The Personal Side of Surgery

It’s been a month since I posted about the technical side of the surgeries I had, and if I wait much longer, I’ll forget all of the ridiculous details that’ll make this story entertaining!  So this is me, forcing myself to blog, for the betterment of you readers.  You’re welcome.

As a short backstory, I’ll say that our family has some screwed up genetics. My mom has 2 siblings, both sisters, and all three of them have had breast cancer.  I have 3 older sisters, and the oldest two have already had breast cancer.  At 39.  I’m about to turn 37 in a little over a month.  I had genetic testing when i was around 30, but they found no genetic markers.  My mom had genetic testing this year for 16 different markers…nothing was found.  I was told that my risk is probably in the 80% range, and that I could cut that risk in half by removing my ovaries.  I could cut that risk to less than 5% (less than the average person, who has about a 12% chance) if I had a double mastectomy.  Side note, I also had cervical pre-cancer when I was 17, which kept me at “high risk” and always having annual paps regardless of the new 3-year rule.  Soooo… I decided to go big.  I had them take everything from my ovaries to my cervix.  Then I had a double mastectomy.  At this point, my odds are around 2%, and the only thing I can do to help my odds is eat well and exercise regularly.  I like those odds!

So, about the surgeries.   Short version?   They sucked.

The hysterectomy wasn’t bad, really.  I had surgery on a Monday in April.  It was a laparoscopically assisted vaginal removal, and even though it turned out my guts were weird, I had virtually zero pain.  I was back in the office, working, by Sunday.  Downside – menopause is no joke. Since our family’s cancer is estrogen responsive, taking estrogen elevates my risk of cancer… so no estrogen.  The alternative medication is generally anti-depressants, but those make me angry, apathetic, or a robot, depending on the medication.  So I’m going drug-free, full hot flashes, and zero sex drive.  Fun times.  On the upside, the hot flashes are already almost totally gone in only six months, so maybe I’ll find some other changes eventually.

So next, we have the BIG surgery.  So big, it had to be broken up into two surgeries.  This is the one I wrote about last time – the Skin-Sparing Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy with Transverse Upper Gracilis free flap reconstruction.  The first surgery, on October 3, was my right side. Both breasts were removed, and my right thigh was opened up.  Tissue was removed, and my right breast was reconstructed from it. The pain immediately after was terrible, and there are very few pain meds I can take without bad side effects, so after some flailing and whimpering and crying and shuddering, they force-fed me some Percocet, and let me break the rules with some crackers and water to avoid puking.  Percocet tends to make me feel like I have the flu, but it was worth it.

After that it was Morphine every 10 minutes for about a day, plus 800mg ibuprofen every six hours. What they forgot to tell me was that the machine keeps track of every time I pushed the Morphine button.  Since I was far too loopy to watch the clock, I would just press it until it beeped, meaning I got a dose.  So by the first night, I’d had 20 doses, and EIGHTY ATTEMPTS!  oops.

I was in the hospital from Monday to Thursday, and in that time, I had hours upon hours of really disturbing dreams.  The most disturbing aspect was how completely real they felt.  I could feel pain in them, and normal events would suddenly turn disturbing, and even after I woke up, I wasn’t sure what had or hadn’t happened. After a while I stopped trying to sleep, and stayed up coloring (in my Game of Thrones coloring book!) for hours on end.

Since I couldn’t use my chest muscles and my right leg was very limited, I had to find creative ways to get in and out of bed.  By the time I went home on Thursday, it was a chore to get out of bed, but I could get in easily, and I could get myself around.  I started healing quickly, and in the two weeks between surgeries, I was even able to spend some time working in the office.

