Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Madame Secretary, A Conspiracy Theory . . .

I only watched a few episodes of Madame Secretary last season. The acting is very good. It conveniently aired right before my favorite show, The Good Wife, which I never miss. It seemed like a good opportunity for me to extend my quality television viewing. However, something didn’t sit well with me from the beginning. I had a feeling that this show was indirectly about Hillary Clinton. Two women with blonde hair acting as Secretary of State was a little too much of a coincidence for me, not to mention the timing. I got the impression that by making people like this character they would somehow transfer these positive feelings to Hillary. A subliminal brainwashing of sorts. Anyway, that was my state of mind and it’s my conspiracy theory. For some unknown reason CBS is trying to help Hillary’s campaign and Lord knows she could use it.

I couldn’t take to the show. There were too many hostages that needed rescuing around the world. Madame Secretary never used “legal” channels for her rescuing. She would hire people in foreign countries, our enemies, to accomplish the rescue and then take the flack after the fact. In one episode, maybe the last one I watched, she actually asked her husband, a college professor, to give this Russian kid an A so they would release the hostages. Seriously. Her husband balked at the idea for a while, not willing to compromise the integrity of his position. Madame Secretary needles him for a while and works out some compromise until the poor guy gives in and does what she wants.  I stopped watching. The plot lines are too ridiculous for me to stay tuned in.

This season has just premiere with Madame Secretary becoming President and taking the oath of office. We see the commercial and my husband laughs and says, “This could never happen.” He explains to me that she is FOUR people away from the Oval Office. But somehow the writers conveniently manage to get rid of those four people so she could step in. How did they do that? The President and Speaker of the House are on Air Force One and their plane goes missing. This happens the same day as the Vice President is having gall bladder surgery. The President Pro Tem of the Senate isn’t capable of taking office either due to a series of mini strokes that have affected his ability to make decisions. You see what I mean? The lengths they go through to get Madame Secretary into that Oval Office are just unbelievable. If that doesn’t validate my conspiracy theory, what does?

And now, we get to see a woman who was Secretary of State, run the country and get a preview of what it might be like with Hillary as President. And CBS wasted no time making sure she moved up the ranks while Hillary is sliding dow the polls. Is this a coincidence too? Maybe CBS gave Hillary’s campaign a lot of money and the proof is in this missing emails? Someone should look into this for me. 

Meanwhile Hillary keeps saying that Madame Secretary s her favorite show. I wonder why?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Half Empty Nest Syndrome . . .

This weekend, after seven years of dating, getting engaged and setting a wedding date, my older daughter has decided it’s time to move out of our home. It’s a big step. A milestone. It’s the natural progression of events. It’s the way things are done today. I’ve been expecting this day to come. It’s not a surprise. She has been semi moved out for years already, spending half her time here and half with her fiancĂ©. She has to live her life the way she wants to and she has a good head on her shoulders. I know she is happy because I hear it in her voice and see it on her face. That’s all I have ever wanted for her. We’ve been blessed to have her home for 28 years, and now her future is with her fiancĂ©, who we love. 

But now I have a half-empty nest. My emotions are conflicted at the moment. I am very happy for my daughter and feel blessed she has found a man she can share her life with and who makes her happy. It’s the circle of life getting fuller, but I am feeling a little empty right now. I know it will pass in time, but I miss her already.

I miss seeing her face in the morning as she comes down the stairs, still half asleep with her cell phone in hand. How she looks around the kitchen for something to eat, and nothing appeals to her. How she quickly accepts my offer to make her something small, while she sits at the table staring into the little screen reading God knows what. I miss how she will look up and tells me the the latest news or a fascinating piece of information that she has discovered. After breakfast she would go upstairs to get ready for work. It’s doesn’t take long. She has this down to a science. Then she comes down with her bags, gets the lunch I’ve made her from the refrigerator and heads out the door to work as we exchange “I love you’s.” It’s very quiet here this morning.

