleeve where my forehead is resting. I know it’s blood. Which is a little wild–they’ve done a good job keeping the bodily fluids out of the scene so these surgeries have felt more…removed. But it doesn’t really bother me. I know it’s not a big enough deal to say anything so they’ll wipe it up–I want them to concentrate on this surgery that’s hurting more and more. In fact, as I felt the blood running down my face and onto my sleeve I thought it was a good thing I chose a black thermal longsleeve instead of the white one I almost wore. =)

There were a few times when I had a little too much sensation to be oblivious or even comfortable–I’d tense my whole body, stop breathing. But then I just exhaled good and long and chanted and relaxed all my muscles that were tightening and it wasn’t too bad. I’m pretty sure they thought I was just crying with my face down like that–I wasn’t talking at all. But we got through it.

Then Dr. P wanted Dr. Liz to stitch it up. I knew going in that there would be a good chance they’d have to stitch instead of cauterize this time since they had to go deeper and bigger. So they get out the needles and thread and Dr. P grips my scalp together and tells her to stitch a big one, right through the middle. I can feel the tugging of needle and thread through skin but it’s a dull pain, a little distant, not no pain, not tons of pain. Dr P says, “Good. Now probably two on the sides,” and she inserts the needle on the left side and I can feel everything. I inhale through my teeth and bend my knee so my foot comes up and Dr. Liz says, “Ohh, can you feel that? I’m so sorry!” I don’t reply–there’s nothing we can do now. I breathe. Dr. P doesn’t slow down one bit. In fact, he urges her to go faster. “I don’t care if her hair is caught in it. Doesn’t have to be perfect.” So I feel the needle. Then the thread. Then the knots. I feel it all. This is a wild, visceral thing. She ties up the other side, which is less painful, but my scalp feels truly scalped by now. Whatever numbness I had before is being overtaken by the unnumbed stitching and is probably just generally wearing off since I can feel the deepness of the cut and the stitches. But we’re done!

They tie the last knot, wipe off my scalp a lot, and I stay face-down for a bit. I want to make sure they’re done completely. When I do lift my head, all three of their faces kind of do a surprised grimace and the nurse and Dr. Liz quickly get napkins to wipe off all the blood running down my face. I remember thinking it’s a good thing James can’t see this–might be a little too gruesome.

Then Dr. P looks me in the face for the first and only time that day and says I did a good job. He knows how much it hurts. He points to his inner eye/upper nose area and says he went through the same thing and his surgery took five hours. This is the only time I almost cried. Probably because it was the only time I felt like a sentient human in there and not just a science project. It was easier to dampen my own emotions and reactions and even pain when I could think about the surgery and its necessity and technicalities and keep my curiosity in the forefront rather than my pain or worries and wonderings if they’re getting it all out this time.

I sit up slowly. Dr. P tells me he went really deep this time; all the way to the bone. The last surgery got most of it but there were five little clusters remaining under where they’d cut before so he went all the way down. No wonder it feels like a hatchet is lodged in my skull. He tells me he’s sure he got it all this time but he’ll look at it and have five other dermatologists look at it to make sure it’s all gone and then he’ll call me to tell me I’m cured. And then he gets up to go, saying a few times, “Great job, Liz. Really good job.” At first I thought he was talking to me, but then I realized he was referring to the other doctor. Even though I was radiating pain out of my head by this time, I was still with it enough to feel awkward at answering when he wasn’t talking to me, awkward at claiming the good job. Also faintly annoyed that he didn’t tell me good job very much…I just did that thing, too, man. Not even all the way numb. Didn’t squirm or scream or pass out or cry or make it difficult on them at all. So I mentally pat myself on the back. Ha.

James comes over and rubs my back while the nurse cleans my head more and Dr. Liz tells me about post op care for my scalp again. It’s the same as always, except since they’ve stitched I can actually shower sooner than when it’s cauterized, which is a big plus in my book. She gives me a healing ointment to apply 2-3 times a day, tells me she’s sorry again I wasn’t numb and could feel the stitching, writes her cell down so I can call if anything goes poorly, and tells me to come back in two weeks to get the stitches out. Then she looks my face over and gets another towel to wipe more blood out of my eyebrow. The nurse tells my my hair is just the right color so you can hardly see the stitches. And then we’re done!

