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Posts tagged “death

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.


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.


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.


Tarpits, Minefields, and the Joy of a Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Just A Little Bit Before I Try to Sleep (Again)

Ha! Tomorrow I go to interventional radiology to get my tube removed. So, ok, maybe they are referring to it as a tube change, but I am going to present a very well formulated argument about why it needs to come out. There are totally legit reasons, aside from the nagging pain and tugging hose. For example, my immune system is constantly on high alert preventing infection and trying to heal the holes in my back that don’t exist there normally. All that energy spent on fighting fungi and plagues and rare disease spores doesn’t give me much energy for anything else – I’m good for about a day a week. My immune system would benefit from a break and since my bladder provides me with nothing but happiness and joy these days, it’s clear emptying the guts from the pufferfish, was beneficial in relieving the hell of my pelvic region. So, using logic and reason, I have also deduced that my ureter is probably not being crushed any longer at this point in time, in which case, we can remove the hose from my back.

I apologize for my lack of writing – most of the last two weeks I have been horizontal, except for an afternoon in Hershey, and D4 last Friday. I just opened the computer for the first time since Friday. I’ve been subsisting on chocolate milk, crunchy Cheetos and mac and cheese – and a very delicious and fiery taco that Andy brought home from the taco truck he found. I have developed an unnatural addiction to chocolate milk in the last two weeks which must mean my body was lacking something. I had a few days where I plunged into darkness and cried endlessly and sporadically and could only sooth myself by taking long drives in the car and screaming in peaceful forests and valleys. I expect that will occur again after my Dr. visit on Thursday with palliative care. So I’m downloading some more music to my phone. And let’s not forget it’s FALL, which means things are dying everywhere and winter is coming and as we all know, this has never been a cheerful time for me emotionally, because not only is everything dying around me, the people who have meant the most to me who have gone to another place or body, left me in October or November. And then there’s all that turkey death. Dead, albeit delicious, turkeys everywhere. I hope I am up to cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year for the boy and I. Maybe we can have a thanksgiving picnic/food fight like we did when he was two. Good times.

Okay, I’m adequately drowsy now so I can get some sleep before it’s time to get on the road. I can’t have anything to eat or drink after 6 am, so I have to get up before then for my chocolate milk and toast. Or I’ll end up trying to bite a nurse when I get hungry and that never goes well. I’ll try and be more consistent about this blog. I mean I need to write more just for the sake of clearing out my head – I just have to be able to sit up to do it, and that’s been sketchy lately. Chemo never made me as weak and sick as I have been these last two weeks. I am just glad I kept the circle I infected very small because no one deserves to suffer like that. So my friends, and visitors, and passers thru, please send positive thoughts and vibes and animal/insect/fish/vegan sacrifices my way, so that the frankentube is history as of tomorrow. I promise more stories in the days to come. For real.


Pufferfish Takes Its Show On The Road

Joyeux après-midi, mon petit kangourou amis I’ve been putting this off, not because I didn’t want to write it, but more because I am mostly a miserable bitch these days, and I don’t like that part of me. There is no position in which I am comfortable – the best I can get to is tolerable, and that takes a special medication combination that usually ends up with me falling asleep while typing. Or forgetting what I was typing. Or both.

WARNING GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF THE PERILS OF THE PEE BAG AHEAD. If you want to skip over the gruesome details stop here and pick up at the word SAFE.

I just need to bitch right now before I get into the trip to John Hopkins. My thighs are covered in black and blue marks from the tape constantly pulling as it holds the vagina tail to my thigh. It makes me feel like I have to pee constantly. Today there was all sorts of blood and clotty strings in the bag – gross as it is, it’s kinda like a sick set of sea monkeys. This is somewhat alarming when you go to bed with normal pee and wake up to bag of fruit punch. All the walking I have done this week cause irritation in the urethra and caused bleeding. I called urology who told me to stay in bed and drink more water which is silly, because the more water I drink, the more often the sacks of pee need to be drained. Then sometimes it causes a spasm, and then there’s more blood and tissue scooting along the tube. It hurts. I try not to take opiates and just stick to natural cures, which helps most of the time, but the last few days it took the muscle relaxers, medicinal herbs and tinctures and opiates to try and get to a point of just calm. And the hot flashes are still happening, not as often, but dear dog, just let me sleep. The nephrostemy is a piece of cake compared to the catheter, although the last few nights I wake up with the nephrostemy bag ready to burst because that kidney works really hard at night. Rant over.

SAFE TO RESUME READING

Andy and I made the trip to Baltimore to Johns Hopkins to get a second opinion yesterday. It was actually a pretty easy ride, it took just under 3 hours and we did not get lost once. I had to super medicate for the ride, because I didn’t know what to expect being in a car that Andy is driving for that long in my present condition. Needless to say I was quite comfortable when we arrived at JHOC. Well not really, with my vagina tentacle currently holding me down, I’m not ever really without discomfort. I suppose I could really just say I had a really good attitude when we arrived. Andy dropped me off at the door and I found my way to where I needed to be. I found the Women’s Health clinic on the 6th floor – JHOC is huge. Kind of intimidating. You get a wristband as soon as you enter the building – it’s like going to a show. Then there are there touch screen check-in kiosks when you get to where you are going. I tried, but I couldn’t get registered that way. Of course not. When I finally did get registered, I was handed a questionnaire and herded off to the waiting area. And wait for Andy and my nurse navigator to find me. While I was waiting, another female patient came back to the waiting area escorted by a nurse; she was clearly unhappy and shouting about how she should have gone to another hospital because they aren’t giving her the help she needs here. I’m trying not to judge, but her whale tail draws my attention as she’s huffing and bellowing in a seat four seats away. What I want to say is, bitch this hospital is ranked 6th in the nation in treatment, where ya gonna go? But I just keep answering my questionnaire.

I am supposed to meet my nurse navigator here. She said she’s meet me at 1:30, and when I look at the clock it 1:40, and I realize my ringer is off. I rifle through my purse, and find my phone and sure enough I missed her call. I quickly call her back and let her know I’m waiting, when they call me back to the exam room…she’ll meet me there. The nurse brings me back to do my vitals, and the nurse navigator arrives, her name is Liz. Introductions ensue, and I do some deep breathing exercises and surprise surprise, the combination of herbal medication and meditation has kept my blood pressure low. I’ve lost more weight. I’ll take that. I confess to my use of plant medication, and then of the JHOC minions comes in to review my medical history (because she didn’t have time to go through the 5 discs of medical history I provided to them minutes earlier). I tell the sad sad tale of the tumor gigantica and the first series of chemo and then the emergence of the cyst and its current incarnation and end with me crying that the tubes are not letting me live my life and that I how is this quality of life. The minion is very compassionate. They teach bedside manner well here. I regain my composure and make jokes. The Pietkiewicz Way. When faced with horrible circumstances, make a joke. Make many jokes.

Andy asked me on the way what I was hoping to hear at the appointment. I told him best case scenario would be to have them say “we’ll whisk you into surgery tomorrow and cut that cyst right out” and worst case is that I leave the way I came. I relay this to Liz and the minion, Shanae. I just want to be able to walk and sit and sleep without encumbrances and pain. That’s all. I don’t even care that my days are rather numbered – all I want is for them to be good days. I don’t like the bitch this pain is turning me into, I don’t like that taking a shower or making a sandwich or getting some juice becomes a gargantuan task that requires a logistical plan to move myself and my coterie of pee bags without any tubes catching on something or dragging behind. I just want to not have to wear a long skirt to go out to hide my vagina tentacle I hate the spasms and gasping when the pain shoots through my bladder. I hate that I feel trapped and isolated and incapacitated. I feel cheated.

I feel I am keeping it together pretty well. My mouth is drier than the sahara and I am out of water. Finally the Dr. comes in. What is with the Drop Dead Fred look these days? He’s a much classier DDF. He sits down, and we do a quick review of my history again. He’s a really nice guy, and probably just 30 years old (Ashley F, are you reading this? I didn’t see a wedding ring, you could be a stay at home mom, like for unicorns or cats) He’s rocking a emerald green and royal blue ensemble, so he’s a man of fashion sense and confidence. I like him. Then I brace myself for what’s to come. No, surgery isn’t an option, and not just because I’m a big girl, but because the cyst is smack dab in the middle of the area where I received the radiation treatments when I was first diagnosed. I already knew that I had received my lifetime dose of radiation in that area, which is why there was none this go round. When you get radiation, it forever damages the tissues in the area. This makes them slow to heal and regenerate if you cut into them again. And removing the cyst would require clearing the margins around it which as we know means goodbye rectum, bladder, and vagina, and hello tubes and bags (not all that different from my current rig of hoses and external bladders). And that would entail the removal of a massive amount of tissue in an very damaged area which would be brutally slow to heal and would run the risk of massive infection. The risks of that surgery would far outweigh any minimal benefit and would likely shorten, and without question, diminish the quality of, my life. He would start me on a regimen of more Tamoxifen (boo) and Progesterone which has the delightful side effect of making me even fatter and more miserable emotionally, or since I am not a big fan of Tamoxifen, there is a chemo drug called Doxil which has had some success. Don’t google it. It’s terrifying, but it could work. There’s some other hormone therapy and medications that have shown some success. The prognosis isn’t going to change. I have recurrent endometrial stage 3b cancer, that shows signs of metastasis in the lungs. It’s got a super low survival rate. Recurrent endometrial cancer isn’t one you survive. That said, Dr. T said that the issues I am having now are not really a result of the cancer, and in fact, the cancer is slow growing, and is mostly contained, and that the cyst is the source of all of my woe. For this, we discussed the risk of putting a drain in the cyst for several months to keep the fluid from building up and the possibility of it seeding cancer elsewhere vs. suffering with a catheter forever the duration. As the brutal urine extraction device is painful and unwieldy, I would rather take my chances with the drain. Dr, T agreed that at this point the risk is worth the procedure and said he would recommend that to Dr. K in his notes to him. So hopefully, the visit on the 21st will begin with “let’s pick a surgery date for a drain”. Dr. T said that if Hershey’s interventional radiology still doesn’t want to do it, then give him a call and see is JH’s interventional radiology will. He said the other option is another nephrostemy, but not a really good option. Finally, he said there is the smallest of possibilities that I could participate in a trial that is currently showing promise at JH, and just was published in a medical journal, but he would need a slice of my tumor to find out if there are these special satellite cells in it, because my tumor would have to have them in order to be considered for the trial. Other than that, Dr. T said he would have done exactly what Dr. K did, and would alternate chemo with hormone therapy as my cancer is not aggressively trying to take over. He brought up quality vs. quantity, and I quickly told him that I’m on the side of quality – that being riddled with silicone piping in my excretory systems is not how I want to go out. I would even suffer the permanency of the nephrostemy tube, if only, oh my dog, please, if only I don’t have to live with this catheter.

He also said that I should just continue treatment with PSHMC’s Urology department too. We discussed the potential for self catheterization during the day, and with the difficulty they have had inserting catheters in the hospital because the cyst is in the way, why would anyone think I would have an easier time of it at home? He did say there is a suprapubic catheter that could be inserted into my bladder through my belly, and while there would still be a bag, it would not be brutal and painful like the vaginal one is now. Wicked cruel vagina pee serpent. All I know is that it needs to go. It’s like a fucking albatross, except it’s not around my neck, it’s shoved inside me. So there you have it – even though I left upset that there was nothing else to really do, that wasn’t already being done, I felt validated that my Dr. was doing all he can. I knew that in my gut already, because it clearly pains Dr. K to give me bad news, but now, I’ve heard the same things from another well respected professional, so I can just say fuck off to the next person who says “there has to be something else they can do.”

So I held my breakdown in check until I was in the car, and even then, Andy and I just made death jokes. Being told this kind of news takes days to sink in, the sheer magnitude of what it means is overwhelming. I know I’ve told a handful of people personally, but with shitty news like this, blogging about it is easier than texts or phone calls. I don’t have to hear people tell me their sorry. I don’t have to see sad faces. I don’t want to be around people who are saddened by this. I want to spend my days laughing when I can. I want to say cancer fucking sucks. So I called my little fucking hummingbird friend Debbie, and had the conversation that only someone else who has had to face cancer can truly understand. And at the risk of alienating people, I need to be brutally honest, just give me fist bumps, stop asking me how I am. I have cancer, I’m sick and in pain, that’s my fucking reality and I am tired of pretending that my fucking world is fine. Yes, I can still laugh and smile and appreciate the beauty of the world around me, but asking me how I am doesn’t help me or you. And stop talking about miracles and me kicking cancer’s ass because while it may happen, it probably won’t – and I am not being pessimistic, I am a realist. I’m going to do all I can to prolong my life as long as it fit in with what I want out of life. Please don’t tell me what you think I should do, unless you yourself have been in my situation. Because until you are here, you don’t fucking know. And stop talking about this being a battle, and being a survivor or keeping up the fight, because you what that implies? That if I die, I failed. That I was not strong enough to overcome this disease or that I didn’t have the strength or will to beat this disease. That’s a judgment on me that I don’t need. Bottom line is this: In a perfect world, I will live a long disease free life. In a perfect world, I will go to my next appointment and Dr. K will have a cure. In a perfect world, no one will ever have to go through this again. It’s not a perfect world, and while I am not giving up hope that things can turn around, I am also not going to live in fantasy land, avoiding the very probably outcome. And I am gonna make death jokes. Because I can. I know I’ve said some of this before, but it bears repeating. I am comfortable with dying; I’m not afraid of it, but I am not going to stop living to wait for it. I am not ok with what is happening, but I am not going to sit in the window and wait for death. Support me by spending time with me and laughing with me. I need as much laughter in my life as I can get. And there are only so many names Andy and I can come up with for the hideous hose that rules my life right now. (Thank you Deb, for the conversation that was long overdue, and for letting me rant and not trying to make anything better, punches to you my friend)

Well it’s taken two days to write this. Oh and one other thing – think about this whenever you have to talk to someone who has something unfortunate going on in their lives – don’t say “ I felt so bad when I heard” or “I feel so bad that I didn’t know” – you know what that does? It makes the person feel like they have to make you feel better, which is the exact opposite of what they need. I hate that people get upset when I lay out the facts, because I feel like I am hurting them, and what I should be doing is using my energy to stay healthy. Not trying to make you feel better about my disease. I know it’s all done with love, and with a pure spirit, but it makes me not want to talk to anyone because it’s hard work to make other people feel better about my sad news. And now that I told the story, and vented, it’s time to release the sea monkeys in the pee bags to the ocean via the toilet-ocean pipeline, and then take some more pills and go to bed. I plan to venture out in the morning with Andy to go get supplies, so I can stop suffering from the assault of this nasty tape that is holding on my bandage on my back.

On the positive side of things, you can order replacement catheter bags from Amazon. I got to have onion rings when we went to JH. It’s only three weeks til OWTH in Philly/Baltimore. And since I can’t go to Riot Fest, I can use that money to get my passport. Sleep well my friends, and visitors, and critics. Hug your people and tell them you love them, and tell them how much they mean to you. And appreciate your excretory system. For real. Love you all.


No Bueno II – Return to Oncology Hall

Calvin-gets-existential

Go get your tissues, cuz it’s gonna be sad. Sorry. I really didn’t want to write this tonight, but my brain won’t let me sleep despite all my efforts to turn it off until this is in black and white on my screen.

Today was doctor day, in the new offices in the Cancer Institute. Heidi came to pick me up and take me to the dr. Andy wanted to know if he should come, but I told him no, he didn’t need to stay up all day and just get cranky waiting and get no sleep. The news would be the same whether he was there or not. We got there kind of early, and then waited about an hour after my appointment time before I was called. By that time, my “relaxation” medication had worn off, so I was clear and lucid for the visit. Damn.

There were an alarming number of cranky people in the waiting area. It’s not like the Hope drive office, where all the patients were women. My dr.’s new clinic is in the same area as the infusion suites and the labs in the cancer institute. It really only makes sense because he’s not just the gynecological oncologist but the surgeon, and the Hope drive offices were alll the way across the hospital campus from the hospital and the Cancer Institute. But it’s change, and change is uncomfortable. And there were really sick people there. And people who just wanted to get blood drawn. In my head, I am trying to guess the type of cancer that has attacked them. I see some women in wheelchairs and on scooters, and not just for fun, but because they need them, and I think…I don’t want this to be me.

