welcome to the danger zone

This GIrl, Her Pufferfish and a Kidney Walk Into An ER…

It’s hard to believe that it’s barely over a week since I saw the oncologist. Last Monday, I was pretty happy, normal person, albeit with a massive pufferfish exploding to new sizes in my pelvic cavity. And now my world is fucking upside down and I am angry, hurting, scared and lost. So I caution you now, this mostly fueled by the anger I have for this fucking disease and is going to be graphic, and will likely include overuse of the word “fuck,” but at this point, I don’t even fucking care. You might. I don’t. You’re not the one with the giant pee penis rammed into their vagina like a rolling pin, walking around with pee bags attached front and back because your body fucking betrayed you more than you thought it could. I am.

So yeah, there’s humor in here, but only because being fucking bitter makes me funnier. Let’s tell the story. We all know that the whore of a pufferfish is still growing in my pouch of Douglas. We all know I wanted just two more months of no treatment so I could have some fun before I got really sick again. I was dealing with the fact that the stupid c-monster wiggled around in there, sometimes blocking my bladder, sometimes causing me real pain, but things were working for the most part. I was dealing with the almost hourly trips the bathroom at night, the lack of sleep, the constant urge to pee at night. I could live with it, as annoying as it was. Until the ability to pass the pee stopped on Wednesday night. And I am going to get even more graphic here because what the fuck, I have to live it, so maybe this will help someone else who deals with something like it. On Wednesday night, the 12:30 trip to pee ended in a couple drops and about 40 minutes of cramping, cursing, writhing, crying, more cursing, wriggling, standing up and sitting down, and frustration. Sleep five minutes. Back to the bathroom, repeat. All fucking night. For those of you who have given birth to spawn vaginally, imagine that moment when you want to push and they tell you to wait, and there’s all that fucking pressure and you’re just like when can I push this monster out of my uterus??? Well that was what this feels like. I’d been dealing with a milder version of it for months, but at least then it ended in finally being able to pee. Not this time. The sun came up and I got ready for work. Usually I had no problems during the day, because the movement of being up and around would move the cyst away from whatever it was blocking, and I could be normal during the day. Not this time. All morning, nothing. And it is as uncomfortable as anything you could imagine. I google my symptoms and web md tells me I should probably go to the ER. We agree. And off I go.

Since I won’t see a Dr. anywhere but in Hershey, I make the hourish drive there. I’m doing great until I hit Hersheypark. Then my bladder, deciding it had had enough fun with me for the day, bursts like a fucking tsunami in the car without warning. And what do you do when you are pissing yourself at 60mph, and there’s nowhere to stop, and what would you do anyway, if you could, stand on the side of the road and drip? AND it’s raining. AND the get gas light just came on. I did what any normal person would do, I drove to the ER and parked the car and panicked. No blankets, no towels, not extra clothes, soaked in piss. In the rain. 200 feet from the ER. I can’t go get dry clothes at home because I would need to get gas and I can’t get gas because I’d have to get out of the car. I can’t just run over to K-Mart and get some dry things because I am soaked in pee. Finally, I try calling some friends to see if they can run to my house, get me some dry clothes and bring them to me. My friend Lori agrees to help me out and while I am waiting, I decide that I cannot sit in the car in this state for over an hour. I call the ER, and ask them if they could send someone out to get me with a wheelchair or something. They do. And I cover the driver seat with shop towels to try and soak up the mess.

The ER was awesome. They got me right to a room right away, and got me out of my pee-pee pants. I have to say that the ER staff was downright amazing. Now, my body has agreed to let me pee a bit from time to time. At first we’re just going to make sure there’s no infections or what not. I point out that I know it’s the bloody pufferfish’s fault. They do an ultrasound on my bladder and kidneys. My bladder is full. Even though I just successfully completed the attempt to urinate not two minutes before. This is not good. My kidneys look nice, but the right one is showing signs of distress, because the beast in my belly is putting a kink in the right ureter and urine cannot pass from the kidney to my bladder as efficiently. While all the poking and probing is happening, Lori, my saviour, arrived with dry clothes, and my bff Kelly came to visit and brought me a phone charger. You see there’s wireless in the ER, but no cell service. So I need to put my shit on blast on Facebook (which I’d probably do anyway) to try to get messages to the people I would usually text. And for that, I need my phone to be charged. It was like having two guardian angels in the room. All the while they were there, we’re kind of just waiting. I am getting scolded by the wonderful nurses for escaping the monitors they have on me and leaving my room. We set the bed alarm off trying to figure out how to make the back go up. We ring the nurse just to ask her if our pizza is here yet. We make their jobs fun.

