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Monday, August 31, 2015

Firearm Background Checks & Mental Health

After the horrific murder of WDBJ journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and the serious wounding of Vicki Gardner by gunman Vester Flanagan, it came to light that the killer passed a firearms background check and was able to purchase his two guns legally. So, it got me thinking…what exactly does passing a firearms background check entail? From the FBI’s website:

Federal law prohibits, from possessing or receiving a firearm, any person who:

Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
Is a fugitive from justice;
Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner;
Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence;
Is under indictment/information for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.


Since the killer passed all of the above, and if the hope is to keep guns out of the hands of those crazy enough to actually use it on another person, more action than mandating background checks at gun shows, etc. needs to be done. The killer passed a background check. It doesn’t matter how many more places he’d have to submit his info, he passed it. Clearly, the law needs to add “more” to the background check. And the “more” needs to focus on mental health condition.

Now, bear in mind I am no expert on guns, background checks, etc. so I have some questions. When a check is run, what agency supplies the information that the individual has been committed to an institution, or adjudicated as a mental defective, and, what qualifies as mental defective? I would say the WDBJ gunman was definitely defective mentally. Of course he would have had a differing opinion. Is it as simple as not checking a box on the application? I’m assuming most of the info can be cross-checked via courts, but are there some questions answered that are self-reporting, such as the ones dealing with mental defectiveness and drug use?

If so, passing a background check for a firearm bears about the same weight as a used car passing a Carfax report as Carfax really is only as good as the information that is reported to it. Oh sure, all those maintenance visits will be duly noted, but what about that little fender bender that was fixed by a shade tree mechanic that didn’t go through insurance? If no one reports it, did it really happen?

What about violent outbursts, delusional thoughts, and sociopath behavior exhibited to a mental health professional who was treating someone with these symptoms? Patient/client privilege? If no one reports it, did it really happen? What about violent outbursts, delusional thoughts, and sociopath behavior exhibited to fellow co-workers? Do past employers report that somewhere? Do they reveal that when questioned by another potential employer regarding an individual? Or, are they afraid of being sued, so they keep their mouths shut? If no one reports it, did it really happen? Of course it does. It just did. Why does it have to take a tragedy before folks open up and express their past run-ins with someone who has a mental health problem?

If we are to see a decrease in unimaginable acts of violence, gun control alone should not be the only focus. Mental health needs to be a primary focus. Let me be clear, I have no problem tightening up loopholes and/or expanding background checks, etc., I just don’t think that is the solution. Again, Flanagan passed the firearms background check. Would he have as easily passed a mental health background check?

And if we know someone needs mental help via exhibiting dangerous behavior, and is a harm to themselves or others, etc., shouldn’t we be able to report it to someone, somewhere without the fear of being threatened, harmed, or sued by that person? There are signs all over the New York City subway, “See something, Say something.” Shouldn’t we employ the same practice everywhere, if by doing so, we could prevent a tragedy from happening? But…who do we tell? And…will they do anything about it?

The bottom line is "something" needs to be done. Yes, we need to address gun control. Yes, we need to address mental health issues.  No family should have to endure the pain of losing their loved one at the hand of a sociopath, no matter what weapon they use.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Roanoke's 9/11




Yesterday, August 26, 2015, feels like Roanoke's 9/11. Sitting outdoors with my first cup of coffee the air was as crisp, and the sky was as clear as that fateful Tuesday morning fourteen years ago. I went inside for my second cup, turned on my computer, checked Facebook and couldn't believe what was plastered all over my wall...a local news team from WDBJ, reporter, Alison Parker, and her cameraman, Adam Ward, had been shot while reporting live on air as Alison interviewed Vicki Gardner at Smith Mountain Lake. Ms. Gardner had also been shot, survived, and is presently in intensive care. Alison and Adam died in cold blood.

Just like I did on 9/11, I immediately called my husband. In 2001, as we spoke on the phone we both watched in horror as the second airplane crashed into the Twin Towers. This time we had notice -- my daughter storming through her bedroom door, crying, "Do not watch the video!," -- so knew not to subject ourselves to watching in horror as the young news team were assassinated. And as if it wasn't bad enough that morning news viewers saw the actual murder from Adam's camera, the killer also taped it from his own cellphone or GoPro, and later posted the video along with some tweets on social media. I won't even mention the sociopath's name as I do not want to glorify the angry, racist, sociopath, on my blog.