When they call me, the nurse takes Heidi and I back to an exam room. At least she didn’t ask me when my last period was. She uses the medieval torture device of an automated blood pressure machine to take my blood pressure which registers at a scary 150/110 or something. Not normal and not good. I’m feeling fine, so I blame the machine. Those machines always get it wrong. Now, the scale on the other hand, it got it right. Even better than right, because after slurping down a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and tortellini sandwiches and chips and peanut butter m&ms and Chinese food and Taco Bell the last few days, my weight was actually down, instead of up. I am friends with this scale. After the nurse, in comes a minion. Very nice minion, but very tired. I tell her my story, I tell her I’ve seen the scan, I know it’s bad, and I want to stop taking tamoxifen because I hate hot flashes. I also tell her to tell Dr. K no chemo until November if that’s the option. She asks me if I get nauseous to which I respond, no, I smoke weed, there is no nausea. She laughs at my forthrightness. I tell her Dr. K knows, he just doesn’t put it in the medical record. We review meds, blah blah blah.

And in comes Dr. K. Wellm he actually tried to kick the door in, claiming he tripped, as he was coming in. I ask him how bad it is, and then it gets all kind of  surreal. I can see on his face, no bueno. He says it’s larger; I say I know. He reads the report to me, which if I read once, then I’ve read 1000 times since last Monday. I get the feeling he didn’t really look at it closely before I got here. I can understand that when you see 22 patients in 3 hours, sometimes you aren’t as prepared. He’s really bummed, he says he feels like the grim reaper. I tell him I know it’s bad, but like, what are we talking here? I asked if they could drain the cyst again because it’s bigger than ever, and while it’s not causing me more than a 5 on the pain scale, it’s uncomfortable, like an alien baby. Or hey, a pufferfish. He said they can’t do it in radiology again because inserting a needle in to the cancer ball would create the opportunity to spread cells as they pull it out. I can see he’s struggling with this, and I feel bad – I don’t want my doctor to feel so horrible about this. He says he’ll make a referral to urology and see if they can insert a stent. Then we talk a little about options, I tell him I’m down to do chemo again but not until November. I have too much to do in the next two months. He’s okay with that. He wants me back in a month and he’ll come up with a plan. Maybe a trial. Heidi asks him some questions about chemo and stuff, and he says that we can try some other flavor of chemo since the last one didn’t work. I am just happy that he said to stop taking that fucking tamoxifen.

There was no avoiding asking the big question though, and I asked him about time, and how much I have left…he didn’t want to say. He said I would make the OWTH show in September. I said good, but how long, ball park, and again he hesitated and I said I just want to know if I am going to have another summer. I’d like another summer. And bless him, Dr. K. said I think I can get you another summer. And then he hugged me hard. Like really hard. Like the kind of hard that says I wish I could have done something to keep this from happening to you. I like having a Dr. who cares.

I see the urologist next Tuesday. They are filling out FMLA paperwork for Andy and I. I see the Dr. again on September 21st. I was super proud of myself for keeping it together during this visit. I joked. I tried to scoff at the spectre of death. My voice only got wavery once. I checked out without tears, and with another prescription for oxycodone. I even kept it together having a drink with Heidi, and at dinner and the ride home. I almost kept it together when Andy came to unlock the door. Until I had to say “he thinks he can get me another summer/” That’s when I lost it. I couldn’t look him in the eyes. No one should ever have to tell their child that they aren’t going to be around much longer. And every unseen milestone keeps running through my head. I can’t even write about that because it breaks my heart and tears up my stomach. If I have one regret in this life, it will be not be around to see him live his life.

Then the texts – maybe I should call people, I guess, but I don’t want to be all sobby on the phone. Crying isn’t going to change it or cry the cancer out. Mike and Amy and Alan know. They’re the only people in my family who need to know this right now. My dad will be 87 this year, I don’t need him to die of worry about this; he already spends too much time stressing about my sister and her drunken idiocy. And while I am very public about this disease and my life and shit in general, I reserve the right to be the one who speaks for me. I don’t want my siblings to share this with people I don’t know so that people are stopping me on the street. Or asking my friends.

And now it’s blogosphere official. The stupid psychic was wrong about this one…unless something magical happens. I need to get on that passport thing with my next paycheck and start saving for that trip to Ireland. I’ve also got to start getting rid of a lot of things. Physically and mentally. Am I scared? Yep. Will I get through this? There’s no question, good or bad. Even with everything that is uncertain right now, I feel weirdly peaceful that the other shoe had dropped. Weird I suppose.

Anyway, I was a bit peevish yesterday until I got kind of fuzzy and was distracted by a puzzle and did most of an entry about what you should and shouldn’t say to someone with cancer, but it was a touch bitter. Here’s the gist of it, without all of the snark:

  • Please don’t ask me how I am unless you have the time and desire to listen. Most times I will say “fine” because I know you are just being polite and I don’t want to burden you, but sometime, I may feel I need to talk about how I really feel. So, if you don’t really want to hear about how I am, just tell me I look good today, or Happy Wednesday.
  • Don’t get all weird when I make death jokes or talk about dying. If you are my friend, you know I have always been a touch far on the dark side. I only have two choices for how I will deal with this fucking puffermonster: laugh about it or cry about it. Laughing feels better and doesn’t require tissues, so expect me to joke about it. Don’t tell me we need to talk about happier things – this is my reality and I need to talk about it or joke about it now and again. Otherwise this giant dead elephant is in the room. (see what I did there?)
  • Don’t worry about having the right words to say or even saying anything. And don’t try to be positive about it all the time because cancer sucks, and while I try to stay positive, there are days I am very angry at my body and this c-monster. It’s okay to say it sucks to me. And if you can’t find the words, a hug, or a smile, or a fist bump will do. And you don’t need to be sorry. You didn’t cause this. I have a theory about who did cause it but they’re dead now, so it’s not like I can exact revenge. But don’t let our paths cross in the next life. I want every day from here on out to be about laughter and fun. Fun which will involve death jokes.

Finally, I know this is why you all stuck around…there’s an Indian Restaurant in Hershey that opened up on Fishburn Rd called Khana Indian Bistro, and the food was fabulous!!! Very fresh and well prepared and reasonably priced. It’s BYOB, but you can bet that the new highlight of driving to Hershey for medical appointments will be take-out Indian food. If you down there, check them out. The green chili naan and lamb Xacuti were excellent. Service was great, very nice people. And there appeared to be other Indian people there as patrons, which is a good sign since they would be authorities on Indian food. So go there, or if you are in Hershey, text me and ask me what I want you to bring me for dinner. Ha ha.

It feels like typing this drained me, or the stress of today just subsided, or that last oxycodone and “medication” are working but I can barely keep my eyes open. I guess I’ll be writing more often to share the tales of my urology appointments, I know, I know, you can barely contain yourself. Thanks for reading and hey, feel free to use the comment section on the blog, I like to know who was here. Sleep tight muffins!!


Shit Just Got Real. (or Well, That’s Fucked)

I saw a dead porcupine the other day, near the center divider of the road, on my way home. You almost never see dead porcupines. I was tempted to go back and get some quills, but decided that it would not only be risky but also gross, and vetoed the plan.

And before we get to the meat of the story, the main event, the moment you have all been waiting for, I feel compelled to inform you that there are certain species of butterfly that subsist on the tears of turtles and alligators. I found the idea of drinking tears rather poetic. And as I was crying on and off most of yesterday and today, I was romanticizing the idea of beautiful butterflies landing on my eyes and drinking my tears. Then I remembered that butterflies are bugs, and bugs are creepy, and that I would appreciate butterflies more as they flutter about me, rather than dipping their proboscis in my eye sockets to suck away my tears. So much for that.

Yes, yes, the scans. You want to know about the scans. Well, I am comfortably medicated now that I can write about it without histrionic weeping. Can you be histrionic if you don’t have a uterus? I don’t know, but for the sake of good writing, let’s pretend we can. You’ll just have to wait while I tell the story of scan day, because there is a story, although it may not be my funniest adventure to the hospital, it was still a bit amusing.

To fully appreciate my day, first I’ll set the stage. The subee needed breaks for over a week. The car would make this horrible woosh, woosh, woosh sound when going forward, followed by a terrifying grinding sound that pulled at the hair at the back of your neck every time you had to brake. It was horrible – it was supposed to be fixed yesterday, but as usual, plans made with my family don’t always work out the right way. So I had to drive the sad subee to Hershey myself.

I was having my CT scan done in the main hospital instead of the CT center at Hope Drive near my dr. old offices. I won’t make that mistake again. At least I still had my “I have cancer” parking pass so I can get premium parking near the building. (I can also get free valet parking but I am too embarrassed by the metallic grinding and whirring of the subee to consider letting someone unused to the sounds of destruction drive her) Unlike the other CT scanner office, to get to this department, you have to walk walk walk walk all the way to the middle of the hospital and then go downstairs and walk some more, whereas the other is just inside the door. When finally I arrived, it was hardly busy, but I forgot we were in the hospital, and that hospital patients get first dibs on the meat slicers, and they only have 2. Which makes no sense, because there’s always people waiting for scans, so a third one would come in handy. I also forgot that in the radiology dept of the the main hospital, there’s no cell service. So I can’t answer all of the text messages I got that morning, even though now would be the perfect time to do so. Once I am checked in, I want to read my book, but dumb ass left her glasses in her purse in the car. My stomach’s been wigging out all night, but I don’t want to go to the bathroom because they will most certainly call me when I do. In the midst of this there’s a great commotion to get the Hoda and Kathie Lee show on because apparently Frank Gifford, Kathie Lee’s husband, had died, and it was an absolute priority of every senior citizen to get the dish. No cell service, no glasses, and depressing TV. This does not bode well.

Finally I am called and shepherded away to the slicers’ area. The nurse put an IV in. The IV itself was painless, but I don’t understand why I must be brutalized with tape??? I know you have to keep the IV in, but for dog’s sake, lighten up with the bandage. Once I am prepped, I go back to waiting. Wait wait wait. Then I get called and off I go to hop on the table. The nice nurse begins her questions, and I tell her I’m a bit of a pro at this, and no allergies, no diabetes, no kidney disease, blah blah blah. And then it’s strike two against getting a scan here again…NO STICKERS. The machine has no stickers. Not a pink bear, or pufferfish or Mufasa or nothing! What am I to look at while the machine scannerizes my insides? Sigh. The nurse explains it’s a brand new machine and they haven’t gotten any stickers yet, because it’s new. I tell her I am not sure I can do this without Woody and Buzz, but strong soldier that I am, I brave it. Slide slide slide, whirr whirr woosh, and I’m done. The nurse removes the IV and then bandages my arm with that cool self gripping tape I love but wraps so much of the tape so tightly around my arm, that I believe my circulation is cut off. And off I go.

I was dreading these scans. I barely slept the night before, and I wasn’t able to have anything to eat before the scan so I’m a bit shaky. Now they are over, and I just have to wait for the results. That should only take a few hours. I wrestle the tape and gauze from my arm to see that I will have several delightful bruises, Yay.

I did some grocery shopping, hung out with my friend Kelly and her boys, ate a donut, stopped to see Jenn and get some more quilts for clients at work, all the while, periodically checking for my results. Why are they not posted? This is making me nervous. Delays are never good, it means they need other people to confirm the results. Finally, about 3pm, the results are in. And I take a peek. And it’s no bueno. I was hoping that there’d be no change, or when I was being wildly optimistic, that the tumors had vanished. I knew that it wasn’t likely since my pain came back, and I could feel the bloating in my belly. But I had hoped.

I’m blogging about it because I’ve told the people who needed to be told. Once again, I am keeping the news from my dad, as well as brothers Leo and Stanley, because I don’t want them to upset pop. I sent a text to Mike and Alan. As for Janie, my “sister”, I doubt she even knew I had cancer the first time. If I am not sporting Andrew Jackson or Benjamin Franklin on my belly and you can use me to buy beer, she wouldn’t recognize me. Not that this causes me any trauma. I didn’t want to tell Andy because his birthday is today, and I knew that for the rest of his life, the day before his birthday was the day his mom told him the bad news. I didn’t want that, but I also couldn’t pretend that everything was ok, or crazier yet, wait until after his birthday for the results. I needed to know too, because if the news was going to be bad, I wanted to make sure I spent his birthday with him, because who knows if it will be the last time.

Oh right, I didn’t tell you want it says. Here’s the gist: pufferfish is now 12x12cm. A bit larger than a grapefruit and bigger than it’s ever been. The tumor on the interior has also grown. The tumor on the outside has shrunk. The cyst appears to be blocking a urether for one of my kidneys, and my bladder lining is thickened which is indicative of disease. There are also two brand new spots on my lungs, which appear be metastatic. Like I said no bueno. Three months of Tamoxifen may or may not have worked because the cancer is still there and starting to spread out in the neighborhood…did the Tamoxifen slow it down? Or did it do nothing? We’ll never know.

Naturally there was a lot of crying yesterday. I don’t see the Dr. until Monday, and I know that I am going to hear things I’d rather not, but it is what it is. I am no idiot, I know this is not positive in any way. It broke my heart to tell Andy, because that’s my only real regret, that it isn’t likely now that I will be here for the important moments in his future. I don’t know if I will ever see him graduate from college or get married (or not) or have grandbabies (or not.) I am scared for him. Like every mother I guess. That’s what made me cry so much. In addition to crying, I was able to acquire a more potent herbal medicine and that in combination with a few oxy turned my frown upside down, or rather, gave me shiny eyes and made me feel all floaty, and numb for a few hours. A very welcome numbness.

There are plusses I guess, I mean it probably means I’ll get to stop taking the tamoxifen, which seems to have done nothing but make me hot, pimply and nauseous for the last three months. And made my boobs swell, which is not a plus for me, simply an annoyance. It looks increasingly likely that I will get out of having to pay back those student loans. And that if I am going to Ireland, I’d better get on it.

Now you know. I’m really very tired, and also very medicated but I wanted this done so I don’t have to answer any questions right now. As I told Andy, whatever happens is going to be okay, because it’s what has to happen. There’s a fucking lesson here somewhere, or maybe this is just getting the crap out of the way so that in my next life I can assume the role of queen of the universe without any setbacks. Or be an alpaca. There’s a strange sense of peace in all of this – the anxiety of not knowing gone for now. At least I have a ton of people in my life who love and care for me, and in the end, isn’t that what matters.

So I’ll leave you with this…hug your people in your life. Hug them a lot. Hug your friends, and laugh.

And

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela


Untitled (Because I Couldn’t Think of a Funny Way to Say I’m Miserable)

All I want, more than anything else, is just one more morning where I wake up, and I don’t have to battle my body to try and feel normal. I want one more day, where the word “cancer” doesn’t cross my brain. One more day where everything I do or plan isn’t hampered by whether or not I can stand the pain or have to consider a doctor’s visit, or possible treatment. A night where I fall asleep without having to medicate first to grab an hour or two of “ok.”

I’m jealous of all those people who get this stupid diagnosis and then live their lives like there’s nothing stopping them. It’s not enough that I am physically unable to do shit, but my brain makes me feel like a failure because I can’t be one of those people doing amazing things like you read about on the internet, how people put this disease aside and make a difference. Maybe it’s the mortality thing, maybe when you know time is limited to make a difference, you feel guilty that you haven’t done enough. Instead of it being enough that I care about people and try to make everyone’s life brighter when I can, I feel like I suck at life because I haven’t rescued drowning puppies and made blankets for 100 sick kids. I can’t even fucking clean my house. I look around and feel like an abject failure at life.

Then there the fear that everything is the last time. I know people hate when I talk about being sick around them…the sad faces, the attempts at trying to cheer me up, the uncomfortableness, but it’s my reality. It’s in my head from the time I get up until I go to bed – can I get through work today? Will this be my last summer, is this the last time I will be celebrating Andy’s birthday? What about Halloween? Christmas? And worse than any of it, is the fear of what it’s going to be like if I start to get sicker. (I almost said when I get sicker, but I am trying to stay optimistic) What’s that gonna look like? Will I have the guts when I need to make hard choices? What about money? What about all this stuff that surrounds me? Do I get rid of it now or wait? And then there’s everyone who is trying to “help” me with information and opinions, which I know come out of love, but really, this is me people, do you think I don’t already do a ton of research on my own? I appreciate the thought, but I feel like I am doing what’s right for me right now…you may not agree with my choices, but their mine. Believe me, I do enough second guessing of myself for all of us. I go over the “what ifs” daily.

I am so fucking weepy these last few days. Yesterday sucked pain wise, physically and emotionally. I’ve been weepy all week, because I finally said out loud what is in my head through the day…how much longer do I have? It’s not like anyone knows right now. No one wants to hear that coming out of my mouth, but it’s my fucking reality. I try to be positive, I try to be hopeful, but when that stabbing stinging pain is there reminding me that the fucking pufferfish is still in the same spot doing it’s cancerous thing, it kind of spoils my fun. It’s the thinnest edge right now on whether or not I’m going to burst into tears at any moment. I know I’m depressed – I know I’m hormonally fucked up because of the Tamoxifen, and like I said before, I want just one more day where I am not a moody bitch, who feels like I am on fire one minute and freezing the next and hurting and tired. Like right now, as my body feels like I am in a fucking lobster pot. In five minutes, I’ll be looking for a blanket. And this will go on all night. AND IT”S NOT EVEN LIKE MY FAT IS MELTNG WHEN I AM ON FIRE…there’s no benefit to this whatsoever, except maybe the cancer fighting properties.

