Sunday, December 28, 2014

redemption

Redemption is the brand name of the rye I've been drinking for a while.

No running today, just walking. I will run tomorrow.

I have found a camp I really want to go to, but it requires a recording. Not an audition recording, but a "placement" recording. Groan. Still, this place sounds like heaven on earth: 10 days of chamber music, which is assigned in advance so you can learn it before you arrive, and spend the time at camp trying to make music out of it. All levels are accepted, from beginner to conservatory-level. All ages are accepted, from 12 to 90. People are grouped according to ability, not age. According to someone who attended and wrote about it on violinist.com, you are put into two groups: one a bit above your ability, to pull you along, and one a bit below, so you can help pull others along. Oh, how I want to go there. But the recording...I don't have anything ready that's any good, and I don't know what I could dust off/shine up in a hurry. I should ask my teacher when he gets back, I guess. I'm afraid he'll laugh or say something discouraging, but I really want to go, so it's worth the risk.

Late lunch with in-laws not so bad. It's not that I don't like them, but I don't know them well and I worry we'll run out of things to talk about. We didn't.

Talking with a friend today, worrying aloud about not having anything ready to put on a placement recording because I've been rolling this Hummel up a hill, and it's sooo haaaaaaaaard because of all the fucking turns and ornaments. And she said "Ornaments are icing on the cake, but you need the cake first. Did your teacher ever tell you to leave the ornaments out? " Actually, he did, once, very early on, but then I started putting them back in and he never said anything more about it (not even "wtf are you doing? I told you to leave the ornaments out until you learn the piece, stubborn adult beginner"), even when the ornaments started tripping me up. So anyway, on the first try without ornaments I was able to whip through the entire first page at close to never-event tempo. I told my friend she is a genius.

Once I broke free of the ornaments, a lot of the 16th-note passages started shaping up too. I've been doing the Rhythm Method (playing the passages in as many different rhythms as possible); it's tedious as hell, especially at 50% of 66% of tempo, but it works, eventually. And after about an hour of that, I played through the one turn that's been giving me the most fits all these months - played it 10 times, and nailed it every single time. Yay me, I am having a small glass of rye.

Friday, December 26, 2014

and yet

We celebrated xmas eve by spending the evening with great friends, then going out to a bar to see some people we hadn't seen in ages. I had way too much to drink, and paid the price (hangover) the next day. And for some reason I felt very sore at the surgery incision site, more so than any time since the actual surgery itself nearly 3 weeks ago. Ibuprofen didn't touch it, so I took one of the pain pills the doctor had prescribed. Wrong move - I spent nearly the whole of xmas night flat on my back for fear of puking, dizzy, hot/cold/hot/cold, dreaming complex unpleasant dreams, streaming like video.

I don't understand how people can get addicted to vicodin, ugh. That stuff is awful.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

hmmmm

Something interesting I don't want to forget: playing through something fairly slowly, thinking just far enough ahead that you know what the next note is and exactly where it is relative to where you are right now. Only then do you put your finger down.

The immediate result: you play all the right notes in the right sequence.

The hoped-for, long-term result: having played the passage perfectly, your body remembers it, or remembers that you have done this, so you are more likely to be able do it again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

sometimes it is ok to get your hopes up.

I do not need to have radiation at this time, yay.

The longer story: radiation doc explained that radiation decreases probability of recurrence by 50%. So, also, does tamoxifen. He guestimates I have 6% or less chance of recurrence right this minute, with surgery only. Radiation would knock it to 3%, and tamoxifen would make it 1.5%. Hell, I could have been comfortable with the 6%. So I decided to forego radiation. I have to have mammograms fairly regularly now anyway. If there is a recurrence, they will find it sooner than later.

Yay.

Monday, December 22, 2014

missing the boat

This is not me:



I have been chipping away at the first movement of Hummel Op 5 No 3 for the past couple of months. It seems like years. I have mentioned before that it's one of those unfortunate pieces that don't sound musical when played way under tempo, and I am not blessed with the ability to navigate turns and 16th-note runs at anything faster than about 70bpm. I also practice and perform it at lessons unaccompanied, and I am cursed with an ability to hear a melody and then "hear" (imagine) chord progressions and moods that the composer never intended. So imagine my surprise today when I listened to the piece and realized I've had the wrong idea all along. Very wrong. Not even close. Ugh. How could my teacher let me just keep going in that direction? Then again, it's really my fault for not having listened to it enough. Ugh. I am going to listen a bunch to get the feel in my head, so I can make it sound as musical as possible when it's this slow. I'll run it through Speedshifter at around 60-70 and force myself to keep up, and eventually I'll have it well enough I can try to make it feel right. I want to take it into the next lesson (Jan 3) and play it all the way through, with the right feel, and hopefully then my teacher will be satisfied and I'll be done with it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

bah.

3 weeks on the same etude. 2 months on the same piece, which I will never really get to play because 1) I can't play it fast enough for it to sound like music and 2) my teacher will not learn the piano part (it's a sonata for viola and piano, so it's not just all me me me). Since lessons don't resume until January 3 I am stuck with these things for another 2 weeks. I am so fucking sick of these. I can't see any point, except maybe it saves him from having to come up with something else for me to do.

I have worked on these so much that I've come out the other side. Anything I have learned from them has been lost.

dry river bed

Slept the sleep of the just, woke up thinking it was Friday and thinking I had a viola lesson yet to go to. Happily, I realized that was all yesterday, not today. Did my little 3.25 walk-run thing and we'll see if it's ok later. 

I have resolved to make some changes regarding music education. There's a community orchestra I played in once and then dropped after a season; their new season is about to start and I emailed the director about joining again. I have also made the first pre-inquiries into finding another teacher. Not because of the aforementioned party non-invitation, but because of this: more and more often I hear my adult friends talk about their music teachers as these strange and alien creatures who really seem to appreciate their students' desire to learn, and care about their students' accomplishments. My teacher is not at all like that. I get the feeling he thinks he's doing me a favor by letting me take lessons from him. I hate to put words in peoples' mouths or ideas into their heads, but that's the way it seems, and I want the kind of teacher my friends talk about, assuming they really exist. I really wish it had worked out better studying with my current teacher, but it hasn't, and sometimes it makes me miserable. I hate feeling this way, and it's so unnecessary. Life is too short. I just want to learn to play viola, that's all.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

well, bleh

Today was actually pretty good, up until an hour ago. When I changed into casual clothes I noticed that the breast felt heavy and sore, and I thought the incision looked a little redder. I decided that maybe I should not run tomorrow ("run" is not really the best way to describe what I was doing, anyway) and this made me a little sad because things had been going so well. Then my viola teacher called, wanting to borrow some quartet music because he's having a get-together with some post-highschool students and thought the piece I have (York Bowen viola quartet I learned this summer for camp) would be fun to play (it is). This made me sad because it's exactly the kind of thing I would love to do, and I'm sure he knows I would love to do it, but he didn't invite me, just asked to borrow some music. Every xmastime he also has a reading party for his highschool students that I hear is a lot of fun, but it's just for highschool students so I don't get invited to that either. Well, bleh, this is silly, getting bent out of shape over not getting an invitation to the ball. Time to call it a day. 

wouldn't it be nice

I started back running today - rather, I covered about three and a quarter miles, walking some/running a little, walking a little less/running a little, etc. The running - all 20s at a time of it - felt fine. It was chilly out. I did not break a sweat. The surgeried breast stings a little now, but no more than it has any other day since surgery. Tomorrow I will do a little less walking and a little more running.

