Evil-Minded Vehicles

Many, many years ago, I bought my first Mom-mobile:  it was a 1997 Volvo 850 sedan with a leather interior and a manual transmission. I took delivery of that car when Wizard was one month old and loved every mile I drove it. When the Volvo went out of warranty, repairs were minimal until the a/c in the Pennsylvania-purchased car decided it couldn’t handle the Florida heat. Still and all and a couple thousand dollars poorer, we kept the Volvo for 14 years; sometimes, I still wish I had that car today.

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Going Back To The Hill

I’m taking a few days’ break from The Zone and heading to Ithaca, New York for a few days. I’m off to Cornell University to celebrate my 30th college reunion with a few hundred Big Red crazies, and I’m excited! I don’t think my 51+ legs can carry me up Libe Slope the way they did three decades ago, but I’ll maneuver my rental car all over campus. When I return, I’ll fill you in on all the latest medical, educational, and metaphysical drama in The Testosterone Zone.

In the meantime, in honor of Comcast’s yanking all TV, Internet, and phone service to my immediate area, read this rant about another favorite public utility.

Finally, because everyone needs to hear a great rendition of the best university alma mater song anywhere …

Winners and The Loser

My longtime friend IRL, Aim, has started blogging about *her* life with three little boys. She calls herself “The Outnumbered Mother,” and you should leave The Zone right now and go read her blog. She is hysterically funny. Moreover, even with a baby and two small children, she is blogging more regularly than I, and she shames me into getting off my duff to write more often. Thanks for kicking my ass, Aim.

We have had more naches in The Zone this week than we’ve had in a long time! First of all, Moose’s beginning middle school band had its final concert of the year. The 6th graders played a 30-minute concert consisting of 6 songs. The band performed four of them really well, especially “Guantanamera” (a song close to my Cuban-rooted heart) and the theme from “Star Wars”. I was really impressed with how well the children kept time, watched the conductor’s stick, and played the music together as opposed to a group of individuals. Afterwards, WineGuy and I treated Moose and Wild Thing to a sushi dinner to celebrate. Wizard wasn’t there because Wizard wasn’t there.

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I Am She

WineGuy had his first of two cataract surgeries yesterday. This morning, he had a follow-up appointment with the ophthalmologist, and it went amazingly well. Hardly 24 hours post-surgery, WG is seeing a magnificent 20/20 out of his left eye. It’s the best vision he’s had since he was a kid!

Upon hearing the doctor’s praises, I remarked snarkily, “WineGuy’s lost all this weight, and he will have perfect eyesight. He’s going to dump me for that perfect, trophy wife.” The doctor’s snappy comeback:  “You ARE the trophy wife, Alto2.”

Damn right, I am.

Disease Diary (Part 6)

What we originally anticipated to be a 5K has now turned into a 100-mile ultramarathon. When last we spoke, we were waiting for the results of the latest PET scans. They were actually good: the tumors were significantly decreased and their cancerous activity decreased as well — almost a remission but not quite.

Continuing on our winding path, WineGuy’s surgeon removed the surgical drain he’d implanted in WG’s leg months before to aid in the drainage of dead tumor and other yuck from the last surgical incision. The drain had been in for months and left a pretty large wound in the top of WG’s leg. As I changed the dressing daily, I noticed the drainage changed color from clear to black and foul-smelling. We rushed right into the surgeon, who sent us on to the infectious disease doctor and for a wound-care consult. The ID doctor cultured the wound and found all kinds of nasty bacteria, so she sent WG for IV antibiotics. Since the beginning of April 2014, WG has been going to the local outpatient infusion center for daily IV antibiotics. The drugs seem to be working because the latest cultures were clean.

WG’s initial wound-care consultation was a harrowing experience. I sat in the room with him while the team probed the open wound in his leg. WG howled in pain and gritted his teeth through all the poking and prodding. After 10 days of daily wound-care, including visits from a dorky home health nurse, the new wound-care doctor changed the schedule to 3 times a week. Wound-care reports that there is active healing going on, and things look good.

The point of my tangent on wound care is that the oncologists will not resume chemotherapy while WG has an open wound. So, we’re in a holding pattern again … sort of. About 2 weeks ago, WG noticed significantly decreased vision in both eyes. I got very worried and rushed him in to see the ophthalmologist. WG has cataracts in both eyes. It is likely that the chemotherapy and/or the radiation accelerated the growth of cataracts. What to do?

That brings me to this morning. I am presently sitting in an ambulatory surgery center while WG has his left cataract removed. You can’t have cataract surgery while undergoing chemotherapy. So, while he’s on a forced hiatus from the chemo cocktail, WG will have two cataract surgeries over the next two weeks, in addition to daily IV antibiotics and 3x/week wound care. And, I am still the only driver in the house. Boy, am I tired.

