Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Recipe (Poppy Seed Casserole)

While Debbie and Mom were here with us during my post surgical week, Debbie made this casserole for us. I wish I had a picture of it (I was too looped on pain meds to even think about taking pictures) because it is so beautiful, not to mention delicious and healthy.

Poppy Seed Casserole

10 oz egg noodles (wheat or regular)

1 lb ground hamburger or turkey

15 oz can tomato sauce

1 C cottage cheese

8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

1/2 C vanilla yogurt

1 T poppy seeds

1. Cook noodles till tender. Drain and while hot, toss with cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt and poppy seeds.

2. Brown meat—may add salt, pepper, and onion if desired.

3. Drain meat and stir in tomato sauce.

4. Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray and spread 3/4 of noodles/cheese on bottom of pan.

5. Spread 3/4 of meat mixture on top, leaving a 1-inch border.

6. Spread the rest of the noodles, leaving a border.

7. Top with remaining meat, leaving a border.

(Note: It’s all the borders that make this dish so pretty!)

Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees covered; uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

This also heats up great as a leftover.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Nathan News

A few of you commented after my last post, hoping that the bad news I referenced about Nathan wasn't too bad.

So rather than create any unnecessary worry for any of my lovely readers (that would be you), I'll just go ahead and tell you what's going on with him.

The original good news we had back at Spring Break was that he had found a job here in Manteo at a yacht-building company. Well, a couple weeks ago that job fell through because some yacht orders were cancelled.

So he was back to Square One in the job hunting challenge.

Then some more good news arrived. He found another job! At a Christian summer camp! With good pay! Doing stuff he enjoyed!

The bad news?

The camp is in Florida.

And so (big sigh) he will arrive home this coming Monday evening and stay for only two weeks. And then he will be gone. For a good long while--maybe even all the way through the summer and into his senior year of college.

So that's the bad news.

Although I know it isn't completely, totally, entirely bad news--he does have a job, he does get to come home--it is bad news for this mama who was looking forward to having him under my roof for three months.

But on the other hand, I'm happy for him that he has a job and happy that he gets to spend the summer near his girlfriend, her family (who are like a second family to him), his home church, and his buddies in the area.

And I'll be okay.

Because more than being sad about him not coming home, I'd proud of him for leaving the nest and making his way in this world without his Mom and Dad having to hold his hand every step of the way. He's becoming a really fine, really grown up young man. And his dad and I are incredibly proud of him.

And that's the news.

The good news. The bad news. The Nathan News.

The Story of the Drains

Well, we’ve been “found out.”

Mary H. asked if were quite possible that we were the ones who removed the two remaining drains yesterday. And, as a matter of fact, we were.

I called the surgeon’s office yesterday morning to see if they were willing to let my local doctor do the removal to save a trip back to Greenville. They said they were. However, it seems the local doctor wasn’t comfortable doing it, because it was someone else’s medical case. (Lawsuit worries, I guess.)

So then I asked my surgeon’s nurse if it could be done outside of a medical office setting, like if an RN from our church came to the house to do it.

She said that would be fine.

And then I got to thinking about how the first two drains were removed on Monday and that all it involved was a little snip of a stitch and then a gentle tug, and about a foot of plastic tubing came out of the hole in the side of my body. It didn’t hurt, it didn’t bleed, it was no big deal.

(I started off with two drains on each side, as seen in the picture below. Can you understand why I would want them removed? )


And here again, is a picture from the Internet as to what the drains look like. Really fun stuff.


So anyway, while I was pondering whether or not I was “medically equipped” to remove the drains myself, I got to thinking about the period after Sarah’s transplant when I was put in sole charge of this array of medical equipment. If the oncologists and nurses at Duke would trust me with all of this, shouldn’t I also be considered competent enough to snip one stitch and one pull one drain?

sarah med

I decided I was.

And so I got it into my desperate, female, feverish brain that I was sick (not to mention tired) of living with drains for two weeks and that as soon as Steve got home from picking up Sarah from school, he and I were going to snip and pull as a couple. (I mean, how do you think a strong marriage is forged without a few snipping/pulling adventures?)

When I told him my plan, he was a bit hesitant but I plainly informed him that if he didn’t help me, I was doing it myself. Because I’d. Had. It. And besides, it wasn’t brain surgery, after all. It was one snip and a pull.

