Friday, March 31, 2006

World's Smartest Husband

Those of you who know Jay should send him a congratulatory e-mail. He just took an insanely difficult certification test for work and found out that he PASSED! Woo hoo! He's spent the past month studying and studying and studying and studying, which is not easy with a full-time job and a baby whose cuteness is overwhelmingly distracting. Of course, WCB and I knew he could do it all along.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Smart people are cool

I received my quarterly newsletter from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation earlier this week. The top story: Scientists are about to start mapping the myeloma genome. This means all the scientific-type people will be able to understand myeloma a lot better, figure out how and why it progresses, and develop better drugs.

I'm sure it means many other things, too, but it's all a little out of my reach as a non-scientific person. The last time I took biology was in the tenth grade, and all I really remember is dissecting an earthworm. And all I really remember specifically about the earthworm is that my best friend and lab partner decided we should name the earthworm after the girl who was dating the boy that Best Friend and Lab Partner had a crush on. After the dissection was over, we symbolically hacked the poor worm into little pieces with the scalpel. I realize now this was very disrespectful to the poor earthworm, who had generously donated his little body to science. It was also disrespectful to the worm's poor namesake, who, as far as I know, never brought harm to anyone.

I hope the earthworm's family isn't reading this.

My point, and I do have one, is that I am extremely grateful that there are smart people in this world who made it far beyond the earthworm dissection, the frog dissection, and, heck, even the crayfish dissection, and are now hard at work finding a cure for my disease.

I'm also grateful to a bunch of other myeloma patients. The article goes on to say that the genome project is possible because so many myeloma patients have donated bone marrow and blood samples to a tissue bank that scientists are using for their research. I did this during my first visit to the Mayo Clinic. Before they did my bone-marrow biopsy, I signed a form saying it was okay for them to take a little bit extra for themselves. I couldn't even tell that they did it. (If you happen to be a myeloma patient, and you want to learn more about this, click here).

Just think: Some brilliant scientist could be staring at a little piece of me under a microscope right now. Go, smart people, go! I'll be here waiting for the good results and apologizing to the earthworms.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Two weeks' notice

The countdown begins: I have my Big Bad Blood Test with Dr. Great and Powerful Oz two weeks from today. Argh. After a lovely three-month hiatus from doctor visits, I hate the idea of going back to being poked and prodded, back to sitting in depressing waiting rooms and reading about the adventures of TomKat in month-old issues of People, back to worrying about potentially scary test results.

Not to mention the fact that they could drag out the giant urine jug again. Oh, lordy, no!

But I'm sure everything will be fine. I'm sure Dr. GPO will discover that Godcella is still hibernating, all curled up in some flannel pajamas and a silky sleep mask, just snoring away. Nothing to fear, nothing to fear.

And if Godcella has suddenly decided to start stomping around and breathing fire on my bone marrow? Well, then, we'll just go in and get him. We'll take him out. He won't stand a chance. Watch out, Godcella. I am Inigo Montoya, and you are the six-fingered man.

Hello, my name is Karen. You killed my bone marrow. Prepare to die.

Nothing to fear, nothing to fear.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A (blankety-blank) book review

There are a lot of things I should be stressing out about right now -- my own incurable illness, the fact that World's Cutest Baby won't crawl in time for her senior prom, the war in Iraq, killer bees -- but the thing that had me on edge all weekend was the ending to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

If you've read it, you understand. I mean ... it's just ... I can't believe ... well ... damn!

If you are one of the three people left in the world who hasn't read it, you might want to skip the rest of this post. If you just can't help yourself, or if your eyes have accidentally darted downward, I'll write the rest of this in code:

I don't think (blank) is really (blank). Right before (blank) ran up to the (blank) and (blanked) him, he was telling (blank) that he could make (blank) and his (blank) appear (blank) so that (blank) couldn't find them, so I think he arranged to do something to himself along those lines. Also, I don't think (blank) is really a cold-blooded (blanker), even though he's a great big (blank).

Whew. It felt so good to get that all out.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Just pumping. No spiders.

For the past, oh, six weeks or so, I’ve been taking an exercise class called “Just Pump” on Monday and Wednesday nights. It’s an hour-long, aerobics-type strength-training class. We use light hand weights, body bars, exercise balls, bands, etc. I figure it will help strengthen my Godcella-laden bones and perhaps help me someday realize my dream of fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans without looking like Chris Farley in the Saturday Night Live “Chippendales” skit.

I’m able to keep up reasonably well – meaning that I haven’t collapsed yet – because I took a class almost exactly like this one for a couple of years when we lived in Minnesota. The exercise moves are nearly identical, but the Minnesota class was a little more laid back. The instructor was a very tiny, very loud woman who also worked part-time as a flight attendant.