I have become very enamored of the idea of not doing radiation. When there is something I want or something I hope will happen, I usually don't let myself get too anticipatorily happy, but in this case I can't help myself. I don't, I won't help myself. I keep thinking "wouldn't it be just so great if I didn't have to do radiation?" No big time commitment. No worrying about which side effects might hit me, and how hard. No managing anyone's expectations of what I can and can't do. No expense. No paperwork. No doctor's notes, no FMLA forms, no uncomfortable meetings with HR, no worrying about losing my job because of in spite of being ill with an expensive disease. In fact, nothing would tie me to that job any longer at all. I would be free.

in lieu of rolling my eyes

At work, the week drags on. I am still working on the same thing I've been working on for months. Things are in flux. We are Agile and we are not. We are to make our own decisions and not bother our nontechnical PM with technical details, yet we must also ask permission for every thought, lest we break some policy we were not aware of. Things are important, now they aren't. For some reason the network admin locked down internet access again, and for some reason this hindered the app developers' ability to work. While this is being sorted out, the developers are holding daylong cocktail parties, 10 feet from my desk. They are using this downtime to continue to get to know each other, loudly. I know so much about them: what they like to eat, what movies they watch, what tv shows they watch, how they were raised by their families, how they are raising their families. They spent a lot of time yesterday googling "largest bird ever" and discussing the results. I was discovered pushing a large file (1.2G) to google drive and questioned about it; the cost of bandwidth is a matter of concern to the company. Because as a company we do not trust automation, we run SSIS packages from our desktop machines that pull wads of data from a server in the midwest to do lookups against (and ultimately push wads of data to) a machine in the southeast. I would think that this constant flow of data would be the major source of bandwidth consumption, but I am not a network person, and maybe internet bandwidth is a different animal than WAN bandwidth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

first, the good news

I went to the hospital today for the post-surgery visit. The appointment was in the early afternoon and the waiting room was mobbed, and from overheard conversations I gathered that things were at least an hour behind. As I reached the check-in desk, my phone rang (which it rarely does) and it was my neighbor (who would only call if something really bad was happening). My dog was howling (which she never does), she said, and she (the neighbor) wondered if I had left a spare key anywhere so she could check on the dog.

I hadn't, and I couldn't leave the hospital, and my husband was at work, and now my dog might be dying alone and unaided, what do I do? I told her to feel free to have someone break into the house. We both got hold of my husband and he agreed to come home. While I waited and waited and waited for the doc to see me and for my neighbor to break into the house and for my husband to get home, I chewed my nails and texted my neighbor, badgering her for updates. Eventually they got a door open, and found my dog unable to get up (her new normal, about 50% of the time). After being propped on her feet, she calmed right down and appeared glad to see my neighbor (texted my neighbor). My husband arrived home shortly afterward and reported that the dog was "a little clingy" but basically ok. So the fuss was because she was lonesome. Lonesome. God. We can't make it so that one of us is always home, so I don't know how we're going to fix this problem. But a part of me is happy that this almost-17-yo dog cares enough about anyone or anything to feel lonesome. She is not going down without a fight.

So I waited a little more until I was called to see the doctor. She was happy. She said the pathologist's report was great; apparently the cancer was so tiny (like 2 or 3 mm, imagine!) that they'd inadvertently got it all in the biopsy, and the lumpectomy contained none. She even said that she's thinking I won't need radiation, though she does recommend tamoxifen. Won't need radiation! This is huge. Wow - the best thing I've heard since the day I met her and she said mastectomy was not strictly necessary. Of course, the decision about radiation ultimately lies with the radiation oncologist, with whom I have an appointment next week. But when I think of what might have happened had I stayed with Surgeon No 1 and her Creepy Plastic Surgeon husband...Christ. I dodged a bullet.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

ok,

It has occurred to me that I might have been too quick to damn the HR people at my company. I posted a question about it in a forum where people talk about employment stuff during treatment. Two people have answered - one works in HR, even - and both have said, essentially, "chill, this is what companies do, they don't want to get caught having forced a truly sick person to work so they treat any type of cancer diagnosis like this. It's not you." The person who works in HR also mentioned that my medical expenses probably did not cause the increase in insurance premiums for the whole company.

Sure, the HR woman lacks a lot of communication skills, and seems unable to retrieve a sheet of paper from a fax machine, and seemed to pull that "you can't work until we get that note" rule out of her ass, but those are just unfortunate things. Maybe they are not indications of a plan to fire me or get me to quit. Maybe I've been wrong about this, and maybe I seem like a lunatic. I hope my hysterics can be forgiven, or at least overlooked.

Friday, December 12, 2014

human resources

My dislike of our HR department has become intense, and is now bordering on the irrational.

My post-op doctor appointment is next Wednesday. This morning, I received a summons to a "follow-up meeting" with HR (and my boss) next Tuesday. When I asked my boss what it was for, he said that HR had a few questions about the wording of the doctor's note (which I have not seen) that they want me to follow up on. 

Should this bother me? It did. I saw it as yet another hoop I was going to have to jump through in order to keep my job. I objected, and my boss considered my response "hostile to HR"  and wants me to start being more cooperative. He's right - I am hostile to  HR - but the fact that he's siding with HR is not very comforting.

What I need to do is to chill, at all costs - let them fire me if they're going to. It won't be the worst thing in the world. It might be humiliating, it might sting some, but life will go on. Getting my back up anytime HR talks to me is not going to help me; in fact, it may even become the grounds for my dismissal. So I need to chill.

But I hate them!

Please, world, encourage me to chill. Let me think about:

  • the weekend coming up
  • the Bake-Off Sunday evening, and seeing good friends
  • the two cool things I learned about playing viola yesterday, and how I will get to put them to use later today when I get home
  • the lesson yesterday, and how uncomplicatedly fun it was

Thursday, December 11, 2014

piece of work

One last thing about the HR/doctor's note debacle: my doctor's nurse called me today; she'd been out of the office all week and was just then returning messages. It turns out she faxed the return-to-work note my company 3 (3!) times, the first being just after surgery. So the HR woman is either a liar or stupid. I don't hate anyone besides Dick Cheney, but with her it's a close call.

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I had a viola lesson today, first in about 10 days so I should have been able to learn everything in that time, yes? No. I dreaded that viola lesson right up until the moment I got out of the car and saw the sweet little neighbor dog who rarely hangs out in the yard anymore. We chatted for a few minutes and then I rang the bell, expecting miserable playing and lots of criticism. But I didn't play 100% poorly, and my teacher worked with what I had, and things got to sounding better, and I learned some stuff. Today was one of those days I really enjoyed hanging out with him. I don't understand how sometimes he can be so nice to be around, and other times he can seem like a jerk. I guess I'll never know.

And some of the things I learned today include:

  • a key to a good hand frame is to keep fingers down. I think I lost that habit trying to play fast and especially trying to play all those little frilly turns in the Hummel. But I never did learn to play them well, and I lost the frame I was so happy to discover a few months ago. So: frame frame frame, and keep those fingers down. If I ever find myself tending to play out of tune, I need to remember this.
  • there is a pattern to a 3-octave scale. If you know one, you know all of them. Wow. It's only taken me 2 years of playing scales every single day to realize that. I mean, I knew there was a pattern, but Flesch seems kind of arbitrary with fingerings on the descent. But it's really not arbitrary. Wow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

magically

Just as the workday was beginning to hum, and people started emailing me questions I was not allowed to answer because, well, I wasn't allowed, my boss let me know that the doc's return-to-work note had arrived earlier, and I could start working anytime.

One more crisis has been averted.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I blew it

I am so steamin' mad I don't want to go into much detail now, but suffice it to say that I lost my temper at work, in front of my boss, at the local head of HR. She insisted I supply a doctor's "ok to return to work" note before setting foot in the building. This rule is not documented anywhere. Actually it is, but only for people who request a federally-sanctioned kind of leave of absence (FMLA), which I had not; I simply used 2 of my own vacation days to have surgery, and recover from it.

Anyway, I had asked my doc to fax the note on the day of surgery, and I emailed and left voicemail again today, but by afternoon the note had not arrived, and HR was not going to cut me any slack.

The day ended with a meeting of me, the HR woman, and my boss. The HR woman kept saying "we just want to make the best decisions for you" and I kept saying "I'm not asking you to do that". The HR woman kept saying "we need to know what you can and cannot do" and I kept saying "I cannot swim in a lake; that's all". I pointed out that this medical-clearance requirement was not documented anywhere. I pointed out that the form HR wanted the doctor to complete clearly said "FMLA" on it, which did not apply to me. I said that I had done everything reasonably possible to get my doctor to fulfill this stupid requirement, so why can't HR bear with me and let me work while we wait?

