The Consultation

By: Tanya Dodd-Hise

Today has been a miserable day for me, feeling like my throat is on fire and a cough that just won’t stop.  I finally had to give in yesterday and admit that hey, I must really be sick, so I threw in the towel and went to the doctor this afternoon.  Throat infection, probably stemming from allergies.  Damn allergies.  I did, however, have a fun morning with my friend & hairdresser for years, Liz.  She so graciously gave me a cut and color – and BOY did she give me color!  I left with blonde and two shades of pink!  SO awesome…I love her so much.

pink

But let’s go back to yesterday.

I had an appointment at Moncrief Cancer Institute yesterday at 1:30 PM, in Ft. Worth.  Oh THAT was a fun drive.  There is construction EVERYWHERE between here and there, so the normally 45 minute drive took me an hour and a half.  Good times.  But it was necessary and definitely important to this whole process, so I wasn’t going to bitch.

The first part of the appointment was brief, spent with a nice chick named Yesenia, filling out paperwork for Texas Medicaid.  I gave her all of the documents that they said that I needed to bring, and she told me that it would take 6-10 business days for me to get into the Medicaid system and have an ID# – but she said that I DO qualify.  Huge relief #1.  She explained to me that it is good for six months, and if I am still in treatment at that time, then all I had to do is renew it by having my treating doctor fill out a form for me.  Easy peasy.  She also explained that this particular Medicaid program, while it will cover most of my treatment, there are some things that it will not cover, and only covers three prescriptions each month.  So I will have to be careful to pick and choose wisely which ones to use it for – I remember when my mom went through treatment, her anti-nausea meds were OMG expensive, even on her good insurance.  And you can guaran-damn-tee that I am gonna want the good anti-nausea drugs!

The next part of the appointment was longer, spent with one of the nurse caseworkers named Edna.  We discussed the next step, which was a consultation with a surgeon.  She said that a preliminary staging would probably put me at a 2, but that my official cancer stage wouldn’t be given until after my surgery.  She had a piece of paper that had the surgeon’s name on it that they were referring me to, and I could read it upside down.  I thought I had read it wrong, so I asked, “Does that say Dr. Carolyn Garner?”  She said, “yes?”  I was like, “Out of Denton Regional?  Cute little soft-spoken redheaded doctor?”  She said, “yes?”  I said, “Well that can’t be right.  She is an endocrinologist.  Does thyroid surgery.  I know her.  My friends know her.  My mother just had her thyroid removed by her about six weeks ago!”  Edna looked at me and said that she has dual specialties:  endocrinology surgeries and breast surgeries.  Ohmygod seriously?  THAT is awesome!  Huge relief #2.  I would totally go to her in a heartbeat, plus I am already in her system because I had a consultation with her about my own thyroid last year, when I briefly had insurance.  That took a huge weight off of my back!  I would definitely rather have surgery at one of the bigger hospitals than at Denton Regional, but I trust this surgeon, so I know it will all be good.

Once we got this part out of the way, we discussed various things regarding treatment, and what to expect as best that I can.  She said that because of my age and family history, that they want to do genetic testing on me, for the BRAC gene.  She said that they want to do it right away, so that the results can go to the surgeon, and we can make a definitive decision regarding surgery.  If I am positive for the gene, then I have the option of having both breasts removed and it would be covered completely; while if I am negative, then only the affected breast is eligible for surgery and reconstruction.  If I am positive, they will also test my two boys for the gene; because men can get it, too, as well as pass to their daughters (and one of my boys already has one of those!).  If I am negative, I could still have the unaffected breast removed electively, but it would likely be out of pocket.  I have been saying, for many years now, that if I ever get hit with this type of cancer, then I would for sure want to have them both removed.  And I still say that now.  I don’t want to ever go through this again!  Take them both, take them now.

So now I am expecting a call from the genetics department.  She also said that I would get a call from one of their social workers, who will keep connected with me during the course of my treatment, to make sure that I have everything and all of the support that I need.  They have support groups.  They will be mailing me an A to Z book about breast cancer, since they were out of it yesterday while I was there.  I gotta say, this place, Moncrief Cancer Institute, is an amazing place.  Nothing but positive people, pushing calm, peacefulness that is full of hope and light.  Next week on Wednesday, I am supposed to call and check the status of my Medicaid.  If I am in the system, I can get the ID# and make my appointment with Dr. Garner.  From what I can tell, with genetics testing (and waiting the 14 days for the results) and any additional testing that Dr. Garner may want to do, I will likely be having surgery around mid-April.

With what I have had to take in during this short time so far, I am glad that it is finally moving along.  My biggest fear, in the beginning, was the fact that I had no insurance.  I am SO thankful for the programs that exist, for the knowledge to find them, for a great doctor’s office to direct me, and for the grants & donations that fund these programs.  I have had amazing support from family and friends, both near and far, in person and across the world of Facebook.  My dear friend, Madge, stepped up immediately and set up a fundraising site online for people to donate towards – and after three days she has gotten over $3000!  I am overwhelmed and blown away by the humanity of my friends, her friends, and many people who don’t know me at all yet have graciously given a donation!  This money will help SO much in the absence of my income, and will help pay the bills that I usually cover, as well as gas to and from all of the countless appointments.  Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough.  I am humbled and honored by each person who selflessly gave, and will keep it with me always so that I can someday pay it forward.

