welcome to the danger zone

Random Rambling

And Now We Have Deatheaters

WARNING: Straight up, this is going to be graphic, probably long and definitely rambly. You might want to get a drink or snack now. Unless you are one of those weak stomach people, then don’t get the snack ’til later. I’m not going to give the warning again, so it would behoove you to skip this one if you don’t like to know all the details of what’s shaking with the pufferfish and the havoc it plays on my female anatomy. Additionally, there may or may not be morbid comments made about my demise, which I found particularly funny, and thus wanted to share. There may be political ranting and more unsolicited opinions which I will impose upon my readers. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED AND CAN CLICK THE X NOW if you want to wait for an entry about ponies or fairy princesses.

But first I must offer a more detailed explanation for prolonged absence from the blogiverse (or rationalize my lack of motivation). See, right now I am sleeping on the couch, or rather I am occupying the couch 24/7. The reason for this is that the pufferfish requires that I sleep no more than two hours at a clip. There’s no way around it – I could not drink a thing for 12 hours and I would still need to get up and hit the bathroom. So because I get no extended sleep, I’m kinda tired. Really. So I take lots of naps. Sleeping on the couch forces me to get exercise by going up and down the steps at least twelve times a day, usually more. I need as much forced exercise as I can get. My new sleep habits and constant tiredness are also not conducive to doing things that require extended focus. So no matter how much I want to write, the whole getting the laptop and opening a file and all that seems like a ridiculous amount of work. Making a fucking hot pocket is a lot of work these days. Andy also got me a iPad for Christmas, so it much more convenient to dilly dally with that in the short wakeful periods than to get the lap top. Problem is that Apache’s Open Office, which is what I use for word processing, has no app for the iPad and I can’t write on the iPad I can do multiple virtual jigsaw puzzles, however, as well as use virtual coloring books. But I can’t write, and since I am leaving these files for Andy to publish if he wants after I am departed. I have to leave him some sort of legacy, because we all know my biggest financial accomplishment is the fact that I will be sticking the US Government with the balance of my student loans when time comes for me to go on disability or drop over. While my vast possession include a cache of craft supplies in case there’s a craftpocalypse, and multiple curious items and rocks, their value is more of a personal nature than monetary. It is at this juncture I will share the delightful conversation my beloved child and I had regarding the future the other morning when he came home from work:

Andy: What’s that?

Me: A record I got from Anxious and Angry and my new flexi.

Andy: You only got one?

Me: It’s not like you don’t get all this stuff when I am dead.

Andy: Speaking of that, suppose you prolong this and you don’t die for say, a long while, which is what I hope for, but, do I have to wait that long to get your vinyl collection?

Me: You can always borrow them, as long as you take care of them, if that’s the case. I’ve always let you borrow records.

Andy: Yeah, I know, but it’s still your stuff, I was just wondering when your stuff is my stuff. Not that I’m in any hurry or anything.

Me: Laughter

I am very glad we can have these refreshing conversations. But back to my excuses for the delays – sorry, I just didn’t have what it took to make the effort. I am feeling better today for the first time in a while. I spent an hour floating in an isolation tank at Art of Floating yesterday. There’s a 1000 pounds of Epsom salts dissolved in the water in the tank, and you just float in silent darkness. It’s like you are on a warm cloud. Very, very relaxing and it’s supposed to be very good for detoxifying your body, because of reverse osmosis where the salts in the water extract the toxins through your skin. Whatever, I just know I was jelly when I was driving home but by the time we got here, I was really sickish, which pissed me off a bit because I wanted to go to work today and I was afraid I would be sick again. But when I woke up today I felt pretty good – albeit tired as usual with the spewing in full swing, but no wretching and gagging. I made it to work, and even went grocery shopping. I am going to try to do the floating once every other week, so hopefully it will make me feel healthier. And while that was a real convoluted way to get to the fact that up until today, I didn’t feel like making the effort to write, and couple that with post holiday seasonal depression, if I lived in a rain forest, there would be moss growing on me. But here I am, full of snark and what not, ready to tell you all about the deatheaters and update you on the current state of my health with full graphically gross details (there would be pictures, but I don’t take my phone in the bathroom because I am afraid it will fall in the toilet). Aren’t you fabulously lucky?

