welcome to the danger zone

When Last We Met With Our Not-So-Fearless Heroine…

First, I apologize. I’ve been lax about my blog. Not because I haven’t had anything to write, because I have, but like so many other people who write or draw or do creative things, occasionally you feel like you are boring your audience (even when your intended audience is yourself) and you can’t get excited about things as you used too. I’d blame depression, but for me, depression is often the one time I want to write because I don’t want to keep that chaos bottled up in my brain case. I didn’t want to bore anyone with my incessant whining. However humorous it often is. So I’ll recap, and then end with the current quagmire.

Picture it, Shenandoah in mid-July, 2014. We’re headed off to have the pufferfish poked and prodded and punctured and badness sucked from it’s soul. The day after the procedure I am stunned by the relief that comes after pufferfish is defeated. I revel in the painless days and nights – I don’t even touch the percocet or the Advil or the Tylenol. There’s no need – I am happy to frolic about without even an inkling of pain. I can eat with reckless abandon, and I do, nom nom nom, like a non-stop Miss Pac-man gobbling anything in sight. Yeah, yeah, I gain a few pounds, but hey, my body is functioning normally again. I am happy. My two year cancer free anniversary comes and goes, with nary a second thought because I am blissfully not being tortured by my body. I go to my one year radiology check, and gush at Dr. J about how not in pain I am. I do things like swim. Ahh, life is good.

At least it was. For a while.

About four weeks later, I start to notice subtle changes in the way my bladder is acting. I harken back to the days of pre-pufferfish-puncture and suspect that it may be returning. I try to pretend it’s not, I mean, hey, I’m not in pain. Changes keep happening, and I feel something pushing itself about in the great darkness. I’m pretty sure stupid fucking pufferfish is back, but hey, there’s still no pain, so perhaps I am just projecting the imaginary growth of a giant grapefruit sized squishy mass in the darkness of uterus-used-to-be land. Then, without warning, one Friday morning, at the hour of 4:30am, I awake in screeching agony. Welcome back pain, we’ve been waiting. I rock back and forth in bed, stuffing Advil into my mouth in between sobs, cursing the fact that I should have already called the Dr. After about, oh I don’t know, maybe 15-16 Advil, I am able to move without the shriek of a banshee. I head to work.

I should have called the Dr that day, but I didn’t. It could have just been a fluke. I would have preferred a fluke inside me instead of the pufferfish. I thought I should just test my theory. Just one more pain day, and I will call then. I swear it. I don’t know why I didn’t believe my body when it was clearly telling me what I already knew, but hey I never claimed I was the queen of good judgment Although the next two or three day were pain free, my body is never one to disappoint and BAM, pain’s back. Daily. I call the Dr. and in another week, I’m off for another CAT scan. I know what’s going on, but apparently, my word isn’t as convincing as a CT scan. There are still no cats at these scans, which is good because I don’t know if I can refrain from attacking one if I saw it considering the amount of pain I am in. I am eating Advil like it is candy. And there is only ONE, just ONE percocet left from this last prescription. I am saving it for that night when I seriously am weighing the option of self-surgery in which I remove the perpetrator of my pain myself and nail it to the wall. Then I will take it. That night comes pretty quickly and much to my glee, I realize that I have not paid close attention to the stash of narcotics because there are almost two left. There is one tablet, and a half and a quarter from another that I was clearly gnawing on at some time past. It’s an opiate miracle.

Now I am sure I mentioned before that my scans appear in my medical records long before I hear from my medical team. This time is no exception. I can clearly read that gargantuan sea creature has again returned and it trapped behind my bladder and on top of some nerves and is wedging itself snuggly in there to make sure it maximizes the torture experience. Oh, and this radiology student/resident/drwannabe has taken upon himself to decide that my spleen and pancreas are atrophied. What is this new development?!?! Away to Google we must.

Google at the ready, I enter this new information. As Google does, it gives me the most terrifying response one could expect…these are the first signs that the above referenced organs are affected by cancer. I know what pancreatic cancer means and that’s death. So, it’s 7 pm, there’s no Dr available, and I have just read in my CT scan results that I am not only full of the vile fishy torturer but I am facing death. Most of my friends try to talk me down. They know the perils of googling symptoms, but I will not be deterred. I know I am dying. FML. I will acknowledge that being the reader of several of these scan reports that say nothing else is wrong but the bloaty fishy in the past, that perhaps this new scan reader is an arrogant ass who just wanted to find something else the others did not. I agree to not make funeral plans until I hear from my Dr. And the longest 18 hours of my life begins.

