Friday, January 3, 2014

Another Surgery Done and Love Life Update

I ended 2013 with another surgery to increase the margins on the cancerous area on my left breast.  Everything went smoothly and I'm back in Mission recovering.  Now just to waiting for the final pathology results which will probably not be ready until the end of next week.   With any luck this will be the last of the surgery on the left side and I just have to get through the radiation and then the surgery to even up the right side.

My trip to Houston did have a couple of nice bits to it... I met Evelyn and Kevin Breutzmann and had a very nice dinner with them on last Sunday evening.  I met them at Amazon and they had just wrapped up another successful peak season in Coffeyville, KS.  They were in Houston for a few days before heading east to New Orleans and points further east.  It was nice to see them and catch up.  

Evelyn reminded me that I had promised an update on the online dating activities... Apparently I left something of a cliff hanger...

I thought I had met someone on  He was very charming and we had a lot of great conversations and email exchanges.  Unfortunately, he never could manage to make it to visit.  And then he just disappeared.  I'm not at all sure what was up with that.   There are strange folks out there.  

I had a few more interesting conversations with guys on Match.  But it seemed that none of them were anywhere close to the the Rio Grande Valley.  I was befinning to think that moving to Mission, Texas had been the kiss of death for my love life!

I think I mentioned that I had looked at first, but the people that I saw online were nothing like the ones in the commercials???   Well, back in early November I received an email from the OurTime site indicating that I had 5 new matches.   One of those was in McAllen and he looked interesting so I decided to finish up my registration on OurTime and take a look.  

Almost immediately I got a message from Jeff.  We exchanged an email or two and then started chatting.   A little while later we talked on the phone and ended up going to dinner that evening.   It was a little fast, but remember I had just been having an ongoing conversation with someone who I still hadn't met after several months.  I just decided I wanted to know right away if there was any real possibility there.

We had a great dinner and I can say that the $85 I spent on OurTime registration has been well worth it!  Jeff is originally from Indiana and has been down here in the Rio Grande Valley for 8 years.  He is an operations manager at a plant in Mexico so he crosses the border for work everyday.  He has 2 grown kids and 4 +3 granddaughters.  

We celebrated an early Christmas before he went north to visit family for Christmas.  It was a long 10 days apart!  He changed his return flight and flew back to Houston so he could be there for my surgery.  We had a very nice dinner on the night before my surgery at Prego in Houston.  Prego seems to be becoming my traditional night before surgery meal... it's the same place Dorothy and I had dinner at before my last surgery.

We've been going to area dances with some of the folks from Retama Village.  I love it!  The dancing generally starts at 7 and ends at about 10 pm.  They are always BYOB and tickets are less than $10.  So we can go dancing, have breakfast at IHOP and still be home by midnight.  It's great!  

So far Jeff's approval rating is high.  Most importantly with me, but never hurts to know others think he's a great guy too!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Long Overdue Update Part 1 -- Cancer

I can't believe I'm so far behind on this...  A lot of things have made it challenging.  The biggest thing was my computers just got too old!  And updating the blog from the iPad while doable was challenging.  So I finally have a new computer and hopefully will do a better job from here out.

Today I'll do the cancer update.

I had surgery at MD Anderson on November 1st.  So I missed my first Halloween in the Rio Grande Valley.  Something to look forward to next year.  My wonderful sister-in-law, Dorothy, came down and stayed for a week to help out.  

The day before surgery had a lot of tests that were part of the close out for the clinical trial I participated in.   The trial wasn't too bad.  I'm pretty sure I had the real drug and not the placebo since I had most of the known side effects... diarrhea and breakouts...   All that disappeared shortly after stopping the drugs.  

Then there was a visit with the plastic surgeon who drew lots of lines on both boobies with a sharpie.   Cute!  Dorothy's job was to retrace the lines after I showered that night and in the morning.  

We stayed at the Rotary House which I highly recommend if you ever have a need to visit MD Anderson.  Rates are a little higher than a hotel further away, but comparable to all the close by hotels and parking is actually cheaper.  The big advantage is they are physically connected to MD Anderson, so it is a walk through the halls to your appointments.  And a wheel chair ride back to your hotel room after surgery.  They also give you a printout of all your appointments when you check in.   And they have a shuttle that will take you anywhere within 2 miles for free.   