And so we did it. He snipped. I pulled. And I must say that it is a very strange feeling to pull a foot of plastic tubing out of each side of ones’ person. Steve was not real keen on looking at the operation but I was so desperate, it really didn’t bother me.

And then presto! I was transformed from this . . .


into this!


Well, maybe not instantly, but it sure did make a world of difference to me, psychologically AND physically.

Some of you commented that you didn’t know I was not allowed to shower while the drains were in. That is true. For TWO weeks, I did not shower. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone for two weeks without showering, but let me just say that I will never again take showering for granted. There is nothing quite like the feel of standing under splashing, clean, clear water and feeling like a human being again.

Ahhhh . . .

So anyway, a big thanks to everyone who has rejoiced with me over my drainless state and also, the fabulous ability to shower that has come back into my life.

In my next update—good and bad Nathan news.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


All four drains are gone!

I have showered! (When stepping into a shower makes you cry, you know you're teetering on the emotional edge.) :-)

I have put on fresh clothes!

I have washed and styled my hair!

I have even put on make up!

I don't know when I have ever been so happy.

I'll try to post a picture of the new and improved me soon but just getting the drains out has made me feel like a new woman.

Ahhhh . . . . my whole entire self is smiling.

The Smith House

I’ve been promising to write “the rest of the story” about the sale of our house and today—after an extra long nap--is finally the day!

By way of a quick review, here is what we were up against in our recent home buying/selling challenge:

The house we had for sale in Smithfield had to be under contract by April 30 in order for us to get a (greatly needed) $6,500 rebate. More importantly, the house had to be sold by that date in order for us to be able to buy the rent-to-own house we’re currently living in.

Coincidentally, April 30 was also the day another buyer was waiting in the wings to buy our rent-to-own house if we weren’t able to. (We had first dibs on it but only as long as we were able to do it by the deadline.)

While we wouldn’t have immediately been out on the street on April 30, our challenge was that, since this is a very expensive market, there are literally no other houses in Manteo anywhere near our price range with the features we would like to have. Our Realtor just basically stumbled across this house when we moved to town five months ago. It wasn’t even officially listed at the time but, because it had been listed in the past, he called up the owner on the off chance that he might be thinking about putting it on the market again sometime. And he was. So we were able to get the house (on a rent to own basis) before anyone else even knew it was for sale.

So it was really a one-in-a-million find and within our financial reach only because it needed some repairs and fix-its.

Because our Realtor knew about all the impossible deadlines we were up against, he got busy looking around for another home for us if this one fell through. Finally he just said, “There’s just nothing else out there.” And this is a creative, motivated guy who doesn’t give up easily.

So by the time April 27th rolled around and no offers had come in on the house we were trying to sell, we were sweatin’ just a little. There’s nothing like a bit of stress to keep life interesting: we had a cancer diagnosis, major surgery and a huge housing crisis all hit within a couple of weeks.

I was definitely stressed out about the whole issue, but I was especially feeling bad for Sarah. She had so fallen in love with this house, her 3rd story, 400 sq. foot bedroom, the lovely neighborhood, the pretty front porch, her big bathroom.


She had spent a good deal of time over the past few weeks worrying over the fact that we would have to move and she talked with me about it quite a bit. In fact, last Wednesday, she had yet another “house mourning spell.” She came and got into bed beside me (I was in between several of my daily Post Surgical Naps) and broke down into tears over the whole situation, not wanting to move, not wanting to leave a place she had already come to love. I listened to her sadness, we talked together and I comforted her as best I could. After she left the room, I went back to sleep.

About an hour later, Steve came into the room, woke me and said, “Hi, honey. How would you like to sell the house in Smithfield today?”

I just gaped at him rather vacantly--having just awakened from a deep sleep, I was trying to determine whether or not I was dreaming, or if it really was my husband sitting on my bed telling me this last minute, incredible, impossible news.

As it turned out, our Realtor in Smithfield had just called him with an offer that (while lower than we had hoped) was still something we could work with. And that meant that our house which had been on the market for sixteen months was actually, miraculously under contract—just two days before the final, scary deadline.

After Steve and I had done our own bit of rejoicing, we started talking about how we wanted to share the news with Sarah, and my visiting mom and sister. The news was too big and too wonderful to just blurt out any ol’ way, so Steve came up with a plan.

