I'll begin by saying how lucky I am. There, I've blown the ending, but I wanted to share my story and hope you take something from it.
A couple months ago, I was astonished to see a bright pink spot on my chest, just left of the sternum. I called my dermatologist, but waited several anxious weeks for an appointment. The spot began to change, darkening a little and developing a somewhat irregular border. When I finally saw the doctor, she took one look at the worrisome spot and said, "That's nothing. It will fade. No worries." Sigh of relief. Then she did an all-over skin check and found two spots that looked suspicious, most likely a couple of basal cell carcinomas, the least risky of skin cancers. So she injected a bit of local anesthetic and took a tiny sample of the one on my temple. The one on the back of my neck, she "scraped and burned" after putting in the anesthetic. Relieved, I went on with my day.
About four years ago, the same dermatologist biopsied several spots on my face and referred me to a skin cancer surgeon. In his office, he removed four basal cell carcinomas, two near my nose, one in the corner of my eye and another in my scalp, so I wasn't too concerned. Until I received a call from the dermatologist the following Monday. She sounded more than a little rattled when informing me that the spot on my temple was a melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer.
This spot did not look like any pictures of melanomas I had seen. It was round (smaller than a pea), flat, pale pink and had even borders. In fact, the doctor had photographed it the first time I saw her and said she would keep an eye on it. So off I went to the skin cancer surgeon. He did a much larger biopsy sample and sent it off to the lab to confirm her diagnosis. The surgeon shared the pathology finding with the Baylor tumor conference (large group of doctors) to get more direction about how to proceed. One possibility was to get a sentinel node biopsy, so they could see if there was any spread. The tumor conference agreed that this was not necessary, that it was a Stage 0 in situ (Latin for "in place") melanoma. Another piece of good news.
I still faced removal of the margins around the larger biopsy, a two-day "slow Mohs" procedure. After his assistant pin-pricked me about a dozen times with anesthesia (ouch), the surgeon removed a disk of tissue somewhere between a the size of nickel and a quarter and applied a pressure bandage. The tissue was sent to a lab to be dehydrated and examined for any remaining cancer cells. Everything was clear. Yay. Next step was closing the wound. The surgeon incised a triangle above and below the wound, so it could be neatly closed with many tiny stitches to ensure a good cosmetic result. Another pressure bandage and home I went. Now I look like I lost a fight. My eye is swollen half-closed and I'm pretty sure I'll end up with a black eye, but I'm assured the scar will heal beautifully.
As a kid (before sunblocks), I had many painful, blistering sunburns. I remember wearing one of my brother's undershirts to swim in, but that did not protect my face. So here's the drill, folks. Wear sunscreen and stay out of the sun when possible. Get a yearly skin check from a dermatologist and report anything suspicious to the doctor. Melanoma killed nearly 10,000 Americans in 2016, so it's nothing to fool around with. Take it from me.
A conundrum (a word I've always loved and would like to play in Scrabble) is defined as a "confusing or difficult problem or question." That is what parents of school-age children are facing right now and my two daughters are no exception. There was confusing information at first, but then the school district said that all students would attend school remotely for the first four weeks. After that, parents were given a choice for the next 9-week session: in-person classes or continued remote learning. After a lot of discussion with their spouses, Hannah and Alison chose remote learning for Booker (12), Lena (10) and Noah (6) out of an abundance of caution since the virus is raging in Texas.
On the surface, that sounds like a good plan, but it comes with complications. Hannah, for example, is working from home and her husband works from the office in an essential industry. She has a home office and is on conference calls all day long. They have hired a nanny to be with the two children and guide them through their lessons. Alison's husband Matt, who is taking courses on-line himself at the moment, will take responsibility for getting Booker through the school day while Alison works at Whole Foods. Andy and I will help out wherever we can - like letting the kids blow off steam in our pool. I worry about families who cannot afford extra help or may not have family to fill in.
This is a tough adjustment for both parents and kids. Little Noah has not seen any of his school friends since March and he misses them terribly. In kindergarten, he was thriving on the busy classroom atmosphere and loved his teacher. Switching to on-line learning has been challenging for him. Lena and Booker have a better understanding of the situation and are doing OK, but miss the stimulation of being in the classroom and interacting with friends at lunch and in other activities. At this time, after-school sports programs are not running, either.