When the second surgery rolled around, I wasn’t looking forward to doing it all over again.  Once again, the pain was bad when I woke up, but this time I didn’t have nearly as impressive nurses.  I had fevers, and I realized that my right leg was not nearly so healed as I might have hoped.  I couldn’t get out of bed on my own, and people had to grab the mat I was sitting on, spin and pull it, and get my butt towards the edge of the bed.  I could then teeter forward and penguin walk to the bathroom.  Getting back in bed was a chore, and with a couple of truly heinous nurses, it was a fairly miserable experience.  I stayed as doped up as possible, but there was no happy place this time.  I didn’t encourage anyone to visit, and thankfully they didn’t insist, because I couldn’t handle it.

I ended up staying an extra day, and was nowhere near my previous discharge state.  The initial recovery was brutal.  A large hole was left at the top of each thigh, and my chest ached constantly, and there would be stabbing pain with any step or movement.  Progress was slow, and there was frequent back-tracking.  It’s now been a month since the second surgery, and I’m hitting several milestones at once!  My right breast, which had problems with infection and swelling, finally seems to be healing.  My right leg wound is almost healed over, and my left is (predictably) a couple of weeks behind.  My energy is coming back, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again!

As a final little aside, the healing of my right breast is a crazy story.  It was pink and inflamed for weeks.  My doctor tried three antibiotics, and the third, Cipro, seemed to be the magic one. Unfortunately, it made me really nauseated all of the time, making it hard to function.  After the prescribed week, even though I was still pink, my doctor decided not to prescribe more Cipro on a Wednesday before my Friday appointment.  In those two days, a small raw spot appeared on the outer edge of my right breast, and then that raw spot turned into a draining hole. When I went to the Friday appointment (which was yesterday), she used a scary tool to make the hole bigger, drained it, and put some gauze in it to create a “wick”… and then told me I had to continue the process over the weekend.  That means I have to Put. Gauze. In. A Hole. In. My. Breast.  And also, that I have to drain it.  How freaky is that?!  The hole previously looked like a tiny raw spot, not even a hole (except that it was draining), but now it looks like I was shot by a .22.  Glad those nerves haven’t grown back yet!

I have left a million short stories out, but I’ll try to go back and add them later.  maybe as footers or something.  And pictures.  There’ll be a whole gallery of pictures.  They’re disgusting.  You’ve been warned!

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SSPBM w/ TUG

Weird title, right?

I just shortened a huge mouthful of words into a tiny list of characters.  They seem so innocuous, almost cute.  So, what do they stand for?  That’d be: Skin Sparing Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy with Transverse Upper Gracilis (free flap).

That sounds… worse.  And still probably makes very little sense, especially if your family isn’t utterly bathed in aggressive breast cancer.

One more time.

It is when a person has all removable breast tissue removed from both breasts (bilateral mastectomy), but some of the skin is saved (skin sparing) for appearance reasons. The nipples, however, aren’t saved (that’d be indicated, if so) and to replace the appearance and feel of breasts, the transverse upper gracilis muscle (and surrounding blood flow and tissue) is removed from the upper inner thigh to be reattached into the empty skin sacs left behind, after the breast tissue removal.  And all of this was done without a cancer diagnosis (prophylactic) as a way to prevent a future breast cancer diagnosis, generally in someone with exceptionally high odds – me.

Different doctors tell me different odds, and these odds change based on various things.  I’m going to get into all of that.  But first, let me tell you why I’m saying all of this.  It’s because I can’t FIND all of this on the internet! I’ve searched for personal accounts, patient perspectives, and all I can find are medical studies and doctor perspectives. Lots of jargon, debate on the likelihood of the transplant taking, or the odds of this working better than a DIEP FLAP (another cute bunch of letters), but nothing about what the patient has to endure, or plan for, or lose.

So while I have zero medical experience other than my side of hospital rooms and doctors’ offices, I’ve been in plenty of both, and I’m now halfway through the SSPDM w/TUG free flap surgery process. And it is a process.  There will be many graphic pictures, and I will update as I continue through the process, in the hopes that people can find some insight into all of this, and maybe help choose their own path, if need be.  So fee free to share, comment, and post your own experiences!  And let’s go!

