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August 6, 2007

Writing You A Love Letter

Bill and I got married in August of 1993 and vowed to stay together “from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.”

What we didn’t foresee was that I’d be diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1997.  That diagnosis would launch our journey through a series of medical events that have affected every aspect of our lives.

Finn was sixteen months old at the time, and Bill and I were told to finish our family so that I could start treatment as soon as possible.

As we look back at the last ten years of our marriage, we can see how each medical hurdle we faced prepared us for the next, more challenging one.  We worked hard at completing our family, and Porter and Drew arrived six weeks early, in August of 1998.  Bill’s experience watching me undergo an emergency C-section was his first alarming hospital experience.  It wasn’t his last.

The duo spent several weeks in the NICU, and Drew was readmitted a week later after he stopped breathing.  He was hospitalized another eleven days.  I resigned myself to the fact that he was going to die, but Bill visited him faithfully each day.

Once the twins started sleeping through the night, I returned to work part-time.  I began my interferon and ribaviron treatment for the Hepatitis C in February 1999.  Each month I’d receive a cooler full of pre-loaded syringes with interferon, which had to be stored in the refrigerator.  The first time I signed for the box and unloaded the shots, I cried for hours.

Three times a week Bill would give me a shot, and each day I’d take a number of pills.  Although I was the one who was sick, we were all affected.  The treatment was rough. I had to quit working, but I made it through the year-long treatment.  I’m about to celebrate my seventh year of remission.

Once the liver adventure was behind me, I noticed that I was having trouble standing up straight and that my back was hurting more than usual.  I spent a couple of years trying to get relief through physical therapy, a chiropractor, and pain killers, but by 2003 it was evident that the original rods and screws that had been placed in my back were now pulling it forward so that my natural swayback was disappearing and my vertebrae were lining up on top of each other like dominoes, a condition called “flatback“.  (If you click the link, I could only stand up like the lady in Figure 2!)(And that’s my lovely surgeon!)

After a lot of research and interviewing several surgeons, I had spine surgery in January 2004 and that adventure is described here.  Again, I was the patient, but Bill was there at each doctor visit, in the hospital, and after I was discharged.

It took a full year for me to recover enough to go to Jazzercise, and the first half of 2005 was marvelous.  I felt better than I had in years, the boys were independent, and in July my mom took the entire family, including my sisters and their husbands and kids, out west to a ranch.  It had been her dream for years, and she’d saved up her money and waited until the children were old enough to go and appreciate it.

We had a supernaturally wonderful time.  We celebrated my mother’s birthday out there.  I think she and Drew had the best time of anyone.
drwemom1
A couple of months later, I found out I’d been in remission from Hep C for five years, which meant I was officially cured.  I specifically remember calling my mom and hearing her say, “Praise the Lord!”

We were busy with school and fall activities when my mom called to say she’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and five days later she was gone.

Emotionally that loss and the way it has changed my family has been much harder than any of the other challenges we’ve faced.  Just last week I dreamed I called my mom’s house and she answered.  In the dream, I told her not to move, I’d be right there, because I had a whole lot to tell her about everything that’s happened in the last year and a half and even more questions to ask.

When I got to the house she wasn’t there.  I felt dizzy for several hours after I woke up.  Her voice had seemed so real.

Throughout it all, Bill has been there for me and for our boys.  Our medical mishaps have been hard on him.  It’s one thing to be in your fifties or sixties and taking significant time off work to care for a sick wife.  People expect sickness at that age.  It’s a different thing entirely to be thirty-one and handling a career, three kids, and a nauseated wife.  It’s asking even more to go through the same exercise four years later, accumulating vacation time to hang out in your wife’s hospital room in New York and make medical decisions– should we transfuse or not?– while fielding calls from the health room back in Alabama to give permission for the administration of calamine lotion for a bug bite.

I haven’t even had the chance to care for him much.  He had a vasectomy in 2001, and I planned my whole weekend around his balls, but the twins ended up getting croup just as I had put him on the couch in front of the TV and his Valium started to wear off.  I spent the next two days sticking the boys’ faces in the freezer and the hot shower and throwing Bill a couple of pain pills and a new bag of frozen peas when I had a free hand.

August is a time of reflection for me.  We celebrate Bill’s birthday, the twins’ birthday and our anniversary this month, and every year I look back at our marriage (fourteen years now) and think of all we’ve been through, good and bad.

There’s an anniversary card I found that sums it up perfectly.  The cover says: “You’re the man my mother warned me about…”

And on the inside it says,”THANK GOD I found you!”