I walk very slowly to the car with James. This one was a doozie. I’m feeling a lot. Hatchet in the head, deep ache ache ache. But for a minute I think I’ll drive myself home since I drove here but thankfully James talked me out of it since I was kind of in a daze and we grabbed some lunch on the way home. And I ate many Tylenols.

We talked about how weird Dr. P was this time, and my theory is that he just felt frustrated and maybe some other forms of upset about how they hadn’t gotten it all the first time. And maybe that mood just worsened when I wasn’t numbing well and it was going to suck even worse. I thought he probably just wanted to get it over with as thoroughly and quickly as possible. And I also thought he was probably hangry–my appointment was at noon and we saw him in the break room eating as we left the office. James’s theory is he probably broke up with his girlfriend. I guess we’ll never know.

So, that’s the story. I have stitches in my head for another week. Sure, the thread color kinda blends in with my hair, but they stick straight up so anyone who looks can see them. Also, they’re itchy. Also, I have to goop up the area all the time so it’s constantly a glob of greasy ointment. Not exactly camouflage. And it’s actually a lot harder to apply the ointment in the right place–I can’t see the wound as well since it’s hidden in my hair! When they cauterize it’s like an open hole–there’s no missing it. This is a sort of triangle of seams among my hairs. Shrug. One more week.

Hopefully that really was the last time. I don’t really know what would be next if they find they didn’t get carcinoma-free margins this time. Since they went through all the skin there is in the area, would I have to start chipping out some of the bone if the carcinoma grew beyond the skin? Probably, but I don’t know. And it’s not worth worrying about right now. It’s been a week and I haven’t gotten a call about what they found in the margins after they removed that huge chunk, but it is Thanksgiving tomorrow so maybe they’re slow. I’d rather not worry about it; I’d rather relax and read and eat turkey and enjoy the long weekend. It’s thankful time not worry time. And I am thankful.

I feel like it’s a really good thing my body has gone through so many other things with Crohn’s and stuff. I was definitely not as rocked by “cancer” or “surgery” or blood running down my face or multiple attempts to carve out the cancer as I likely would have been if I weren’t so used to body things. Just another day at the doctor’s office.

Two Scoops

Cancer Check-In

I need to catch you up NOW or I’ll have too much to say Monday–that’s when I get the rest of my scalp carcinoma scooped out. And I mean, I know you’re on the edge of your seats waiting for that play-by-play. Probably similar to how much you’re chomping at the bit for The Last Jedi to just come out already.

Anyway. Three and a half weeks ago I got my stitches out. It was really quick and easy, so there’s only one thing I want to focus on here: my dermatologist was quite surprised at how well I’d taken care of it. Like, she was surprised I came in and it was still bandaged. And that under the bandage, I’d clearly been keeping the area salved and changing bandages frequently. (Think of how surprised she could have been had I told her I’d worn sports bras the whole time stitches were in AND spent a weekend on my back to avoid gravity-stretching.)

All I could think was: Wouldn’t everyone do this? Wouldn’t everyone take the most possible care they could for their body when they hear the word cancer? And, sure, people still smoke and eat at McDonald’s and don’t exercise and live way too stressfully, but those are nebulous cancer threats. Wouldn’t you, if for the third time in a year, found cancers in you, take the most care of your cancer surgery site? There’s no nebulousness about “I’m cutting cancer out of you right now.” There’s no future threat: it’s here, currently.

I guess not. Shrug.

So after the dermatologist told me it was pre-melanoma, I left a message for my gastroenterologist because I keep him updated on big health things and this qualified. Especially since it could be Humira-related. He wanted me to come in and we could chat about medication options.

James and I drove up to his office and had a lovely chat. I consider these doctor visits not only good for my physical health, but also my social health because at least a portion of the visits always feels like we’re just getting together with friends. (This time we shot the breeze about being homeowners and what the freak winterizing entails. Also caught up on work situations which was cool and validating because he said he’d hire me if I wanted to become a PA; he thought I’d have a knack for it based on the type of patient I am and my interest in all things medical. And in fact when I was a kid the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was an artist and the second thing I wanted to be was a surgeon. Which is probably why I write so many medical/sciencey things.)

Eventually we got down to business: Could Humira be a factor in my skin cancers? And is that reason enough to change to an alternate medication to manage my Crohn’s?

