Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cancer In The Rear View Mirror

It has been three years since my wife found a lump (bump, knot, whatever). It felt like a small marble. Since we don’t eat marbles, she went to her OB-GYN.

One of the changes in the past twenty years is that women are switching from male OB-GYNs to female OB-GYNs. My wife was no exception. It wasn’t like she was creeped out by the male doctors, it is just her female OB-GYN doesn’t act like she invented science. Sometimes her male doctors gave the impression that they were the ALL POWERFUL OZ while her female doctor gives the impression that she just did really good on the SATs and here she is now, YAY!

A former leading OB-GYN in Georgia

(By the way, around this same time I went to have my yearly physical. In comes my doctor with a female medical student that was shadowing him for the day. My doctor went into great detail over the proper technique in what the medical profession calls “The Moon River Procedure”.  He said, “This provides the maximum comfort for the patient “. From my point of view, “maximum comfort” was a relative term.  As an added bonus, she watched with intensity my hernia check. As he was instructing her on the best way to “perform” this procedure [“You grab this and say ‘cough’ in a nonchalant manner”], she stared at my man parts. I know she was a doctor and I was just another human body, but I must admit I felt kind of weird, especially when she gave me her phone number. Not really. I just told my wife that to be funny)

Photographic evidence of when Chevy Chase was funny

My wife’s doctor came in, all smiles and hugs, as usual, until she felt the lump. Her countenance changed and she became very serious. Lori was sent for a diagnostic mammogram and it went all down hill from there.

Soon we were hearing those dreaded words, “You have an Invasive Ductal Carcinoma”. You always hear about others having breast cancer. I was in medical insurance for years and paid a ton of breast cancer claims. Yet, I guess I was too stunned to realize what happens when breast cancer enters your life.

First, the cancer has to be removed. If the tumor is small, like my wife’s, this can be done with a lumpectomy. Of course, I had to be the shallow one and ask the question: What will it look like? The doctor said, “Well, it is going to be smaller.”

Without going into great detail, a lumpectomy looks like a shark bit your wife on the breast. There is a scar. The scar is deep. The Bad News: Your wife won’t be in Playboy anytime soon. The Good News: insurance pays for the plastic surgery to repair the breast back to its normal function

So a year after she finished her radiation treatment, we found ourselves in a plastic surgeon’s office going over possible strategies to repair her breast.

The surgeon walks in and he is everything that an average husband (particularly this one) is not: young, good looking, and smart. He begins his examination and it was odd watching another man gaze at your wife’s bare bosoms even if he is doing it clinically. (By the way, wouldn’t “Bare Bosoms” be a great name for a band?)  Then he got out a tape measure and measured from point A to point B, if you catch my drift.

Soon, he gave us his recommendations. She could have a fat grafting procedure. This would take fat from another part of her body and put it into the scar of her breast, much like you would put dirt into a hole. This procedure would have to be done three to four times to be successful.

Or she could have implants. The cancer damaged one breast and made it a half a cup size smaller. They do not make “half a cup” implants. So, she would have to have implants on both sides for symmetry purposes, which would make her, um, quite a bit larger.

He left us alone, with a couple of implants in our hands like we were going to give them a test drive, to discuss the procedures. On one hand, the fat grafting procedure was recommended by her breast surgeon and is a little more natural. On the other hand, I could have a wife with big ones. Oh yeah, she wouldn’t have to go through multiple surgeries either.

Believe it or not, I didn’t plead for the implants. I’m not a big fan of the implant look. My wife is a little person and I’m not sure she could have carried the load without falling over. Plus, it was really her decision since it was her body. I definitely should be nominated for Husband of The Year.

Next Time: Tamoxifen-Mommy’s Little Heater

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thanks, Braves

It takes an old guy like me, to remember the real Atlanta Braves. The Atlanta Braves of Pat Rockett, Biff Pocoroba, Brian Asselstine, Albert Hall, Bruuuuce Benidict, and others. The Atlanta Braves managed by Eddie Haas. The Braves in which the photograph of the new broadcast team of Erine, Skip, and Pete shows them holding silverware like microphones.

The Braves played at The Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which until 1990, always smelled like beer. They had real classy uniforms for a while, then, in some early 70's drug trip, began outfitting their players in a uniform that can only be described as something Walt Disney might have thrown up. It got better in the 80's when they went to the modified softball player look until 1987 when they adopted the classic look they have now.