At dinner that night, we all sat down to a wonderful meal my sister had cooked. We joined hands as we always do and Steve prayed the following prayer:

“Dear Lord, thank you for this beautiful evening and that Debbie and Jo Ann get to be here with us for a few days. Thank you for this wonderful meal and (pause) thank you that the house in Smithfield sold today. Amen.”

There was half a nanosecond of silence and then Debbie half squealed and half squeaked, “It sold? It really sold? Really?” (She and her husband had been praying fervently about our housing situation for many weeks.)

While Debbie continued on with her own celebratory spate of happiness, I glanced across the table at Sarah and this is what I saw.


And then her smile gave way to the happiest tears I’ve ever seen. Her sweet, grateful face just made me cry.


The dinner was momentarily forgotten as the five of us sat and basked in the wonderful news. It was especially timely that mom and Debbie just happened to with us for the announcement because they had been praying right along with us. Being just five days out from cancer surgery, I was still a bit foggy and drugged, but I was not too foggy to realize we had just seen an amazing answer to prayer.

After we finally got down to eating and were finishing up the last bites, Steve suddenly got up and said he had to “do something.” He left in the van for a few minutes and returned with a little surprise.

Ever since we moved into the house five months ago, we had always said the front porch was perfect for a swing and we all looked forward to the day when we would be able to get one. Well, Steve decided that there was no better day to get a swing than on our Good News Day!

Since I was out of commission, Sarah was enlisted as his helper.


Debbie got in on the act, as well.



Everything was fine (not to mention dandy) until it occurred to Steve that something was a bit amiss. It appears as though the swing had been made for people with very long legs. Very, very long legs.




Happily, my very observant, ever resourceful husband quickly discerned that he did not live in a family of Very Long Legged People and within a few minutes, he had gone back to the store and bought some more chain to remedy the situation.

And so it was the next morning, before my still-rejoicing mom and sister left for the airport, that they got to sit for a few minutes on the swing on the porch on the house that will happily shelter the Smith family for years to come.


The front porch of The Smith House. What beautiful words! What a beautiful place.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I apologize for the lack of updates recently. I just can't seem to locate the emotional stamina it takes to get it all together.

I have so enjoyed and appreciated the comments and e-mails that have continued to come in, even while I take a brief hiatus from posting much of substance. And at some point, I hope to stumble across a big dose of enthusiasm, strength, and verve and get back to my usual schedule of posting.

Until then, thank you for continuing to stop by and thank you for leaving your thoughts and prayers scattered all around the corners of Smithellaneous. If I can't hang out here much right now, it's nice to know that you're here, at least. It's also nice to know that when I get back, there will be someone waiting for me.

Talk to you soon . . .

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Draggin' . . .

I'm not feeling so great today.

More pain than usual. Less stamina.

A little melancholy. A lot tired.

It's raining outside and dreary. Not raining inside, but still--a bit dreary.

I'm going to go back to bed for awhile and see if I can sleep my way to a better frame of mind. And state of body.

It could be that my 4-hour jaunt to the doctor yesterday followed by a wee teeny bit of house cleaning was a bit too much for this middle-aged, post-operative, drain-draggin' woman.

Later . . .

Monday, May 3, 2010


I'm here. Finally.

It's been a long day.

I was originally planning on writing a longer, newsier post, but for now a few bullet points and a summary or two will have to suffice.

I slept very poorly last night and was up at 5:30 for the visit to the two surgeons. I haven't had a nap yet plus, I actually drove an hour on the way home which, while very exciting (I haven't driven in ten days), was sort of tiring.

Here is the day in a nutshell:

They did remove two of the four drains. I was told that they don't usually remove all four at the same time because when they take out two, the other two usually drain extra for a few days, just to "finish the job." (Or something like that.)

If my drains don't fill up a lot this week, I can go back on Friday to have the remaining two removed.

Four and a half hours on the road. $30 for gas and food. All for a 2 1/2 minute, drain-removing procedure. Sigh.

So while I was thrilled to be rid of two of the drains, it's a bit disheartening to still be haulin' the remaining two of them around. I'm trying to experiment with different ways to hide them and tuck them away but I've basically come to the realization that as fashion accessories, drains are pretty much non-starters.

We left the plastic surgeon and drove over to the cancer surgeon where we got the pathology report from the surgery. And here is the news from that report:
  • Four lymph nodes were removed during surgery; all are clear.
  • There is no need for chemo.
  • There is no need for radiation
  • There is no need to take Tamoxifen
  • I don't need to see a medical oncologist (in addition to the surgical oncologist)
  • My prognosis is excellent
So hooray for that fabulous report!