Onward we go.  One foot in front of the other.  One step at a time, one day at a time.

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The Pathology

April 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

By: Tanya Dodd-Hise

It’s Monday, March 18th.  My sweet Noah’s 13th birthday.  I can’t believe this kid is already thirteen; nor can I believe how crazy I am about him (despite him being 13…hahaha)!  It is also the day that I hope to hear back from the doctor, all the while knowing that it could very likely be tomorrow.  By about 3 PM, I have given up most hopes of getting a phone call today with my biopsy results, so I start planning for a short trip to the store before Noah gets out of school at 4 PM.  I still feel lousy, but I need to make Noah’s birthday dinner, so I change clothes and head off with my list to the Kroger around the corner.  It’s 3:45 PM, and I am two steps out of my Jeep when my phone rings; a familiar Dallas number pops up and I stop, frozen in my tracks.

“This is Tanya.”

“Hi Tanya.  This is Dr. Seiler at UT Southwestern Medical Center.  Do you have a minute?”

Really?  No.  Do I have a minute?  Like I’m going to say, “Now isn’t a good time to find out about my cancer.  Can I call you back?”  Sorry.  Inner sarcasm comes out during times of high stress.

“Of course!  Let me jump back into my Jeep and turn some air on.”

From there, his calm, soothing voice led me through every step of the pathology report that he has so far.  He went in the same order that he performed the biopsies:

1.  The Stereotactic Biopsy of calcifications on the left breast – OK.  Fibroadenoma.  Benign changes.

2.  The mass on the right breast – OK.  A stromal hyperplasia.  Also benign changes.

3.  The mass on the left breast (the one that I felt) – Cancer.  Invasive Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.  The most common form of breast cancer, he said.  In the ducts and outside of the ducts.  Wonderful.

4.  The lymph node area of the left armpit – Cancer.

4.0.4

Big, deep breath.  Okay.  Do we have a stage yet?  No.  The specimens are being sent off for further testing and staging.  It is Grade 3, which is the highest grade – and the worst.  It got a score of 8 out of 9, which I guess is bad.  My next step, he tells me, is to see a surgeon.  They might do more testing (like MRIs and xrays), but they will formulate a treatment plan and decide if surgery will be needed first or chemotherapy first.  He answered all of my questions, and made sure to ask me at the end if I had any OTHER questions.

I then spoke with Amanda, the coordinator at UT Southwestern with the nurses at Moncrief Cancer Center, the program that funded my mammograms, sonograms, and biopsies.  She put me on hold, contacted my nurse there, and came back to tell me that they will begin the process of Medicaid paperwork for me, and not to worry about any of it for the time being.  She said that I would get a call the next day from the nurse handling my case, and they would get me in to finish up paperwork, and it would take 6-10 business days to get an active Medicaid number.  Once I have that, I can make the appointment with a surgeon that they refer me to, and hopefully get a good plan in place for treatment.  More waiting.

I know that if I had insurance, I would just pick up the phone to the surgeon of my choice (who accepted my plan, of course), and make the appointment.  Things are different for the non-insured, but thankfully, I am no longer panicked at the thought of having to self-pay EVERYTHING.  Now, I know that Medicaid does not pay for everything, and I will have out-of-pocket expenses; and thankfully I have wonderful people in my life (and in others’ lives) who have already started a fund for that!  And if anyone is wondering how I am able to get Medicaid, it is because we live in a state that does not recognize our marriage (as well as on a federal level).  Therefore, Erikka, in the eyes of Texas, is considered my roommate; and I am considered a single mother of two children at home (since I legally adopted Harrison).  Crazy, huh?

It just keeps coming back to me that all of those who are opposed to same-sex marriage, for whatever messed up reason, have no clue how it can, and DOES, hurt real people, in real families to keep a “separate but equal” mentality anymore.  The Defense of Marriage Act has no good merits, except to discriminate and divide.  Having marriage legal in all states for some people, yet only legal in certain states for others, will do nothing but complicate matters large and small, on many levels.

And breast cancer is no small matter.

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Breast Cancer: The Biopsies

April 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

By Tanya Dodd-Hise

Eight days.  That’s how long it has been since my world kind of got turned upside down by my mammograms and ultrasounds.  But today is the next step.  Four biopsies.  I have been suffering horribly all week from dizziness and nausea, and after trying to figure out what the cause could be, I think I have finally decided that it must be my nerves.  So maybe it will go away after I get this step out of the way.

My alarm was set for 5:15 AM, so that I could get up by 5:30 AM, shower, and be out the door at 6:15 AM (we had to be there at 7 AM) – but I was awake all on my own by 4:20 AM.  Erikka’s parents drove in Thursday night so that her mom could stay here with the baby while we went to my appointment, and her dad would go with us to keep Erikka company in the waiting room while I am having the procedures done.  Truth be told, it’s also comforting to me, for some reason, to have him along with us.  Meanwhile, Noah spent the night before at my mom’s since it is Spring Break, and got to go to some Xtreme Jump place to jump trampolines with his cousins – so I’m glad he got some fun out of his week off.

