October 2009

Where I go on about men’s reproductive health, in a TMI sort of way.

It took us a year, but we’ve finally signed on with a new insurance.   We actually managed all this a few months ago, but opted to remain on our current COBRA insurance for a little longer.  The change date has provided some motivation to attend to some business.

It was one of those business needs that brought us into the appointment where I sat and watched a young female doctor feel up my husband.

Talk about awkward.

We were counseled over and over again about the procedure.  “It’s considered permanent,” we were reminded.  “How many kids do you have now?” they asked again.  Finally I showed them a video of Kate, one where she is Very Upset because we’ve asked her not to eat raisins out of the trash can.  And followed it up with a recording of Will talking about Ninjas from Chinese who taught firemen to fight dragons (“they’re real, you know, really.”) in the 1740s.

“Right,” they said, “but who knows?  You may want something different two or three years from now?”

*sigh*  Look.  We have eenie and meenie and Mama don’t want no mo’.  Okay?

So they made the appointment.  It was last Thursday.  After a week of recovery, I’ve been granted permission to discuss it as long as I don’t use photographs.

What’s it been like?  Well, ladies, in the 5 days following his procedure, my darling husband has made dinner 3 times, cleaned up the house twice, helped out with several loads of laundry, done the dishes repeatedly, and brought home flowers.  Trade virility for dinner, clean laundry, and flowers?  Yes, please!

As for the actual procedure, I wasn’t allowed in the room.  The report from the nurses was that he spent the whole time chatting and laughing with the doctor.

Oh, THE DOCTOR!!  The urologist!  The guy who does exams and surgeries and consultations on men’s most sensitive bits?

Dr. Woo.


So Dr. Woo worked on Paul’s wee whilst everyone cracked jokes and laughed away.

I sat in the waiting area, yapping on the phone to my friends who called all morning to check in on Paul.  The conversations, I’m embarrassed to admit, involved a lot of giggling.

Guys, I’m sorry to laugh.  It’s not that women don’t believe that this procedure involves discomfort.   But the bottom line is that we child-bearing women don’t exactly feel that this particular duty of yours is all that big of a deal, comparatively speaking.  We’ve spread our legs quite a bit more.  I mean, you have this micro-procedure and then spend a few days sitting comfortably, blissed out on pain meds, with complete control over the remote (for the love, Discovery Channel!  Do you really need to air Mythbusters 18 hours a day?!)  By comparison, women go through our reproductive responsibilities with much greater wounds to heal, including whole organs and systems of organs to reshape and reposition.  PLUS, at the end of it all, there is a tiny person who is either crying, pooping, or clamping down on our sensitive bits at 2 hour intervals 24 hours a day.  Let us feel like we’re evening out the score a bit by giving us that giggle at your snip-snip.  (I’m not heartless, you can still have the remote.)

But back to Paul.  He had taken a few valium before reporting to urology but was still nervous.  The nerves turned him conversational.  He chatted with the doctor, Doctor Woo – and oh, the details one can discover!  The wonders of the scrotal muscle and other random details, “hey, check this out, I know that feels weird in your back… if I pull harder, it’ll make you nauseous!”  They even let Paul see the section of vas removed.  The whole thing took maybe a half hour.

When I walked in, Paul wasn’t there.  There was iodine on the chair and a small, tiny, practically microscopic drop of blood.  Cauliflower started to grow in my ears.  My poor Paul!  Where was he?!  I stepped to the side to hold onto the counter.

Then Paul strode in chipper and happy from the bathroom.  We got our discharge instructions and were on our way.  He practically waltzed out of the building.   I remained dizzy and had to take a few deep breaths before driving home.

He made a lot of jokes about needing to buy a sports car immediately upon leaving the hospital.