Finally, the resident surgeon from urology comes in. We talk about how I was going to have a consult on Tuesday about a stent in the right ureter. I am still not sure how that is going to help the bladder issue, but I am not the medical professional here. He’s hot, not super hot, but definitely a cutie, and probably barely older than my son. Oh good, and now he has to examine me. Now, I know a lot of people say that they don’t care about how they look when they’re sick and the doctor is examining them, but I am not one of them. I am completely self conscious about being obese, with radiation scarring, the myriad of scars from laparoscopies, and my sad sad vagina. I don’t really want to look at my vagina myself, so I feel bad when others have to. And that’s sad, because the vagina and I had a lot of good times together, but that was over 20 years ago, and now, it’s just another body part to betray me. Cute Dr. Brian gives me some options – get a catheter and come back Tuesday for the stent, consider just getting a nephrostemy on the right kidney today, or next week, do nothing, or just get a catheter. I say we should just try the stent, and then see what happens. He goes off to consult the attending, I mentally try to remember his full name for my friend, Ashley, who needs a rich doctor husband.

In the meantime, Kelly and Lori have to leave…it’s becoming late and it doesn’t look like I am going anywhere. Nurse Kristen tells me they are just waiting on urology. Dr. Brian comes back and says, “Hey, I forgot one option, we could admit you and do the stent in the morning!” I like that option. I’m getting a catheter anyway because they will need it for surgery, and Dr. Brian initials my right belly with his purple sharpie so they don’t screw up and put the stent on the wrong side and he’s gone until the morning. Nurse Kristen brings in some helpers to do my catheter, a nice young lady, and another cute male nurse. Oh fuck yeah, bring on the vagina/body image shame round two. Kristen tried to put in the catheter, but it won’t go in, the male nurse is just hanging back and Kristen and the other female nurse go back and forth, trying to jam this thing inside and it’s not going. Finally, they ask the male nurse to do it. He manages to get it in the urethra on the first try, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief that that inhumane torture is over. Or is it? Then they start an IV. The first bag is fine, until the vein blows up and now we are on to the other arm. All this time my blood pressure is through the roof because I am in pain, terrified, and don’t want a hole in my kidney. I break down once with nurse Kristen, and once again when Dr. Brian comes back to check in about tomorrow’s surgery. Kristen puts the IV bag on a hook in the ceiling so I can no longer get out of the room. I am trapped until I am admitted. Five minutes later they come to take me to a room; then immediately cancel it, because they now can’t take me to that room. I remain in the ER.

I have to say that Kristen was awesome when I was crying and sobbing about how this is so unfair, that I have plans for the next two months and how this was not supposed to happen and then cracked up when I said that I didn’t even get any of the good side effects of cancer like losing weight. Not me, my appetite is just fine. Then she said that patients like me are the reason she is a nurse, and that she was grateful to me because sometimes she forgets why she does what she does, to be there to comfort people when they are scared. She said she wished all her patients were like me, and she just held my hand. I don’t often say things like this, because I’m not gonna lie, I have some unresolved shit with my dead mother, but in that moment, it felt like my mom was there trying to make me believe it was going to be OK, because my mom was a nurse too. I was so grateful to Kristen that night, and even more so when she tried to find me jello and could only come up with two vanilla ice cream cups which became that night’s dinner. (I also had a turkey sandwich, later).

Pause here for a breaking funny story:

Andy comes in after his shower, and I tell him that Urology won’t even see me until September 14th, which means I can’t go to Riot Fest or the Whoopie Pie Festival, because there’s no way I can be up and about with the giant pee hose stuck in me for a drive to Chicago, as I am only comfortable standing or lying down, he does what Andy does best – he offers this solution:

We could get a u haul and attach it to the car and throw you in it on your back, and punch some holes in the side so you could breathe back there or maybe get you an oxygen tank.”