We arrived to the hospital early, which shocked me.  I checked in at 6:45 AM and they found their waiting spot and got coffee.  After a few minutes, they called me over to sign paperwork and get my bracelets, and then back to waiting.  Pretty soon I was being called back – first in line – and ushered into the little changing room and given the beautiful gown and robe that totally do NOT match.  photo(10)It’s kind of awkward to be a     non-femme dyke in mammogram land, surrounded by other ladies who are dressed in the same little gown/robe combination – only they are typically older than me, with their well-managed hair, makeup, and accessories.   Yeah, I fit in REALLY well among them.  Soon, I was no longer the only one back there waiting, and the long line of floral chairs against the wall had a handful of matching patients, each waiting for a different thing.  Some were there for standard mammograms, like they get every year.  Some were there for diagnostic mammograms and/or sonograms, like what I had the week before.  And some were there for biopsy procedures, like me.

Because I had to have four different areas biopsied, they had explained to me that I would experience two different methods, based on the area that they were looking at.  The first one that they were planning on doing was called a Stereotactic Core Biopsy, and this was the method that they would use to examine the tiny calcifications that were found in the upper portion of the left breast (they were also on the right, but the doctor did not seem as concerned about them).  photo(9)This is where they lay the patient face down on a table (a HARD table, I might add), and the breast hangs down, through a hole, and they do all the work from underneath.  Once they had me in place, they bring in plates on each side of the breast to hold it in place and take some images.  Once they locate the calcifications, then they clean the area and prepare to numb it before they go in for samples.  They used two syringes to numb the area, because I had been very clear that this was what I needed!

This is how I looked on the table, before they started (and that’s why I was still smiling).  But that was the last of the smiles, pretty much, for the remainder of my visit there.  The table wasn’t too bad, but with no padding bumped up against my ribs, creating some very sore spots.

Once they completed the first procedure, they buttoned me back up and ushered me across the hall to one of the ultrasound rooms, like the one that I had been in the week before.  Here, they would complete the remaining three biopsies, guided by ultrasound images.  They would be doing Needle Core Biopsies on three areas:  masses in both breasts, as well as the abnormal lynph nodes on the left side.  This would involve a lot more numbing photo(8)meds, and several more needles.  Now let me tell you, if you ever have to have a biopsy done, and the doctors/nurses tell you that it’s “no big deal” or “don’t worry, they numb you up a LOT” or “it’s just a tiny needle” – it’s BULLSHIT!  They are LYING!  The numbing meds burn going in, and the biopsy probe needles are SO NOT tiny.

They did the right breast mass first, and it seemed alright.  Of course, I had taken two Ativan upon my arrival, so those meds had finally kicked in and I was pretty calm.  I also had Pandora radio going on my phone, and my ear buds were piping calm meditation music into my head while he poked me with needle after needle, taking samples of what he needed.

He soon moved on to the mass in the left breast – the one that had started this whole process.  It was also not too uncomfortable, and by this one, I was familiar with the process and how things would go.  What I was totally NOT prepared for, however, was the last one.  The fourth and last biopsy was to be done in my armpit area, so that he could get samples from the affected lymph nodes.  Nobody had warned me that it wouldn’t be like the others, with just a little pinch from the numbing needle as the most discomfort.  No.  The numbing hurt like hell, but when he stuck the big tube in (the one that he used the bigger needle inside to gather samples) and shot the big needle in, I gasped as the pain sucked the wind right out of me.  It hurt like a motherfu&*er and made me scream bad things!  The doctor apologized profusely, and the nurse told me how great I was doing, I guess thinking that somehow that would make up for it.

Soon it was over, and they said that they needed to take me back over to the imaging room and get more mammograms – two images of each side – so that they could make sure that they got all of their markers in the right locations.  Yes, they left tiny coil markers inside of me at each location, I guess so that they can easily find them next time.  They got their pictures done and I was free to get dressed and head home.  The doctor told me that he would personally call me on Monday or Tuesday, and from there we would be able to formulate a plan for treatment.  Whew.  I made it through.  The nurses also told me that I would be “a little sore” for a few days, and that I should only take Tylenol (which is completely worthless, by the way).

Sore didn’t begin to describe the pain that has been going on since having this done.  Especially under the arm where he went in for the lymph node samples.  photo(6)This is my left side, with the bandages under the arm (lymph nodes), the top side of the breast (that was the first biopsy site), and the underside of the breast (where the large mass is).  Dear God do you see how swollen my boob is????  Yeah, not comfortable.  At all.

So now it is Sunday, two days out.  I’m still really very sore, with a lot of pain in my underarm area.  It has been hard, because I am not supposed to pickup the baby until three days out, nor can I swim or take a bath.  Tonight we are supposed to go out to dinner with the family to celebrate Noah’s birthday (which is tomorrow), and my daughter-in-law’s birthday (which was a few days ago).  Erikka will help me take a quick shower later and wash my hair, since raising my left arm for any amount of time sends hot, searing pain into my arm.  Another step down, with many more to go, I am sure.  One step at a time, and hopefully I will get this gone for good.

