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Profound Insights

And On Mondays, We Get Probed.

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Hi there happy people. I hope you’re happy people. It is Friday after all. That means it’s the weekend, right? I don’t care so much about the weekend anymore since I hardly work these days, but it does mean that people are available to do things, which they typically are not during the week.

So I could tell by the number of new views on my Peckalicious facebook page that people were wondering where the most recent post is. While they share the same name, that page is for shit I make and want to try and sell. When I actually thought I could make a side income from making shit. What I learned is that people want handmade shit for like pennies, unless you claim to be Amish, or “country”neither of which apply to me. So now I just make shit to give people. And beside, having to make things for money kind of kills the joy for me. I do it because I like to; money is nice, but I like the creative process.

If you are a facebook friend, you got the condensed version of the Dr. visit on Monday. I get tired of typing it out again and again, so I usually send a group message after my visit and post a synopsis on Facebook. Sometimes it just seems like it’s redundant – things don’t change much, or there’s waiting for things to change. But before I continue, I’d like to make a request or perhaps, just an comment, to people who frequent doctor’s offices, and particularly those who are only there for a damn blood test: YOU DON’T NEED AN ENTOURAGE. Really, unless this is your first blood test ever, you don’t need to bring your whole family. Even if it is, you don’t need more than one person to hold your hand. And pay attention to the instructions at check in. Just because you didn’t listen to the helpful staff who told you what to do with your purple or yellow folder because you were talking to YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE, doesn’t mean that because you sat there with it for an hour and now you realize you were supposed to put it in the bin so they know you are here, that the world should stop and you should be called next. Also, to all the fucking whiners in the waiting room. You have cancer. You are here to see the Dr. Threatening to leave because your name was not called in the 10 minutes since you sat down, (with YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE) is gonna hurt no one but you. You should be grateful you have time to wait. I know I would personally prefer being at home on the couch with my medication, but hey, you drove here, you parked the car, and came inside, commit. I’ve rarely been to a Dr. where I have been seen on time. The nature of medicine itself does not cooperate with linear time. Bring your happy face with you. And if you are in a hurry because you made other plans (with YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE), then you can cancel the plans, or the reschedule that visit. You and YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE took up seven seats in this waiting room. I have to sit out in the hall on a bench, with a sweet grandma and her grandbaby (this is sort of a blessing because the baby is muffling your bitching and moaning). I’m not complaining. I brought a book, and my phone to listen to podcasts. There’s a damn refrigerator with drinks for those of us with cancer. Get a fucking cranberry juice and shut the fuck up. I’d like to clarify that it is usually one or two people complaining, not a large number, but they always have a FUCKING ENTOURAGE and they are always loud. You know this waiting room is small, and there is limited space, but please, make sure that you and your FUCKING ENTOURAGE spread out as much as possible. AND WHATEVER YOU DO, PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU AND YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE STOP DEAD RANDOMLY IN FRONT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE WALKING BEHIND YOU. Here’s a tip – if you are just there for a blood test, try showing up in the morning. Early. BEFORE YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE GETS UP.

My appointment was at 2. That’s “the get here on time” time. The appointment is really at 2:15PM. I am feeling week and tired, but am having a lovely conversation with the sweet grandma I met who was also a patient of Dr. K, and was scheduled for 2:30. Her grandbaby kept us all amused. I had enjoyed a brownie on my way to the Dr. so I was rather mellow, which I should bring for the whiners and their FUCKING ENTOURAGES, come to think of it. I was finally called around 3:05, which was pretty good for Dr. K, because unless you are one of the first three appointments for the day, you typically wait. No med students today. Just the nurse, Anne, and the Dr. I have no fever, I am not depressed or suicidal, and my blood pressure after a few moments of meditation, is a sweet 124/83. Dr. K and Anne come in, and I tell him about the continued bleeding and my exhaustion and blood craving. I’m not having any pain. He’s super-stoked when I tell him I’ve been off the opiates since Christmas Eve. My herbal medication does that job, although I’d rather have a brownie or some tincture. Dr. K says he’s pretty sure that the pufferfish exploding and continuing to drain is a good thing at present – at least it’s not crushing anything and forcing the intrusion of tubes into my body. I think Dr. K is trying to impress upon me that my experience with tentacles is not forever over because then he starts talking about the possibility of a fistula pushing into my bladder and then requiring double nephrostomies. I remind him that it’s quality over quantity and I’m on a no-invasive-tubes mission. What’s the point of being housebound and miserable in order to extend your life a couple or three months? Better to burn out like a fucking comet. This should come as no surprise is you know me well, even if it makes you uncomfortable. There’s a huge difference between living life and existing.

Anyway, I tell him I want to go to Ireland in April, and I need to know if that’s a reasonable expectation or should I put things in motion sooner, and Dr. K says he thinks it’s reasonable and he’ll work with my treatment to help it happen. It still doesn’t mean I am getting some delicious rejuvenating blood. He says we’ll wait another month and see how the chemo pills have worked, and then I get to have another thrilling CT scan and then we’ll talk about what’s next. My next appointment is February 1st. It’s almost like the pufferfish will be pelvic groundhog, letting us know if there will be six more weeks of bleeding. It’s not even like a period, it’s so random and weird. There’ll be hours of nothing and then it’s like the tide’s coming in. He asks how many pads a day…I guess at 4, but then when I get home, I realize it’s more like 6. Oh wait, I forgot to do my “THIS IS GROSS” warning. Oh well, suck it up ponies. Anyway, we chat and he says we should probably do an exam, considering there’s a hole in my vagina that spewing internal muck and we should make sure it’s not become a disaster area. I agree as much as I hate the probing. I really do. If you ever get cancer, which I sincerely hope you don’t, wish that it’s in your toes or left pinkie, or ear. This internal examination nonsense never becomes an enjoyable part of the visit. I know that some guys think that we ladies enjoy having things in our vaginas, no matter what that might be, but no. We don’t. Especially not while at the gyno. After we have agreed, he and Anne leave so I can get undressed.

I do what I need to, and notice there has been no bleeding since I took a shower at like 10am. Odd. I hop up on the table (when will a woman doctor design a more exam friendly table? There’s nothing remotely comfortable or relaxing about it.) At least, there are no inspirational quotations on posters that you can stare at while being probed. However, if anyone at the PSH Cancer Institute powers that be are reading this, a small TV screen featuring the food network, or the ID channel, or even South Park would be far more effective in distracting me. I sit there on the edge of the table, swinging my seriously unshaven legs back and forth, when – well, hello there tidal wave of blood. At least Dr. K can now see what I am talking about. Gross. I keep waiting. I hear Dr. K on a phone somewhere and then hear him in another exam room. It seems likes it’s been a really long time that I’ve been waiting. Did he forget me? Time is always a little skewed when you are fueled by a brownie, and I am sorta ready for a nap. I don’t want to lie down, because that’s just weird, but I am nodding off. Finally, after what seems like 2 hours (it was 20 minutes) Anne comes back and asks if Dr. K came back. I say nope, so we both sit and wait and chat .Finally, Dr. K returns and we get to the business of ramming instruments of torture into my vaginal cavity. He confirms that there is still a hole in the vagina, but again, comments that this could be a positive thing, and, once again is pleased that I do not try to leap off the table in pain while he does his exam. As long as there’s no pain, that’s a good sign. He says that fistula word again, I shush him. He says that there any odor is probably just because it’s old blood. Double gross. But I’ll take it because anything is better than tentacles and pain. If I have to start wearing Depends to deal with this, I’ll take it, because ANYTHING is better than dragging a catheter around all day and having it cause you even more pain. I don’t think Dr. K or anyone can fathom what it felt like to have that fucking tube jammed in my bladder and constantly abraded by the movement of the cyst. Anyway, we wrap up the exam, I get another prescription for oxy, and sent on my way. It’s 4:10pm.