How can a mother not be incredibly proud of such resourcefulness?

Back to the ER now. So the evening wears on – I am being admitted but who knows when? I am now forbidden to eat or drink after midnight as I will be having general anesthesia for the stent procedure. I suck down all the water I can before I become gremlin-like. They pull my IV off the ceiling and put it on an electric pump. I get a new IV in the opposite are because the other one is swollen like a bad molar. Around 2am, I am being moved to a new room. It’s all the way at the end of the hall of a new section of the ER that I have never been in before. It’s dark, and it looks like the holding cell for psych patients at our local ER. Not the psych hold thing again I hope. But in comes Nurse Dan. Again, a handsome young man who will probably take a look at my hideous nether regions. More anxiety. The way they have my IV inserted in my arm, every time I move I set off the alarm on the pump and Dan has to come running. He kindly asks me if there’s any possibility of being pregnant. I snort, and say nope, no uterus. He asks me my favorite question “when was your last period?” I proudly state 2011. When I answer my fifteenth interrogation of the night, I try to sleep. Only to be woken by some maniacal woman down the hall screaming at 5:45 am that it’s her health choices and she’ll make them and then screaming for Dan to get in there. Poor Dan.

Finally cute Dr. Brian and his attending and some other medical minions come to see me before surgery; I tell them that I thought it over, and if they cannot place the stent then do what they have to make my kidney well, and if that means nephrostemy, then that’s what it is. They are glad to hear this. And I am whisked off to surgery. When I wake up in recovery I demand jello, and discover they could not place the stent. Nephrostemy it is. That will come later. That one is an awesome “twilight” procedure, which means my ass will be awake. Oh fucking yay. Fortunately, that does mean I can eat jello. And drink water. No food, but at least there’s jello.

In between procedure one and two, I am taken to the second stage recovery from same day surgery. While I am there, the kindly nurse gives me some IV dilaudid/fentynal to help my pain. It brings me joy. Then two minions from gynecological oncology come by to see me, and tell me Dr. K is out of town, but they will see his associate this afternoon, and she will probably come over this afternoon. When they tell me who that associate is, from my drug fueled fog, I become lucid enough to tell them “don’t bring that bitch here, I have enough stress going on without her lack of bedside manner to make it worse.” The two minions stared at the sudden transformation from my happy cloudy self, to the alert demon before them now. I tell them she tried the put a psych hold on me the last time I saw her and I don’t want her near me in my present state. I will wait til Dr. K returns. I thank them for their time and they leave, and that is the last I hear from gynecological oncology during my stay.

Around 3pm, I head to radiology for the nephrostemy. They give me some meds to relax me, and some local anesthesia in my back. Neither eliminates the stress of what’s about to happen, the pain or the anxiety. I am lying face down on the table while they drill in my back to get to my kidney. After a few false starts, they hit the bonanza, simultaneously finding the only spot in my back that is not anesthetized Screaming commences as they try to get the pain under control; the pain subsides, but I am shaking so hard from the pain I can’t keep still. Somehow they manage to get the tube in and I am eventually returned to recovery. More pain meds follow.

Andy and Tom and my friend Ashley who left me to work for the Governor’s Office all come to visit me. I finally have a phone and a phone number and Erica and Paige call me to talk to me and it between my visitors and callers I feel pretty good and have not had any time to focus on the fact that in less than 24 hours, I have gone from happy-go-lucky cancer girl, to girl-with-a-tube-in-her-kidney-with-a-fucking-giant-cyst-that-is-causing-complications-forever. After everyone leaves, I nibble the snacks Andy and Tom brought and enjoy the flowers that Ashley graciously shared with me. I watch TV. I find that new pee bag became unplugged from its hose and soaked me and the bed. We wash, change and I get back into bed. More pain meds. Dr. R from urology comes by to say he’d like to remove the catheter as he doesn’t want me to have to go home with it. He says they will take it out at 1 am, and if all goes well, I’ll go home in the morning. I get some dinner, a delicious meatloaf and mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. No jello, but a delightful lemon sherbet. When 1 am rolls around, they finally remove the catheter from me. Liberation. I can finally get out of bed, and discover that my bag leaked again. I am not thrilled. Then I discover when the nurse’s aide pinned the bag to my gown the last time she changed it, she put the pin directly through the bag, and not where the pin can safely go. Now we need a new bag. We get things in order, I get to use the bathroom and actually tinkle on my own in one of those awesome “hats” and I try to get comfortable enough to sleep. I now have the IV in the back of my hand (location 3) it’s hard to find a position in which I am not kinking something up or cutting something off or being speared in the kidney by a hose. It’s a fucking circus.