 

Originally published on Domestic Dyke.

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Breast Cancer: The Appointment

April 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

By Tanya Dodd-Hise

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The morning seemed to drag on as we waited to get ready for our 11:30 AM departure.  We planned to leave early enough to go have lunch before my 1:30 PM appointment in Dallas.  As we drove to one of our favorite spots, the knot in my stomach returned, and I barely had any appetite in which to enjoy my lunch.  After leaving the restaurant, we started the drive to UT Southwestern University Hospital, knowing we would likely arrive pretty early.  Better early than late though.  As we drove, Erikka reached over and held my hand like she usually does when we drive, but this time there was no idle chit chat.  I was lost in my thoughts, and I’m sure she was as well.  Once we figured out where we were going, we got the baby in the stroller and valeted the car.

My appointment was at the Breast Imaging Center within the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern.  I have been here before.  This was where I got my first routine mammogram back in 2007, and where I returned the following year after finding a lump and going through a diagnostic mammogram and sonogram.  My nerves had been shot at that time, in 2008, and everything turned out to be harmless and benign.  So as we entered the waiting area, all of that memory flooded back, but didn’t bring the anxiety with it.  I signed in and filled out the paperwork, then sat down to wait with Erikka and Harrison.  Little did I know how long we would be there and how much things were about to change.

Soon I was taken back, alone (unlike the last time, when Erikka went with me).  Because she had the baby and stroller, they said that the larger waiting room would probably be more comfortable for them.  So I went back, changed, and waited – texting Erikka and one of my BFFs while I did.  A nurse named Holly came out and called me into the small imaging suite, and quickly did the routine mammo shots – two of each breast.  She then made me go back out and wait while she showed them to the radiologist.  After he looked over them, along with my old films, she came back and got me to do more images.  She informed me that there was a new mass on my right breast that had not been there in 2008, one that neither I nor my doctor had detected; so she did two more images of the right side.  She then informed me that there was not one, but two, masses on the left side (the larger one that I had come in for had broken off and had a smaller one behind it), and a lymph node looked suspicious.  Great.  Wonderful.  She then did four more, painful I might add, images of my left breast.  After she got all of these images – there were ten in all when she was finished – I was again sent back out into the smaller, waiting area.  I did, however, send her to the main waiting area to get Erikka and send her back.  I knew that the ultrasounds were coming up next, and I wanted her to be back there so that she could go with me.  Holly gladly went out and got them and showed them to the back.  We waited there, together, for a few minutes before another person called me to go for the ultrasound.  But she said that Erikka and the baby would have to stay there, because there wasn’t enough room for the stroller in the sono room.  I was disappointed, and unnerved by having to go in alone – Erikka had been able to go with me last time!

I went to the next little room, laid down on a table, and waited.  Soon, the radiologist came in and proceeded to ultrasound my right breast first.  He showed me the mass on that side, and explained to me that he wasn’t all that concerned about that one, because it was oval and had defined edges.  He was slightly concerned with the tiny calcifications that showed up on that side as well as the left, and would have to take a further look at those.  He then moved over to the left breast and began his assessments.  The mass that I had felt all this time, the one that started the whole procedure, was slightly bigger than my doctor had guessed – 2.76 cm.  However, there was a second mass, much smaller, that looked like it had broken off of the larger one.  Lovely.  There were also suspicious calcifications on the left side, and not just one, but TWO of my lymph nodes were enlarged and too dark.  Wonderful.  The radiologist was really good about answering my questions as he went along, comparing what he was doing to the mammograms posted behind me.

Once he was done and I had toweled all of the goo off of my chest and armpit, I buttoned up so that he could talk to me.  He said that he wanted to do four different biopsies:  one of the mass on the right, one of the calcifications on both sides, one of the mass on the left side, and one of my lymph nodes.  I sat there, kind of dumbfounded, silently telling myself that it was VERY important that I remember everything that he was telling me.  This was another reason that I needed Erikka with me – so that she could hear and remember all that was being told to me!  He went on to tell me again that he isn’t all that concerned about the right side, and he believes it to be a fibroadenoma, which is a benign mass that I guess they don’t worry about too much.  He then went on to tell me that he is very concerned about the left side, and he is fairly assured that it is cancer – mainly because the mass is jagged, with uneven edges; along with the affected lymph nodes.  He said that he would be completely shocked if the biopsies came back NOT showing cancer on that side.  Oh.  Wow.  Okay.  The biopsies, he went on to say, will show the pathology of the cancer, and tell them which course of treatment will be necessary – surgery first or chemo first.  I asked him if he thinks it is early enough to get it completely, and he said yes, he believes so, and believes that with surgery, chemo, and radiation that it can be eradicated.  Oh.  Wow.  Okay.

