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Posts tagged “fear

‘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.


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.


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.


This GIrl, Her Pufferfish and a Kidney Walk Into An ER…

It’s hard to believe that it’s barely over a week since I saw the oncologist. Last Monday, I was pretty happy, normal person, albeit with a massive pufferfish exploding to new sizes in my pelvic cavity. And now my world is fucking upside down and I am angry, hurting, scared and lost. So I caution you now, this mostly fueled by the anger I have for this fucking disease and is going to be graphic, and will likely include overuse of the word “fuck,” but at this point, I don’t even fucking care. You might. I don’t. You’re not the one with the giant pee penis rammed into their vagina like a rolling pin, walking around with pee bags attached front and back because your body fucking betrayed you more than you thought it could. I am.

So yeah, there’s humor in here, but only because being fucking bitter makes me funnier. Let’s tell the story. We all know that the whore of a pufferfish is still growing in my pouch of Douglas. We all know I wanted just two more months of no treatment so I could have some fun before I got really sick again. I was dealing with the fact that the stupid c-monster wiggled around in there, sometimes blocking my bladder, sometimes causing me real pain, but things were working for the most part. I was dealing with the almost hourly trips the bathroom at night, the lack of sleep, the constant urge to pee at night. I could live with it, as annoying as it was. Until the ability to pass the pee stopped on Wednesday night. And I am going to get even more graphic here because what the fuck, I have to live it, so maybe this will help someone else who deals with something like it. On Wednesday night, the 12:30 trip to pee ended in a couple drops and about 40 minutes of cramping, cursing, writhing, crying, more cursing, wriggling, standing up and sitting down, and frustration. Sleep five minutes. Back to the bathroom, repeat. All fucking night. For those of you who have given birth to spawn vaginally, imagine that moment when you want to push and they tell you to wait, and there’s all that fucking pressure and you’re just like when can I push this monster out of my uterus??? Well that was what this feels like. I’d been dealing with a milder version of it for months, but at least then it ended in finally being able to pee. Not this time. The sun came up and I got ready for work. Usually I had no problems during the day, because the movement of being up and around would move the cyst away from whatever it was blocking, and I could be normal during the day. Not this time. All morning, nothing. And it is as uncomfortable as anything you could imagine. I google my symptoms and web md tells me I should probably go to the ER. We agree. And off I go.

Since I won’t see a Dr. anywhere but in Hershey, I make the hourish drive there. I’m doing great until I hit Hersheypark. Then my bladder, deciding it had had enough fun with me for the day, bursts like a fucking tsunami in the car without warning. And what do you do when you are pissing yourself at 60mph, and there’s nowhere to stop, and what would you do anyway, if you could, stand on the side of the road and drip? AND it’s raining. AND the get gas light just came on. I did what any normal person would do, I drove to the ER and parked the car and panicked. No blankets, no towels, not extra clothes, soaked in piss. In the rain. 200 feet from the ER. I can’t go get dry clothes at home because I would need to get gas and I can’t get gas because I’d have to get out of the car. I can’t just run over to K-Mart and get some dry things because I am soaked in pee. Finally, I try calling some friends to see if they can run to my house, get me some dry clothes and bring them to me. My friend Lori agrees to help me out and while I am waiting, I decide that I cannot sit in the car in this state for over an hour. I call the ER, and ask them if they could send someone out to get me with a wheelchair or something. They do. And I cover the driver seat with shop towels to try and soak up the mess.

The ER was awesome. They got me right to a room right away, and got me out of my pee-pee pants. I have to say that the ER staff was downright amazing. Now, my body has agreed to let me pee a bit from time to time. At first we’re just going to make sure there’s no infections or what not. I point out that I know it’s the bloody pufferfish’s fault. They do an ultrasound on my bladder and kidneys. My bladder is full. Even though I just successfully completed the attempt to urinate not two minutes before. This is not good. My kidneys look nice, but the right one is showing signs of distress, because the beast in my belly is putting a kink in the right ureter and urine cannot pass from the kidney to my bladder as efficiently. While all the poking and probing is happening, Lori, my saviour, arrived with dry clothes, and my bff Kelly came to visit and brought me a phone charger. You see there’s wireless in the ER, but no cell service. So I need to put my shit on blast on Facebook (which I’d probably do anyway) to try to get messages to the people I would usually text. And for that, I need my phone to be charged. It was like having two guardian angels in the room. All the while they were there, we’re kind of just waiting. I am getting scolded by the wonderful nurses for escaping the monitors they have on me and leaving my room. We set the bed alarm off trying to figure out how to make the back go up. We ring the nurse just to ask her if our pizza is here yet. We make their jobs fun.

Finally, the resident surgeon from urology comes in. We talk about how I was going to have a consult on Tuesday about a stent in the right ureter. I am still not sure how that is going to help the bladder issue, but I am not the medical professional here. He’s hot, not super hot, but definitely a cutie, and probably barely older than my son. Oh good, and now he has to examine me. Now, I know a lot of people say that they don’t care about how they look when they’re sick and the doctor is examining them, but I am not one of them. I am completely self conscious about being obese, with radiation scarring, the myriad of scars from laparoscopies, and my sad sad vagina. I don’t really want to look at my vagina myself, so I feel bad when others have to. And that’s sad, because the vagina and I had a lot of good times together, but that was over 20 years ago, and now, it’s just another body part to betray me. Cute Dr. Brian gives me some options – get a catheter and come back Tuesday for the stent, consider just getting a nephrostemy on the right kidney today, or next week, do nothing, or just get a catheter. I say we should just try the stent, and then see what happens. He goes off to consult the attending, I mentally try to remember his full name for my friend, Ashley, who needs a rich doctor husband.

