Friday, May 18, 2012

And She's Back

Yesterday I (and many others) blogged about Jen Dinoa's blog being removed from the State Department's blog roll on it's recruitment page. Her offense?  Blogging about her diagnosis and subsequent treatment for breast cancer. A story that was picked up by the Washington Post, Jezebel, the Gawker, the Drudge Report and others. If you want to know more feel free to check out her blog, or scroll down and read yesterday's post.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

All caught up? Good. Well it seems that the powers that be were listening.  Not only was Jen's blog put back on the list where it belongs, but this message is currently featured prominently at the top of the page:

To our Bloggers: As you can see, we have re-linked to Jen Dinoia’s blog and sincerely regret any offense we caused. We appreciate all your efforts to share your personal Foreign Service experiences (writ large) and are pleased to offer them a wider audience. We will certainly try to be more sensitive in future decisions regarding placements. Thanks again for your efforts and your service – Jeff Levine, Director of Recruitment, Examination and Employment

One of the downsides of being a trailing spouse (aside from being stuck with that dreadful label) is an occasional feeling of helplessness or being out of control of your life.  After all, we are not the one choosing where we live, our house, or even our furniture.  To be honest the employee isn't exactly making those choices either, so perhaps they experience those feelings from time to time as well.  In any case, in this instance, it is gratifying to know our voices were heard, and an injustice was rectified.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nipples! Boobs!

Do I have your attention?  Why do these two words cause such a ruckus? I mean all of us have nipples, and about half of us have boobs, but apparently if you are a FS blogger you shouldn't talk about them. At least not on your blog.  Not even if you were diagnosed with breast cancer while your husband was on an unaccompanied tour in Iraq working hard for the department while you were busy at home raising the kids and holding everything together while serving your own unaccompanied tour as a single parent.  At least that's what my bloggy friend Jen found out this week when her blog suddenly went missing from the official State Department Blog Roll list on the Department of State recruitment page.  Upon asking what's up she was told that "some topics covered were too personal" and "wouldn't resonate with the majority."

Okay, NEWS FLASH State Department, sooner or later everyone, and yes I mean EVERYONE will face some sort of medical issue.  It may not be breast cancer, but it WILL be something.  And if you happen to be serving in the FS it gets infinitely more complicated.  As FS families we have medical clearances to worry about.  No med clearance, no overseas posting, and if you are the family member instead of the employee then your loved one may end up serving overseas without you if you loose your clearance.  It happens.  So explain to me again how this is an issue that won't resonate?

I don't often share medical issues here on Cyberbones, at least not serious ones.  Minor setbacks are one thing. For instance I blogged back in Decemeber about the worst day ever, but of course a broken arm wouldn't really be the worst day ever, although I assure you that at the time it felt like it! Even minor medical issues are an absolute pain to deal with overseas. You may have to be medivaced, or you may be able to deal with it at post as we did, but it won't be easy. We had to pay in cash before they would even take X-rays. I didn't have enough money in my purse so I had to borrow money from the Med unit at the embassy to pay. We were lucky, if the break had been worse we would have had to medivac to South Africa to have it set. Alonzo was supposed to be seen by an orthopedic Doc (the only one in the country) on the Wednesday after the break when the doctor came up to the local clinic.  He would review the X-rays and make sure it was set correctly, but due to gas shortages it was more than two weeks before the ortho Doc could make the trip up from Blantyre.  And this was just a minor issue.

Major, or potentially major health issues, are something else entirely, and something I generally hold private.  I have not blogged about David's recent surgery, or my own medical scares that have occurred since we joined the FS.  Not until now.

David had surgery last month.  In South Africa. On a medivac.  While the kids and I had to stay at post, and wait, and worry. He had to recover from surgery alone, in a hotel, in a strange country, where he knew pretty much no one. Sound like fun to you?

Dave actually did fine.  The surgery was to have his gall bladder removed, which is pretty routine as surgeries go.  For me the worst was waiting for word of how the surgery went.  If I had been able to go with Dave (tickets from here to SA are close to a $1000 roundtrip so it wasn't an option) someone would have let me know when he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine.  That doesn't happen if you are sitting by a phone in another country.  Dave went into surgery around 2. It was supposed to take 45 minutes. Given time in recovery I expected to hear something around 5ish, and yes we had confirmed that with the Doc.  The surgery took closer to 2 hours due to inflammation and scarring. I didn't know that, I only know that 5 came and went with no word from my husband. By 6:30 I was convinced something had gone terribly wrong. Eventually at almost 7 David called to say he survived, he was pretty incoherent, and obviously in a lot of pain but I was beyond relived to hear his voice.

