A sleep, not so sound

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping. That’s an all around problem: not only have I had trouble getting to sleep, but also trouble staying asleep. This leads to a rather vicious circle, really, since I will eventually get to sleep, then wake up a couple of hours later, feel like going back to sleep, and then have issues falling back into slumber. It can lead to some rather interesting days if the previous sleeping sesssions have been particularly bad, as it’s a bit akin to sleepwalking through a fog on a path that isn’t very well lit. Most of the time, I can get about four hours or so of actual sleep – even though it may take me six to get there – and that will be fine for me.

I’m not entirely sure just when it all started. I know I’ve never been much of a sleeper, unlike my siblings, who would happily sleep their way through a dozen hours. There is no real rhyme or reason to the cause: it isn’t dietary, it isn’t stress, it isn’t any strange phobia. I can say that throughout radiation and chemo, I slept longer and better than I can recall ever sleeping. Not that I would want to have that be my method of getting decent sleep time in, mind you – certainly that would be a bit of an extreme just to gain a few hours of naptime. but it does solidify for me the thought that to get a “normal” sleep, I have to be totally exhausted. Once that exhaustion is assuaged, though, my sleep pattern goes directly back to what it was.

Someone once asked me if I dream at all when I sleep. Sure I do. My sleeping dreams, like my waking imagination, are quite vivid and I do recall most of the details. The same person asked me if I had nightmares on a regular basis. No. It’s quite rare that I’ll experience a nightmare, in fact. So my insomiac-like behavior can’t be blamed on that, either.

Right now, I can feel myself reaching that point of exhaustion that might actually allow me to sleep through the next five or six hours with minimal interruption. My eyes are crossing as I type this, and I have to close one eye in order to finish. Since the work I was doing (moving two gigantic accounts between servers) is completed, this is as good a time as any to test just how tired I am and just how quickly it will take me off into downy sleep.

Chef, make me a menu

I’ve been asked to do up a small menu for a spa to serve to clients of theirs who buy a particular day-long package, which includes a light lunch. So I’ve been turning over ideas in my head, wondering what to feed people who are in the midst of massages and facials and the other assorted activities people get to enjoy when they fork over good money to be pampered.

In general, when you see things like this, the meat of choice is usually chicken. There is a reason for this: chicken is generally nonoffensive, almost everyone eats it (unlike pork or beef), and it’s versatile enough to be adapted into a number of dishes that do well as make-ahead items.

The staff wants a tasting of the dishes, of course, so they can decide what to serve their guests – who would refuse free food?

Grilled chicken with a pomegranate-black pepper glaze
Chicken roulade with feta and spinach
Curried chicken salad
Cobb salad with blackened chicken (although this one gives me pause because of the bleu cheese in the dish, since they’d need breath mints afterwards)
Roasted chicken with a cherry sauce

To go along with these, it would usually be something light – mixed greens with a variety of homemade vinaigrettes and fresh fruit, or if the main dish has a green component, just the fruit.

I was also watching Paula Deen this afternoon after returning from the doctor, and she was working with a ham that must have weighted north of 20 pounds. That got me thinking about the thick, boneless pork loin chops I picked up the other day (and which I still need to vacuum pack) and what to do with them. The first thing that popped into my head was a stuffed chop dish – cornbread and apples, specifically, then topped with a maple glaze. Sounds delightful to me.

I’ve also been told to come up with dishes that are low-fat and low-cholesterol. My entire family has cholesterol issues, a lot of which is simply due to the hereditary influences, and most of the adults take some sort of cholesterol-reducing drug(s), my mom included. The side effects of some of those drugs though, can be harsh, and it would be nice if at least the immediate family could do something on the dietary side to help out the hereditary side. Since a friend of mine insists that she wants to lose a few pounds, such a menu would be good for her as well. The dishes above would all work well for that, along with fresh veggies and good oils in the cooking.

Culinary adventures. Gotta love it.

Another day, another biopsy

Today I had another followup visit with my ENT, who did the surgery on my tongue and neck. That’s the thing about cancer – it’s almost like a lifetime of followups after treatment, although the span between followups gets longer and longer as you go along.