I gave a brief thought to getting Indian food for dinner, but that would mean exiting the warm car to fetch it. Nope, it’s 20 degrees. I’m not getting out of the car until I am home. As I am exiting, I see Alice, the sweet grandma, and she has still not been called back. I give her a fist bump and tell her I hope they call her soon. I was smart and used free valet parking today, even though I always tip, and stand inside while some poor soul freezes getting my car. I hop in, pleased to find that the root beer I purchased earlier is still delightfully cold. Dinner will be Arby’s. It’s on the way home and no need to exit the car. I’m exhausted. I just want medication and sleep but I still gotta pick up the faux beef sandwiches. Finally, I made it home, and the comfort of my couch. And that’s mostly where I am, except when I am in bed, or at work, or out.

Dr. K is always surprised that I continue to try and work. He said he’d be happy to say I can’t but I tell him I need those couple hours of socialization. He’s fine with that if it’s what I want. I was a little concerned that he didn’t want a CT scan right now, but then I realized, what’s the rush? If the cancer is disappearing through the hole in my vagina, that’s a good thing; if things are status quo, we already know that; and if things have gotten worse, there’s not gonna be a lot to do about it, and the knowledge isn’t going to make me feel any better. So I can wait a month. Bad news is that the scan is on the 27th, and the appointment is on the 1st. Five days of knowing what they find, without being able to see the doctor until Monday. I supposed I should be used to that though.

Well that’s all for now people. I am going to work this afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30 if Andy ever returns home with the car, since, of course, I have work and he decided that he needed to get an oil change NOW and oh, by the way, the check engine light is on and he thinks it’s the O2 sensor. That was two hours ago. So I’m gonna grab a little nappy nap and wait. Have a good weekend, and week, and life, and such. Peace!

Update: I was sitting here thinking how pretty sweet my life has been lately, no drama, bills paid, plenty of oil, etc. Then in walks Andy. There’s a cracked tire rod, blah, blah, blah and it’s going to take at least $1000 to fix what they know is wrong, and that’s not including what is the source of the engine light being on.  Car = undriveable. Fucking yay. Well, I’m not dead. That’s a plus. And we didn’t die in a fiery crash when the tire fell off, so that’s good too, I suppose.

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Deep Thoughts (No Pictures)

I am sitting here waiting for my brownie to kick in  – these are some delayed reaction brownies – so I can go to sleep. I can barely get out of bed the last few days, and I just want to sleep sleep sleep, but when I lie down I toss and turn and stress. So I ate a brownie. I ate two the other night, and probably should have only eaten 1/2, because I was all kinds of mushy and floaty. But at least now I know their potency.

Anyway, I just got an email reminding me to update my CV on higheredjobs.com. I almost went to to it, when I realized why do I need to do that? I am not going to be interviewing for new jobs anytime soon. I can barely get my ass into work for 2 hours a day without needing a full day to recover.

The other things that have been on my mind are all time related – can I really expect to go to Ireland in April/May? Or should I get planning to go now? I’m not dying hooked up to tubes in a hospital, so when do I think about quitting my job, cashing in my retirement and starting my drive to the west coast road trip?  What’s going on inside? Am I going to learn tomorrow that I better do what I need to do quickly? I am so fucking scared of having tubes and shit stuck in me and limiting what I can do. And I really started thinking about the dying moments the other day…what’s that going to be like? Will I know what is happening? Will I freak out and plead for more time? I don’t even know if I want anyone there when the time comes…this is what cancer does…it steals your strength, your health, and then fills your mind with what ifs, and lists of what you need to do.

Speaking of which, does anyone have a burn barrel I can come use to get rid of some things? I promise, there are no human remains.

 


‘Twas A Couple Days After Christmas…

Hey there! How was your holiday?

I hesitated on writing this entry because I didn’t want to be a buzz kill, but of course, my self then reminded itself that this is where I go to make the bad go away, and decided I could be happy and sad in one entry and just be done with it. And post pictures. Pictures are always good. And if you don’t want to have any of the sad stuff on you, you just don’t have to read it.

Christmas eve was pretty good. I made crab and shrimp korma. Delicious. Dinner was also okay. I was late, but only because I figured everyone else was going to be late like they were last year. Apparently not. But even when we go there, we couldn’t just get to the business of eating because there needed to be more ice purchased and beer retrieved. We eventually ate, as usual, the prunes, mushroom soup and seafood dishes. Amy put bacon in her shrimp dish she made, not knowing that my family believes that you aren’t supposed to eat meat on Christmas eve. They’re wrong, but I don’t even bother going there anymore because apparently no one but me paid any attention to those Vatican council things in catholic school. Two days of fasting only. Ash Wednesday, Good Friday. Even though I am not longer catholic, or even christian, that shit was drilled in my head by nuns, and will remain a part of my knowledge base forever. Of course, since it was Amy, it was laughed off, but had it been me who dared to bring meat to the Christmas Eve dinner, I would have been banished to eating in the car and ridiculed the rest of the evening. I love you Amy, sneak bacon in every year. So we ate, and then we waited for the nephew(s) and niece to show up for the secret Santa exchange and family photo. After the photo, we are free to leave, but no one leaves until the photo is taken. But I get ahead of myself.

Much of the holiday evening in spent on the back porch because it’s too hot in my dad’s house for anyone to be comfortable for any extended period of time unless you are dressed for summer. I remembered this, and wore shorts and a sleeveless top. Even so, the evening was much more comfortable outside than in, and since my family home is in an alley, it was convenient location for regular medication administration for me. I only had to comment on the racial slurs and reference klan meetings twice. Finally it was time for the exchange. First, we had to debate whether or not we change the way the way we do the exchange (20 minutes) and then another heated discussion about who should go first (10 minutes). Finally, we decided on youngest to oldest. I wanted the box with the sock monkey on it. I didn’t get it. Since I am the oldest child, I went second to last, as only my dad is older than me. I elected not to steal anyone elses’ gift, and picked a box. Here’s where the fun starts. Inside is chick-fil-a cow in a Santa suit in the package that reads promotional item not for resale. I only wish there was video of me saying “oh, it’s a chick-fil-a cow” and then moving it out of the way to see what else was in the box. Tissue paper. Under that, nothing. Nothing taped in the lid. Just a 5in stuffed cow in a Santa suit from a restaurant I won’t eat at because I am opposed to their anti-gay positions. Double insult. Not that I really care all that much about getting a gift, because quite frankly I rarely get things I want, and I really don’t need anything besides an Amazon Fire TV stick, and I am getting that on Friday. But the irony of the situation – I spent all week making sure I met the 25$ minimum and selecting the perfect gift that would be enjoyed by whoever got it. And I got a cow. Oh well. My brother did give me his PSP business card in case I get caught speeding, and a gift certificate for another float in the isolation tank, which is exciting, and I won 25$ on lottery tickets, so it wasn’t a totally bust. Here’s the cow…

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Next was the photo – which didn’t take nearly as long as it usually does – and probably turned out pretty well, although I never get a copy. This year we had new guests in our home, Andy, Buck and Mike C, and they were unfamiliar with the practice that if you are in the house when the photo is being taken you immediately become family and are expected to be in the photo. This added a few extra shots. I stood in the back row next to Jamie, who had his arm around my neck so tightly I thought he was trying to strangle me. I did manage to get my head semi-erect for a couple takes. The rest I just gave in. My neck still hurts. Which one of my brothers is Jamie? He’s not, but Jamie is always included in our family photo, and we don’t even take it until he’s there. He’s my youngest brother’s friend. This year, his new girlfriend joined our family too. Finally it was over and we were permitted to depart.

