welcome to the danger zone

Tarpits, Minefields, and the Joy of a Tuesday

Well here it is, Tuesday. I feel like I have slept most of this month away. I am up and awake now, before 10 am, out of bed, which is crazy, because the only reason I was getting out of bed before 10 am for the last three weeks was for dr. appointments and to puke. It feels strange and wonderful, and shaky. I’m craving a mint hot chocolate, but today is shower day, which I can’t take until Andy is awake to do a new bandage on my back.

So what’s new in my world? Lots and nothing. I’ve been down with the sickness pretty much every day. I feel better one day, and think I can actually be social and do things, and then someone is unknowingly carrying a rare virus that is usually defeated quickly by your immune system until it gets to me, and then hello, it’s a human with very little resistance, let’s dance. I am sure I’ve endured the black death the last few days, and probably some extinct pox. I’ve puked more in the last 30 days that I have in my whole entire life. And that’s with using appropriate nausea control techniques. And the things I have puked in and on are countless! Plus let’s not forget that tube in my back that gives me an added thrill every time my automatic nervous system spasms. It’s good times.

The tube in my kidney. What a pleasure source that bad boy is! I did get a mini-reprieve with it, though. When I went in for my tube change, I laid down my case for why it should come out, and almost won. But using logic, my plan was confounded. We agreed to leave a tube in, capping it off, sans the pee bag, for two weeks – if my kidney goes back to doing it’s job without complaint, then they will pull it. In the meantime, I’ve discovered the sweet spot on my hip where I need to place my hand when I need to cough, sneeze or breathe deeply, so I am not thwarted by pain.

But let’s talk about pain. Last Wednesday, I went in to interventional radiology to have the tube change done. I took a couple oxy and some medicinal herbiage before the ride so I’d be more comfortable when I got there. I was. Then they promised me some more medicine, when they did the procedure. Unlike the draining of the cyst, I don’t believe they give you any medication to help you be drowsy. No, they are very kind to you, promising pain relief until they wheel your ass in the procedure room. Then they tell you to get on your stomach, put your arms above your head and trust they will not hurt you. They lie. First they start poking you in the back with needles they claim are local anesthetics. Just a pinch they say. Just a pinch. Just a pinch of the claw of giant crustacean tearing into your flesh like it intends to eat you. I stay surprisingly still for the first two shots. Then the third hits a nerve or something and I elevate three feet from the table and mutter “ouch”. I think the team realizes that they might have hurt me. Now, I am shaking from the pain, and it’s freezing in there, so I shake for the rest of the procedure. They took out the old tubing and put a smaller less cumbersome tube apparatus in there. They did a really good job with the bandage. I get to roll back on my back and go to recovery. I’ve done really well they tell me. I just want to go home. They must have given me fentynal at some point because I’m mostly not in pain now. I get dressed and they even let me walk up to meet Andy.

I was hungry. I wanted one of those turkey and cranberry sandwiches from Panera. I went in with Andy at first, but realized I needed to be back in the car, so I gave him my order and went outside. He brought out the goods and I ate a cookie and some lemonade. I thought I was going to be fine. Just not really hungry. The sandwich could wait. Then the meds started to wear off. I didn’t bring any with me. In the next ten minutes, my pain went from 2 to 2.4 trillion. Every inch from my waist to my neck on the right side of my body was a fucking minefield of pain. I do not exaggerate when I say that speaking hurt me. Breathing hurt. Coughing was some primitive torture activity. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t talk, I could only whimper like I was hit by a car and left alongside the road to die. I wanted to die. I wanted fucking morphine.

Finally we go home, I thought I was going to be okay. Then I tried to get out of the car and walk into the house. Every fucking step was a new adventure in torment. I got in the house, and faced the steps where my safe bed and vial of oxy were waiting for me just a few hundred steps away. And every step found me crying and moaning and doubting that I would ever get to the bed. But I did. I shoved some oxy in my mouth, and advil, and tried to smoke but couldn’t really inhale. Then I tried to lie down. That was not easy. I literally had to throw myself down on my right side and not move from that position. I told Andy if I didn’t get some relief in an hour, that we would need to call an ambulance. I was having really bad pain in my chest and back and I was scared it was serious. But I also tore cartilage in my chest before and it often would be painful if I was in a position that pulled at it again, so it could have also been that. I was hoping it was that. I nodded off for an hour and when I woke, I wasn’t in as much pain, so that was good. I was still paralyzed and unable to move, but I was no longer in fear of imminent death. Another four hours of sleep and I was almost able to move. By morning, I could actually sit up. A few more hours, and I could walk. Things were improving.