Amen.
Beach 07 398

Posted by Anne Glamore @ 2:51 pmBlast From the Past,Deep Thoughts,Hepatitis C,Mom,Ovarian Cancer,Scoliosis,Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!40 comments  

April 8, 2007

It’s Official: Eye’m Old

I’ve been forty for barely a month now.  I’ve always devoted considerable energy to keeping myself fit and healthy.

I Jazzercise.  I don’t smoke.  I eat fish.  I learned that you should take fish oil capsules at night unless you want to taste tuna fish burps all day.  When sexy television doctor Sanjay Gupta warned me to consume plenty of antioxidants to fight off free radicals, I listened and began adding a generous splash of POM Wonderful to my gin and tonics.
sanjay products_juice

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All my ministrations have been in vain.  I now have proof that my body, which wasn’t so healthy at thirty-nine, has begun a steep descent into old age and decay.
When Bill and I were in New York, he noticed that I kept yanking my reading glasses on and off whenever I had to read something small– a menu, a price tag, a paper.

“Why don’t you buy a chain to keep those around your neck like other women do?” he asked.

“Because those other ladies are a lot older than I am.”

By the time I’d constantly pulled my glasses on and off for another day and almost left them at a Turkish restaurant, I gave in and purchased the tiniest, most inconspicuous “eyeglass necklace” possible.

Things went further down hill last week when I had a chin hair I needed to pluck.  I could feel it, but I damn sure couldn’t see it.  I tried looking in the mirror with my contacts on, and saw nothing but a blur.  I put on my reading glasses but still couldn’t spot the hair well enough to grip it with my tweezers.  Sighing, I removed my contacts and tried again.  No luck.  I resigned myself to the fact I’d have to wait until it grew to the length of a whisker before I’d be able to distinguish it from my skin.

I told my hairdresser, Teppie, about the incident, and she told me I needed a magnifying mirror.  I told her that distressingly, I was using one at the time and I left out that detail only so I wouldn’t sound blind.

“I think you should see a doctor,” she advised.

So I did.

The most irritating aspect of the eye doctor’s exam is that they have not changed the letter and number combinations since the Bicentennial, when I first started wearing glasses.  I have an astonishing aptitude for remembering strings of meaningless letters and numbers, which is invaluable for remembering everyone’s home, cell and social security numbers, but poses a problem when I’m asked to read the next line on the chart.  Am I reading it, or merely remembering it?  Trying to erase the patterns from my memory takes a great deal of concentration.

Perhaps that’s why I was caught off guard when Dr. C finished his exam, slid back his chair, and asked, “You know what I’m going to tell you, right?”

“I need stronger glasses?” I inquired.  “Did I tell you about last week when I wasn’t able to see my chin whisker?”

“No, but I believe it.  You need bifocals,” he said calmly, as if were recommending a new book and not an accessory that screams ‘OLD LADY! OLD LADY!’  He might as well have prescribed a walker and a case of Depends.

I snickered. “You know I’m not getting bifocals, don’t you?”

“Don’t laugh,” he said seriously.  “They’ve come a long way. They make progressive lenses now that don’t have the line in the center of the lens.  They take some getting used to and they don’t work for everyone, but no one can tell you’re wearing bifocals.”

On the drive home I convinced myself that getting bifocals wouldn’t be a complete catastrophe.  I’m already used to wearing glasses a good deal of the time.  If no one knew they were bifocals, I would still be as pert and sexy as ever.

I got home and googled the newer models.  What I learned wasn’t reassuring.  It was downright devastating.

The “progressive” lenses are crafted so that they correct for distance at the top of the lens, for intermediate vision in the middle of the lens, and for reading at the bottom of the lens, like so:

bifocal

As you can see, the area corrected for intermediate, or “walking around” vision is quite small.  Thus, you can’t move your eyeballs back and forth to gaze at things that are not directly in front of you, as you’d be looking through the area that is not corrected for anything.  Wearers report that the non-corrective part of the lens is generally fuzzy and one woman reported seeing an upside-down image of a cow there while standing in a room in which no cows were present.

Users who enjoy the glasses noted that the solution is simply to turn your neck to follow moving objects.  People who have little neck movement, due to previous spine surgeries, perhaps, would have to move their entire bodies to watch an object in motion.  Remember Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles?  That’s how I’d move every time I put those bifocals on.

joan

What I found more alarming were the frequent warnings not to look down at your feet as you walked while wearing the progressive lenses, for the ground would appear closer than it actually is, resulting in falls.

Last time I fell I broke my wrist which led to good home training for the boys but also to fashion felonies on my part.  It was a painful and expensive way for the guys to learn to load the dishwasher.