Please also be advised that the new season of Vikings starts tomorrow. I will be unavailable on Thursday nights.

Now, back to this month’s doctors appointment, and it’s prequel, the CT scan. Back in January, I buzzed on down to Hershey for my scan. Now, since I was attacked and brutally tortured with tubes and catheters, when I go in for a scan, we now have to talk about my kidneys before I get the scan due to the contrast die they use. The technician decides to check my blood before giving me the dye, in case they have to decrease it. It only takes her a few minutes to come back and say there’s concerns with kidney function and they will just give me a low dose. This immediate turns on the freak out switch in my brain, because Dr. K constantly reminds me that if my kidneys aren’t 100%, he’s making me go back to urology. I will fight this tooth and nail because those two horrid months of the tubal torture when I had that stupid nephrostemy and catheter made me realize that I am not even considering that being part of my end of life scenario. I’ll get eaten by a shark first. Anyway, panic has set in. So I headed home so I could obsess about how long it would take for them to post the scan results so I could then also obsess about said results until I see the Dr. six days later. It took almost until like 1am to get them posted. And they were perplexing. Pufferfish was smaller, which was not surprising as it was constantly spewing nastiness, but as for tumors on my lungs, the one on the left disappeared, while the one on the right grew .5 cm. Which leads me to believe that these were not really tumors to begin with, but flies on the screen or spilled coffee. The scan says that the pufferfish is showing signs of necrosis and that there is no signs of the cancer spreading. I am familiar with the idea of necrosis as I have a weird interest in flesh eating bacteria as well as having watched an episode of House where House used maggots to eat away dead flesh on a patient. I am not sure that this is a good thing, but the more I read about it in tumors, the more it seemed like a good thing.

My research explained that necrosis in a tumor means the tumor has lost it’s blood supply and is now dying. This is good. The body has two processes for getting rid of dead cells and tissues – the normal one dissolves the dead stuff and it processes it through the blood and liver. And all is good. You can look the name of the process up, I can’t recall it right now. The process in necrosis is a tad different because it’s not a normal cell death, so the body turns the cells in to a blackish bloody pus that is the bane of my vagina right now. I should own stock in feminine hygiene products. What google’s sources of necrotic info didn’t tell me is that sometimes the cells and tissues don’t dissolve – they are just ejected. Cue arrival of the deatheaters. Slipsliding their way through whatever hole is or isn’t there in pufferfish, they slink their way out of my vagina like ghostly black boogers, or sometimes like larva or weird vein like creatures, or even more unnerving, things that look like curdled coke that sometimes happened when you made an ice cream soda. Understandably, the first few big ones make me a little nervous, but it’s not like I was in a lot of pain or anything.