Nope. I have been forbidden to return to work until this matter has been sorted out.

I was so mad. I told the woman that she seemed to be making this whole thing up as she went along. My voice shook. I shook. And all in front of my boss, who must think I'm a lunatic.

Monday, December 8, 2014

miscellany from the first weekend in december 2014

Woke up yesterday with a rash that seemed to follow the "footprint" of betadine or whatever they used to wash me before surgery. The itchiness and stuff made me cranky. Benadryl helped. Today I still have the rash, but it's manageable. I am hardly sore or stiff from the surgery; in fact, I woke up this morning with my right arm over my head.

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Viola practice has been atrocious, and the problem is mental, not physical. My mind is absolutely elsewhere. I can hardly focus on a single line, sometimes even a single bar. It's not like I'm thinking of anything in particular, more like I'm incapable of thinking at all. It's very frustrating.

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I saw this on facebook: what if you're not good at what you love?


Saturday, December 6, 2014

night and day

I can't believe how much better I feel today. Hardly any pain, and even then nothing that ibuprofen couldn't handle. No vicodin = no nausea, and I've been making up for not having eaten yesterday. I took a walk this morning and a nap this afternoon, two things I almost never do. I can play the viola just as well as ever, which is to say Not Well, but my bow arm is unaffected. And there are still 2 days of recovery in front of me.

Friday, December 5, 2014

no drama

Surgery was today, and after all I'd read on the breastcancer.org forums I was prepared for any amount of drama from zero to a hundred. It was very much the former. The wire placement went smoothly and really didn't hurt much. As for the surgery, I stared at the OR ceiling for a minute or two and then woke up in recovery, pain-free and non-nauseated; after a bit I was allowed to go home. Unfortunately, I assumed that since I was awake, the anesthesia had worn off. Wrong! Once it did actually wear off, hours later, I had already allowed myself to get dehydrated, and since I'd spent about 40 minutes practicing viola I'd also aggravated my right side. The rest of the day has not been fun. It's sore. I can't eat (I am staring at a plate of food as I type this). My throat is sore. I feel like I'm going to vomit but my stomach is empty. I hate vicodin. Bleh. I'm just bitching, I know. It could have been so much worse, and I will feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

today's mission

Today's mission was not to freak out.

I am worried about the surgery tomorrow, about what else they might find, about recovery time, about radiation. I am worried that the HR department at my work seems to be really squirrely about this whole thing, throwing obstacles into my path, bitching publicly that insurance premiums will go way up next year due to "high usage". I am not so worried about losing my job, only about losing it at the worst possible moment. I am worried that my husband will find me repulsive. I am worried that I may not be able to do things that make me happy. I worry that I can't control any of this.

There was no work to do today, so I did laundry like a maniac. Tonight I have to wash with special antiseptic soap, and dry off with a clean towel,  get into clean clothes and sleep on freshly washed bedding. Tomorrow I have to wash again with the soap and wear freshly washed clothes. So every stitch in the house is clean. No email from work or otherwise, no one to talk to, no distractions. My husband's parents sent a get-well card, which arrived today. Otherwise I feel like I'm on Mars. I wish I were on Mars.

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I did end up with a little work to do, and later a friend called, so I don't feel so disconnected from the world. I have been taking xanax since early afternoon (god forgive me) and drinking since 5pm (again, forgive me) and I don't feel a thing, just very, very alert and slightly unreal, or rather that all this from tomorrow onward is unreal.

But I did not freak out.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

vive la

Today we went to the surprise 80th birthday party of someone I know from running. Her daughters thought it would be nice to invite people from all parts of her life. Funny thing was that I knew most of the people there from work, and playing music, and the time of my life when I was a few years out of college and paying back my engineering-school loans by waiting tables. I didn't meet the birthday girl until many years later. She was an artist, is an artist, is a runner, is French, is fabulous. If I get to be 80 I hope I'm like her.

Tomorrow starts my last, foreshortened work week before the holding pattern ends and the treatment starts. They made the announcement about insurance last Tuesday and many people were out Wednesday; I wonder if there will be more backlash tomorrow, or if people will be outright nasty about it. Our mandatory open enrollment meetings are this week too, and I'm sure this will not have people in good moods.

A few weeks back I interviewed for a job I think I would like very much. The people interviewing me (quite understandably) had reservations about my tendency to leave jobs every year or so, but apart from that (pretty huge thing) I thought it went well, and they did choose to interview despite their doubts, so I guess they thought they saw something worth investigating, or maybe they were just bored. It is a public-sector job and so pays much less than market rate, and there's the whole matter of having to ask for a little time off each day for radiation, and the sticky prospect of switching health insurance in the middle of treatment. I have not heard from them since the interview, but I did talk with the person who had vacated the position (he is an old acquaintance and co-worker from my restaurant days) and he said he'd recommend me. Just for the hell of it I checked the job listing again and they have now upped the salary range, and the top is not much less than what I make now. Maybe they are trying to attract better private-sector people. 

I still have not told the Entire World about the medical stuff, though I have referred to it in an oblique way to some people, and told some others outright. Apart from the grumbling at work about insurance premiums, most people have been pretty cool about it and no one has freaked out. One person keeps referring to the upcoming surgery as my "thing" (you can hear the quotes he puts around it), while another is blase to the point of signing off with stuff like "give my best to the boobies!" Funny, funny. I am still going with the "it won't be so bad" attitude, though that breast is looking smaller and more pitiful by the day, and it has recently begun to hurt (what!). I am a really small, flat-chested person. Anything more than a centimeter or so will be a significant percentage of the whole. Still, even if the lumpectomy deforms me a lot, it's an easier recovery than a mastectomy, so that's that.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

holy moley

Holy moley, I am a wallflower. We went to one of my oldest dearest friend's for Thanksgiving. Just a few people: my friend, her husband, her mom (whom I've known for years), and her husband's ex-sister-in-law, who is very nice. But I just checked out socially - I was in another time zone. Not sure what caused it, or if there was a cause, but I just wanted more than anything to go home and be alone. And here I am, and it's all better, or getting that way.

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Some days - like today - it dawns on me that I really don't know my husband as well as I want to, and I wish we could just plunk down on the couch and pour our hearts out to each other and get to know each other again. But neither of us are big talkers.

mid week

Running: not fast and no workouts, but I will probably get over 50 miles this week. Next week will be light because of surgery on Friday morning, and after that who knows when I'll be able to run again, maybe a week, maybe two. So I run now. The weather has been weird lately; as cold fronts come through it gets damn cold (for Florida), and then they come back north as warm fronts and it's moist and summery again. Then the next cold front approaches, collides with the warmth and dumps rain by the bucketfull for a day or so. Running in this is interesting, to say the least.

Music: our orchestra's concert was Sunday. It went pretty well, though not as well as the run-through just prior. This was the first time I felt good enough about our sound to invite people to the performance. A few actually came, and I was happy to see them. Later someone played back a video of us on their phone. Granted it was phone-quality and we were listening to it in a crowded noisy restaurant, but I couldn't hear the violas at all, so the improvement I was so proud of turned out to be for my own enjoyment and satisfaction only :-). Later, the director mused about featuring a string quartet next semester (which would include me) or a concerto grosso (which would not). I would dearly love to play in a quartet, but I am not going to get my hopes up.

After the concert I was surprised at the relief I felt. One more thing checked off of a list. I have spent the past few days making lists of things to check off. Practice has been very regimented,and each day I have managed to check off everything on my list though all of it does not sound good. My viola has been freaking out about the weather, but that's only part of it - operator error is surely involved. I can't play the etude I am so sick of; I can't play the Hummel in any recognizable way; I can't play all the scales with all the bowings, and I can't play any of it well. Oh gosh, this next lesson could be the one where I end up in tears. I hope not.