Surgery went very smoothly.  I was offered a epidural, but after talking to the anesthesiologist I decided against it.  I'm glad I skipped it because I honestly didn't have that much pain and in my case it wouldn't have been worth the risks.  I left surgery with 1 drain that stayed in for a week.  That was sort of a hassle, but thanks to my friend Cherie Matthews and her Heal in Comfort shirt it wasn't as bad as it could've been.  

I was back at work within a week.  My local OB-GYN removed the drain after a week.  Everything healed up great.  Then I got my 10 day pathology results... :-(  Standards say you should have 2mm of clean margins all around.  I only had 1 mm in 2 spots.  So back to MD Anderson for follow up and figuring out a plan to deal with that.  Options were to do more surgery or spot treat it with more intensive radiation.   I would've chosen the radiation option, but that would've meant being in Houston for about 4 weeks for daily treatments.  That just isn't possible when you have a job in Mission, TX so a redo on surgery is in order.

I'm scheduled to have touch up surgery on December 31st.  What a way to celebrate New Years Eve.   I told them I'm wearing a party hat!  lol  While others are having champagne I will be having the other drugs... I wish we could've done the surgery earlier, but that was the first day both the surgeons were available.  So now everything is all nice and healed up and starting to feel normal just in time to cut it all open again...   Oh well.  At least I know what to expect this time.  

My room is booked at the Rotary House and I'll be back in Mission on January 1st if all goes as well as last time.  Since I know what to expect they are good with me leaving the day after surgery unless I see something different than last time.

I'm doing good.  One boobie is now a cup size smaller than the other, but Dr. Garvey, the plastic surgeon, did a great job and I expect he will again.  By this time next year everything will be evened out and back to normal.  Something to look forward to!

There have been a couple of really good things that have come from this experience:

  • I got to spend one on one time with Dorothy and that was great.  I think it made us closer and I treasure that relationship.  
  • I've been reminded what wonderful friends I have.  Even though they are miles away they always check on me and that feels great.
  • I found out just what a great bunch of folks live at Retama Village.  I'm still eating food they left in my freezer!
  • When it is all said and done I will have higher and perkier boobies.   Who can complain about that at 52.  lol
Next:  updates on the job and lovelife...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

MD Anderson and Breast Cancer

It took about a month but the folks in the MD Anderson business office finally figured out that August comes after May on the calendar and therefore my breast cancer is not a "pre-existing condition" and they could schedule an appointment for me.  Tuesday my friend, Cindy, and I headed over to Houston so I could begin the process on Wednesday.

I've decided to try to write as honestly as I can about this process in hopes of helping others dealing with it.  As such I might get into some details you might now want to know... Just a little warning...

Wednesday, I took care of paperwork -- very smooth process thanks to advance form completion over the internet.  I then had the most comprehensive mammogram in the history of mammograms followed by an ultrasound.

On Thursday the real fun began.  I met my Surgical Oncologist, Dr. Delliah Black.  I really like her.  She's very knowledgeable, thorough and concerned about me as a person not just a breast cancer surgery.  I learned I have Stage 0 DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) intermediate, estrogen negative, progesteron negative, HER2 positive (MD Anderson had already sent my biopsy samples to their pathogist and got a more thorough diagnosis).  That means it is non-invasive at this point, but potentially fast growing.  The mammogram and ultrasound along with the exam confirmed that they do not believe there is any cancer currently present in the right breast and it does not appear to have spread to the lymph nodes.

She then explained the pros and cons of my 2 options -- segmental mastectomy (otherwise known as a lumpectomy) followed by radiation or complete mastectomy.  Survival rates between the 2 are vitually identical.  Recurrance rate with the mastectomy is about 5%.  With the lumpectomy and radiation the recurrance rate is about 10%. 

She also spent a good amount of time examining me from an appearance standpoint.  Given the location of my cancer and the amount of tissue affected she was concerned that I be happy not only with the cancer prognosis but also with the appearance prognosis.  She also arranged a consult with the plastic surgeon who would be involved in my surgery for reconstruction -- in my case with either procedure.   After more exams from an appearance standpoint my options were to likely go down from a C cup to a B cup with the lumpectomy or potentially retain the same size with the mastectomy.   However, with the mastectomy I would lose sensitivity and my nipple.   In either case they would also do some work on my right breast to make them even in appearance after the cancer treatment is complete.  