Unfortunately, his discomfort set in after a few hours.  It was easily managed with rest and drugs.  He was a trooper over the next two days, as I had two back-to-back 10+ hour days of workshops – while he was alone with the kids.  It’s now day 10 and he’s still pretty bruised, particularly along his left side where the vas was “deep,” according to Dr. Woo.  But Paul is definitely healing.  If he does a lot of walking and bending he gets sore, but feels better in the morning.   He is concerned about some of the pain that remains and a potential difficulty with healing at the incision site (if the situation doesn’t change or worsens, he’ll call the doc back Monday or Tuesday).  But all in all, it barely put him out of commission (a day or so) and the discomfort, even though it’s still hanging around, has not impacted our lives much at all.

It’s not over.  First, we need to make sure that the whole discomfort thing (identified by Paul as muscle related and extending up into his left side) is a non-issue.  Second, we need to make sure that he is, in fact, sterile.  After 15 emissions we have to take in a sample to be sure he’s free of little X and/or Ys.   A friend thought that it required ONE HUNDRED emissions before such test, and although Paul perked up a bit at this possibility, I confirmed: 15 is more than enough.

The most memorable moment for me was when Dr. Woo, kind and gentle Dr. Woo, clapped a hand on Paul’s arm before the procedure and said, “I’ve had it done.  And I can say, man to man, that’s it’s no big deal.”

So there you have it.  Dr. Woo, the Wee specialist, says it’s no big deal.  And from our perspective, at least so far, we have to concur.

UPDATE, Nov. 2nd: Wound opened up to (stop now if you’re already into TMI territory) blood and puss. Paul called the good doc and they called in an antibiotic. No worries still, but at least Paul is feeling less like “man who called wolf” — hopefully incision site will continue to heal now.


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Rocking Teeth

Brushing teeth and combing hair is a total drag to kids.  I know this because it seems doing each regularly involves resistance.

Which is why, when Will screamed ‘nooooooo, noooooo, NOOOOOOOOO!!’ as I brushed his teeth last night, I assumed he was fighting my brushing.

“Will!  What is WRONG?”

“Mommmmmm!  You’ve stopped the concert and now everyone is LEAVING!”

Apparently, my brushing had interrupted his ROCKSTAR mirror concert.  Brought to the mirror by the ROCKSTAR hair I’d given him prior to the toothbrush interruption.

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Naturally, we had to remedy the situation by having a full-blown post-toothbrushing ROCKSTAR concert.

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Kate, too.


Family Photos
Mi Familia

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October Awareness: Breast Cancer and Hispanic Heritage

Tina asked for bloggers to participate as guest bloggers for October, on the theme of Breast Cancer Awareness, in honor of her Mother, a breast cancer survivor.  Here is my cross-listed post.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It is also Hispanic Heritage Month.

And breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women.

The Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the United States.  Hispanic Americans make up roughly 14 percent of the U.S. population, but they are the fastest growing segment, estimated to reach 20 percent or more by 2050.

Even when access to health care is adequate, for Hispanic women in the United States, breast cancer is more often diagnosed at a later stage, when the disease is more advanced.   Further, approximately two-thirds of breast cancer found in Hispanic women is discovered by accident – not by screening or mammogram.

Actually, according to a Kaiser Permanente study, the news gets worse.  When compared to non-Hispanic white women, Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age, have cancer that has already spread beyond the breast, have tumors with cell type that have a poorer prognosis, have larger tumors, and have tumors that cannot be treated with some of the most effective medicines.

What’s the public health response?  Interventions aimed at increased screening, access, and education.  But is it enough?

If early detection and survival is the goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month – then there has to be a conversation about an individual’s ability to access health care information and services.  Central to that conversation is the reality that those very life-saving information and services are unjustly linked to one’s racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and immigration status.

How do these dynamics play out?  Here is a local example.  If a woman cannot demonstrate access to or eligibility for some type of insurance (or have the ability to pay) – programs can deny her a screening for breast cancer.  Why?  The argument is that it is unethical to provide a screening for a disease when the patient will not be able to access treatment for it.  In the past year, one of the screening programs in New Orleans was shut down for this reason.

What is more unethical?  Denying screening?  Denying treatment?  Or needing any of coverage or eligibilities in the first place?