The next step was to send me back across the hall, where Erikka was waiting still, to get dressed again while they go to schedule my biopsies.  I quickly got dressed and sat down beside Erikka, relaying the information that the doctor had just given me.  She looked stunned, and I tried to NOT have a meltdown.  I knew going in that this might be what they told me.  I just didn’t expect it to be this much.  After a few minutes, they came and got us and took us to a small consultation room across the hall.  We were told by Amanda, a scheduling coordinator, that I was scheduled for next Friday at 7 AM, and that we would be there for about half the day.  Oh boy.  Can’t hardly wait for this.  They gave me a few instructions, and we were then on our way.  I think we were there for about three hours in all, and given a lot of information.  It looks like it might prove to be a very long summer in the Dodd-Hise household, but whatever is decided, we will handle it and just get it done.  I haven’t got time for an inconvenience of this magnitude!

So…oh.  Wow.  Okay.

Originally published on the Domestic Dyke.
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The Phone Call

April 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

by Tanya Dodd-Hise

breast cancer

It is Tuesday now, and was looking like another day was going to pass without a phone call for an appointment.  But lo and behold, I bitched to the Universe and I guess it worked.  The call came around 1:30 PM, from a nice nurse named Brenda.  She asked more medical questions, got my family history for breast cancer from me, and hung up to call UT Southwestern to make the appointment.  About ten minutes later she called back with the information – next Tuesday, March 12th at 1:30 PM.  She told me that the diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound would be fully funded by their program, as would a biopsy if needed; but it would have to be scheduled for a separate day.  UGH.  Another week to wait.  Wonderful.  But, I thanked her and went on about my day, trying to once again keep myself busy to not worry.

When I went to bed later, I started having a searing, hot pain just under where the mass lies.  It felt like someone was stabbing me with a flaming knife, and nothing I did was making it lessen or subside.  I thought I was going to have to get Erikka to take me to the ER, but what was I going to tell them, that my boob hurts really bad?? I just had to try to get into a comfortable position and try to sleep…sitting up mostly.  Rough night, to say the least.

3/6/2013

I had to get up early and get Noah to school by 7:30 AM for a band competition, so by 9:45 AM I had already cleaned the kitchen, started laundry, and gotten the baby down for her first nap.  I decided, after the weird pain incident the night before, to call UT Southwestern and see if by chance there had been any cancellations for sooner than next week.  The very nice lady, Cheryl, told me (after I explained about the pain) to give her a phone number and a few minutes, and she would call me back.  Five minutes later I had a new appointment for tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 PM!  Oh my goodness I was never so thankful to have a doctor’s appointment in my life!

3/7/2013

Today is the day.  I know that everyone who knows what’s going on keeps telling me that it will be okay.  I agree.  It will.  It has to be.  Do I feel, deep down, that the diagnosis is cancer? Mostly.  Do I feel that I can and will fight it and beat it? Absolutely.  I am just ready to see this thing up close, find out what we’re dealing with, and find out what to do to get it out of my body.  Every day that I have awakened to find that it is still there has just been another day filled with anxiety, wondering if it is growing and/or spreading.  I have spent too long to get healthy and lose weight to let an inconvenience like this set me back.  I know I am strong, and I know that I have an amazing group of family and friends who are prepared to step up and support me in whatever way that we need.  And that gives me a huge leg-up, knowing that so many have my back and that I am never alone.

I started off scared…petrified.  But all of the waiting has given me time to reflect and realize that the mind is a very powerful thing in these kinds of circumstances.  Yes, I am still scared.  Mostly for those things that are totally unseen or out of my power, or for leaving this planet years before I am ready.  I want my children and my grand baby to have me, to know me more, to remember me.  That’s my greatest fear: that Harrison and Zoe won’t remember me.  So I have to fight like hell to stay around, stay healthy, and make sure that they get the opportunity.  And my friends? You better watch out, because I’m going to be bugging the crap out of all of you to make sure you are getting checked, so that we can all be around for many more years….we have to grow old together!

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I Can’t Stop Thinking About My Own Mortality

October 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

By Tanya Dodd-Hise

I think that I need therapy.

No really.  I have been obsessing a little bit about things that I have absolutely no control over.  And what have I been obsessing over, you might ask?

My mortality.

As everyone knows, I am a new mom again.  Our baby girl is 11 months old.  I was 41 years old when she was born.  And I know that nowdays, all kinds of women are having babies at 35, 40, 45, even 50 years old.  But I remember, before she was born, standing in the shower when the thought hit me:  when this baby is MY age, I will be 82.  Oh my God.

I guess because I don’t feel 42 years old, this was a realization that hit me hard and has been hitting me regularly since.  I feel young, I feel healthy (for the most part – working on it), I feel active – I mean hell, I didn’t run my first 5K until I was 42 years old!  But the fact of the matter is that I actually have been on this earth for close to half of the time that will (I hope) be alotted.

