Monday, June 27, 2011

Waiting Room

Guess I'll have to get used to waiting.

Went to the appointment with my doctor so she could tell me why my recent mammogram has had me summoned. I had a pretty busy weekend so didn't have much of a chance to ponder the possibilities and listening to a book on tape driving to the appointment kept me occupied.  Once in the waiting room and then the consultation room, my tummy started that churning I get whenever I have to do a public speech or take a test I dread.  My doctor, Martha Drohobyczer, is wonderful; hence she is very busy.  So, it took her awhile to get to me.  When she does, she is always thorough and spends as much time with you as needed. 

What she said is that a dense area on my left breast had changed from a 2008 examination.  It needs to be checked out.  So, another five days from now I will have a more extensive (more radiation is how Martha explained it) mammogram, as well as an ultrasound.

Ninety percent of these follow-ups turn out just fine,” my doctor assured me.  We just want the report to come back clear.”

Sounds good to me.

But, I will have more waiting to do. 

I have the mammogram film copies I asked for from my recent exam so I am going to check them out and see if I can find what alerted them.

In the meantime, I have a very busy life to attend to so there won’t be much room for worry.

But for a person like me, waiting is excruciating!  I just want to know what I’m dealing with so I can do just that – deal with it. 

I felt such a connection with women these past days and hours, knowing that the phone call flagging me that all was not right is a call none of us wants to receive.  Waiting for the doctor to tell us her concerns is another event we hope to avoid.  While each of us has to endure the fears all alone in our minds, it is comforting to know that we all share something and that in reality, none of us is alone.  Not when it comes to the thought we will be taken from our families too soon.  That knowledge gives me much comfort.  And I plan on being one of the ninety percent – a rank I will share with many others. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I See One Hundred On My Horizon - Damnit!

The phone call comes in the middle of just another regular day.  My husband and I were having a mundane conversation when my cell rang.  Caller I.D. shows it’s the doctor’s office.  In those split second thoughts that your mind has the capability of processing, this is what went through my mind: Are they calling to confirm an appointment?  No, I just had one.   Oh, they are just calling to say (as they have many times before), “Your mammogram results are it.  Everything looks good.”   

But that’s not what the doctor’s receptionist said.  Instead, it was “The doctor wants you to come in to discuss the results.”           

That certainly changed the tone of the day. 

Why can’t they alleviate all worry and just tell you over the phone what they want to say, for cripe’s sake?  Instead I have to wait five days for an appointment to open up. 

Of course I tell myself that it’s nothing.  I tell my husband that, too.  And my best friend.  I don’t want to tell my children; why worry them for nothing?  But my mind, that amazing internal computer that is capable of split second processing won’t let me stick with just the positive thoughts. 

No, it takes me to all the possibilities.  Makes me think about the what-ifs? 
  • I don’t want my children to have to face something scary. 
  • Who would take care of my dogs? 
  • Chemo scares the living you-know-what out of me. 
  • Why not me?  Why would I be so special not to have this happen to me? 
  • I’m not ready to go anywhere. 
  • I want to live to be one hundred – a healthy 100.  
I filled the weekend with lots of activity, time with the kids – no time to think. Not until all is quiet and I’m supposed to be sleeping. That’s why I had to write about it because my therapy has always been to get it out of the head so it can’t fester. 

Today is Saturday.  I’ll be back home on Monday and at the doctor’s office at 10 A.M.  

It’s going to be just fine.   

That’s what I keep telling myself.

I wonder if this is what every woman goes through when the phone rings with this kind of news.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Greatest Gift This Father's Day? Forgiveness.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.  On Facebook lots of my Friends are putting up pictures of their fathers, sending a message to all of their Friends to post a photo of their own to share with everyone what their father means to them.  In the past I have posted a photograph of my father, Joseph Gioia, as my profile picture. 

This year, even though the prompts from my FB Friends have me considering doing so again this year, I hesitate.  Why?

Lately I have been working on a project that involves going through family photographs and home movies.  I am putting together a compilation of these in the hopes of creating a documentary film.  Working with a filmmaker I have finally committed to finishing this project, which I literally started over thirty years ago.  However, the process has made me do some deep thinking and I am struggling with emotions that are difficult to face.  Mainly, I am finally facing the feelings I have for my father.

