Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Farewell To Maya Angelou - 1928 - 2014

"Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage, you cannot practice any of the other virtues consistently."  -- Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou 

Today the news broke of Maya Angelou's passing. I enjoyed hearing interviews with her because she always spoke in a well-thought out, articulate manner. She was a self-made woman, rising above many challenges in life to become an accomplished author. I admired her mastery of language, and her ability to rise above difficulty, and her talent for putting it all into words. I heard her recite her poetry on TV more than once, and I can still hear her voice in my head saying "I rise, I rise, I rise."  Thank you, and farewell, Maya Angelou.

Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

(Poem from And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, copyright 1978, published by Random House.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stitch Glitch Part 2 - When to Call the Doctor & Wound Care

Packing strip for wounds.

"If it starts getting red and expanding out, call me," my doctor said before I left his office on April 15.
A few days later, I had a red rectangle forming to the left of my stitch abscess. The wound (nicknamed "Primordial Ooze") was responding well to treatment and looking much better, but what was causing the redness? My skin is pretty sensitive, and I chalked it up to irritation from pulling off the tape when dressing the wound.  I had another appointment scheduled on April 29, so I thought I would just keep an eye on it.

By the following Tuesday (April 22), it wasn't better. In fact, it was a little larger. And redder. And some skin was peeling, and there was a little lump that was sort of purplish and sore. I did not have a fever, but the area did feel warm to the touch. The clinic opened at 9am and I called and got an appointment for 11:15. If it was nothing, I was sure my doctor would tell me, and after all the work he put into this surgery, I was pretty certain it was better to have him look at it now than to wait until things got worse.

"It's a good thing you came in," he said.  He examined my red  incision area, thought for a minute, and then moved to the counter and started opening drawers."You're not going to like this," he continued.

"You want to open it up," I replied.

This time he used a local anesthetic (thank you!). Sure enough, there was some infection, and a couple more pieces of stitch to remove. Apparently my body likes to push out the stitches. Thankfully, at five weeks, they are almost all dissolved, so this shouldn't be an ongoing problem. My doctor gave me a prescription for an oral antibiotic to clear up the infection.. He assures me everything will heal fine and these abscesses won't affect the appearance of my scar. I just need to be a little patient while everything heals. Patience is a thing cancer patients get to practice quite often, so I am not too concerned about it.

I went home to start wound care. Now instead of one stitch glitch, I have three! Primordial Ooze is mostly a superficial wound now. I have not named the other two, although Frick and Frack come to mind.

Gathering supplies for wound care...good scissors help!

Here is my daily wound care routine.
  • Collect all of my supplies (gauze, iodized wound packing tape (Iodoform Packing Strip by Curad), Aquacel (similar to silver alginate), gauze, tape, scissors, and tweezers). It is easier if you have everything ready before you begin.
  • Remove the dressing from yesterday and throw it away. Rub off as much sticky tape residue as I can from my stomach.
  • My first wound, which is more healed, gets an application of Polysporin (Neosporin would work just fine also), then gets covered with a strip of Aquacel (or silver alginate).
  • The new holes get a piece of iodized packing strip placed in them with the tweezers. Wounds heal from the inside out, so each day, a little less of the strip fits down into the hole. When the wounds are as healed as the other one, I will just use the Polysporin and Aquacel on them, too.
  • Cover the whole thing with gauze and tape it in place. Done for another day!

I am keeping my appointment on the 29th, just to make sure everything is healing fine. 

When to call the doctor:
Redness, especially if it is increasing
Redness that is warm to the touch
Signs of infection like pus
If you have any other concern with a healing incision or wound.

May 27, 2014
Update:  At my appointment (May 13) , things were healing well. He trimmed tissue and probed around one wound one last time before sending me on my way. I went back two weeks later (May 13), and my doctor said "It is healed. Wait at least 8 weeks more" (before scheduling my last surgery). So, I am still healing, but back in the gym, walking, and trying to figure out what my new normal is. Life after cancer treatment is full of some odd ups and downs, and some unexpected emotions, but I am finding my way through it one step at a time.

More on my reconstructive journey:
Diep Decisions! Diep Flap Reconstruction
Diep Flap Surgery & Recovery - Week 1
Diep Flap Reconstruction Recovery - Week 2
Diep Flap Reconstruction Week 3 - Recovery Can Be Boring
Stitch Glitch! - Diep Flap Reconstruction Week 4

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Creatures - Happy 215th Birthday!


In 1810, a twelve year old girl and her brother found the first complete fossil of an ichthyosaurus. Her name was Mary Anning, and she lived in England. Mary was poor, self-educated, and an avid fossil hunter who often sold her treasures. She formed a friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, an older, middle class woman who collected fossil fish as a hobby. Mary mentions Elizabeth frequently in her letters, and it appears the two women went out fossil hunting together on a regular basis.  


Little is known about these two woman, but Tracy Chevalier created a wonderful fiction novel depicting their friendship and discoveries.  Remarkable Creatures, published in 2009,  is a great book, and Chevalier writes sympathetically of Mary Anning's fossil discoveries, her dealings with the more sophisticated men who came to see her fossils and increase their scientific knowledge,  and her friendship with Elizabeth Philpot. Chevalier skillfully brings to life this wonderful story and early 1800s England. Mary gains a level of acceptance in the scientific world for her discoveries and knowledge. During Mary Anning's lifetime, fossil finds rocked the scientific and religious world. Paleontology was in its infancy. How did fossil finds fit into the creation of the world laid out in the Bible? What did the geologic record say? How could religion and science be reconciled? It was a challenging time to be a woman, fossil hunter, and self-educated paleontologist. 

Today, you can visit the town of Lyme Regis and see the beach and crumbling cliffs where Mary made her discoveries.  Many people used to visit Elizabeth Philpot's fossil fish collection in her home in Lyme Regis. Today, you can visit the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum. The museum houses more than just fossils, however. Jane Austen spent time in Lyme Regis, and even used the setting for part of her novel, Persuasion. The museum also boasts some Jane Austen items.

Beach at Lyme Regis

Mary Anning died at the age of 47 of breast cancer. The contributions she made to geology and science were certainly significant. Happy Birthday to this early paleontologist!

Mary Anning's headstone, Lyme Regis, England

Tracy Chevalier has great information about her book, Mary Anning, fossils, and more on her website.