If I'm not mistaken, Adam was the last one the murderer shot. He also was the one who caught the  killer with one frame. Bravo Adam...you were a pro to the bitter end. That your fiancĂ© had to witness it from the control booth, live, with the rest of the Roanoke Valley, breaks my heart. What a cruel scene.

And the beautiful and talented 24 year old Alison, (who reminds me so much of my daughter) was also cut down doing what she loved. During a piece featuring her fiancé, anchor Chris Hurst, he remarked how yesterday was the happiest he thought she had ever looked. Cut down. Just. Like. That. That's not supposed to happen here in Southwest Virginia.

Unlike the failure that was the killer, both Alison and Adam were professional journalists. Because they were pros they probably would ignore anyone in the corner of their eyes as they conducted live interviews. Folks tend to get up close and personal when someone has a camera. Sometimes they want to be in the shot, or photo bomb the shot. Trained pros go into a zone and focus on the story at hand, not the distractions. In Baltimore during the riots, one might be more attuned to the danger surrounding them, but at a sleepy lakefront, so early in the morning, not so much. Because they were pros, it wasn't until the shot rang out that they realized this was no fan.

When I worked as a videotape editor with ABC News during the Gulf War, it was almost expected that some sort of tragedy might befall the on-air talent and fellow journalists who brought us wartime news from Afghanistan and Iraq. Never did. You don't expect this type of tragedy to happen while reporting a feel-good story by the local lake. And yet, it did.

Reporting during wartime from a dangerous location while under the largest market's umbrella, producers are usually on site with the talent and camera person. In small town local news, having a camera person is almost a luxury as more and more digital reporters have to be a one-band show. Wherever they're reporting from, and more than often it's a place where I wouldn't want to be, journalists put their lives out there. Unfortunately, they do not get the credit or acknowledgement they are due until a crazed lunatic cuts them down.

In a small town such as Roanoke, the local news personalities are thought of as friends who we invite into our living rooms at the end of the day, or into our kitchens as we're preparing dinner. We see these folks not only behind the camera, but in the supermarkets, at the museums, in restaurants, on the greenway, in the schools, and everywhere else we travel in the valley. Whether it's through just a nod of the head, a shy hi, a hearty hello or a warm hug, we became, or always were, friends. When we lose a friend through such a horrific way it's hard to grasp. Even though yesterday was a bright sunny day there was a shroud over the Roanoke Valley and it still hangs heavy today. The sadness was/is felt on every mountain and in every valley. I feel numb just like I did the day after 9/11, and I don't know if it's because I was once in the news industry, or because my daughter is now in the news industry, or, if we all feel this way.

Alison and Adam had tens of thousands of friends they might have never even met. Their families' loss is unimaginable. Their friends' loss is unimaginable. The Roanoke Valley's loss of innocence is all too real...






Friday, August 21, 2015

Joan Jett in Roanoke

In the past when someone asked me how I felt about Joan Jett my response would be "she's no Patti." Well, after attending the Joan Jett and the Blackhearts show last night, I will no longer say that as Joan, unlike Patti Smith, actually came to Roanoke Virginia, and gave our sleepy little town her all. The show was unbelievable!


My daughter had surprised me with tickets to the Elmwood Park venue and it was our first time seeing a rock concert together. In the past she's gone with her dad to see some country music shows way back when. She no longer is a country music fan and said last night's show was the best live performance she ever saw. "Joan is one freaking badass!" I asked her how many of her friends knew who she was and she said not many. She knew her from the film that was out last year about the Runaways so when Joan belted out "Cherry Bomb" she was singing along. Now, how many of you would have asked your mother to go to a concert with them back in the day? No way could I ever see saying, "Mom I got us tickets to CBGB's to see the Ramones." I'm so glad I have that relationship, and similar musical taste, with my daughter.

Now, if you know me in real life, you know I'm not one to not voice my opinion on how Roanoke screws up things. Well, for once Roanoke got it right with the Elmwood Park amphitheater. Last night was the first time I saw a show there and I was quite impressed. There wasn't a bad seat in the house, although I don't think anyone was sitting down. I know I wasn't, and it was a much better experience dancing outdoors to Joan Jett than it was the last time I danced at a show, at Webster Hall when seeing Patti Smith. That venue was a hot, crowded mess and I could barely move my shoulders without knocking into someone. Their hot breath on my back and the phantom fart man killing my air made me feel like I could pass out at any moment. Not last night. I had the freedom to shake it for all it was worth with the knowledge that if I got tired I could sit down. Never did. Even the girl, with her wounded leg, stood the entire time bopping to the band.


