Category Archives: medical

A tale of two abortions

imageMany, many years ago an older friend shared with me the story of her illegal abortion. It involved a large amount of money, cash only, of course, a bus ride out of the city and into the “everything looks the same” suburbs, and an extracted promise to never tell anyone where she had been (as if she could remember) and what she had done (as if she could forget).

I remember being riveted by her story, trying to imagine the emotions my friend must have experienced on that scary afternoon. How nervous she must have been that something, anything, could go wrong – what if she missed her connection at the bus station or if the “abortionist” was really a scam artist intent upon robbing her? Would there be post-procedure complications? Might her decision to terminate her pregnancy in an unregulated “clinic” threaten her future fertility? What choice(s) did she truly have?

When I became pregnant as a teenager the only question I had to ask myself was this: Am I prepared to be responsible for another’s life? Recognizing that my present situation was but one indication of my own lack of personal responsibility,* I knew I needed to terminate my pregnancy. I called Planned Parenthood.

When I arrived for my appointment, jar of first morning’s urine in my school bag, I was treated like a human being. My options, choices, were explained and I was offered an array of services, including abortion. My questions were answered and I was provided with a referral to the facility where I would ultimately end my pregnancy and begin my new life as a much more responsible, sexually active, young woman.

I had no concerns about the legitimacy of the medical care I received or the competence of the practitioner. I understood the potential for complications or long term problems resulting from my abortion and accepted the small risk, knowing that actually having a child would be far more perilous.

In the years since my abortion, I’ve often wondered who that child, my child, would have grown to be. I’ve thought about how old (s)he would be and tried to imagine the life I would have known if I had become a teenaged mom. Ultimately, I can only conclude that the three children I do have most certainly benefitted from the services made available to me at Planned Parenthood and I have no regrets for the choice I made. I stand with Planned Parenthood.

*I’m NOT suggesting that all unintended pregnancies are the result of a lack of personal responsibility. This was MY situation.


Filed under girlhood, medical, News, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

When treats are tricks!

This isn't Jeter, but this is what he looked like!

This isn’t Jeter, but this is what he looked like!

Late the other night, after dinner and a run and some quality time with a pint of Haagen Daz, I finally settled on the couch with a bottle of cider and my guy to relax. The plan was to pick up where we last left off in our much-delayed viewing of The Sopranos and I was very really looking forward to reconnecting with all of the involved.

Jeter was his usual good-natured self, happily enjoying a roasted marrow bone. As I refreshed my memory with a few minutes of the previous episode (sometimes I doze off) Jeter jumped up on the couch next to me, something he doesn’t normally do. I pushed him down. He jumped back up. I pushed him down a second time, looking him in the eyes and saying “no.” That’s when I noticed the marrow bone circling his lower jaw.

We sat him down and began our attempts to remove it. We tried to slide it, turn it and push it all to no avail. He wasn’t in pain, but he was drooling up a storm since his mouth wouldn’t completely close and he couldn’t fully swallow. I began to panic – be it one of the boys or the dog, I definitely don’t shine in situations such as this. I called the emergency vet’s office and we headed over to Latham.

We arrived to a nearly empty waiting room and a full staff of super nice people. Wagging his tail, Jeter left my side and went with a vet tech to a room where they sedated him and deftly slid the bone “donut” off his jaw. It couldn’t have been much more than 5 minutes later when the tech returned with the offending bone in hand and reassured me that they would be waking Jeter up and he would be ready to depart with in 30 minutes or so. Sure enough, a short while later Jeter came wobbling out looking a bit dazed, but fine.

$250 lighter and infinitely lighter-hearted, we headed home less than an hour after our arrival. While I no longer will be preparing small marrow bones for Jeter, it is reassuring to know that top-notch emergency veterinarian care is nearby. Also comforting was hearing from the staff that they see this same situation about once a month – and that it’s just about always a Labrador.


Filed under family, Local, medical, Recommendations, stress

The ultimate CT

Does anyone else remember that abbreviation meaning something else back in the day? I’m not talking about the state of Connecticut either. These days, however, CT is the short form of Computerized tomography aka a Cat Scan or the test I had yesterday afternoon.