Andy had told me he wanted to put up the last tree, the one I call the memory tree, and decorate it on Christmas eve, and I agreed. He was planning to go out for a bit, and I told him just to get the tree fluffed and the lights on and we’d finish when he got back. I reminded him to put the top of the tree on before adding the lights. I went next door to hang out with the Rooney’s as usual after returning from Christmas eve dinner, but had to leave early because my body was shutting down from all the activity and said to go lie down. I returned to our abode to see the tree Andy was going to fluff and light looking like someone was trying to tie it up with lights. And none at the top, because the lights went on before the top of the tree. I started to take them off, but when I found they were wound around the tree like a yo-yo, I decided that I’d wait for Andy to to come home and take them off. And I fell asleep.

Lo around 2am, Andy came home. I asked him to take the lights off the tree. He was pissed because he was proud of the job he had done. I insisted and he started to spin the tree around like the head of Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I was afraid the trunk of the tree would split because it was squealing like a piggy. Finally the lights were off and I told him to go to bed, and I would fix the tree and the lights, and we’d decorate in the morning. So at 4:45 am, I returned to bed, the tree properly lighted and starred and fluffed. Around 8, Andy came to ask if we could open presents. I said when the tree was decorated. But I wasn’t getting up yet, so it would wait. I relented about 10, we decorated the tree and proceeded to presents. Andy was very excited to give me mine. My first two were an adapter and USB cord. The third was an iPad mini. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. I turned it on and it went nuts. We tried to hard reset it and nope, not working. So day two of gifts went afoul. Although Andy was thrilled with everything Santa brought him. Especially his new turntable. He was very happy. And he told me I outdid myself with decorating. I returned to bed – the pork for the enchiladas was cooking and I was exhausted. In fact, I spent almost all of Christmas asleep. My body was not allowing movement even if I wanted to. Which was okay – we got Chinese and just chilled. It was a perfectly happy Christmas No stress, no drama, just quiet, and my son.

Here’s the pictures of some of the highlights of the house where Christmas threw up. Andy and I got these really cool painted cinnamon ornaments from a friend of his. They are awesome. I didn’t include the white tree because I couldn’t get a good picture yet.

So that’s the good. Then there’s the sad – like when you realize that you don’t need to go after Christmas shopping because you are not expected to be here next Christmas, so don’t go investing in Christmas displays for next year, because it just might not be happening. I don’t want to say that I have given up hope on that, because I haven’t, and I want to say I believe in my gut that I’ll have another Christmas, it just seems silly to plan a year away at this point. It’s just a reality I face. The days go by and I wonder if this is the last time I will do this or that and the worst is wondering how Andy will get by without me around and I am just so glad I was able to give him this amazing Christmas. Even though I suck and didn’t get around to making Christmas cookies, but there’s still time for that, they’ll just be new years cookies. And today, I found out that a long time friend’s sister who was dealing with cancer, passed away right before Christmas. And I had just sent her a Christmas card, and I thought how sad it is that my card didn’t get to her before she passed, and how difficult this must be for my friend, who was very close with her sister. And I think about them both having to face this nightmare and how it takes and takes and takes and what a mind fuck it is. And I think of all the platitudes people must be saying to my friend, how she put up a good fight, and she was strong (which I am sure she was) but the bottom line is that no one should even have to deal with this. You shouldn’t have to be a “fighter” or a “survivor”- as if she had any control over the rouge cells that attacked her body. Cancer really sucks. It robs the world of some very bright lights.

My next doctor appointment is on Monday. I am nervous about what is next. My biggest fear is not pain or chemo or sickness, but having tubes stuck in me again and having my ability to go about life relatively normally stolen. I can’t do that again. It really affected me mentally and physically. I am still trying to get back to “normal” – which is hard since I bleed all the time – and am once again adopting that luxurious pallor of the undead. The bleeding has me a mite unnerved, but again, I will take it over tubes any day of the week. I am just hoping that when I get sent to get scanned again that things are looking better than ever, and there’s a little mer-person spotted in there with trident stuck into the pufferfish. I am nauseous most of the time now, from the stupid chemo pills, but I have managed to pack on 10lbs over the last week from what I believe was eating chocolate and pizza in my sleep.

Wow, all that to say I was bummed thinking about how there may not be another Christmas in my future. I guess sometimes you have to take the long way there. Now it’s time for another bad movie on Netflix, and some more medicine and sweet, sweet sleep. I won’t be back until the new year, I have things to do. Now go on, and go hug your people tight. And say I love you – a lot. Happy New Year, for those who believe in that sort of thing. Me, I never understood why we get so super drunk and happy because we’re one year closer to death – and this opinion was formulated long before I ever was diagnosed with the c-monster. Dream sweet dreams.

Edit: You may or may not know that I usually come back a day or two after I post these entries and correct spelling, words I never completed and grammar. I am never going to be a proofreader. What I did notice is that these pictures do absolutely no justice to the real magic of the house where Christmas puked. Maybe I’ll take video tonight. I really is a magical thing.

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The War on Christmas Road Trip (with PICTURES!)

Wow, I realized that this last month I have sucked at actually completing a blog post and then posting it. Again, I’ve been writing them, or perhaps I should say, I start writing them, get in the flow, getting my words on, and then I start to feel nauseated and have to get the medical equipment and address it. Then, as those of you who are familiar with the medication are well aware, one of three things happen:

  1. I continue writing but by the time I get to the end, I’ve rambled on for seven pages and feel that I need to split it up into sensible chunks before I can post it. (rare)
  2. I say, gee, I just need a little nap now, and I’ll finish it in in a hour. And then two days later, I have to recover said document and save it because I never titled it, and then the computer froze. It’s still not done. (happens pretty regularly)
  3. I see something shiny or flashing on the internet, or decide I need to make some Christmas doo-dad, and then fall down a fuzzy rabbit hole in which I learn that baby reindeer start growing antlers almost immediately after being born. Oh wait, I haven’t watched https://reindeercam.com/ today. (and off I go to watch reindeer – happens all the time) (I just went to the interwebs to get the URL for reindeer cam and found out I have been eating pancakes all wrong, you should make a hole in the middle of the stack and pour syrup in there. Wow. Yes, I’m medicated)

And as you can see, the likelihood that I ever finish what I was doing becomes very small, and I promise to do it tomorrow, just like I do with letters, bills, unanswered text messages and laundry. But not today my faithful readers, I will complete this. I have sworn not to do anymore origami Christmas wreaths for my Christmas card until I write this entry and post it with the photo collages I spent hours creating this morning. (do you want an origami Christmas wreath ornament, or a Christmas card? Because I am so on that this year – send me your address). That is not to say that I have not completed some things. The house is well decorated for Christmas, although not quite finished. Fear not, the pictures of the house where Christmas threw up will eventually make their way to the blog and social media. As will the entry about what happened at the Dr. on Monday in all its gross and graphic detail, but I am here with a purpose today. So with no further delay.

