90-Day Life Challenge: My Medical Port - What Happened And Why I Should Have Done This Sooner

Getting "real" for a minute, when I was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma, I was a stubborn woman. It wasn't possible for cancer to take me before my son turned 18, I refused to acknowledge pain, and there was nothing about this cancer-treatment process that was going to scare me. So, on December 1, 2015, I made up my mind that the doctors could just stick me over an over again. I didn't care, and I WAS NOT going to get a port. That changed.

Why Did I Decide To Get A Port?

Around the end of July, I was in the Infusion Pod, and as per usual, the nurses couldn't find a vein. For clarification, I have extremely small veins anyway, but the Opdivo is contributing to the rigidity of the "casing" around them. As a side note, this in no way impairs their function at all. So I got stuck in a bit of a Catch-22: My tiny veins require the use of a pediatric needle, but the pediatric needle is so hard it just bounces off of the hardened vein casings. Two hours and one ultrasound machine later, they were able to hook me up with an IV line in my wrist. Ouch.

For months I had been telling the nurses, "It's fine. It only hurts for a second and then it's done." It was still true, but I was starting to feel like an idiot. A voice in my head kept telling me, You know why you're here. It's not your fault. So, why are you adding insult to injury? I decided to just go for it and get a port.

How Is The Port Installed And How Does It Work?

Let me begin by saying, I have a Bard Power Port. It looks like this:

Very simple design. See the three little bumps? Those help guide the nurses when they insert the PowerLoc needle. All they have to do is feel for the three bumps and insert the needle into the puffy space in between. 

Day of Surgery, August 10th 12:00 pm

Installing the port was a tremendously easy task too. The entire surgery took maybe 30 minutes, and they just got me a little "high," but didn't knock me out. The reasoning being that I had to be an active participant in the surgery, hold my neck in a specific position, check-in that I didn't have any chest tightness, etc... The surgeon injected me with a few shots of Lidocane (after superficially numbing the area, so it only stung a little). After the numbing, he made the bottom incision to insert the Power Port, and the top incision to help thread the catheter into my jugular. Sounds scary, but the elasticity of the veins creates an air-tight seal around the catheter. And that's it.

Two Days Later, Putting GLaDOS To Work

That was a Wednesday, and Friday (pictured above) I got to use my port for infusion. It was amazing. Inserting the locking needle barely hurt since there's only a relatively-nerveless 1mm of skin lying on top of the access point of the port. I named her GLaDOS after the hilarious "villain" in Portal 2. No particular reason, just for fun. I was brought to a sterile room to "access the port," then sent right over to my infusion, and GLaDOS worked like a charm. 

What Is The Verdict On The Port?

Even though it was the right thing to do, I still felt like I was letting someone down or wasn't trying as hard as I was before. But there are so many positives that I didn't anticipate.

  1. Preparation for infusion dropped from 90 minutes to 20 minutes. I regained more than an hour each time!
  2. Since the medicine is administered into the port, it doesn't have to travel from my hand, to my heart, to the rest of my body. It is disseminated straight from the source.
  3. When I go in for my next CT, MRI, or PET Scans, the contrast can be directly injected--all at once--into my port. This makes the scans more accurate since the contrast is distributed evenly and immediately to my bloodstream.
  4. My arms don't hurt the day after infusion. I can pick up my boy.

Today, August 23rd

Can't even see it, can you? Barely a scar, which will fade with time, and no visible bump underneath my shirt. I go again this Friday the 26th for my next infusion, and I'll update you on how use of the port continues.

To all my fellow cancer patients. Don't be scared, keep an open mind and eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: "Just One More Thing" Changed My Life

Let me begin by saying, I absolutely adore FlyLady's mantra that you can do anything for 15 minutes--and I thoroughly believe that anyone can. I myself have tried setting a kitchen timer while I tackle a specific task from a list of important tasks that I needed to complete. I just couldn't stick with it...I have put too much pressure on myself and now I'm back where I started from, just feeling like a failure. And after much self-flagellation and thought, I have come to a new conclusion: I can do just one more thing, no expectation of how long it might take or what I need to do next.