The bottom line is that women in our largest ethnic minority group do not have a good outlook when it comes to breast cancer.   And improving the outlook is about more than screening programs and access to medicines.  Striking at the heart of a serious disease means a serious look at our entire system of care and asking where treatment for breast cancer and survival of women lie within our values.


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Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

When I was a kid and my Grandparents worked for Disney, we were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to spend summers with them.  In the many, many times I’ve visited the parks, I had never been there for the fall and winter holidays.

When we went last spring during Mardi Gras, we decided to try to go during the kids’ fall break.  Lucky for us, the break coordinated with the Magic Kingdom’s Halloween celebration.  The park was beautifully decorated.  Even cast member costumes held subtle changes to reflect the fall season.

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The party is after-hours — and features special parade, fireworks, character greetings, dance parties, and trick-or-treating.  Costumes are encouraged.

Like we could say no to that!

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Take a moment of pause at my 5-year old sweetheart above, who DRESSED AS A WHITE RABBIT to support his sister’s costume.  Also?  He made his own clock.  And?  Let me draw a nose and whiskers.  I couldn’t stop looking at him all night, thinking that this is probably the last time he’ll willing put ears on his head.

Kate was over the moon.

It took a few seconds for folks in the crowd to take in our whole ensemble.  But when they did, we heard many, many compliments.  The kids were thrilled.

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We took a prime spot in the front of Cinderella’s castle for the Villian’s show (they take over the night) parade (featuring the Villians taking over Main Street) and then the Fireworks!

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See Paul and the kids below?

For the record, Disney parades are truly a spectacle.

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The fireworks, too, are amazing.  Some of the best (if not the best) I’ve ever seen.  (Including the 4th of July fireworks on the Mall in DC.)  I thought that this display was outstanding.  I loved the images flying up the castle, the music, and surprises of fireworks not only behind the castle, but coming up around Main Street — lighting up the entire park for a few seconds.

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We rode a few rides, too — including Alice’s Tea Cups (of course).  When we stumbled off the tea cups (the kids went crazy on that spinning), we ran smack into our dopplegangers!

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The Tweedles spent quite a bit of time playing with our caps, spinning the propellers, and straightening our ties before insisting on several different posed shots with us.  Cute, very very cute.

What a fantastic time to visit the Magic Kingdom!

Happy Halloween!

Family Photos

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Get it! Got it? GOOD.

It’s flu season and as predicted and anticipated, H1N1 is back and stronger than before.  This extra nuisance gives little indication over who it will strike down and who it will simply inconvenience… but it does seem to have a particularly strong affinity for children.  And one way or another, every single one of us is going to be exposed to it.  We are all potential host of this virus and we all will have the opportunity to unknowingly passing it along until the virus has neutralized itself within our collective systems.

Sound scary?  Well, it should.  Let’s say that 25% of us come down with those uncomfortable flu systems.  And let’s say that of those 25%, half will need IVs for dehydration, a common side effect of flu.  What would happen in your city’s hospital system if more than 10% of the total population needed some sort of medical assistance?  That’s a 10% excess rate — a percentage of people needing services over the usual load of illnesses and injuries.  And what if your child is the one of the ones who becomes REALLY ill?   What will it be like to get them care within a system that is that overburdened?  If the situation turns life-threatening, does your medical facility have the resources, equipment, and experience to handle advanced flu-related symptoms and infections?  And can they carry all of that out with a significant increase in patient demands on the system?

But good news!  WE HAVE A VACCINES!  One for seasonal flu and (impressively!) one specific to H1N1.  It’s effective.  It’s safe.  It’s being made in large numbers and supplies are available or en route to your city!  WOW.

So seriously.  I respect individual rights to make decisions.  I do.  Truly and honestly.  And while there ARE good reasons for a few people to think about passing up a life-saving vaccine that not only protects them, but everyone around them — for the vast majority of us hemming and hawing and doubting and worrying, the decision is a really easy one to make.

You get the damn shot.

I’m not your doctor and I’m not open to any liability, so I’m not going to sugar-coat it.  Here is the advice from the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Here is what your doctor would say if they weren’t obligated to neutral, open, and supportive bedside manner:

Get the damn shot.