By the time I read reviews from wearers who complained of “whirlies,” nausea and headaches and the comments from the visually-impaired who’d never learned to safely walk in them, I’d had enough.  My bones felt brittle, my eyes were fatigued and I actually heard gray hairs springing from my scalp.

Then I felt a bit sorry for myself.  I’ve had a decent attitude about the scoliosis, the bum liver, the crowns and root canals and the frequent checks for ovarian cancer.   I’m ready for some anatomy to work correctly without major effort on my part.
So when Bill got home and I told him about my appointment, I’d narrowed down my objections to even trying the glasses to one succinct statement.

“I can’t make love to you with a pair of bifocals on the nightstand,” I decreed.

I’m making an appointment to see a surgeon for Lasik next week.

Posted by Anne Glamore @ 9:26 pmFeeling Crotchety,Hepatitis C,Ovarian Cancer,Scoliosis,Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!13 comments  

March 2, 2006

Ovarian Cancer and Me

As my long time readers are aware, I consider myself an expert at navigating the healthcare system. I’ve developed my talents out of sheer necessity. After you’ve had someone chase you with a specimen cup of what may (or may not) be your urine, or gotten a call that the lab lost the eight tubes of blood they drew last week, you stop depending on doctors and nurses to be perfect and start looking out for yourself.

I developed these skills during my fight against hepatitis C and my spine surgeries, both of which I’ve written about in previous posts. However, my body has been cooperating with me lately. My liver and spine are both doing well and I’ve had a brief respite from spending too much time with doctors.

All this changed once my mom died of ovarian cancer nearly five months ago. (If you’re a new reader, you can read a post about the circumstances of her death here.)
Ovarian cancer has claimed a number of famous victims, such as Gilda Radner, Elizabeth Tilberis (Editor of Harper’s Bazaar) and and most recently, Coretta Scott King. After Mrs. King’s death, several papers published articles describing the disease like this one. Some also reprinted the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, which can be found here. My mother experienced most of these symptoms before her diagnosis.

After Mom died, I talked with my mother’s oncologist and my gynecologist about the steps I should take in order to lessen my own risk of contracting ovarian cancer. I started taking a low dose birth control pill under the theory that preventing ovulation reduces the chance of developing abnormal cells.

My doctors also recommended that I get a CA-125 blood test (a test for tumor markers) and a vaginal ultrasound every six months so that any abnormalities would be detected as early as possible. As with many cancers, early detection makes a huge difference in survival rates for those with ovarian cancer.

So I did. Not to get all Katie Couric on you, but here’s the proof:

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Erica draws blood for the CA-125 test. She was a good sticker!

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I get ready for the ultrasound. Thanks, Kim, for keeping up a light conversation to keep my mind off things during the procedure, which was painless.

Thankfully, my tests came back clear. The screening is something I’ll repeat twice a year for the rest of my life. If you have a reason to believe you are at risk for ovarian cancer, you should do it too.

I’ve plugged this book before, but Jerome Groopman’s Second Opinions is
a worthy read, which emphasizes the importance of trusting your own
instincts, getting second opinions, and asking questions when you’re
facing a health issue. Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science
by Atul Gawande also stresses that healthcare professionals are simply
human, subject to making mistakes just like the rest of us. Both are
easy to read and understand.

I’m packing up my soapbox now!

PS- Yes, once again, I’m in my Jazzerwear. You’d think I could visit the doctor or wax my mustache in decent clothes, and maybe put on a smidge of makeup. I’ll try to do better.

Posted by Anne Glamore @ 2:44 pmDeep Thoughts,Hepatitis C,Ovarian Cancer,Scoliosis,Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!1 comment  

February 7, 2006

Return of the Babysitter Stealer

The mothers in the Tiny Kingdom come in all varieties:the crafty moms and the social climbers, the well-coiffed and the sweatpant wearing, the tennis players and the perpetual room mothers (God bless them), those who engage in sordid affairs and those who quickly let the rest of us know the gory details. I make no judgments about these women. Many are my friends. But I do want to be clear about one thing:

There is a special place in hell reserved for the most vile of all creatures, those who will stop at nothing to get what they want: the babysitter stealers.

Childless readers may not fully appreciate the importance of a dependable babysitter to those of us saddled with children. A babysitter is the promise of freedom. Without my sitter, I’d be confined to a house full of smelly boys, endless laundry, and Go-gurt that disappears almost as soon as it is purchased.