The rule is simple: No matter what I am doing, I will be finished once I do one more thing.

Here are some examples of how I'm implementing "one more thing" in my daily life:

  • I went to the bathroom and noticed that a few of Wee-One's bath toys were hanging out on the floor next to their container, so I put them back. 
  • I wiped down the kitchen counter after dinner and noticed a few spots on the pantry door. I wiped these too.
  • On my way out of the car, I grab a handful of trash I can throw away inside.
  • On my way to the car, I spray a rag with a homemade all-purpose spray and wipe down a few grimy areas on the dashboard. As a side note, I'm now keeping a Ziploc bag with a damp cleansing rag in my bag so I never have to spend hours cleaning my car interior again!
  • I'm answering an email from work, but before I log out, I make a few notes, answer one more, or file a few emails.

These are just a few examples of how I'm slowing down for a second and allowing myself to enact change without pressure. I'm just happy with what progress I've made.

Happy reading,
Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: 6 Vacation Habits I Intend To Keep

We just got home from a 5-day whirlwind vacation. It really was nice to get away a little bit, but there was just too much going on at home and work to truly relax. Nevertheless, I fell into a few vacation habits that can be easily carried home with me.

Do Not Check My Phone Right Away

In fact, I didn't check my phone for nearly an hour after I woke up. It wasn't even strange after the first day. This doesn't mean that my first hour of the day wasn't productive--quite the opposite. My mornings generally began by making my coffee and sitting down to enjoy a book chapter or a random Wikipedia article, something to stimulate my mind and tune out the world. Then, I spent some time exercising (walking, stretching, light calisthenics, and yoga). And finally, I ended the "me" time with a brief pamper session in which I washed my face (including a face massage), brushed my teeth, fixed my hair/make-up, and dressed for the day. It wasn't on purpose, but I stumbled on a beginning to my morning routine.

Tidy As You Go

This is pretty self-explanatory, but basically, no one wants to clean up on vacation. To avoid needing to do much cleaning, I just picked up after Wee-One any time we switched activities. I also broadened the general tidying to include straightening the pillows when I got up from the couch, replace decorative table items if I moved them during meals, and sweeping up minor messes immediately. There was so much less cleaning to do at the end of the day so I never really felt like I stopped my day to clean up.

Shower Your Family With Attention And Praise

Since I was eager to "chunk" all of my work tasks into small blocks of time during our trip, it freed up a significant amount of time for focusing on my family. For Wee-One, it meant that I savored the time, encouraging him to play, and taking him on fun outings. For DH, it meant that I willingly put down my phone to ask him how his day was or listen to his thoughts on our life and the direction it is taking. I wasn't constantly multi-tasking so I found it easier to see and compliment the qualities about DH that I fell in love with four years ago.

Feed "The Crazy" At Least Once Each Day

Now don't confuse "the crazy" with cocaine or something elicit. In my case, "the crazy" is my own neurotic love of organizing planners and list-making. When Wee-One went down for his afternoon nap, I did do a little bit of work for an hour, but after that, I gave myself permission to grab the printables I had taken with me and start planning. It doesn't always come to fruition, but just the act of writing down my thoughts/feelings/needs/anxieties cleanses my mind in a way that nothing else can.

Shower At Night

It was the strangest, most nonsensical habit I fell into while at the beach but it makes perfect sense. I spent most of the day swimming, walking at the beach, sweating, or whatever, and come the end of the day, the last thing I wanted was to go to bed smelly. A light bulb went off. I wanted to shower at night, then roll around with DH in the clean sheets, free from the filth of my day. It was perfect.

Turn Off The TV When I Go To Bed

For years, I got used to sleeping with the TV on or needing extraneous noise to go to sleep; however, a simple white-noise machine that I borrowed from my sister broke this cycle. I used her HomeMedics machine--the "summer rainstorm" setting, and fell asleep within 10 minutes of laying in bed. As a side note, the simpler the better with the bedroom design. The less furniture and greater the organization, the more quickly I relaxed.