To top it off, my oldest son, Nicholas, and his wife are going to make me a grandmother in the near future (January).  Now don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled and excited to meet my granddaughter!  And this is the ONE scenario where I actually feel young – WAY too young to be a grandmother!  It’s like I am caught in a very odd place, where I feel kind of old to be a new mom, but still feel very young to be a grandmother.  I tell people that my darling son has done me wrong, because now when I am out and about with both of the baby girls, people are likely to ask me if they are both my granddaughters.  Then there will be explanations about Harrison being my daughter and Zoe being my granddaughter.  Son…you did me wrong…

But there are times when my mortality hits me, and I freak out, despite the knowledge that there’s nothing I can do about it.  None of us can!  I was driving the other day with Erikka and the kids, and she started daydreaming about Harrison getting married.  That set off the sad thoughts in my head of how old I could be when that happens.  What if she doesn’t marry until she is in her 30s?  That puts me in my 70s.  What if she doesn’t have kids until her 30s or 40s, like her mommies?  That puts me in my 70s or 80s, God willing.  Then the thoughts hit me that anything could happen between now and then, and I could very well not be here at all.  These thoughts start a landslide of scenarios that are always in the back of my mind that would prevent me from seeing my kids and grandkids grow up, or experiencing a lifetime with my wife.  I obsess about car accidents almost every time I go out, with or without kids.  I worry about plane crashes every time I step foot on one (should NEVER have watched “Lost”).  I worry about breast cancer with each passing year, because it is so prevalent in my family, and because I, as a small business owner, am going on another year without health insurance. As these thoughts and fears came swirling in my head as we drove that day, I got so emotional and said, “I just hate knowing that there is an expiration date.  I want to be with my family, with my wife, forever.  I don’t want it to end.”  I know.  It is probably not healthy to have these thoughts on a regular basis.  I just want to be here for them and with them…always.  It’s probably not normal, I know this.

But like I said in the beginning, I think that I need therapy.

Right?

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A Lesbian Mom’s Perspective on Chick-Fil-A

August 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

By: Tanya Dodd-Hise

So we all know and have heard the latest broohaha regarding fast food chain Chick-Fil-A.  Our social network sites have blown up with constant updates, stories, blogs, feeds, protests, counter-protests and such about it.  Most people, by now, are pretty sick of it – at times, myself included.  About a week or so after the news broke that the CEO openly and proudly declared his stance of anti-marriage equality (and thus speaking for the entire company, franchises and all), I read an interesting blog written on The Huffington Post regarding the whole situation.  Here was my comment about the blog, as well as a link to the blog itself:

“It is sometimes so hard to sit by while people who say they are my friend/family who care about MY family, will also say that they have no intentions of boycotting anything. That’s fine. As long as they are fully aware that their money goes to organizations who are determined to keep my family from being equal to theirs. It’s not about the chicken sandwich. And yes, everyone is entitled to free speech, freedom of religion, and an opinion. But please think about it, before you go and spend your money there, of all the times that you have said that you support my family – and then don’t. Either don’t spend your money at a business that supports inequality, or don’t tell me that you love and adore my family. These are the kinds of organizations that keep MY marriage from being recognized, and require ME to adopt my own daughter. Just so you know.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/conor-gaughan/chick-fil-a-homophobia_b_1711566.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

I encourage anyone who reads my blog to read Conor Gaughan’s piece.  It is just another real person writing from his real perspective, trying to reach his readers so that they can see where he is REALLY coming from.

So the supporters of Chik-Fil-A have now planned a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day on August 1st, and the opposers have planned all sorts of protests on the same day.  There will be same-sex PDAs/kiss-ins at some chains, while others plan to wait in line and order water, or order food and then cancel.  To me this seems like an open show of hostility that will only make us, the LGBT community, seem petty and ridiculous.  Get mad at me if you want, but I think that the best way to show our opposition to the company’s declared stance is to first NOT GO THERE.  And if we choose to go there for an organized protest, then fine, exercise the right to peaceably gather with signs that show our thoughts and feelings (grammar and spelling correct, of course).

www.thenextfamily.com

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Protest Rally @ White House – May 2010

All of this has also got me to thinking about my children.  What would I want my children to learn about all of this?  Yes, we used to eat at Chick-Fil-A, but it has been a long time, as we stopped going there over a year ago when we first learned of the company’s donations towards hate and anti-equality groups.  When we stopped going there, Noah didn’t really get it, and we didn’t really try to explain it.  But now that he is twelve years old, with all of it in the news and on the lips of virtually everyone, I did try to explain to him the reason why WE, our family, doesn’t go there anymore.  I’m not sure if he understands completely, but I wanted to take the time to explain to him this stand that we are taking.  I also explained to him that yes, one small group (ie: our family) CAN make a difference in the bottom line when there are lots and lots of small groups doing the same thing.  I also explained to him that it is no difference than in school, where I expect him to stand up for anyone who is getting treated differently, for any reason, because it is simply the right thing to do.  Nicholas, on the other hand, is a grown man who lives on his own.  He worked at our local Chick-Fil-A when he was a teenager, and has decidedly chosen to continue to frequent there.  Sure, it is disappointing to hear him say that he loves his gay moms, but he also loves their chicken sandwich.  Did I not teach him to take a stand against bigotry and inequality?  I thought I had, but once they are grown and gone, it really isn’t my decision to make for him.  I love him regardless of where he eats.  And I know that he is young, and one day he will be faced with something in HIS life that will force him to either make a stand for what is right, even if it means giving up something he likes or doing something that might be uncomfortable.