I’m terrified about Monday. I know the return of the pain is not a good sign, nor is the bloated feeling in my stomach. And after this Monday, I’ll live in fear for a week until I see the Dr. and hear what’s next. I couldn’t wait for this day to get here, so I could see if things improved, and now I’m dreading the waiting for hours after my scan to see the report. It’s a brutal double edged sword. I’m trying to focus on the fun things I have ahead. It’s just so hard some days to see anything good ahead. And it makes me feel like if I am just resting, I am wasting the time I have left.

So I’ve vented. I feel better, but now it’s time for some more pills. It seems like my phone is always reminding me it’s time for more pills. And I’m going to go look for a hotel for next weekend because I am going to rent me a car and go away by myself for a day or two, head out to the ocean and get right with the sea. One positive thing that had come from this is my new philosophy about buying things…before I buy something now, I ask myself, who will want this when I am dead? If the answer is no one, I don’t buy it. I’ve not purchased a lot of shit doing this…like when I almost bought the giant giraffe head grabber at the zoo. No one wants that shit but me, so I don’t need it. I’ll put the money to use doing something fun for me…like letting the ocean heal me.

Sorry for the ramble, but I took some pain meds when I couldn’t get rid of the stinging of the pufferfish any other way. My adult ADHD is particularly bad today, it’s taken me over two hours just to write this. I get distracted at every turn. I even went back and read a few older entries as I wrote this and stumbled across the post I wrote about getting my tattoo for being cancer free. Not anymore. But I sobbed and cried while typing and feel like I let go of some of my anxiety, so thanks for sticking around for the bipolar trip. Maybe on Friday, I’ll pull out my soapbox and write one of my biting social commentary entries. Dog knows, western civilization pisses me off daily.

Before I go, I forgot to mention a really special good thing that happened. I went to a “gotcha day” last Wednesday…one of the kids I have been working with since she was six weeks old was adopted. It was an amazing thing to do, be there to see the judge finalize the adoption, and know that because of me, I made sure this little person now has security and hope for the future. It was so cute when everyone was crying after the decree, the little person looked around and said “why everyone cry?” It was adorable. And a good feeling to hang onto in a job where there are very few happy days. I have one more little person who is on the cusp of being adopted as well, and hopefully I’ll get to still be at work long enough to see that happen, because that little deserves a shot at a great future too. I need to print out the picture and hang it at my desk so I can remember that what I do, does make a difference.

And now I’ll try again to sleep. I am exhausted – I tried sleeping when I got home, but it didn’t really work out. So I’ll try again. Until something shiny catches my eye. Or I start playing a game. Enjoy your night my friends, and thanks for bearing with my emotional rollercoaster, I know it’s not easy. Especially for me. Sweet dreams (or nightmares, should you prefer)


Some Days Suck

It’s been a while my friends.

I probably should have done this last night when I couldn’t sleep. As usual of late, I always have good intentions to write more frequently, and then I come home and I’m nauseated or in pain or just so tired, that I say “I’ll do it later” and either medicate myself into oblivion, or fall asleep. So, sorry.

Edit: I was in a bad place writing this, but like I’ve said before, this blog is for me rather than anyone reading it, and I have to be honest about what is in my head, for my own sake. So don’t get all weird on me.

And I should write more. Instead of letting shit fester and boil and then find myself driving along the Burma road bursting into tears because I didn’t get to pick huckleberries with my son this year, and I don’t know if there will be a next year. Full fucking meltdown. Followed by another after I pulled my shit together and kept my appointment, and headed home. I am a mess today. Probably because I couldn’t sleep last night and I am just that much more tired than I have been lately.

That’s the fucking thing about having cancer. I don’t look like that little beast inside me is doing any damage. I’m still fat. Cancer twice and I am still the size of fucking heifer. Another 50 pounds would have been great…

PAUSE

I am about to begin a very negative bit here about everything that sucks about having cancer. Or that I can think of. So leave now, because I don’t want pity later. I am so entitled to this rant because it’s less than a month until my scans and dr appointment. It’s just gonna say what I already know (and am daily terrified about) – that pufferfish grew some more. I’m starting to have real pain again, and I can feel the increasing pressure As if the resurgence of pain wasn’t a gift on its own, the Tamoxifen makes me have hot flashes throughout the day, or want to puke, or makes me cold. My toes are periodically numb. Or sometimes they feel like someone is hammering razor blades into my toes. My days are about sleeping or thinking about sleeping. I am scared. Terrified even. And again, not of dying, because that’s not what frightens me. What frightens me is when Andy asks what is going to happen next and I can’t answer him, and I think about just ending it now, before it gets worse, because it isn’t fair to him. Don’t get all twisted, I’m not making plans, but if I am gonna be true to myself, I need to say what’s real, and not some pretty fairy tale that makes a good read. I’m typing through the tears, because it’s a day where I can’t just force rainbows and unicorns out my ass.

I spend a lot of time trying to stay positive. And I normally am. But I can’t pretend that cancer is not the omnipresent force in my life. I get up to walk, I feel it; I sit, I feel it; I try to sleep, it’s there. It’s in my waking thoughts and in my nightmares. I think about clinical trials and what I will hear at my next appointment. The only time I don’t think about it as much is when I find the perfect balance of medication to bring me bliss. And it’s not happening today – I am waiting for prescription in the mail, and my natural medication is just not as effective as usual, so I am a moody, whiny, blob.

I’ve decided to stop here. I have good things I want to write about, and I will either later or tomorrow. I feel like I’ve purged some of the icky and actually feel tired, and want to sleep. Be well, and I’ll be back.

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Sunday, Lazy Sunday

It started out like a good idea. I wanted to post a positive, inspirational quote in the FB group of quotes I started. So I googled. I’ve been struggling with the idea that this cancer came back to teach me a lesson – and what that lesson could be, so I thought, hey, why not a quote about dealing with the lessons taught by difficulties. Had I known that I would have to sift through a bazillion quotes about how I should turn to god in all this, I would have just written my own. As I’ve said before, I am all about people believing in whatever gives them comfort in their heart. Yet, I still get frustrated as hell by the idea that for me to get well, I have to have faith in a god. I don’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t want people to pray for me if that’s what they believe in, because positive energy is good energy in whatever form it takes, but please don’t tell me to put my trust in something I don’t believe in.

That said, the other day when I was thinking about dying, which I do a lot these days, since it’s not something that I can just put aside, I thought for a minute that I would get to see my beloved friend Joey again when I am dead. Then I though, oh shit, I will also have to see my mom. That’s not gonna go well. Ick, and a bunch of ex-boyfriends. Then I remember that we are all energy and no one is really gone anyway, their just a different type of energy, so the “dead” are always with us, just not as we remember them. Then the snowball started – all death related questions, so I thought I’d share a few for you to waste a few hours pondering:

Catholics are taught you are going to purgatory when you die, then you have to atone for all of your sins until you get to go to heaven or hell on judgment day. Also, the unbaptized and sinless get to go to limbo to hang out until judgment day too. So, if that is true, why do we pretend that when someone dies, we have an angel watching over us? Isn’t that like a lie? And where in the bible does it say that you get turned into an angel anyway? I thought the bible was pretty clear that angels are angels and humans are humans and never shall the two interbreed, or HELL. Not that I am worried about this for my own self, but I just wonder about it.

Another catholic concern: If on judgment day you get restored to your perfect human body, if you are going to heaven, which human body is it? Because I would like the one I had at 19. I was really happy with that one. I don’t want this year’s version. And, if you get the body you want at a certain age, and you are trying to reconnect with someone in the afterlife who never knew you at that age, how will they know you, and what if they choose an age when you didn’t know them, then how will you ever find each other and what if one of you is 19 and the other person’s perfect body was at 72, would you still be friends? Think about that. And if you get to pick the age of the body in the afterlife, why even bury dead bodies, because pretty likely you don’t want the one you died in. Unless you were 19. And if you are going to hell, wouldn’t you just get to keep the crappiest form of your body there was?

And why don’t we put wooden crosses at hospitals everywhere the same way we put wooden crosses at crash sites? I mean people die there every day. And at home. I just don’t get it.

Now that I’ve got you thinking, I’ll move on.

I’m doing okay. It’s almost 3 weeks of the tamoxifen. It’s not bad, except for the pimples, nausea, and hot flashes. And now, weight gain, or at least bloating. As if I didn’t have enough weight already. I am trying to figure out if I am dealing with the diagnosis okay or if I am depressed. I’m having pain again, which I manage the best I can depending if I am at home or at work. I am trying to stay off the opiates as long as I can. I feel like I am in limbo now until August, and wish I had a personal CT scanner so I could follow the progress of the ol’ pufferfish myself. I know it’s gotten bigger, because I can feel the changes in my body, and how it impacts my stomach and intestines. I just want the other stuff to disappear, and I wonder if it keeps growing, will they be able to drain fluid from it like before, or am I just going to have to suffer from it? I don’t like suffering. I don’t do well, even though I have a particularly high tolerance for pain. So I just need to know what’s next.

I am not sad. I’m just lacking motivation. There’s a lot of things that go through your head when you have a very uncertain future. A few weeks ago, I was reading an article about being less materialistic. It said before you buy something that you want, ask yourself will anyone want that when you are dead. Amazingly, it really limits the amount of useless shit you buy. Like before I buy another ball of yarn, I say what is Andy going to have to do with the unused crates of yarn you already have, for all the projects you were going to make and haven’t? Then I don’t buy it. It’s morbid and useful all at the same time. So if there’s something of mine you want, better call dibs now, because who knows what will become of it later.

It’s not that I don’t think there’s hope. Because I do. I just have lived my life with preparing for the worst and being pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn’t happen. And if it does, then I was prepared for it I just don’t want to be a fucking Pollyanna thinking that nothing bad will happen, because ignorance is not bliss. I still envision this annoying beast inside of me shrinking and disappearing, I drink the tumor tea, and chant healing sounds. I just don’t want to think that I can go on living like I have all the time in the world. I don’t and none of us do.

I went back and forth on the idea of a bucket list. I don’t like that cliché, but I made a list anyway – it’s pretty short, because I realized I did a lot of the things I wanted to, and the rest, well, either they don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, or I put them on the list. Mostly, I just want to spend time with people laughing, (which is why I spent the entire weekend alone in the house, medicating) and just hanging out. There are really only three significant things, in addition to my 1000 books read plan, flying in a fighter jet, and do a couple barrel rolls, and maybe a loop, go to Ireland (with a side trip to Stonehenge) and get a van and drive cross country, hitting up all my friends in different states as I make my way back to the west coast. Oh and get a passport. I still haven’t actually gotten around to that. I do have other plans as well, but they aren’t “bucket list” per se, just stuff I am not going to put off doing any longer.

Anyway, this was kind of random. Maybe because I had a lot of pain this morning and I treated it. I also thought it was Father’s Day today, and called my dad to wish him greetings, only to have him inform me it was next week. Andy and I are going to see Against Me! next Saturday in Lancaster, and hopefully my shark sister and her husband will join us, and we can finally get Himalayan food before the show. As for now, I suppose I need to go through my washed clothes in the dryer so I have work clothes for this next full week of work ahead of me. For the record, last week I worked on two case dictations – 41 pages of typing and over 50,000 words total. And only 7ish cases left to go. So be well my friends, enjoy your Sunday, and hope that the next time I blog, I make sense. Be well.

Oh, and you should read this article on impermanence. Here ya go…

http://www.tricycle.com/blog/accepting-unacceptable

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Pufferfish’s Evil Return

Well, well, well.

I noticed from the upswing in hits on the blog that people have been anxiously awaiting this blog entry. It’s certainly not one I wanted to write, and it took a few days for me to get my head around the news from the Dr. and actually sit down and write. Mostly I have just been lying in bed, super-high on narcotics and whatever else is lying around, trying to pretend that none of this is happening. Do you think just once, my body and mind could cooperate? Just once, for a few blissful hours of mind and body numbing peace. No fucking way.

First, I couldn’t get numb enough. And believe me I tried. But then things kicked in and I was all sorta fuzzy warm and mellow and just kinda caught in that sweet spot between sleep and awake where you can just lie there and not care. Until the pain started. Then I had to revisit my dear narcotic friends, and a few Advil just for good measure. Next thing you knew, I was asleep. Well, for two hours anyway, because my increasingly smaller bladder had me up stumbling to the bathroom every two hours, as in the new normal in this house. And of course, I need to drink a lot of water, so that fun never stops. But here we are, Sunday morning, almost noon, and I am enjoying the bitter turmeric tea and encouraging it to kill cancer cells as I type.

I suppose I should reveal the news from the Dr. I have already had to text or tell a bunch of people, and first let me say, the words I hate to hear are “I’m sorry” – I know you are, you don’t have to say it. I also hate the sad look. So, if you can spare me any of that, it would be awesome. I am not going anywhere yet, unless the Tamoxifen gives me a heart attack or embolism. I’ll reveal the full prognosis after I set the stage, because even though the moments are etched forever in my brain, they aren’t stuck in yours yet.

So Heidi and I head off to Hershey that morning, bright and chipper. Okay, maybe the chipper part is an exaggeration, since I already viewed the CT scan report online, Friday night, after it was posted. I already knew one of the tumors had shrunken significantly, and that my bladder lining had thickened. I also knew that that fucking pufferfish was living, larger than ever, in the dark vastness of my uterine cavity. Inside of it was no longer a clear or murky liquid, but evil nodules of the deadliest kind (which they might not be, but in my mind, I’d already given the diagnosis). These were new and growing nodules. Evil bits that plague the pufferfish. However, despite the new larger size of the pufferfish, it was not causing me any real pain, that is to say, there was some achiness that I had attributed to just being lazy, but that I now knew to be pressure from the beast. It was not the relentless traumatic pain that I had before that warranted morphine just in order to function. In fact, I could get away most days without any medication at all.

Despite the two young deer that decided that crossing Interstate 81 was a good choice at 9:15 am, we arrived early at the appointment – and of course the waiting room was crowded, but not as crowded as it had been in the past. Of course, I was anxious, but I had kept deluding myself with the thoughts that Dr. K would just tell me it was nothing, put me on hormones, and send me on my way for three months. I was busy checking my facebook between talking to Heidi, or playing Red Herring and thinking “why didn’t I make that neato sign that says “I’m in remission”?” so I could take a selfie later. Then I was called. Well first they called for Diana, and ended up with the wrong person, then they realized their error and came back for me. And it was actually early for my appointment. Omen 1.

Well I went back alone, and was weighed and measured. When I looked at the scale, it looked like I gained three pounds, which was annoying, but turns out, I lost five. It’s hard to read upside down. I went in to the exam room with my nurse, and we did the blood pressure thing and reviewed my meds, and I gave a two for my pain level, and then this unfamiliar nurse left me and told me Dr. K would be in soon. And I waited. And waited. And waited. I heard and saw medical students wandering about, so I knew it was a minion day. This might take a bit.

And I waited. After 45 minutes, there was knock on the door. In came a young woman, who let me know she was a chief resident. She had a copy of my CT report, and asked me the usual minion questions. I told her I had already reviewed my report on line, and compared it to previous reports and she asked me what I thought. I told her I was pleased that one tumor had shrunk, but I was concerned about the other information. She smiled and said the tumor shrinking is good news, right? I agreed, and then she excused herself and told me they would be right back in a few minutes.

And I waited. By this time, I have concluded that this visit is going to have bad news. I never wait this long to see the Dr. It’s almost an hour. Dr. K has a southern drawl. I hear him going in and out of exam rooms, but never mine. My treatment coordinator, Anne, has not arrived to hug me. Something’s up. It’s not the usual laugh riot that my trip to the Dr. usually is. Even though I consciously want to explain away the delay, I know that the last time I had to wait this long, it was not good news at all. Nope. My gut knows this is bad. Omen 2.

Still waiting. The chief minion pokes her head in and says it will be just a few more minutes, smiles and exits. I hear Dr. K in the room next to me talking to the posse. I can’t hear what he is saying, but I am texting Heidi to tell her this is not good and I am still waiting. Then I hear him in the hall, telling someone to go find Anne and tell her he needs her. Then he says, tell her I’m in here, I am going in. And in comes Dr. K, at 11:45ish, with his somber face on. I notice this and say “hey, you have your somber face on,” and he sits down. It is never good when he sits down right away. Omen 3.