The nights she would come home for dinner I would hold off dinner until she was home, even though she arrived between seven and eight. It’s much later than our usual dinner time at 5:30, but I enjoy it when we all eat together and talk about our days. She shares some funny stories from work, or rants about the things that frustrate her. We’ll watch some television together after dinner. I’ll let her pick out whatever she wants to see so she can enjoy the little time she has before bedtime. I’ll offer her favorite snacks like peaches or strawberries with whipped cream, ice cream, cheese cake, but she only says yes half the time. Mostly, she will snack on the cheese doodle snacks I keep handy because I know what she likes. And, because she has already had a very long day, she will head up to bed at 10 P.M. She’s tired. Even though I would love to spend a few more minutes with her, I don’t try to stop her. She needs her sleep. She has always needed her sleep. She got me in trouble with the nurse the day she was born because I couldn’t wake her up to feed her her bottle. I tried everything they told me. I tickled her feet, I opened the blanket so she would feel cool. Nothing worked. The nurse yelled at me saying I should have pressed the call button and asked for help. Oh well, it never occurred to me. My baby needs her sleep.

What I have been doing is a lot of reminiscing over the last 28 years. I’ve been thinking of all the joy and happiness this little sleepy baby has brought into our lives every day. How she made the most ordinary days special with her laughter. How she made us laugh from the time she uttered her first words. “I can’t eat right now, I’m calculating,” she would tell my mother as she played with the calculator at age three. At age two and a half she looked up at me in Hallmark while we were looking at pocket calendars for my brother and said, “Let’s get him a sophisticated one.” Or how at age two she would know how to appropriately insert “in my opinion” and “as a matter of fact” into our dinner conversations. We never knew what would come out of her little mouth. But we knew she was beautiful, intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humor and compassion. At seven years old she came home to find I had put new curtains on the windows. “You bought new curtains? There was nothing wrong with the old curtains.” I explain they were old and I wanted a change. “You could have given that money to the homeless. They have no place to live. We have a house and the old curtains were still good.” Even then there was no arguing with her logic, so I tried some of my own. “Okay,” I said, “Tell you what we’ll do. Instead of Christmas presents this year and more toys, we’ll give that money to the homeless.” Dead silence. 

So many memories, conversations shared, even arguments. We had our first argument when she was two years old and I wanted to record her saying the alphabet, but she refused. I have that whole argument on tape, but no alphabet. I take out the camera and tell her to say the alphabet. “No.” I beg her please just sing it for me one time. “No, you sing.” I tell her that her kids will want to see it, and she’s aggravating me. “You’re aggravating me!” I tell her she is being a haunt. “You’re a haunt.” End of that argument. But there would be more arguing in our future when she hit those “terrible teens.” We hit a rough patch, but we survived. A couple of years later she actually said the words every mother longs to hear, “Can I ask your opinion about something?” I nearly fainted, my little girl had grown up! 

No matter how old or wise she gets, she will always be my little girl. She will always be my sweet pea who curls her hair with her finger as she falls to sleep. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mom's Candle . . .

While we were in Lancaster, PA and browsing through all the specialty shops in Kettle Kitchen, my daughter was busy smelling candles. She turns to me and tells me to smell the one in her hand. I knew that smell well, but I couldn't identify it immediately. The name of the candle, made by 1803, is called Lavender Linen. I take another smell and tell her, "It smells like my mother." Of course she didn't remember my mother’s scent, but she is partial to the fresh linen scent. Maybe because she spent so much of her baby and toddler years being held, cuddled and hugged by grandma. I took another whiff of this candle, that stirred up so many memories of my childhood, when my daughter turned to me an said I’m buying this for you. I told her she didn’t have to, but she insisted, saying “You said it smells like Grandma.” My first thought was to let my brother smell it and see if he had the same feeling as I did. 

About a week later, my brother was visiting me and I suddenly remembered the candle. I brought it down and opened it for him to smell. “What does this smell like,” I asked. He said it smelled familiar, he knew the scent, but couldn’t put his finger on it. I gave him some time, but he could identify it. He asks me what I think it smells like. I said, “Mom.” He nodded and smelled it again. 