Not every day can be a vacation, but there's nothing wrong with bringing a little bit of that mentality home with you. I hope you can use some of the tips I've outlined here, and please let me know if you have some of your own.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: 6 Things I Will Only Ever Buy At The Dollar Store

I love my local Dollar Tree. In fact, there are 3 locations within close proximity to my house. I love saving money, but sometimes, it just isn't realistic to spend the time, energy, and upfront cash to stockpile certain items (even through couponing), and that is where the Dollar Tree comes in. So, here is a list of 6 things that I will only purchase at the Dollar Tree for the rest of my life.

1. Bread - Regular 20 oz. loaves of Nature's Own wheat and whole grain breads are all $1. Contrary to popular belief, these loaves have not expired yet. I tend to buy 5 or 6 loaves at a time and stick them in the freezer.

This is now a part of my monthly routine. At the beginning of the month, 
I run out to the Dollar Tree and grab the needed bread rations.

2. Rough Scrubbing Pads - The Dollar Stores sell these in packs of 10, which I cut in half and use for about a week before throwing them away. This means that I really only have to spend about $3 per year on scrubbing pads. Not too shabby at all.

3. Snack Foods (specifically, crackers, peanuts, and jerky) - The savings depends entirely on how much you eat snack food. I'm constantly on the run so...yeah...

The best snack items I pick up at the Dollar Tree are:
Planters 6-packs of peanuts
Lance peanut butter crackers
"Squeezy fruit" (as I son calls them) 4-packs

4. Toothbrushes and Toothpaste - This is one of my favorites. Since it is a non-perishable item, you can stock up with several years worth at a time. But the main reason this is one of my favorites is that the Dollar Tree near me takes coupons (yay!), and often I find $0.50 to $1 off coupons for Colgate products. In theory, you can purchase 6 months worth of dental supplies for your family for less than $5.

True story, I got some great $2 off 3 coupons for some Crest toothpaste, went to the Dollar Tree and got 12-4.6oz tubes of toothpaste for $4. It was a wonderful moment, I was so proud.

5. Flip Flops - For $1, you can't do better, and though they are not the most durable things in the entire world, they are perfect for keeping an extra pair or two in your car--or "to go" bag--in case you need them.

6. Plastic Organization Bins - There are so many different sizes, materials (plastic, canvas, and flexible rubbery plastic), and colors that it is so much better than going to Target and spending $5 or more on each bin. I use them for everything--from storing produce in the refrigerator, to K-cups in the pantry, to cleaning supplies under the sink.

I'm going to have to go back for more now that we're organizing our new home.

I am always on the look-out for other supplies to buy at the Dollar Store, but these are the best investments I have found to date. Let me know if you find this list helpful or have other items you like to buy.

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: The Daily Dozen [Productivity Edition]

Day 14 of the 90-Day Life Challenge is going to bring another Daily Dozen, but this one is a Productivity list. Everybody needs a list like this, and I'm finally creating one for myself that keeps me from being a completely ineffective scatter-brain.