The other thing Dr. Black explained had to do with the HER2 protein receptor.  Currently, they use a couple of different drugs to block the HER2 receptors following surgery to remove invasive cancers with this receptor.  These drugs are not approved for use following removal of the non-invasive cancers that are HER2 positive.  As it happens they are conducting a couple of studies to look at whether these drugs might reduce recurrence with the non-invasive cancers.  So I signed up for one of those studies.  The risk of side effects is minimal and it might help others down the road.  It also in no way gets in the way of my treatment.  Basically, I will take a pill once a day from now until I have surgery.  Then after surgery they will check the tissues removed to see if there is any change in the cancer cells.  I won't know if I am receiving the drug or the placebo -- unless of course I experience any of the side effects... lol.

So I've decided to go with the lumpectomy followed by radiation.  They are working on scheduling surgery for November 8th.  That means I will likely be having radiation in December and another surgery in March or April to resize the right breast.  Everyone at MDA was great.  They took me from place to place and juggled things to make sure I got all the tests and appointments completed that I needed pre-surgery and for the study before I left for the day.  The only things I will need to do the day before surgery are meet with the anesthesiologist and have the radioactive seeds implanted to mark the cancer location.  

I think that about covers it for now.  I feel much better with knowing what I'm doing and with the care team at MDA.  I cannot say enough good things about them!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I' finding it a bit challenging keeping this blog updated.   It's a strange combination of being really busy and not feeling like there is anything to write about.  I'm sure I'll find the right balance in time.

Work has been really busy.   We are heading into the busy season at Retama Village from a sales perspective.   I don't think I explained exactly what I do here.   Besides selling homes and RV lots in Retama, I also manage our Design Center.   I have input on new plans and make sure our design options are available, priced correctly etc.

Once we have a contract to build a home, I also represent the buyer through the building process.  That means I make sure what we build is what the customer expected, spot problems early on the process, help find solutions to problems as they arise, and track changes and additions through the process.   If there is a going to be a mortgage, I work with the buyer and their lender to make sure we have everything I place when the house is done.

The other big part of my job is that I am also a REALTOR for Rhodes Realty LLC.   We decided to add this element as a service to our residents.  We haven't really made an announcement and I already have 6 listings.  That's a great number for any agent after a couple of months!

So add those things up and I think I have at least 3 jobs.   It's a really good thing I love them all!  

Right now it's been a little hard to juggle though because I lhave been trying to deal with the breast cancer thing.   I was initially diagnosed on August 20.  Since then I have been trying to find the right doctor and facility for treatment.   My first choice was MD Anderson.  I have been arguing with them for over 4 weeks now about insurance coverage.   They have been worried that because my insurance policy has a pre-existing condition clause they will not be paid.   Both my insurance and I have been trying to explain that it is not an issue.   Well, Tuesday a miracle occurred and they called to say we could go forward with appointments and treatment.   So I have appointments in Houston next Wednesday and Thursday.   From there we will determine treatment and proceed.

The other -- and best -- part of life these days is Marcello.   He's the guy I met on   We've been communicating for a little over 6 weeks now.   A couple of weeks after we started talking, he had to go to the North Sea for 6 weeks for a work contract.   We've kept emailing and chatting and calling.  Technology has often failed us with lousy Internet connections and no signal for the satellite phone.   In spite of all that, things are great!   We know each other better since all we've been able to do is talk.  Now we're really looking forward to spending some quality time together. He will be coming to visit in 10 days!  Can't wait!  

At least our first date won't be for surgery.  We'll save that for date 2...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Live from Hershey

I'm in Hershey, PA working my first RV show.   I've attended quite a few, but never worked one.  It's been fun if tiring.   The show opens at 9 am and closes at 8 pm so days are really long!  Only 2 more days left and then another long day flying back to McAllen.

I did get out a little bit and looked at some RVs.  So far I like one of the Entegra motorhomes best, but who knows.  I'd like to take a look at the New Horizon 5th wheels while I'm here and see what else there is.  Truth is there are so many options here it's really kind of overwhelming.   And since I don't have a lot of time to look, that makes it hard.

As far as an update on the breast cancer front, I was finally able to get a conference call in with the MD Anderson people and the insurance people.   I think we made progress with the insurance people explaining to MD Anderson that so far they have covered all costs with the breast cancer since I was diagnosed after the insurance effective date.  Hopefully I will hear good news on Monday.   Keep your fingers crossed...