My mother, who never wore perfume and used Camay soap, always washed her laundry and hung it out to dry on the clothesline. The fragrance from her freshly laundered clothes, that crisp linen smell, was strong and almost intoxicating. This simple candle captured it perfectly. Suddenly, I had the urge to try and purchase more of these candles. I checked online and the scent has been discontinued by the manufacturer, their remaining candles sold out. I don’t recall the store we purchased the one I have, so I checked all the stores in Kettle Kitchen online. None of them advertised the scent, probably because it’s been discontinued. In any case it’s no where to be found online. 

I’m not going to light this candle unless I find another one just like it somewhere on a store shelf.  I love it. My daughter must have been instinctually aware of it significance, more so than I was that moment in the store. I’m so happy she bought it for me. Every time I smell it I’m transported back in time, to kisses and hugs, to unconditional love . . . to mom. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Politics, What Do I Know?

What do I know about politics? Probably next to nothing. I have never been interested in politicians until Barack Obama ran for office. I started to pay more attention to the issues and political platforms of those running because I knew this was going to be a historical election. It was possible, that for the first time in our nation's history, a black man was running for office and actually could win. I should have stopped paying attention after the election because politics, politicians and the political process only serve to increase my already high blood pressure. But, even paying attention, I still know relatively little and yet have so many opinions.
Now for my little rant. Since Obama won the election back in 2008, Republicans have been complaining about his leadership. They hate Obama Care. He doesn't do anything about illegal aliens. He made a bad deal with Iran. The list is endless. I can understand some of their points of view. So what have they done in the last eight years to prepare for the election in 2016? I see a dozen Republicans all trying to get the nomination. Many are saying the stupidest things that are sure to lose them support with voters. I am not going to point them all out as examples right now and risk having a stroke. My question is why are there a dozen candidates at this point?
The party had eight years to groom someone and get them ready for this critical election. They knew Hillary Clinton was going all out on the Democratic Party ticket. They knew she had lots of support and money. Hell she has been grooming herself by first becoming Senator of New York, like she gave a damn about us. Then she maneuvered herself into the Secretary of State position to gain more support. Everyone knew her strategy. And, the Republicans knew Obama could not run again in 2016 and that Joe Biden probably wouldn't be running. So here's my question: Why didn't the Republican Party take that eight years and go find someone in their party who they could groom to be the next president? Someone who would appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike? Someone who understands the issues and speaks intelligently about them and has concrete ideas for fixing what is wrong with this country. Why are we watching 12 candidates who are all losing in the polls to Donald Trump? Donald Trump! Now don't get me wrong, Donald is very entertaining to watch and listen to. He talks off the top of his head without a censor. He makes me laugh, but that is not a quality I am looking for in a President. And still he is ahead in the polls . . . way ahead in fact. The only reason I can think of for that is that he is saying what many people are thinking and feeling in this country. I will give him credit for one thing, he has gotten me back interested in the election. He has made me aware of the other 12 candidates, many of whom I have never heard of before. He keeps tabs on them and them tweets everything they say and do. I love it! But at the same time I am afraid he just might get elected. I am afraid the Republican Party has fallen down on the job. They needed a solid candidate to run, not an army of politicians dividing up the party into little pieces. That's my opinion anyway. This feels like a three ring circus where a dozen clowns come out of a little car and run around.
This leaves me with the impression that the Republican Party doesn't have one solid candidate that we can take seriously. When Donald Trump is there front runner, what else is there to think? And maybe the Republican Party doesn't want to win the election after all. Maybe they know they can't fix all the things they claim they can? Maybe they just like to complain about what the Democrats are doing and put up road blocks?

I may lean towards the Democrat side in politics, but right now I am not happy with Hillary at all. I would welcome a good solid candidate from either side to lead this country. Unfortunately, right now, I am not seeing anyone I can put my faith in to vote for.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lancaster, P.A. Revisited . . .