We were able to get beer and wine at five bucks each, much more reasonable than that last show where it was $8 for a warm small can of Bud. At least these Buds were long necks and ice cold too. No mega line waiting either. The sound system was great, although I think the warm-up band, Swamp Somethingorother, who were pretty good, did go into the "red" on some notes and could have benefitted from someone riding the sound board.


You know how some "older" musicians need to depend on echo, reverb, whatever to mask their aging voice...not Joan. She sounded as fresh as she did back in the day. And damn, that woman looked good! Freaking ripped and tight. At one point I turned to my daughter and said, "You see how good she looks? If I would have stayed in New York, and not had kids, that could have been me. You're welcome." It also got me thinking...why couldn't I still look hot like that? So thanks to Joan I am determined to get back in shape...starting Monday.


My daughter was able to relate to not only the music behind them, but also a lot of the lyrics. I think she now has a better understanding of my "NYC/take no prisoners/women can do anything attitude."

I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation
You're living in the past, it's a new generation
A girl can do what she wants to do and that's what I'm gonna do
.

Jett performed many of the classics, and mixed in a couple of new tunes which still kept the audience upbeat and moving, but my favorite song of the night was her cover of "Crimson & Clover." This is a performance from May in Brooklyn...





The crowd in Roanoke was great too...enthusiastic and welcoming. The band looked like they had a great time and I hope they tell all their musical friends to come to Roanoke. All in all, it was a great night, and unlike thirty years ago when I would see a show, theres no hangover today!

To my New York friends...Jett & The Blackhearts are having a free show this Saturday on Long Island in East Meadow at Eisenhower Park. You should go...you won't be disappointed!


The Blackhearts were not only tight, but very accommodating as they took a picture with the girl.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Car Quest Ends

I was looking forward to car shopping as much as I look forward to going to the dentist. I absolutely hate it, but it's a necessity. It had been 20 years since we shopped for an auto when we walked away with a "new" Jeep. Well, it was supposed to be brand new, but we came to find out months later that it was one of a couple of Jeeps that had been crashed into and heavily damaged by an errant driver as they lined the dealer's front lot. We were never informed of this, and since it was the first new car we ever bought, we were pretty much rubes. We had nothing but problems with it in the beginning, and until my husband took over dealing with the mechanical issues. The Jeep is still running and has been passed down to my son. We always said we would NEVER go to that dealership again, so it wasn't on our list.

Our needs have changed since 1995 so what we were looking for in a car this time was quite different. For one, I didn't have the kiddies to shuttle around so there was no need for an SUV or mini-van. My requirements were quite simple; I needed to have Bluetooth (need hands free when I'm in NYC), Sirius (Underground Garage/Lithium/First Wave stations), not large, but big enough to be comfortable inside, and have a trunk large enough to fit a body, and, it had to be black or silver. Red and white seem to be the most popular colors, but not my preference.

My husband's requirements were different; he had a list of brands I shouldn't even look at, the mileage had to be lower than that of our newest 1999 vehicle, 51,000 miles, it had to be something he could work on, and that wouldn't cost us and arm and a leg every oil change. Other than that he said this journey was all my baby. Whatever I wanted to look at was fine. He would opine, but in the end it was totally up to me.

Due to the decrease in value the moment the car is driven off the lot, I've always felt buying a brand new car was a sucker's game, so I really wanted to explore used cars, from this century,  perhaps even after 2010. The problem was I had no idea what I wanted. I was never one of those people who pulled next to a car and thought, "Wow, I love that car. I want one." The only way I would know what I liked was to start looking. The first time the search began was when a large local dealership was having a sale at the Salem Civic Center. That gave me a good opportunity to walk around and check out cars that they were trying to get rid of to make room for the 2016's.

At first I was thinking something small like my friend had up in Brooklyn. She has a Spark, which enables her to fit into parking spots that no other car would. That's an important feature to have up in NY. She also introduced me to Bluetooth, which is another important feature to have up in NY where using your cell phone while driving can cost you $150. Sometimes I forget because in Virginia you can pick up a call while driving. The Spark would be too small for me because there is no room for luggage. When I had to rush back to Roanoke, she mentioned she would drive me and I was like, "Are you kidding? I couldn't fit a third of what I brought up to Brooklyn! But thanks anyway." So that was good because I knew looking at storage would be important. I saw a couple of cars but nothing worth test driving.