Well the plan was to leave at 3am. Which was actually 5am. I cannot sleep in the car no matter how medicated I am, and no matter how tired. So Andy drove first for a while, and then I drove through the visual wasteland of Ohio and the flatness of Indiana. Andy took over and drove the rest of the way when we got to Illinois. I let him drive in cities because he thinks he’s better at it than me. It’s one of those battles I don’t care to fight. We got to the hotel earlier for check in because I forgot the time change, so we checked in at 2ish, and I finally got to nap. We ordered delicious Thai food, watched criminal minds and were asleep by 9. The hotel was very very nice, amazing beds, and pillows and quiet and right next to Lake Michigan. I would be amiss in not noting that while we were driving, I saw two hawks. I may or may not have talked about hawks and what they mean to me, but I was not pleased to see them because they always are a harbinger of change for me, and it’s never initially good. Saw a hawk, got laid off, saw a hawk, find out my cancer is back, see a hawk, overdraw my account. There’s a pattern. I know change is always ultimately good, but I still hate to see them, and this time, one of those motherfuckers flew straight at the windshield like that damn pigeon did on our 2013 Mother’s Day road trip to the beach. Except it didn’t actually hit the windshield. Anyway, I was on alert. I know that is sounds superstitious, and I typically don’t get all wound up by those things, but hawks freak me out. I can’t really explain it.

Day two started with Andy deciding to let me know he was going out to wander the city at 5am. Have fun honey. Bring me breakfast. I’m still sleeping. Off he went, and I slept and slept and then he came back by nine-ish with some lukewarm cocoa. And no breakfast, so I ate leftover curry. Then I decided to go for a swim in the hotel pool. It was a lap pool with no children in it so it was heavenly. I actually swam at least ten laps and felt amazing. I knew I would pay for this later, but hell, that’s what the medication is for. Then I even enjoyed the sauna. Since we were planning to go to the aquarium, I woke the sleeping Andy and we headed to the see the fishes. Curiously, Chicago’s aquarium and museum have odd admission prices. Like the GA admission to the aquarium is only $8, but if you want to see the sharks, and the stingrays, and the penguins and something else, it goes up to $30.95. Having seen sharks, penguins and rays, we elected to get the $8 tickets, which was the wise choice, because the penguin exhibit was under construction, the rays were closed for the winter and well, I’ve see sharks. It was a cute little aquarium without all the bells and whistles of the special features and had many penny-flattening machines. The Amazon exhibit was exceptionally humid and it started to make me feel a little sick so I was sitting down a lot during a visit. I was only able to take pictures in the very well lit places so I think I took three. Then I ordered Andy about to take more since his phone camera doesn’t suck the way mine does. We saw monkey and frogs and birds, as well as fish. I must say my favorite were all the big fish that had funny fish faces, the lumpfish, and the giant snapping turtle. And I gave every pufferfish I saw the finger and told them I hate their fucking presence everywhere.

We headed back to the hotel after buying expensive souvenirs, magnets and the photo package of the photo they take of you when you enter the aquarium. It was time to get ready for The Lawrence Arms First Annual War on Christmas show, and I needed a nap and a shower. This is where the not so good changes from the hawk comes in, and I am about to get graphic, so if that bugs you, STOP HERE. You can resume at the word RESUME. Anyway, I had to pee before I took my shower, and as you may or may not know, the pufferfish that lives inside me has been growing back to it’s original size after the last draining. It really started to cause issues the last week before leaving and all I wanted to do was have my trip to Chicago and I swore I would call the Dr. when we got back. Especially since I did not want to end up in the ER with tubes. Wednesday night, I was having some issues with being able to pee, and was worried, but that worry was gone by Thursday evening. Not only could I pee as I can when the cyst was drained, there were waves of fluid leaving my body. I was like, hell I didn’t drink that much water. When it finally stopped, I went to flush and realized is was a weird bloody mucus fluid, just like they drain out of my cyst, but then (GETTING EVEN GROSSER HERE) I also have had the gift of hemorrhoids since I was pregnant with Andy, and they occasionally burst, so I thought maybe that was it too. Whatever, I had a show to go to. I wasn’t saying anything to Andy, and was just gonna hope it was a fluke. I padded up just in case, and off we went. Whatever it was, could wait until after the show, unless I began hemorrhaging, and then we’d have to reassess the rate of blood loss to see if it could wait until after Off With Their Heads’ set. You may RESUME HERE.

So we got in the car and headed to the Double Door. We found it no problem. We should have taken Uber or public transportation, but then we FINALLY found a parking space just an ½ block away. Of course we started walking in the wrong direction and then realized that the one minute walk had turned into a ten minute walk, and I turned to my trusty GPS to get there on foot. The will call line was literally down the block. And we had to wait. I was beginning to get nervous because it was close to the time of OWTH set and I was like, we did not just drive 10 hours to miss this. We got in at the nick of time, just before they took the stage. The first person I saw was Tommy at the OWTH merch table and after an exchange of hugs and such, he told me to stand behind the table for the set, because he was going down front, and I would have a great view from where I was. And I did. And I did the best ever job of selling nothing for OWTH for their entire set. Then Tommy came back and took over, and introduced me to his friend Sarah who then because the merch girl while Tommy socialized. And I must say she did an excellent job, particularly with the complicated notebook sales recording system.

OWTH were great, it was very festive set, and as always, amazing. During the break, Ranae suddenly appeared and we too exchanged hugs and stuff and snuck away downstairs to talk during part of the Lawrence Arms set. We decided that Brendan Kelly looks like a golden retriever with his bandana around his neck and you just want to scratch him under his chin. I drank cranberry juice straight, as I am still protecting the kidney from any more tubes, and asked Ranae what hospital I should go to if I needed one. The rest of the time, I pretended to be perfectly fine. Ranae and I had a great time chatting, and hanging out, and of course I got to see Ryan, Nice Jon, Robbie and Ryan Fisher too and get hugs. I can’t believe I used to not be a hugger. They were going to go across the street after the show, and as much as I wanted to go too, I was just wiped out and more than a little nervous about the whole blood thing. And my body has a way of just shutting down when it has had enough. I get cramps in my legs, a pain in my lower abdomen, and cramps in my sides. It’s like it just says stop. And it was saying stop. So I had Andy take me home – I told him to go back and hang if he wanted to, but he worries and stayed with me. I had a medicinal mixture when I went back to the hotel and passed into a coma. At least I didn’t see anymore blood.

No more blood in the morning. I went for another swim/sauna deal, while Andy when and got breakfast – yummo. Challah bread french toast and home-fries with ham, swiss, and mushrooms. He ate many plates of eggs and potatoes with chorizo and cheese. I then took a nap and we watched Christmas specials like Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and The Year Without A Santa Claus before we got ready to go to the zoo. Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is free, and has Zoo Lights. Again, my camera pictures suck so what you’ll see here is my shitty pictures. It was beautiful. And and awesome zoo with no major hills. It has tigers. And lions. They gave out cool 3d glasses that turned the lights into little elves’ heads. I wished I was medicated. Because not only were the glasses cool, so were the lights on their own. We had a great walk and the lights were amazing. Even Santa was there. Again, an ridiculous amount of money was spent of souvenirs. And we headed to the Big Bus Tour Holiday Express which is a nighttime tour of Chicago’s Christmas-y attractions. We started at the Chicago Hershey’s Chocolate World, which is not even close to the well-loved Hershey attraction. We waited and waited for the bus, as it was really late, and Andy was being a cranky baby because he ate way too much food and had a belly ache and was being a buzz-kill Finally the bus came and the bus driver was like, no you have to go get a paper ticket before you can get on, and I was like for real? We just waited for you for 40 minutes (they are supposed to be on a 10-20 minute cycle) and now you want me to walk to another stop and wait for you there? Do you see this miserable 20 something with me? Do you think I want to tell him he has to walk somewhere? So she said stay on the bus, and I’ll take you to the scanner stop. Yay! A small win. And I’m still not bleeding. Maybe things are fine.