The "old" Lancaster Map

When the girls were much younger, we took a couple of trips to Lancaster, PA aka Amish country. We did all the “tourtisty” things including: the Amish Buggy Ride, tours of the houses, farms and school, experiencing the “family style” dinners, enjoying the “shoo-fly pie” and apple butter. We shopped for souvenirs and assorted jellies, jams, peanut butter. We didn’t leave any stone unturned. However, as the girls got a little older (13 and 16) Lancaster became less enchanting and the simple lifestyle of the Amish more boring. They weren’t interested in going there even for a short family vacation any more. But now, 12 years later, both of them suddenly agreed to come with us for a four day weekend. Granted it was my birthday weekend and I had just finished dealing with a health scare, so maybe they were feeling generous? I wasn’t about to talk them out of it by asking why they agreed to go. So we packed.

The ride to Lancaster was uneventful except for some traffic getting out of the city, which added an hour to the trip. We had a bite to eat, checked into the hotel and then went shopping at the Rockvale outlets, surrounding the hotel. This was not only our first day away, but the first day of a heat wave of over 90 degree weather. That really sums up the whole trip, eating, shopping and dying of the heat. We saw cows, horses, and Amish people. We spent all our cash and our Kohl’s cash too. We had a few laughs. We filled up the trunk of our car until there was almost no room left for the luggage. So why did this trip mean so much to me and fill my eyes with tears?

Nostalgia. Ever since the kids were born we went on family vacations. Almost all of them were along the eastern seacoast, from Massachusetts to Florida. We always looked forward to spending that time together and doing new things. We enjoyed some places so much we went back two, three or more times. In their early years there wasn’t anything unusual about us all eating our meals together at home, it was a regular routine. But, as the girls got older, this ordinary little thing, this routine we often took for granted, has become the exception not the rule. We rarely eat meals together any more. So in Lancaster, as I looked around the table at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and saw my family all together talking and laughing, it brought tears to my eyes. It’s the simple things in life we forget to appreciate until they’re gone.

We escaped to the hotel room, after shopping, to cool off and pick a place to have dinner. We stretched out on the beds and tossed ideas around while my younger daughter, always in control of the remote control, flipped through the tv guide trying to find something we can all watch. We discovered that Lancaster has changed quite a bit over the last 12 years. Some of the old stores and restaurants weren’t there any more and new ones have taken their place. I was looking at our old map to try to find someplace to eat, while my daughter was surfing through her smart phone for menus. She was getting frustrated because quite a few places I mentioned didn’t exist any more. “Why are you looking at that old map?” she asked, “I picked up a new one in the lobby.” I didn’t tell her that the “old” map I was holding had all the places we had been to in the past “circled” in ink. I kept it to myself that while the girls and my husband were revisiting Lancaster, I was revisiting the past and their childhoods. Children grow up too fast. Parents start aging. Instead of my husband and I helping the girls get out of the car, now my older daughter extends her hand to help me get out and then tells me, “I think dad’s back is bothering him, I could tell by the way he got out of the car.” She was right. He was in some pain, the long ride had aggravated his backache. The roles are already starting to reverse ever so slightly, or maybe more than I like to think.

After dinner it was back to the hotel. The shopping and heat had taken it’s toll on us and we wanted to make the most of our time there. Showers, PJs, under the covers watching television together, without laptops, just like the old days. It wasn’t long before we were falling asleep and the lights went out. I look over at the girls. They look so little when they are sleeping . . . at least in my mind’s eye. I can see the young women they are and the little girls they were, all at the same time.

I wish I could turn the clock back and do it all over again, but of course I can’t. It’s the circle of life. My older daughter is almost the same age I was when I got married. Soon she will be married. One day both girls will have families of their own. I wonder if they will take their children to visit Lancaster one day. I hope they put down the smart phones while they are there and take a paper map. I hope they circle all the places they visit and save that map. One day their children will be grown and they will be looking to revisit not just Lancaster, but the past; wondering where all the years went and yearning to have those simple family dinners together that grow fewer and farther in between.