HEADERS

I will probably tell this out of order, so I’ll try to include headers from this point out to maybe keep it somewhat organized.

CANCER RISK

Cancer risk doesn’t work the way people generally think it does when they first hear about it, especially breast cancer. Everyone has certain lifetime risk that is based on a generic number for the entire population, and then increased based on genetic, familial, and habitual factors.  Also, different doctors measure it differently.  So one doctor may say I have a 50% chance of breast cancer, while another may say I have an 85% chance.  Others may include other tidbits like 45% chance before 50 years old, but 90% chance that I’ll get it sometime in my lifetime.  You’ll have to decide which of those numbers matter the most to you, if any of them. After a while, I came to think of my risk as, “I’m way more likely to get breast cancer than practically anything else in life” and quit trying to recalculate.  But for this conversation, this is how my risk could be calculated:

~Base population risk: 12.4%, roughly (these are per the National Cancer Institute).
~Additional risk that I’ll be diagnosed in the next 10 years based on my age: 0.44%.
~Additional risk due to being overweight “higher” (isn’t that helpful?)
~Additional risk due to being white “diagnosed more often” (again, super helpful.)
~Technically, since I do drink alcohol sometimes, that makes my risk higher, though any helpful breakdown of how much alcohol to how much risk isn’t indicated.
~Additional risk due to my mother and sisters being diagnosed, especially since two of those were before age 50.
~Additional risk due to dense breast tissue. I’ve produced a LOT of milk in my day, and all of those milk ducts, along with other connective tissue, make it hard to see things clearly in a mammogram.  Funny, since the cancer tends to be in those same milk ducts – that’s where they get the name Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS).

Things that don’t raise my risk – genetics, so far.  Even though I have my mom, both of her sisters, and two of my sisters (so far) with positive diagnoses – that’s ALL of the females in my family, from my mom’s generation down, over the age of 39 – they can’t find a genetic marker.  I do not have the mutation for the BRCA1 or 2 genes.  Additionally, my mom was just tested in the summer of 2016, and she does not have markers for any of the 16 currently known and testable genes.  She was the first one of everyone to find the cancer (she’s the oldest of her sisters) and she has no markers.  According to both her geneticist and mine, there’s no reason to test the rest of us with the same methods, because whatever she had, we have, and whatever it is, they couldn’t find it in her genes, so they won’t likely find it in ours.

There are several other risk factors that don’t apply to me, such as medications I’ve never taken, a sedentary lifestyle that I don’t lead, but no real point to list them all.  If you’re interested in seeing how many apply to you, just click that National Cancer Institute link above.

So, back to me.  All of these risk, all of these relatives with cancer, no gene mutations.  Given the points above, my Oncologist said I had upwards of an 80% chance of being diagnosed with the same cancer as my family.  He didn’t specify an age, but since both of my sisters got it around the 39 year mark, I’d say that’s a likely time frame for me. But something to keep in mind while you calculate all of this – my mom would have only had the 12.4% risk plus her own additional bits listed above, because, before her, it hadn’t been found in our family.  I believe hers was diagnosed around 52. Her sisters’ risk went up when she was diagnosed, as did her daughters’ risk, but there’s nothing different, genetically, to change that risk – just the order in which each person reached roughly the same age brackets.  That means until the first few people in a family start getting cancer, they are all told the 12.4%, even if it will turn out later to be 85%.

Scary.

MY DECISION PATH

When both of my older sisters were diagnosed with cancer, I started trying to decide what I would do .  This was about 5 years ago, and I bounced between thinking I’d have them take everything and get implants, like one sister did, to thinking I’d get a lumpectomy if necessary, like my mom did, to thinking I’d just wait and see and plan later. I’m terribly bad at planning later.  It always becomes now.