I couldn’t make my appointment with palliative care. Reschedule. I didn’t have the strength or the energy. I had to blow off the Bouncing Souls show that I was so looking forward to. I shouldn’t complain, my kidney was working and I could move and most of the time, breathe. I was still having trouble coughing and sneezing. Then the black wave of depression crept into the space where pain had been hanging out in my brain, and down, down, down, way fucking down, we went. If you don’t have depression, you can’t understand. I try to make it as visual for the untainted as I can, and this was like the La Brea tar pits of depression and I was a fucking woolly mammoth. It was all over except for suffocation. That sucking quicksand of sorrow ate me up, and the crying started. Without belaboring the incessant crying and snot-blowing, let’s just say thoughts during the breakdown run from “I’ve failed as a mother, and Andy will hate me for the rest of his life” to “what the fuck have I done with my life?” to “I’ll never get that PhD, great work dumbass.” Until you really spend a lot of time reflecting on your life and the possibility of a very short future, you can never understand that level of sorrow or failure. People can tell you otherwise for hours, but you can tear any positive self image down to smoldering ash in a matter of minutes when you start to consider things that will most likely never happen because there’s just not enough time. I’m just now starting to realize the psychological impact this disease has on me. I keep it together most days, but when this shit crumbles, it goes down hard and and fast.

I hate to keep harping on this but I feel I have to remind people that I write this to sort through what is in my head more than anything else. If the details of this fucking monster inside me helps someone else, I am thrilled, but writing is always for me. I love that people read it, I love that people comment on it, but I love the way I feel drained and empty when I stop writing, like all the shit that swirls in my head has finally been released or at least organized. Writing also scares me – when I see what I have only been thinking appear on the page it’s like tearing off a scab and wondering if it is ever going to stop bleeding. How raw this gets depends on how much pain I am in when I write – and sometimes I hold back because I can’t face another entry that is just all about my grief, and I know I shouldn’t. I can’t – because there’s no where else I can go with this. I know there are therapists, and I know I have friends, but let’s be honest here, very few people pour out what is really inside to anyone else, because we all want to keep our pain, our shame, our fears hidden. If you don’t, I admire you – I know I have secrets no one will ever know.

So now it’s evening – I went out for a bit today in the car. Visited work until I started to feel nauseous and then took a ride and spent some time in a cemetery until I felt better. Then I drove and cried and screamed and came home exhausted. Smoked my nausea away, and hoped for sleep, but no, my feet are twitchy and my legs are restless and so is my brain. Part of it is knowing that next Monday we’ll be talking treatment and progression (or hopefully, lack of progression) of this stupid C-monster and the damn pufferfish. And as many of you know, my friends are hosting a benefit for me on November 7th here. Some of my oldest and dearest friends from California are flying in and I am thrilled – it’s going to be amazing to see them all again. And I am sure many of my dear friends that live here will also be there and I am so blessed and grateful that they are doing this for me, but there’s a huge part of me that realized just now that it’s like saying goodbye to my loved ones and I don’t know that I am ready for that. I know that sounds negative, because anything can happen, and I do believe that, but I am also very much a realist who prepares for the worst, and the very thought of maybe never seeing them again after that weekend tears my fucking heart out. Just like every day that I wonder if I have told Andy every thing I want him to know – and hope that he knows that he changed my life and I love him more than I have loved anyone in my life. That, my friends, is my nightly terror – leaving my son alone in this world. I don’t care about anything else. I just want to make sure that my baby is going to be okay and that he knows how sorry I am that all this has landed in his lap during the time of his life when he should be discovering what he loves and who he is and he’s stuck taking care of me. And the tears flow again.

I was trying so hard to keep this light and fucking positive and I can see that that has been a huge fail. So much is undone. And you’ll think to yourself, well get out there and do it! And the reality is that there are somethings you don’t just “go out and do.” When faced with what you are going to do, you have to let go of the dreams you had that can’t possibly fulfill because it’s just not possible. And you grieve for all of them. So much grieving. And even as I type this I’m trying to self-talk myself calm – I want to bolt and stop writing because it hurts so much. But this kind of pain is progress. Unlike the physical pain – which is nothing more than annoying. And at this point, more of an annoyance than a hindrance. There’s that at least.

Well, I am spent for tonight. I’ve tried to enhance this post with some cemetery pictures from today. It didn’t work. Maybe I didn’t save them in the right format. Who knows. The featured image was supposed to be this crazy tree that is way at the back of a pretty hidden entrance to a cemetery I frequent. It always has artificial flowers attached to it. And it’s updated regularly for the season. I like to sneak into the cemetery that way so I can check out the tree. People don’t appreciate the subtle beauty hiding in the places most people ignore. I’m always going to find my happy in an interesting cemetery. It’s like water is to my soul. Maybe Saturday when we go to Philly, I can convince Andy that we need a stop at Laurel Hill…it’s such a beautiful place in the fall. Just so I can take a drive through and enjoy the trees and death and decay. I am going to head to sleep, so I wish you sweet dreams, cupcakes. Thank you and come again.

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