No matter what my research has turned up: that my father was a man with flaws, a man who loved his family and did his best to give them everything that his station in life could afford, I see him as the man who destroyed us.  Growing up, I was given the impression he was somewhat of a monster; a controlling husband who lost ultimate control one fateful night and took the life of his wife.  To avoid paying the ultimate price himself, quite possibly the electric chair, he took the coward’s way out and killed himself. 

That’s the story I always knew until I sought answers myself.

What I discovered is that his actions, while not ever, ever justified, were spurred by events that tested his manhood, fatherhood, and self-preservation.  He was raised in a culture where the man’s honor must reign.  He feared the loss of what he held most dear.  The spark that smoldered in him was fueled by alcohol. All of these factors contributed to the night he lost his control and pulled a trigger, forever changing the lives of the Joseph Gioia family of Batavia, New York. 

While I can only guess as to his thoughts after he realized what he had done, I know from my research that he was despondent and I would surmise sorry to the depths of his soul.  I believe he killed himself mostly because he thought he deserved it and that his family, mainly his four children, would be better off without a convicted murderer to look up to. 

Was he right?  That is a question that plagues me. 

If he were still on this earth, I could ask him the questions that haunt me. 

What happened that night?  Did you love our mom?  Us?  Are you sorry? 

If he were still with us I would be able to look upon his face in real time, not gaze longingly at it on a television screen looking for signs that we are related.  I would be able to hear his voice, not wonder if the sound that comes out of my brothers matches that of his.  Most of all, I would not, and this is a difficult confession to make, feel a connection to older Italian men; strangers who by virtue of their look and surname draw me to them, not in a sexual way, but in search of a paternal bond, one of which I have never experienced. 

So, this Father’s Day, rather than play the game all of my Facebook Friends are playing, honoring their dads with a picture of past, happy times, I will honor my father in a different way.  As I splice together the photos and film footage of our family during happy times,

I will try and find the compassion within me to forgive him.  I should like to honor him by sharing the truth that I found out about him and our mother: that humans are fallible, and even though parents are never supposed to disappoint us, sometimes it happens. 

If I had the miraculous opportunity to speak to my father, I would thank him for giving me life, for providing my brothers with memories both sweet and bitter (at least they have memories), and for his love of photography and filmmaking.  Without the last I would not have any images or evidence of my intact family prior to it being lost forever.   


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pink Ribbon Day

Well, it was that time of year again - my yearly check-up at the mammographers.  So, I thought I'd repost my experience from a year ago because it was pretty much the same.  This time, however, I had a "frontal" shot, what the tech called a cleavage view because, according to her, "you're too big for this room."


I believe she meant my, err, breast size would have been better served in a room with a machine that could handle it.  Now that's a comment I'll treasure. 

Having the procedure was just as uncomfortable as always: squish here, squash there; "DON'T BREATHE!"  After it was all done she showed me the images.  Interesting.  So interesting I asked if I could have copies and she had them made for me.  So, now in my old age, when the balloons have deflated I can pull out the scans and say, "Those were the days!"

Reminder to all of my female friends and followers - Please get your mammogram done.  As uncomfortable as the experience is, the alternative is much, much worse.  So please, make your appointment today. 

This post is dedicated to my late sister-in-law
Sharon Mitchell Gioia
August 8, 1959 - August 4, 2006

Posted June 15, 2010

They can put a man on the moon…………..right? We’ve heard that cliché numerous times when we wish for some new breakthrough in technology that will make our lives easier, but for Cripe’s sake, can’t they make getting mammograms easier?????????

Yesterday was my dreaded yearly appointment. I don’t usually have too much trouble but this time it was a pain in the boobs! Men just have no idea the indignities women have to put up with to maintain a healthy body. I won’t go into the stirrups and the foot-long Q-tip used to check the nether regions; today it’s all about the squish-machine. Try taking my considerable breast flesh and making it as flat as a Sicilian pizza! Not a pretty picture and a painful, and if I had any shame, humiliating experience to boot.

First, you walk into the room with all your own clothes on except the cute little pink hospital-type top they give you. “Take it off,” the attendant says.

“Off completely?” I ask like I don’t know – I’ve done this enough. But the feeling is awkward just the same. I tried to be cute and hummed the stripper’s song as I disrobed but my new soon-to-be-intimate friend replied, “We don’t need the dance, honey, it’s no big deal.”