Okay, okay, there IS a caveat.  Some people are considered priority in the vaccination recommendations.  If you’re young and not around kids and don’t work in medicine and have no other health issues and have little history of getting seasonal flu ever… well, maybe y’all could hang out for awhile.  Just until we use our supplies to those more likely than you to get sick and pass it around.  But the rest of us?  Let’s get in line.

But let me back up a bit.  This is NOT judgmental or crazy or blaming.  I’m a straight up person and I’m calling the spade a spade.

I understand that it is hard to make a choice about things like vaccines and viruses and strains all over an illness that we’ve all had, or we think we’ve had, at one time or another.  The fact that it is so familiar (what’s a little flu?) minimizes it’s importance in our minds.  When faced with a “choice” to vaccinate, we take on the responsibilities that come with it whatever we decide.  We must weigh the cost of the inconvenience, the fee, the appointment… and any risk, no matter how minuscule.  The perceived risk of flu seems less innocuous than the unidentified maybes and pseudo-scientific rumors of getting a shot.  After all, we’ve all had flu risk in the past.  Why not just take flu risk again?  Save myself the hassle?

The “decision” of whether or not to get a flu shot, particularly with a novel virus spreading, is not just a personal decision.  It’s not just about you.  The decision, your decision, impacts not only you and your family — it impacts EVERYONE AROUND YOU.  Personally, I feel that part of considering the responsibility of whether or not to vaccinate includes considering the responsibility we have to our communities, friends, neighbors, and relatives.  The plain and simple reality is that vaccines save lives.

An excerpt from Slate:

One of those who died in Colorado was 8-year-old Joseph Williams. He had been perfectly healthy before the sudden onset of a stomach ache and high fever. His parents took him to the emergency room, believing they would bring him home quickly, but a brain inflammation brought on by the influenza killed him in hours.

The day after Joseph’s death, his parents held a tearful news conference to beg everyone in the community to get flu shots. If more people had been vaccinated, they argued, their child might have never contracted the infection in this first place.

Damn straight.

One of us — you, me, my kid, your kid, the woman at the deli, the UPS delivery guy, your newborn niece — anyone of us could be the next one who falls suddenly and irreversibly ill.  And the risk of that happening is much, much greater than any risk from a vaccine.

To address some common concerns:

Worried about thimerosal?  Read this.  There are different kinds of flu vaccine, some without preservative.  Vaccine for children under age 2 is preservative-free — just as all routine vaccines have been since 2001.  If you’re concerned, find out which vaccines are being given, to whom, and at which locations.  Ask questions.

Have a homeopathic treatment?   If it makes you feel better, great.  Just don’t think you’re protected, or that you’re protecting anyone else.

What about antivirals?  Antivirals (oseltamivir = Tamiflu, or zanamivir = Relenza) are recommended for folks who have serious symptoms.  A recent British study recommended extreme caution in it’s use, as the side effects of the antivirals are often worse than the actual flu.  Antivirals temporarily prevent a virus from doing what it needs to do to reproduce in your body… it doesn’t stop you from getting the flu forever.  It’s not a substitute for vaccine.

Think a shot gave you or your kid the flu?  Young children are more likely to have mild side-effects from a vaccine (things like fatigue) because their bodies have a lot more work to do to build immunity.  Those side effects will minimize as the kids grow older and have more illness exposure and greater immunity.  But no, no, no, for heaven’s sake NO — you cannot get the flu from the flu shot!  If you developed the flu after a shot, it was because you already had it.

How many to get?  For the novel H1N1 virus, 2 doses are recommended for young children because they are not “immunologically primed” — this means that they have had limited flu exposure in the past and therefore do not have a lot of antibodies built up in their systems.

