Tuesday, December 14, 2021

 Doing some "Spleening"


Last March I had a routine CT scan because of a genetic issue in our family. Birt-Hogg Dube Syndrome causes slow-growing cancerous tumors on the kidneys, as well as blisters on the lungs, leading to collapses of the lungs, and little white bumps on the face that won't go away. I have two little bumps on my left kidney that have stayed very small, so it’s always good to know they haven’t grown. However, in March 2021 the doc said, “Kidneys look fine but there’s a mass on your spleen! That just doesn’t happen! This is not good!” So, after a few more tests, and a bunch of immunizations (pneumonia, encephalitis, others I can’t pronounce) I had surgery to remove what appeared to be a slow-growing cancer of the spleen.

Below is an illustration of where your spleen is, if you've ever wondered.  In literature, "spleen" refers to bad temper. Baudelaire used the term “spleen” to describe a kind of melancholy, profound boredom and overall dissatisfaction, often stemming from the tragedy of life. In English, "spleen" is associated with anger: "to vent one's spleen" = "to vent one's anger" and the adjective "splenetic" means "angry" or "foul-tempered". (Wikipedia)

From an article I read, here's a little scientific information: 

The spleen is an organ located in the upper left abdomen and is roughly the size of a clenched fist. In the adult, the spleen functions mainly as a blood filter, removing old red blood cells. It also plays a role in both cell-mediated and humoral   immune responses.

The liver and bone marrow take over some of the functions of the spleen, however, an individual who has no spleen is more susceptible to some bacterial infections and as such, requires lifelong antibiotics.

You can’t just remove part of a spleen; severe hemorrhaging can happen. The plan was to make 4 small incisions, go in with laparoscopic instruments, detach the spleen from anything it was stuck to, bag the whole thing, open up my old c-section scar and pull the spleen out, whole and bagged. (Hey, not my c-section scar! That would hurt! It hasn't been disturbed for 36 years. Oh, well...)

But during the surgery, my spleen just couldn't wait, and due to hemorrhaging, the surgeon had to get it out fast, so the original plan was abandoned. Instead, I woke up with a 10-inch incision starting just above the pelvic bone on my left side, and ending just under my sternum. Due to my allergy to synthetic sutures, it was neatly glued shut.

There was a long recovery, and the few people who’ve seen the incision have had this reaction:

My spleen was sent to the lab, which concluded the mass was probably benign but type and origin were unknown. It was then sent to the IMC lab in Murray, Utah. Their conclusion was the same. My mass (still attached to the spleen) was then flown to Mass General in Boston, where the lab agreed that this “most unusual mass" was probably benign, but they couldn’t determine what it was either. I should get frequent flier miles for that trip.

A recent scan showed no spleen and no masses anywhere else, a good thing. A very good thing. 

I had to have more immunizations after the surgery. I think there were 9 total, before and after.

I’ve felt vulnerable since I lost my spleen. The liver will take
over some of its functions, I’m told. A fever of 101 means I’m in trouble and at risk for sepsis, which can be fatal, so to the hospital I must go. 

This all occurred during the Covid Pandemic, and since my immune system had taken a blow, I was careful to take all the Covid precautions. I’m immunized and boosted, and the doc tells me an absent spleen doesn’t put me at higher risk (but other health issues do). I wear a mask in public. I’m sure this makes for exciting reading. 

But this experience has made me face my mortality in a new way, and I’ve put together a bucket list (slips of paper in a small tin bucket). It’s a good thing; it reminds me of what I want to accomplish while I’m still around.

Some people want to travel the world or buy that expensive sports car, or jump out of an airplane (this is a picture of my #3 son doing just that), or take on some other risky ("I've always wanted to do this") adventure before they exit this existence, but my list is more realistic and far less exciting. Mostly, it contains writing projects I want to complete, some travel, more time with the grandchildren, appreciating my dear husband for all he is and all he does, tweaking my spiritual status quo, telling people I love that I do, and generally putting my affairs in order. I’ve also been decluttering and organizing and keeping the DI (thrift store) busy. There are many, many areas to deal with as I downsize, though I’ve made a good start.