Nancy, the nurse’s assistant or patient care aide I think is what she’s called, is a talker. I had her care for me back in December when I had the laparoscopy. One son is a genius, and is an aerospace engineer with no common sense, who now wants to be a lawyer, and her other son, well he’s just normal. Her husband had his arm torn off and reattached and when he’s grumpy, he makes her grumpy. She has a migraine but what can you do, you have to come for work. She cannot get over the beauty of the sunflowers from Ashley’s yard. She’s never seen anything like them. She’s loud and funny and talks non-stop, which isn’t helping with the sleep. I tell her I would like her to take the flowers when she leaves, and enjoy them, and she is overjoyed and begins to tell me how she is going to dry them and get the seeds so she can plant them in her garden next year. I finally fall asleep for an hour or so, and then the early rounds start – the urology minions first, then the radiology team. I am free to go, once I can get Andy to answer his phone. Andy also has to be here to learn how to clean my tube daily and to change the dressing – they offered to show me how to do it, but um, yeah, it’s on my BACK, and I am not an octopus with multiple arms nor am I an owl who can turn my head to see my back. I eat my breakfast and wait. I put the clothes on that Andy sent down with Lori. His picks were from the “these clothes are being thrown away” pile, so I put on the shorts with no elastic and decide to wear the shirt I came in with instead of the too small one Andy packed. Finally, sleepy head gets there and we learn wound care and off we go.

I get home, feel pretty good for having an hole in my back. I sleep most of the day away, until 11pm, when the no peeing thing starts all over again. Long story short, it was a horrible horrible night. I tell Andy I need to go to the ER, and I pack extra clothes and a seat cover in case of accidents and off we go. About ½ way there, my bladder lets go with no warning. Good call on the seat cover. I tell Andy to take the back way to Hershey because there’s a portapotty at one of the trail entrances on the state game lands. We get there and to my surprise, it’s been upgraded to a real national park bathroom. As gross as a portapotty but larger. I change and we resume our journey. Unfortunately I also have another bladder eruption as we are turning into the driveway for the ER. How can there be so much pee! Andy has to go get a wheelchair and bring me in that way again.

You would think the fun was almost over here wouldn’t you??? I would. I have to give an urine sample. I try to do it in the bathroom, and squeeze out a little. I go back to the exam room, and guess what? Bladder eruption, but this time I am on one of those pads, so it’s all good. While waiting for urology and the er docs to come by I discover that I can pee, but only if I am sitting on a fucking diaper on a flat chair, because it pushes the cyst back up into my body and lets the urethra do its thing. When I try to use the toilet, it rolls down like fucking boulder and shuts everything off. I share my discovery with the Dr. who says it sounds reasonable but not a long term solution so guess who’s getting another catheter. It is at this time I learn that the reason I had such discomfort with the last one was because they used a latex catheter and uh, yeah, I am fucking allergic to latex. Nurse Sara tries her best to gently insert this one, being herself a vagina owner, and knowing how brutally uncomfortable this is. She can’t get it in; Urology is called, and they will come do it. Two doctors arrive, and no matter how hard they are trying to be gentle, they don’t own a vagina, so they have no idea how ridiculously painful this whole process is. Finally it’s in, and my bladder starts to empty. Despite the number of times I managed to empty my bladder using the chair method, it’s still pretty full. They are going to do one more urine analysis and then I can go home. Andy has already left for work, and my beloved Paige and baby Kenny have agreed to come get me. They tell me I will have the catheter in for a week or so – then they will take it out and see if I can just intermittently catheterize myself on my own daily instead of having the giant pee snake invading my vagina. They will call me with an appointment. Nurse Sara comes in to show me how to take care of this set of tubes on my own and then shows me that I also get a snazzy “daytime bag” that I can strap to my leg when I want to go out and about. OOOh, a fancy pee bag accessory – IT’S A FUCKING PEE BAG – not a clutch. I laugh because I doubt that I’ll be all that concerned about the size and shape of bag when there’s a fucking gigantic garden house dangling between my legs. Sara leaves me to the business of figuring out how to dress to accommodate the gargantuan hose and bag. When Paige lets me know she’s close, I ask Sara if I can leave, and she gives me the okay…at this point I couldn’t bear another minute after listening to the dude in the next room grunt for two hours while someone else kept their finger on the call button almost the whole time I was there. I’m outtie.