In the meantime, the oncologist wanted us to get approval to start another experimental chemotherapy drug, Imbruvica (ibrutinib), made by Johnson & Johnson. In typical fashion, Florida Blue health insurance denied coverage, stating that WG does not fall within specified parameters. So, we applied to J&J’s Foundation to supply the drug via compassionate use, and the Foundation approved the application! We just received the first bottle of these oral chemo pills from J&J’s affiliated online pharmacy.

As soon as WG’s leg is healed, he can start back on chemotherapy, both orally and intravenously. The oncologists at Mass General have requested WG go through another two rounds of the latest IV chemo cocktail before they will accept him for a bone marrow transplant.

Time-wise, that will keep us in The Zone through May 2014. We’ll be home for me to take Moose to Atlanta this weekend to audition for Jeopardy!; to celebrate Wild Thing’s 15th birthday and the acquisition of his learner’s permit; to hopefully attend Wizard’s graduation from high school.

I’ve learned to plan what I can and roll with the rest of it.

One Point of Light

WineGuy and I met with our rabbi this morning, and we set the date for Moose’s Bar Mitzvah:  March 14, 2015. In the midst of cancer treatment, this is one point of light on which we can focus. Moose is excited to start learning, and we know he will master the task.

Stupid But True

Today, we take a break from our medical telenovela to report on the latest with Wizard. What should be a lesson plan from Charms or Spells is more like one from Defense Against the Dark Arts . . . the Dark Arts being everything that Wizard says, does, or does not do.

A little background:  Wizard is 17 years, 9 months. He will turn 18 in June 2014. Wizard is a senior at Zone High School, one of the top two high schools in our county. Wizard scored a 31 on the ACT without really trying and has cumulative SATs of about 1960 (out of 2400). Wizard’s unweighted GPA is about a 2.11; his weighted GPA is about a 2.8. His test scores are superior to his grades because he rarely does his homework; when he does homework, it’s usually a crappy job and turned in late. At the end of the first semester of his senior year, Wizard had failed his math class outright and was denied credit for the entire semester because of excessive absences.

The State of Florida requires 4 math credits to graduate, so we needed to do something to salvage Wizard’s math credit. Wizard was confident he could bring up his math grade, but his teacher made it perfectly clear that she wanted him out of her class. She taught him last year and had endless trouble with him doing his work. WineGuy and I met with the HS Dean of Students and worked out a plan:  DOS withdrew Wizard from the math class and enrolled him in the second semester of Math for College Readiness, contingent upon Wizard’s enrolling in the first semester of Math for College Readiness online through Florida Virtual School. DOS moved around Wizard’s schedule so that Wizard goes to the computer lab for one class daily to work exclusively on math. Wizard should be able to put in 40 minutes a day on math, but somehow days go by without him turning in anything. He’s managing to screw up Dummy Math. Unbelievable.

Here’s the epitome of stupid: when Wizard applied to colleges last fall, he never followed up on any applications to see whether his files were complete, nor did he forward his scores to any colleges. Fast forward to March 2014, on the day Florida State University notified applicants of it admissions decisions. Wizard arrived home from high school and checked his admissions status with FSU: unchanged. This made no sense to me so I called FSU directly to find out what time they would release admissions decisions. FSU said that everything was already posted online and asked for my son’s information to check his file. Status — CANCELLED. WTF? I asked why. Apparently, Wizard failed to forward his scores to FSU despite their repeated requests for same. At that point, it was too late to resurrect Wizard’s application.

I hit the roof sideways and called WineGuy with the news. Then I told Wizard to call every other college to which he applied and to check the status of his admissions files. Lo and behold, his files were incomplete at a number of schools, but strangely enough most of them allowed Wizard to submit data at that late date.

Long story short: Wizard got rejected from his top 3 schools and is still waiting to hear from 2 schools out-of-state and 4 public universities, 2 of which just received his applications. The disappointing thing is that, at a time when other high school seniors are choosing amongst schools, Wizard hasn’t been accepted anywhere. He’s still not doing his schoolwork and may not graduate.

If he isn’t enrolled in some college somewhere by his 18th birthday in June 2014, we will throw him out. Despite our threatening this for years, Wizard doesn’t believe us, nor do his grandparents or many of our friends. Watch me! I made this declaration 5 years ago, and I will stick to my guns. With all the hell we have suffered at Wizard’s hands during the last few years, we are actually counting down the days until he’s out. Maybe Wizard will learn his lesson when he’s homeless.