The other day at work, the HR people sent out a company-wide email announcing that our health-insurance premiums would be going up by an average 15% next year. They went on to explain that this was because more people are actually using their insurance to help them get healthcare. The whole thing had the tone of "a few of you are ruining it for everyone," but that could just be my take on it. After the email went out there was quite a lot of discussion among the rank and file about it. A friend of mine (not at my company) told me that insurance companies will definitely raise premiums on group insurance if one of the members is being treated for cancer. Another friend told me about being fired for never-before-mentioned poor performance after his daughter's heart condition ran up a $2M medical bill. I felt like it's all (or mostly all) my fault that people are going to have to pay higher premiums next year. What's more, it seemed like HR is trying to make one person (or a number of persons) the scapegoat. My husband, ever the voice of reason, says "fuck them, your body doesn't care what insurance plan you're on or where you work, it's not your fault." Indeed, had I stayed at the contracting job I had this summer, I would have found myself unemployed by now (contract ended) and paying exorbitant prices for really bad insurance. 

I don't know what this surgery will be like, or the radiation afterward, or the course of tamoxifen after that. Reading about it online I see 9 tales of woe for every case of "it wasn't so bad." I am in good physical shape so maybe I'll be one of the lucky 10%. I have decided to keep working during all of this, and not request time off. If I need to take it easier, I will try to work from home. Even then, if I feel crappy, or keel over from fatigue, they will either deal with it or not. I am not going to let my company be in a position to decide anything for me, though.

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So many people have had such bad things happen in their lives. I really have nothing to complain about.

Friday, November 21, 2014

my mind, the Chinese finger trap



I am letting Every Little Thing stick me with tiny poison-tipped needles.

The incredibly proactive and compassionate HR department at work has announced an emergency mandatory meeting this week, no, next week, no, the week after to "train" us on Open Enrollment for next year's health insurance. I have never worked anywhere that required training for open enrollment; you just checked a box and that was it. I suspect we are going to be told that the company will be changing insurance plans, like it or lump it. I emailed the lovely HR lady asking if the insurance options were going to change significantly, but I don't expect an answer beyond "you'll find out at the mandatory meeting." This is not a time I want to be worrying about insurance.

The transmission light came on in my husband's otherwise very well-behaved car. He needs his car to drive to work, and being a postman he cannot work from home. Even though I can work from home if necessary, he cannot drive my car. Some friends recommended a mechanic but my husband hates talking on the phone, especially to people he doesn't know, so he is home from work today not taking care of his car.

At work I am still toiling on the project to rewrite something that was written wrong a year ago. There were no requirements and no guidance other than "rewrite this; it's wrong." I rewrote based on best guesses and tiny bits of information gleaned from conversations with people who have been with the company long enough to know what this thing is supposed to do. Finally I submitted my code to QA, and finally they got around to QA-ing it. Now the requirements are coming, albeit one at a time: "This data is missing, please fix. This data is supposed to come from here, not there, please fix. This data needs to be formatted differently, please fix. Negative dollar amounts must be excluded, please fix." Why the fuck didn't you tell me this when I asked (and asked, and asked, and asked) what it was you wanted? And why can't you compile a list of thing to "please fix" rather than doling them out one at a time? This thing has dragged out weeks beyond what it should have.

I don't feel like running. Again.

My viola practice just sucks. I lack the concentration to do much or to get anything out what I am doing. Maybe my teacher is right and I should just give it up; I am too old to make anything of it.

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To counteract all the anxiety I am taking an anti-anxiety drug. While it helps me feel better, it is robbing me of my days. The bad stuff (assuming it will be bad, which it might not) has not even started yet. I should be enjoying this time of relative calm and comfort. But I can't remember anything I did yesterday.

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I keep thinking I should be stronger than this.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

boom! bust

This week has been a running bust.

Also a viola-practicing bust. I go through motions but don't feel like I'm really doing anything. Unprepared for the next lesson (could be one of the last), unprepared for the concert Sunday, and unlikely to be prepared in time for either of them.

Busy at work, some of it fun, some make work.

Interviewed for a job I absolutely don't want and one I think I do want, but I doubt they want me and I wouldn't know how to mention upcoming radiation anyway. On the other hand, the job is located on the same college campus where the cancer hospital is.

I need to look on the bright side.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"just you concentrate on getting well."

That's what the HR person said to me toward the end of our brief and uncomfortable meeting yesterday.

I have no idea what my reaction and recovery will be to the surgery, radiation, and whatever else is coming my way, so I wanted to know what options were available regarding flexible schedules, time off (paid or unpaid), even short-term disability if it came to that. I am salaried, and do some production support, which means I often work overtime (including nights and weekends) and nobody bats an eye. Not so when it's the other way around. The HR person seemed to be pushing me toward taking an unpaid leave of absence, which


  • requires a detailed statement from my doctor (preferably at least 30 days before incapacitation, but as soon as possible) saying what I can and can't do, and how many days/hours of work I won't be at 100% capacity
  • will require me to pay the entire insurance premium, just like COBRA
  • is subject to managerial approval, based on the needs of the business.


She helpfully provided a 2-page job description for my doctor to use to decide whether I'll be able to do things like "tune SQL queries," "develop SSIS packages," and "adapt to rapidly changing priorities based on the needs of the business" while recovering from surgery or undergoing radiation treatments. I told her that no one, not even a doctor, could possibly know in advance how this would affect me, but she was unswayed, and insisted that whatever was wrong with me, she needed to hear it from my doctor, not from me.

Throughout all this I felt like a child or a malingerer, or a child malingerer. The HR person, by way of wrapping up the conversation, said "Well, you certainly are getting an education, aren't you?" At which point I blurted out "God! One I never wanted." And then I composed myself and said my polite goodbye.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

well.

It seems this latest moodiness was indeed hormonal. Ugh. I say I hate this (approaching menopause without the balm of hormone replacement therapy), but I hate even more what's in store - 5 years of hormone-suppressing drug, instant chemical menopause, I become a tottering confused little old lady overnight. I know this is all for my own good, and when I'm 60 or so it will seem silly and insignificant, but: bleh.

Due to all the focus on Me and My Moods, I pretty much missed my husband's birthday. He is as reticent as I, but even so, he has been here and solid so far: willing to accept whatever choice I made about surgery; patiently telling me No when I wonder aloud about disobeying my doctor or (gasp) rejecting treatment altogether; encouraging me to slow down or take xanax or do whatever I need to do to keep my shit together. Etc. And his birthday was yesterday and I didn't get him a present. I wished him a happy birthday, and we went out to dinner tonight, but I didn't take any time to come up with a gift or anything. Both our birthdays are in November, and our anniversary is in December, and there's xmas too, so sometimes we combine it all into one big Joyous Stretch of Holiday Cheer. So there is still time :-)

------------------- miscellany -----------------------------
Some things I want to write about, not for anyone's sake but just so I won't forget:

some friends adopting a baby
memorial service for a friend
camp, and how great it was


This weekend I: 
  • ran all the miles I said I would
  • had a pretty good viola lesson 
  • changed strings
  • did a lot of laundry
  • practiced a lot

But I did not do a lot of other things I intended to do, like catch up on email, put in some extra time at work, clean up my home office, get a haircut. So they move to the top of this coming week's list.


Friday, November 7, 2014

well, that was interesting

but what I think needs to happen now is I need to calm the fuck down.

One freakout per month is permitted, and there it went. The rest of November will be rational and responsible as can be.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
As I've mentioned, I've told very few people about the Momentous Earth Shattering Events of October. Oddly, I've been really reluctant to tell in-person people; it's much easier to discuss this with internet-only people. One such internet friend has been a source of very good information and advice. My thoughts keep returning to certain email passages, including a (very apt) one about not having to feel compelled to plan everything out forever - just deal with the next hour, or ten minutes, or now.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

mayhem

Last night, after orchestra rehearsal, I found myself in a state of disarray. Actually, it started during rehearsal, or even before, but I found myself distracted all evening, unable to focus, making stupid mistakes at rehearsal, feeling like an idiot, and by the time I got home I had invented some nightmare world in which everything was wrong and I was the queen of doing everything wrong. Against all good sense I had a xanax and a big drink with my small supper, and dozed off at the computer before tottering off to bed. Dreamed of moving into a big house, shirking my responsibilities, coming home after too long to find the house dark and my dog dead or dying in the creek running through the great room of the mcmansion.