I was feeling kinda positive when I headed to the Dr. on Monday, with my new found knowledge. My blood pressure was perfect, I wasn’t nodding off in the exam room, my appointment was only 45 minutes late, and the waiting room was actually not packed like a tin of whiny sardines. And I was early so I wasn’t even rushing. This semester’s minion came in and I told her about the deatheaters and all the other flotsam and jetsam being flushed out of pufferfish and she took appropriate notes. Then she went off to fetch Dr. K. He came in with my scan results and said “well, your cystic mass is smaller (yes, read the same report) and that we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. He assured me that things falling out of my vagina are okay. Unless it’s like an organ or something. As my cancer has been the exception rather than the rule, he can’t tell me what the pufferfish is going to do – in the best case scenario, it will be devoured by the deatheaters, and it will be purged from my body, and then we will focus on the lung tumors. It could also stop dying, or it could affect the surrounding organs. But it’s a good sign that I am a non-stop fountain of pus. So as Dr. K put it, we’re no worse, so that’s a plus. I know he’s trying not to give me false hope. I’m okay with that, and with the wait and see approach. In the meantime, I get to continue to take the dreaded chemo pills, particularly the hated Tamoxifen. Dr. K seems to think that this change in the activities of pufferfish is a result of the chemo pills, I choose to believe it was the use of herbal medication, turmeric tea and constant visualization that the pufferfish was turning into the black-hole of my pelvis and folding into nothingness. Either way, we”ll just keep visualizing it vanishing, and hope it doesn’t get creative. I don’t have to go back to the Dr. until April and then we’ll decide what’s next. In the meantime, every bathroom trip offers the opportunity to first hand examine rotting flesh as it’s spat from my body. Cancer, people talk about you like there’s nothing positive – hell, I am getting a live anatomy lesson daily. To help you get your head around what a deatheater looks like, picture a piece of spinach in a soup, it’s all feathery and floaty, except deatheaters are black and look like dementors from Harry Potter.

Fortunately, none of this is more painful that having cramps before your period. In fact, all of it’s very much like a period, except for my lack of a uterus and ovaries. It’s amazing the multiple shades, sizes, and behaviors of this decomposing flesh. The worst of it is it’s impact on my liver, which is fighting to filter grossness out of my blood and how exhausted that makes me. But as I told Dr. K, if this is the alternative to being stuck with tubes, and being in pain and having brutal pressure, I’ll take this 1000X.

And now, I am tired. My head feels much lighter. I’m even considering taking down the Christmas decorations, at least outside, this weekend. I’m still not much of social animal, my limit is like 2 hours, but visitors are always welcome at the house where Christmas puked. Social interaction is always welcome. I’m gonna go whip up a hot pocket and then snuggle in for a two hour nap. Send good mojo that the pufferfish is in its last days and that it stops when it’s done eating itself, and continues to push out deatheaters Enjoy your evening and remember the days are getting longer and spring is just little over a month away. Soon you will be blessed my annual obsession about spotting the first robin. Yes, yes, I know you can’t wait. Now be off.

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Hibernation is No Excuse

I am sorry I am ignoring you, my peoples, I suck. Yesterday, it dawned on me that I am in the midst of a postchristmas depression in addition to the new stress on my body from the deatheaters, who will be discussed another day. There are a number of excuses I have made for not writing: I now have an iPad (how you iPhone people lived so long without swipe  I don’t know) so in my waking hours I do virtual jigsaw puzzles, because I am too tired or too bitchy or too depressed or just want to stare at the Christmas trees. Yes, they are still up, and I am still enjoying them so bah. I have also ignored many craft projects, reading,  laundry, showering unless I am going somewhere, and meditation. This is when I realized I am in the midst of a depressive episode. But it not the worst I have ever known, and I am probably through the worst of it. January is a cruel Month, and February is just about waiting for March to get here.

Anyway, I owe my blog  an entry about the last CT scan and subsequent dr visit. It will happen, because the deatheaters are new to the story but the gist of the ct/visit was that the the puffer is smaller now that it drains 24/7 and it is being attacked by deatheaters, which is the positive news.  Also a plus is that the tumor on my left lung vanished. On the downside, the tumor on my right lung is bigger, but with my strong faith in turmeric, positive imagery and the regular use of herbal medication, I believe we can work on that. We are now in a holding pattern – and the prognosis is status quo. No more likely to die than before so that’s a bonus. And while I piss and moan about the constant oozing from the pufferfish, and how it sucks the life out of me not just because my body is stressed by the constant inflammation, as well as whine because I cannot sleep for more than 2 hours at a time, so I sleep for like 90 minutes, get up to make a bathroom trip, medicate, and fall back to sleep for another 90 minutes, the fact is, the alternatives are much worse. But enough whining, I have access to Amazon prime and Hulu and HBO go, so I sleep through a lot of really bad horror movies. And with that I am off…be well friends , and I will look for some motivation.