Friends share clothes, jewelry, table cloths and china without a second thought. Friends do not share babysitters so casually. I treat my babysitter’s name and phone number as classified information, divulging it only when a dear, trusted friend is in desperate need. Just because someone was in your wedding and could be counted on to walk down the aisle without dropping a bridesmaid’s bouquet does not mean that she will automatically be privy to your babysitter’s phone number.

Many babysitters don’t realize their significance to the women they work for. They might like the children they are keeping, but ultimately babysitters are in it for the money. Therefore, it’s up to the parents to police themselves and observe the protocol of babysitter etiquette. It is an unwritten rule that when you share your babysitter with someone else, it is for one time only. If the friend wants to call the sitter again, good manners dictate that she call you first and ask if you will be needing her. You have the right of first refusal of your sitter for that day.

Of course, if you’re a complete bitch, you can steal a sitter from someone else. But be warned: stealing a woman’s babysitter is like sleeping with her husband. Maybe worse, depending on the babysitter’s skill and the strength of the marriage.

I was the victim of a babysitter snatcher was several years ago. She was crafty and cunning; she used my mom to do the dirty work. My mother called me with a tale of woe. A friend’s daughter was new to town and needed a sitter for the weekend.

“I’ve only got one babysitter, and that’s Katie,” I told my mom. “I don’t give her number out to anyone. Even when The Voice used her one time, I made her tear up the piece of paper with Katie’s number on it after she called her.”

“You girls are so crazy about your sitters,” my mom said.

“Hey, a good sitter is extremely hard to come by, so when you find one you have to guard her like the only Hershey’s Kiss in a room full of PMS-ing women,” I protested.

Mom snorted. “Very funny,” she said. “Leah is having some health problems and is in a bad fix. I’m sure you could help her out this once.”

When Mom mentioned the health problems, that made me pause. I’ve been there and done that. In a moment of weakness and sheer stupidity, I gave my mom Katie’s phone number.

“Now, you make sure Leah understands that this loan is for the weekend only. Katie is my regular babysitter. She keeps my kids after school three days a week while I am at work. She is a vital part of my family,” I emphasized. “If Leah needs her own babysitter, she can ask Katie if she can recommend a friend, or she can call the number of the Placement Office at the University and they’ll send her a list of people who’d love to help her out.” For good measure, I gave Mom the Placement Office number to pass on to Leah as well.

I never saw Katie again. Apparently Leah put her on retainer and forbade her from accepting any other babysitting jobs. I couldn’t blame Katie– a babysitter has to take the best money available, although a little loyalty would have been nice. It was Leah who had stepped over the line, using my mother and her own illness to get to my sitter. Hell, she never even wrote me a thank you note for helping her out for what I thought was just a tough weekend, but turned out to be the next three years. Leah’s transgression was serious– no one likes a babysitter stealer, and you can ruin your reputation quickly when you engage in that type of behavior.

Last week, I was asking my current sitter, Angela, about her availability several days next month. She was already scheduled to keep another child on one of the days I needed her.

“Dang,” I said. “I’ll ask Chatty Mom if she can keep the boys that day.”

“Maybe I could bring the boy to your house and keep all four there,” Angela suggested. “You probably know the mom. Katie gave her my name.”

“Really? Who is it?” I asked.

“Her name is Leah,” Angela said.

I was dumbfounded. She’d struck again.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said to Angela before I could let my feelings get the best of me. “I’ll just work something else out.” I hung up the phone and started breathing heavily.

Then I realized that I could get pissed or I could get even. I decided to get even. I called Angela’s number and got her voice mail.

“Hey Angela, it’s Anne,” I said. “I tell you what. I’ll pay you double if you cancel on Leah at the last minute and come sit for me that day. Let me hear from you!”

Payback’s a bitch, honey.

Posted by Anne Glamore @ 11:41 amHepatitis C,Inventions, Creations, Experiments,Scoliosis,Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!,Tiny Kingdom ExclusiveNo comments  

January 18, 2006

I’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Sometimes it’s easy to dwell on the bad things that are going on in your life and forget to be grateful for the good things. This year over the MLK holiday I was at the lake with my family, and I was able to walk with the boys almost everywhere they wanted to explore. I was extremely thankful for that because it hasn’t always been this way.

I was in very different circumstances two years ago. In January 2004 I went to NYC to undergo a complicated spine surgery. I stayed up there a month, part of the time in the hospital and part of the time in an apartment recovering enough so that I could fly home. Both of my sisters were there and several of my friends flew up at different times to help Bill take care of me.

I’d been through spine surgery before in 1980. That’s when I had Harrington Rods put in to stop my scoliosis from getting any worse. (If you click that link, my back looked the most like Figure 7C after my first surgery.) I was in 7th grade. I had vivid memories of that procedure, especially the fact that I would not be able to raise my arms for a while after surgery. So in preparation for Spine Surgery 2004 I chopped all my hair off because I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with it for a while.