P.S. At one of our meals together, my older daughter got the idea that she and my younger daughter should blog our trip to Lancaster using “my voice,” as though I had written it. Years ago they each wrote a blog in my voice about a particular topic and I posted it. No one seemed to notice I hadn’t written those blogs so I guess they did a good job. However, had my daughters written this blog it would have been very different. They were prepared to write about “peeves.” There are always peeves to write about whenever I leave the house and this trip was no exception. But, I did tell my older daughter that she and I would not be writing the same blog about this trip. I was feeling this trip from a mother’s point of view. There would be no way she could see it the way I did, and hers would be a lot funnier. My daughter’s blog would be full of details that I have already forgotten. She may have changed her mind about writing it, but if she does I will post it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Interview With a Nurse . . .

Yesterday I went to see a specialist (story for another blog, "Probably Nothing") and had a nice long interview with his nurse. She said she had most of my history already since I have been a patient at the hospital for over ten years. Still she had a million questions to ask me about. Here is a sample of the questions and answers:
Nurse: Other than the surgery to remove your tumor eleven years ago and the hysterectomy that followed, have you had any other surgeries?
Me: Yes, I had my tonsils and adenoids out when I was four and a miscarriage in 1986.
Nurse: So you still have your gall bladder, pancreas, . . .
Me: Yes, I have all my other body parts for now.
Nurse: Do you drink alcohol or wine and if so how often?
Me: To be conservative, I would say about once a month.
Nurse: So when you drink wine once a month do you have one, two or three or more glasses?
Me: Usually one glass is all I can handle now, no more fun times for me.
Nurse: Do you use any recreational drugs?
Me: No, but I think I should consider it. Do you have any?
Nurse: Do you have anxiety? rash? problems eating? fever? pain?  . . .
Me: No. Is this what I have to look forward to?
After we are done, she takes me back to the reception area to wait for an examination room. About 50 minutes later I get called in.
Nurse: The doctor will be in shortly. Do you have any questions?
Me: Well I had to be my own doctor for 5 weeks and started looking up things on the internet.
Nurse: That's never good.
Me: I know, but with my doctors on vacation what else could I do? I want to ask about the location of this mass because I know it's not good.
Nurse: The doctor will discuss that. What else did you research?
Me: I researched the doctor.
Nurse: And what did you find out?
Me: Well, I know he has 22 years experience, he has written about 30 books, he went to Italy to learn new surgical techniques and there's a long waitin time in the receptiona area . . . but his patients say he is worth the wait.
Nurse: Did they really say that?
Me: Yes they did, and so far everything I learned is pretty accurate.
The doctor enters. He is very nice. He says he has heard a lot about me from his nurse and my oncologist, who referred me to him. I hope it was all good, because I gave them both plenty to talk about.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Probably Nothing" . . .

Last Thursday, June 11th, I went for my annual CT scan and cancer check-up. It’s been 11 years since I was first diagnosed and operated on. I used to dwell on cancer a lot more in the early years, especially the first five. Then, over time, I thought about it less and less and only when I needed to make my appointments. My CT scans came out fine again this year, and there was immediate relief. No change and no new findings are the best news you can get. But then my doctor follows up with a little physical exam. Usually there is nothing remarkable and our visit is concluded. This time that was not the case.

This time she found that on the left side of my rear jaw the salivary gland (the parotid) was slightly swollen compared to the right side. She didn’t feel any lumps and said, “It’s probably nothing.” For most people, that phrase might be very comforting, but for cancer patients it sounds the alarm. After all, we have heard that line before. When you first go to see the doctor and they haven’t run any tests, they don’t want to frighten you with all the negative possibilities running through their heads, so they say, “It’s probably nothing, but we will want to run some tests.” Several times after that, when little spots showed up on my lungs or liver I would hear, “It’s probably nothing, but we will retest you in three months or six months to see if there are any changes.” Even when those tests come out fine, you’ve still gone through all the “what ifs.” You wonder why there are new spots, what could they be, and then you pray for good results. The good results that allow you to resume your daily life and not have to think about this for another year.