Next we went to a local Chevy dealer which oddly enough didn't have as many vehicles as I thought they would. I did test drive a 2014, not the Impala, the other one,  whose name I cannot remember. Nice and roomy inside, a little larger than I wanted outside, but the deal breaker was the test drive. Every time I would make a left turn or take my foot off the gas I felt like the car was going to stall. I was informed that it's supposed to feel that way as the car slips into eco-drive, an energy saving feature which gives you a couple more miles in gas. I hated it. Pass.

As my husband is a mechanic, once word got out we were looking he had a couple of his buddies offer advice and their services. Buddy 1 said all I had to do was tell him what car I wanted and he would get it for me. I didn't feel comfortable with that. How would I know what I wanted until I drove it? It's not like ordering boots on-line and when they don't fit all I have to do is ship them back. Let's see.

Buddy 2 mentioned that if I was looking for later models Enterprise car rental sells their vehicles when they get to be about 2/3 years old. It just so happened I saw an Enterprise Sale going on in the parking lot of a local bank along Electric Road. It was a Saturday around 2 o'clock, and by that late hour, all the salesmen seem to have gone home. There were a couple of interesting vehicles, but the one that stood out to me was a late model Buick which didn't have a paper on the windows like the others did. When I went home I went to their site and sure enough, they have plenty of vehicles to sell and their highway robbery/"destination fee" was the cheapest I had seen, $199. I've seen them as high as $699! Why??? Is that the auto industry's version of a real estate rental fee? Anyway, I copied a couple of the stock numbers down, called the local office to ask about the Buick, which she said she would have to get back to me on, told her my vehicle requirements, and then set up an appointment to drive three others. I was particularly getting a good vibe from Hyuandai's Elantra and Sonata, but wasn't discounting the smaller hatchback either.

Sunday is a day of rest for car salesmen. None of the dealerships are open, at least none that I was interested in. That is crazy. If I was in the car selling business, I would definitely be open on a Sunday. Not everyone goes to church. Cater to us lapsed Catholics, etc. We're both home, and Sunday is the perfect day to go browsing. Heck, I would have even driven out to Shelor. Instead, I spent my time on-line researching.

I had received email from the lady from Enterprise and the Buick was around $23,000 and had almost 40,000 miles on it. I told her I wasn't interested but we would be there on Monday at 10 to look at the other three. Strike one was the Elantra. I really liked it, but wouldn't even sit in it after she told me it didn't have BlueTooth. Since it was a 2014, I was surprised, but she said none of the Elantras come with it. Well, that's a mistake Hyundai, I thought. I sat in the hatchback, can't remember if it was a Versa or something else (see, I am bad with cars!) but it felt too cramped and even though the back seats went down, there was not enough storage room. I asked to see the Sonata and was told it wasn't on the lot. The manager was using it and wouldn't be back until 4. Now that pissed me off as I explicitly said that was one of the vehicles I was interested in taking a test drive. I was steered towards another one but it was red and I saw point in test driving a car I had no intention of buying. There was also a 2014 Hyundai Sport that had 31,000 miles on it and was $20,000. Too much money for a used car. I'm sure I could find a new one for that price! The more I thought about it, the more I thought maybe this wasn't the way to go. These vehicles had a lot of mileage in only one or two years. They're rental cars and people probably treat them like shit. And all those strangers leaving behind their essence and bad juju made me feel, I don't know, skeevy. Pass.

Buddy 3 is a used car salesman and a friend of my husbands, so I figured I'd give his dealership a shot. As usual, I went back to the computer and pulled up three possibilities, two of them had pretty high mileage, 42,000 and 46,000, but there was one 2014, that only had 7,000! Even though it was a Ford Focus, and I couldn't help notice the look on my husband's face when I said I wanted to test drive it, that was the one I really wanted to check out. It was $14,530 and it was the best deal. So my husband spoke to him, gave him the stock numbers and set up an appointment for me the next morning. Right before I left my husband confirmed again the vehicles and on my way I went. I got lost on the way because they recently moved and you cannot see them from the street. When I finally found the lot, it was huge! I had fun driving in a golf cart.