He pulled up a bunch of medical articles and we searched together. I don’t remember the order of our discussion points anymore, but we looked at what options there are besides Humira (since I’ve already tried and not responded to the majority of Crohn’s meds). There are two categories of drugs left to me: anti-TNFs: Remicade, Humira, Cimzia, and two new ones I hadn’t heard of: Stelara and Entivio. These ones are linked to melanoma. Then there’s the other category that includes my azathioprine, aka Imuran, which is linked to basal cell carcinomas. I am currently on dual therapy, which uses a med from each category (Humira + Imuran for me). I had wondered if all this cancer business was a result of the dual therapy, or even just Imuran itself since I started Imuran about a year ago and in that year we’ve seen the cancers.

From his knowledge, and after we pulled up more studies, we found that basically no, there’s no research on Imuran or dual therapy increasing the likelihood of cancer. Granted, there are plenty of studies that also just simply haven’t been conducted. Imuran’s relatively new, and only a portion of Crohn’s patients are on dual therapy.

Before coming in for this appointment, I had wondered about which worst case scenario I’d prefer: cancers running around in my body since I’m taking cancer-linked meds, or quitting meds and unleashing Crohn’s. It had been no question: Of course I’ll just let Crohn’s go unmedicated–the worst that can happen with cancer is death; the worst that can happen with Crohn’s is surgeries and a colostomy. Most Crohn’s deaths result from infections or medications and their side effects that lead to other, bigger problems.

So I brought this up with Dr. Maxwell. “What’s the worst that could happen if I just don’t take meds?” And it turns out, with my type of Crohn’s–fistulizing–I’d be right back where I was in 2009: riddled with holes in my colon lining, vaginal wall, anus, and just everywhere that’s the most uncomfy and clearly problematic if you want to live a functioning life. Granted, since I know what it is now (nobody had any idea what was happening to me in 2009), I could have setons in constantly (drains that help prevent abscesses by working like a rain gutter chain, guiding acids and infection liquids, aka pus, out of the body before they can collect and abscess), but those don’t necessarily guarantee zero abscesses and the abscesses caused the most pain I hope to ever experience in my life. So because my Crohn’s fistulizes, I’d just be Swiss cheese and have to keep getting surgeries, and even getting a colostomy doesn’t mean the affected tissue wouldn’t keep fistulizing. So: bleak. Not a route I’d be keen on choosing.

So our next question: Should I give up dual therapy? Well, with dual therapy I’ve reached remission for the first time ever, so we’re definitely hesitant to alter that course. Could I take an alternate TNF-blocker then and hope the likelihood of cancer also goes down? Well, the two new ones are too new to have much reliable research done. And since they’re new, no one’s sure about the full extent of other side effects. And meds like that aren’t great if you’re wanting to have a baby. And since we’re trying to get pregnant, that’s a big no for me.

So, then, Humira + Imuran looked like our best option…but we wanted to see just how much of a factor Humira could be in this cancer business. After reading a few more studies, this is what we found: I’m just already super prone to skin cancer. Ha! 1. I’m a redhead with a fair complexion and plenty of sun exposure already accrued. 2. Family history of skin cancers, including melanoma. 3. I have an IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). 4. I’m on Humira.

In the studies we read, simply having IBD–regardless of what medication you’re on, or even if you’re on medication–increases your chance of skin cancer by 37 or 38%. (Cue eye-boggling and jaw-dropping.) Seriously. So wild. So just the presence of my IBD correlates with skin cancer. Humira was the smallest factor that increases my chances of skin cancers among the four reasons I’m prone toward it. So wild!

I only had one question left: Can I expect to see more/other cancers pop up now that I’ve had pre-colon cancer, carcinoma, and pre-melanoma within the past year? Am I likely to get other types of cancer, like the lymphomas associated with Humira? Dr. Maxwell replied perfectly: “Well, we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know what we’ll know in ten years. But, from everything I’ve studied and everyone I’ve talked to: no. There is no cancer cluster associated with colon and skin cancers.” WHEW. So now I won’t be watching my body like a hawk, checking for All The Kinds of cancer. Plus they study my blood every few months to make sure nothing is going wrong. He added C-RP to my blood tests, which is another way to check for inflammation (which could be caused by cancers) to be proactive and vigilant.