After a few of years wondering and planning and deciding what I would do when this near-certainty hit me, I became very frustrated with insurance.  Why on EARTH would they want to cover chemo, radiation, prosthetics, and the surgery, when they could just cover the surgery?  Just because I didn’t have the BRCA mutations, they surely had to see the risk, right?  So I called them, intent on arguing.  This was in 2014.  They said, “yes, yes we agree that your risk is enormous!  In your case, the surgery would be covered.”  I was shocked.  This was BCBS, and they’d always been good about covering things, but I’d heard left and right that it was just never covered without the genetic markers.

I started researching surgeries, and even called BCBS back twice to confirm with other representatives.  They all agreed that the surgery would be covered, I only needed to have a surgeon recommend it in writing. So I started talking to plastic surgeons and my PCP, unsure who should be recommending to insurance.  I wasn’t sure about what kind of surgery I wanted, and I didn’t know enough of the lingo to even search very well. I did think that I would rather have my own tissue than implants, as I knew I had plenty and it would look, feel, and age naturally, with the rest of my body. Yet, when I looked at before/after pictures, I was generally drawn to the implants.  To help some folks out with the search problem, here’s a shortcut to the free flap surgery options:

Free Flap Breast Reconstruction
As a warning, that list includes all kinds of surgeries, not just the most recommended, most successful, or least painful.  I’m sure it took a huge amount of trial and error to do these types of surgeries!

Also, here are some quick visuals of the common types of flap surgeries:

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(I found that graphic on Dr. Sheina Macadam’s blog.  I have no idea about her quality as a doctor, but she has some efficient images!)

MY SPECIFIC TYPE OF SURGERY – TUG FLAP

While searching, I determined that I’d prefer for the tissue to come from my legs.  I had plenty of tissue there, and I’d had a major abdominoplasty a few years prior that kept me from doing any of the stomach flap surgeries.  The stomach flaps seem to be the most common for the flap surgeries, and one of my sisters had a wildly successful experience with it, even with advanced, aggressive breast cancer and several complications. But I was not a candidate.  Though it is possible to use the outer thigh as a source, I read and was told by my plastic surgeon that there is not adequate blood flow in this tissue, on top of the scars being incredibly visible.  There are also surgeries that use your butt, but the healing time, failure rate, and general texture and density of my gluteal tissue dissuaded me. It’s too firm!  I want these things to be easy to shape into boobs, not fighting to get back to their butt shape!  So I went with inner thigh.  I had plenty of tissue, the scars typically fall in the crease of your leg, and the available cut lent itself easily to the shape of a breast.  Plus!  That squishy, soft flesh was very similar to my own original breast tissue, with out all of the potentially murderous parts.

breastreconstr-profile-1c

(Found at Sutter Health CPMC)

So, how the TUG works – a flap of skin is taken from the inner thigh.  People tend to call it an oval, but it’s more like half of an oval, or an eye, with points at each end. (The picture above is definitely the least disgusting depiction I’ve seen.) That tissue is curled on itself to create a cone, and that cone is generally shoved in some remaining skin after a mastectomy is performed.  The pointy part of the cone can be slightly modified and tattooed later as very conveniently placed nipples.  When they take the tissue, they also take a muscle called the Transverse Upper Gracilis.

adductor_anatomy

(Found on this Adductor Stretches page.)

Just to make this easier to understand, here are the adductor muscles.  The adductor muscles are what you use to pull your legs together.  Weird that it takes so many, right?  I tend to think of the top of my thigh as one giant muscle, and I didn’t realize at all that there were so many muscles just to close your legs!  So, in the image above, you can see that the Gracilis is the smallest of the bunch.  (Apparently, it’s Latin for slender or meager, thanks Wikipedia!)  While it’s the smallest muscle, it has some pretty major blood vessels running through it, branching off from the femoral artery.   So, in this procedure, the muscle, its blood flow, and the surrounding skin and fatty tissue is taken from the top of the thigh to become a breast.  Looking back at the first picture, the opening left in the skin is lifted, providing a lifting effect on the thigh, and the scar is neatly tucked into the crease of the leg.