Now when someone walks over to you and the first thing out of their mouth is, "This isn't a bait and switch," and you ask if the car you were supposed to test drive is there, and they say no, then guess what, to me, it certainly looks like a bait and switch. My husband called not an hour ago, so wtf? "The sheet" said the it was still available, but it's not on the lot. Ok whatever, as far as I know maybe the 7,000 mile Ford probably never even existed. There's still two others. I drove one of them first, don't remember what it was, but knew I hated it from the way it drove. The other one didn't really "speak" to me either, and it had almost 42,000 miles and was $18,000. Then I was steered to a 2012 Sonata. It was nice, really nice, leather seats, sun roof, Bluetooth, drove like a dream. The only problem was it had 68,000 miles and it would have cost $18,400 after tax and charges. I could not justify that. Again, I thought maybe I should start looking new.

The big thing now is CarFax which the used car dealers flaunt and try to make you think it's the best thing since sliced bread. It shows the owners, maintenance, any accidents, collisions, etc. But think about this...it's only as accurate as what has been reported. Who's to say there wasn't an accident or mechanical problem that happened, was repaired, but never reported. I don't know how it works exactly but I'm sure it's not foolproof. Oh, but it did tell me that the 2012 Sonata was purchased in July 2011. So it's really four years old, not three.

Back to the computer. The more I researched, the more I was drawn to Hyundai, especially the Elantra, so on a lunch hour we made the drive down Peters Creek Road to First Team. We were greeted by a young man named Mathew Higgs, who upon hearing my requirements pointed out a couple of cars. I immediately was drawn to a black 2016 Elantra. We went on a test drive, a long test drive, and I was pleased. I had a million questions which he answered. He wasn't pushy and didn't get annoyed. He reminded me of my son so much. He did mention he was on salary so he could be guaranteed to eat each week and when he chuckled I heard my son laugh. Scary! Anyway, by the time we left I had the brochure, and some other reading material, along with his business card. I gave my email address so I could get a complete price. Of course the person above him called later and tried to talk me into the extended warranty from them, but I wouldn't bite. Hyundai gives a good warranty themselves and, again, my husband is a mechanic.

I received the final price and a brand new 2016 was less than what the used 2012 Sonata would be! How could I not buy a new car? Meanwhile back to the computer I went to check out reviews, and the more I read the more I kicked myself for not even looking at the 2016 Value Edition as Mathew had suggested. For a couple hundred more, it came with a sun-roof, heated front seats, telescopic steering wheel, and the inside was black unlike the other car which had beige. Black is probably better for us. It still wasn't too late to so I called him and asked him if I could test drive it the next day. No problem.

We didn't go as far on the test drive, but I already knew I loved the car. Within two hours, and after banging the deafening gong, I drove it off the lot with the paper dealer plates. Before I left, Mathew set up the Bluetooth for our phones, showed me how to use it, pointed out a lot of different features, and answered every question I had and said to call him if anything arose. Nice kid, recent graduate from VA Tech, and I totally recommend him.

It's the little things that make me happy like answering my phone from the steering wheel and  having the radio station changed with voice recognition.

I'm just glad the car buying is over. I haven't even hit 100 miles on the odometer yet. It will probably take me ten years to get to the mileage as some of those other vehicles I looked at had achieved in a year or two. It still has that new car smell, and I think the next time we head up to New York I'm leaving it in Roanoke. I'd like to enjoy it for a while before it falls prey to all kinds of big city damage.

If there's one thing I could recommend before buying a car, it's do your research. You'd be surprised at the differences. If it's used, take it to a reputable mechanic to get it checked out. Don't be pressured into buying something that's over your head, or that you're not "in love" with. CarFax has its good points but I'm not 100% convinced it tells the whole story of a used vehicle. The Kelly Blue Book is your friend, even though one of the buddies remarked to me after I mentioned the price difference between KBB and his dealership, "Oh if you look at Kelly Blue Book, you'll never buy a car." Wrong, maybe just not that used car.








Monday, August 17, 2015

The Blowout

As we were speeding down I-78 something felt weird about the car. It's a was barely perceptible, but I felt "something." I immediately alerted my husband and told him to slow down, something's wrong. By the time I got the last word out he felt the shift in the steering wheel and began to make his way to the right lane when we heard the sound of a blow-out. With each rotation, the front passenger tire shredded and smoked. We dodged 19-wheelers as we limped to the shoulder. While I held Bella close to my chest, my husband surveyed the damage and was surprised to see the disintegration of a pretty new, pretty expensive tire. It couldn't have come at a worst time...on a Sunday morning during a mad dash to get back to Roanoke from Brooklyn while traveling with Bella.