Yeah, she was an aerobics-instructor-slash-flight-attendant. I always thought that sounded like somebody Dan Fielding would date on Night Court.

Oh, wait, she was also a part-time bartender, too.

Anyway, she’d spend most of the workouts telling highly entertaining stories that sounded borderline true. Like the time she was flying back from Las Vegas with a bunch of rowdy drunks, and the pilot dropped the cabin pressure to make them all fall asleep. Or the time she flew home from somewhere tropical – I forget where – and some exotic spider crawled out of the cargo area and bit her, and her entire arm swelled up and turned purple. Or how she was hoping to have breast-enlargement surgery, and the doctor told her to look through a Playboy magazine and pick out the exact ones she wanted.

I had to move away to Kansas City before I found out how that last endeavor turned out.

My current “Just Pump” instructors are nice enough, but they are very professional and businesslike and rarely say anything more interesting than, “… and squeeze! And breathe!” I suppose that’s why it’s called “Just Pump” and not “Pump and Listen to Stories about Exotic Spiders”. I might pay extra for the spider stories, though.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Final St. Baldrick's update

My friend Shannon e-mailed me the official update on her nephew, Travis, who shaved his head on St. Patrick's Day to raise money for children's cancer research. (Just joining us? Read one of my previous posts about Travis.)

Travis raised a grand total of $400 for the St. Baldrick's organization! Woo hoo! Way to go! Shannon also sent me some great "before", "after", and "during" photos of the head shave. His mom reports that he is doing fine, but his head is cold. He's not quite ping-pong-ball bald -- more like Demi-Moore-in-G.I.-Jane bald -- but I figure that's bald enough.

Again, I want to thank everyone who donated after reading about the event on this blog. You guys are great.

And while we're on the topic of raising money for cancer research, (cough, cough) there's only ONE WEEK left to buy your ticket in the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation's Raffle for Research. Just throwing that out there.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

When I promise a dumb post, I deliver

I received a spam comment on one of my earlier posts (I can get a FREE GAME SYSTEM!!), and some readers and I were discussing it in the comments. I have now turned on an option that requires you to enter a word verification before you can post a comment. It's really very easy, so everyone keep commenting! It's supposed to curtail the spam, though.

Anyway, reader and fellow blogger DavidE suggested that we train Garland the cat to take care of the spam issue, which cracked me up, because it reminded me of that commercial in which a married turtle couple explain how much they love their dial-up connection because it's so slow. (Haven't seen the commercial? You can view it here.) Jay and I were just DYING at the part that shows one of the turtles at the computer, his little hand on the mouse. (Wait, do turtles have hands? His paw? His leg? His foot?) At any rate, we found it hilarious.

I believe this is a sign that we need to get out more. There have been many other indications that we are no longer normal. Like the time Jay walked up to me, World's Cutest Baby suspended in midair, and said, "Does she smell poopy to you?" and I went ahead and sniffed her, like that's something any normal person would do. Or how we spent most of WCB's Saturday afternoon nap not doing something productive but instead watching Three Men and a Baby on TBS so we could critique the characters' baby-care techniques. "Did you SEE how Ted Danson changed that diaper?" we said to each other smugly, knowing we could do a much better job.

Well, we probably couldn't have foiled those drug dealers. That was pretty brilliant, they way they hid Steve Guttenberg in that pipe, videotaped everything, and then trapped the guys in the elevator.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions on how we can rejoin mainstream society, let me know.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

And now a sad entry ...

I hate, hate posting sad stuff here, but I guess this is a cancer blog after all.

About a month or so ago, I started getting some friendly comments on my blog from Amanda, a young woman who told me that her husband was battling leukemia. They were both in their early 20s, married just two years. She told their amazing story on her own blog, Cancer: It's Not Just an Astrological Sign Anymore. I read the whole thing. Eric was first diagnosed as a teenager but went into remission. A little over a year ago, the cancer returned, and the couple moved across the country so he could have a bone-marrow transplant at Johns Hopkins. Amanda worked to support them while also caring for Eric full-time during the transplant. Things seemed to be going all right after the transplant, but the cancer suddenly came back earlier this month. Last Friday evening, Eric passed away.

It's all so very sad, and it shows that cancer can affect anybody, even young, young newlyweds who are supposed to have long, happy futures ahead of them. I never met Amanda or even really corresponded with her much -- we just exchanged a couple of brief blog comments -- but I feel like I know her, after reading her blog. Her final entry is understandably very, very angry, and she says that her blog is closing for good now.