He whips out that CT report and begins. He says, well you already saw this, but I’m going over it. I say of course, I saw it, but my medical degree from google and web md are not helping me understand it. He says well the one tumor outside is significantly smaller. I nod. Then he says, but your cyst is back, and bigger, and again I nod. He says that this is not good. The chemo did nothing to the murky death cells in the cyst. They even grew. This is not good at all. We do not want murky death cell growth. He tells me that recurrent endometrial cancer is very bad, and I remind him I have used google and know this. He says that the only thing we can do now is try to stop the cyst from growing and/or keeping cancer from spreading. I nod, I’m on board for this. He sighs.

Anne arrived and she has a serious face on too. The chief minion in the chair aside me is silent. Dr. K says we can try another series of chemo, he can put me on a chemo pill, or we can do nothing. Ruling out “do nothing” as an option, I ask him what he thinks I should do, since he is the professional. and has a degree in medicine from a school and not web md, and he says that I have had a rough round of chemo and I should take the pill for three months, and enjoy my summer. Then he throws out “I am not going to bullshit you, if this things grows or spreads, this cancer is going to kill you.” Bottom line. He can’t give me a time frame or an idea of progression, but I know Dr. K long enough now that he wouldn’t be telling me this if it wasn’t a likely outcome. He then reminds me that I am not a candidate for surgery because of where and how this thing is situated and that even if I was, that again, he would have to remove my bladder, rectum, and as a new added bonus, my vagina. No, that is not anything we’d be considering anyway. Quality of life over quantity. I have done an amazing job keeping it together through all this, even making a few jokes. I ask for more oxycodone, while everyone scurries for my prescriptions and to write orders for CT scans in three months. Dr. K reminds me that I WILL be able to go see OWTH in September if they play in Philly. The grandchildren thing is still not something he can guarantee me, and frankly, it’s probably not likely.

Then he hugs me. I want to break down sobbing but I assure him I’ll be ok. Anne hugs me. I am in a state of shock, I think, and then I cry a little. I don’t want to go to check-out sobbing, because I will scare the other patients. I am choking it back. I am saying all the things that other people will say to me over the next few days in my head, there’s always miracles, get a second opinion, be positive – you know, all the shit that people say when they are trying to make you feel better. I let Heidi know I’m out and then I go to check out and stuff my bag with tissues, because the breakdown is coming.

I successfully hold it together until I get to Heidi’s car. Then I tell her my prognosis, and cry a little. Then we go to lunch. At Houlihan’s. I have two hard cherry lemonades. I am relaxed. I can deal with this, but I am devastated that I will have to tell Andy. I don’t want to ruin his future plans and make him feel like he has to put his life on hold while I wait for cancer to finish me off. I don’t want him to have to be without his mom. I don’t want to have to tell him.

For the record, I have told brother’s Michael and Alan that I am on Tamoxifen for three months, and that we will see what happens when we have CT scans in August. I didn’t tell them the endometrial cancer will likely kill me part. I am sure someone I have told or that reads this blog will spill the beans, but I couldn’t. I am also not telling my dad or my other brothers. I am sure again, that someone will tell them even though I DO NOT want them to know. I couldn’t not blog about it, because frankly I am tired of telling people and facing the sad face and hearing words that do nothing to make either of us feel better.

So for right now, I am in limbo. Knowing the history of this pufferfish and its habits, it’s more likely to keep growing than not. I am taking Tamoxifen twice a day, and hoping it helps. I am drinking turmeric tea and trying to eat better. I am chanting for healing. I am visualizing the pufferfish drying up and vanishing, but I also know better than to dismiss the likely reality. As I’ve pointed out to many of my friends, there are advantages. I’ll be able to get a prescription for medical marijuana when the law passes here in PA, and I will probably never have to pay back my student loans. One of the possible side effects of the Tamoxifen is that I may lose weight (I could also gain it, or die of an embolism, heart attack or stroke). So who knows?

Strangely enough, I am also okay with this. Knowing beats waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I can finally go get that new tattoo and get my ears pierced so I can get big gold hoops that say “sexy” and “baby” to rock with my bald ostrich head. And I only need to get through 2.5 months before my next CT scan before I know if the tamoxifen had any effect. Oh, and I get to return to work full-time on June 8th. Woo hoo. I probably could have had my Dr. write me off for the whole summer if I asked, but hell, I am tired of not getting a paycheck and having to rely on Andy for money. So we’ll see how this all works out.

That my friends, it the story. Now I’m off to make some lunch, or take a nap, or something. Enjoy your Sunday afternoon. Peace out.

PS. I have this goal of reading 1000 books before I die. I am on number 2. However, it’s heavy on feminist theory, so it could be a while. But you should be happy because it’s about feminism and you know how I love that. Just wait.

BTW, if you like this or any of my entries, hit the ol’ like button on this page. Maybe more people will read it then. And it gives me a happy star when someone likes my entry. It’s the little things, folks.

hilarious_grim_reaper_gag_by_ATLbladerunner


Because Sleep Is For The Weak, I Mean Really Weak, and Tired, and Cranky

I’ve got my crankypants on today. I am on the verge of a breakdown, which I am eagerly anticipating since once I have it, I can get back to the business of being me. I almost typed normal, which I have never been, or will be. Even commercials are annoying on TV – especially the flonase one, in which I am told repeatedly that six is greater than one. Thank you very fucking much flonase. I know that the American education system is flawed in a lot of ways, but I am pretty sure anyone who ever attended school learned that six is greater than one. In fact, my guess is that unless a person was raised by wolves, EVERYONE knows that six is greater than one. I don’t need big pharma trying to sell their product to me with a condescending commercial. So fuck off Flonase.

And Snapple commercials – also fucking stupid. And any feminine hygiene commercials, except for those great commercials from a few years ago, where the woman mocked dancing and riding horses when a woman has her period. If you want to sell me you shit, appeal to my intellect, or make it direct, but don’t try to trick me. Again, I suppose it’s because I don’t consider myself a sheeple, that I think most of what I see or read is skewed and manipulated and trying to make me a mindless consumer. With this is mind, I have taken a new approach to shopping, from an article I recently read about living a more simple life, and death – when I am going to buy something, I am now going to ask myself, will anyone want this when I am dead? Because if not, I don’t need it, because people will only throw it out when I die.
These are the things keeping me awake besides the decadron tonight. And since I cannot escape the omnipresent thoughts about this fucking vicious monster inside me, you, my friends, will also be subjected to it until it either a: it goes into remission, or better yet, vanishes or b: I have a breakdown and stop stressing over it or c: I die. Yes, I said it – die. Because we all do, and since I see more and more people my age doing it, and because of a conversation I had with my old friend Anne, in which we realized that most of the people we hung around with / dated in high school are, well, dead, it’s been on my mind. And the tragic mess that is my house is also a reminder that should I die tomorrow, from this disease, some other medical issue, or from walking under a falling piano that Wylie Coyote was planning to drop on the Roadrunner, it could happen. There are journals to be shredded and/or burned, wills to be amended, and just other odd bits to be destroyed/discarded. I am not worried about what I put on Facebook or in this blog, because whatever I put on a computer will live forever. I used to think about that when I wrote in my journals, but there are some very dark times in years past, that are better left unread. Nothing that would enrich or improve anyone’s life. Of course, there’s a burn ban in effect in Schuylkill County for the next month, so it’s not like I can burn them right now anyway…but if you read this, and if I should die before the end of May, there’s one journal in my bedroom, and I think two are in the giant steamer chest in the living room with all of my photo albums and a copy of Madonna’s Sex book which I put in there because it would be too much trouble for Andy to move all the stuff on top of it to get in there and find it. Somebody get in there and destroy that shit ASAP once I am cold.

And while we are being candid here, I am gonna put this shit out there too, again because I am cranky and I am gonna be up for a few hours because the sucky decadron make me superhuman and amps up my anxiety x100 the night before what we are hoping is the last chemo for the next 20 or 30 years. When you have the stupid c-monster, or any other chronic disease, people will ask you how you are feeling? I really want to tell people how I feel, but most times you just say, fine, or tired, or great, and slap that stupid smile on your face, to make other people feel more comfortable. After the next two or three weeks, that might be true, but this deep into chemo, the answer I bite back is this: I feel like shit. I could sleep 24 hours a day, every day, except when it’s warm and sunny, and I want to go out somewhere but don’t feel up to driving myself. So I sit on the porch. I feel nauseous most of time (this is new, I have to eat every few hours or address the need to hurl with other treatments) and nothing that I eat or want to eat really tasted good. I have this weird smell in my nose that won’t go away. While my eyebrows have not completely fallen out, most of my eyelashes have and I wake up with my eyes crusted shut every morning and my greatest fear is that I will lose my excellent health care insurance because I will get too sick to go back to work and I will be reduced to substandard health care, or worse yet, medical assistance, and will not be able to afford getting well. I have weird pain, I forget shit all the time because of my chemo brain. And I am afraid every time I go to the doctor that I will get bad news and have to continue with my treatments indefinitely. That’s how I am feeling – how are you? But you don’t get to say that. (sorry I know I’ve said this all before, I apologize for the redundancy. No, not really, this is my fucking blog and since the only people here in the house to talk to at this time at night have their eyes permanently sewn open and their mouths sewn shut, there’s a lack on interactive conversation.) Random thought: Does Chris Isaak even write music anymore? You never hear about him anymore. That’s what I need, I playlist with Chris Isaak, Morrissey and Elliott Smith, with a dash of Jesus and Mary Chain circa Darklands tossed in there and I would never leave my bed again.

Yes, it’s true I am feeling sorry for myself. I am scared to death of what’s to come in the next month. I am scared that I will need to have more chemo. I am scared that the scans will show something I don’t want to know. I am not a fan of this nonsense at all. I’d prefer to lie in bed sleeping all day because I am just a lazy cow instead of it not being my choice to do nothing. I would prefer to go through life not thinking at all about whether or not I am going to have to have treatment again. It’s so not fair. I long for the days when staying my jammies all day was a decision, and not because I am too weak to get dressed. I want to enjoy a shower, not dread the exhaustion that follows. I want to look forward to cooking, not just pray I can find something that tastes good and requires minimal exertion on my part. I want to enjoy drinking water, and not fear it will taste like poison when I drink it. I want to walk up a flight of steps without gasping for air like a fucking trout out of water. I want eyelashes dammit!

It’s now 2am. We are leaving at 7:30 tomorrow because my doctor’s appointment is an hour earlier. Of course it would be on the day that Andy is going to be my chemo pal. Hopefully the Dr. will be on schedule, and we’ll be in and out of there, and Andy can go sleep for a few hours at Tom’ house while I get my treatment, so he’s not up all day and then has to go to work with no sleep. What does that mean? It means if you feel like visiting me while I am pumped full of poison, I will be in the second floor infusion room, hopefully one with windows, and a decent automated bed (not like the bed that required manual adjustments the last time I was there) after 11 am, because before that, we will be getting Asian rice crackers, Starbucks and some more oxycodone, to make chemo more fun. It’s only 3 more hours until decadron dose number 2. Good times.

I was going to try to end this with something positive, but I feel that would be fake, so I am just going to start packing my backpack for tomorrow. I’ve found that since I don’t need to bring a blanket to the infusion center, I can actually get the laptop, my stuffed friends, and snack all in one backpack so I don’t look like a dying homeless person when I go to the hospital. I suppose that’s positive. And I can throw my sheets and blankets into the washer and actually dry them before I go so I can have a clean fresh bed when I get home, so that’s positive. And I already have ginger beer, honey and pineapple juice to get through the next few days. That’s plenty positive.

I think I might actually blog from the hospital tomorrow to document the day’s events. That could be fun. Now I am off to fold another load of laundry and eat a yogurt. Then try again for sleep. So curl up with your favorite toy, my puppies, and sleep tight. And think about all the people who have bed bugs, and be eternally grateful you don’t. Bon soir.

Addendum: There should be an assessment period before people are allowed to be on Facebook. Like they should have to have a myspace and it should be monitored for stupid and annoying things that are misspelled, bigoted, or obviously scams or urban myths. If a person posts that shit, they should never be allowed to move up to facebook. I am tired of being the internet police, sheesh.

Also, why when you google anything about cancer, everything is pink and has to do with titties? I mean I get that breast cancer is a huge issue for women, being that I am one of them, but what about all the other killer cancers out there, why does it seem we only care about cancer that affects the one part of women that, aside from the vagina, are something of interest to men? That pisses me off.

angry-cat_o_1041758I don’t usually like grumpy cat, but this made me laugh.


Whiny Walrus Writing

I stayed home again today – this means there isn’t going to be a paycheck next Friday. Good thing chemo is Wednesday, since I won’t need food or have much of a life for a week or two after that. Yes, you read that right ladies and gentlemen, chemo is next Wednesday is chemo, which may very well be my last chemo, we can only hope. I’m so done with all of this – waking up to eyes crusted closed because I have no eyelashes to protect them, the dry scratchy skin on my face and legs, the weird wispy white hairs that grow in the interim while I wait for my hair to grow back, being fucking exhausted 24-7, the weird smells in my nose and the fucking metal taste that hardly ever goes away.

But let’s review where we are at before I continue. My CA 125 number is still in the normal range, which is good, but it didn’t go down for two treatments and it went up this week, so I’m a little anxious. My blood tests are good, but my counts are understandably down, especially my hemoglobin and my white blood cells, which means I am ultra-susceptible to infection, in addition to being exhausted. I’ve been watching my temperature all day, because I started running a low-grade fever last night, I have an earache, and I can’t stop sneezing. What did the doctor say during our last visit you ask? Well, he thinks that the chemo will have done its job, and I will start hormone therapy after this last treatment as long as my scans look good. Ideally, the tumors will have disappeared, or at least shrunk significantly. It will still be contained to the area where it started and left the rest of my body alone. We did talk about the surgery option, and that’s never gonna happen. He said I’m not a good candidate, and he said it wouldn’t be a positive experience for me even if I was a candidate, so what does this mean? The tumors stay, no matter what their size. His goal for me and my treatment is give me a good quality of life. He did say I am not dying at this time – I will still make it to the OWTH show in Philly in September, and he will let me know if the prognosis changes and I am dying. He definitely said he would let me know if I was dying. So no dying. As for my plan to have grand-babies if that is what Andy and his life partner decide to do, Dr. K said there were too many variables for him to guarantee that could happen, but I definitely will make it to OWTH in September. That means I will also probably make Halloween and Thanksgiving, and Christmas this year. More than likely, I will be around longer than that too. It doesn’t sound like my demise is imminent at this time. These are all good things.

So tell me then, why am I so unhappy? When does this new lease on life shit come around? It didn’t happen last time, it’s not happening this time, and it’s very disheartening. I know a lot of this has to do with my exhaustion and my inability to do a lot right now, but I also know that if these tumors are not gone, or drastically diminished, I’m a time-bomb. According to my Dr., my cancer is atypical of endometrial cancer. It should not have come back, but it did. It should not be responding to chemo, and it is. It’s not doing anything that endometrial cancer should do. It’s quite possible that the cyst was always cancerous, but it never showed any signs of malignancy until this last surgery, which is bizarre. It’s my own special type of endometrial cancer. How fucking lucky am I?

I didn’t want to write anymore about cancer. It’s just not as funny this time. It’s old and annoying. I am much more than this disease, but right now it’s the only thing that I can think about. At this point, I have so little energy, I am excited that I can make something to eat in the microwave. I made baked hot dogs for dinner the other night and needed a nap afterward. I need a nap after I take a shower. I can get in the car and go places, but it is work to get out of the car and go in the house. If I can’t drive through it or get it all in one store, it doesn’t get bought. Sitting up for extended periods is tiring. I don’t want to sleep all day, and that seems to be all I can do. Thank goodness for the DVR, because I fall asleep during nearly every show I try to watch. I am surprised I didn’t fall asleep eating or driving yet. This disease is a monster. After my last chemo, I had these weird pains all over my body like a whack-a-mole of pain – there’s a spot on my foot that still hurts, and actually feels like I broke two toes, but when I actually touch them, there’s nothing wrong. I’ll fall asleep and then suddenly, bam, a fiery pain rocket fires in my leg, and I’m awake. Then the restless foot thing happens and I’m whining for an hour trying to get back to sleep. My medication helps, but sometimes I would like to just have a clear head for a few hours. I keep telling myself over and over…just one more. There’s just one more treatment – please let there only be one more treatment.