  1. Rise before the sun. I have chosen 4:30am as my rise-and-shine time. It seems insane, but I do seem to naturally wake up before the 5am alarm I've always set. So why not push it a little? 
  2. My 3 Most Important Tasks [MITs] must be completed/addressed before I do anything else. In the daily planner, this section is indicated by the "Must Do" section.
  3. Follow the Pomodoro method of productivity. This one is a personal favorite at the moment because I have a tendency to scatter-and-flounder when working on important tasks. Then my time management and effectiveness suffer and I feel crappy about the amount of time I put into my tasks. A separate post detailed the Pomodoro method will follow, but the basic idea is that for every 25 minutes for focused work, you take a 5 minute "brain break" to boost efficiency and productivity.
  4. Get organized. I'm definitely not yet, but I am actively working to improve my organization. Right now, I spent 10-15 minutes every day focusing on a specific area that needs improvement. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I will be working on our household paperwork.
  5. Prioritize my "to do" list. This process is 2-fold. First, I needed to select the perfect set of planning materials--for more information, please read my posts about creating my Daily Planning Binder. Second, I need to prioritize my tasks. This harkens back to my first experience with Franklin Covey when I was in high school, nearly 15 years ago. Basically, tasks receive a lettered priority rating (i.e. A = crucial; B = important; C = flexible). Then, once tasks are given a rating, they are then ranked in order of importance with numbers.
  6. Whenever a new task crosses my plate, use the Eisenhower Box. This copy of the Eisenhower Box was retrieved from the Huffington Post (article linked HERE). It is extremely easy to understand, and as long as you follow the guidelines for each task, you will never have more than you can handle at any given time.
  7. Use the "just one more thing" rule. I made this one up myself, and am a big fan. The idea is that whatever I'm doing, be it scrubbing the toilet, or tidying up the kitchen, I will find one more 2-minute task to complete. For instance, I am scrubbing the toilet, so I will take 2 minutes to spray a rag and wipe down the outside of the toilet or a few spots I see on the tub. Saves time during the weekly cleaning later.
  8. "Chunk" my tasks together. Simply put, when I begin to work on emails, I will only work on emails across the board until they are finished. No shifting gears.
  9. Set aside time for a "2-minute rush" at the end of the day. Any small tasks that have accumulated through the course of the day, spend 20-30 minutes at the end of the day and knock about 10 off of your to do list.
  10. Stop multi-tasking. Turn off your phone, put on some light ambient music, and clear your space of distractions when beginning to work on a task. In the short-term, it might feel better to have the TV on in the background--believe me, I'm there--but it won't help you get the work done any faster. 
  11. When you are feeling overwhelmed, smile. I mean it, smile, and say, "I forgive me for struggling, but I'm not done yet." This is a very difficult thing for me to do, but I am slowly learning to allow the bad feelings to happen, and to let them pass through me. I will survive them, and I will complete my goals as planned.
  12. Reward yourself for a job well done. Positive reinforcement will always keep you coming back for more. 

I hope you found some of the tips helpful, they have been tested on my end and I am happy to report some success in my personal life. Let me know if you have some suggestions too. I'm all ears :)

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend

90-Day Life Challenge: Daily Planning [Creating My Life Binder]

Ah, I am nearly done with my Daily Planner, and now the last step is the finding my perfect daily planning form. I think I did, and it's also by Eliza Ellis Beautiful Organizers (linked HERE). If you are interested in seeing my choices for the Monthly and Weekly planning pages, you can view these posts HERE (Monthly) and HERE (Weekly).

Materials I Am Using For My Daily Planner

From her exquisite set of FREE printables, I have selected the "Oh Happy Day" planner in the color "Happy" (light, sunny yellow). This day planner is a two-page planner that I have printed back-to-back. The two pages have 4 columns of organization:

  • Column 1 - Appointments to be scheduled during a 16-hour day
  • Column 2 - Gives you space for your 3 most important tasks of the day, plus additional space for notes
  • Column 3 - A "To Do" list for whatever I hope to accomplish in a day
  • Column 4 - Is entirely about personal care, with spaces for meal-tracking, water intact, workout, daily habits, and groceries to purchase

Basically, it's a little bit of everything, so I always feel like I have a way to organize my thoughts and random items that suddenly appear on my "To Do" list as the day progresses.

Putting The Daily Planner Together

Alright, that pretty much covers the planning components of my Daily Planner, but there are just a few small details to attend to: First, I need binder covers and a spine cover for the planner. And second, I need a few accessories handy so I can stay organized.

The cover was easy. All I did was grab some taupe-y cardstock that I had lying around and go into Microsoft Word to create my cover. I wanted simple, non-specific in terms of date--I am far too lazy to keep remaking a cover annually--, and also something briefly descriptive of the contents. Obviously, I did not go creatively overboard, but I am pleased with the finished product.

The only change that I would make to my Daily Planner is to purchase some cute washi tape in 3 different styles for daily, weekly, and monthly pages. I can line the outside of the page to easily access the section I am looking for.

Hope this inspires somebody to plan their day!

Happy reading,

Your Devoted Friend