That reminds me–Dr. Maxwell rocks at being a doctor. I love that he had already conferred with colleagues (and let me know he had), and even at one point during our meeting ran across the hall to check the opinion/experiences of another doctor. He even thought of another doctor he could talk to in the future who may have more experience in this particular issue. I have never had a doctor be that transparent, let alone willing to consult with others; they’ve always been rather dismissive about my concerns and very sure they know everything. My husband, my MFA, and my doctor are the things I love about my coming to live in Utah.

So, this was a very productive conversation. I mean, I’m likely looking down a long line of more skin cancers, but I am very comfortable with this. Because there’s nothing I can do–lookit all those factors contributing to skin cancers that I have. 37-38% more likely than others to get skin cancer just because I have IBD! That’s HUGE. The percentages are low (more in the range of like 3-9%) for all of my other risk factors (fair skin, family history, Humira), with Humira having the lowest percentage of increasing my likelihood. I was pretty much born into skin cancer.

Which, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve always just kind of known I’d have cancer. And with that knowing, I’ve also always known it wouldn’t be the end of me. So, I’m really happy to have skin cancer. Because it’s fairly easy to detect and responds well to early treatment. And we are doing everything we can (James and I, my team of dermatologists, and Dr. Maxwell) to detect and treat early. Monthly self-checks and back-checks-by-husband. Biannual screening by my dermatologists. Sunblock constantly. More hats. Additional appointments if I find anything amiss. There is literally nothing more we could be doing. So I am in the best spot possible. And I feel very confident in this best spot possible.

So I told Dr. Maxwell that James and I are very comfortable in this best spot possible. We don’t want to change anything, we don’t want to try a new med that could have teratogenic effects during pregnancy, we’re confident in the skin cancer vigilance level we’ve got going on. He was glad to hear it, and agreed. “But if you want to have a baby, don’t wait.” Basically, no one ever knows what will change with a disease like Crohn’s and medications like Humira and likelihoods like cancer. I could stop responding to a medication and need to go on a different one that I don’t tolerate as well. My condition could just worsen. I could need to switch to a med that’s more problematic for pregnancy. Or I could be fine for a long time or forever. You just never know. So it’s best not to wait.

But you want to know another thing I’ve had a sort of quiet premonition of? I’ve always thought I’d have a hard time getting pregnant. Even though all of my exams have been normal and even when I discuss my worries with doctors they assure me I’m fine. I’ve been off of birth control for eight months, so we’re definitely not actively waiting to have a baby. Dr. Maxwell kindly looked at me and told me he knows how hard the months can be when you’re trying to get pregnant and just haven’t yet. I felt seen. And heard. And heartened. So, who knows. I’ll just keep on keeping on.

And soon I won’t even have skin cancer! They confirmed that my boob mole surgery did in fact have clear margins, so the pre-melanoma is gone. And on Monday, I’ll get the scalp carcinoma scooped out. Then it’ll just be a matter of watching. And even though I do have all of these risk factors, not everyone who gets carcinomas or even pre-melanomas gets them again, so maybe this was it for me. If not, that’s fine, too. I’ll be watching either way.

Cancer Check-In

Sewn Up

I went in to my dermatologist Friday morning to get the rest of the carcinoma scooped off my scalp. James came with me because cancer, even though I initially told him not to worry about it–I’d already gotten most of it scooped off by myself before and we should instead take a day off the following weekend for a birthday getaway for him! He decided to come with me because cancer. Good husband, that.

I came in with two questions: 1) What could have happened if I hadn’t noticed/didn’t get Bubblicious checked out? 2) Think this is Humira related? Oh, and I wanted to get the results of my boob mole biopsy.

The nurse said they’d want to check the boob mole site so I put on an upper-half paper gown. Then the team of dermatologists came in. It went kind of quickly from there. Basically, Dr. Parkinson (alias Dr. Stephen Merchant) told me they’re not actually going to scoop my scalp today because of what they found while examining the boob mole biopsy under the microscope: pre-melanoma.