We ride up in the top part of the bus, and enjoy the lights and what not, and decide to check out the Christkindlmart which had some beautiful things, but you could not get close to them because PEOPLE. It was a mob scene. I am not a big fan of people or crowds to begin with and this place was insane. Any food stand had a line 100 people deep. You could barely walk. Andy wanted hot apple cider and got in line for it. I managed to walk the entire market, even pausing to look at a few things, and by the time I got back to the hot apple cider stand, Andy was just being served. We took a sip or two of cider and headed back to catch the bus. We rode it to the rest of the stops, and then returned to Chocolate World, got our free hot chocolates, bought some cookies and headed back to the hotel. Again, my body was letting me know it had enough. And now the blood was back. I ate a cookie, drank a ton of water and went to bed. I wasn’t bleeding enough for it to be an emergency, but enough to be annoying.

On Saturday, I tried to get together with Sarah and Christy for breakfast or something but Sarah had already left to the airport and I wasn’t feeling very good, so we just packed up our shit (or most of it, forgetting my toothpaste and brush, all the leftover food, beers, and most importantly, the medication in the safe, at the hotel) We were going to go to the museum. Which like the aquarium has a GA price and then all the really cool exhibits are extra. First we were going to try to hit the Christkindlmart again, but when we drove by it was already a mob scene and NOT EVEN OPEN yet. Scratch that. Onto the museum. By this time, we decided we would just get out and take pictures of the cool Chinese zodiac sculptures and then get a Chicago hot dog, take a picture of outside of the museum and head home because I don’t feel my best, and well, blood. And that’s what we did. We also planned to stop to see some of Andy’s fellow Milts, Christina and Eric and their little guy Zane outside of Indianapolis. This is when I discovered that Jack in the Box exists in Indiana. Next to seeing OWTH and hanging out with Ranae, this was the best part of the trip. I was able to get and devour the unidentifiable flavors of the Jack in the Box tacos and egg rolls, bringing back California memories of looking for some place to get food after being out most of the night and heading home. Still tastes the same.

We stopped at Christina’s and were going to stay a couple of hours, but that’s when I really started to bleed heavily, so since I didn’t have enough supplies and I was afraid to sit down anywhere, we had to leave early. Andy is such a trooper and ran in Target to get pads for me; I am thinking maybe we should go to an ER, but really, I just want to get home, and if we have to drive straight through to Hershey to the ER, then that is what we’ll do. I tell Andy we need to stop at the first rest area because I need to change clothes and when we do, it’s virtually impossible to discreetly make it to the restroom to change when you’re drenched in blood. But I do, and things stay heavy for a while, and then slowly taper off. Andy and I switched driving around 11 and I drove through Ohio and into PA. When we got to PA, I started getting really tired, and would stop every 50 miles because I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but I also wanted to get home ASAP so I can decided what I need to do next. As I mentioned, I can’t sleep in the car, no matter how tired I am, so every time I stop, I end up just sitting there with my eyes wide open. Finally I woke up and Andy and had him drive the final 150 miles home. We got home around five, and the bleeding seemed to have stopped. I slept the sleep of the dead for at least 5 hours.

I’m gonna end this here, because it’s pretty long, and I can pick up with the call to the hospital when I tell the tale of the Dr. visit. No matter how much blood I lost, it was entirely worth it to have had this adventure. I can’t even put into words what it means to be able to do this stuff with Andy and make memories of good times for us. It was a fabulous time, and I would do it all over, even with the bloodshed, again because it was so fun. With that said, and it being Christmas time, do fun stuff with the people you love – buying shit doesn’t mean nearly as much as having adventures. Andy and I never really had “vacations” when he was growing up, and I regret that now – not that we didn’t go on day trips and stuff – but I wish we had taken more vacations, had more adventures. So take my advice and have as many adventures as you can. And now that I am done this entry, I can resume writing a whimsical holiday poem as is my tradition. Enjoy your evenings, lovelies, and don’t forget I still didn’t get a real puppy yet, or a miniature pony, so please let Santa know. I do have my other puppy sitting right here though, but he doesn’t like to go on walks. And I am always available for cookie tasting. Now, be off with ye…

And excuse grammar and such errors. I really don’t feel well today and I am staying medicated, so I can’t properly proof-read today.

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When The Day Is Just Right

When Andy was 2, I made thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us. I spread a sheet out on the floor in our dining room, I fixed our plates, and cut up his food. We sat together on that sheet and had a thanksgiving picnic which rapidly turned into a food fight. We laughed and laughed squishing cranberry sauce on each other’s head and spitting peas. Somewhere I have pictures of Andy after the food fight – he’s wearing a striped shirt and denim pants. I can still picture every moment of that dinner today.

I cooked Thanksgiving dinner today. The last time I did was in 2011. Since then, I’ve been too sick or depressed or both to do it. I just didn’t have the strength to put the whole show together. I mean, I’ve made a turkey or reasonable facsimile once or twice, and we’ve eaten with other people or gone out. But I did not put out the full spread for four years. So today, we had turkey, ham, kielbasa, homemade handwhipped instant mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans sauteed with bacon, biscuits, stuffing, pineapple-dijon sauce and for dessert – lemon pumpkin crunch cake with real whipped cream. I ate a little, because today is back on the Tamoxifen. It was even almost all ready at one time. It was delicious, no beyond delicious, scrumptious. I’m still picking at what I wasn’t able to eat every now and then because I don’t want to waste it.

That’s not what I will remember most about today – I’ll remember how excited Andy was when he saw how much I really did cook today. Things he’s loved his whole life. And the sheer joy on his face when he was eating, how he went back for seconds, then sat with me watching tv and belching. We haven’t had a lot of those moments in the last few years. I wanted to make it a thanksgiving he would remember – we haven’t even so much as snarled at each other all day – it’s just been a good, happy, satisfying day. We’re still lounging around in pajamas, napping on and off. It’s a good day. A just right day. Every day should be a just right day. But I am grateful for just having this one. More than you can know.

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An Overdue Thank You for Thanksgiving and Beyond

I’ve written a bunch of blog entries since the last time I posted. I just didn’t want to post them until I could formally (or actually I guess it’s informally) thank everyone who worked together and attended the benefit held for me on November 7th. It was beyond amazing, the food was fabulous, the decorations were fantastic, seeing so many people that I love come out to support me, it was beyond incredible. And can we talk about the donations? From the amazing baskets put together and donated by friends at work, and all the other fabulous baskets donated by friends and businesses (there were about 80!!) as well as all the businesses who made donations either in prizes or food – to the amazing friends who not only organized this “shin dig” as my dad was calling it, but also spent the time cooking, setting up and cleaning up, soliciting donations, putting up with my demands, and can we say boarding planes and flying three thousand miles to either sleep on my couches or in our fine local establishments? And seeing some other friends who I have not seen or hugged in months or years. And my brothers. You all conspired to give me a fantastic day, and I can never thank you enough. I was astounded by how many people came out. I know I say it a lot, but there aren’t words (or words that will be allowed usage by the chemo brain) to properly say thank you. It was a great time, and even if not a single dime was raised, it was enough to just be there with so many people I love. That’s what really mattered. (And that no nuns were offended by my shirt)