On the online dating front...   I signed up a little over a month ago.   So here's a little catch up report.  I got messages from several gentlemen and exchanged some emails.  Some were just strange.  One basically blasted me for not having more pictures posted.   Another professed his undying love after a few email exchanges.  Scary!  Being me, I tried to be polite and reply to everyone.   There were a few I didn't... Like Mr. FetishMaster... Really???  Lol

Soon after I signed up I got a very nice message from a gentleman.   We started exchanging emails, then some text messages and finally phone conversations.   He's a little uncomfortable with me sharing much information here just yet, so for now I'll just tell you that we both deactivated our profiles because we don't want to be distracted by others.  He's been amazingly wonderful about the breast cancer thing -- imagine just getting to know someone and they spring that on you...

As things progress we will figure out together what we're both comfortable with sharing.   What I can say right now is that he makes me laugh, is very supportive and I have not found any warts no make how hard I look for them, so I'm feeling very happy and optimistic about where things are going.

Time to call it a night so I'm ready for another long day tomorrow.  If you happen to be at Hershey, stop and say hi!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Packed for an Early Flight

Tomorrow morning at 7 am I will be on a flight to Hershey, PA for my first big RV Show.  Well, actually I will be on leg one of a two stop flight to Harrisburg, where I'll pick up the car and drive the last bit.. lol

I'm only going to take the iPad with me, so hopefully that will work out.  It will be something of an experiment.  In theory everything will work...

We have a booth at the show for Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort and Retama Village.   We'll be inside the Giant Center on the concourse level so if you are at the show stop and say hi!   I love to put real live faces with names.

We'll be staffing both the industry days and the public show.   Hopefully I will have time to go check out RVs during the industry days.   I really don't have much idea of what to expect.

So it's a very early morning for me.   Next post from Hershey...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meeting People Online

I've made a lot of good friends online...

It started about 3 years ago when I.began researching the idea of living and traveling full time in an RV.  A few Google searches turned up the online journals of people of all areas and walks of life doing just that.  As I followed their journeys and exchanged messages, friendships were formed with some.  Some of us have managed to meet in person over time as we end up in the same general area for a bit of time.  Other meetings are yet to come.

We stay in touch with each other through blogs, facebook, emails, messages, chatrooms and phone calls.  We started as friends because of a shared interest in the RV lifestyle.  Over time that focus has changed for some of us, but the friendship remains.

So I have some experience with connecting with really great people online -- you know who you are!  lol

As I said, I landed in Mission, Texas for a great job in January of this year.  And while I'm happy with my life and okay by myself I would love to find someone to share the rest of my life with.  The problem is that I did not know a soul here other than the folks I work with and the residents of the community that I sell homes in.  As great as the folks are that I work with, none of them are single.  And even if htey were, I wouldn't be comfortable dating someone that I work with.

And most of the folks who live in Retama Village are firmly part of a couple.  Even if they weren't I wouldn't feel very comfortable dating someone there.   It's a very small community and I'm sort of in the public eye there.  lol

So after talking to some other friends about the pros and cons of online dating, I decided to give it a shot.  The first site I tried was  It wsa free and I know someone a bit older than me who met someone very nice there.  I filled out the info, said I was interested in someone 45-55 years old within 50 miles.  Within in moments I was getting lots of chat requests and  messages.  Sounds great huh?  WRONG!  Most were from 19 year olds...  So my Zoosk adventure lasted about 1 hour and I deleted my profile...

Not to be deterred, I saw the commercial on TV for  Hmmm... Maybe this will is the one.  No 19 year olds on a site designed for "mature adults" to meet.  And on the commercial the folks all seem fun, vibrant and active.  Granted I didn't give it much of a chance (I was there a couple of hours), but the folks I found there were quite a bit older than me both chronologically and lifestyle wise.  Another one deleted.

I know a few friends who speak highly of eHarmony.  I also know from expereience helping a friend create their profile, it can take hours to get set up on that site.  The premise is to do a very thurough online tinterview so they have a better idea of what you are looking for and can send matches that are more likely to have things in common and be looking for the same things.  A good idea I admit, but I just wasn't up for spending a couple hours answering personal questions.

So I decided to try the giant in the online dating world --  I know people who have met there and it was relatively straightforward getting started.  I spent about 10 minutes writing a "stream of consciousness" profile, paid my money and waited to see what happened.

More in the next post on what's happened with that...

Have a great day everyone!