Changing a flat on the side of the interstate is a scary endeavor, and I was thankful my husband knew what to do and was able to do it. First he had to empty the full trunk of the cargo I took up and back to New York so he could get to the flat changing tools and donut tire. That sucked. What sucked even more was knowing we needed to buy a new one because you can only ride on that donut tire under 50 miles. I Googled and the first two places that were the closest to us were closed. I found a Firestone a couple of miles away. They said it would take three hours before they could put a tire on the car. Three hours? The manager pointed to someone in the shop and said he was about to start a job and that it would take at least three hours for him to finish that one. So we said, it'll only take ten minutes to mount a tire and put it on so couldn't we go first. No. How about if I make it worth his while? No. How about if I buy the tire, you mount it and I'll put it on myself in the lot. No. I'm a mechanic and my shop has an account with you in Virginia. There's nothing you can do to help us? No.

I saw where this was going, nowhere. No way could I entertain Bella for three hours in a sweltering parking lot. And I was sick to my stomach worrying about the frantic phone call from my daughter who was told over the phone she had bone cancer. I needed to get home. I found us another place a couple more miles away where they were much nicer, more accommodating, and way cheaper. The mechanic took a look at us and said it looked like we've been through a rough patch (gee, did I look that bad?!) so he put us first. He was done within fifteen minutes and my husband took care of him.

And on the road we went. Back in the cursed car that throws us a different curveball weekly. With a mere 50,000 miles on it, our newest car in the fleet, a 1999 Olds Intrigue, has had more things go wrong with it than I could list. If my husband wasn't a mechanic, and I hadn't inherited it from my father, I probably would have dumped it long ago. But guilt, and the need to have a set of wheels besides the horrid 1993 mini van from hell, made me hold on. Hell van was the way we usually traveled to Brooklyn, (it is roomy and so old that we never worry about something trying to steal it) but after the last trip when the oil pump went causing the heads on the motor to screw up, again for the umpteenth time, my husband finally, finally, agreed with me not to throw any more good money after bad. We would retire Hell van, bite the bullet and buy a new vehicle, hopefully something from this century.

And so the quest began...

...to be continued.

Meanwhile, here's some info on what to do if you find yourself faced with a tire blowout.




Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Eyes Are Opened

If we're friends in "real life" or on Facebook you already know the good news...according to the MRI results, my daughter does NOT have bone cancer. The radiologist compared last year's MRI with last week's, and except for some bone issues near the ankle, there is nothing "unusual," and any tumors present in that leg have not become malignant.


Needless to say, we are beyond the moon that she will not have to undergo treatment for bone cancer. She will need some surgery near the ankle which will hopefully alleviate the pain radiating up the leg. After thinking you have cancer for three weeks, any surgery spoken of, which in the past would have caused depression, is now something to look forward to, especially if they are able to straighten her leg at the same time. We have an appointment in a couple of weeks with another orthopedic surgeon to talk further on what this would entail, and if she/we are comfortable with him.

The doctor we saw yesterday felt the person who read the first X-rays from Doctor's Express was not familiar with her condition, or her history, and should never have told her she had cancer, over the phone, by the way. I doubt she will ever use that doc-in-the-box again.

The last couple of weeks have been horrible. The more she Googled, the more she was convinced she was dying. I stopped Googling after determining which hospitals across the country would be the best place for bone cancer treatments. I still had hope that she was a victim of the "new doctors in July" scenario. Apparently on July 1st many doctors, radiologists, medical personnel, etc. who have just graduated or finished up their internships begin their careers, and July is the month where most mistakes are made in the medical field. Once her blood work came back with all results in the "normal" range, I was even more convinced that she probably just had a dope read the X-ray and she did not have cancer. Surely, the white blood cell levels would be higher if they were fighting something. To be sure, I called on Padre Pio for divine intervention. Hey, it works for me.

After her appointment yesterday, the first person she called was her dad, and these are tears of relief.


We went to a local restaurant so she could eat something before going into work. During all this trauma, she has missed only one day of work. She couldn't have a celebratory drink because two weeks ago she had her wallet STOLEN AGAIN! This time she didn't notice quick enough and they cleaned out her bank account. Unbelievable. It was the last thing she needed, but in a way it was a distraction as it took her mind off her health problems. She is working with a detective to catch them because criminals are stupid, and don't realize you're pretty much on camera wherever you go, so it's only a matter of time before all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed hopefully resulting in arrests.