The blood vessels have to be attached using microsurgery.  This is very tedious, and the transplant can be lost if the vessels don’t “take”.  If that happens, the dying tissue has to be removed, and either something else can be done, or the breast can just become flat skin. I was told by my plastic surgeon that it would be one thigh for one breast, and that I shouldn’t expect more than a B cup.  Internet research backs that up. Starting with a G cup, that’s pretty shocking to contemplate! Something to keep in mind with all of this anatomy stuff – in the end, both breasts are removed and a large portion of each thigh is removed.  This is a major process.  Your abs still work, and you can still put vertical weight on your legs, but scooting across the bed, or pushing up with your arms can’t be done without some serious pain at first.  Thankfully, my plastic surgeon insisted on breaking the surgery into two surgeries.  Her preference was based on her ability to sit for long periods in the awkward position needed to remove the thigh tissue, but had she done everything at once, neither of my legs would have been very useful immediately after surgery.

CHOOSING DOCTORS

Just go to all of them.  Seriously.  Get online and look at every before/after picture you can find, read every review, ask everyone in every forum you can find, when you find your plastic surgeon.  There are major names that pop up constantly, but no one I found online had heard of my plastic surgeon, yet once i started digging deeper, and talking to medical staff, I was told repeatedly that she is the best in the state.  Which is good, because she is the only plastic surgeon in the state who performs this specific type of flap surgery. For my oncologist, I got lucky on the first try.  I went to the first oncologist with the earliest appointment time.  Meanwhile I googled him and found out that he is also the top in his field.  The oncologist removes the tissue, watching for any signs of cancer, and sends the tissue off to be tested regardless of diagnosis.  The plastic surgeon rebuilds the breasts. A good gynecologist is also incredibly helpful, but more on that later.

After you’ve found some potential doctors, as them a million questions, ask to see their before/after books in the office, and try to gauge their willingness to do what you want.  You need someone fully on your side, not someone who will argue with you every step of the way.  Many women have encountered doctors who deny that certain illnesses exist, or tell them that they should want a different procedure.  Much of this isn’t medically founded, but just based on that surgeon’s preferences.  Don’t buy in to it, and look elsewhere until you’re happy with your doctors!

OTHER SURGERIES TO CONSIDER

As if a bilateral mastectomy isn’t enough, it’s not the only suggested surgery, depending on your family history.  In my case, my family’s cancer is very responsive to estrogen.  This means that estrogen feeds it.  Estrogen.  I’m 36. Do you know how much estrogen is being pumped out of a 36-year-old’s ovaries?!  A lot.  This is prime last-ditch-clock’s-ticking-make-a-baby signaling coming from the reproductive organs! So, even with as much as the breast tissue removed as humanly possible, any that’s left is still susceptible to cancer, and can be fed heartily by that estrogen. While the mastectomy drops my risk from ~85% to <5%,  a total hysterectomy takes it from ~85% to ~40%.  Cuts it in half right off the bat.  Another important note is that if you’re going to have a hysterectomy, it’s recommended that you have it before the mastectomy. It reduces the risk of future infections and complications, I’m told.  By both my oncologist and gynecologist.  Before surgery, 85%, after hysterectomy, 40%, after mastectomy, <5%.

This blog has become ridiculously long, and I haven’t even started showing you all my gory pictures yet!  Ridiculous!  I’ll make a separate post for my specific surgeries and experiences, But before I end this, I want to bring up one other factoid – Milk lines.

milk_lines

(Found on Wikipedia)

My oncologist pointed out to me that all mammals have milk lines – lines that, in other mammals develop in to more nipples and breast tissue for feeding multiple young.  How did I not know this was a thing? Why have I never seen it in breast cancer research?   Anyway, none of these surgeries do anything about milk lines, because milk lines are tiny, if present, bits of breast tissue mixed in with everything else.  So, it’s totally possible to get breast cancer on your abdomen, in theory, though it’s not something that generally happens. My oncologist told me an anecdotal story about it happening to a woman after birth control was incorrectly implanted along her milk line, and how she won in court, but I haven’t really researched it.  Bluh.  Milk lines.

