welcome to the danger zone

Free At Last!! (At Least From The Horrors of the Tubes, Anyway)

I actually got ready early this morning, because we had several things to do be we left for my appointment at Hershey – which included going to vote with Andy and having a discussion about voter suppression, since once again, illegally, the polling place had a sign that said new voters had to show ID. I don’t know whether it’s blatant disregard that that no law was ever passed, or just ignorance developed from watching too much Fox News. Whatever. Not to mention that the polling place door is always surrounded by people campaigning for local candidates, making it somewhat intimidating to enter without being assaulted. But enter we did, and refused all the little cards the lurkers tried to force upon us to help up select our candidates. Really, if you don’t know who you are voting for and why when you get to the polls, you shouldn’t be voting at all, because you are clearly uninformed. I hate the way small town voting always seems shady, but our votes were cast and we received our stickers, which is my favorite part of voting.

After voting, we then had to hit the pharmacy because I was not going anywhere near that hospital today without being armed with a full prescription of pain meds. I wish I had had something for anxiety, because while the pain of the last tube procedure was just a memory for my brain, my body was fully remembering the trauma of the last visit, and on high stress alert. Not to mention that I couldn’t eat or drink anything for several hours before this stabbing, and I was nauseated by the Tamoxifen and shaky from not eating or drinking. My brain kept trying to deny that this time would be as painful as last, but my body was having none of that. Being sedated last time when I was leaving the Vascular Radiology department, I could only remember it was down the hall from Interventional Radiology, and wandered around lost in the bowels of the hospital trying to find it. I did find my friend Joanne, who works at PSHMC, and we then wandered together until I found it. I checked in and went to the waiting cell. As is typical at PSHMC, Fox News was on. I was doing okay until they started interviewing Donald Trump, and he began spewing outright lies, and no one even challenged him. At that point, I went and stood in the hall, because Tamoxifen raises my blood pressure and that asshole was making it worse. Not to mention all the crazy supporters in the waiting area who find him appealing as a candidate. And lest I forget, the man who spent his time reading his magazines aloud, then also audibly commenting on the articles he just read. I could feel my blood pressure soaring.

Finally I was beckoned to the dungeon, er, staging area. IV insertion did not go smoothly, and my very sweet nurse called for a vein whisperer after her first two attempts did not go as planned. My left hand is now going to be a large bruise. The second nurse got the IV started in my right hand after a few harrowing minutes when it looked like that vein was going to blow too. Settled onto my bed, I actually had a pillow this time instead of a fold-up blanket like last time. I tried to lie down, but I wanted to puke, so I asked the nurse to help me sit up so I wasn’t choking. She offered me Zofran, I wanted my herbal medication, and declined, and said I would deal with it when I got home. She said, oh do you drink ginger ale and I giggled and said, yes, but I also smoke marijuana. She nodded her approval. The Dr. then came out and told me that they had discussed my tube at their morning meeting and agreed that if they ran dye through my tube and it made it to my bladder, they would pull that sucker out. I agreed completely – then found out that since that was the plan, there’s be no sedation, no pain meds and no need for the IV so carefully stuck into my hand. However they left it in, and wheeled me into the procedure room, where in 15 minutes, my 13 weeks of torment were over. It was almost painless, but not really. I couldn’t wait to get a drink and some oxy to ward off any impending pain. I was wheeled back to my waiting space and released. Now to find Andy and my mango smoothie.

Andy and I hit the road after finding each other, and headed home. I drank my smoothie and ate my pills and was still cranky because I needed to eat. I wanted wings, but the wing place didn’t have any interesting flavors, so I settled for a jr. bacon cheeseburger, and some nuggets from Wendy’s. After my angry, hungry beast was fed, things were much better. We got home without any serious pain like last time. My little friend Erin was there to great me when I got home, and after a couple minutes of chatting with her, I headed to the tower, more pills, my medicine pipe, some advil and water. Having adequately medicated, I tried to sleep. Then the pain came. I guess I didn’t take my meds at the right time to prevent the last dose from wearing off completely, and just like last time, I couldn’t move my right side for without screeching pain with every movement. It’s since toned down a little, but that’s the main reason I am blogging tonight, because I need to get another dose in before I go to bed, so that I don’t wake up crying. My kidney spasms every now and then like it’s pushing small pieces of glass through it, and that my friends, is horrific. It lasts less than a minute, but it jolts me awake. Hopefully by tomorrow morning it will be tolerable.

