welcome to the danger zone

Shit Just Got Real. (or Well, That’s Fucked)

I saw a dead porcupine the other day, near the center divider of the road, on my way home. You almost never see dead porcupines. I was tempted to go back and get some quills, but decided that it would not only be risky but also gross, and vetoed the plan.

And before we get to the meat of the story, the main event, the moment you have all been waiting for, I feel compelled to inform you that there are certain species of butterfly that subsist on the tears of turtles and alligators. I found the idea of drinking tears rather poetic. And as I was crying on and off most of yesterday and today, I was romanticizing the idea of beautiful butterflies landing on my eyes and drinking my tears. Then I remembered that butterflies are bugs, and bugs are creepy, and that I would appreciate butterflies more as they flutter about me, rather than dipping their proboscis in my eye sockets to suck away my tears. So much for that.

Yes, yes, the scans. You want to know about the scans. Well, I am comfortably medicated now that I can write about it without histrionic weeping. Can you be histrionic if you don’t have a uterus? I don’t know, but for the sake of good writing, let’s pretend we can. You’ll just have to wait while I tell the story of scan day, because there is a story, although it may not be my funniest adventure to the hospital, it was still a bit amusing.

To fully appreciate my day, first I’ll set the stage. The subee needed breaks for over a week. The car would make this horrible woosh, woosh, woosh sound when going forward, followed by a terrifying grinding sound that pulled at the hair at the back of your neck every time you had to brake. It was horrible – it was supposed to be fixed yesterday, but as usual, plans made with my family don’t always work out the right way. So I had to drive the sad subee to Hershey myself.

I was having my CT scan done in the main hospital instead of the CT center at Hope Drive near my dr. old offices. I won’t make that mistake again. At least I still had my “I have cancer” parking pass so I can get premium parking near the building. (I can also get free valet parking but I am too embarrassed by the metallic grinding and whirring of the subee to consider letting someone unused to the sounds of destruction drive her) Unlike the other CT scanner office, to get to this department, you have to walk walk walk walk all the way to the middle of the hospital and then go downstairs and walk some more, whereas the other is just inside the door. When finally I arrived, it was hardly busy, but I forgot we were in the hospital, and that hospital patients get first dibs on the meat slicers, and they only have 2. Which makes no sense, because there’s always people waiting for scans, so a third one would come in handy. I also forgot that in the radiology dept of the the main hospital, there’s no cell service. So I can’t answer all of the text messages I got that morning, even though now would be the perfect time to do so. Once I am checked in, I want to read my book, but dumb ass left her glasses in her purse in the car. My stomach’s been wigging out all night, but I don’t want to go to the bathroom because they will most certainly call me when I do. In the midst of this there’s a great commotion to get the Hoda and Kathie Lee show on because apparently Frank Gifford, Kathie Lee’s husband, had died, and it was an absolute priority of every senior citizen to get the dish. No cell service, no glasses, and depressing TV. This does not bode well.

Finally I am called and shepherded away to the slicers’ area. The nurse put an IV in. The IV itself was painless, but I don’t understand why I must be brutalized with tape??? I know you have to keep the IV in, but for dog’s sake, lighten up with the bandage. Once I am prepped, I go back to waiting. Wait wait wait. Then I get called and off I go to hop on the table. The nice nurse begins her questions, and I tell her I’m a bit of a pro at this, and no allergies, no diabetes, no kidney disease, blah blah blah. And then it’s strike two against getting a scan here again…NO STICKERS. The machine has no stickers. Not a pink bear, or pufferfish or Mufasa or nothing! What am I to look at while the machine scannerizes my insides? Sigh. The nurse explains it’s a brand new machine and they haven’t gotten any stickers yet, because it’s new. I tell her I am not sure I can do this without Woody and Buzz, but strong soldier that I am, I brave it. Slide slide slide, whirr whirr woosh, and I’m done. The nurse removes the IV and then bandages my arm with that cool self gripping tape I love but wraps so much of the tape so tightly around my arm, that I believe my circulation is cut off. And off I go.