If you’re (fortunately) not familiar with CT scans, allow me to share the experience. Following blood work to ascertain the functioning of one’s kidneys, the patient is positioned, injected with saline followed by dye, and then moved into the machine for a few minutes. When the technician has everything they need, one is released to await results from their physician.

The images are essentially immediately viewable and, if you’re lucky, you hear from your doctor quickly. For me, this is the hardest part of the test and the longer I wait, the more convinced I become that there is something seriously wrong. Something so terrible the doctor doesn’t even have words for the sheer awfulness of the results. Yep, that’s what happens, at least in my mind.

After 10 days of worry, 4 visits to medical facilities, and an inconclusive biopsy, I was a bit on the edge. When my surgeon finally called this afternoon to give me the (good!) news, I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say…

She doesn’t feel the need to operate to remove this latest lump. She’s of the opinion that the lump is a “fried” salivary gland which shows no sign of malignancy. I’m to be closely monitored and the prognosis could change, but, for now, no surgery. I know there will be some disappointed folks out there – namely the friends who have sincerely offered to cook, drive and sponge bathe me, but I’m sure we can work something out.

Never has a good CT been so appreciated.


Filed under cancer, medical

Not doing it myself

Inspired by this sunflower.

Inspired by this sunflower.

Since I’ve shared the part of my weekend when I did do things myself, I believe it is only fair to also share the days since then when I’ve been very much accompanied. Monday I went to see my ENT. I wasn’t alone. My doctor pretty much did what I expected – an in office fine needle biopsy, orders for some blood work and a CAT scan and the promise of a call to schedule surgery. Whatever it is, it’s coming out.

Because I had been so open prior to the appointment, I felt compelled to report back to my friends, both “real” and virtual, to share the news from my office visit. The warm wishes, promises of prayers, and offers for assistance have left a greater mark on me than that bruise, or any of the already existing scars, on my neck. Thank you, friends.

Two days post-appointment, blood work done, anticipated CAT scan tomorrow and surgery three weeks away, I am bolstered and protected by the people I love, people who have demonstrated that they return the feeling. Although I’ve been down this path before, in terms of medical intervention, this sense that my being taken care of is a concern to many, is new. And cherished.

So, pathology should be back in a matter of days and in just a few weeks this latest (and literal) bump in the road will be gone. Thanks for traveling this path with me, and to someone who has allowed me to ride shotgun for a change, thank you for taking the wheel. I so appreciate it.


Filed under cancer, Flowers, friends, love, medical

Good news/bad news and a bit of a Grimm tale

The good news? I weighed less than I thought I would when I stepped on the scale. The bad news? I need to see my ENT surgeon post-haste. For the record, I like it better when the good news follows the bad.

I went to see my endocrinologist yesterday. I wasn’t scheduled to see her until January, but there was something about the thing I felt in my neck that made me uncomfortable. I made someone a promise that I would call first thing in the morning and I did. The receptionist was great and took my history after a single run through. A couple of hours later, my doctor phoned and asked if I could be there by 4.

Following our usual chit-chat, my doctor got down to business, dimming the lights and lubing up the ultrasound wand. With her usual thoroughness, she repeatedly scanned the area of my neck where the protuberance was. After a few minutes she asked if she could bring a colleague in for a second opinion. I stared at the ceiling, attempting to escape the room mentally by trying to see what the wattage was on the bulb, but as the second physician took his turn with the magic wand tears slipped from my eyes. The doctors conferred.

Their opinion? It’s either a “bad” lymph node or a chronically inflamed minor salivary gland. (See how I put the bad news first?) The plan now is to see my ENT on Monday and have her determine the appropriate course of action. I’m sure there will be some sort of diagnostics or study conducted. The hope, of course is that it is nothing serious, but my history leaves me feeling vulnerable.