There was never anything about the Braves to like or dislike. Unlike the Chicago Cubs, people never wrote songs about how neat it was to be a miserable Braves fan. No, the Braves were just "meh" a loser of a team with no soul.

In 1990, something began to happen. Dale Murphy was traded. Dale Murphy was the epitome of what a professional athlete should be. I mentioned at the time that if he wasn't a Mormon, he'd make a great Baptist.

Then Bobby Cox took over as manager. He had come back to Atlanta after a time in Toronto and worked in the front office. But the managers he put in, Chuck Tanner and Russ Nixon, just did not have it.

After that season John Schuerholz was hired away from Kansas City. Soon "The Stadium" (as we natives always called it), didn't smell like beer anymore. What's more, the Braves started doing some really weird: winning baseball games.

I remember 1991. We just want to win the Division! Just give us that, Lord. Then it was the National League. Just that, Lord, I won't ask for anything else, promise. Please. Then it was the World Series. I know, Lord, I said I wasn't going to to ask for anything else after the NLCS, just don't let us get swept

Atlanta went nuts that year. There were t-shirt stands all over the place. I just had to buy a shirt that had "Braves National League Champions" on it. It was like People magazine had named me "Sexiest Person Alive" and I had to buy up all of the magazines just to prove it to people.

During that time, my wife and I were pushing a baby stroller down Town Center Mall and bumped into Ralph Swearngin. Ralph had been our interim Minister a couple of times at the church we were at. He is a great guy with one major flaw: he's from Southern California and was a Dodgers fan.He said something I've never forgotten: "I always want my team to win the division, but I worry when they do, because it usually means that they won't be as good the next year".

Of course I knew what he meant. Enjoy it now because the Braves will probably stink next year.

Well, in 1991, the Braves defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that was, let's face it, better top to bottom than the Braves, to go to the World Series to face the Minnesota Twins. The Braves took the Series to seven games, losing in the 11th inning. That's okay. We had our one shot. That's all we wanted. One time to see our players jump up and down in the middle of the diamond. One time to see our players interviewed in a champagne soaked locker room. One time we could tell all of those obnoxious New York, Philly and Cincy fans that the Braves were the best and don't start talking to me about what happened when Eisenhower was President.

Twenty two years later, the baby in the stroller is in his last semester of college. Ralph is the executive director of high school sports in the state of Georgia. Atlanta Fulton County Stadium is a parking lot.

The excitement of going to the post-season was less the next year. Not as many t-shirt stands. Braves lost the World Series to Toronto in six games that year.

They finally won the World Series in 1995. Lost another one in 1996. Lost another one in 1999. Went as far of the National League Championship in 2001. Out early since then.

Last year,  the Braves made it into the playoffs due to some bright baseball idea: dual wild cards. It featured a "play-in game" in which the Braves left four hundred runners on base and had an infield fly rule called on a ball that was hit into the middle of the outfield.

This year, the Braves were supposed to battle the Washington Nationals. The Braves showed up-the Nationals never did. The 2013 Braves are a very good, if not a little bit streaky team, and they might just win the whole thing.

If not, that's okay, they have been competitive for the entire life of my son, which isn't bad at all when you think about it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Facebook Blues

Are you feeling depressed? You don’t have that drive-that zest for life?  Has your get up and go got up and went? I think I know why: it is because you are on Facebook too much.

Recently, the University of Michigan released a study based on the responses of 82 people, all of whom were college aged. The findings: the more time a person spends on Facebook, the more likely their “life satisfaction” levels drop, whatever that means.  

Pardon me, but are we going to make a determination of a social media outlet that has over 1 billion users worldwide based on the feelings of 82 college students? These are the same people that elected Barack Obama. Twice. The same people that think pictures of girls making ‘duck lips’ are sexy? The same people that get nostalgic over Pikachu?

I know this sounds a little defensive, but one thing I hear over and over again is that “old people” (me) have ruined Facebook.

I would be the first to admit that there are some things about Facebook that get on my nerves. I’m not a big fan of those memes that say JESUS IS NUMBER ONE. ‘LIKE’ THIS PICTURE AND GO TO HEAVEN. IGNORE THIS PICTURE AND SPEND ETERNITY IN THE DEEP FIREY DARKNESS OF HELL. I would hate to wake up in Hell one day because I forgot to like a picture on Facebook. It just doesn’t sound very theological to me.