I know there is nothing we can do to make things better for her. I just invite you to read their story, or post a little message of condolence, or visit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society web site to learn more about blood cancers, or, heck, just spend the day being extra appreciative of your spouse and giving your kids extra hugs. Anything you want to do.

I'll go back to writing about dumb stuff tomorrow, I swear.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Baldrick's Day!

I'm hoping that my friend Shannon will send me an update on how her nephew's head-shaving went today. Once she does, I will be sure to post it and let all of you know. I am happy to report that the last time I checked, Travis had raised $175, which is $75 over his goal! Woo hoo!!

I wanted to say thanks to my blog readers who contributed to the St. Baldrick's event, which will help fund children's cancer research. I see several of your names on the donor list. You guys are awesome!

Did you miss out on the fun? Never fear! It looks like you can still donate if you want to!

And just when you thought I was done hitting you up for money ... only two weeks left to buy a ticket in the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation's Raffle for Research. You could win a plasma-screen TV, a diamond necklace, or an MP3 player AND help cure my disease. It doesn't get much better than that. Follow the link to find out how you can get a ticket.

OK. I'm done asking for money. For today.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Have you helped the head-shaving kid yet?


A few posts ago, I told you about 13-year-old Travis, who is going to shave his head on St. Patrick's Day to raise money for children's cancer research.

Since I don't have a photo of Travis, I thought I'd use this photo of my old Cabbage Patch doll, Ollie*, to illustrate what Travis and the other brave St. Baldrick's volunteers will look like come Friday. Cute, yes, but his head looks a bit chilly.

The last time I checked, Travis had raised $150, which is great, because his goal was just $100. I've noticed the names of a few of my blog readers in the list of donors, so THANK YOU!!!!! Still, I think he needs more money than this. I wouldn't shave my cat for $150, let alone my own head.

If you'd like to contribute, go to Travis' page on the St. Baldrick's site. You should be donating to Travis Collard of Louisville, KY. If the link doesn't take you there, you can search for him from the main page.

Thank you.

*No Cabbage Patch dolls were harmed in the composition of this blog entry.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Peek-a-boo and pork roast


I've never posted a photo of World's Cutest Baby on this blog. Maybe I'm overly paranoid, but there are a lot of weirdos out there, and you never know who is looking at pictures of your kid. This, however, is a photo I can post! WCB mastered the art of peek-a-boo while we were on our way to Grandma and Grandpa's house in Omaha this past weekend. Here she is, demonstrating how she holds the blanket in the "up" or "Ha HA, I have disappeared!" position. This was a very exciting development, to be sure, but most of the drive went like this: "Wheeeeeeeeeere's WCB?" (Pause) "There she is!" "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeere's WCB?" (Pause) "There she is!"

Did I mention it is a two-hour drive?

We had a nice, relaxing weekend, except when WCB expressed her great displeasure at having to sleep in the travel crib each night. We got to spend time with our WCG (that would be World's Cutest Godson) who is five weeks younger than WCB and is already (cough) crawling. WCB watched him do it, but didn't pick up any pointers, because she is still happy to be stationary.

We drove back to Kansas City on Sunday, just barely missing some horrible storms that ripped through Kansas and Missouri. We had no idea anything had happened. I heard about it from the free-sample woman at Hy-Vee, who was handing out little chunks of pork roast in plastic cups. She had to explain that the roast was so dry because she had to leave it in the warmer while everyone ran to the shelter. High adventure at Hy-Vee! Our house is still standing and the cat didn't blow away, so I guess I can put up with some dry roast.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This kid is going to shave his head, people!

A few days ago, I received this e-mail from my friend Shannon:

I recently received a request from my nephew, Travis, to ask all my friends to contribute to a cause that he is involved in at his school, St. Pius X . Through St. Baldrick's and St. Pius, Travis is working to raise money for childhood cancer research by shaving his head on St. Patrick's Day.

I figured that if my 13-year-old nephew was willing to shave his head (can you imagine having a bald head in junior high?!?), the least I could do was ask my friends for donations on his behalf.

I have already made a donation on the St. Baldrick's web site and it took less than 5 minutes. I know that Travis would appreciate any donations you make under his name.


I made a small donation today, and she's right: It takes less than five minutes. You can give any amount you want, no matter how small. This is a really cool cause, everybody. Participants collect donations and then celebrate reaching their fundraising goals by shaving their heads on St. Patrick's Day. All of the money goes to support children's cancer research. The foundation has raised over $12 million so far.

