Life as an Extreme Sport

I Had Two Ultrasounds This Morning

I had two ultrasounds this morning. Your standard, fill-your-bladder-and-let-them-press-really-hard-because-haha, ultrasound, and a transvaginal ultrasound. So, obviously, the intent was to stare at my uterus. I’ve been suffering from menorrhagia off and on for a while – more on than off of late – and given the family history of fibroids, it seemed likely that was the problem. Perhaps endometriosis. Either way, the fix was simple and convenient (a Mirena); I just needed the ultrasounds to get that rolling.

I had two ultrasounds this morning. The radiologist is on-site, and the technician thought it was likely that my scans would be read by this afternoon, although the doctor probably wouldn’t look at them until Monday. Fair enough. I already had an ob/gyn appointment scheduled on Monday, so timing worked out well – electronic health records can be a pain in some regards, but in this case they were certainly working out in my favour.

I had two ultrasounds this morning. I was done at 8:30am. My doctor called me at 11am. It’s not fibroids. It’s not endometriosis. It looks like polyps. It looks like endometrial hyperplasia. It looks like a lot of things that were in the 10% or so category I didn’t even consider. It looks like my ob/gyn appointment will be discussing biopsies and curettage and a lot of things I don’t know enough about to spend time on the internet researching because I’m going to give myself WebMD Syndrome.

My primary care doctor did her best to adopt Doctor Voice, steady and reassuring. Hard to say, could be bad, could be benign, the important thing was to get the process started quickly and to be prepared for this to move very fast, if necessary. Hopefully it wouldn’t be – hopefully this will be a monitor and treat (with hey, a Mirena – see an on-going theme?), but I needed to be prepared.

It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m not entirely sure how I prepare for this. I tried to see if I could get an appointment today (lesson learned – no more diagnostics on a Friday), but my ob/gyn wasn’t available. Monday was the soonest, and hey, I have that. So now I have the weekend to prepare for I’m not sure what – while they typically do biopsies the same day/in office (at least per my sister), there are just too many factors to know and “prepare” is such a vague and frankly ominous word.

So instead I have to sit, and think, and be with my thoughts. For a good Buddhist, this might not be an issue, but as we have discussed in the past, I am a very bad Buddhist.

I thought about just staying quiet. A few people, I told – the ones I would interact with over the weekend and know me well enough to know something is off. But I could just swallow everything with this, the fear and terror, the memories of my mother, and wait it out. I’m already not sleeping, so what is a little more stress?

And then I thought, of all people, of Xeni Jardin. I don’t know Xeni. I don’t tend to read Boing Boing. But you cannot live on the internet without knowing how she faced the possibility – and then diagnosis – of breast cancer. In fact, I had been thinking about how Xeni live-blogged her first mammogram as I was walking in to the ultrasound suite, and joked with the technician that I should tweet the ultrasounds, a sort of “what’s it really like” thing, because of the politicization of transvaginal ultrasounds this year.

I don’t pretend I am a Xeni Jardin. And I will be honest: I hope that I will have at most a week of uncomfortable rattling around in my head, thinking about how Mom was diagnosed with cancer almost – no, I’m sorry, exactly six years ago today. That? Is actually – I’m not sure if I’m laughing or crying, but I kind of suspect both.

In some ways, that’s a bit of a confirmation of what I was going to say, which is that I hope I will have at most a week of uncomfortable rattling around in my head, thinking about Mom and her cancer diagnosis, which is probably going to kick me to do a bit more writing of the kind I was doing six years ago. More narrative and emotion, more reflecting and self-reflection. And I find that what I wrote six years ago, to the damned bloody day, still holds true now:

I wasn’t going to write about this, not at first. It doesn’t belong here, it’s a personal experience, it’s not what people expect, if at this point there are any expectations. But I realized, while talking with GM this morning, that we don’t have the language to express what we’re thinking and feeling when someone tells us that their loved one is very ill. And I’m not sure we have the language to talk about it, either. We certainly don’t have the culture, in either case. And maybe this isn’t a healthy thing. Maybe it’s just another symptom of a sick society, and the cure is to challenge the norm of ‘I’m so sorry” “thank you” and actually move towards something more.

Once again, I found myself having to make a choice, having to decide how to define my interaction with important people in my life. With blogging. With Twitter. Once again, I could step up to the plate, be more aggressive than I might normally be inclined towards, and be honest — painfully honest — or I could simply walk away. Turn into a ghost and just disappear.

This is one of the hardest things I think I will have ever typed.

I had two ultrasounds this morning, and I am afraid.

I’ll Always Remember the 5th of November

Five years and a few hours ago, my mind filled in the blanks. It was around 6am; my father had guided me – by force and cajoling – to bed a few hours earlier, and then stood there to make sure I took the strong sedative he poured into my hands. I needed to sleep, he argued. She – we all – needed me to calm down. Worn out, I acquiesced and slipped into a hallucinatory blue twilight filled with the suns and stars decorating my sister’s bedroom.

Awareness is an odd thing. Although I was upstairs, away from the sick room, it’s clear that my brain registered some change. Maybe I heard the small beeps from a machine change; maybe just the right pause of my sister’s footsteps alerted me; maybe I heard the cat rouse herself from slumber at the foot of the hospital bed in order to act out. It’s hard to say what changed, but something did, and in the hazy twilight of that sedated sleep, I heard my name. I felt a hand across my forehead. I felt the gentle flutter of lips that followed that hand.

Groggy, I opened my eyes and I tried brushing my sister, who was being uncharacteristically affectionate and thus weird, away.