He was very glad the two doctors who had done my full-body mole scan decided to take that one off because he likely wouldn’t have thought anything of it: it looks very similar to my other moles and doesn’t appear to have any problems. The only reason they took it off is because I was sure it had recently appeared. We needed to make removing this area first priority because the Bubblicious carcinoma (which has healed very well in 2 weeks and is now just a red spot with occasional itching) is non-aggressive and such, but we clearly don’t want pre-melanoma to turn into melanoma. (Because that can spread very quickly to everywhere and that’s really bad news.) So, he said, we’re removing more of the area today. In a surgery that will require stitches.

I was a little jaw-dropped at this point. Surgery? Stitches? My boob? The mole I thought would be nothing? Things were moving a bit quickly. Then he asked if I had any questions and I picked up my jaw and went back to business: 1) What could have happened if I hadn’t noticed/didn’t get Bubblicious checked out? Would it just take up more surface area on my scalp–eventually leading to a Friar Tuck look once removed? Answer: Well, even a non-aggressive carcinoma that doesn’t spread into the bloodstream can still cause significant damage if left untreated. The location of my carcinoma on the top of my head could have meant that if left to keep growing, it could have grown in all directions, including down through the bone and brain. (Yikeso.) Question 2) Think this is Humira related?

Background: James’s company just switched insurance providers so last week I was on the phone trying to get all the necessaries arranged in order to get Humira on time (it’s always a nightmare to switch any sort of coverage because the transition time usually takes time, which is problematic when you take a time-sensitive medication). Anyway, I’m also on a patient assistance program that helps pay for this insanely expensive medication and while I was on the phone trying to get Humira I was bored and happened to read the fine print on my Humira card, which says:

Humira cancer

So I was like hmmmmmmmmmm that could definitely be a factor here…Anyway, so I asked Dr. Parkinson what he thought and he was like, oh yeah, very probable. And Humira likely made this mole go crazy and head down the melanoma path when normally (i.e. Humira-less) it would have behaved like any other mole. (Another yikeso.) But, he said, he doesn’t think I should discontinue Humira just yet as that could cause all sorts of other issues. In the event a third cancer/pre-cancer site shows up, then he’ll want to talk to my gastroenterologist about Humira and my body and cancer and such.

So then it was surgery time. I just lay down on the table in the exam room and two female dermatologists prepped me. As in, taped down the gown and then Dr. Parkinson drew a funky shape where he would cut once I was all numb. Then he left and I got pumped up with numbing solution. The two dermatologists asked if I needed anything during surgery and I was like, “Well, can you just talk me through what you’re doing? I’m a fan of medical stuff and this is my first surgery I’ll be awake for.” They were happy to acquiesce.

“First thing you’ll want to know is that you’ll be all numb, but you’ll feel pressure. Can you feel this? This? How about here?” All I could feel was pressure like she said, so then Dr. Parkinson came in and just carved away. It was a strange sensation. I didn’t feel much but the pressing of where he was cutting through the skin (“He’s going all the way through the skin down to the layer of fat below”) and I asked how he knew where to cut, to which he answered: “Because I looked at this under a microscope.” But that doesn’t totally make sense to me because the skin he’s cutting out right now has clearly been attached to me until this second. How would he know how far to cut in each direction? I’ll ask him next time.

The weirdest sensation was when he scooped out the bottom. It felt like I was getting my hair feathered. Only, not my hair; flesh deep in this new hole he’d just cut into my breast. It was…wispy. I dunno. The other doctors kept saying “Very nice, Doctor” and “That looks excellent” so I was satisfied they were all doing a good slicing job.

I considered looking down while he surgerized–because I’ve never seen a surgery–but decided against it for two reasons. One, I didn’t want to pull the skin funnily by flexing the muscles needed to look down. And two, I’m pretty sure seeing your first surgery on your own flesh isn’t advised. I did watch, fascinated, the first time I had blood drawn, but I figured this would be pretty different. I saw the bloodied gauze the nurse was pulling away after she’d dabbed my chest and decided to play it safe. Also I just felt like he’d be annoyed at me if I stretched the skin he was working on so nicely.

(I later told James that I had wanted to watch, but he assured me I really didn’t. He was pre-med for a while and even still didn’t appreciate watching the surgery be on my flesh.)