Opiates make for weird dreams throughout all of this. Most of them are weird in a good way – like I want to go to back to sleep to resume them. There are also weird dreams when I am not taking them, probably because my brain is bouncing back from being in the poppy cloud. Last night I had a really sad dream though and it’s been hanging around all day, as if now even my sleep is conspiring against me to keep me from waking up with a smile on my face. Meditation, chanting, sunlight – I am really trying to keep the black cloud away, but it’s not working out as I planned. Don’t get me wrong – I am still really okay with the whole death and dying thing – I still feel like life is trying to cheat me – but whatever is going to happen, is going to happen. I mean, I could step outside and step on a Shenandoah splinter, and get hep c. I could be hit by an unattended, unoccupied, runaway vehicle that rolls away from near the One Stop. I could choke on a grape. I’m OK with that – what I am not okay with this uncertainty, and the fear. I’m not fearless. I might act it most of the time, but in my bed – I am scared little girl, who is afraid of what might come – not the death part, but the being sick part. I don’t want to be any sicker than I have been. Again, my future is now going to be controlled by my access to health care.

There is plenty to be grateful for though. We now have a dryer again, thanks to Crystal, so I can at least watch and dry clothes now, even if I don’t have energy to take them upstairs. Andy cleaned the kitchen, sort of – now if I can get him to take the recycling to the recycling center. The rest of the house is a shambles. It’s spring. Things are turning greener. Kellie hung out with me at my last chemo and let me beat her at scrabble. I went out to visit Paige and Preston and Kenny. I had some pudding. It was good. It’s not all gloom and doom, but I need to vent what I feel here, because in the tower, there’s no one but me to talk to. It’s not easy being positive when you don’t know what’s next – I do what I can. Mostly I am happy and laughing, because what else is there to do, but alone, I am reminded that life has not handed me an easy go of this. It’s not fair and it sucks, and it’s so easy to be on the outside looking in and think that there is an end in sight – there is, but like the rest of life, it’s all fucking gray – not black or white, or anything I can hang my hopes on. Sure, the glass is half full, but in my world, someone will come along and poison it, just to keep me on my toes.

Sounds like the dryer stopped, so I should go throw the blankets in, so I can have fresh clean blankets to wrap around my walrus body once I take my medication and drift into a medicated slumber. I want to get past this disease that has overtaken my life, and focus on politics, feminism, and social injustice. ( I know you can’t even wait for that). Plus my eyes are getting weepy and tired, and want me to rub them non-stop until they are sore and red.

So that’s it for now my friends…I’m just gonna quietly post this, because this one was all for me, just to help me process my frustration. As with everything this will pass. Be well.


The Robin Hunt

I made myself get out of bed and shower this morning. Blame the sun, all warm and golden, blasting through the multiple blankets that I use as curtains during the winter (over the real curtains) to block out the delightful breeze that cools my head which comes through these old windows in my bedroom. (also the reason I can hear every dog-damned word that is spoken/yelled/chattered in the street outside which is why I am sitting here typing instead of sleeping because I took two pills to try and sleep and no sooner than I was sliding into blissful opiate dreamland, inconsiderate people arrived home at 11:30 and had to make sure they slammed ever fucking car and house door they could find while merrily chattering all the way, and ruined that attempt.) So here we are.

In truth, I was going to write this entry early. Then I didn’t because I was consumed by a wave of darkness and to avoid contemplating the sucking blackness, I took a nap. However, after showering, I decided I needed to waste half of a tank of gas and get out in that sunshine and try and dispel the gloom that is wrapping itself around me like a blanket with static cling. I tossed on some sweats, a hoodie, and flipflops, because it is spring you know, and was at least 35 degrees, and out I went. I plugged the phone in for music, and then headed out to the valley. Driving around mindlessly while singing loudly always seems to sort things out, one way or another, so drive it was. I decided I wanted a peanut butter milkshake and a hot dog from Sonic, so I headed in that direction. Of course, my music of choice was loud and fast, as it usually is, unless I am trying to enhance a black mood, when we turn to something in the way of Elliott Smith. But today I needed to sing loudly about pain and depression and sorrow, past regrets and hopelessness, which would also be Elliott Smith, but without the painful plaintiff beauty of his chords. When I hit the quarter mile on the Brandonville Road, I laid my foot down on the gas as took it as it was meant to be driven, easing up as I hit the decline. It felt so good to be out, with the sunroof open, and have that minute or so with nothing more on my mind but that feeling of speed and screaming the lyrics to “Keep Falling Down” loudly, frightening the birds and friendly woodland creatures in earshot.

One good thing about winter is that it covers a lot of sins. Like garbage. Now that the snow is melting and everything is still dead dead dead, all the trash so carelessly tossed out the windows of cars is heaped along the roadside in the little streams of melting snow that run along the road, and around dead deer carcasses. Carcasses, carcassi? Whatever. The Ringtown/Brandonville valley roads are beautiful in spring, summer and fall. In winter, they leave something to be desired. Driving them brings up a lot of memories – from trips to the dairy to get milk with my dad and siblings, driving past the first home I ever knew but can’t remember at the #5 damn, picnics at Stauffer’s park when my parents would spend the day arguing and the kids getting splinters from the rickety old wooden merry-go-round, summer vacations “back home” when I was living in California when we would drive all day, cooler in the back, listening to a mix of Springsteen and Led Zeppelin, and top 40 and that new “punk” music I brought with me from California, and late night drives with quarts of beer between our thighs, laughing and carefree. And hours of driving and thinking. It’s my go to to try and sort shit out, just like driving the coast in California was – well not exactly, because well, oceans make everything better, right, whole. But drive I did. To Sonic. Got my milkshake and some popcorn chicken with barbecue sauce because I hadn’t eaten yet to day. And which I later regretted, because it wasn’t really chicken per se, just some chicken like substance with coating. Should have just stuck with the milkshake.

Anyway, as I drove I noticed that many more homes in the area are littered with shit. No other way to describe it, because it’s just like extra stuff that people own that they won’t throw away but have nowhere to store it so it’s just outside their houses in different states of decay. And I started thinking about whether the outside reflects the inside, or if these people don’t care how their house looks, and when did we start being so concerned with collecting so much stuff that we don’t even have enough places to store it. I always used to envy the houses in the valley because they were so neat and tidy, so pretty, and always wished I could live there, to be away from our too small, too old, too mismatched house. To play in a yard with grass. To not be surrounded with ugly black coal banks everywhere (for you young ‘uns, there was a time when our little town was in the midst of gaping scar of strip mining, surrounded by slate banks – much of that is covered with trees and shrubs now). The valley was where all the happy people must live. Now, I’m not so sure.

Anyway, in my critical analysis of what these signs of decay and garbage mean to society as a whole, I realized it was spring. And spring means robins. I must now find a robin. (Fact: Robins, while not seen much in the winter, do not migrate, they just stay huddled together for warmth. When spring comes, they emerge to seek food – robins are individualistic birds. They only get together to mate and survive winters).

This is now a quest. There are crows. Hawks. Geese. Red-winged blackbirds. Sparrows. Chickadees. No robins. (or bluebirds, for that matter) Where are the robins? I am not going home until I find one. As I continue to meander, I drive past places with memories, still trying to deal with all that is going on in my head. I figure that cemeteries, with their vast open spaces, will be a prime source of robin findage. I head in that direction. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spot a red breast, but I am driving way too fast to clearly confirm robin sightage. I am fairly certain that it was one, but until I can definitively confirm that it was robin, we shall continue to drive.

People who know me, know that cemeteries are like one of my favorite places in the world. I love the peace and sanctuary of cemeteries. Unfortunately, and in my opinion, oddly, the cemeteries are still mostly snow covered despite the last two days of sun, and their clear open spaces with direct sunlight. Much of the snow elsewhere is melted, but not really in the cemeteries. And no robins. I do notice a tombstone of a friend’s husband – her name is on it too, waiting for her. I think how odd, that your space is already reserved. Not that I don’t have plans for my own death rituals (which some of you will now be please to know, no longer include Andy having to chop up my body for the vultures to eat for a traditional sky burial, but do now include my ashes being made into bottle rockets and other firecrackers that can be launched into the sky). I am also looking for a trash can now as well as robins, to get rid of the evidence that I have been to Sonic. I check three different cemeteries, and nope, no robins. Just crows.

I’ve been driving for a little more than two hours now. I have managed to negotiate the roads well, missing all of the deepest and widest potholes. I feel bad for feeling sorry for myself just because I have cancer, since my drive has reminded me that many of my friends have recently suffered tragic losses in their lives and illnesses in their own families, and that there are people who live in countries that have no electricity or water. Some watch their families slaughter or live in countries at war where their homes could be torn apart by missiles or a tank at any moment. And here I am whining about having cancer. I need to be slapped. Don’t get me wrong, I am still depressed. I still feel hopeless, and scared and angry. But I am starting to see that it’s not as bad as it is for some people in this world. I decided I am going to take one more road to see if I can find robins, and then head home. My world is dark right now, but I’ll get through it. I’ve been through darker and more painful times, I’ve faced fear before. I just wallow a few days and get over it. But first, I need that robin.

I drive past the spring where we’d get water in the summer and wash cars and drink beer alongside the road outside of Brandonville. I remember being very stoned and listening to the Cars debut album over and over. And being very wet. We washed a lot of cars there when we were teenagers. And drank a lot of beer. I cruise through Mahanoy City, remembering a time when it was a pretty town, much like Shenandoah used to be, but now is just old and tired, full of rotting/abandoned/decrepit/burned out buildings, and covered in the grime of the coal region. I drive out towards Frackville, past the prison, and co-gen plants, sad that this is what’s left for this area. And then I see it. A fucking robin. No mistaking it this time. A fucking robin. Mission Accomplished. It’s all hopping around, looking for food on a partially snow covered lawn. Boom.

And I headed home.

Now I’m here. I am not sure how I feel, but I know I’m going to work tomorrow because I already promised to cover intake for someone since it’s Monday and they need to be in court. And I’ll be there Wednesday, because it’s a morale event, and I said I would bring cream cheese. Thursday we are headed to Pittsburgh to see Off With Their Heads play and stay at my brother’s condo. Friday, we are going to the Warhol Museum, and I don’t know what else. Saturday, we are going to see Pennywise in Philadelphia. Now this may seem like an expensive week, but the tickets for OWTH were only $12, and the condo is free. Pennywise tickets were only $25, and Andy is paying for those as well as for the Warhol Museum. We need to do something fun, to get us out of this rut we are both in. Fortunately, we like many of the same bands, so it’s something we can do together. So at least I have something to look forward to this week – and next week is…drum roll….CHEMO and another stretch of being confined to my bed for a week while I try to like the way water tastes. Life could be worse, and that is what I am hanging on to. Because when I lie in bed, tossing, it seems like there’s not but a black hole that’s sucking me in.

My friends, it appears that most of the neighbors have finally gone to bed, and the next sound to wake me up with be newspaper delivery in about 4 hours. Fortunately I had a nap this afternoon. Tomorrow is work, and more blood tests (it’s CA125 test day) and I get two stickers this time, because last time someone was in the sticker room when I was done my blood draw, and I couldn’t get one. I will have to share a pic of my prizes in the “no sticker, no blood” collection. I’ve got all kinds now, and will have to start another sheet soon. Hopefully, blood sucking will be followed by dinner with my shark sister Ashley at this Himalayan restaurant we both want to try. So there are things to look forward too. Life doesn’t suck that hard, I guess.

The itching of my eyes indicates I should rest, particularly since I still don’t know where my glasses are. Hopefully, writing tonight will keep me from too much tossing and turning. Sleep well my loves, and pleasant dreams to you all, and happy Monday. Be a busy worker bee.


Just A Lot of Whining

It’s never a good sign when I go to start writing and can’t find my glasses. I mean, I can do this without them, that’s what the little magnifying glass is for, to make this shit bigger so I can see it. But I’ve been having a lot of anxiety lately and now, being unable to remember where I put my glasses is going to be added to that mess of thoughts that are rattling around in my skull.

Anyway, I’ve not been writing – not because I haven’t wanted to, because I have, but there was a 10 day stretch where I couldn’t sit up for extended periods which makes the whole typing thing a bit difficult. Like I said, I have had some serious anxiety, something I have never really had before in my life, not at this level. I know it’s related to the c-monster and the uncertainty that is part of this go round with this nonsense. I also know that writing would also help to purge some of it, and I haven’t been able to. I also realized today that I am also really angry this time, angry that I have to deal with this again, angry that I have to put my life on fucking hold because I live in a country that doesn’t believe in national health care. You see, when you have cancer, it’s not like having diabetes or high blood pressure, stuff that is serious, but manageable and affordable for the most part. If I lose my health insurance, I am fucked. I mean, I know that I can still get treatment, but not the best, and certainly not without the added stress of worrying about how to pay for it. So, even though I have FMLA, because there is no finite end of this in sight, I am constantly in fear that I will lose my job, and with it my health insurance which has thus far assured me that I will have quality care. And in my reading over the last few weeks, I’ve learned that while I cannot be denied insurance for a pre-existing medical condition, I can be denied coverage for treatment related to that condition. For example, I can still get health insurance, but they don’t have to pay for ongoing cancer treatments, as long as they cover everything else. This information adds to the anxiety. I am not going to belabor this, I just need to say that it makes me angry that human life is only valuable when it furthers a fucking political agenda. Adequate health and quality health care shouldn’t be something anyone has to worry about. But I live in America, where what you get is what you can afford. I shouldn’t have to worry about things like this, I should be able to focus on getting well but the reality is that I can’t just worry about my health, I have to worry about being able to keep health insurance so I can get treatment I need.

It all comes down to the fact that this time, the c-beast is still inside me. They can’t just cut it out and give me chemo to track down and kill any escapees. All the visualization in the world will not erase from my mind the fact that my whole life is on hold while I wait to see if heavy metal poisoning will stop these arrogant killer cells from multiplying, and hopefully they die off and leave me alone. And unless it vanishes, that shit will remain inside me, waiting, taunting me. I don’t believe I will live in fear, but it’s always going to be there, in the back of my mind. Every pain, every discharge, every weird wiggle or twitch in my body will have me wondering what is going on inside. I am angry about that. I am angry that I have to endure this again, that I have to spend 10 days in bed because I can’t sit up without wanting to hurl, and there’s nothing to hurl, because I’ve eaten so little that it’s all bile. And all of this leaves me scared; I can put on the happy face, I can make jokes, I can smile and laugh and pretend it’s all ok, but I am fucking scared to death that it won’t be, and then I feel guilty because I then thing my thoughts will create my reality and …WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME??? Maybe I remember that the last time I went through this I was much stronger and positive, but then maybe that was just the way memory works, maybe I felt the very same way.

So yeah, I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone who has cancer, but I lie in bed at night and wonder what I did to deserve this. Was it something I ate? Having the laptop on my lap? Being a fat cow? Negative thoughts? Thinking badly about others? Revenge? Consequences of bad decision making? Drug use? It’s just not fair. I want my life back, I want to just be the happy and carefree grasshopper that I used to be. And then I go downstairs and I see Andy lying on the couch asleep on a Saturday night and I feel like it’s all my fault he’s there because his paycheck goes to making sure we have food and electricity instead of alcohol and clubs like it should be for a 23 year old. The last place I was on a Saturday night when I was 23 was asleep on the couch, unless it was because I didn’t get home until early afternoon. And even then I was probably going to spend some money on some substance that would keep me up for another 24 hours. I accept that my teeth are shit for those poor choices, but that should be enough punishment. The poor kid works overtime almost every day. He shouldn’t be here taking care of his mother, it is my job to take care of him. It’s wrong.

I swore I wasn’t going to whine about cancer incessantly when I started writing this but it’s hard not to when your whole day revolves around whether or not you are sick or going to blood tests or appointments or wondering how bills get paid and how to keep your health insurance. I sometimes wonder if I sleep so much because I am sick, or because I don’t want to have to think. (I know it’s because I am sick, but I can’t help wondering). I’m scared and I’m angry and I am worried. I wish I could break down and cry but my stomach ties up in knots and my chest gets tight and I toss and turn and wish I could just forget for a while what day it is in my treatment cycle and forget when I have to go back. I’m 2/3 done with this series of treatments, and my numbers look good, but at my last doctor’s appointment, Dr. K pointed out that while my numbers look good, they aren’t where he wants them to be at this point, so he subtly hinted that six cycles may not be the end of my treatment. And so, the end I was keeping in sight, is no longer so clearly defined. And sure, I know many of you are thinking but he didn’t say you have to have more treatment, and be positive, and stay focused and blah blah blah. Easy to say when the tumor is not inside of you, and trust me, I remind myself of all of those things a million times a day, while I count the hours until the next CA125 test to see where that fucking number is, knowing that even if it’s improved, it’s not a guarantee. Everything is so much more complicated this time, and as a result, my mind is constantly picking apart every twinge and tickle.