When you have a scare like this it sort of makes you look differently at things, puts what's important in perspective, and makes one question certain things. People have said they are praying for her. What makes one person's prayers answered while another one's not? I've known other people who have had many, many, more people, church people, praying for them, and they themselves are "good Christians" yet it didn't matter. I've heard people say "good things happen to good people." I say bullshit. Bad things happen to "good people" too. If she ended up having bone cancer, would that mean she wasn't a "good person?" And how could she have been a "bad person" when she was first diagnosed at 1 1/2 years old with this horrible chronic condition? I've seen good things happen to "bad people" as well. And if someone uses that expression on themselves, I could probably point out at least a couple of things about them that does not make them 100% "good." I know they might mean well when they say it to me, but, no, I don't like that statement at all.

What I do like are these two statements, "Be thankful for the bad things in life, for they open your eyes to the good things you weren't paying attention to before," and "The things you take for granted someone else is praying for."

My eyes are opened... 

I'd like to share something my daughter posted on her Facebook wall last week, under this photo:




Everything about this hits home for me, right down to the old lady in the wheel chair. It's been a rough month for me with my leg, physically and mentally. Most people who are "healthy", or never had to deal with a severe or chronic medical condition, can not truly grasp how hard it is to retain the daily "status quo" routines while at the same time battling something that is completely out of their control. Going against what your body dictates you can or can not do is a whole other level of going against what your parents/significant other/friends/etc say you can or can not do. Instead of getting grounded for going to a party, you're bed ridden for what could wind up to be days because you wanted to go to work. Instead of missing out on activities because your parents took your phone, you miss out on activities because your body won't let you hike, or run, or do anything that involves more physical activity than just walking in a mall. Most people don't see the struggle, they don't see the pain, they don't see the amount of effort it takes to do the basic every day tasks, like working or walking down the street to get milk, or even going down or up a flight of stairs. All they see is how slow you all of a sudden became at doing their job, or their limp that sticks out like a sore thumb, or how they have to go up one stair at a time, pause, pep talk themselves, and go up the next stair. Or they see a wheel chair, crutches, leg braces. And God forbid you're young and need to use the motorized scooter to get your groceries. Then all they see is a lazy "child" who thinks its funny to ride around. Last week, I was walking, or rather limping, down the street when someone I knew, very close, started shouting at me about my limp, making fun of it, telling me to walk faster. As soon as I turned around and they realized it was ME, the person they've known for years, the person they share secrets with and fears and desires, the person they knew that had a bone deformity and most recently serious concerns with my leg, they stopped and apologized. "I didn't realize it was you". That is NOT an okay excuse. I accepted it as ignorance, but it is actually the worst excuse to ever say. If you know someone in your life who is affected by a medical condition, deformity, disease, disability, or anything of the sort, please please think about that person the next time you see someone who doesn't fit the mold of what you'd consider "normal". Making fun of some one who doesn't resemble yourself is a fleeting subconscious thought, however vocalizing it to that person comes from a place of complete ignorance. I'm not saying this for my benefit, 21 years of dealing and coping and you learn not to focus on the disability and more on all the things you accomplish despite it. When someone focuses on my limp, I focus on how I'm limping to go do what I love, how no limp will ever stop me from directing, doing what I'm passionate about in life, or seeing the people I love. I'm saying this to bring awareness, and also to offer support for those who suffer and persevere through similar situations. Younger generations think the #dontjudgechallenge is drawing all over your face with eyeliner in one frame and the next being dressed to the tens. No. THIS is the REAL #dontjudgechallenge, and if more people would make THIS challenge viral, the world would be one step closer to peace (pun intended).

Thank you all for your support, prayers, well wishes, concerns, and just being there. It means the world to both of us...



Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Last week was the third time I got pulled away from a Brooklyn writing retreat. Last week I heard the worst reason I could have imagined. My daughter was told she had an osteosarcoma, which is primary bone cancer. She was told this on the phone from a stranger. After she hung up, she called her dad. After he hung up, he called me. "You need to come home." What now? It was getting to be a running joke. My Brooklyn friends began taking bets on how long it would take before I flew out of town. I never imagined the reason would be my daughter has cancer.