This is the conclusion that I have come to, since I have many conservative friends and family, who think that all of us should just “shut up and get over it”:  It doesn’t affect them personally, so it isn’t as important to most as it is to those of us fighting for marriage equality and equal treatment.  Their marriage is always recognized, and they enjoy all of the rights and privileges that go along with that.  But as for me and my house, I will always and continually teach them about taking a stand in the face of something that is wrong.  And I will continue to teach them to take a stand against anybody doing wrong against another group, whether it directly affects them or not.

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”

 ~ Thomas Jefferson

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An Anniversary Letter From One Wife to Another

July 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

July 18, 2012

A Letter to My Beautiful Wife:

Wow.  I can’t believe it has been three years since we stood by the beautiful ocean water in Connecticut and promised our lives to each other.  I remember every moment of our trip as if it were yesterday, and would gladly repeat the process over and over again every year (well, maybe except the misplacement of your driver’s license when we went to get our marriage license).

In the four years that we have been together, and three that we have been married, we have seen a lot of things, gone so many places, and experienced life in such a way that I could never thank you enough for doing it with me.  Standing outside of the nation’s Capitol with you (and 250,000 others) and fighting for marriage equality was a highlight of our first year of marriage.  While some states have gotten on board with same-sex marriage, while others continually try to take it away and repeal the progress that has been made, here we are, living our lives every day and becoming a part of our community just like everyone else.  I guess what we have is just normal, everyday, boring MARRIAGE.  I don’t think that we’re special or set apart.  I think that we do the same things as other people, gay or straight: keep a house, do laundry and dishes, grocery shop, cook dinners, raise kids, pay bills.  What some might be surprised to know is that we don’t go around doing everything in big gay parade fashion, with rainbow beads and balloons leading the way.  Lawmakers would probably be surprised to know that we are not the deviants that they think we are, huh?  I think that if one or two of them looked into our windows when we weren’t looking, they would be disappointed at the sheer normalness going on in here.  And I guess we SHOULD apologize to all of the hetero couples of the world to being one of those couples who are destroying the sanctity of their marriage.  I had no idea, when we got married three years ago, all of the countless affairs and divorces that our marriage would cause – did you?  It is a huge burden and responsibility that we should take seriously, right?

It sucks that we still are not treated equally in the eyes of the law, but I pray that with each anniversary, we will be one step closer to progress.  I am confident that we will see change during our lifetime, and hopefully our children will grow into adults who respect everyone for who they are as a person and not the color or their skin or who they love.  I am blessed beyond measure to be going down this journey of life beside you.   During our third year, you have gave me a beautiful daughter, and a sister to Nicholas and Noah – there are no words to say how grateful I am for this completion to our family.  I am so excited for all of the many adventures that we will experience together with these beautiful kids we have been given!  And during this upcoming fourth year of marriage, we will be blessed with a (cough) grandbaby.  Yes, I know we are entirely too young for the role of grandmother, but as with any unexpected situation that has come our way, we adapt and roll with it, and just spread the love a little more!

So here we go, starting another year together as wife and wife.  I love you beyond measure and I love the life that we have built together.  Happy, happy anniversary with a promise of many more to come.

I love you always,

Tanya

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Lincoln Had it Right

By: Tanya Dodd-Hise

So we’re kind of at a stand still right now with Harrison’s adoption.  After we found out that we had to have an ad litem attorney (in San Antonio) to represent Harrison, that is where things have slowed down.  Everything else is done, and now we are waiting for this last step to fall into place so that we can get a court date.  I anxiously await for the phone call that says when we can go!

In the meantime, all across the nation, LGBT Pride was celebrated throughout the month of June.  Dallas has its Pride parade each year in September, rather than June (like the rest of the world).  But while most of the world celebrates equality and pride, there are still hate crimes and suicides happening to young gay and lesbians in our country.  Just last week, in Portland, Texas (a suburb of Corpus Christi) a young lesbian couple was found in a waterside park, having each been shot in the head.  One of the young ladies, Mollie, died from her injuries; her girlfriend, Kristene, remains in the hospital, recovering from hers.  It did not make the news here in Dallas, but word traveled swiftly on news websites and social media.  Soon, LGBT communities across the country reacted, planning candlelight vigils on behalf of Mollie and Kristene, signing and sending rainbow flags to their families, and raising money to assist Kristene’s family with her growing medical bills.  Sadness, anger, outrage, and fear have spread throughout our communities, and only recently is there hope – the Portland police have reported that they have a possible suspect.  The shooting has, however, been minimized in some media outlets, saying that they “aren’t sure that it was a hate crime.”  Um, really?  Somebody took this young couple and SHOT THEM IN THE HEAD.  Whether or not it was because they were gay is irrelevant – it was fueled by hate.