Here is a picture of me the day before the operation:

daybefore

Here is a picture of me about six days later. I’m not smiling quite so much anymore, am I?

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Once I left the hospital, we went to the apartment I had sublet. It was cheap because no one wants to be in New York when the weather looks like this:

bigny

My Artistic Friend had decorated the apartment before my arrival so I’d feel at home.

decorated

This is how I looked most of the time. When we needed some excitement, everyone would gather around and shout encouragement while I’d grunt and groan and turn over on my other side and lie that way for a few hours.

inbed

Later someone would go down the street to Eli’s to get me some soup. Inevitably they’d come back raving about the store and the huge Wall of Soups– all homemade– I had to choose from. My favorites were the matzoh ball and the chicken and vegetable. It was my greatest desire to go to Eli’s and see the place myself.

GROSS OUT ALERT!!

Next I am going to show a picture of my incision, so you should skip over it if you’re not one for gore. Notice how I managed to show the full incision yet hide my crack? It took us a while to get this photo exactly right, but then again, we had nothing better to do. I’d already turned over that day.

298721502105_0_ALB (the scissors are purely coincidental; they have nothing to do with the incision)

Each day I would take my pain medication and then take a bath. A close friend will shave your armpits for you if you can’t move your arms enough to do it yourself. I am lucky enough to have four very close friends.

They even did their best to make me look beautiful, but I didn’t give them much to work with.

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The Voice of Reason sent me a gift of some great dish towels decorated with painted flowers. For some reason my friends and I decided I would look great if I wore one on my head. We were going for a quirky look. At the time I thought I looked like a cute, carefree hippie.

dishcloth

Clearly the painkillers were affecting my judgment. I was taking lots of Oxycodone, so I can see how I committed this fashion faux pas. What I can’t understand is why my “friends” let me look like this and assured me I looked awesome.

It took me a little while to feel well enough to even want to venture out of the apartment. Once I was feeling better, though, I was ready to hit the town.

Look at me! I made it down the block and across the street to Eli’s! I got to see the famous “Wall O’ Soup” in person.

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A lady came up and told us no pictures were allowed so I had to smack her with my cane. Then we took this picture and got the hell out of there. (I swear there was a scene from “Sex and the City” filmed here. Maybe I just needed a permit to take the picture legally).

My friend wheeled me home and we had a feast!

food

MMmm, lunchtime! That’s some delicious Boost in the cup with the bendy straw. Unless it’s prune juice. Also notice the yellow and black Grabber. It works just as well as they say on the infomercials.

Having surgery will turn you into an old lady quick.

After a couple of weeks, the boys flew up to see me. They were completely confused by the absence of grass in the big city.

big boys

“I KNOW there’s a backyard here somewhere.”

They went to the ESPN Zone, the Museum of Natural History and went
sledding in Central Park. The best part was our family journey to Dylan’s Candy Bar.

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The boys went home and I stayed another week so I could check in with my surgeon, Dr. Jean-Pierre Farcy. Notice that I am standing unassisted and smiling once again!

farcy

He looked at my X-rays and cleared me to go home to Alabama. I spent the next several months doing physical therapy. Here I am doing exercises at the lake.

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Since then, I’ve been working hard to get back in decent shape. In January of 2005 I was able to return to Jazzercise (which of course, is a much cooler activity than you think). I can stand up at parties and walk without leaning over. I rarely have to take pain meds.

But I really knew I had recovered when we went out west this summer and I did this:

ranch05 037

I’m pretty sure this is not on Dr. Farcy’s list of recommended activities, but I don’t spend much time on a horse, despite what you may think about people in Alabama. I prefer to travel by minivan.

Posted by Anne Glamore @ 6:49 pmScoliosis,Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!6 comments  


Welcome to the Kingdom

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I'm Anne Glamore, wife, mother, lawyer and blogger. I have three boys, and I'm desperately trying to train them to become Southern gentlemen, but that may be an unrealistic goal. At this point I'd be ecstatic if they'd quit farting at the dinner table. If you're new here, check out the Readers' Favorite Posts below or browse through the Categories. I write about my attempts to teach the boys about peckers and sex (which we call "making googly eyes"), my struggles with hepatitis C and spine surgery, the boys' adventures with fire and pets, my mom's death from ovarian cancer, my love of cooking (with plenty of recipes) and anything else that crosses my mind. Join me on Twitter or StumbleUpon or Email me. I'm happy to speak to your group or club.

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