Stay tuned for part 2…

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So late….

I’m terrible at writing here regularly! I didn’t write for my whole vacation and now it’s over and I’m sure I forgot tons of it. Jen and Stace, little help here?

So, after Christmas in Madill we drove home. There was supposed to be a rest day on Sunday, but because of the weather, we left late morning Sunday instead of early Monday. (Nasty icy stuff was moving into okc and I wanted to get out of here before it got too bad.) We got to spend an extra day down there as the result and that was awesome. Alex drove a good bit down, including going through Memphis! That was his first big city driving, first massive bridge, and first time switching between multiple highways in traffic, and he did great! Joey drove a bit in Alabama before curfew (they can’t drive after 10pm with a permit) and we got there at 11:15. We ended up knocking on the window to the little bedroom bc I knew Jen would be in there and she and Stace knew we were coming early. Everyone else thought we were still on the normal schedule. Jen let us in, and at first we were going to wait and surprise mom in the morning, but because there were some (hilarious) near-miss debacle, and I was worried about giving her a heart attack or something, we revealed ourselves. The next day, we surprised Marie at work then saw Cindy and Scott. Also, there was torrential flooding mess on the highways in bham, so getting to Brixx was an adventure in hydroplaning in traffic like none other.
So then we went to Cindy’s and watched lots of home movies. Scott was there, mom and gna came up, Marie and Christien came over and it was a pretty great time. We took ridiculous photos, and done turned out pretty cool thanks to a mirror reflecting back everyone else in the room.
After some follow-up hanging out at gmas, we weren’t to bed and got up early the next morning to drive to Savannah. The drive was fine, both boys drive a bit, and then we got to spend the rest of the week on a boat! But now I’m tired of typing with my finger, so I’m going to post this and go to bed without further proofing! More later!

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Just an update

Dear diary…I feel like I should keep a diary. Most days are filled with craziness, and if I don’t take the time to think about it daily, I’ll just forget it all. We’re driving down to Madill right now to visit Tim’s family for Christmas, then Monday the boys and I are going to Alabama to see Stacey for the first time in AGES! Plus well be hanging out on Jen’s boat, in Savannah, and just killing time together, which is my favorite. I finished a collapsible hoop for Stace, standard hoop for Brit, and I’ll probably take some hoop  stuff with me. Woo!  So excited!  Tim has to stay home, but he probably wouldn’t have a great time anyway, what with me spending all my time hooping and talking in ithig, so he’ll get a week to do whatever he wants by himself.

Alex is driving us right now, with Tim as the parent, and me in the backseat with Joey. I love getting to ride in the back seat! No demands, no responsibilities, just blogging and talking to Joey. And co-pestering each other. Good stuff. 🙂 

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Jennifer’s Hoop.

It’s finally done!  Yay!  Jennifer’s hoop is complete.  It will be shipping out tomorrow.  It is a crazy hoop and is the result of no less than 3 previous versions.  It is the first collapsible hoop that I’ve been happy with.  First I made one that broke down into 2 pieces.  I didn’t even get to the taping step, because it would NOT be any shape other than a football.

Terrible.

So I started again, and got to the taping point, but the push button just didn’t want to work well.  The button was too short, the tubing too thick, and the connection just Wouldn’t. Stay. Tight. (Funny thing about collapsible hoops that connect end-to-end rather than having a larger piece connect over the top – they have to be so freaking tight that you can barely move them or they are just loose.  And they rattle.  And they make the hoop tear drop-shaped instead of round.  And it’s infuriating.  So I tried tape, rivets, more connectors, but it just wasn’t happening.