I was dreading these scans. I barely slept the night before, and I wasn’t able to have anything to eat before the scan so I’m a bit shaky. Now they are over, and I just have to wait for the results. That should only take a few hours. I wrestle the tape and gauze from my arm to see that I will have several delightful bruises, Yay.

I did some grocery shopping, hung out with my friend Kelly and her boys, ate a donut, stopped to see Jenn and get some more quilts for clients at work, all the while, periodically checking for my results. Why are they not posted? This is making me nervous. Delays are never good, it means they need other people to confirm the results. Finally, about 3pm, the results are in. And I take a peek. And it’s no bueno. I was hoping that there’d be no change, or when I was being wildly optimistic, that the tumors had vanished. I knew that it wasn’t likely since my pain came back, and I could feel the bloating in my belly. But I had hoped.

I’m blogging about it because I’ve told the people who needed to be told. Once again, I am keeping the news from my dad, as well as brothers Leo and Stanley, because I don’t want them to upset pop. I sent a text to Mike and Alan. As for Janie, my “sister”, I doubt she even knew I had cancer the first time. If I am not sporting Andrew Jackson or Benjamin Franklin on my belly and you can use me to buy beer, she wouldn’t recognize me. Not that this causes me any trauma. I didn’t want to tell Andy because his birthday is today, and I knew that for the rest of his life, the day before his birthday was the day his mom told him the bad news. I didn’t want that, but I also couldn’t pretend that everything was ok, or crazier yet, wait until after his birthday for the results. I needed to know too, because if the news was going to be bad, I wanted to make sure I spent his birthday with him, because who knows if it will be the last time.

Oh right, I didn’t tell you want it says. Here’s the gist: pufferfish is now 12x12cm. A bit larger than a grapefruit and bigger than it’s ever been. The tumor on the interior has also grown. The tumor on the outside has shrunk. The cyst appears to be blocking a urether for one of my kidneys, and my bladder lining is thickened which is indicative of disease. There are also two brand new spots on my lungs, which appear be metastatic. Like I said no bueno. Three months of Tamoxifen may or may not have worked because the cancer is still there and starting to spread out in the neighborhood…did the Tamoxifen slow it down? Or did it do nothing? We’ll never know.

Naturally there was a lot of crying yesterday. I don’t see the Dr. until Monday, and I know that I am going to hear things I’d rather not, but it is what it is. I am no idiot, I know this is not positive in any way. It broke my heart to tell Andy, because that’s my only real regret, that it isn’t likely now that I will be here for the important moments in his future. I don’t know if I will ever see him graduate from college or get married (or not) or have grandbabies (or not.) I am scared for him. Like every mother I guess. That’s what made me cry so much. In addition to crying, I was able to acquire a more potent herbal medicine and that in combination with a few oxy turned my frown upside down, or rather, gave me shiny eyes and made me feel all floaty, and numb for a few hours. A very welcome numbness.

There are plusses I guess, I mean it probably means I’ll get to stop taking the tamoxifen, which seems to have done nothing but make me hot, pimply and nauseous for the last three months. And made my boobs swell, which is not a plus for me, simply an annoyance. It looks increasingly likely that I will get out of having to pay back those student loans. And that if I am going to Ireland, I’d better get on it.

Now you know. I’m really very tired, and also very medicated but I wanted this done so I don’t have to answer any questions right now. As I told Andy, whatever happens is going to be okay, because it’s what has to happen. There’s a fucking lesson here somewhere, or maybe this is just getting the crap out of the way so that in my next life I can assume the role of queen of the universe without any setbacks. Or be an alpaca. There’s a strange sense of peace in all of this – the anxiety of not knowing gone for now. At least I have a ton of people in my life who love and care for me, and in the end, isn’t that what matters.

So I’ll leave you with this…hug your people in your life. Hug them a lot. Hug your friends, and laugh.

And

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

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