There. I had some “spleening” to do, and I think I’ve done it. You may now return to more exciting and relevant posts and other activities.  

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Christmas nod to O'Henry

So do you have O'Henry moments?

One summer we spent a few days at Jackson Hole. In one of the shops there was a darling rotund Santa on the shelf. At the time we were collecting Father Christmas figures. I went back later to buy it and they said they'd just sold it. I gave a description of Mr. J. and they said yes, he was the one. I tried to act surprised Christmas morning.
Early in our marriage, I bought him a Helen Reddy album for Christmas (LP! if you can believe it). And he bought the same thing for me. Ditto for a John Denver album and a Victor Borge book (but the one Mr. J bought for me was SIGNED), and then, a couple of years ago, we each unknowingly bought a CD of Gentri (very good a capella group) for each other.
These coincidences (I don't believe in coincidences) did not involve any selling of watches or cutting of hair, (as in The Gift of the Maji by O'Henry), so there were no true sacrifices involved, but still, great memories.

I hope you make good memories this holiday.



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Husbands and Wives: Conversations and Coincidences?








Random Conversation, Part One
         
         Setting: My office, on the computer (Mr. J)


                          Family room (Mrs. J)







Mr. J : (calls out) Where was I born?

Mrs. J: What?

Mr. J: (louder) Where was I born?

Mrs. J: I don't know. I wasn't there.

Mr. J: Where were you?

Mrs. J: In Walnut Creek, waiting to be born.

Mr. J: Wasn't I born in Salt Lake City?

Mrs. J: So I've been told.

Mr. J: In what hospital?

Mrs. J: ________ Hospital. 

Mr. J:  _________Hospital?

Mrs. J: So I've been told.

Mr. J: Okay, thanks.



Mr. J went back to his project, and I began to think about our conversation. First of all, what would he do without me to tell him where he was born? 

And then I mused for a bit. If my parents knew about me at the time he was born in Salt Lake City, they weren't telling anyone. My mother had tuberculosis and they didn't disclose the pregnancy to her doctors until it was past the first trimester and too late to terminate. I was only the size of a bean in Walnut Creek, California.  

If circumstances had been different, then I wouldn't be here at all and my life wouldn't have collided with Mr. J's (we met as members/competitors of USU's intercollegiate debate team).  We went on to marry and honeymoon (if you can call grad school a honeymoon, and we did, most of the time) in Chicago for three years. When grad school was done, we were both beckoned home to jobs in the same college town where we met. 

Logan has always felt like a home town to me, so I happily set down roots. Our three children graduated from the same middle school and high school their father did, and some of the teachers and administrators even remembered their dad when he was their age (by all reports, he was an all-around perfect child who grew to be an all-around perfect young man). As my upbringing was rather nomadic, I really wanted continuity for my children. They only remember one move, to a home two miles across town, and they didn't have to change schools. 

I've often wondered what a toll the pregnancy took on my mother's overall health. I was born healthy, all seven pounds of me, but she was weak and still contagious, so another couple from their church community took me in for a couple of months. Imagine, caring for a newborn 24/7 out of kindness. My father used to bring me to my mother's bedroom window where she lay recovering, so she could see what I looked like. It was a subject that brought her to tears even at the end of her life. 

All things considered, I should have ended last night's conversation with this statement: 


By the way, I don't believe in coincidence! 




Friday, November 22, 2019

A delightful book by Annette Randall Haws



Maggie's Place 

by Annette Randall Haws 

a review


Meet Maggie Sullivan, 74, widowed, healthy, mentally sharp, living in the historic Eagle Gate Apartments in the heart of Salt Lake City, where it’s close enough to walk or take the bus anywhere she wants to go. Maggie’s in what she calls Act Three of her life, “more agile than most and still in possession of her original knees,” (and her own teeth), and chooses to live every day of that life happily. After the rent’s paid, her means are modest, (i.e., nearly nonexistent), but her needs are few; she’s comfortable and surrounded by good friends, who believe “anytime’s an excuse for a party” or a lively game of Scrabble. 


