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.


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, 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.

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.

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


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


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.


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


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


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


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.