And On Mondays, We Get Probed.

happy-cancer1

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.


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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Pufferfish’s Christmas Surprise

 

I went through and corrected my grammar and other errors in the light of day…sorry for the mess this was in it’s original state – it was late and I was, well..

It’s really not a surprise anymore, because it was part of yesterday’s blog entry, but it was still a surprise to the Dr. But I get ahead of myself here. Be warned, after I relay the story of my Dr. visit using words like vagina, mucus, and probing, I also get a little raw on what I am feeling. So if today isn’t a good day for you, or you don’t want me to kill your Christmas joy, come back and read this on a raw snowy day in February after listening to too much Morrissey and Elliott Smith and already want to put your head in an oven. (for those of you unfamiliar with that particular method of offing yourself, it requires a gas over with a blown-out pilot light. Not your electric oven. That’s called self-immolation.) Then you can get a real feel for it. But as you’ve been warned in the past, continuing to read this is at your own risk – you were warned. I have to purge the noise inside my head and heart.

So, after the horrible ride home with all the bloodshed, and my long-death-like sleep, Andy woke me up to ask if I called the ER yet – and in true sleepy mother fashion I lashed out like a tiger with a thorn in her paw and told him I’d find my own fucking ride to the ER if I needed to go, and if he needed to be somewhere to just fucking go. I was tired. And I went back to sleep. When I finally felt human again, I crawled from my crypt, er, couch, I called the Careline and relayed my story to the nurse on call for women’s health. At this point, I was back to spotting, and wasn’t really too worried. The nurse however, gave me a stern talking to about how when you start bleeding heavily when you shouldn’t be, you go to the ER. I didn’t even try to argue with her about why I couldn’t go the ER in Indiana or Ohio, because I don’t know what kind of doctors they might have there, and if they even have doctors there, or hospitals. Having had the tragic experience of going to Schuylkill Medical Center once instead of Hershey, I know how bad going to an unfamiliar ER can be. I just took my lecture quietly. Then she told me as long as it wasn’t heavy bleeding, I could wait until the morning to go see Dr. K. BUT if I got dizzy or sick or faint, I needed to go to the ER now. I agreed.

Then I went back to bed. My body refused to tolerate consciousness, and since I left my medication in Chicago, I was not a happy camper, even though there was backup at home. I got up bright and early on Monday, made some tea and then took on the challenge of getting an appointment on a clinic day, knowing I might just get sent to the ER. First three calls I got kicked to a voicemail box that was not the one I selected. So I called the Careline – the person who answered my call did not believe my story about being put into the wrong voicemail box, until she tried it and it happened to her. By this time it’s 9:30. She gets me to the right voice mail box, but as I leave my message I am a little nervous, because what if she doesn’t understand the urgency or she’s off sick. But I’ll wait a bit. By 10:30, I’ve still not heard from anyone, so I call back and get Victor. He puts me on hold to see if he could squeeze me in, and finds out that he can’t until he talks to Anne, my treatment coordinator. At this time, I realize I should have just called her directly, but I’ll wait. Around 1pm, I get a call back to be there for 3:15pm. Now that would seem like plenty of time but I still need a shower and Hershey is an hour away. Still I am out of the house by 2 and on my way. I actually get there early and need a water. The closest place to get water in the hospital is the Starbucks and the line is snaking it’s so long. So I just check in. That’s when the fun starts.