This morning I knew as soon as I awoke that the mood wasn't going anywhere soon. I did run, even ran some semblance of my workout (workout? why bother? My husband remarked that if he were in my shoes, he'd have quit with the workouts long ago). I toyed with the idea of doing nothing further about this medical stuff. It's expensive, it's annoying, it's a bunch of shit to deal with. I want to stop worrying. I want to go somewhere else, be someone else, find a new job and a new viola teacher and a new orchestra and a whole new musical world, live alone with no history. Forget about the medical stuff, start taking progesterone again so I can feel like the self I used to be, and make a new life that will become the history I want.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

first of november

Today's run: really good given the windy weather and my physical decrepitude.

Today's lesson: passed on the scale, holding pattern on the etude. All my work on the first page of the Hummel netted me a long session of drilling 3 or 4 measures of that page. I kept messing up, and I fear that tried my teacher's patience, but in the end he was ok with it (or maybe just over it) and he fingered/bowed the 2nd page and sent me off to chew on that for a week. 

Something interesting: a few times my teacher has commented that I may never be able to play fast, because of my age. Today he honed in on my occasional brain farts (where I know damn well what note to play, yet play something else) and suggested maybe that was what was keeping me from being able to play fast. At last, a real thing not related to something as immutable as time passing or synapses decaying. I think I do this because I've read the music just well enough and just long enough to memorize how it should sound, at which point I stop reading and just play. And occasionally daydream, and lose focus and play a wrong note. I learned to read music fairly young (5 or 6 years old) but have always avoided doing it, instead playing by ear because I have a good ear and a good memory. At first, reading music to play viola was a disaster. I've gotten a lot better at reading, but still find myself relying on memory and screwing up when I lose focus. If I can learn to see reading as something I can fall back on when I lose focus, maybe I'll stop playing these random wrong notes. And maybe then I'll be able to play faster. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

one of those nights

Weather is changing, my joints ache, all my practicing sounds like a bunch of yowling, I can barely stand up, I 'm tired, tired, tired. Lesson tomorrow I don't want to think about, but that's it for tonight. This weekend, or sometime soon, I'm going to write about camp, and about the memorial service for the friend who died. But tonight is a lost cause.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

another honeymoon over

It was bound to happen - a lesson like in the bad old days. It wasn't that bad, and I did not sulk or pout, but my teacher came as close as he's been lately to making Pronouncements about my playing based on my shortcomings, the biggest being age. "Cut me a break," I wanted to whine. "If you'd spent the week worrying about your health, your practice would probably suffer too." But I didn't say that, just accepted it when he said that I need to play faster, and that the Hummel may just have to remain a "study piece", and when he picked apart everything I did, and when he made some (unsolicited) remark about not knowing if I ever will get any better, but at least I can do a lot of things I didn't used to be able to do.

Doggone it. Right before the lesson I was playing something I struggled mightily with last year. Today I was playing it from memory, with good intonation and dare-I-say a "singing" tone. Oh, I was so happy and even a little proud. But did I play that way at the lesson? No sirreee bob. I played like an oaf and got the pained smile and oh-well that that deserves.

I shouldn't take this so hard. I'm taking it harder than it was meant. Really, I need to cut it out unless I want another year like the last one, and I don't.

Friday, October 24, 2014

joyeux anniversaire, M. Ives

actually, Charles Ives' birthday was Monday, but our local professional orchestra included one of his pieces ("Central Park In the Dark") in this weekend's program. I thought it would be fun to get a large diverse group of people into a bar afterward to toast his birth and existence. Only  a committed few showed up, but we had a good time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

it could all change but

The results of the "we see more stuff" biopsy came back, and while the report available online is confusing, my doctor's verdict is "it's benign, you only have the one area of DCIS, you can have the less-drastic surgery and then radiation". So today I found myself  in the bizarre position of being really happy to have only one area of cancerlike stuff, and a relatively easy out for it.

I have ventured into some forums and read about horrible invasive things discovered during lumpectomies, but I'm not going to think about that now. Looks like surgery will happen after the orchestra performance, in early December, on a Friday even so I can recover over the weekend and not deprive my compassionate company of  any of the the labor I trade for insurance premiums.

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Someone I used to be friendly with during my college/punkrock days has died, of an unnamed illness. A few years ago, after the death of someone we both knew, a friend asked "have we reached the age where our friends start to die?" I thought that was a bit melodramatic. But now it seems I have reached the age where some of the unluckier people I know are starting to die.

May we be lucky enough to live forever.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

blast from the past

Before orchestra rehearsal tonight, a few people I'm friendly with (2 violinists and a cellist) got together to play, well, whatever. I had no quartet music on me so we ended up murdering a triosonata for 2 somethings and piano (the violinists played the piano part(s)) and a piece for trio I hadn't touched in a long time. And for about 20 minutes, it was 2 years ago, when I couldn't read and was really self-conscious about playing with people I don't know well. I was terrible - I played wrong notes, fuzzy notes, out-of-tune/out-of-time notes. I stopped playing a lot. I thought it would be like this the whole night, prayed it wouldn't be, and...it wasn't. I was definitely distracted, but I regained the ability to read, and then think, and (finally) play. Phew.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

may it never be tomorrow

Today at work, I made myself work. I got a lot done, but by the end of the day all the work I'd done seemed pointless, just an attempt to rewrite something someone had written wrong a while back. That someone is now my boss. I guess the way to get ahead in this company is to write stuff wrong. No one spoke to me all day long, not even my "cube" mate (we don't sit in cubes, more like truncated bullpens) who often asks me for help with stuff and always says hi in the morning. Not a peep. My boss told me he's been rather mum with everyone about my health problems (hell, I haven't even told him much of the specifics), so maybe all they see is me not showing up to work, not volunteering to do stuff, etc. I read some stuff online today about people who'd been fired for poor performance during their cancer treatment. Scared me silly. As much as my job bores me, I dread losing it while still on the hook for all these medical bills.

Tomorrow is the first day I can possibly expect to hear anything about yesterday's pictures and poking and prodding. I want to know, and I don't want to know.

Did not play viola well tonight at all, at least not at first. My mind was racing too much. Finally settled down. I hope I can stay focused at rehearsal tomorrow night.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I don't believe in anything but cycles

Out of nowhere, someone I used to work with briefly (and who doesn't know me well) sent me a link to a video about gratitude. Normally I steer way clear of stuff like that, but the person who sent the link is interesting and smart, so I watched the video. And what do you know, it made me think. The video made some interesting, non-preachy points. I have no idea why this guy sent the video.

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Dr Second Opinion turned out to be wonderful even though she sees more stuff that bears investigation (how much can fit in there? it's like a clown car) and I may end up with major major surgery after all, or worse. So I go back tomorrow for 2 more images and 2 more biopsies, and hopefully then we should know what's what, and start thinking about when.

This morning I ran 13 miles, did not dog it. I haven't taken a day off in a while and I'm ready, so I switched my schedule around so I can take tomorrow off. I have to be at the hospital fairly early anyway.

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While I ran today I could hardly wait to get home and practice. And that's pretty much how I spent the day, apart from doing laundry. I plowed through everything I'd planned to practice. Some worked and some didn't; some stuff that seemed easy turned out to be hard once I defined the real goal (not just in tune but at a certain tempo, and clean). Other stuff went from doable to impossible and back to doable. I finished the list by 8:00 or so, and as a reward I dragged out old music and was delighted to find that most of it was much easier than it ever was. If nothing else, my reading is much better than it used to be, and that makes such a difference. It frees up a big chunk of my brain.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

still

I keep hoping that the doctor will realize this is all a big mistake.

it takes so little

It takes so little alcohol to alter me. Couple of sips of rye and I love the world. Or hate it, But today, I love it.

I got 54 miles this week, which was in the training plan for the race I probably won't be able to run in January. My one attempt at speedwork failed utterly, but I did get the miles and I'm happy for that. The weather turned cool again, which helps a lot. 