So my doctor, who I love, seems a little perplexed by her findings. I can see the wheels spin in her head as she searches for answers, but none are forthcoming. As she tries to reassure me that this is probably her tendency to be overly cautious and that I shouldn’t worry, she mentions she may want to have the area tested. She isn’t sure what would be the best test, a CT scan or ultrasound. In the end, she says she will consult with a colleague about it, she may just have me return to see her in two months. I have to call her today to see what her final decision is in exploring what is “probably nothing.” Meanwhile, my dormant paranoia has awaken with this turn or events.

And, since Thursday, when I left her office, this minor swelling is all I can think about. It’s barely noticeable. I didn’t see it when I looked in the mirror before. I don’t feel anything, no discomfort. Now I can see it. I study my face to see if it’s changed or gotten bigger. I look it up online, which is the worse thing you can do. Every cause possible is listed, none of them say “probably nothing.” It’s always something.

No matter if you are 5 years, 10 years 15 years or more “cancer free,” you are never really free of cancer. The thought of it possibly returning haunts you. After all, no one can tell you why you got it in the first place. It’s unpredictable. And the truth is once you have had cancer, you are at a higher risk for other forms of cancer.

So, I will call my doctor this afternoon to see what she has decided to do. She has decided on the ultrasound.

UPDATE: June 19th, went for the ultrasound hoping to be done with this year's round of tests. The technician spent 15 to 20 minutes scaning my neck and I was getting a bad feeling. Of course she is not allowed to tell me anything, a doctor has to interpret the results. But then she says, I'll be back, I'm going to get the doctor. Well that can't be good. The doctor arrives within 5 minutes, that seems like an eternity. She repeats the test. She asks when I noticed the slight swelling on the left side of my face. I tell her I didn't, I only noticed it last week after my doctor saw it and wanted to check it out. And where is the swelling she asks (so did the techician). The swelling is very slight and hard to see, so I place my hand in the area. She proceeds to scan the area over and over. Finally, she looks at me and says she sees something, but she can't say what it is. The results are inconclusive, but she will study the images again and write her report. The best she can tell me is that I will probably have to go and get a CT scan of the area. That will undoubtedly be her recommendation to my doctor. I can feel the anxiety building up in me already. That's not what I wanted to hear. I get a little emotional. Neither the doctor nor technician want to deal with that, they are busy and maybe behind schedule. Now I have to wait for my doctor to call and tell me more or less the same bit of news. I don't think she will tell me it's probably nothing this time. This time there is something, we just don't know what it is yet.

In the meantime, while I wait for my doctor to call, I am breaking the doctor patient cardinal rule of not doing research on the internet. What else can I do while I am sitting here?  So I look up everything on salivary glands, untrasound tests, swelling of the parotid gland. What I learned is the salivary glands do get tumors, most of them turn out to benign. Reassuring, but I have a history of cancer. Ultrasound tests are supposed to pick up on tumors. There was definitiely something there, but my test was inconclusive. Does that mean it's not a tumor? I also learned that salivary glands can develop stones, like the kidneys. Ultrasound tests do not idenify calcifications. Could that be what the doctor saw but couldn't diagnosis from the test? Who knows? I'm just twiddling my thumbs waiting for the call to set the appointment for the CT Scan.

UPDATE #2 - Monday, June 22nd. Spoke to my doctor about the ultrasound being inconclusive. There is something there that's 3/4 of an inch big. She says it still could be nothing, but she is sending me for an MRI on Wednesday, June 24th. I guess we are pulling out the big guns since we skipped over the CT scan. The MRI imaging gives 3D pictures so hopefully we will know how to proceed next. If it's something requiring a closer look, she will send me to a specialist, probably a ENT onologist.  Here we go again. Thank God my doctor is thorough and cautious. No one else has been able to see this slight swelling without me pointing it out. If anything she caught it early.