My Dr. used to be in the Women’s Health Building. It was always a mix of women seeing the Dr for an annual exam, the cancer women, and pregnant women, but at least we all were seeing the Dr. for the same general area. Now his office is in the Cancer Institute, which makes sense, but it also means the waiting room is almost always packed with people with all kinds of cancer and people waiting for lab work. Even at 3, it’s standing room only. Dr. K is a great doctor, he doesn’t rush, he talks to you like a person, and he actually cares. He’s also a surgeon. This means he runs late most of the time. Like an hour late. So I am not really all that surprised that I am waiting. It doesn’t really bother me, until the whiners start “what’s taking so long?” “my appointment was at 2, it’s 2:55” and “I don’t care, if he doesn’t see me in 15 minutes, I am leaving and too bad, I just won’t see him.” The last one was my favorite. Why wait? Leave now, make things go faster for the rest of us, and you’re so right, that will show him for making you wait, you have cancer and you clearly have an appointment with an excellent doctor, you’re so right, leaving and not getting examined or treated will show him. I realize that future visits will require headphones. Not only because I have to listen to whining, but because Faux News is the station of choice. The waiting room is clearing out, and I am happy to hear my name called around 4:20. Off we go to get weighed, which is surprising stable in spite of the ravenous hunger the Megase causes.

Once in the exam room, I realize there was a clear absence of minions. I thought they were on winter break. While I am waiting, I hear a discussion about Dr. K’s associate,if you remember, the one that wanted to put me on a psych hold? Apparently, she is not building a fan club because the discussion is about how the patient doesn’t like her at all and will go to a different hospital for treatment because of it and wants all her records transferred. I feel vindicated in my refusal to be seen by her again. The nurse takes my blood pressure – it’s off the charts, because I had to endure that stupid blood pressure machine. I tell her to come back again in 15 minutes and it will be normal. After the nurse leaves, I hear a knock and in comes a minion, well, a resident minion, not a student minion. I tell her my story and then she is off to confer with Dr. K. GRAPHIC DETAIL WARNING: What follows will be gross, but there’s no reason to pretty it up, so continue if you dare.

Dr. K arrives with minion in tow. He asks what happened and I tell him that I got tired of having the cyst drained all the time, so my body just decided to pop that pufferfish and let all the goop out. He seems a little surprised. Unfortunately, I can’t escape the probing exam due to bleeding. Dr. K asks if I am sure the fluid and blood are coming from my vagina. I tell him I am quite familiar with my vagina and yes, that’s where the gushing is coming from. I tell him it looks like the mucus-y blood goop that they drained out the last time and showed me in Radiation. I get warned that if I get dizzy or weak, I need to head to the ER, but he believes I am correct. He is not as cheerful about it as I would hope. I don’t know why I would think he would be, but I was a little let down that he was not as excited as I. Poking around in the darkness with probing tubes, Dr. K and the minion concur, the cyst has possibly eaten through or eroded my vagina. The good news is that it’s relieved all the pressure on my bladder and rectum, and that precious kidney, but the bad news is that there’s blood and there are other concerns that makes Dr. K get the serious face and tell me that let’s do another month on the chemo pills, and come back in January after the holiday and we will come up with a plan. He hugs me, and tells me to have a good holiday. His message is loud and clear. He does ask me how much I am troubled by the bleeding – I tell him if it’s a choice between blood and catheters, I’m going with blood every time. Before they found the first tumor I was literally hemorrhaging daily anyway. What’s a little bloody snot? He doesn’t think I need to worry about dying before the new year, so I’m okay with that. It’s now 5:30. I was going to get Indian takeout on the way home. I’m really no longer hungry. I am however grateful that the fucking pufferfish is no longer pressing against anything that will require scalpels and tubes to correct.