Only my sister wasn’t there.

No one was there.

A moment later my sister did appear in the doorway to the bedroom, looking drawn and wan. She gave me a quizzical look.

“Were you just in here?” I asked her.

“No,” she said in a tone I’d never heard before. She didn’t have to say it, then – I knew – but she did, anyhow: “She’s gone.

I’ve had a shit day.

I could talk in metaphor. I could talk about how I always had a problem navigating cliques, as far back as I can remember. I could talk about my niece having problems that are so painfully familiar, with not knowing how to tell people to go away but wait, no, please come back. Please help. I could talk about misogyny and how it still smacks me hard in the face at unexpected times, at my offense at having my accomplishments written off in such a crude manner. I could talk about a lot of things – about being tired, confused, isolated. I could talk about my surprise at being hurt over things I thought long buried, about hurt as fresh as a bruise. I could talk of shoes and expectations and trust falls and fails, I could have a “whole ‘nother conversation going in another universe” – one where maybe five people would truly be able to follow along.

I could do all that, but ultimately? What would the point be? Strike out, strike blind, maybe score a point simply to have scored it.

It is, at least in one sphere, poor practice. Or maybe I’m just very, very tired. So instead, here, have a song from P!nk’s new album. I like it, and it sums it all up rather nicely for 11:40pm and a bit too much rum.

I think I’ve finally had enough, I think I maybe think too much
I think this might be it for us (blow me one last kiss)
You think I’m just too serious, I think you’re full of shit
My head is spinning so (blow me one last kiss)

Just when I think it can’t get worse, I had a shit day
You had a shit day, we’ve had a shit day
I think that life’s too short for this, I’ll pack my ignorance and bliss
I think I’ve had enough of this. Blow me on last kiss.

Oh hello irony, nice to see you

For various reasons, I’m re-reading this post, from six very long years ago. This part, in particular, has me in that “am I laughing or crying” zone:

The idea of codes and oaths, and the idea of good being unbreakably linked to excellence is an interesting idea; that you cannot parse them individually. A good surgeon is a surgeon who does not remove the wrong organs. To then take this goodness and link to ethics, though, I wonder? Can you be ethical if you’re bad at it? Well, can’t you be ethical, but incompetent? To have the good intent, but the bad skill?

Oh. Oh the fucking painful irony.

Thoughts on Gender and the Philly Geek Awards

I’m lounging in bed this morning, not so much hungover as sleep-deprived, and I’m trying to figure out how to put last night in to words. It’s a bit of a sorry state for a writer, but I have a good excuse: I was exposed to one of those things you always hear about but never think really exist, and then coming face-to-face with it rearranges your reality enough that you just have to stop.

What unicorn did I run in to? Philadelphia Geeks.

I mean, sure, I’d heard here and there that Philly had a vibrant geek community. There certainly seemed to be a lot of space for techies and co-work places and the like. And I’d seen some glimpses of the potential when I went to Mega-Bad Movie Night at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

But still. You know how it goes, right? You hear about great possibilities and then they don’t really live up to it. Or, worse – they’re misogynistic. And what with everything that recently happened with ReaderCon and Scalzi having to explain how not to be a creep, and the general continuing argument/debate over misogyny in geek/gaming communities (see, the internet, always), you can’t really blame a girl for being apprehensive – especially when a lot of the promotion for the geek scene comes from mostly a bunch of guys.

Well, they’re mostly a bunch of guys I owe a giant mea culpa and apology to. Tim, Eric and the rest of the Geekadelphia crew put together an amazing event: The Philadelphia Geek Awards. Last night was the second year of the awards, a black tie event held at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and it does just what it sounds like: celebrates the local geeks.

Except it did so much more than that.

Geek of the Year Tristin Hightower. See the full gallery of pictures at this link.
Take a look at the nominees for hacker of the year. Stephanie Alarcon and Georgia Gutherie. Both women. The nominees for the Philly geek of the year? All women. And the rest of the nominees were healthily represented by not only women but Not Just White Dudes! (Which I admit I’m not going to focus on, but holy diversity! That was amazing – especially at the after party! In my PNW geek experience, you find the geeks by looking for the pasty group. At National Mechanics, you identified the geeks because they were dressed to the nines!)

Sure, you think – in categories where only women are nominated, clearly a woman will win. But look who took Local Annual Event of the Year: Women in Tech! To screams and ovations!

The scientist of the year, Dr. Youngmoo Kim, bragged about his wife having multiple degrees and just how sexy it was that she was smart. Female presenters got up and proudly declared they were scientists and engineers. It was actually rare to see an award on stage without a woman as a part of the team – and it was clear that the women weren’t tokens.

I know, I know. I’m gushing. But, geeky women – tell me, honestly. When’s the last time you were out at a bar and guys approached you asking what flavor of geek you were, and then wanted to talk about that? Sure, I got oogled – and I did a lot of oogling myself, because damn, Philly’s geeks (male and female) clean up nice! But I had conversations. I just want to emphasize this: I had conversations! In a bar! About Doctor Who and medicine and science and stem cells and MakerBots and Firefly and Joss Whedon and comic books and philosophy, all while drinking and dancing and – it was just a bar of geeks who wanted to be geeks!

If you don’t know how rare that is, you’re so lucky.

And I am so lucky to have seen that this kind of world can and does exist in Philadelphia. So thank you, Eric and Tim and Jill and everyone else involved in making last night happen, and for the many folks I talked to, drank with, and had an after-after party with, for making a bit more room for one more geeky girl.