Scrapped.

FINALLY, using 200psi tubing for the hoop and some 1/2″ white (LED hoop) tubing for the connector, along with some rivets and of course some tape, I got the hoop fully connected and SNUG.  S.N.U.G.  S-N-U-G.  And round.  and  SNUG.  Excellent for the shape of the hoop and the water resistance, but Poops-McGee for Jennifer, for the first few times she opens and closes it.  (It’ll get easier.  Hopefully not too much easier, because then we’re back to teardrops and irritation.) It has a teeny tiny push button covered by some clear tape.  The push button was never intended for something like a hula hoop, but there it is.  (It was actually meant for some kind of windows… Plantation windows, i think?  But that’s how we roll here – Using Things For Something Other Than Their Intended Purpose – also see – the giant scar on my finger from me cutting a plastic outlet cover with PVC cutters…)

I did loads of research trying to figure out what would survive lots of sea water before it occurred to me that she likely will not be submerging it in the ocean for long periods of time, then not drying it out.  So then i stopped stressing about that.  It has a metal rivet or two, but they’re covered with 3-4 layers of tape that should not be affected by water.  The connection is so tight that very little – if any – water should get inside, even if it’s chilling in the ocean for a while.

For the pretty parts – It’s covered in peacock-patterned tape, plus some iridescent ribbon that’s on top of some CRAZY bright glow-in-the-dark tape.  It has a teal-ish color as well, because something has to be the grounding color for all that craziness.  Oh, and on the peacock tape, there’s a little rhinestone in the “eye” of each peacock feather around the outside edge.

In daylight:
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In low light
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In the dark!
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You’re welcome.

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What a day.

The past 24 hours have been pretty nuts.  For those who like to skip to the end before you know the story, I’m now sitting in candlelight in an otherwise-dark sun room, assembling a hula hoop while drinking wine and listening to the rain pouring down. It’s a beautiful sight:

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Pretty romantically old fashioned, yes? Well let me tell you about my day.

My day starts yesterday at 3:30pm and ends today, also at 3:30pm, surprisingly enough…