Not so fast, says the Drop Dead Fred look-a-like at check out. You must check out. I tell DDF, no, I don’t, I was dismissed by the ER. Yes, yes, you do says DDF. He demands my checkout papers. I don’t have any DDF, I tell him. DDF asks if I have any papers from the ER, I say yes, and he demands I turn them over. So I slam my pee bag on his desk, and open my backpack and hand him the papers. DDF peruses them and says, um, yeah, you don’t have to check out. I grab my pee bag and leave in a huff.

I keep falling asleep on the way home, because I am exhausted. Paige and I hit Wendy’s because the last thing I ate I can’t remember. When I get home, pop a muscle relaxer, have some herbal meds, empty the pee bags and pass out in sweet sleep. When I wake up in four hours, the pee bags must again be emptied, as they fill quickly when you sleep.

I’ve since named the pee bags. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Fucking Dumber. I carry the big one around in my backpack, the little one’s pinned to my side. There’s no getting comfortable, only being able to tolerate the positions. It still feels like having to pee all the time. Like there a rock stuck in my vagina on the end of stick. And while I am grateful for being able to sleep for more than 1 hour at a time, I still have to get up and drain them at least twice a night.

This is my new reality, and why I am so angry. Like I told my nurses, I knew something like this would be down the road, I am not a pollyfuckinganna. I just wanted those last two months, the two months when I could feel like a normal human, not a fucking cancerous blob, who will just sit in bed and wait to die. I wanted quality over quantity. This is not quality. This is a nightmarish hellscape that I am not waking up from. Yes, it could be worse, which is easy to say when you aren’t the one with the pee bags. I know it could be worse, and I am grateful that it’s not. But today when the Urology dept called for my follow-up and said my appointment to determine if they would remove the catheter would be September 14th, that was the last straw. No Riot Fest. No Whoopie Pie Festival. No more swimming. No more baths, no more hot tubs. Just fucking days of emptying and cleaning pee bags, self medicating and sleeping because there’s not much else I can do. I can’t even go to the beach because SAND. I am not happy. I am not.

So before you try and turn my frown upside down, please understand I need to be angry, I need to be able to feel sorry for myself. I need to say that cancer sucks, and it’s a horrible insidious disease, and that I have every right to be upset that my life is completely different today that it was last week. I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve this, but when I look back on everything I’ve gone through in my life, I kinda feel I’ve been cheated a little. This will pass in a few days I know, but for now I don’t want to talk anymore about it, or pretend my world is a happy fairyland where unicorns play candyland with talking bears. I am grateful for all of the concern, and love, and caring, and well wishes, and prayers, I truly, profoundly am, but I am still coming to terms with what is reality.

And with that my friends, I am going to go have a nice shower with TD1 and TFD2. Good times. I’ll be back to my normal self eventually.

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3 responses

  1. Anonymous

    So my question is.. “did Ashley get a date with a doc?”

    26 August 15 at 10:48 pm

  2. Anonymous

    Have you ever written about your relationship with your mother?

    26 August 15 at 10:57 pm

  3. nanapedro

    I can’t F……g believe you can write so well about your F…..G situation (can’t think of a different word). You are in our prayers. love you

    27 August 15 at 1:03 am

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