Music: Despite some scatterbrained-ness in practice, music was fun, orchestra was fun, it was all fun. Another good lesson today. Granted, I was somewhat more prepared this week than in previous weeks. Then again, he did hold me back in everything last week, so in essence I was going in on 2 weeks' prep. Still, I don't know what's gotten into him, but he seems, well, optimistic. Rather, he is not as unrelentingly critical as he was. A part of me wonders if he's given up on me. Where is my real teacher, and who is this nice encouraging person that looks like him? 

I know I am a rank beginner, and yet I am happy where I am. Not that I want to stay there. But it's passable enough that I can enjoy some things about my playing. And things I want to learn no longer seem totally impossible, or completely out of reach, just maybe a ways away. But I can live with that.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

woodshedding

This morning: beautiful clear cool 13 miles of worry/mind going in circles:

what if I don't get to put off surgery until late Nov like I want?
what does the addendum to the pathology report mean, with its H scores and whatnot?
what if the MRI shows more stuff? Worse stuff?
wouldn't it be great if "watchful waiting" (i.e., doing nothing) was a valid treatment option?
it would be such a relief if this all turned out to be a big mistake.
how will I keep my job through all this?
how on earth can I keep my mind on my job through all this?
is it selfish of me to want to wait until late Nov for surgery? That pushes things into 2015 - new calendar year, new deductible, etc.
how strange will it look?
what if the less-invasive surgery is not an option?

Spent most of the day practicing very methodically, things that took just enough of my attention to keep it from wandering. Do this 3 times, now do it a little faster, now in dotted rhythms, now straight. What is the issue...ok, 2nd finger is too high, work on fixing that, do it 5 times, thinking about that 2nd finger, ok now do it 3 more times now that it's right... Whenever I would try to be expressive, though (damned Sitt!) I'd lose focus.

Tomorrow is Second Opinion Appointment; Tuesday is an MRI; Friday is an appointment with the medical oncologist, assuming that Second Opinion concurs and I remain with the current group of doctors. 

This is as worried as I've been.

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Today I really wished I could talk to someone about all this. I tried talking a little with my husband, but I think he gets more worried when he sees I am worried, so we quickly retreated into "try not to worry tonight, it will all be ok". Excepting "business reasons" (work, viola-lesson scheduling), I don't want to tell anyone else yet until I know exactly what is going on and what's going to happen. But it all seems so fluid: the addendum to the pathology report could mean something, or nothing; the MRI could show something new, or nothing new; the Second Opinion doctor could offer a second opinion, or concur with the first one; the surgery (when it happens) could show that they got it all, or there was too much to get. I don't know how I am going to make it through the workday tomorrow.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I really hate to keep going on about this

But where else would I go on? Blogs are mundane, this-was-my-day things. So this was my day: 6-mile run at prescribed "easy" pace, no more 10-minute miles. It has occurred to me that I probably won't be able to run the race I'm training for in January, but since nothing has actually been scheduled yet, I will go on as if I'm still training.

Puttered around and practiced somewhat haphazardly for today's lesson. I was not well-prepared, and my teacher held me back with everything he'd assigned for this week. The scale in a high position needs to sound nicer; the etude needs to flow better so I have to practice it in dotted rhythms and also robotically, with the metronome; the piece he'd told me to set aside after last week's lesson had grown dusty already, so I need to keep it up and also work on evenness of tone and continuous vibrato (on top of playing in tune and choreographing the bow, this is a pretty tall order). Yet I wouldn't call it a bad lesson at all; I got the impression he wasn't asking me for things I couldn't do.

I told my teacher about this health fiasco because I may end up having to cancel some lessons on short notice, and didn't want him to drop me. Valid businesslike reason to talk about it, but still felt weird. I haven't told many people at all, and am not sure I want to. But at some point it will be perfectly obvious that something has happened. Maybe I'll just let it speak for itself.

Other: downloaded and read the final pathology report, tried to decipher it, decided I would just let a medical professional explain it to me, or not. Practiced a while, pretty focused, and I think it did some good; came up with a methodical way to work on troublesome 16th-note passages and it seems to help. Still not able to eat much, but I think it's just stress.

Friday, October 10, 2014

today was much better

Yep, it was much better.

Short (4mi) little run at recovery effort, no pressure to run any specific pace. Thought about music the whole time. Not work, not health, not anything but music.

Breakfast, then off to the hospital for meet-n-greet with team doctor #2, the radiation oncologist. One of the first things he said to me was "DCIS...that's not even cancer!" I loved him immediately. They said I could run if I didn't let my arms rub against my torso (no worries with these little arms) and if I felt up to it (now that is another story), and they were all for playing viola, since the arm motion will get blood flowing and all that good stuff. It will be a crummy 6-1/2 weeks, but I'll take it over the alternative.

Back home, I was even able to focus well enough to get some work done, first time that's happened since Monday. Later I got some decent practice in, though I am still underprepared for the lesson tomorrow (so what else is new?).

What a crap week it's been. I don't want another one like it. Today, just being able to think clearly was some kind of blessing.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

whelmed

Yesterday I met with a reconstructive surgeon, as part of a "meet the team!" initiative. Ugh, I hated him. He sells "rejuvenating" serums and creams out of his office, and on the wall of his exam room hung a poster for some sort of "system" vaguely hinting at boosting your immune system to "fight cancer." What a maroon. He really tried to sell me on a new pair of boobs, appealing first to my vanity (sorry, nonexistent) and then my stated desire to retain as much muscle function as possible. He actually told me that radiation could cook my muscles and could cause so much scarring I could lose function. I suspect all those "coulds" could have been to cover his ass, because I think he could have been exaggerating a tad bit. Anyway, I hated him.

The rest of the day was just phone calls, one after the other, scheduling, requesting, asking, answering. I worked maybe 5 minutes of the whole day. Went to rehearsal looking for salvation; even though it was still a violin-fest, I was well aware that this was what I wanted to keep, this was my reason to make sure I don't mess up my pectoral muscles by allowing some maroon to put a balloon under them, or cut them. I didn't play well, but this bad day was about on a par with my good days even last spring.

This morning I woke up early again, full of negativity again. I didn't feel up to my workout but I did it anyway, missed the paces by about a minute at worst. Couldn't make my legs outrun my brain. There is so much going on, and I can't keep track of it all, and I worry I am missing something. After breakfast I decided there was no point in trying to be brave or useful today.

So, I am useless today. I can't stay focused on anything for very long. I am not even making a pretense of working. This is so stupid. There's no reason to be this distracted. This is not a life-threatening disease, after all; it's just something that requires a lot of work to get taken care of. Sure, it will leave me looking quite different than I do now, but it won't kill me, unless I let it go for so long that it mutates into something that can kill me. Hence all this work to get it taken care of. But man, I am useless.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

lousy

Today started out with its high point, a 6-mile run at a fun pace. Unfortunately , that was the high point. The little I had to do at work was interrupted again and again by phone calls. At rehearsal, passages I'd practiced to point-of-failure crumbled at much slower tempos.

I can't wait until I get a day with no uncertainty.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ten days in a day

Ten-days-hence appointment with surgeon became Right Now Today appointment, unexpected and too-full of information, but I was glad to get the ball rolling. This is going to be a lot of work.

Got very little done at work today, because I was too distracted. I don't like uncertainty (oh, really?). Fortunately, this morning's run (pre-uncertainty) was fine, and today's practice (mostly post-uncertainty) has been ok too. Things will work out. you don't die from this, so I won't die from this. My deductible has been met. Things will work out.

Some day we'll be dignified and old.

Monday, October 6, 2014

no dice

I tried distracting myself with viola practice but instead was distracted, so I hurried through the List of Things To Practice and tucked the viola in for the night. Maybe tomorrow I'll want to play.

the big oops.

This morning, impatient to see lab results, I tried logging onto the imaging center's website, where I have been able to see whatever results were available. This morning, no dice; I could not log in, could not reset my password, nothing worked. I work in healthcare IT, and I know that sometimes systems are down or upgrades happen; this was just an unfortunate day (for me) to have this happen. No matter.