UPDATE #3 I went for my MRI on Wednesday, June 24th and promptly called the doctor's office on Thursday afternoon for the results. I didn't get a call back so I waited till Friday afternoon and placed another call. My call was not returned. Now, I know I have to face the weekend with anxiety and have to hold it together until I can speak to the doctor on Monday. I have refrained from doing internet searches and tried to distract myself with hobbies and keeping busy. Sometimes it's hard to breathe. I hate waiting. I have no choice. It's finally Monday and I'm hoping to get a call in the morning. Nothing. By three in the afternoon I am getting antsy and call again. The secretary tells me the doctor is out of the country until next Monday and she will try to have the covering doctor call me with the results. I'm stunned and in disbelief. I don't know what to think. I don't know what to do except to wait for a stranger, a doctor I don't even know, to call me and explain my test results. I have convinced myself it's something serious and want to move forward, but I have to wait. I'm exhausted. I'm worried. I'm scared.

UPDATE #4 Thursday, July 1st- Just got off the phone with the Doctor's assistant who emailed the doctor concerning my MRI test results. The doctor said there is a tumor that is probably benign, close to or on the carotid artery and/or facial nerve. She is communicating with a specialist who is reviewing the tests. We'll see what they decide soon enough. I wish the results were posted so now I can read exactly what the location is. This news was supposed to put my mind at ease.
UPDATE #5 Friday, July 3rd my MRI results were posted online and I printed them. I didn't read them because I was afraid of what I might see. Instead my husand, who understands very little aboutmedical terms, skimmed the document and looked up something he saw in the conclusion section. He tells me they think the mass is benign. I give in a read the report. It does sound hopeful. I want to talk to my doctor about how to proceed next, but have to wait till Monday when she returns from vacation. On Tuesday, July 7th, I call my doctor's office to ask how we will proceed based on the test results. The mass is located between the internal and external carotid arteries and I know enough to know the location is not good. The secretary tells me she hasn't gotten back to me because the specialist is on vacation this week. My reaction internally was distressed, but I kept my wits about me and asked if we can at least make an appointment with the specialist for when he returns. She says yes and later gives an appointment for July 16th. 

On July 16th I am finally called in for the appointment I have been waiting for for 5 weeks. The doctor comes in and tells me I have something that is very rare. Eleven years ago I was told the exact same thing, another very rare condtion. How lucky can one person be? Two very rare conditions in one life time. He explains that the problem with the location is not so much that it's between the carotid arteries but that there are two nerves in that location, one that controls the tongue and the other the voice. Any surgery would be risky and the risks would not outweigh the benefits at this time. This mass is very slow growing and has probably been there 10 to 20 years already. His plan is to do a needle biopsy next week to make 100% sure it's benign and after that he will watch it by annual MRIs to see how it's progressing.  All in all this is probably good news considering the alternative. If it was cancer, it would have to be surgically removed and chances are there would be serious consequences to the nerves in the area. Plus, I would mostly like need radiation and I know that in that part of the body that would also be very bad. So I thank God for sparing me from the worst and I pray this mass grows extremely slowly and doesn't have to be dealt with for a very long time.

UPDATE #6 A few days after my appointment I get a call from the doctor's nurse. They can't schedule the appointment this week because the radiologist that my doctor wants to perform the biopsy is on vacation for two weeks. My appointment will be on Ausgust 5th. That makes a total of four weeks of doctor vacations that I have had to wait through to put this behind me for about 6 months until my next MRI. I guess it's good no one feels a sense of urgency about this except me.
August 5th I go in for the biopsy to confirm what the MRI indicated. The doctor is very nice and explains the procedure thoroughly. First I get one shot in the neck for local anesthisia to the outside area. Then she uses a fine needle to do the biopsy and removes some tissue. She checks with another doctor to see if she has enough of a sample or has to use a larger needle. When she comes back she says she can do two more fine needle passes to get addition tissue samples. So after four needles in the neck I am done and have to wait 5 days for the results. In the meantime I make some vacation plans of my own. I write my original oncologist a note updating her on my latest tests and she answers immediately and says she will call me as soon as the results are in. She calls on the 5th day to confirm the mass is benign and I will be followed for this condition by the neck specialist. However, the neck specialist never did call me with the results as he said he would. So for now I can put this all to rest and wait for testing in January to assess the situation or probably to see how much change, if any, occurred within a six month period.

August 14th we leave for a nice family vacation, no tests, no doctors, no needles! Bye!