I have an old cell phone. It’s not ancient, but it’s 3 or 4 versions old, because I busted the screen of my phone that was 2 or 3 versions old, and have been waiting impatiently for the contract to expire in August. Yesterday, I logged onto the Verizon website to check the expiration for the seven millionth time, and saw a notification saying one line was eligible for “Early Edge” since the contract expires in about a month. I left work early so I could make it completely across town and back before 6pm (hoop class) only to be told that the promotion never existed. Yep, it hadn’t been magically on my screen because they didn’t show it. Additionally, they had zero concerns for my broke down phone or the fact that my contact was almost up, because contracts can only be upgraded 7 days early, at most. So that means I still had 3 weeks to wait. Nevermind that my phone rarely does what it’s told, that I’ve been a customer since Verizon bought Alltel, or that I have even skipped entire upgrades in the past, those 3 weeks are apparently law, carved into stone.
While I’m learning this, I get a call. I’m polite – and perturbed – so I push it on to voicemail while I confess my shock in Verizon’s lack of interest in my business. I leave the store, no new phone. When I leave, I check the voicemail and have to call the mechanic back. Instead of having my car repaired the next day, I am instead rescheduled to next week, in the hopes that my parts will have arrived by then.
Next, I call Verizon customer service to see if they can do anything over the phone. They can’t. In fact, I’m told that I can either wait it out or pay 150 extra (so 350) for a “refurbished” phone rather than the model I want, and my contact will get extended 2 years. So I’d be waiting 2 more years to get the phone I want or wait 3 weeks with my infuriating phone. Not at all helpful. I explain why in great detail.
Thoroughly frustrated, I head to hoop class, which is gloriously distracting and relaxing.
When I leave, Tim calls to tell me that a power pole has fallen in our yard, stuff is burning. It’s 7 pm.
By 9pm, the fire department has gone, the line is still sparking, OG&E still hasn’t shown, and our power has been switched off at the breaker just to be safe. I take a dark shower and we decide to get dinner since we can’t cook. Before we leave, a lineman shows up from OG&E, unaware of the broken pole (that Tim reported 2 hours before) and says a crew will have to come out. No kidding.
It takes 3 tries to get somewhere open that isn’t about to close – TGIFridays. To their credit, they brought me the most amazing drink with blueberry and pomegranate, and vodka, and lemon, and it tastes just like a Mystic!…with vodka.  If you don’t remember (or never experienced) Mystic, it wasn’t unlike Snapple. “Fruit drink” with likely zero real fruit juice, but so tasty that you couldn’t help but chug it once you opened it.  It tasted like my teenage summer, and I was happy.
Back home, around 10:30, there are some guys in our yard. This is the “crew.” But…they are tree cutters. They are also unaware of the fallen pole, and was told it’s a fallen branch. The electricity is still sparking up in the trees behind our house. He calls someone, they seem to argue, and he says it won’t be fixed until the morning. A few minutes later, there’s banging on our door – it’s getting fixed tonight. A while later, more banging. I let Tim deal with them and I go to bed a little after 11.  Then the chainsaws start. 
This morning we see that they cut down the majority of the trees in and behind our back yard. The one tree up against the pole wasn’t cut down, and the pole had been BOLTED to it! Unreal. All of the cut trees were piled on our vegetable garden, the strawberry barrel had been dumped and moved. Even though the falling pole had pulled the electric off the house, we are apparently responsible for paying and getting an electrician for that. Plus, we have to have an inspection from the city after the work has been completed before we can have power. It’s now Thursday morning before a holiday weekend, and we are supposed to find a last second electrician, get it fixed AND have it inspected before everything shuts down for 3 days.
We managed to get 2 electricians out, but it can’t be fixed today. So that means we are waiting until Monday for it to be fixed and probably Tuesday before it can get inspected – if we’re lucky. This is what I was told at 3:30 this afternoon.
To recap, no fixed phone, no fixed car, no power, a ridiculous bill for electrical work caused by the power company, and now we’re sitting in candle light.

Things I’m grateful to have specific to this:
Candles
Running cold water
Ice, deep freezer, and a big ice chest to hopefully save some of our perishables
Unseasonably cool weather of 75-90º
Money to pay for all of it, even though I’d rather be paying down my car, like is planned.

Here, have some more pictures!

Garden after the pole fell, before they “fixed” it:

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Garden this morning:

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Busted-ass “fixing” that hasn’t been properly fixed yet:

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If there are some crazy typos, please excuse them – I’m typing on the terrible phone.

**Saturday, July 4th**

We got a generator yesterday evening. We can each start it, check the oil/gas/meter, and know how to hook stuff up to it. The sunroom is now our coolest room thanks to a tiny window unit I borrowed from a friend, plus the fridge, deep freeze, and fish tanks all have power. That sucker is LOUD, though, so we didn’t run it from 10:30pm – 8am. It got very toasty.

As I was typing this, I saw that I got a small package yesterday, and it’s my hoop connectors! Yay!

Also, Verizon called me back yesterday, and after I explained how easy it would be to put that $350 they wanted me to pay towards a phone towards my early termination fee and switch to ATT, they decided I could have an early upgrade. I have to wait until Wednesday for my phone to arrive, but that’s better than August!

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Vendor!

So excited! There are some festivals coming up, and it looks like I’ll get to be a vendor, selling hula hoops!  (A friend of mine will be going too, and we’ll be working them jointly.)  EEE!  One is Pride festival, and one is Pagan Pride Day.  (Kinda obvious, but while googling one, I also found the other.  Woo, two-for-one!)

It makes me feel all professional, actually scheduling to sell at an event.  Now we’ll see how it works out…

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