Just before I left for work, my doctor's office called: "we have results, they are benign." Hooray, I can get on with my life. It didn't occur to me to ask for details like "both biopsies, or just the one we knew about last Friday?" because I thought they are the doctor's office and they know best.

I went on with my day until mid-afternoon when I noticed a voicemail from an unfamiliar number. It was the imaging center, calling to report that while one biopsy came back ok, the other did not, and there is something called DCIS, and it is cancer. Apparently one of the friendlier types of cancer, if you catch it early enough and treat it properly. But it is still not the same as being 100% healthy and cancer-free. Coming after a whole day of thinking I was ok, this was a double punch in the gut. I'm really kind of pissed off at my doctor's office for getting this wrong.

I think I will allow myself whatever freakout I need to have this evening, and then back to work. The next thing is an appointment with a surgeon, ten days from now. No need to spend the entire ten days freaking out.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

little miracles


  • First cool front of the season came through last night and left us with 60-degree temps this morning, which may sound like so-what to some folks but made this morning's 12 miles delightful. Everyone in the neighborhood was smiling - runners I hadn't seen in years (really), dogwalkers, plain old walkers, bicyclists. We waved; we said hello; we called out "nice weather!" In heaven, I'm sure it's 60F every morning.
  • Since the orchestra-honeymoon ended the other night, I expected the same at the viola lesson yesterday, especially since I didn't feel I'd made much progress on anything I was supposed to have worked on. Yet my teacher seemed pleased with some things, and said so. We talked a lot about making things musical, and I left feeling like I'd be able to do it someday, instead of never. I think this summer (especially camp, which I will write about sometime) brought about a lot of changes in my playing and (more importantly) in the way I think about playing and learning. My teacher has never been much of a sayer-of-nice-things, so I wonder if maybe he had some sort of life-changing experience over the summer too :-)
  • Something is happening to my left hand. The fingers seem to fall onto the fingerboard in a useful way, and I don't have to keep twisting my hand around within a given position to get the notes I want - the notes are just there. Today, while practicing double-stop 6ths, I made the amazing discovery that sometimes I could get 2 or 3 notes of the scale without moving my hand. Even though it was double-stops, even though there were 2 fingers to keep track of instead of one, the notes were just there, praise be. Maybe my fingers have learned to stretch, or my body is finally molding to this viola.
  • And I can read.

Friday, October 3, 2014

50%

Thanks to the miracle of healthcare IT (which, as it happens, pays my bills even as I'm paying its bills), results for one of the two biopsies has been posted online, and it is benign. Of course, there has been no feelgood physicians' explanation, just a very terse phrase lifted straight from (probably) an NTE segment of the ORU message for this result. But I feel 50% better, 50% less worried than I have been lately.

making deals with the lord.

Uncomfortable run this morning - even if you are a very small flat-chested woman wearing a jogbra, running after a biopsy is uncomfortable - during which I tried not to get philosophical about anything. And failed. Many sources of concern and frustration elbowed their way to the front of my mind and shouted at me. Work. Music (learning). Various people I have known, relationships I have had. My dog's health, and mine. I can hardly wait for this day to be over, and I don't like that.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

sometimes staying up late isn't the best idea.

Too quiet, too much time to think, too tempting to dampen it down with drink, which doesn't work anyway. Alcohol brings out melancholy.

on the verge of thirds

Back to the imaging center today, for the third time. The staff seem friendlier each visit. The ultrasound tech told me she played cello for 21 years and comes from a musical family; mother and sister graduated from Iowa. The radiologist (masters-age and very fit-looking) has the same name as a very good local masters runner but is not that guy, so we joked about it. Everything was fairly quick and very painless. There were a lot of patients there, some of them pregnant (which I will never be), and some of them bald, which I hope not to be. Of course it's too soon to think about any of that yet. I might find out something tomorrow, but it will likely be Monday. And there is no point in worrying about any of this. It's either happened or it hasn't.

In the light of day, in light of everything else, last night's petty grievances about orchestra rehearsal seem, well, petty. I play for me, not for anyone else, and there are some things to be learned from playing in this orchestra, so let's just agree to a potential (but not absolutely guaranteed) waste of two hours every Wednesday, and get on with the learning part. Something interesting is happening lately, over the past week or so: I am getting some sense I didn't have before regarding the distance between notes, especially thirds. Right now, as it happens, thirds are everywhere: in the arpeggios and broken thirds I have to play each week; in the etude I'm working on; in pieces I am learning for lessons and orchestra and fun. On viola, the interval of a third (on a single string) is covered by 3 fingers, and depending on the kind of third (major or minor) you will either have all your fingers a whole step apart, or one of them will be a half-step from its neighbor. Teachers tell you all the time to use guide fingers to help with intonation - for example, instead of putting down the first finger and then guessing at where 3 should go, put the 2nd finger down too, and from there your third finger will automatically fall where it needs to go. In other words, if your hand frame is right, your fingers will be where they need to be. Of course, the frame changes the farther up the fingerboard you go. But anyway, somehow my left hand is getting a better sense of whole-step and half-step distances, and all these thirds-happy arpeggios and etudes are sounding much more in tune, and I am not making as many panicked guesses at notes, so I can concentrate more on other things like tone or volume or what-have-you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

the honeymoon is over

Or maybe I'm just having a bad day...I am having mixed feelings about string orchestra this semester. On the one hand, I have a stand partner (which means there is an actual viola section, hooray) and I really like playing with her and I think we sound good together. On the other hand, rehearsal is, well, boring. It's the Second Violin Show, Featuring the First Violins, and the rest of us do a lot of sitting around listening while the 2nds go over their parts. And over and over. That's a lot of sitting around. I'm not much of a sitter-arounder anyway, but by that time of day, I need to be engaged in something or else I start to fade.

Then again, this has been a lousy day, and maybe I was looking for a lousy ending to it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

the weather will not break.

A stationary front hanging around the past week has brought all the summer we didn't have this summer. Running in the pitch black humid warm close dark, I feel like I'm in someone else's body. Not inhabiting someone else's body, but actually running around inside a giant body. I run very slowly, finish before it gets light, get home dripping wet.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

another week gone.

Long run today - what I would have called "medium-long" a year ago, but in the heat and humidity of late summer + stationary front, 14.25 miles was all I had, and that was enough to influence the rest of my day, despite a nap. What day is it? It is the 11th day of the Ops 2 sprint and the 7th day of the New 2 sprint. But what day is it? Is it spring, fall? From the the other room I heard baseball and football on TV. I read on facebook about a teacher doing some grading and for a moment thought it was springtime-getting-close-to-summer-vacation. But no - it is the 11th day of the Ops 2 sprint and the 7th day of the New 2 sprint. That is what today is.

Still, it wasn't a total wash.I got silly and invited a bunch of people to a birthday party for Charles Ives. I did some laundry. I caught up with email (what email? hardly anyone emails anymore. it's practically a dead medium). I practiced viola until I could not stand up any longer. I will be in bed by a reasonable hour.

Friday, September 26, 2014

the unknown knowns

Back to ye olde imaging center for more imaging today.

The breast stuff was read onsite and results communicated to me at the end of the visit: "we see stuff, we don't know what the stuff is, we need to biopsy the stuff." I go back next Thursday for a day-long round of this (2 different kinds of biopsy). It is apparently less painful. less invasive, and less debilitating than surgical biopsies were 11 years ago, but still takes a while. As soon as I got home I emailed my boss and requested that whole day off rather than try to work before and after.

The abdominal/pelvic stuff remains an unknown unknown. Today they had students observing, so the ultrasound tech delivered a running narrative while doing the study. Talking about observations and findings in front of patients is generally a no-no, and the tech kept lowering her voice to talk about certain things, or she'd use nonspecific  words "let's make sure we get a measurement of this..." God only knows what this was. I guess I will find out soon enough.

I kept telling myself that it has all already happened, that knowing about it won't make any difference. There is no point in worrying about it.

Still, there is xanax.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

special thoughts for mr kayser on the occasion of the anniversary of his birth

Those who can't play, write.