I'm asking him questions that he has no answers to, and all he keeps repeating is "You need to come home." Well, duh! Was that statement even necessary to utter, never mind three times? When I asked him why our daughter didn't call me, he said she didn't want to bother me. Seriously? For all the times I've been "bothered" by ridiculous crap, being told you have cancer doesn't rate a higher "bother" than those? After I hung up with him, I called my daughter.

After listening to my husband, I already know I will have to be the strong one. I feel guilty I'm not there to hug her as she spills. Fucking writing retreat. Once I get passed the initial shock stage, I ask how this all came to be. In a nutshell...she slipped on a rock in a creek a couple of weeks ago. She landed on her front leg. As the days went on, the leg bruised, became swollen, and a pretty big "lump" sprouted. In her case, lumps sprouting never seem to go away. Instead, their roots expand and strangle. When it got to the point where she could barely put pressure on that leg, she went to the Doctor's Express and they took x-rays. The staff sent her on her way.

The next day, a Thursday, she received a call from the center stating that the radiologist saw an osteosarcoma. My daughter first thought they said chondroma so she said, "I have a lot of those and there's really no treatment. Ok, thank you." The girl on the phone said, "No it's a sarcoma, and that means cancer. What doctor do you want us to send the report to?" I can only imagine what went through her head at that moment. She told them to send them to a local Orthopedist who she had seen one time before, last year. She set up an appointment for Monday. My husband got in the car on Friday, and I was back in town on Saturday.

Of course, the first thing one does when hearing such a diagnosis, is head to Google. First I searched about the cause, and treatment of osteosarcomas to brush up on them, then I searched for specialists in it. It's a given she would not be getting treatment in Roanoke. I think the rate of getting osteosarcoma is like .02% It's not a big name disease like breast or lung cancer. Most local orthopedics are schooled for sports injuries, not limb-saving cancer treatments. Still, the local ortho center could at least look at the x-rays and give us a second opinion.

On Monday we went to the Ortho, and the disc that the Doctor's Express gave us of the X-rays were unreadable, just thumbnails that couldn't open. The Ortho ordered more X-rays, and even though my daughter showed exactly where the problem was, they went by what was written on the chart, right knee, so that new set was no good either. More X-rays taken. Up to this point, we had only seen the PA, not the DR. After the X-rays they took us to see the Dr.

Without even looking at her leg,  never mind examining it, he declared he didn't think it was a sarcoma. He then went into an explanation about how rare they are (yes, we know), and how they don't usually form on the leg (wrong, that's the most common place.) He then proceeded to zero in on her ankle which also showed a chondroma. He went into something about bones' positions causing her pain while walking. He also mentioned something about fixing that and straightening her leg at the same time. What...is...he...talking about? We are not here for that. We are here to talk about what a radiologist said is a sarcoma.

I asked him why I didn't see the tumor on the X-ray where she is in pain. His reply was, "I can't answer that." Huh? True, I was praying to Padre Pio all weekend to heal her, but does the little monk really work that fast??? I asked about her fatigue, "I can't answer that." I asked how come her blood pressure 154/100 was so high (another sign according to the cancer.org site) She usually has low blood pressure. His reply, "I can't answer that, I'm not that type of doctor." And I guess I understand...he's a specialist, not a general practitioner. I just thought since they are symptoms of osteosarcoma, he might have been familiar with them.

So I point blank ask him, "Can you definitely tell me if she does or does not have osteosarcoma?" "Probably not, but I'll order an MRI to be certain." Ok, good, that's all I want. That's all I need from him, even though it pissed me off that he didn't want to tell them to look for cancer, as he didn't want to, in too many words, "color their findings." I think it probably has more with insurance protocol as to what type of doctor can request an MRI for what type of illness. Whatever, just get it done. Might as well do as many tests as we can locally before heading out of town, if necessary, for treatment.

Believe me, there is nothing I want more than to believe that he's right and she "probably" doesn't have cancer, but I'm not betting on "probably." Roanoke has a piss poor rate of correct diagnosis and I know we need to take matters into our own hand. I wish that I had the powers to just call in the tests I want taken. Unfortunately I'm not a doctor and I need that intermediary. The ortho didn't say we should see her primary, nor did he order blood work. I guess he's not that type of doctor. So we went to the primary doctor, who took us a little more seriously, and ordered various tests. No, there is no "you got cancer" test, but there are numbers that can be looked at to see something is awry.

As of this writing, the blood results have not come back. The MRI has been scheduled in a week from now. For a disease that is so fast moving there sure is a lot of waiting, and the waiting is the hardest part.