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.

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.


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.

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.

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


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


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.