And since I can’t literally kick the shit out of the monster inside me, I let other things frustrate me, and then I hate myself for that, because I am not that person. I want to be Polly-fucking-sunshine and I can’t be, even though I constantly try. And lets not even talk about disaster house, my prison during my sick days. I spent two hours today trying to do some organizing and hardly made a dent. I ask Andy to do stuff, but let’s be realistic, the kid works 12 hr days for 5 days a week, and I am not gonna wake him up to ask him to clean the bathroom or do dishes. My friends offer to come help, but I am too ashamed to let anyone in to see the disaster this house has become, and I can’t do anything myself. I feel pleased making my bed and hanging my clothes on hangers. I vacuumed 9 steps the other day, and was too tired to finish, which then made me angry that I can’t fucking do anything. I would wish the house would burn down, and let me start fresh, but that would affect my neighbors and that just wouldn’t be fair.

So yeah, I’m pretty frustrated. It will pass eventually, I’ll get to a better place but in the meantime, I’m in this dark place trying to stay all sunny and hopeful. What I really planned to do when I started to write was to write about the amazing kids my son went to school with at Milton Hershey School (go ahead, click and visit them, this will be here when you get back) and how they started to raise money for me to get my own car so I don’t have to rely on Andy all the time because right now we have one car, and Andy has to drive me places and pick me up, after he works all night. I can drive myself, but when he’s not here and has the car, I’m stuck because I can’t really walk anywhere for anything. It’s on gofundme – it’s amazing to see what some of these young adults donated – crazy – for me, and their messages – it touched me beyond belief. I only found out by accident, and Andy had no idea either. More than the money is that these amazing kids wanted to do this for me, and help Andy and I. But maybe even more touching was the lady at the pharmacy the other day when we were coming back from Hershey. I went in to pick up my “auto refill” pills, which were only partially refilled, so I had to wait. This older woman came in, she was 75, and her refill was also “auto refilled” which meant she had to wait too. We started talking, as my bald head kinda clued her in to my cancer, and she told me how she had a quadruple bypass and then had clots in her lungs and died three times on the operating table. (For the record, she also told me there was no light, and none of that nonsense all those people who died claimed to see) She was a very religious lady, and kept telling me she was testifying. When they called her for her prescription, we ended up hugging each other. As she was leaving, she shoved five dollars into my hand and insisted I take it, and we wished each other well. I was moved by how much a stranger cared about me, and how you can make a connection in the most unlikely of places, on a day when I felt like walking death, and all I wanted was to get home and get back into bed. Of course, I realized that had they not screwed up both of our prescriptions, our paths would never have crossed. Still, it doesn’t mean I am not changing pharmacies, because I am tired of their mess ups. Anyway, it was serendipitous moment that made my day.

Well I think I pretty much got a lot of my ire out in this post. Wasn’t the funniest or most reflective one I ever wrote, and totally not what I was planning in my head, but it’s good enough for me. I’m gonna try and get some sleep, since I want to try to get a few things done tomorrow. At least get a load of laundry or two washed, so that’s it for now lovelies. Be well and enjoy the start of spring. I’m gonna go spend a few hours chanting and hope it lulls me to sleep. Sleep tight.


Of Mice and Mummies

There’ something dead in my throat. I am guessing it probably crawled in while I was snoring and became trapped and slowly met its demise. Whatever it is, it’s really nasty and it adds to the nasty metal taste in my mouth that I cannot get rid of. Apparently, I forgot that you don’t get used to chemo as you move further into treatment, you just get sicker. And I am – I am still not up to getting out of bed and driving to Hershey to do my blood work, but that will change tomorrow, because I can’t put it off anymore.

This whole chemo thing is getting boring. TV is boring, being sick is boring, drinking tea is boring and this weather? It sucks. If I ever get cancer again, it better be in the fucking spring, because somehow I think if I could go sit in the sun for a few minutes a day, I’d feel better but alas, I am trapped here in the tower of gloom and clutter with nothing to do but toss side to side and hope to slip into drug enhanced sleep.

The chemo is killing my sense of humor too. I suppose part of that is because I am trapped here in solitary. Of course, I crack myself up, but I am a captive audience. A captive audience with no energy to escape. I did manage a shower today – and I made some toast, so I guess that’s progress. I just feel like my brain is turning into jello – I haven’t had any serious academic conversations in days, nay, months. I feel like a jumbo hamster on a squeaky wheel, just going around and around, with occasional escapes into the real world, until I am captured by the chemo beast and shoved back in the cage. Even pinterest doesn’t hold my attention for things I will never make or buy the way it used to. Red pandas only amuse me for a short while, and alpacas, well they just make me long for a house on the beach. I have this list of things I could probably make while sitting here if only my eyes would agree to stay open for extended periods of time. I mean things have gotten so bad, that I don’t even turn off Hoda and Kathie Lee at 10 am anymore, I just suffer their stupidity. I even find myself watching the 700 Club more than once a week and that doesn’t bring any laughs either. Okay, well it did today, when the only man who I believe is Pat Robertson told some viewer that it was okay that their daughter did yoga, but only if she didn’t chant afterward, because that’s the worship of Hindu gods. The funniest part was the seriousness in which Pat Robertson tried to mimic the chant. I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, I am gonna keep this short, because being in the tower and watching reruns of Kitchen Nightmares and the Middle don’t really make me the wicked conversationalist. I did however watch some show on the History channel last night that has had me thinking all day. Apparently, mummies have enough DNA in the remains that once the technology is available, we can clone, or reanimate them. Now – stay with me on this – the scientists state we aren’t that far off from being able to do this. I mean we have already injected human brain matter into the brains of mice successfully. Reanimation could quite possibly involve retaining all your memories and experiences of your previous life, and then you would start adding new ones. Would that be a good thing? I wonder. I mean some things you want to forget. And if you remember the past, does it also mean that all your ailments and illnesses are also with you? What if you died a particularly painful death? Would you remember that? And would you be reconstituted in the same state you were when you mummified? Would you want that? Would you want to relive all the experiences you had all over again or would you want a fresh start? I tend to believe we are energy just moving from one form to another, so I don’t know that I would like a restart for this life, if I was already dead. Wouldn’t you always wonder if you were still the same as you were, or if something was missing, or damaged? No one who knew you would still be around, so how would you know? And isn’t the choice of whether you come back or not, taken from your hands by whoever manages to bring you back to life? It seems like an easy question at first, but it’s incredibly complicated when you really think about it. I know there are people who have passed in my life that I would never want to have back in my life again, and then there are people I would love to have back, but I’ve moved on, and would they fit into the life I have now? And what about these mice with human brain bits? What do they do with them and whose brain bits are they inserting in there? And what if they escape and start reproducing? Are these random combinations ever a good thing? Maybe we should worry less about GMO corn and more about these human-mouse hybrids. Think about that.

SmartMouse

Well that’s all for now my friends. I’ve exercised my brain more than expected today, and I have some ice cold killers in Alaska to watch now. Have a wonderful afternoon, and wish me luck on getting to Hershey for blood work tomorrow, because I need another sticker for my collection. Plus I am sure the vampires miss me. Until next we meet.


The Taste of Metal and the Sting of Tears.

I’m giving you plenty of warning today.abcsnot

If you woke up to birds singing and cuddles and happiness, click that X in the top right corner and get the fuck out of here now. I’ll give you a few seconds to escape.

Still here? Well I am not responsible for how you feel all day if you read this. I’m giving you fair warning.

Okay, fine, the choice is yours, but you will be sorry. I am, and I am writing the shit.

I started having panic attacks yesterday. Serious sobbing, full on snot slinging, not enough tissues in this fucking box, I can’t catch my breath panic attacks. I am still having them, on a less severe scale than last night, but isn’t that how horror works? The most terrifying things live in the dark and no amount of light, sunlight, electric, candle, is gonna take the terror out of it.

I am still sick. I want to get the fuck out of this house today, and just go somewhere. Anywhere. No, not anywhere. An ocean – okay, Pacific ocean where my tears can get sucked into the gigantic vastness that oceans are. It seems like it’s been months since I got this news. It’s only five weeks, but it seems like forever. And all at once it seem like it all happened so fast. And here I sit again, with a fucking cancer garden dying deep inside of me. (That’s right you nasty poisonous bastard, you’re dying inside me, because you have no right to be there) It’s so very different this time – last time I was all like, okay stupid cancer, you will be gone in six months. The second time, you’re not so cocky. I mean, I was supposed to have made it past the recurrence window. This little monster sprouted and started taking over in a two month window. I know what my stage is, I know what my odds are, I know that it is definitely possible to win again, but it’s a 1000x more scary the second time. And a second time where they can’t just do in and cut it out like last time. I have to live with it inside, knowing that the only way it’s going anywhere is if the combination of chemo, positive energy and visualization of it vanishing make it go away. Stupid cancer. It takes so much more than your health.

Yeah, I am strong, and brave and have the guts to take this on again. But I am also a tearful mess who is so scared I am not gonna be around to see the way life is supposed to play out. What if I am not to see Andy get married? To see my grandbabies? To see my niece graduate or my nephews get married? I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of what I’ll miss. What I thought was in my future and what might be so unfairly snatched away from me now. Oh sure, I know you’re thinking, well miss fucking sunshine, that’s not a very positive attitude! You’re right, it’s not, but it’s a very real one. It’s whats’ gnawing at the back of my mind 24 hours a day. Most people are afraid of dying – I’m not. I’m afraid of leaving. I know I will always be connected to the people in my life now, we’re all energy, we all are connected, but I am not done with this life yet. I have plans. I need to retire in Bali, I need to join the Peace Corps, I need to make a half-assed attempt at surfing, I have several more tattoos planned, I need to drive cross country and couch surf a few months on the west coast. I still want to get a PhD, and teach. I am not pleased that my plans are compromised by something completely out of my control. And in my mind, I rehash every doctor visit, every test result, every procedure and I wonder why the fuck I can’t win the lotto, but cancer II? I win that. How could it just show up like that? What did I do wrong? And believe me, I look back over my life, at every less that stellar choice or thought I had over the last several decades, and wonder what I am being punished for? It seems like every questionable thing I have ever done is being returned to me in the form of a nasty little parasite that is eating me up from the inside.

I didn’t even think it was possible for a human body to hold so much snot. Where does it come from? I am so scared this time. I have never been this scared. I feel like a caged animal. The chemo sick is so much harder this time – five days later and I am still tasting metal and not sure whether or not food is going to stay down. I am out of effexor – this is probably part of my non-stop panic attacks, I know I have a prescription bottle in this house somewhere that’s half full, but I can’t bend over to look for it, because I feel like hurling. Every joint in my body hurts, and motrin, tylenol and percocet are like a roulette wheel to see if one will actually help. I can’t get the weird chemo smell out of my nose, no matter how many bazillion times I blow it. I think my blood is part ginger now. It’s the only thing that keeps me from spending my day huddled over the bathroom sink. I lie down one minute and feel fine, and then in five minutes, my stomach is cramped up so much, that I want to unhinge my jaw and tear my stomach out. And, for comic relief, how about a post-chemo fart? Toxic clouds are less vile. Dick Cheney is less vile. As if you aren’t sick enough already, your body attempts to suffocate you in a noxious cloud at random points throughout the day.

At least the crying has slowed down. Blood tests tomorrow. Woo hoo. And I have two more weeks before I have to go through this nastiness again. I really feel for that 17 year old girl who wants to refuse her chemo – how is it more compassionate to put her through this when it’s not what she wants. I’ve already had the conversation about quality of life vs. quantity with Andy and my brothers – if it ever gets to that point, I’m cashing in my retirement, buying a surfboard, renting a car and driving to California, buying as many edibles as I can eat without freaking out in paranoia, paddling out and waiting for a great white to eat me after it mistakes me for an elephant seal. I am not dying in a hospital, all weak and sickly, it’s gonna be on my terms. Morbid, yes, but when have I truly not been? Really, I continue to watch Meet The Press, and I know how that’s gonna end every week, and yet I go back.

So next time you want to tell me how brave I am, or how strong, just remember that I am also a very scared and tearful little girl, wishing someone would save me from this monster. Facing this a second time is not about a fight, it’s about getting up everyday and doing what I have to keep from being paralyzed with fear. When I smile, it’s because I can’t rub my nose anymore or the skin is going to come off. When I make jokes, it’s because I’m scared and I need to find a way to cope. I’m gonna keep coping – I have to – it’s not time to give up. I’m not a survivor – that’s a fucking stupid word. I’m a person who has a fucking obstacle ahead – I may not overcome it, but I’m still gonna try. I’m also smart enough to know if at some point I have X years or months left, I’m not gonna waste that precious time trying to give me 10 extra sickly days, when I can have 5 days of fun. Look out Disneyland if that happens. Or Ireland. Or Bali. Or all three, and Peru.

You were warned to not read this. If you’re crying or horrified, that’s on you, not me. This is my blog. I have to face this shit down daily, and this is my process. This is how I sort through the rapid firing shit in my head that just won’t stop. You only have to read this once, and never again. I’ll be the one having a breakdown during Fairly Oddparents or Iron Man 3. I can’t promise that I won’t be maudlin or dramatic in the future either, but I can promise that I’ll do what I need to do to get through today, and tomorrow. Like my friend Debbie reminded me, these are the real feelings, these are what people with monsters inside them really do feel, and it’s ok. OMG, where is this fucking snot coming from???? It has to stop sometime!!

So that’s that. I’m gonna try to slog down another ginger tea. And check to see if my prescriptions are ready. And maybe take a drive. It’s a beautiful gloomy day out there, and if I can unswell my eyes, maybe I’ll go hang out among the dead for a few hours with my camera. Or do laundry. The mundane shit goes on, even when you’re having a meltdown.

Enjoy your Sunday, mes jolis canards aperçus! (use your google translate if you must know)

PS. To all of you wonderful friends, who call/text/message me to see if I need anything, thank you. Mostly I don’t need anything – I don’t really eat much lately but these are things that I always can use: Fresh turmeric root, Ginger-Honey Crystals, Reed’s Ginger Brew – Regular, Premium, or especially, Extra Ginger, Ginger Ice Cream, Anti-Viral Tissues, and bottled water – but not Arcadia or whatever the store brand at Boyer’s is – I don’t care what people say, water has different tastes depending on where it comes from. And sesame crackers. My food tastes are really different this time, and what I am hungry for can change hour to hour. If you are worried about Andy starving, don’t be, but if you insist on feeding him, there’s nothing the boy won’t eat except mushrooms. Well, he’ll even eat certain types of those, but he also gets random drug tests at work, so no thank you.

IMAG1489abfeedsGingerBrewTurmeric Roots


My Body is Temple (Of Doom)

Yeah, it was that kind of day. The kind of day you won’t forget and you hope will never come again. It’s still all very surreal, even though I have a folder with hard copies of all that went on and I can sign into the computer and see with my own eyes what I don’t really want to know. Stupid internet. S tupid body. Stupid cancer. You all suck.

I actually was early for my appointment today, even though I didn’t get out of the house as planned this morning. I skipped a coffee because I didn’t want to jack up my blood pressure which I anticipated as already being high due to anxiety. Surprisingly, blood pressure was perfectly normal. Better than ever, and I didn’t even take any pain meds this morning And I only gained a pound and a half in two weeks, which must have mostly come about last night when I was stuffing chocolate into my mouth with pretzels in order to create chocolate covered pretzels and then stuffing more feelings with a bag of sweet potato tortilla chips Yes, I wasn’t really hungry, yes, it made me sick, but the food just kept being shoved into my chomping jaws. Just like after my doctor’s appointment today when I tried to quell my emotional upheaval with taco bell and a banana milkshake at Sonic. As if it matters what I ate today, because tomorrow is chemo and I won’t want food for at least 4 or 5 days.

Okay, okay, I’ll cut to the chase. They didn’t have my MRI results posted last night or today. Dr. K came in to see me by himself, even though I heard the chattering minions whispering outside my exam room door. Not the best indicator. He looked at my MRI images on line and said he really didn’t see too much different from the last CT scan, and again went over the treatment options I had. I asked a few more questions this time, being that I was less in shock than last time – until he started talking about options. My beastly cancer-garden cyst is in a place that should he operate to remove it would cost me both my bladder and my rectum, because the pufferfish and friends are in close proximity to both and somewhat connected and that means they have to take anything that is possibly harboring mutated cells in the neighborhood. Fucking cancer. I don’t really need to elaborate on what the end result of that would look like, because I am not even entertaining that option. Even if he did surgery, there’s no guarantee that it would be a success, for a plethora of reasons including the fact that it would just delay chemo until my body healed, which would cost me time, and it would involve a very long healing time, and would be risky and very hard for me to recover from. Not to mention that it would change the quality of my life forever. He again explained why there’s not going to be any radiation, and discussed chemo versus anti-estrogen therapy. He remains positive that the ol’ c-monster will respond well to chemo, but really what else can you do but hope for the best? So after much sighing, he gave me a big hug, told me Anne would be in with my schedule and paperwork, and said he’d see me in three weeks. No minions today – they appeared to be a fresh batch because it was a new semester and I am sure he didn’t want to traumatize them too much on their first day in gynecological oncology.