This is my best attempt to thank those who organized and donated their time and/or resources, the businesses that made donations, and everyone who helped set up and clean up and cook and bake and just make the day wonderful. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE if I missed someone, either comment here on the blog or send me a text or email. I will fix it. And feel free to print this out or refer people with a link who don’t have facebook or twitter to read it for themselves. I am hoping to put a thank you in the paper, because let’s be honest, if I were to send thank you cards, Andy would find them in a stack to be mailed about six months after I’m dead, because in order to send a thank you card, I would have to make it (yes, I know they sell them, but this is me we’re talking about) then I would go full tilt on card making until I had half of them done, and then lose interest or get sick and then I would say, I’ll do it tomorrow and then it’s May and people think I am an ungrateful bitch because I didn’t send a thank you card, but really I will still be working on them. So without further ado…

First and foremost, without these people, the benefit would never have happened: Lori, Lisa R, Anne S, Heidi E, Michelle G, Lisa S, my brother Stanley, KY, Mary B, Gina, Renee, and B aka Mary Bridget. (And Louise, and of course, Erin) Also thank you to the adult and minor children who were volunteered by their parents to help out. Thank you for all of the time you put into this, and being my friends. More for being my friends, because without your support, I would not have survived this journey as well as I have for so long. You may not think you did anything major, but just knowing you are there means the world.

Next, I need to thank my amazing friends at work, too many to name here. If you could only have seen the baskets they donated for the basket auction – they blew me away – and probably raised a good chunk of change. Special thanks KY, Sue Y, and Patti M, for also making individual basket donations as well. Every unit in my office created a basket by their unit and they were incredible. The generosity didn’t end there – my CYS friends also donated drinks, made food, bought paper products, had fund raisers, and just gave moral support.

Major thanks to the California girls, Debbie, Jeanne, Catherine, Cindy and Dianne (and her boy toy) for braving TSA and flying east during the beginning of fall/winter hell. We fell back into conversation like the decade or more since I’ve seen some of you was never there. I am sorry I was still too weak to be a better hostess, but I think pizza buffet night was pretty awesome. I missed our easy conversation and endless laughter. And to my beloved hummingbird friend, and her awesome mother, thank you for choosing to stay at Chateau Pecky, some of the most curious accommodations you will ever experience – where lights turn on in the middle of the night for no real reason, and just as you fall asleep the furnace kicks on. It was a delight having you as guests in my home. I’ll get some more cancer if it means you girls will visit again. And thank you Ashley, my shark sister, and Roy for making the long journey to the ‘hood to hang out with us as did my wonderful cousin, Ginny. Sharky it made my day to see you. And to Joe, Amanda, Danny, Tom, and especially my surprise guest, Stormy, thank you too, for making the trip – you will always be like my very own children and I was glad to see all of you there. You always make me smile.

And Andy – thank you. For putting up with my idiosyncrasies, my whining, and for your diligent cleaning even after I freaked out. You know you bear the brunt of my moodiness, and I am sorry, but thank you for your help in all of this.

And thank you Stanley for the awesome birthday cake. It was delicious.

And thank you Lori and Denise for your part in making me able to allow people in my home again.

Now for the list of donors and businesses:

I tried to put hyperlinks for the people/businesses that I could – please give them a click if you can, and if you are local – please support them as you can. Again, I am so grateful for their generosity.

Additionally, the Shenandoah Knights of Columbus gave me a very generous check, as did the Chris Antz Memorial Fund. Thank you to my long time friend Denise D. who donated Flyers tickets and to Kellie for my Fuck Cancer shirt. Also I received very generous donations from Jeanne and from Catherine’s massage therapist who wants me to go to Ireland as much as Catherine does. Well, ladies, we’re going!

Most of all, thank you to all the people who came to the event, or shopped and dropped. Thank you to ever person who made a donation, whether it was to me directly or to Gina’s Pennies for Pecky drive. I was astounded at the monies that were raised. I can’t thank each of you individually, because frankly, there were so many people at the benefit or who just made donations, that I can’t name them all. But know that whether it was pennies or T-bills, your contributions made a difference, and if you attended, I hope you had a great time, ate a lot of good food and enjoyed the people, I know I did. Until I had to go puke outside. But that was over pretty quickly.

I, of course, have a shit camera on my phone, so I didn’t take pictures. Andy used my dad’s camera, but all of the pictures he took were blurry. So I am posting what I have received from friends, Thank you for taking them. There are pictures of the baskets, me, my cake, my friends, the tables and some of the people who attended. I wish someone got a shot of the food…it was incredible – roast beast, fried chicken, chicken parm, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, scrumptious filling, blind pigeon casserole, polish meatballs, italian meatballs, pierogies, baked ziti, porketta, chicken and dumplings, hot dog, salads, veggie pizza, subs, meat and cheese trays – there was food for days. And then there were the bacon wrapped bang bang meatballs that Michele made especially for me. And banging they were.

Anyway, I started this at 9pm and it’s close to 3am. Wow. I just want to say one last time that I am so grateful for the amazing generosity, love and friendship that was so obvious from everyone involved in, and attending the benefit. I really really really appreciate it, more than you know, and you are making it possible for Andy and I to have experiences that we would otherwise not have if not for your kindness. Yes, the benefit raised enough money for Andy and I to do the only thing I really had on my “things to do before it’s too late list” – go to Ireland. There was also enough money for me to splurge on a 32” flatscreen. (yes, you read that right, 32”), get a new vacuum that does not spew the dust back out as soon as it sucks it in, and to make sure our electricity remains on for many more months.

I only put first names and last initials if necessary to allow people privacy. I’ll be happy to add your last name if you want. Enjoy the photos, and Happy Thanksgiving. I have so much to be grateful for – a roof over my head, the day with my son, food in our fridge, no one blowing up our house and the love of amazing friends. Thank you for everything – the laughs, the texts, the couches to lounge on and watch football at your house, etc. etc. I can’t describe what that kind of support feels like. Love to you all and a pleasant day with the people you love. Stay tuned for several posts in the next few days. Sleep a happy sleep. I’m off to attack the ham before I pass out. I got a turkey to stuff in a few hours.

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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.


And Then It Was November…

Well happy people, it’s my birthday month. It’s also time for seasonal affective disorderr to rear its ugly head. The time of year when everything dies and I feel the urge to sing along with Morrissey and Elliott Smith. But surprisingly, increasing my antidepressant seems to have stayed the invasion of winter blackness for now. I tried taking my new dose for a few days, and it made my head feel all scrambly, so I decided I will alternate every other day, one old pill and one new pill. What, you say? How dare I disregard my physician’s instructions? I do it all the time – I know my body and brain better than any doctor, especially my brain, and it says I’m doing what I need to. Although it also was nice that my new palliative care doctor agreed with my method of medication administration.