To be clear, I don’t write about my health to garner sympathy or concern. It’s more an exercise in becoming accustomed to the possibility of yet another surgical procedure. It also feels a bit like an exorcism.  If  I express my fears and release them from my inner psyche they kind of lose their power.  Sort of like in that fairy tale when the miller’s daughter shocked Rumpelstiltskin by knowing his name, causing him to run away never to be seen again.  I’ve seen you before and I know your name, Cancer.  How about you stay away and let me have a shot at happily ever after?


Filed under cancer, medical, musings, stress

In case of emergency

I’m in the midst of my annual array of wellness visits.  You know, the semi-annual dental hygienist appointment, my mammogram, a check in with the endocrinologist, a general physical.   I appreciate these practitioners and medical experts in my life for the peace of mind they provide that I am healthy.

I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that the physician’s assistant, who I’ve seen for the past three years, can’t be a day over thirty and has no firsthand knowledge of what I can expect from menopause.  That’s fine, I can read about that topic on my own.  The two-part experience of having my breast compressed and then covered with goop and wanded over, is an embarrassing indignity I can live with for the sake of early detection and my dental visit has been made far more comfortable with some topical stuff on my sensitive teeth.  All good.

No, the issue I have with each of these visits is with a simple consistent question on the intake form: Emergency Contact.  I don’t really have one.  Now, please, I have lots of contacts in my phone.  There are plenty of people I can call for various things – to meet for a drink, to take a run, to give one of the boys a ride home from a game.  But, there isn’t a single person who is close enough to me, physically and emotionally, to call if something really bad happens.

I don’t have a parent.  Or a spouse.  My only sibling lives 2+ hours away and my teenaged children wouldn’t be appropriate recipients of a dreadful call about me, their mom.  So, who to call?  I can’t put myself down, right?

I guess the 411 on my own 911 is this – I’d better not get hurt, sick or in an accident.  The thought of having no one to call is almost enough to make me sick.

See?  Being independent and single isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, after all.


Filed under aging, cancer, medical

Defining Luxury

Someone needs to explain to my children that spending two weeks at the beach every summer is a luxury, not something to be taken for granted. It’s always been important to me that the boys have traditions in their lives, certain experiences that provide a constant thread throughout their childhoods.  Cape Cod vacations have been a part of their summers literally for their entire lives.  While there, we always eat at the Lobster Pot, we listen to the same song as we cross the bridge in Bourne, there is ice cream nearly every day.  It’s what we do.

But, something seems to have backfired.   Their attitude is in danger of morphing into entitlement – is this how that happens?  Somehow they’ve gotten the impression that everyone spends two weeks frolicking in the Atlantic each and every year.  All of the preparations, the shopping and stocking up on tequila chips and granola bars, the packing of the linens, the beach toys, the clothing…the arrangements for the house and our dog while we’re away…the bikes…they’ve gotten the impression that everything will managed. By me, apparently.  And, of course, I will take care of them and all the necessary details involved with making us all comfortable for two weeks in a place or two not our home.  It’s what I do.

I work two jobs to be able to afford a two week vacation in Cape Cod.  This is a luxury. Which brings me to healthcare…I am firmly of the belief that every one in this country should be able to have access to medical care.   Getting sick and requiring medical attention is a completely different set of circumstances. It is a necessity.  I’ve been without health insurance and it is a bad place to be, certainly about as unlike a vacation at the beach as I can imagine. 

I understand that we all have issues with how our taxes are spent – I personally wish we spent as much money on education and the well being of our citizens as we do on war, but shouldn’t everyone be able to bring their sick children to a doctor? If I lost my job, a possibility in these economic times when districts are eliminating positions left and right, my biggest fear would be healthcare. As someone who has already had cancer twice, as well as weird heart issues (obviously, a precise medical term), I can’t imagine health insurers would be willingly lining up to give me coverage. What do you think? I don’t know as much about Obamacare as I probably should, but it seems like a starting point as our country considers the health and well being of our citizens. To me, it seems a positive indication that someone cares about a basic and essential need in a civilized society. I think I might spend some time at the beach talking to the boys about how lucky we are to have two weeks at the beach. And health insurance every day.

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Filed under Boys, Cape Cod, Happy Hour, medical, musings, politics, Summer