Anne came in and more hugs ensued. And crying. And laughing. And she gave me my schedule and reminded me to pick up the good ol’ decadron and compazine so I would be prepared for poisoning tomorrow. She kindly color coded my schedule for me so I know when I have chemo, and dr. appointments and blood tests. Blood tests are going to be weekly this time because the radiation from last time has compromised my bone marrow and they want to make sure my blood counts stay where they should be. I also signed a release for blood transfusions. I got kinda excited about that, because fresh blood is a pretty good thing, I like when I get blood, it makes me all energized. We talked about herbal medicine for side effects and to compliment my treatment and I’m going to explore that with her okay. No zofran this time, just compazine to start for the nausea. She’s a great coach, and told me I did this once and I could do it again – the difference being this time the monster is still inside, and last time they cut the shit right out. And last time they took organs I was not longer using anyway. This time, I’d be missing parts I’m kinda fond of. Which again, not considering as an option. I’ll be seeing her pretty regularly at the ol’ Cancer Institute, as I go through this cycle. I also made sure I got my note saying that chemo would be poisoning me and I would be missing work. And a lovely catalog of hats with fake hair attached as if I am going to be seen sporting fake hair – if I want fake hair, I’ll draw it on with my sharpies. And off I went, to get my first of a bazillion blood draws. I did get a penguin sticker for my bravery during the blood draw. I am going to keep my stickers on my folder. My new rule is no sticker, no blood.

And in a repeat of two weeks ago, me and the phone returned to the car, and did our texting. And crying. Much shorter this time. I just wanted to get home, so I ran in to Karn’s and located both the delicious Halos and some Ginger Brew, so I can get through the next week. Then I comforted myself with the aforementioned taco bell and banana milkshake. It didn’t really work, but I did see my beloved pony-pony and that made me smile. He was hiding in the barn trying to stay out of the freezing wind. Another day out of the glue factory.

I was going to drive around for a while but I decided to just go home and curl up in bed and pretend none of this was happening. Of course, I had to check my online medical record when I got home, so I could add to the joy of this day by reading the MRI report. Apparently, pufferfish is now sporting two tumors, instead of one. Two. Two bloodsucking leech tumors. Two. The second one is 8cm long. The first is 10cm. So they aren’t exactly petite. Doesn’t change the treatment, but causes additional emotional damage. More crying, more curling up in a ball, more cursing my luck and trying to figure out what I did in a past life to be poor, fat, and get cancer in this one. Of course, as you can read, I’ve rebounded somewhat because I am writing about it. Cancer fact – every tumor after your first one is not only considered to be the same type of cancer as your first one, but also considered to be the same stage as the first, so they are all IIIB. Lucky lucky me. If only cancer was the powerball – I wouldn’t have won the jackpot, but I would have five numbers. Cancerpalooza.

So yeah, I am feeling sorry for myself. I’ll get up tomorrow and pull it together and get to chemo with my new skull blanket and some projects to keep me busy for the six hours of poisoning ahead. Cross your fingers that the weather folks are right this time and there’s no more than 3 inches of snow tomorrow. And that I don’t get the evil wicked winter plague that Andy has. And that there’s no more brutal wind. Oh there’s the bell saying take the decadron – be right back. Decadron pills are green. So now I take a pink, purple, green, white, yellow, red and white, and brown pill every day. If I start to take morphine again, I will add a blue one again. A rainbow of pills and no unicorn. So that was my day peeps, what did you do?

It’s time for me to load up the iPod with some podcasts and go down and make sure I turned the oven off because I actually made dinner since by the time I get through chemo sick, the roast would have been ready to throw away. I have to get up early again and pack my stuff. I know this wasn’t one of my funniest or most amusing entries, but hey, we have to take the bad with the good. I am sure chemo will be eventful. Apparently they have me scheduled for an infusion chair instead of a bed, and I am hoping that will change by tomorrow, because I am there for six hours, I should get a bed. I may or may not feel like writing tomorrow after all the fun, but I am sure I will be back in a few days, snarky and sarcastic as ever. As always, keep sending the good juju my way. And I’ll keep you entertained with these thrilling bloggy bits.

Night night my friends, and in case you were wondering, the Daily Show is back. And Crunchwrap sliders do not slide, they must be chewed. You’re welcome.IMAG1485


Magical Mystical MRI (or The Time I Got “Blue in the Face” Instead of “Trying to Breathe”)

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Let me begin with this: I am not going to be making a resolution involving vodka and orange juice, because I decided that my relaxation cocktail is just that: pineapple, orange, and veggie juice with coconut vodka. It’s mighty tasty. I am having a lot of anxiety this evening (as will be discussed in the next paragraph) and I am trying to chill because I need to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for my Dr appointment tomorrow. I know I gained a little weight. I am not sure how, but I feel fluffier. I’m not stressing about that, because in three days, I’ll be so sick that food will be my enemy once again and the only thing I’ll want to eat are my go-to foods: pineapple juice, english muffin, oatmeal, yogurt and ginger beer. I want to make a pork roast tomorrow for dinner but I am afraid if I eat my friend, the pig, before chemo, I will lose my love for the other white meat the way I have lost my taste for artichokes and parmesan cheese the last time. And if I can’t eat bacon, what’s the point of living? Right now I am trying to coordinate with my brothers to get me to chemo and back because Andy is afflicted with the winter death plague, and I cannot be trapped in a car breathing his germs for an hour while we drive to Hershey. As it is, he is forbidden to be within six feet of me. And if he gets close, I pelt him with a hand sanitizer. So right now, it’s looking like I will be arriving two hours early for my appointment, and then waiting an hour or two for a ride home after we’re done. It’s gonna be a long, long, long day. But when in my life has anything been simple or easy. Enough stressing about what hasn’t happened yet, we have to review today’s adventure.

Let me preface this with this: the internet is a dangerous tool. Useful, but dangerous. Damn Penn State Hershey didn’t put my MRI results in my “My Health” account like they do with with my CT scans. How am I supposed to make myself anxious all night before my appointment if I don’t read them like I read my CT scan reports? Hmm? How can I prepare for the worst if I don’t have the info? I, of course, interrogated the nice young technician who did my MRI as to what she saw. She confirmed that there is indeed something in there, but I knew that – when I asked her if I should be prepared for an unpleasant surprise at my visit tomorrow, she would not commit. That typically means yes, I should be, because when they don’t put your fears to rest immediately, they are trying to find a way to avoid a straight answer. So we shall see. But again, I can’t worry about that until tomorrow. That is the point of the relaxation cocktail.

Well it was a lovely ride to Hershey. The fog was thick and murky on the interstate, as I tend to like it. It feels like driving in a thick cloud. I forgot it was a travel day and that Canadians would be in our country and on our roads, making driving difficult, which can also be said of New Yorkers, and also those from New Jersey. They should just stay home and enjoy their holidays in their own country/state. I had to stop and get something to eat because I was feeling nauseous, so I also took a percocet because it’s hard to tell if I am feeling sick from not eating or withdrawal, so I addressed both. I tossed back my chocolate milk and rolled into the parking lot at The Cancer Institute, realizing I would need to pick up my parking pass tomorrow for this lot for my treatments. I scurried into the building, looking like I rolled out of bed and fell into the door because I was trying to dress in things with no metal so I wouldn’t have to change into a gown. Nope, that didn’t work. I soon realized I had to go in the main entrance, and I meandered down to the radiology department, the same place that had tried to empty the cyst for the last year. I was the only one there, so I was personally escorted to the MRI room. I filled out my questionnaire about all of my surgeries and tests and radiations and chemos and skin pokings and jabbings and big giant incisions and medications and answered some math word problems about trains and wrote a short essay on what I did on my winter holiday. I signed releases I didn’t read. Then I was escorted to the changing area. It was pretty much the same deal as going through radiation, except there are no animal themed changing rooms and no waiting corral. I did get a locker for my stuff, and I actually had two gowns that covered me, instead of feeling like I always had to close some area that was exposing skin.

In typical fashion, I needed to repeat my name and birth date about 3,129 times. I had to show them my tattoos – MRI tip – an MRI will cause certain inks in tattoos to swell/itch because some inks have metal particles in them, particularly bright, vibrant colors. It’s not the best idea to get a tattoo right before you get an MRI. The technician asked me if I wanted some music during the procedure, and I said sure, but you probably have nothing I listen to – and to my surprise, she said give me the names and I will use Pandora. So I rattled off some of my faves: OWTH, Against Me!, The Go Set, Pennywise, Alkaline Trio, excited that I wasn’t going to be forced to endure One Direction, or Creed, or worse, Nickelback,

We entered the MRI room and to my surprise, the MRI machine is not so different from a CT scanner. However, there is the obvious lack of decorative stickers. I pointed this out immediately, and suggested some Brave, or Jungle Book, but no Toy Story 3, because I am still traumatized from that one. The tech said she’d check but they probably cant because of the risk of metallic particles.

Curiously enough, the room itself has a background hum that sounds like the womb sounds that my Sleep Sheep makes, which would have been soothing if not for their loudness. Unlike the CT meat slicing machine, the MRI tunnel is entered feet first. I had to get an IV started because there would be contrast dye for this one. They put some boards and blankets on my belly, and start the IV, which actually hurts at first. I told her to choose my right arm, because I was saving the left for chemo on Tuesday. Chemo tip – always go for the left arm. You will get a lot of fluids and will spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom – you want that right arm unencumbered. We got the IV issue worked out and that arm got strapped down. I was given a emergency call bell in case I started to freak out for the other hand. Then they put my headphones on, and I get launched into the tube. It’s a pretty small space, and I am a pretty fluffy girl. I had wiggle room but not much. The music started to play, and amusingly, the first song is an Alkaline Trio song, Blue in the Face, which ends with the line, your coffin or mine? I found this so amusing but being that I had to remain still I was not allowed to chuckle. The MRI imaging is done in time limited sessions. 45 seconds, 1.5 minutes, and then 2, 4, 5, 6, and (2) 8 minutes. Then the dye is injected, and you do 2 more 2 minute and 4 minutes sessions, and then (4) 18 second images images holding your breath. The instructions to hold your breath are supposed to come through the headphones – the tech broke into the music to tell me to follow along, except the instructions were in spanish, and she then had to just tell me what to do each time.

The actual imaging sessions are noisy. I was doing okay though, because I had music. Curiously, even though I had given her the names of the bands for Pandora, I got mostly Alkaline Trio and the Menzingers, and no OWTH for the first session – there was some Taking Back Sunday and some AFI – but no OWTH or Against Me!. This was tolerable initially, and I shouldn’t complain, because it could have been worse, like noted above, Nickelback, or even, ~shudder~ Macklemore or Pitbull. When the tech came in to start the dye, I asked her to restart Pandora with OWTH and the other requested bands – I got one OWTH song, and then it went right back to the Menzingers – weirdest thing ever, I wonder why that is? Anyway, the last sessions were the most difficult to stay still during because the machine was literally rattling. And your body gets really hot. Like it’s cooking. But I did really well keeping still, I turned on my meditative brains and pretended that I was a corpse. Of course, then runaway brain came along and I started to think about what it would be like to be buried alive, and this is as close as I hope to ever come to it. Then I started to think about all the poor people who were buried alive and what that must have been like to wake up in a box underground and be trying to claw your way out, and then the terrible realization that this is it, and you are trapped and never getting out. I then realized that I need to modify my living will to specifically state that under no circumstance whatsoever am I to be buried, or placed in any boxes unless my heart has been removed from my body or my head severed. That freaked me out. I realized then that the only suitable way to die would be drowning and then eaten by fish. Fear of being buried alive moved to my number 2 fear. Clowns were downgraded. Fire is still at the top. Again, drowning would be the only acceptable way to go.

Returning to our discussion track, there’s a lot of noise during an MRI. Banging and whirring and swishing and thunking. I did okay with most of it, the music minimized it but it still all seems to be going on by your ears, instead of where they are taking pictures. At one point it felt like the hair on my legs was being magnetized Totally bizarre feeling. It’s not constant. It starts and stops, and they tell you through the headphones when the next imaging will start and how long it will last. I only got caught off guard once with the loud banging, and fortunately, since you are in a restricted space, you can’t really jump out of your skin. I kept referring to my meditation practice and controlled my breathing the best I could, trying to relax. This is an important tip for those having an MRI. Work on your breathing. When it was all said and done, and I got to sit up, my whole body was stiff from staying still for so long. Even though the actual imaging session are short, the whole process lasted about 1.5 hours. Keeping still is a lot more work than you would think it is. As I mentioned, I asked the tech what she saw, but I also asked her why they do MRIs on a Sunday. She said they have to staff the MRI 24/7, and since someone has to be there all the time, they decided to make use of those hours by scheduling outpatient scans so they use the time effectively. There are a lot of emergency and rush procedures during the week, and it’s really stressful. Weekends are more laid back, there’s no tension and it can accommodate both staff who want to work only weekends and patients who need an urgent but not immediate scan, or people who can’t take time during the week. My tech said she actually prefers being there and doing procedures on the weekend. I have to say, it is a much more pleasant experience for the patient too because you aren’t jammed into a room of sick people to wait and you don’t feel rushed and everyone seems more calm and relaxed. There’s also better parking and fewer people in the buildings. After I regained my sense of stability, I was given my key to my locker and changed into my clothes and then scurried (IE. Walked slowly and stiffly) to reward myself with a chestnut praline latte at the hospital’s Starbucks. Twas yummy.

I took a longer scenic route back home – I had planned on going to dinner with my sharksister, Ashley, but she came down with the flu or plague or west nile last night, and we had to cancel. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to seeing her, but we’ll have time, I have 4 months of appointments yet. We were going to go to Pho Miss Saigon in Hershey – a super yummy pho/noodle house – I still don’t have much of an appetite, but I was looking forward to Vietnamese iced coffee, which is my most favorite. If you frequent the Hershey area, I highly recommend the spot, particularly if you like pho or noodle dishes. It was still quite foggy as I headed home and was dark, so more stupid people than usual were about to hinder my ride home. Tomorrow is doctor and blood work day, and laundry. Weirdly, I need to make sure that I have a fresh blanket and sheets on my bed for after chemo – because of the whole weird smells thing, I need to have things as fresh as possible the first few days. Andy is also going to need to clean the car and quit smoking in it, because the odor of cigarettes is the one scent that makes me want to immediately hurl once I start chemo. At least I know what to expect. I also don’t have to have the nasty neulasta shot, at least not initially, so that’s a huge plus. That shit is the worst part in my opinion – the pain in your bones is as horrible as the pufferfish. I’ll have to get a picture tomorrow while I still have my hair…I figure it will be gone by the beginning of February I’ve started work on a fox hat, and I have patterns for a raccoon, panda and queen crown.

So that was the MRI. To summarize, much like being buried alive but without the bugs or dirt or paralyzing fear. Also much noisier. Not for the claustrophobic. In other news, I facebook blasted that my cancer is back – it may seem like an attempt to get attention to some, or putting “my business out there” but you know what, I don’t really care. People are naturally inquisitive – they want to know – and I don’t think this is something I need to keep private. It’s scary and people are curious. If I make it easier for someone else, all the better. With that ma petites, I shall leave you for today. I’m gonna finish my cocktail, and tuck myself in. Hopefully I’ll have more details tomorrow. Sweetest dreams my friends, and like I said on facebook, send me your good vibes, positive thoughts, prayers, animal sacrifices or good juju, I can feel it and it helps.

And don’t be afraid to ask me questions – it doesn’t bother me a bit.


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Mission Gyro: FAILED (or What Maps Are For)

I wanted a gyro for dinner. I was headed to Nesquehoning where there exists an alleged Arby’s that serves this coveted treat. Yes, I know it’s not a “real” gyro. But it’s tasty. And what I wanted. And I was hungry. It’s not really alleged. I’ve been there. And had said gyro. This time however, I was trying to find it from a completely different direction. Yes, I had my cell phone and I could have mapped that shit, but where’s the fun in that? I was going to guess where it was. Bam. Gyro is minutes away.

I know the road where the Arby’s is. I just need to find it. I’ve gone there on a back road before, and though it was in the middle of the night, and few lights or roadmarks were to be seen, (and it was two years ago) I believe I’ve retained enough details to easily locate my dinner with minimal difficulty. Of course I can. Toss in the added factor that I am on a long-acting narcotic, I’m tired and according to my treatment coordinator, it probably isn’t my best decision to be driving, I will still continue on this fool’s journey. I make the first turn of my adventure. Crossroad? Left, right, forward. Um. Left.