Within the past couple of weeks I noticed a bump on my tongue, near the back. It isn’t painful in and of itself, but it rubs against the back of my palate, which makes that spot red and sore. Since my followup was coming, I made a mental note to ask him about the bump while he poked and prodded,

He looked at it, gave it a poke (which didn’t hurt), and said it looked like a granuloma – a benign tissue growth that occurs due to trauma/healing. But, naturally given my recent history, we had to have a sample to send off to the pathology lab.

People think of “a sample” and think it’s just a minor thing, a piece of flesh to be passed along, and off you go. Would that it were so easy. Would you like a step by step? Sure you would.

First, in my opinion, pain in the mouth is the absolute worst. I’ve had knee injuries, wounds that required debriding to remove gravel and clay, pulled muscles, and so on – the consequences of an active and athletic life. But I’ve always disliked dental work in general, and then this cancer business demonstrated to me that for me, my opinion is spot on about pain in the mouth area.

So, first we get a spray of a numbing agent on the tongue. This is just to help calm things when the doctor then pulls out the syringe of novocaine. The needle is a small gauge needle, but that’s no consolation when you get injections directly into the tongue in multiple places. Since my tongue (still) has not fully healed from radiation, this results in multiple bleeding areas as it’s still very sensitive.

Then, we wait a few minutes while the novocaine kicks in. During this time, they gather their rather scary-looking instruments, the bottle to hold the samples, and, in my case, lots of gauze to blot the blood. Also, swabs, peroxide, and silver nitrate (used to seal the wounds).

The samples. I believe I mentioned way back when that the first biospy I had to endure led to a second biopsy because that doctor did not take a large enough or deep enough sample for the pathologist. This ENT, however, is much more thorough, and took half a dozen samples, all of which were pretty substantial (remember, here, that “substantial” means a few centimeters – they’re not cutting out huge swaths of tissue). I looked at them after the tech sealed the bottle and the biohazard bag, and felt good about there not being a need for another round of samples this time. He was rather surprised when we told him we had to go through it twice the first time, and said that we’d make sure it was a one shot deal this time.

After the samples, quite a bit of blotting, since by this time, my mouth is full of blood. A few swabs of peroxide, and some dabbing of silver nitrate, and that’s it. I was left with a foul-taste in my mouth – since my taste buds have been back in fairly good operation since about a month after treatment ended – and quite a bit of spit and more blood. Just as with the dentist, time to spit.

And with that, we were done. I have to go back next week for the results from the pathologisst and what our next step will be, whether it’s benign or more serious. The ENT says they can use the laser to shave down the bump and excise it, and I’m all in favor of that, as it’s the same procedure I went through originally. The lack of stitching on the wound once the surgery is completed with the laser is, in my opinion, an excellent thing. Not just because it means one less visit into the mouth, to remove stitches, but because the post-surgical swelling and healing makes a big difference in how much tissue is present as healing progresses – after all, my tongue looks like it’s missing only a little less than a quarter of its original size despite the fact that almost half was removed. Bonus.

So we’ll see wha we have here and move on. Just like always.

To write, perchance to not edit

A bit of a metaphysical chat with a friend tonight, touching on the topic of writing.

I always wanted to write. Since I was young, my head has been filled with the byproducts of an overactive imagination. For the past dozen or so years, I’ve been carrying around ideas that would, were they to be formed, make themselves into novels.

So why, one might ask, do I not write? Good question, and one I ask myself over and over as I berate myself for not doing just that.

My internal editor will not shut its yap. I hear that little voice saying the same things over and over: that writing stinks. That piece is too private, too personal. That section over there is an idea that’s been rehashed forever, can’t you be original?

And there is the other side of writing, too, the side that wouldn’t be for publication necessarily, but is more an exercise to stretch one’s wings, to let the words flow about whatever topic is uppermost in the mind. A friend of mine tells me that I’ve not posted anything personal in some time, and this is true. Even my insertion of some personal details in the midst of a larger post are incidental. That same little voice yammers about how personal stuff should remain just that way, how deeper thoughts on subjects make me sound like a pretentious git, and how someone else has already said it – better – before I ever got to it.

So what’s the solution? Hell if I know. I’m just typing a stream of consciousness thing here, trying not to edit as I go along. It’s incredibly difficult, and for someone like me who is generally in control all the time, frustrating not to be able to control this as well. At times it almost feels like a failure of character not to be able to spit out the things that are stuck in the brain cells under my skull. I feel like I am awash in words that will never be written, in things that will never be said. I can’t decide if that’s a trgedy or a blessing.