There’s also a problem with those funny pictures that are posted by groups that have the really, really bad cuss word in their names. For example, you’re looking at a picture of a cat with glasses on. You think it is funny and you share it with your Facebook friends, a vast majority of whom go to church with you. After you share it, you notice it is from “Now That is Some Funny BLEEPETY-BLEEP-BLEEP”.

One of the things we old folks brought to Facebook is pictures of food. There must be a certain chemical in the brain that trips a circuit that causes people to post pictures of food on Facebook. I know I’ve done it. I had a steak that was served with a fried egg on top. The world needed to know that there is a great and gracious God that blesses me with this steak. In fact, the study of the moody Michigan students shows that what causes the dip in the “life satisfaction’ is the “fear of missing out”. That is, when people see my post of the steak with the fried egg on top they begin to feel sad because they are missing out on this meal. And they should because it was awesome.

I love Facebook. I have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in over three decades.

Once I posted a picture and one of my female Facebook friends liked it. Then another female Facebook friend liked it. These two ladies live in the same town but didn’t know each other. I went ahead and introduced them to each other, Facebook style. One said to the other: “How do you know Alan?” The response was that we knew each other in 1979. I haven’t seen this person since Jimmy Carter was President. She’s been my Facebook friend longer than when I knew her in real time.

I have another Facebook friend who almost weekly encourages me regarding this blog. He was one the first people to ever come up to me and quote me.

The other day, one Facebook friend was in Jolly Old England. She posted something on Facebook and if you can believe it, I made a smart aleck comment. Almost immediately, she posted a rebuttal. These are the days of miracle and wonder.

When my wife had cancer, I would get inbox messages and posts on my wall from people saying that they were praying for her. One Facebook friend was a Stage IV cancer victim who was there to encourage us. We had two other Facebook friends going through their own Cancer issues at the same time and we were all able to be there for each other.

I see pictures of my friends' children and their children. It makes me happy. Call me an old softy.

I would ask young people not to leave Facebook. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on anything.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Good Advice

“Good advice costs nothing and it’s worth the price” – Allan Sherman

I’ve finally figured out why I’m not a fabulously wealthy writer or at the very least, a really popular blogger.  It is not because I’m an untalented hack that can barely spell and may only know a rule or two of grammar. It is because I don’t share my real life-real world wisdom in my blogs.

Last month, I turned 54 years old and if there is one thing I’ve learned is that people are stupid and the only way they are going to get smarter is to listen to me. I am very full of wisdom. People tell me all the time that I am full of it. So feel free to clip and save the following and place it on your refrigerator. Either that or send me some money.

Avoid Dumb People: Dumb people have a way of making things dumber. They are easy to spot. They are the ones that raise their hands in a meeting to ask a question that is usually irrelevant to whatever is going on or makes sense to only themselves. If I ever ran a meeting, I would make sure to announce that I believe that there are dumb questions and I don’t want to hear any.

Do Not Try To Be Something You’re Not Unless You’re A Dip: It is never good to try to be something you’re not, but then again, some people need to try to be something other than what they are.

Act Like You Have Some Sense: My dad used always tell me this (not sure why).  I didn’t actually have to have any sense, but I could at least pretend that I had some.

Stop Lying To Yourself: The chances of you winning the lottery, being elected President or having a kid that plays either professional football/baseball are very remote. You will never be famous. You will never make a movie. You will be lucky if they get your order right at a drive-thru. Celebrate that victory!

(For Men) Do Not Have Sex With Anybody You Are Not Married To:  Women find this objectionable.

Stop Trying To Hold Onto The Past: One of the dirty little secrets of the past is that a lot of times it was tough, dull, and the TV only had three stations and you had to get up from the couch and turn the channels yourself. And if that awful President Johnson was on, you can be sure he was going to “Mah Feller Mericans” you to death on all three channels.

Do Not Try To Buy Happiness: See if you can’t rent it first.

Do Not Compete With Everyone Else: Everyone hates that person who always has to top whatever somebody else might have said. If you say, “I didn’t sleep at all last night”, this person will say, “I haven’t slept in a week”. If you say, “My Great Grandmother, who was 154 years old and personally knew Grover Cleveland, died last week in her sleep”. This person will say, “My Great,Great Grandmother who dated Ulysses S. Grant, died yesterday while participating in a Half-Marathon.”  I call this “People I Grew Up With In East Cobb County Georgia” not that I’m holding on to the past. I’m just bitter.