If you want to support Travis, go to www.stbaldricks.org, click on "Find a Participant", and then type in "Travis Collard." He attends St. Pius X in Louisville, KY. Travis' goal is just $100, and the last time I visited the site, he was already up to $70. Frankly, I think he deserves a lot more money than $100. Like Shannon said, can you imagine having a bald head in junior high? I can't, even though back when I was in junior high the popular styles were ratted bangs, perms, and mullets, so we probably would have been much more attractive had we all shaved our heads. You couldn't have told us that back then, though.

And I'm sure we all remember that episode of The Cosby Show where Theo shaved his head because he thought Cockroach was going to do it, too, and then Cockroach wimped out and Theo was humiliated. A nightmare, people! A nightmare!

In all seriousness, the web site also has a section about kids with cancer, and the first name I clicked on randomly was a teeny, bald, two-year-old girl who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just a little bit older than my daughter. Having cancer is sucky enough as an adult; I can't imagine what it is like for these kids.

Send money. Send like the wind. I hope to give you an update on the head-shaving later on.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Happy belated birthday ... to my cat


March 5 was our cat, Garland’s, birthday. She turned nine.

If you think remembering a cat’s birthday is dorky, you should have seen me before World’s Cutest Baby was born. Back then, Garland was My Child. I would make up songs and sing them to her (“Kitty woman, walking down the street, kitty woman …”); I would drive 20 minutes out of my way to buy gourmet cat food that you can’t find at the grocery store; I’d sleep on about one inch of pillow so she could have the rest of it.

When I went into labor, I didn't want to leave for the hospital, because I didn’t want to leave Garland home alone.

When we came home from the hospital with WCB, everything had changed. Garland had gone from “Our Child to “the cat.” If I remember to put her cheap, Purina-brand food in her dish once a day, I am doing well.

Poor Garland. She doesn’t get the attention she deserves, so I’ve decided to honor her on her (belated) birthday by listing Nine Important Facts About Garland:

1. Garland is named after Judy Garland. I have a photo of her as a kitten, staring up at the TV screen, watching a scene from “A Star is Born.” I pasted that photo into her baby book.

2. Yes, she has a baby book

3. I adopted Garland from the Humane Society in Sioux City, Iowa when she was 10 weeks old. As I walked past her cage, she reached out and grabbed me with her paws. I knew it was meant to be.

4. Garland had a twin brother named Hector who shared her cage at the humane society. I’ve always felt guilty about not adopting him, too, and I’ve always wondered what happened to him.

5. When Garland was 10 months old, she hurt herself jumping for a toy and had to have reconstructive knee surgery. The vet bill was $500. I was at my first peon job out of college, and my husband was still in college, so it might as well have been 5 million dollars. We charged it to our credit card.

6. Garland used to have an adopted sister named Buffett (named for Warren, not Jimmy), who died in 2001 of a rare feline disease called FIP. After Buffett died, we could tell that Garland was in mourning for a long time.

7. Garland is terrified of strangers and fears the doorbell, so much so that the Domino’s Pizza commercial with the ringing doorbell sends her running under the couch.

8. Years ago, Jay and I were trying to get Garland into her carrier to go to the vet, and she scrambled out of it and climbed over my face with her claws. Jay said he could see my blood spurting into the air. He ended up taking her to the vet alone, where the staff talked him into buying cat health insurance.

9. Yes, they sell cat health insurance.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On the next Contested Development ...

And now the story of a cute baby who wouldn't crawl and the mom who had no choice but to call a state-run program for a developmental evaluation. It's Contested Development. (Dun, dun, dundun)

The Crawling Lady called me back this afternoon. She asked a lot of questions about what World's Cutest Baby can do (sit up, pick up toys, push up on her arms, etc.), and then said there is nothing to worry about. (See?? I told you! And you all thought she'd be living in a van down by the river!) She told me that for babies to even qualify for the "First Steps" program, they have to have at least a 50-percent delay in both fine and gross motor skills. This means that WCB would have to be acting like a four-and-a-half-month-old right now, and she's not. She can stand next to the coffee table, clap her hands, and pick up a Cheerio with the best of them. Well, not all at once. That would be cool, though.

What about 30-year-olds who act like 15-year-olds? Do you think they could get in?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sometimes excessive plasma is good

I just received a brochure in the mail from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation about this year's Raffle for Research fundraiser. First prize is (heh) a plasma screen TV.

I can't say it enough: Heh.

Anyway, I invite you all to go to the web site and learn how you can buy a raffle ticket, even though it'll decrease my chances of winning. Goodness knows that World's Cutest Baby needs -- no, deserves -- to see Sesame Street on a plasma screen.