Next it’s time to step up to the plate – literally. The machine has these transparent plates that can be set at different angles: flat and sideways. You are told to get close, really close and then the kindly woman hefts your breast and lays it upon the serving platter.

You lose all sense of shame here as she manipulates your boob like it’s a roll of dough ready for kneading.
It’s pushed this way and that, getting it into position and THEN the top plate makes its way down, down, down until it cannot go any further. YIKES. For someone like me, someone whose OB-GYN doctor once described her as having “large, pendulous breasts” (I was as traumatized by that description of me as I was when, in high school, someone described me as “spastic”) this is not a pleasant experience. Although I can’t imagine it any easier or less-painful for an A-cup woman, as one of my blessedly-smaller-breasted friends once shared, because the plates just scrap down on the chest trying to gather some flesh to squish.

Anyhow, once the two plates are in place with my boob looking like Madonna donning those cone breasts she used to wear in her act, the attendants rush to safe cover so they can zap me. “Don’t breathe, don’t breathe,” I’m told. “ZZZZZZZZ (the sound of the radiation going off), then, “Okay, breathe and relax” and the plates are released. Whew! But, it’s not over yet! Remember, we got two of these puppies and they both need equal treatment. After the pancake squish it’s time for the sideways shot. This time when the plates come together my boob looks like an enormous pimple about to be popped; now isn’t that an even prettier image?

The whole process takes about fifteen minutes; that is if you don’t breathe or move while the X-ray is being taken and if the position of your boob on the plate is just right. I had to do one of the takes over again and by the time I was released my breasts looked like I’d been on my honeymoon – but without the fun memories.

I said to my new breast-friends, “I feel sorry for you having to touch strangers’ boobs all day long.” The response was, “I like this job much better than the one where I have to stick a probe up you-know-where.” I guess I would have to agree. Anyway, both of my mammogram technicians, Laurie and Lori, were wonderful; they joked with me, were as gentle as they could be given the technology they had to work with, and they had warm and soft hands – what more could I have asked for?

It will be another year before I have to have another exam. By then my breasts will be a little bit lower due to gravitational pull and most likely a little heavier, too. If Laurie/Lori keep doing this kind of work they’ll never have to go to the gym to lift weights, they are getting plenty of bicep work on the job. In the meantime, I’ll nurse my girls with ice packs and thank them for staying healthy. And I’ll begrudgingly thank modern medicine for providing technology, no matter how cumbersome, because they are saving lives. But seriously, if we can put a man on the moon……………..

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Have Food, Will Can

Since I took a recent Master Canning class, one that would teach me how to preserve food by water bath or pressure cooker canning, I have been putting food up like the end of the world is happening next week. 

My family and friends are looking at me like I’m manic or something.  I don’t blame them; I have been a bit obsessed with it.  For the past two weeks I’ve canned beets, cauliflower, meat, salsa, and jam.  I can’t wait for more produce to be in season and in abundance.  I told my husband he needs to dig me a root cellar because frankly, I don’t know where I’m going to store all this. 

Why am I going through all this trouble when I could just as easily go to a wide variety of grocery stores within a mile radius of my house?  It’s because I have to. 

John and I hardly ever have meals together anymore.   His work schedule is not conducive to family meal times as he usually is home well after the dinner hour.  My kids aren’t home anymore so I don’t have the responsibility for cooking for them.  I love to bake but cookies, homemade bread and pies aren’t good for my middle-aged waistline so I avoid that domestic task.  The thing is I love to create in the kitchen.  Check out Domestic Goodness and Making Memories in the KitchenIf I can’t make meals or baked goods, I have to do something.  And I love the idea of making foods that I know exactly what goes in and how fresh they are.  Canning seems to be a perfect fit for me.

I come from people who created family life around food and the dining room table. 

John and I watch the Tom Selleck show, Blue Bloods and every time their brood sits around their table for their regular Sunday meal, I cry. 
I miss family meals so much!  I don’t even have a dining room in my house; just a counter with four tall chairs.  John and I, and even our occasional guests usually end up sitting at the coffee table to take our meals.

So, my creative, domestic outlet is being satisfied by making pretty things in glass jars. 

If life gives you lemons (or your kids do because their backyard tree is full of them),

 make lemonade – then can it!