Car Windows Are Made Of Glass:  This means the person in the lane next to you can see what you are doing, which is usually, er, cleaning your nose digitally.

Nobody Likes The Music You Like As Much As You Do:  Wear headphones or turn down the volume on the radio. Is it really that difficult?

Don’t Stop Believing: Especially if you’re from South Detroit and you’re on a midnight train going anywhere.

Don’t Blame Others For Your Troubles: Sometimes it is your fault and sometimes it is not. Most people don’t want to hear about it. They got their own troubles, which are probably your fault.

Stop Trying To Change The World:  Years ago, I was watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000, one of the best SHOWS EVER with my then 5 year old son. In the middle of a very important joke, the door bell rang. I opened the door and there were two of the most precious elderly lady witnesses for Jehovah. One of the ladies said, “Hello, I was wondering if you would like to change the world” to me with my 5 year old standing next to me. I said, “No, I wouldn’t” and I shut the door. My son then looked up at me and said, “Dad, how come you don’t want to change to world?” I told him “I like the world just the way it is”. That may not be the best thing to say to a 5 year old, but if you wouldn’t try to change the world, I wouldn’t have to say it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cool With Coolidge

My wife and I have an understanding.

If historian Amity Shlaes, author of the best seller, Coolidge, ever came to the house and asked to give me a smoochie-woochie right on the mouth, my wife would have to let her.

Shlaes is a different type of historian: easy on the eyes. Before Shlaes hit the scene, we history buffs had to make do with Doris Kerns Goodwin. It is rough being a history major.

 There was nobody in the history department at Kennesaw State University that looked like this when I was there.

Before Coolidge, Shlaes wrote The Forgotten Man, which was about The Depression. It gave a new twist on The Depression.

Here’s what I always read, heard and learned about The Depression from school and parents. The Depression was caused by Hebert Hoover and The Republicans because they wanted people to starve to death. They thought it was great that people were jumping out of buildings, selling apples, and asking their buddies if they had a dime. THEN, Franklin D. Roosevelt rode into town and gave everybody a job.  Soon, we had to go to Germany and Japan to kick some Axis butt.

The Forgotten Man showed this was incorrect. Both Hoover and Roosevelt enacted policies that were counter productive and caused The Depression to last longer than it should have. The Forgotten Man was an incredible book because it actually changed they way I looked at an historical event.

Shlaes’ follow up is Coolidge. It is a book you must read because if you are anything like me, you don’t know a lot about Calvin Coolidge.  I knew he was the 30th President of The United States and I knew he had that dry New England wit.

Man: (meeting The President in a receiving line) “I bet my friend $50.00 that I can get you to say three words.

Coolidge: “You lose

Shlaes puts flesh and bones on this historical character that frankly history placed in the dust bin for no particular reason aside from the fact that he was a Republican. His story is amazing; he rose quickly in Republican politics, serving only two years as the Governor of Massachusetts before he was elected Vice President. He assumed the Presidency after the death of the wild and crazy President Warren G. Harding (the Bill Clinton of his era).


Shlaes argues that Coolidge was “a rare kind of hero: a minimalist president”. His “inaction” was really his strength. A lot of Presidents  since then could have learned that lesson.

Here’s a bit of Coolidge trivia. His Vice President was Charles Dawes. Dawes wrote a song in 1912 called “Melody in A Major”. It was transformed in 1958 as “It’s All In The Game”. If Al Gore had done that you would have never heard the end of it.

             When you win the trivia contest, you will thank me.

Shlaes makes you like this odd-ball of an historical character. One poignant thing about Coolidge was his Calvinism which caused him to dread good things happening because it meant something bad was going to happen. In 1924, shortly after Coolidge became President, one of his sons died from Sepsis. This is what Coolidge had to say about it.

In his suffering he was asking me to make him well. I could not.
When he went the power and the glory of the Presidency went with him.
The ways of Providence are often beyond our understanding. It seemed to me that the world had need of the work that it was probable he could do.
I do not know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House.”

Coolidge is a great book. Read it and fall in love with Amity Shlaes.  But I’m warning you: I saw her first.