The pain however was what got me thinking about blogging tonight was, because I don’t know if this happens for other people, but it does for me, when I am in pain I tend to hum, and then I hear songs in my head that are relevant to my situation. For instance, the song of the evening that is replaying in my head is Off With Their Heads’ Trying to Breathe. It’s my way of self-soothing I suppose. But I seem to have certain soundtracks to my life – like last month, I often heard one of U2’s earlier songs, October, over and over in my head. November is the month of the Jesus and Mary Chain because Joey’s birthday and the day he died are both this month, and the JMC is what reminds me of our friendship. And when the depression hits, I often turn to the Smiths and Elliott Smith to highlight my misery. When I was first diagnosed with cancer and I had to make the 4:30am drive back and forth to Hershey, I listened to OWTH’s In Desolation, to and from, every day…it got me through those six weeks and far beyond. OWTH is still one of my go-to bands for catharsis, and that’s the reason I try to see them as often as I can because there’s a sense of belonging among that crowd that I am not alone in my pain, fear, and frustration. It’s healing and cleansing. In fact, if you were to ask me about specific times in my life, there would be an album or a band that I would identify it with. R.E.M got me through being dumped during my pregnancy. I made mix CDs (and now playlists) of songs for seasons – there were summer songs, and loneliness songs, and dark brooding goth mixes with Black Tape for A Blue Girl. Some people enjoy music – my music gets me through the hard times, helping me put to words what I am feeling inside, and scream it out loud on winding back roads, helping me heal. There’s even driving music, which I have to be careful with because it seems to enhance my leadfoot. Then there were the new bands I discovered and would listen to when I first got to California and had to take the 2.5 bus ride to and from work every day – Husker Du, the Replacements and the Hoodoo Gurus to name a few. And Echo and The Bunnymen’s Songs to Learn and Sing. Andy’s first show was the very first Lollapalooza when I was 8 months pregnant. Most of my friends are clueless about the bands I listen to and love, but without my music, I’d be lost. It’s not just music, it’s my way to cope. Especially while I have been dealing with this C-monster that has me in its clutches. When I got the last prognosis, I spent hours driving and crying and singing my throat raw before I could pull it together to come home. I listen to classical when I need to focus; I listen to weird rhythmic pieces by Gabrielle Roth when I need to stretch, and I had playlists for the gym when I still had the strength to go. There was music for strength training and music for the elipti-hell machine. And there are songs that I will listen to on repeat until every ounce of pain has been expunged. And while I find peace in the bands I discover and love, there’s also music that makes my ears bleed – and gets under my skin like a festering splinter that I can’t wait to be rid of. Like when we went on the dinner cruise in DC, and the music they played on the observation deck made me want to leap into the Potomac or shoot out the speakers, or both – music can indeed make me miserable. Or it can make me laugh, like the song Bunnies by Pansy Division. (Go ahead and download that one) And for those who received them as holiday gifts – there are my impressive holiday songs collection, which have had some gems on them. It’s not just music, it’s part of who I am.

Music was the reason I was willing to put off chemo for two months so I could go to shows and festivals and see the bands I love. And while I made it the shows that mattered most to me, we all know how difficult the kidneys and bladder made following through on a lot of that was. In fact, going to shows made me fight a little harder to stay healthy so I could go. And it gives me a connection with Andy, that we enjoy a lot of the same music gives us something we can do together. In fact, my Christmas present is going to Chicago for the War On Christmas shows in December. Part of my “things I still need to do list” includes seeing bands I’ve always wanted to see live, which is a pretty short list these days, but there are still a few I haven’t seen.

Well now that I spilled all of that out there, it’s time for another round of pills. I’m still having pain, but it’s getting better – I will probably need my dressing changed in the morning – the doctor said that my kidney will seal itself, but there may be some discharge for a few days. I am allowed to swim and take baths again – they said 2 days, but I’ll wait a little longer, like when the hole is actually closed, and I don’t need a bandage on my back. It’s really the tape tugging at my skin that causes the most pain – there are scars around my back where the tape tore away my skin just like it did on my thigh. And it itches. But it’s almost completely over and I am so thrilled that I can’t even stand it. I rolled around on the bed just for fun, because nothing was tugging and pulling at my skin and kidney for the first time in over two months. I could literally feel the stress slide off after I got in the car to come home. I can deal with cancer, and I know at some point these things might have to be a part of my life n the months to come, but they don’t need to be here now. I just want to be able to do things and go places now while I can, without these encumbrances. Not that I minded taking the punk rock stroller to the shows, but I’d much rather be free of the attachments. No, that’s a lie, I did mind taking it, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

So now that my pain pills are slowly making their way into my bloodstream, I am ready to head to bed so that I can get up and get things done tomorrow, at least some laundry and maybe making dinner. We’ve been eating a lot of fast food, food other people have so kindly made for us, and frozen food. I haven’t had the energy to cook, but I’m hungry for jerk chicken and mashed potatoes and corn, and I know Andy would be grateful for his mother’s cooking again. The ladies arrive from CA here in Shenandoah on Friday, and Saturday morning we are going to Shady Maple for breakfast (and for the gift shop so I can get a new toy). I am so excited to see them all and spend time with them. And I am very thrilled to see all my other friend at the benefit on Saturday, and to score some of the good food that will be there, especially the stuff Lisa’s making, because that woman can cook. Best breaded chicken ever. My only hope is that my dad doesn’t over do the wine and drag up every less that optimal decision I ever made in my life. Presently, he’s blaming my circumstances on moving to FL with my much older alcoholic and drug addicted boyfriend when I was 17. That’s a long time and a lot of therapy ago. But that’s my dad. It’s still going to be a good time.

Before I forget, I did get my panda suit. It was very hot. I sat on the porch for over an hour waving at cars, but only 4 people total ever waved back. I scared Andy, Eric and two other people walking by. People showed the panda no love. If I saw a giant panda just sitting and waving on a porch, I would have stopped the car for pictures. Then I let Andy borrow the costume for a show he was going to. The panda body no longer exists any more because he was far too tall for it, and it showed. However, panda’s head is just fine, so I’ll just toss on my new security blanket, my OWTH hoodie, and sit on the porch as punk rock panda, and see if that makes a difference. Now it’s time for bed, and more water because we have to keep the kidney in good shape. Sweetest of dreams, I’ll probably be back after everyone returns to the West coast with pictures and stories to tell. Enjoy these last few warm days. And remember to give lots of hugs and tell people you love them every chance you get. You can’t do either enough. And sorry for the rambling, it’s the medication, I swear.

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