He spent about 2 weeks in South Africa for the surgery.  The first few days post op were hard.  We spent a lot of time facetiming (like Skype for Apples) once he was out of the hospital and at the hotel. I hated seeing him in so much pain and not be able to do a damn thing about it, not even fetch him a cup of water. It pretty much sucked. He is fine now, and the surgery seems to have fixed the issues that he was having, so it is a good thing he had it done, but it was emotionally much harder than I thought it would be.

I have had my own health scares at post.  In Jakarta I turned 40, time for that first mammogram.  I had planned to have my base line mammogram done while on R&R.  The med unit persuaded me to have it done at post before heading home.  It was explained to me that if something turned up I wouldn't be allowed to return to post until my medical status was cleared.  So I headed off to get my very first mammo while still in Jakarta.  It showed a lump.  I had to be medivaced to Singapore to have more tests done.  Thankfully plane tickets are cheap in in SE Asia so Dave could accompany me.  When we saw the doctor I was expecting more tests and more waiting, but I had a sonogram and a vacuum assisted lumpectomy (liposuction for the boob)  all in the same visit.  We had to pay up front.  Our credit card was smoking when we left the office, but I was given the all clear, no cancer.  Yay!  Eventually after much paperwork we were reimbursed by the insurance company, Double Yay!

At our next post it happened again.  This time it was the other breast and the doctor spoke German. I don't. Actually he spoke pretty good English except for the medical terms, those he only know in German. You know the important stuff I was there to talk about? All German.  Fun times.  This time I had a needle biopsy of a cyst, which again showed no cancer. Again I had to pay out of pocket and then file with the insurance to be reimbursed.  The best thing (aside from the no cancer) was I could walk to hospital from the house, no medivac.

I am planning to have another mammo this Christmas when I am home for R&R.  I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking about  it, I have yet to manage a normal mammo.  What if something turns up AGAIN?  What will we do?  I won't be able to return to post until the issue is resolved. Will I keep the boys with me while Dave returns to post alone?  Do I send them back with Dave while I stay behind alone?  What about our planned trip to Cape Town on the way back from R&R? Ugh!

So you see just in our own little family, with relatively minor medical problems, we have run into lots of issues.  Issues which we are only having to deal with because we choose to serve our country in the foreign service. We have had to front the money for medical procedures, sometimes quite a lot of money. We have had to be medivaced, separating the family during an already stressful time.  We have to worry about my next mammogram and what it will turn up, will it screw up vacations plans?  Medical clearances? Our next posting?  Remind me again how medical issues, boob related or not, are too personal and don't resonate?

I am not the only one blogging about nipples, boobs and medical issues today.  Much like when Jen was diagnosed and dozens of blogs turned pink in a show of support, there seems to be a nipple theme on blog after blog today, in spite of the fact "it won't resonate." It seems like it is resonating pretty well to me.  It even resonated all the way to the Washington Post.

Nipplegate Participants 2012 (If I linked to you and you would like me to remove the link just let me me know!) 

The Dinoa Family
Sectrummy Mummy
A Daring Adventure
Sadie Abroad
Four Globetrotters
The Wandering Drays
We Meant Well
Noble Glomads
Well That Was Different
Whale Ears and Other Wonderings
Like Nomads, But With More Stuff
Life After Jerusalem 
dp's Blog
Land Of the Long White Cloud

Monday, May 7, 2012

C25K Malawi Style

If you are not familiar with C25K (read it as C to five K) it's the Couch to 5k program.  It is a step by step program that will (theoretically) take you from being a couch potato to being able to run a 5k in just 9 short weeks.  Dave and I have decided that we are going to do this program together and we are starting this week, sort of.

How do you sort of start a running program?  Well if you are less than 3 weeks post op from a gall bladder removal (Dave) or sadly and incredibly out of shape (ME) you start by walking.  The first week of the program you are supposed to "Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes." You do three time a week. Sounds reasonable enough except for one thing if I walk for 20 minutes at a pace that allows me to keep up with Dave (who walks as fast as many people jog, I'm talking a 12 minute mile) I am huffing and puffing like mad.  It's pitiful really.  

This week we are trying to walk 20 minutes everyday.  If we circle the block we live on it is almost exactly 2 km and last night it took us about 20 minutes, I'm sure Dave could have done it in less if I hadn't been along, I could feel myself slowing down a bit on the second kilometer.  Tonight we set out again.  By the end of the first kilometer I could feel a blister forming on my heel.  I finished the walk tonight in true Malawi style, barefoot and carrying my shoes.  Of course I am sure that the other people I saw walking barefoot and carrying shoes were doing so to make their shoes last a little longer, not because their fancy athletic shoes had given them a blister.