What’s the whole thing about paralysis and flu vaccine?  In 1976, 35 million Americans were vaccinated against a flu that broke out in New Jersey (a H1N1 swine flu) which ended up not having the mutations necessary to cause an epidemic, despite a widespread public health warning campaign.  Those vaccinated were tracked very closely and seven cases of Guillian-Barre Syndrome were reported within 10 weeks of the vaccine.  Just because you are diagnosed with something after a vaccine does not mean that the relationship is causal (that one caused the other), it means it’s temporal (one happened to come before the other). If you have a car accident at noon and happened to eat breakfast that morning, your eating breakfast didn’t necessarily have anything to do with your car accident.  Nonetheless, the cases of GBS were studied to great degree.  No evidence of causation has ever been shown, despite research which included an active GBS surveillance program through the early 80s that showed no association and no risk of GBS from vaccinations.

For those in New Orleans:

To my knowledge, supplies of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine are not yet available in our community.  However, the seasonal flu vaccine IS… and it’s not too late to head it off.


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Better Late Than…? Just Posts: September 2009


Welcome to the lastest Just Posts roundtable, the monthly list of blogger writing on topics of social justice and activism compiled and hosted by Alejna and me.

It’s taken me 5 days to get this post up.  Does that say enough about life in Cold Spaghetti land?

Some of the delay in posting is due to a conference presentation I gave over the weekend about health and infrastructure in New Orleans.  Using a lot of maps, charts, and pictures, I gave the context for Louisiana, one of the poorest, least developed, States in our United States.  (Enter joke.  Our State motto: “Thank goodness for Mississippi,” lest we be last on ALL measures.)  The level of vulnerability among those in the Gret Stet is extreme by any measure and when further defined by race, becomes unthinkable.  But as far as we are down the hierarchy of outcomes, we are not so different than the rest of the country and indeed, not so different than the rest of the world.  The images of inequality and despair burned into our minds after Katrina are not indicative of New Orleans.  Those memories do not define or create a distinction for the rest of the country to use to separate themselves from our reality.  Every place is just waiting for that moment when it all falls apart, when our inequalities, vulnerabilities, and differences can no longer be invisible.

And now, the all important list: The September Just Posts.

The posts of this month’s roundtable were submitted by:

Thanks so much for reading! We really appreciate your support. And not just appreciate it. We need your support to keep the Just Posts going. Please drop by Alejna’s to see what she has to say this month. If you have a post in the list above, or would just like to support the Just Posts, we invite you to display a button on your blog with a link back here, or to the Just Posts at Collecting Tokens. If you are unfamiliar with the Just Posts, please visit the information page. buttonsept2009-120px

Recovery and Rebirth

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In the WORLD.

As if we couldn’t find enough to do with the bazillion jobs, conferences, deadlines, dissertation drafts, broken bones, lingering illnesses, and all the rest… we decided to hold true to our intents from last spring and go to THE WORLD for the kids fall break (6 school days off).

We are having such a fantastic time that we may never come back. Maybe I’m spending too much time with princesses, but I’m beginning to believe reality is over-rated.

Just ask Will. He is SOOOO not ready for reality.

Twenty bucks says that by the time we go home, this 25 second encounter with Darth Vader will have morphed into 3 hours of non-stop battling, include a few hundred more storm troopers, and occur in some remote frozen land. But really, who can blame him?

Mi Familia
Special Family Moments

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Monday Mambo

A little bit of writing done tonight
A little bit of email sent, that’s right!
A little bit of nausea just set in
’cause I sent that big draft IN!

Yes, that’s right. I sent my committee chair a draft of my dissertation tonight… just in time to make it a Monday Mission.


Speaking of the Painted Maypole, we were able to see her LIVE! and IN PERSON! in PINKALICIOUS! this weekend. I promise, each of those words deserved both caps and excessive punctuation. The show was adorable and TPM is even more lovelier (and taller!) than her pictures. Bonus: the May Queen stopped by (on her birthday!) so we were able to get in a Girls Only photo.

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Since then, Kate has woken up “PINK!” each morning and picked out her daily outfits in accordance to how PINKALICIOUS! they are. Not that the show made an impact, or anything.


PS: Did I mention that I sent in a draft? Of my dissertation? To my committee chair? A draft? Sent? Draft? DRAFT?!?!?! My stomach is in knots.


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Showing promise.

On the can.  Reading…

(want to take a guess??)



Mi Familia

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