Oh yeah, you want to know how that went, right? Surprisingly well. I really like the Dr. – she reminded me very much of my good friend Jess, with her manor and her tone, and I felt very comfortable. She was also very cool about my morbid sense of humor, and asked all the right questions without being intrusive. She is going to get me hooked up with a counselor who I can vent to on a semi-regular basis who will listen without trying to make me feel better and who will not give me “sad face” or pat my fucking arm. This is very comforting. We talked about end of life planning, what I should look for in terms of my disease taking a downturn, living wills, and what would be “my line in the sand” in terms of when I would say enough with treatment, and again, it’s quality over quantity. Her office will be the one I call for pain meds and if any new symptoms come up, or I want to discuss options for care. I got all the paperwork to make Andy my power of attorney and provide a living will – I hesitated to fill it out at first because I wanted to make sure he was okay with making those decisions. I don’t know who else I could trust with them – I don’t know how many people would honor what I want without question. Andy said he’s fine with it. All I know is that I don’t want to be come mean and miserable and trapped in a hospital bed to die. If I have no control like I did when they forced Dana inside and drilled a hole in my kidney, that’s one thing, but if there are options, I want to be in control of when and how I leave this particular life cycle. My biggest fear is to find myself unable to say “turn those fucking machines off’” and being a human vegetable. Okay, my biggest fear is being buried alive with clowns, but that’s my second fear.

I’m feeling better lately. I had a few days of a being a bit out of it after my flu shot. My joints are achy today, but I don’t know if it’s because of the flu shot or because I was cleaning in my lame, not a lot of energy way. I managed to clean a 4′ x 3′ area today, and do a load of laundry. I am getting better at throwing things away. You can’t even begin to understand what it’s like to have to think about holidays in the context of will I even be around to use this next year? Or things that I was saving for one reason or another, I now look at and say there’s really no reason to hang on to this anymore. It’s liberating and sad at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not miserable over it – it’s just thoughts and emotions and they are all just temporary. Just like not that long ago I didn’t even want to be awake, and I just kept reminding myself I only needed to get through today, until the blackness receded and I got my ass out of bed and started moving again. All I am hoping now is that: 1. They pull this tube on Tuesday and 2. That when they pull it I don’t end up in bed for 2 or 3 days like the last torture session. The benefit is on Saturday and I still have some straightening up to do, and jello shots to make. The California girls get here Friday, and then the fun starts. We’re going to Shady Maple on Saturday for breakfast before the benefit because those silly Mennonites don’t work on Sundays and they’re closed. Good times. Maybe this time I can get a stuffed black mamba or maybe a vampire deer for my collection. Hmmm, Paige is getting my scary baby collection after I’m dead, I wonder who have’ll dibs on the stuffed animal predator collection. I know Andy doesn’t really want a stuffed komodo dragon or wild african dog.

I try really hard when I am around people who give me sad face not to talk death. The problem is that it’s constantly on my mind. With that said, it’s not like it’s all doom and gloom and I’ve accepted that outcome as final and non-negotiable. I think anything is possible – I think about my stupid pufferfish every day and visualize it growing smaller and smaller and picture it vanishing. I think about how the human body is an amazing self-healing machine and if it’s meant to be, I’ll be around as long as it’s necessary to learn whatever I was supposed to learn in this life. There are no real certainties with this disease. I mean nothing was worse after cyst drainage – things actually improved with the departure of Dana and the impending tube removal. Yet you don’t ever stop thinking about what is happening in your body and trying to figure out was this something that you brought on yourself, or is it just one of life’s lessons. You start trying to figure out why this is happening to you. It’s such a rollercoaster and right now it’s like I am standing in line for my next go round.

Then there are the multitude of questions – am I doing enough? Should I get a third opinion? Maybe I should stop eating bacon and candy (gasp). More fruits. Veggies. Get back on my tea regimen. While I was checking in at the Cancer Institute the other day, there was a sweet old lady behind me who asked me about my OWTH hoodie – as we started talking we both discovered we were patients of Dr. K and both adored him. We started talking about second opinions and how it felt like we’d be cheating on Dr. K if we got one, but that people around us encouraged us too. She has had ovarian cancer for over 5 years – and it was nice to talk to someone who has a very similar stupid disease. We went our separate ways, she off to do blood work, and me, off to my appointment. I have to say I am not as fond of the new offices as I was of the old. Maybe because there are people with all sorts of cancers in the waiting room of the new offices, and some of them are very clearly very sick, and it reminds me of what is to come. I don’t want to be that person. It makes me uncomfortable. It also makes me glad that Dr. J left Hershey before I found out about the recurrence. I am glad he never needed to know that the cancer was back, and he got to leave thinking I was cancer free. Although I wonder if Dr. K ever mentioned it to him, since they were friends.

I know I am just rambling now. I want so badly to go to sleep but I had a bit of a row with Andy earlier and of course it was right before I was to fall asleep. Naturally, I got fired up and sleep wasn’t going to be coming anytime soon. Of course, he’s upstairs snoring, and I am down here trying to get my brain from firing on all cylinders so I too can snooze. I am both excited and stressed about the benefit on Saturday, and then the next week is my birthday. Of course, I want it to be a fun filled day, because I don’t know if there’ll be another one – in my gut I believe there will be, but I don’t want to wait to celebrate until I find out. I know this all sounds sort of sad, but trust me, I really am in mostly a good headspace right now – these are all just thoughts that I am stuck with every day, and they no longer are good or bad, just are. On the good news front though, Ranae’s mom had a pet scan and has no new cancer and can stop chemo – which is fabulous news. When I told Andy, he said, well let’s hope you’re next. Let’s hope. Today is one of those days where I feel I can face anything that is ahead. I appreciate these days because I know the other days when I feel like the floor has dropped out beneath me rip out my soul. If there’s one thing this fucking miserable disease does, it teaches you that there is a very broad spectrum of emotions and states of mind out there, and it will make you feel each and every one of them.

Okay, finally I feel like I can lie back down and curl up to sleep. So far the evil Tamoxifen is not giving me too much trouble with hot flashes. While I still get them, I believe the increased Effexor is keeping them in check. I still play the blanket game every night, and I still wake up damp with sweat every morning, but it’s not so bad during the day. The one thing I really hate about Tamoxifen is that it make my boobs bigger than they are. I really miss my perfect B cup boobs from the time before Andy. I hate slinging these things around, tucking them in to bras and then releasing them like Kraken when I get home and can take the boob harness off. But again, I should watch what I say before they become a source of pain and anxiety.

And now I must depart for my bed. I’ve finally watched all of Season 3 of Hemlock Grove, which just left me anxious for the next season and now I will have to wait for what seems like forever. So now I just watch reruns of last season’s Vikings and hope the new season starts soon. I’m still making pumpkin hats and making some cards tomorrow, and going to finish coffinizing the babies tomorrow. I’ve only got 8 more to go. I forgot how many I really had. Lots of babies. I did notice that one of my babies is missing her rat and another his bloody cleaver. And when I went to take them out of the storage bin, some of them had taken their shoes off. I wonder what was going on in there. I hope no one tries to steal one of them at the benefit – I’ll have to cut off their hands. I also thought about offering my gargoyle collection for table decorations – I forget how many creepy things I collect. So scurry off now, and enjoy your night or day, or afternoon, as will I – and keep sending the good vibes. And for those of you who send me cards, please continue – I love getting them in the mail, and they always seem to come at a time when I need them most – especially the ones from Jeanne. I’m sure I’ll be back later this week before this benefit to tell you all about how I was brutalized and made to cry by the kidney people when they go in after my tube. This time I’ll be taking the oxycodone with me. Delightful dreams my friend and happy adventures. Peace.


Return to Mania

I once asked to be tested to see if I was bipolar. Alas, I am not. I know it’s not a really cool thing to be, but I was just hoping for a rational explanation for my occasional bursts of mania. Like today. However, I believe that it must be the result of getting sufficient sleep and upping my effexor. I’ve been super weepy the last few weeks, probably because I wasn’t sleeping, and under a lot of physical duress, but the last three nights have been heavenly.