Even if these kids can return to in-person classes sometime this year, school will be a very different place. Educators and administrators are scrambling to do their best for these children and I do not envy them. As a former elementary school teacher, I can't imagine how they are coping--not only with students, but with their own families. Who will supervise remote learning for their kids? What risks will they face coming back into the classroom, even with the most careful precautions?
Each day I wake up and remember what a mess this is. Like everyone, I long to get back to some kind of normal without risking my health. All the ads on TV right now say we can do this together. I hope so.
It's mid-summer now and the Texas heat is getting to me. Next week, we will see the century mark in temperatures. I love that we moved here to be closer to grandchildren, but I've never gotten used to the suffocating air this time of year. So we hibernate most of the time. Of course, we're doing that anyway because of COVID-19.
The numbers of infections and deaths continue to rise In the Lone Star State. ICUs are full and emergency departments are overloaded with very sick patients. Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and first responders are exhausted. The general feeling is that Texas opened up too soon. Governor Abbott has backtracked and closed all the bars. He is now insisting that everyone wear masks in public places. Too little, too late, I'm afraid.
Our days go like this. We sleep later than usual, waking at 7:30 or 8. Each of us makes our own breakfast. I settle in and skim through the news apps on my phone: New York Times, HuffPost, Politico, ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN. I make a mental note of longer articles on the NYT to read later in the day. I do the mini-crossword in less than a minute. Then I scan through FaceBook for anything interesting or funny. My husband has entirely different set of news apps on his iPad, but I won't get into that here.
We might watch some TV. Then I shower, dress and take our dachshund Toby for his first walk of the day. It's already 88 degrees, but feels like 97. Most days, some or all of our grandchildren come to swim along with two friends in their "quarantine pod." They jump off the side over and over, turn somersaults in the water and have foam shooter fights. I usually stay under the roof of the patio and observe. Sometimes I fix a tray of sandwiches and chips for them at noon.
After they leave, we scan Netflix, Amazon, BritBox and Acorn for shows we haven't seen. We've worked our way through just about everything and have resorted to watching police shows from Iceland, Denmark and other countries with subtitles. Being summer, there is absolutely nothing on network TV.
Then it's dinnertime. I order groceries every few days, so we're usually pretty well stocked. We try to keep it interesting with seafood, entree salads, and homemade Chinese and Mexican. I am getting sick of my own cooking, however. We order take-out once in a while. Then we watch the news, depressing as it is, and perhaps go out for ice cream and a long drive. I take Toby out for another constitutional after the sun goes down.
In bed by 10:00, I watch a little TV or read. Some nights, I just can't sleep, so I sneak into the family room and watch re-runs of Frasier on the Hallmark Channel. And so it goes. No one knows when we will emerge from this. At least, we can look forward to the cooler temperatures of fall. Stay well, my friends.
In the mid-seventies, Andy and moved to Denver so he could take a new position with Johns-Manville. This was an exciting time for us. We loved going into the mountains and visiting ski resorts like Vail and Aspen in the summers. We bought a home in a new neighborhood in Aurora, a suburb close to his office. Almost everyone on our block was about the same age and there were scads of kids, giving our block the nickname of "Rabbit Row."
Someone had started a gourmet group and we gladly joined in. It worked like this. There were six couples involved, and each couple was responsible for hosting two dinners during the year. The group met at the beginning of the year and members chose what kind of dinners they would host. They would be responsible for the entree and alcoholic beverages. In addition, the host assigned recipes for the dishes to complement the meal (sides and desserts) to the other members.
Many of us chose menus that featured cuisines associated with our own backgrounds. Andy and I put together a Polish menu, for example, to reflect his heritage. This always involved a lot of research with cookbooks from the library (long before you could do it online). Others chose French, Austrian, African, Italian and other types of foods. There were always lots of choices, so if you didn't like something or there had been a recipe failure, there was backup. People took the time to find appropriate wine, liquor and after-dinner drinks.
We loved getting out our wedding china, crystal and silver for these occasions. The kids were taken to a babysitter at another member's home for the evening, so we had the freedom to prepare. It was always great fun, although I remember a few disasters, like when we made plum dumplings for the Austrian menu using several electric skillets and shorted out the electricity, plunging the house into darkness! One couple took us to a resort in the mountains where they had a cabin and treated the group to a French-Canadian meal. Prior to the meal, we could ride horses in a ring. I managed to fall off, setting off great hilarity.
Most of us were on a limited budget, so it gave everyone a chance to have an elegant, interesting meal once a month. After a few years, however, the group disbanded due to people moving, divorces, etc. We have great memories of those times together.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.