Here’s where I tell you that my sense of direction sucks. Which is why I also have a compass app on my phone as well as the maps app. Am I using either of these? No. That would only make sense. And there’s no need for sense on this road trip. I decide at the next intersection that a left turn is in order, because another left turn is probably required at some point, so let’s just go for it. It only takes a few miles on the road to realize I am driving in a direction that is probably directly opposite of where I would find Arby’s because I am on the side of a mountain. I know this is definitely where Arby’s is not. I suppose I could turn around, but I know I’m not going to. Because becoming lost in my attempt to find my way to dinner has just become the allegory of my life.

I can see how this has caught your attention. I will explain. I realize as I am driving along, that the scenery is gorgeous. I know I’m not headed in the right direction. I know what I should do is turn around and find my way back to what I know, but I’m not going to. I’m going to keep driving and see where I end up. The gorgeous autumn colors of the mountains have caught my attention. I’m not paying as close attention to the road as I probably should be because I am looking around. I’m pretty much alone on this road anyway. I spy a lake. I decide to tuck this nugget of knowledge into my “check that shit out another day” file, even though every fiber of my being wants to go see it now. I remind myself I am on a mission, and I am already headed in the wrong direction. My curiosity is forcing me to explore this new road. Normal people would turn around. Normal people would look at a map. Normal people would have looked at the map first. I am not normal people.

This has been my life. I know where I need to go, most times, even how to get there, or how to figure out how to get there. Sometimes I am on the right road, and make a wrong turn, or sometimes I am on the right road and let something else distract me, or sometimes I make a wrong turn right at the start. And instead of turning around and correcting my course, I just plunge headlong forward. I justify it in my head as “learning experience” – sometimes I get so lost that I never get to where I started, but in that journey I get so many lessons and rewards, as well as setbacks and deadends, that even when I fail (IE: no gyro for dinner) it’s okay, I’ll just make do with something else (IE: sucky Turkey Hill mini pizza). This has been my whole life. But so far, instead of enjoying the ride, I’ve been cursing my stubbornness and cursing the fact that I didn’t turn around. I forget what beautiful (and dangerous) things I’ve seen along the way. I forget that the success was in continuing to go forward, despite the obvious signs that this was not how I was supposed to go, but going ahead without reservation. Not traveling recklessly, like crossing into clearly the wrong lane, but sometimes driving onto the shoulder and suffering some bumps until I get back on the road. Sometimes traveling too fast and hitting a pothole that jars me back to reality. Sometimes just losing track of time that I miss out on something else. My life is a series of wrong turns that start off as trips to other places. I sometimes get to where I was going, but even when I don’t, even when I break down along the way, it’s an adventure, and I see a lot of cool things, and sometimes I learn the hard way that some chances aren’t going to work out.

So what did I see on my trip today? Beautiful scenery, gorgeous houses tucked in the woods. Log cabin. An amazing line of gnarled trees to go back to photograph another day. A lake to investigate, a new alternate route to a destination. Knowledge that next time it’s a right turn or straight ahead instead of left and left. Knowledge that Turkey Hill pizza sucks and that I shouldn’t have an energy drink if I am already cranky. Sunbeams. And the knowledge that I just need to keep driving.

So this is the lesson grasshoppers. It’s okay to use a map. That’s what they are there for. However, when you choose not to, you also choose to accept whatever the road you follow brings you to. Good or bad. Yummy gyro or nasty pizza. You can go probably go back for gyro another day, but if not, you can still have other delicious treats. Unless you refuse to let go of your desire for the gyro. This is all very zen.

I leave you with a picture of how you can take something ugly, like the stubs of dead bushes, and turn them into something magical. Or you can leave them like ugly remnants of another life – the choice is yours. Every time I see them I think of the great imagination it took to transform those dead sticks into a roadside coal reef to make the day brighter for every person who takes the time to notice it.

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But wait, there’s more. There’s this tree.

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It’s at the top of a hill. A hill in the middle of a cemetery. You can see death all around it, or a magnificent tree at the top of a gorgeous hill on a sunny afternoon – which leads me to this parting thought…I saw a retirement/nursing home today adjacent to a cemetery. It made me think about the home’s residents – does it trouble them, this reminder that their time is now so limited or is it comforting to have the constant reminder that every day is precious and that the reality of death keeps them focused on the present. Just a thought.

No news from the Dr. BTW. Pain is still my constant traveling companion. Always screaming for attention in the background. Hopefully tomorrow brings answers. But for now, it’s carnage and death, SOA style, my guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

Be well pretty ones. If you’ve got gyros – eat them.


When Last We Met With Our Not-So-Fearless Heroine…

First, I apologize. I’ve been lax about my blog. Not because I haven’t had anything to write, because I have, but like so many other people who write or draw or do creative things, occasionally you feel like you are boring your audience (even when your intended audience is yourself) and you can’t get excited about things as you used too. I’d blame depression, but for me, depression is often the one time I want to write because I don’t want to keep that chaos bottled up in my brain case. I didn’t want to bore anyone with my incessant whining. However humorous it often is. So I’ll recap, and then end with the current quagmire.

Picture it, Shenandoah in mid-July, 2014. We’re headed off to have the pufferfish poked and prodded and punctured and badness sucked from it’s soul. The day after the procedure I am stunned by the relief that comes after pufferfish is defeated. I revel in the painless days and nights – I don’t even touch the percocet or the Advil or the Tylenol. There’s no need – I am happy to frolic about without even an inkling of pain. I can eat with reckless abandon, and I do, nom nom nom, like a non-stop Miss Pac-man gobbling anything in sight. Yeah, yeah, I gain a few pounds, but hey, my body is functioning normally again. I am happy. My two year cancer free anniversary comes and goes, with nary a second thought because I am blissfully not being tortured by my body. I go to my one year radiology check, and gush at Dr. J about how not in pain I am. I do things like swim. Ahh, life is good.

At least it was. For a while.

About four weeks later, I start to notice subtle changes in the way my bladder is acting. I harken back to the days of pre-pufferfish-puncture and suspect that it may be returning. I try to pretend it’s not, I mean, hey, I’m not in pain. Changes keep happening, and I feel something pushing itself about in the great darkness. I’m pretty sure stupid fucking pufferfish is back, but hey, there’s still no pain, so perhaps I am just projecting the imaginary growth of a giant grapefruit sized squishy mass in the darkness of uterus-used-to-be land. Then, without warning, one Friday morning, at the hour of 4:30am, I awake in screeching agony. Welcome back pain, we’ve been waiting. I rock back and forth in bed, stuffing Advil into my mouth in between sobs, cursing the fact that I should have already called the Dr. After about, oh I don’t know, maybe 15-16 Advil, I am able to move without the shriek of a banshee. I head to work.

I should have called the Dr that day, but I didn’t. It could have just been a fluke. I would have preferred a fluke inside me instead of the pufferfish. I thought I should just test my theory. Just one more pain day, and I will call then. I swear it. I don’t know why I didn’t believe my body when it was clearly telling me what I already knew, but hey I never claimed I was the queen of good judgment Although the next two or three day were pain free, my body is never one to disappoint and BAM, pain’s back. Daily. I call the Dr. and in another week, I’m off for another CAT scan. I know what’s going on, but apparently, my word isn’t as convincing as a CT scan. There are still no cats at these scans, which is good because I don’t know if I can refrain from attacking one if I saw it considering the amount of pain I am in. I am eating Advil like it is candy. And there is only ONE, just ONE percocet left from this last prescription. I am saving it for that night when I seriously am weighing the option of self-surgery in which I remove the perpetrator of my pain myself and nail it to the wall. Then I will take it. That night comes pretty quickly and much to my glee, I realize that I have not paid close attention to the stash of narcotics because there are almost two left. There is one tablet, and a half and a quarter from another that I was clearly gnawing on at some time past. It’s an opiate miracle.

Now I am sure I mentioned before that my scans appear in my medical records long before I hear from my medical team. This time is no exception. I can clearly read that gargantuan sea creature has again returned and it trapped behind my bladder and on top of some nerves and is wedging itself snuggly in there to make sure it maximizes the torture experience. Oh, and this radiology student/resident/drwannabe has taken upon himself to decide that my spleen and pancreas are atrophied. What is this new development?!?! Away to Google we must.

Google at the ready, I enter this new information. As Google does, it gives me the most terrifying response one could expect…these are the first signs that the above referenced organs are affected by cancer. I know what pancreatic cancer means and that’s death. So, it’s 7 pm, there’s no Dr available, and I have just read in my CT scan results that I am not only full of the vile fishy torturer but I am facing death. Most of my friends try to talk me down. They know the perils of googling symptoms, but I will not be deterred. I know I am dying. FML. I will acknowledge that being the reader of several of these scan reports that say nothing else is wrong but the bloaty fishy in the past, that perhaps this new scan reader is an arrogant ass who just wanted to find something else the others did not. I agree to not make funeral plans until I hear from my Dr. And the longest 18 hours of my life begins.

Finally my treatment coordinator calls and leaves a message that I will be treated to another delightful out patient visit to radiology to have my friend puffy aspirated. It will be on Tuesday. No, it cannot be on Tuesday. I have training that Tuesday. I call back. We will reschedule, and I am told in no uncertain terms, to stop reading my own CT reports. Don’t worry about the spleen and pancreas until they do it with a contrast dye. And your new date of probing and poking is next Friday. I ask for a new prescription of percocet so if this repeats again, I will be ready – they say it will be ready for me at the procedure. Unfortunately, I am not going to make it without percocet until then, and I call on Tuesday, begging to be able to pick it up. I head to Hershey and retrieve my magical paper. I try to fill it at the hospital pharmacy, but it will take an hour! AN HOUR???? I don’t have an hour…so I take it to another nearby pharmacy and in just 30 minutes I am on my way to sweet fuzzy relief. I get home and sleep the sleep of the blessed poppies. I manage to avoid taking the magical tablets during the workday, but on Thursday night, the throbbing and stabbing are not quieted easily, and I head out for my procedure in drowsy narcotic haze.

Andy drives me to the hospital. I tell him to not even bother coming in with me, because I know the drill and I will just sleep till the designated pufferfish slaying time. He can reappear during my recovery period. I arrive and hop into my hospital bed. I tell the nurse that I had to take percocet before coming to the hospital and that I would like some more. Denied. They will talk to the Dr. and see if they can give me some pain meds during the procedure. The very kind and helpful nurse tells me they usually don’t give any pain meds because it’s not a painful procedure, I’ll just feel pressure. I sweetly tell her that this is my third go-round and I am feeling pain now, a six on the 1-10 scale, and there will be pain during the procedure, pressure is just a nice way of saying it will fucking hurt. I have gone through this twice, I know there will be pain. She assures me she will let the Dr. know this. She tells me I am lucky, Dr. S will be doing my procedure and he’s a great Dr. I am somewhat relieved. I relax as much as a person writhing in pain can until they wheel me into the procedure room. It’s a bait and switch. Dr. S. is there, but he’ll be supervising Dr. G, who will be the gutter of the day. I slide into the CT machine and there, inside the machine is that pufferfish sticker that mocks me every time I am there. I stare him down and mentally tell him he will not defeat me. Another kind nurse discusses what position I should be in, I just tell her how we do it. She promises me some fentynal. I like this nurse.

The procedure begins. I can tell from the start that it is not going as smoothly as the previous two. It feels rougher, less routine. Then I hear, from the twilight of my fentynal/whatever else is in that IV drip the ominous “oops, uh, not, not that, stop, okay” and some more rough movement toward the pufferfish. Yes, I am awake through all of this. I feel everything. The kind nurse with the fentynal asks if I am in pain. Seven I say, I am at seven. She ups the meds, and while it still hurts it’s not as bad. Soon, it’s over without any more issues, and I feel the relief that comes when the beast is defeated. There’s still pain, but it’s a different soreness and not monster eating my spine. And tomorrow I will feel nothing but a little ache. It’s totally worth it.

I hop back onto the hospital bed and get wheeled back to recovery. The nurse there lets me skip out early after Dr. G checks in on me. I told him I felt fine, because well, at that point, besides the achey soreness I did. They drained as much fluid this time as they did the last time. Hopefully this will be the last time I will have to endure this. I spot the cute male nurse from the last time. Hey wait, I’m not ready to go yet…

But I go. Saturday dawns and I’m still pretty sore. No problem, I’ll just stay in bed. Sunday morning and the sun’s shining on me. Still hurting. This is not right. But maybe it’s just because this is the third one. I’ll just wait and see, and sleep some more. Hey whoa, Monday’s here. PAIN. PAIN. What’s this???

Well, I’ll just give it until Wednesday. I mean no reason to jump to conclusions. Tuesday. Ditto with the pain thing. Not happy about this. But it’s SOA night, I’ll just rest. Hello OMFG-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-me-and-who-replaced-my-hip-bones-with-jagged-razors-broken-glass-rusty-nails-Wednesday? That’s it. We’re calling Radiology. I call off work, I call radiology, Dr. G assures me that it’s a good thing that it’s just this razor pain and no fever, because at least I don’t have an infection. I can’t lift my leg over the bathtub to shower, but hey I won’t die of sepsis. Come on down for another CT scan, and we’ll see what’s up. We get there – I can barely stand up straight. I go down for the scan, they get me in quickly. I enter a new CAT scan room. The first thing I see staring at me is that mean pink bear from Toy Story III. This is a bad omen. It all goes okay until I have to get off the machine bed. I am in blood curdling screaming pain, and I am sobbing. The nurse helps me to the waiting room. After a short wait, a nurse comes in and tells me to call Dr. K., my gyn-oncology. It is not a positive sign that it’s not radiology that wants to talk to me. Now I’m scared.

They gave me a direct line to Dr. K. By the time he gets on the phone, I am crying out in the courtyard like a giant baby, a baby who is can’t sit because I am in so much pain. He tells me there’s a hematoma on my peritoneum from a vein being nicked during the deflation procedure. That’s why I feel like there are razors slicing me to ribbons. He wants to see if it will resolve itself. He is prescribing me a long lasting more powerful pain pill to take with the percocet. I ask if I can work, and he laughs, and says I shouldn’t even be worrying about work with this pain but yes, I can work, if I insist on it, but I should stay home a few days let the pills work. It’s a narcotic damn it. He says if it’s not better by Monday, we’ll figure something out. He doesn’t want to do surgery, not at all, because the pufferfish is in a deep awkward part of the uterine ocean, like the Marianas trench of uterine cavities. It will be a severe major surgery, and it won’t be easy, there are no guarantees that they will even get to it, or that it will resolve it. But we’ll talk in a few days. Take the pills. Rest. I tell him I will send Andy up to pick up the prescription and to tell the nurses to not be afraid to give the 20 something kid with the dreadlocks the powerful morphine prescription because his mom really is in the car. He laughs. I say, “you think I am kidding, I’m not.”

We get the prescription. While it’s getting filled, Andy tells me all the ways we can parlay the pills I am given into cash on the street, enough to supply oil all winter and have cash for a vacation after we sell them, and use that cash to buy some weed which we can sell and get more weed, and then…and then… I tell him they won’t let me have these meds in jail, and to stop making me laugh, because it fucking hurts. I slip one of these beautiful deep blue pearls into my mouth and we head home. Morphine Sulfate XR, bless you, as you cut quickly to the pain and make it just a grit your teeth and whistle level instead of the tearing your fingernails out one by one level. I spend most of the next few days asleep. And then I am told I should not be driving if I am taking the morphine and percocet. So with a note from the Dr. faxed to the office, the soonest I am going back to work is Monday. The next five days are fuzzy, I fall asleep randomly, sometimes with a sandwich in hand, and glasses on, or in the middle of typing a sentence. Sunday I try to wean off the morphine. My body’s response to that? You’re one crazy bitch, that’s not gonna happen. This brings us today – my hematoma is still here, my cyst is back to the size it was before they drained it, I can stay off the percocet, but my pain will not allow us to say no to morphine. And I’m waiting for word from the Dr. on what happens next. He’ll be back in the office tomorrow. The pain is manageable for now. And I keep telling myself at least it’s not cancer. And that I am grateful that at least some of my doctor’s trust me to know my body.

Thus ends the most recent chapter of Cancer, A Gift That Never Stops Giving. I am sorry for this novella, but now you’re on the same page as me, and we can wait, impatiently, together. I am headed to my bed now, to rest quietly and gear up to face tomorrow – I am applying again for FMLA, so that no matter where this is headed, I’ll still have a job to come back to. And this better not interfere with me being able to attend the upcoming adoption of one of my kidlets at work, because then I will be seriously pissed off at this nonsense. I’m not gonna let this noise interfere with the one good thing that comes out of the work I do.

It’s really hard to stay positive with life throwing up road hazards around every turn, but I keep reminding myself, I still wake up every morning and I get out of bed to clean water, and an inside toilet and electricity and food. So I am richer that most of the rest of the world. And I have cookies, so that’s just icing on the cake.

Stay healthy my friends, and keep fighting the good fight.

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Buttercup kicks “the sick” out of the amoeba boys