With that little intro, let’s dive right in to the Dr. appt on Monday. The new course of treatment is to alternate Tamoxifen with Megase. We all know how I feel about Tamoxifen, (and why I am procrastinating in taking it today) and Megase promises to be a joy too. So I am two weeks on Tamoxifen, then two weeks on Megase and then switch back. Both are going to fuck with my endocrine system, and Megase has the added bonus of weight gain, which is just what I need. I suppose it’s a decent trade off for a healthy holiday season. I got the vibe from Dr. K that he recommended that I do this treatment first before we consider infusion because it may be the last healthy Christmas I have, so why fuck it up. I’m okay with that. It was a good appointment, and I made it clear that I would prefer in the future to have my cyst drained first before we start shoving tubes into my bladder and kidney. He said his job is to keep my kidney healthy – I said I get that, but please, lets avoid the catheter forever. This visit’s minion med student was cute, she kept apologizing for the fact that cancer and the catheter/nephrostemy killed my plans for Riot Fest and The Fest, and made me miss the Bouncing Souls and Leftover Crack. I told her she was not responsible, but she kept apologizing anyway. Even when I almost ripped her head off when she said “so I understand you refused chemo before, are you willing to consider it now?” and I had to again explain I never refused anything, I simply asked for a delay if it wasn’t going to exacerbate things. Poor child. I was still sleep deprived at the time so I think she thought I was about to tear into her throat and rip out her artery. Anyway, I made her laugh and then she stopped being scared. I go back in January at which time we look at the next step. As for the pufferfish, I know it’s busy attempting to get back to its monster size, I can feel twinges and jabs, but I still have complete use of my bladder, so I’m down with sucking up the pain. And I want this tube out of my back in six days, so I will do what it takes. There were no scans this time, because they will do a scan when they yank the tube – unfortunately they aren’t like the cyst draining radiologists who show me the pictures live and all the goop they drained out. Dr. K found my excitement with seeing all that shit hysterical.

For those of you who have never dealt with chronic pain, you don’t really get what constant pain does to you physically and mentally. It keeps you in a heightened state of stress. Your body never really relaxes. My jaw is constantly clenched. Medicating it only does so much. You find a good position and you don’t want to move so you stay as still as possible. You do a lot of sucking in your breath and hissing. My situation is accented by the hole in my back that is constantly trying to close itself even though the tube is preventing it. And let’s not forget the promise of painful terror that’s on my mind when I think about them trying to remove it. Because they are going to lie to me and say they will give me a local to block the pain. And I will half heartedly believe it until they make me scream and leap of the table. It’s a game we play, the radiologists and I. Let’s hope it’s the last time.

I’m in a pretty good mood. I am super excited that my California friends will be arriving in a little more than a week. I have missed them every day I have been gone. It’s going to be quite the reunion. I’m keeping my drinking to a minimum though, because I want to keep these kidneys healthy and happy so it’s gonna be all about the water for the next two months. I see palliative care today at 1:30. I will probably not be the happiest I could be when I get back, but it’s a gorgeous rainy day, and I am going to enjoy the drive because I love how the rain makes the tree bark black against the last of the fall leaves. And fog, there will be fog. It also means idiot drivers, but I don’t think they take my blood pressure today so there should be no freak outs in the Dr’s office. When I went in on Monday, my initial blood pressure was 177/100. I told them to take it later and it was 138/80, which it was clear that it was high because of idiots on the road. After that, I am going to hit the nice wal-mart in Palmyra today because I need a few things. And I also want to stop and score some whoopie pies for Ranae because apparently someone’s band found the ones she had in the freezer. I have to get some for the California girls too, so they can take them back with them. By the way, according to the scale at the Dr. office, I lost 17 lbs since last month – it was probably a lot more but my two week binge of drinking a half-gallon of chocolate milk a day put some back on. Still that’s a lot of weight – just another 20lb and I’ll weigh what I did when Andy was born. Then only another hundred until I am back at pre-pregnancy weight. I’ve decided it’s time to lose the skinny clothes, because at this point, the likelihood of ever squishing back into my plaid pants is slim. I even went as far as getting garbage bags to put them in. But then that burst of housecleaning energy went out and I decided to blog.

Sorry this is so mundane today, but I’ll take it. I’d like some normal days. I’d like some time when I don’t feel any pressure. And once this tube is out of my fucking back I think I might even schedule a weekend away so I can go swim again in an indoor pool. You have no idea how the knowledge that I may never swim again, or take a bath or enjoy a hot tub was weighing on my mind. It’s one thing when cancer kills your goals and dreams by stealing your time, but it’s a whole other ballgame when it steals the little things too – like walking and swimming. This disease is such a huge mind fuck…the psychological destruction is really overwhelming. When you start to lose options in your life, the things you have left become all that much more important.

One thing I did want to rant about today is more about Andy than me. People tell Andy to be strong. That he has to be strong. He doesn’t. He has to be Andy. I will be strong for me. Andy can be strong for himself if he wants to be, or not. It hurts me that people have made him feel like this is his battle too – he is strong, but he’s also human, and he feels fear and uncertainty like the rest of us. Those are valid emotions and he needs to know it’s okay to have them, and to sometimes be okay with being terrified. Telling either one of us to be strong is bullshit. Both of us need to be able to be who we need to be to get through this shit. Everyone has that right. You get out of bed in the morning and you do what it takes to get through the day. Some days are good and some are bad. A week ago, I didn’t want to even get out of bed. But I said “just get through today.” until I could get out of bed without having to be my own cheerleader. It’s not about strength, it’s about will, and being able to stay in the present moment. I do what I have to. When I decided I no longer need to do it, I won’t. As I have said before, it breaks my heart that my kid isn’t able to enjoy being a 20 something because I am sick. I know the weight of having a parent with cancer, as I lost my mom at 27. I wish I could save him from all of this.

That said it seems to be time for me to hit the shower and head out to Hershey. Maybe I will post again later after the visit or maybe I will be too upset to do it, who knows? But I suppose I need to take that stupid Tamoxifen too. Have a good day monkeys, and give someone you love a hug. Or someone you like. It is #hugitouthumpday after all. Peace.


Sometimes, Life Throws Me a Bone

Tonight was The Menzingers at Union Transfer in Philly (awesome set, nice venue) with Mewithoutyou (great performance) and two other bands…one I missed because they closed a road in Fairmont Park and put up no signs causing mass chaos and delaying us. Got to hang out with Lizz and Blaine and had a mostly painless night. It was a rough day emotionally, so I’ll take the absence of any kind of pain.

Picture it – 2am, there I was, driving home in the rain, Andy passed out in the passenger’s seat. I was listening to the Jealous Sound, enjoying the dark, wet night, singing (or wailing as some might say) when I notice something that looks like a leaf crossing the road. It bounced 3 times before it I realized it was no leaf, it was a frog. A very brave frog who decided to cross the road. She was just a wee thing. But it reminded me that life is tough and all, but it’s got cute little surprises now and again. A brief bit of joy in the night. AND then I saw a second one. Double happiness. Two tough little buggers.

But because I am me, I immediately thought perhaps this is the apocalypse, and it’s raining frogs? Or does it rain blood? I forget.

In other news, I bought a panda suit today. Because life is too short to not have a panda suit. Really I just wanted the head, but apparently all the available panda heads are just ugly. I can’t wait to sit on the porch and wave to cars.

And I’m thankful.

And now, I’m going to crawl into bed, and watch last season of Vikings again. Goodnight pumpkins, Dr. is Monday, so I’ll be back soon.