The waiting room is empty when I am leaving, except for the Christmas tree. I was the last patient of the day. It’s dark outside, and raining. I like dark and rainy, but it’s weird how the words sink in when I get in the car. Words like “eroded” or “eaten through.” Statements like “we’ll have to figure out what we’re going to do about this, and see what’s going on in there in January.” Threats of catheters. I had a much more positive outlook, like my body was done dealing with the puffer, and was pushing it out. Or that all that visualization about shrinking the cystic mass worked and my body was getting rid of the cancer. Never really went to the the “oh this is very bad, and not a good sign for me.” I mean I knew it wasn’t exactly a “good” thing, but I didn’t really go to “serious development.” There was no pain from the blowout, so that’s a plus. But sitting there in the car, I suddenly thought, what if this is the beginning of things moving to the end? What if my hopes that I can play this out for a few years more are going to come to screeching halt in January? What about the Riot Fest tickets I already bought? What if every thing I was planning over the next few months now has to be done now or it will never happen? The palliative care Dr. asked me what my line in the sand was – where I’d say no more treatment. I started to think about how I am not going to live out my remaining months sick in a hospital bed. I don’t want this to be my last Christmas. And while I know someone out there is thinking you have to be positive – thinking that isn’t being negative – it’s a totally legit fear. Sitting in my car, I was afraid. Afraid of running out of time before I’m ready. Afraid of my body failing me before I can do the things I need to.

And you start making lists of things you need to get done. It’s really numbing. I had to run to Giant to get a few things, and I just kinda wandered around. Then I headed home, trying not to focus on the dreaded bad words, but more on that it could be good, and to just enjoy the holiday. It wasn’t an easy ride home there was a lot of scringing on the way home (screaming+singing = scringing). And I hesitated on telling Andy anything negative. Not that there is any definitive negative, but I know my doctor and I know what he was saying without saying it – but I can’t just pretend it’s all glitter unicorns and dancing cupcakes. The ticking clock is always there..lately I had a few days of feeling almost normal, albeit crazy tired, and for the briefest of seconds I thought that maybe the cancer decided to enter remission. But then there were those motherfucking hawks. Dirty motherfucking hawks.

So since Monday, I am still bleeding. I go back to the Dr. on January 4th. On the plus side, if I lose enough blood, they will give me fresh stuff at the hospital, and I really, really, really enjoy getting new blood. No really, there’s no sarcasm there. I like a fresh pint now and again. The things you learn to enjoy when you have a cold uncaring tumor eating away at you from the inside. Jello. Blood. Headphones. I am kind of nervous for the bleeding to stop, because what if the reason it stops is because pufferfish has reformed and is going to resume blowing up again. But what if the gross ooze is actually doing more harm than good in flowing out of me? I mean Dr. K wasn’t too concerned, and in fact, was quite pleased, that his probing swab didn’t make me leap of the table screaming. That was, by his definition, a very good sign. So now I just sit around, leaking. I am trying my best to make the house of Christmas vomit a joy for Andy this year, even though he says he doesn’t care. I am even going to try and bake some of my amazing cookies this weekend. I am doing okay as long as I stay medicated and take lots of naps. (like the two I had writing this) I even made it into work for two hours today. I am mailing Christmas cards. So while life changes, it still stays the same. I’m not sad or depressed, just anxious and afraid – it will all work out as it has to, I just don’t want it to happen quickly. And just when Punk Rock Bowling is coming to Asbury Park.

Well this was much longer than I thought it would be. I still have several others to finish, but I think it’s bedtime for this monkey. We have almost located all the Christmas bins that Andy denies existing – I found 2 just this morning, but I am still missing the box with the dancing Santa lights, the bottom of the crystal tree, and the ice skating snowmen. I have a lot of Christmas shit even with the purge that has been going on all month. I did acquire a lovely black flamingo ornament for the white tree the other day. I’ll share some of the more charming ornaments with some photos on the ol’blog when all the trees are up, and the house looks like a magical forest. I do really enjoy overdoing the decorating. Who needs tasteful when you can have this beautiful Christmas disaster? Even the outside of the house is improved by my overdosing on lights – you can barely tell that the front porch is crumbling and collapsing. Andy better board up the porch before the skunks, raccoon and whatever else roams the town at night crawl into the basement through the holes.

And that my friends, is it for tonight. Hopefully I will find my way back before Christmas. Now I need to sleep sweet sleep. Buenas noches mi pequeño amigos cucaracha.


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.