Finally my treatment coordinator calls and leaves a message that I will be treated to another delightful out patient visit to radiology to have my friend puffy aspirated. It will be on Tuesday. No, it cannot be on Tuesday. I have training that Tuesday. I call back. We will reschedule, and I am told in no uncertain terms, to stop reading my own CT reports. Don’t worry about the spleen and pancreas until they do it with a contrast dye. And your new date of probing and poking is next Friday. I ask for a new prescription of percocet so if this repeats again, I will be ready – they say it will be ready for me at the procedure. Unfortunately, I am not going to make it without percocet until then, and I call on Tuesday, begging to be able to pick it up. I head to Hershey and retrieve my magical paper. I try to fill it at the hospital pharmacy, but it will take an hour! AN HOUR???? I don’t have an hour…so I take it to another nearby pharmacy and in just 30 minutes I am on my way to sweet fuzzy relief. I get home and sleep the sleep of the blessed poppies. I manage to avoid taking the magical tablets during the workday, but on Thursday night, the throbbing and stabbing are not quieted easily, and I head out for my procedure in drowsy narcotic haze.

Andy drives me to the hospital. I tell him to not even bother coming in with me, because I know the drill and I will just sleep till the designated pufferfish slaying time. He can reappear during my recovery period. I arrive and hop into my hospital bed. I tell the nurse that I had to take percocet before coming to the hospital and that I would like some more. Denied. They will talk to the Dr. and see if they can give me some pain meds during the procedure. The very kind and helpful nurse tells me they usually don’t give any pain meds because it’s not a painful procedure, I’ll just feel pressure. I sweetly tell her that this is my third go-round and I am feeling pain now, a six on the 1-10 scale, and there will be pain during the procedure, pressure is just a nice way of saying it will fucking hurt. I have gone through this twice, I know there will be pain. She assures me she will let the Dr. know this. She tells me I am lucky, Dr. S will be doing my procedure and he’s a great Dr. I am somewhat relieved. I relax as much as a person writhing in pain can until they wheel me into the procedure room. It’s a bait and switch. Dr. S. is there, but he’ll be supervising Dr. G, who will be the gutter of the day. I slide into the CT machine and there, inside the machine is that pufferfish sticker that mocks me every time I am there. I stare him down and mentally tell him he will not defeat me. Another kind nurse discusses what position I should be in, I just tell her how we do it. She promises me some fentynal. I like this nurse.

The procedure begins. I can tell from the start that it is not going as smoothly as the previous two. It feels rougher, less routine. Then I hear, from the twilight of my fentynal/whatever else is in that IV drip the ominous “oops, uh, not, not that, stop, okay” and some more rough movement toward the pufferfish. Yes, I am awake through all of this. I feel everything. The kind nurse with the fentynal asks if I am in pain. Seven I say, I am at seven. She ups the meds, and while it still hurts it’s not as bad. Soon, it’s over without any more issues, and I feel the relief that comes when the beast is defeated. There’s still pain, but it’s a different soreness and not monster eating my spine. And tomorrow I will feel nothing but a little ache. It’s totally worth it.

I hop back onto the hospital bed and get wheeled back to recovery. The nurse there lets me skip out early after Dr. G checks in on me. I told him I felt fine, because well, at that point, besides the achey soreness I did. They drained as much fluid this time as they did the last time. Hopefully this will be the last time I will have to endure this. I spot the cute male nurse from the last time. Hey wait, I’m not ready to go yet…

But I go. Saturday dawns and I’m still pretty sore. No problem, I’ll just stay in bed. Sunday morning and the sun’s shining on me. Still hurting. This is not right. But maybe it’s just because this is the third one. I’ll just wait and see, and sleep some more. Hey whoa, Monday’s here. PAIN. PAIN. What’s this???