Devastating and painful secrets from Acts One and Two of her life caused Maggie to revert to her maiden name and begin a new life, Act Three. Maggie’s grand-niece Carly appears at her door, deathly ill, with dangerous gang connections. Maggie takes her in lovingly, knowing Carly could run back to the gang anytime, but prays she won’t. A mysterious wealthy man, Ed from 8-B, begins to pay attention to Maggie, but, unlike the throng of eligible single women longing to meet him, casseroles in hand, Maggie’s not interested in dating, and something’s not quite right about Ed.

In Maggie’s Place, Salt Lake City is featured almost as a character itself, with its unique and historical beauty, upscale lifestyle and culture, and, unfortunately, with its underbelly of crime common to all large cities. Haws knows the city well, bringing the reader right to the actual bus stop where Maggie waits to ride to her part-time job at a knitting shop; the Symphony; the Broadway Theater; the Alta Club; the Beehive House, power walks around Temple Square; the unpredictable, often brutal, but sometimes extraordinarily beautiful winter weather; and the quiet old elegance of the Eagle Gate Apartments. Best of all, Haws leads us into the hearts and souls of the well-developed characters who live in them, as well as those who don’t.

Maggie’s place is a cozy read. Haws takes an honest, unflinching look at aging and all that goes with it, addressing it with honesty, grace, and humor. The plot is lively with unexpected elements, and the descriptions of the characters who wander in and out of Maggie’s Place are priceless.

I highly recommend this delightful book.





Author Annette Randall Haws

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Dear Santa, please send one, and I'll provide the snowy background



I've seen a few of these around town, and there's one nearby where I deposit (and try not to take tempting ones home) books I'd like to share with my neighbors. It's made of 90+% recycled materials, and the housing for books is an old microwave! I'll post a picture of it in a future post. I love this concept.  Interesting article here:   https://bit.ly/36HCTBJ  


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Who's YOUR avatar? (What the heck is an avatar?)


Who's your avatar?






So . . .  I am taking an online class for writers. The instructor told us to develop an avatar---a very specific individual who is your target reader. She said inventors of the first iphone did that... and the phone sold well because their target, or avatar, did buy it, and buyers did match her profile, and extended beyond that.  think that's what she said. Obviously, the phone sold well. 

 My book-in-progress, O'Connor's Honor, has the following reader: She's 50, empty-nested, college-educated, well-read, with many hobbies and interests, always ready to learn something new. She drives a Honda electric car, is an ecclectic dresser, and an animal lover, especially dogs. Can't bear the thought of animal cruelty. Loves quilts. 

 She's a good friend and neighbor, passionate about the environment, loves Fleetwood Mac, Celtic music, the Kingston Trio, most folk music, classical music (not country western), is a beginning yoga (at home) student. She's intuitive and tired of cooking. Formerly, she was a soccer mom, PTA president, and Cub Scout Leader. 

Loves art, especially watercolors. Loves the theater and traveling. Wishes she'd done theater in school and community when she was younger. Her bucket list includes NOT skydiving, but more travel and a large oil painting by a local artist she's been lusting after (the painting, not the artist). She wonders if she has/had any artistic talent (painting or sculpting), regrets not staying with childhood piano lessons. 

Hates politics but cares deeply about her country. Writes letters commending exceptional service by store employees, also writes letters of complaint to CEOs when she feels treated unjustly. She's outgoing. Has health issues to manage. Hates New Years Resolutions. Loves old classic movies and books, is selective about contemporary books and movies. 

Loves libraries and bookstores. Has a dry sense of humor. She wonders what she's accomplished in the long run. She embraces her spirituality but has her doubts. She wears sensible shoes. She may or may not know where her car keys are. I know, in some slight way, she may or may not resemble me, but my story resonates with me, so that's how I picture my avatar. Forgot to mention she's happily married and a grandma.



                              

Thursday, May 30, 2019

About sensible shoes...

I have "surgical" ankles, feet and toes. They've had a total of seven surgeries. Painful. I hope that era is over. They are what they are. In the meantime, I have found the perfect "surgical shoe." It doesn't allow my toes to reach the end of the shoe. They remain untouched, unbattered as I walk. And they can get wet.
They're like waterproof Mary Janes, I guess, but it's all about comfort.