In an interesting bit of news, they did pathology on the right breast tissue as well, and found quite a few atypical cells. Even though atypical doesn't always equal cancer, atypical is still not a good thing. So I'm glad I went ahead and did the bilateral mastectomy and just got everything done with. For good.

The plastic surgeon will give me a couple weeks to heal up and then I will go back for the first saline filling. (There's probably a medical name for that procedure but at this juncture, "saline filling" is the best I can do.)

We'll continue the "saline filling procedure" for several months and then at some point (probably late summer) I'll have another surgery to remove the saline filled expanders and have them replaced them with permanent implants.

Doesn't that sound like such a fun time? (How I spent my summer vacation.)

In closing, last Thursday night, I really hit rock bottom. Physically and emotionally, I'd just had it. I cried all the way through dinner (Sarah was at a friend's house so she didn't have to witness my emotional crumbles) and by the end of the evening, this is what I looked like.

I felt ugly, and depressed and non feminine and unlovable. I dragged myself off to bed early and wished that I could just disappear. For a very long time.

Friday when I finally took my weary self downstairs for breakfast, this is what I saw at my place at the table.

I'm so grateful for a 28-year marriage that isn't based on appearance and perfection and non-stop wonderfulness. I'm thankful that after a cancer diagnosis, and a mastectomy, and all the complexities of emotional and physical changes that have to be grappled with, I am married to a man who still loves me just the way I am.

Imperfect. Flat chested. Weary. Disheartened. Expensive. (In medical terms.)

And yet, in his eyes, still lovely.

I am blessed.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ministering Angels (And Dog)

(Note: Go to Sarah's site to see some pictures from our recent stay at the beach when we "kidnapped" Sarah for the afternoon.)

Tomorrow I’ll write a bit more about the miraculous last minute sale of our house and post some pictures/stories about that whole scenario; today, however, I want to concentrate on saying thank you to the two special ladies who came to spend a week with us after my surgery.

My sister Debbie, and Mom (Jo Ann) were most definitely ministering angels to me when I needed them the most. Whenever you’re sick, it’s always great to have Mom nearby and I was blessed that mine was able to be here--sitting near me while I slept, cooking for me, bringing me water, and knitting my days and nights together with her prayers.

And I was also blessed to have a sister who hung with me through some pretty rough waters. She kept my meds straight, emptied my drains, clucked over me like a mother hen, helped me unwrap my dressings from the surgery, stood by with great compassion when I couldn’t stop vomiting, helped me get out of bed when everything hurt too bad to even move, cooked several meals, and did my grocery shopping in her “spare time.” In short, Debbie is one of those women who gives sisters a good name.

Here are a few pictures from their visit:

Mom’s delicious potato pancakes.


Midway through their visit, Debbie suddenly decided that what the Smith home needed was a hummingbird feeder so she dashed out and got one for us. Here she is showing Sarah how to make the hummingbird nectar and fill the feeder.



Mom was there for me to do important things like putting on my socks when I wasn’t able to bend down.


The Sock Ladies. (I was still on painkillers so I look a little loopy.)


Of course, Mom and Debbie were right there with me coming out of surgery.


Here they are hanging out with my other wonderful “angel of mercy,“ Steve’s mom.


Of course, we don’t want to leave out the other ministering angel in my life, little ol’ Snowy. He was always ready to hang out with the gals and bring his own unique brand of cheery therapy to the occasion.


Mom and Debbie left for home last Thursday and we have been very well taken care of in their absence by people in the church who have brought meals by each night.

I’ve also been cheered by emails, cards in the mail and this bunch of balloons sent by a website friend in Illinois.


Although this has been a harder journey than I had anticipated (emotionally and physically), I am very aware how blessed I am to have so many people in my life who are helping to lift the load for me.

Tomorrow, Steve and I will head out at 7: 15 am for Greenville and see my two surgeons. And speaking of surgeons, I don’t think I’ve mentioned in any of the past updates that they did biopsy the sentinel node on the left side and it was clean. That’s good news!

Well, I feel like this update has been sort of disjointed but I at least wanted to get something written before heading back to bed for a while. I’m not sure why I’m so tired all the time; I guess, eventually I might feel more like myself again.

Little by little . . .


I’ll close with a “teaser” picture from my next update.