Well, I’ll just give it until Wednesday. I mean no reason to jump to conclusions. Tuesday. Ditto with the pain thing. Not happy about this. But it’s SOA night, I’ll just rest. Hello OMFG-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-me-and-who-replaced-my-hip-bones-with-jagged-razors-broken-glass-rusty-nails-Wednesday? That’s it. We’re calling Radiology. I call off work, I call radiology, Dr. G assures me that it’s a good thing that it’s just this razor pain and no fever, because at least I don’t have an infection. I can’t lift my leg over the bathtub to shower, but hey I won’t die of sepsis. Come on down for another CT scan, and we’ll see what’s up. We get there – I can barely stand up straight. I go down for the scan, they get me in quickly. I enter a new CAT scan room. The first thing I see staring at me is that mean pink bear from Toy Story III. This is a bad omen. It all goes okay until I have to get off the machine bed. I am in blood curdling screaming pain, and I am sobbing. The nurse helps me to the waiting room. After a short wait, a nurse comes in and tells me to call Dr. K., my gyn-oncology. It is not a positive sign that it’s not radiology that wants to talk to me. Now I’m scared.

They gave me a direct line to Dr. K. By the time he gets on the phone, I am crying out in the courtyard like a giant baby, a baby who is can’t sit because I am in so much pain. He tells me there’s a hematoma on my peritoneum from a vein being nicked during the deflation procedure. That’s why I feel like there are razors slicing me to ribbons. He wants to see if it will resolve itself. He is prescribing me a long lasting more powerful pain pill to take with the percocet. I ask if I can work, and he laughs, and says I shouldn’t even be worrying about work with this pain but yes, I can work, if I insist on it, but I should stay home a few days let the pills work. It’s a narcotic damn it. He says if it’s not better by Monday, we’ll figure something out. He doesn’t want to do surgery, not at all, because the pufferfish is in a deep awkward part of the uterine ocean, like the Marianas trench of uterine cavities. It will be a severe major surgery, and it won’t be easy, there are no guarantees that they will even get to it, or that it will resolve it. But we’ll talk in a few days. Take the pills. Rest. I tell him I will send Andy up to pick up the prescription and to tell the nurses to not be afraid to give the 20 something kid with the dreadlocks the powerful morphine prescription because his mom really is in the car. He laughs. I say, “you think I am kidding, I’m not.”

We get the prescription. While it’s getting filled, Andy tells me all the ways we can parlay the pills I am given into cash on the street, enough to supply oil all winter and have cash for a vacation after we sell them, and use that cash to buy some weed which we can sell and get more weed, and then…and then… I tell him they won’t let me have these meds in jail, and to stop making me laugh, because it fucking hurts. I slip one of these beautiful deep blue pearls into my mouth and we head home. Morphine Sulfate XR, bless you, as you cut quickly to the pain and make it just a grit your teeth and whistle level instead of the tearing your fingernails out one by one level. I spend most of the next few days asleep. And then I am told I should not be driving if I am taking the morphine and percocet. So with a note from the Dr. faxed to the office, the soonest I am going back to work is Monday. The next five days are fuzzy, I fall asleep randomly, sometimes with a sandwich in hand, and glasses on, or in the middle of typing a sentence. Sunday I try to wean off the morphine. My body’s response to that? You’re one crazy bitch, that’s not gonna happen. This brings us today – my hematoma is still here, my cyst is back to the size it was before they drained it, I can stay off the percocet, but my pain will not allow us to say no to morphine. And I’m waiting for word from the Dr. on what happens next. He’ll be back in the office tomorrow. The pain is manageable for now. And I keep telling myself at least it’s not cancer. And that I am grateful that at least some of my doctor’s trust me to know my body.

Thus ends the most recent chapter of Cancer, A Gift That Never Stops Giving. I am sorry for this novella, but now you’re on the same page as me, and we can wait, impatiently, together. I am headed to my bed now, to rest quietly and gear up to face tomorrow – I am applying again for FMLA, so that no matter where this is headed, I’ll still have a job to come back to. And this better not interfere with me being able to attend the upcoming adoption of one of my kidlets at work, because then I will be seriously pissed off at this nonsense. I’m not gonna let this noise interfere with the one good thing that comes out of the work I do.

It’s really hard to stay positive with life throwing up road hazards around every turn, but I keep reminding myself, I still wake up every morning and I get out of bed to clean water, and an inside toilet and electricity and food. So I am richer that most of the rest of the world. And I have cookies, so that’s just icing on the cake.

Stay healthy my friends, and keep fighting the good fight.

Image

Buttercup kicks “the sick” out of the amoeba boys

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