The surgery time didn’t take that long, maybe ten minutes, then Dr. Parkinson left and one of the female dermatologists stitched me up. (This was where I was reeeeally tempted to look.) I asked her if she sewed. She smiled and said she does sew a little, but it doesn’t actually transfer the way you’d anticipate–in sewing fabric you want straight lines, but in sewing skin you don’t actually–the scars look more natural if they follow certain lines in skin that I can’t remember the name of. She also explained that she put in several stitches under the top layer of skin that would absorb into the skin as they heal and would close the top layer of skin with stitches that would need to be removed. She was going to tie the knots asymmetrically so they wouldn’t rub my nipple, and they had cut the area in a way that the scar would mimic the natural line of the areola (lest we forget how tender and invasive this surgery is).

Then I was all sewn up! Six visible stitches with I don’t know how many underneath. My first stitches!

They went over wound care for this area. As in, it’s imperative to work against gravity. Breast skin and tissue is designed to grow and expand, but we do not want that here. And gravity will pull on this flexible skin just by nature of breast shape and tissue so I need to wear a high impact sports bra to counteract gravity. Otherwise the stitches could split or the scar could just be huge.

Also keep the bandage sterile for two days (no showering) then change the bandages twice a day, keeping it salved up very well and checking for signs of infection. Oh and I’ll want to get some painkillers stat.

And just like that, I was done. James helped me put my clothes back on and we made appointments for stitches coming out in two weeks, a follow-up for the pre-melanoma AND scalp carcinoma scoop in six weeks, and now I’ll be getting full-body mole scans every six months.

Then we drove home while I held up my boob because I quickly found that any small bump in the road=much movement. And the roads by our house are just the literal worst if you happen to have a sliced and sutured boob you’re trying to protect from gravity and jostling.

 

I tried to stay parallel to the ground as much as possible this weekend to not even give gravity a chance, so I watched a lot of British TV and read some things and thought about cancer.

After I blogged about the carcinoma, a few people asked how I was doing emotionally. I thought about it. Was I putting on a brave face for others? Was I disassociating? Was I putting off my emotional response until later? I didn’t have to think about it all that long: no. I honestly really didn’t and don’t feel like the carcinoma had many emotional repercussions. I caught it early; it’s nbd cancer; it’ll be cut out; it’ll be over. And even if I get more, it’s still that simple every time. However, I did feel a bit of anxiety in my body. The first two days after hearing “cancer” I would sometimes feel this little shiver of adrenaline in the center of my chest. Fight or flight I suppose. After two days it was gone and I’d grown used to the idea and fully confident it was all totally fine.

This pre-melanoma deal has been different. More of a dread, a fear. I don’t feel adrenaline hiccups. I’m pretty confident they got it all out with this cut that was between the size of a quarter and a half-dollar. But there are larger worries: My uncle had a pretty rough go with melanoma. Feels more personal and real. And also, is there an end to all these weird cancers and pre-cancers cropping up? In the past year I’ve found out I had pre-cancer in my colon (now cut out), carcinoma cancer on my scalp (soon to be cut out), and now pre-melanoma in my breast (hopefully all cut out). That’s just a few too many cancers in a body that’s not even seen three decades to see in one year. Will there be more? When? What kinds?

Also, this: The only reason they found this pre-melanoma was because I noticed a new mole. And the only reason I noticed was because of its easy-to-see placement on the front of my body. Are there others that I haven’t noticed? I don’t even know what’s going on on the back side of my body–I can’t see much of it!

I pretty much want to get as many of my moles shaved off next time as they’ll let me, just to be safe. I’ve been looking at the American Cancer Society site and it turns out: “Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of skin cancers but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.” And also this: “The risk of melanoma increases as people age. The average age of people when it is diagnosed is 63. But melanoma is not uncommon even among those younger than 30. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young women).”

So yeah, I’m more nervous about this situation. However, we caught it SO, SO early. And Skincancer.org assures me: “If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable” which is excellent since I’m not even to the melanoma stage, remember, just pre-melanoma.

I’m more shaken this time, but I am definitely reassured by how diligent my dermatologists have been, and how committed I am to more diligence. I’ll be doing monthly self-checks in addition to the biannual checks at the dermatologist’s. I already was pretty knowledgeable about the skin cancer ABCDEs (if you don’t know them, GO HERE AND START SELF-CHECKING) but I’m so glad I went in!

Thank goodness for that Bubblicious, man.

Sewn Up