Those who can't write, write etudes.

Those who can't write etudes, change clefs all the god damn time for no reason at all.

Happy birthday, Mr Kayser. May you rot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

tiny little ray

Long day, hurrying from one thing to the next. Because it's orchestra rehearsal day I didn't get much time to practice, but I did get a chance to get together with my cellist friend before rehearsal, and murder some duets we haven't touched in months. It was like sight-reading pieces you know by ear, if that makes any sense. Even after two lousy days, my viola still sounds terrible - hell, I still sound terrible - but while we were reading through these pieces, and goofing up and laughing about it, I had these little flashes of, well, I don;t know what to call it. It was something like having ideas about what a line (or even a note) should sound like, and being able to try it right then and there (even as I was "trying" bowings and fingerings right then and there, i.e., sight reading), and have it sound like something. I know I am not explaining it right, and I know that probably no one could hear my intentions, but I could, a tiny bit. And that was just huge.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I am having a panic attack


About nothing consequential, but

2 days in a row the viola sounds terrible, or rather I sound terrible, can't play, tone is awful, can't read. It's embarrassing, really. I cast about for something that might sound good when I play it. Nothing does. I have rehearsal tomorrow and a lesson Saturday and, oh brother.

Maybe things will seem better in the morning.

Monday, September 22, 2014

today was a piece of work

Not a good day.

Gray soggy rainy not-very-cold front settled in for the week, making everything sticky, making my dog upset, making my joints ache. I'm still not able to eat much, don't feel well. Running? Ha.

A friend's elderly dog was put down today, and I felt so sad for her, and her dog, and my dog, and me.

My job has become all about helping newbie project managers tick off little boxes in their report-generating software. And I have to work a couple of nights this week.

Tonight was the only night I had no other commitments, so I was hoping to get some good practicing done. And practice Absolutely Sucked. It was like I'd never picked up a viola in my life. Maybe the weather is making the viola sound bad, but my god, it was awful.

Every other thing is getting on my very last nerve.

Not a good day at all.

Friday, September 19, 2014

un de esos dias

Yesterday's "one of those days" has carried over into today, so I guess it's "some of those days." I feel clumsy and uncoordinated, and achy for no reason. Can't concentrate on much. I did get some work done today (at work) that's about it. Running sucked, viola-playing sucked, I have a lesson tomorrow and my playing is totally unpresentable.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

in other news

crappy lousy mood. Crabby, short-tempered, afraid I am going to say something nasty to anyone who gets in the way.

dr visit: about the only thing anyone knows is that I have osteoporosis. I agreed to start taking fosamax but the pharmacy is getting all confused trying to contact my old insurance company (why?) so I guess I won't be starting right away. However, no one knows:

  • why I have a lot of swollen lymph nodes
  • whether the nodule on my thyroid is anything to worry about for another 4-6 months
  • what the mass in my breast might be (mass? what mass? what?)

So I have to go back to the imaging center for more imaging, joy. Really don't want to have to tell my boss (again) I have to do this (again). And of course this round of imaging will have another followup, and probably a biopsy, or more than one.

In other news, running is not going well. It's dark when I run, and the streets are ripped up and hard to run on, and I'm tired, and my watch is broken. Did I leave anything out?

work: ugh, no further comment.

Music: lesson's in a couple of days and the piece I'm working on is still just, well, blah, terrible. It's like there is something preventing me from making it sound like music. Even my scales are more musical. I'm not looking forward to playing it at the lesson. Even if I were to say something like "look, this just doesn't sound good no matter what I try, can you help?" I think he'd just say something like "if you don't get it, you don't get it." Which is not helpful at all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I am apprehensive

I was doing pretty well not worrying about tomorrow's doctor appointment, but when they called today to remind me, I asked whether there was anything they could tell me. The person hemmed and hawed, then finally said all she could do was read me the doctor's instructions, which were something like "please have joe positive come in within a week to discuss abnormal imaging results." I asked if they could give me a hint as to which of the four imagings were abnormal; they said no, but offered me an appointment earlier in the day so I could find out a little sooner. Well, that did it; I started to worry.

This all happened toward the end of my workday. I worried, worked a little more, had a nice conversation about nothing in particular with a coworker, drove to school and had a nice time practicing with my cellist and violinist friends, had a nice orchestra rehearsal. I really enjoy playing with my stand partner. She helps keep me on track, and I think we sound good together. So, apparently, did one of the cellists, who tolds us so, out of the blue.

Came home, had a drink and some food. feel better but I'm still apprehensive. Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Everything that will happen has already happened.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

comme ci comme ca

I am in a holding pattern for the next few days: waiting to hear what the doctor has to say, waiting to see what will happen at work (nobody is very happy). I run poorly most of the time, and practice viola poorly some of the time. Not eating well at all, but it might just be stress. On the other hand, I have more opportunities to play music with people than I can shake a stick at, and if only I had enough time, I'd do nothing else.

Monday, September 15, 2014

today could have been horrendous

1. Slow run, slower than it felt.

2. Just before I left for work, my doctor's office called to request that I come in to discuss the results of some imaging I had done last week. No, they wouldn't tell me anything over the phone.

3. Spent the workday trying not to google myself into a panic.

4. Got volunteered to work 5 nights this week in addition to the regular 5 days.

5. Stayed late.

6. Got home late, which meant started practice late. And practice ranged from "ok" to "perfunctory" while I worried about the day*.

7. could not eat much, which made me worry even more.

Whatever is going to happen has already happened. No point in worrying any more. And there's this:

http://youtu.be/xoXweIuDgxw

*Postscript to #6: looking back on it, even though the etude is still a mess, I "got" the dynamics a little more. So there's something.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

wow, 3 posts in a day

Sometimes I think that the most important part of practicing is deciding what, specifically, I want to practice, and how, specifically, I should go about practicing it.

For example, take my current piece, as ripe a romantic cheese as you will ever hear in your life. My teacher picks it apart bit by bit and I try fixing each thing, but in the end he just declares "it doesn't sing." And he's right, it doesn't. So I need to work on it, but how? How do you practice making something sing? 

I could play the piece over and over, kind of the million monkeys/million typewriters/million years approach. But something tells me that's neither efficient nor guaranteed to work. So what, then? What is singing? Is it intonation? Maybe, some, but my intonation is pretty ok on this piece already. How about dynamics? What is the purpose of dynamics? To help give the sense of a line. Ok, lines - what else really makes a line a line? In this piece, it's the use of the bow, and especially a bow that moves. Smoothly. At all times. Ok, then: smooth bow; the bow must never stop (except at rests) and it must be smooth through changes in speed and direction. 

And there you go, there's the practice: play through the first few phrases, a bit under tempo, with the focus being "smooth, moving bow at all times." Out of tune,  undynamic - don't worry about that now. You want that bow to be smooth, and moving, that's all that matters now. Do it 5 times, or 10 times. Something will happen, hopefully something good :-)

sunday bizarre

Most of the week I mourn my lack of practice time. Here it's a free day and I actually don't feel like practicing.

Not that I haven't been. I just haven't been doing it well. I'm to the point of misreading simple things (for example, I see a D and play an E), and I'm tense and sore from playing a scale that starts in 7th position. There is stuff I am supposed to practice and within that, things I'm supposed to be aiming for (speed, facility, tone, musicality), but I don't think I'm up to it.

I need to remind myself that there are times to look at the big picture and times not to, because it's too overwhelming. Sometimes I just need to do the work (in this case, play through an etude using various rhythmic patterns) and trust it will do me good, in ways I can't even imagine.

observation

Parties are ok, but they're really not.

I am so self-conscious at parties that I drink more than I should, not to get drunk per se but to be able to speak, listen, joke, laugh, whatever. At parties I drink a lot to lose any sense of myself and then I get exactly what I bargained for - no sense of myself. Not so with small groups, just with parties. Then I am ruined for the next day - I have to stop what I'm doing, cancel what I've planned, and recover physically and mentally with rest and quiet. 

As an experiment, the next time I go to a party I will drink only very little (if at all), and if I can't get or remain comfortable, I'll leave.