Dallas Candlelight Vigil for Mollie & Kristene

Last weekend, before we headed to Dallas for the candlelight vigil in our gayborhood, we dropped the kids off with my mother and decided to catch a movie.  We went to see Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter for some mindless entertainment.  Since I have degrees in History, and we both enjoy a good vampire movie, we thought it would be right up our alley for a good time.  Now, there wasn’t a whole lot about it that was historically accurate, except maybe for some names and dates, and few events.  But when it got toward the end of the movie, and President Lincoln was delivering the Gettysburg Address, it hit me – Abraham Lincoln GOT IT.  He valued life – ALL life – and maintained that all man[kind] deserved freedom and equality, as set forth by our founding fathers.  Think about it:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

 Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

 The second paragraph reminds me of the LGBT community now, in 2012, and what could be equated as a modern “great civil war.”  We are engaged in our great civil war, testing whether WE, so conceived and so dedicated, can endure.  How many have given their lives so that WE, as a community, might live?  How many Harvey Milks have there been over the years?  How many young men and women have lost their fight on the battlefield of homophobia, and taken their own lives?  How many Mollie and Kristenes have their been, losing their lives to hatred and violence?

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” ~ President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863

 Just like President Lincoln being unable to consecrate the ground in Gettysburg, neither we can consecrate or hallow any ground where our LGBT sisters and brothers have lost their fight.  It is they who do so for us.  And while we have our marches, our rallies, our parades, and our vigils, most of what is said will be soon forgotten by our peers.  But we cannot forget those lives, and we must always resolve that they, too, will not have died in vain.  We can see change on the horizon, but there is still so much work to be done.  I have hope that I will see our new birth of freedom during my lifetime, and that our government will return to the thought (and hopefully practice) that it is one of the people, by the people, and FOR the people – ALL people.

Lincoln had it right, even in 1863.

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Now We Wait

By: Tanya Dodd-Hise

Fingerprinting was the step that I took to kick off our adoption process.  My next step, which I did the day after my trip to the police station, was to meet with my attorney (aka, BFF Kim).  I had filled out the Adoption Intake Form, which I have blogged about previously, to take to her, along with a copy of our marriage license and a copy of Harrison’s birth certificate.

We went over what else needed to be done, and I wrote the first check to her for the first phase.

Once we were past the initial paperwork and the fingerprinting (which I turned over to her), my next step was to get ahold of the social worker that Kim had for us to use for our home study.  In the very beginning, when we first started talking and planning for the adoption, I had wanted Kim to petition the court to waive the home study, given that I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that I had to do it in order to adopt my own child.  Unfortunately, after speaking with some advising attorneys, she didn’t feel that it was worth it to even attempt a waiver of the home study – after all, we DO live in conservative Texas.  With every step I want to stomp my feet and rebel against the system, or go to the state capital building in Austin and scream at Rick Perry while throwing tomatoes at the beautiful, domed rotunda.  However, I won’t, since I would rather be granted this adoption instead of spending time behind bars…haha.

I was soon put into contact with the woman who would either become my new best friend, or who could possibly decide my fate in a less-than-positive way.  My experience (which has been one time) with a social worker was several years ago, when Noah’s father was doing a step-parent adoption of Nicholas.  That home study, with a social worker chosen from a list, was very nerve wracking for me.  Hours of tense questions and answers, delving deep into our pasts – and he was MY kid!  I wasn’t even the one adopting him!  So when I knew that I would have to have a home study for Harrison’s adoption, all I could think about was how stressful the last one was.  I spoke with her on the phone to schedule the visit, and she was very warm and laid back, telling me that she preferred to have two visits in order to cover everything that she needed to for a complete report.  We scheduled it for a Monday, and I spent the days leading up to it tidying the house of clutter and cleaning what I could, without making it look TOO polished and unlived in.  When she arrived, I was instantly put at ease by her capri pants and flip flops, along with her reassuring smile and personality.  She took a quick tour of the house, not very in depth at all (which made me VERY happy), then we sat down in the den for almost three hours and talked, just she and I.  She asked me questions about my marital history (now THAT was fun to explain), my history with Erikka, and about my relationships with both Noah and Harrison.  She didn’t ask very many questions about Nicholas; I’m sure mainly because he is off and married now.  It was very relaxing, and I felt like I was sitting and chatting with a new friend.  When it came time for her to go, I called Erikka and we scheduled the second visit – for the next day.  No time like the present, right?

Our wonderful social worker, Anne, with Harrison & I on her second visit :)

So she returned the next afternoon, where she visited with Erikka for a bit, and then the two of us together.  It was a wonderful experience, with no negatives whatsoever.  Within two days, she emailed me her report and asked me to look over it before she sent it over to Kim for submission to the court.  I couldn’t believe that the process was going this quickly!  This could soon be a reality, one that is signed, sealed, and delivered in court!  Our adoption process for Bud to adopt Nicholas took from August until December the year that we did it; this might very well all be done within a month or six weeks.  I am simply amazed that it has gone this smoothly – and pray that it continues to do so.

Tomorrow I meet with Kim again to hand over a few more documents that we had to sign and have notarized.  She found out at the end of last week that we will have to also hire an ad litem attorney in San Antonio – an attorney who will represent Harrison (also another ridiculous, but required, expense).  I will cut a check to Kim for this attorney’s fees tomorrow, and then I believe that we will be done with all of the steps, aside from traveling to Bexar county to attend a hearing in court.  She will send off my fingerprints to the DPS in Austin, and then all we have to do is wait for my criminal history report to be submitted to the court, as well as back to Kim.  That’s it.  Now we wait.  I’m not very good at waiting…

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