In the meantime, Kelly and Lori have to leave…it’s becoming late and it doesn’t look like I am going anywhere. Nurse Kristen tells me they are just waiting on urology. Dr. Brian comes back and says, “Hey, I forgot one option, we could admit you and do the stent in the morning!” I like that option. I’m getting a catheter anyway because they will need it for surgery, and Dr. Brian initials my right belly with his purple sharpie so they don’t screw up and put the stent on the wrong side and he’s gone until the morning. Nurse Kristen brings in some helpers to do my catheter, a nice young lady, and another cute male nurse. Oh fuck yeah, bring on the vagina/body image shame round two. Kristen tried to put in the catheter, but it won’t go in, the male nurse is just hanging back and Kristen and the other female nurse go back and forth, trying to jam this thing inside and it’s not going. Finally, they ask the male nurse to do it. He manages to get it in the urethra on the first try, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief that that inhumane torture is over. Or is it? Then they start an IV. The first bag is fine, until the vein blows up and now we are on to the other arm. All this time my blood pressure is through the roof because I am in pain, terrified, and don’t want a hole in my kidney. I break down once with nurse Kristen, and once again when Dr. Brian comes back to check in about tomorrow’s surgery. Kristen puts the IV bag on a hook in the ceiling so I can no longer get out of the room. I am trapped until I am admitted. Five minutes later they come to take me to a room; then immediately cancel it, because they now can’t take me to that room. I remain in the ER.

I have to say that Kristen was awesome when I was crying and sobbing about how this is so unfair, that I have plans for the next two months and how this was not supposed to happen and then cracked up when I said that I didn’t even get any of the good side effects of cancer like losing weight. Not me, my appetite is just fine. Then she said that patients like me are the reason she is a nurse, and that she was grateful to me because sometimes she forgets why she does what she does, to be there to comfort people when they are scared. She said she wished all her patients were like me, and she just held my hand. I don’t often say things like this, because I’m not gonna lie, I have some unresolved shit with my dead mother, but in that moment, it felt like my mom was there trying to make me believe it was going to be OK, because my mom was a nurse too. I was so grateful to Kristen that night, and even more so when she tried to find me jello and could only come up with two vanilla ice cream cups which became that night’s dinner. (I also had a turkey sandwich, later).

Pause here for a breaking funny story:

Andy comes in after his shower, and I tell him that Urology won’t even see me until September 14th, which means I can’t go to Riot Fest or the Whoopie Pie Festival, because there’s no way I can be up and about with the giant pee hose stuck in me for a drive to Chicago, as I am only comfortable standing or lying down, he does what Andy does best – he offers this solution:

We could get a u haul and attach it to the car and throw you in it on your back, and punch some holes in the side so you could breathe back there or maybe get you an oxygen tank.”

How can a mother not be incredibly proud of such resourcefulness?

Back to the ER now. So the evening wears on – I am being admitted but who knows when? I am now forbidden to eat or drink after midnight as I will be having general anesthesia for the stent procedure. I suck down all the water I can before I become gremlin-like. They pull my IV off the ceiling and put it on an electric pump. I get a new IV in the opposite are because the other one is swollen like a bad molar. Around 2am, I am being moved to a new room. It’s all the way at the end of the hall of a new section of the ER that I have never been in before. It’s dark, and it looks like the holding cell for psych patients at our local ER. Not the psych hold thing again I hope. But in comes Nurse Dan. Again, a handsome young man who will probably take a look at my hideous nether regions. More anxiety. The way they have my IV inserted in my arm, every time I move I set off the alarm on the pump and Dan has to come running. He kindly asks me if there’s any possibility of being pregnant. I snort, and say nope, no uterus. He asks me my favorite question “when was your last period?” I proudly state 2011. When I answer my fifteenth interrogation of the night, I try to sleep. Only to be woken by some maniacal woman down the hall screaming at 5:45 am that it’s her health choices and she’ll make them and then screaming for Dan to get in there. Poor Dan.

Finally cute Dr. Brian and his attending and some other medical minions come to see me before surgery; I tell them that I thought it over, and if they cannot place the stent then do what they have to make my kidney well, and if that means nephrostemy, then that’s what it is. They are glad to hear this. And I am whisked off to surgery. When I wake up in recovery I demand jello, and discover they could not place the stent. Nephrostemy it is. That will come later. That one is an awesome “twilight” procedure, which means my ass will be awake. Oh fucking yay. Fortunately, that does mean I can eat jello. And drink water. No food, but at least there’s jello.

In between procedure one and two, I am taken to the second stage recovery from same day surgery. While I am there, the kindly nurse gives me some IV dilaudid/fentynal to help my pain. It brings me joy. Then two minions from gynecological oncology come by to see me, and tell me Dr. K is out of town, but they will see his associate this afternoon, and she will probably come over this afternoon. When they tell me who that associate is, from my drug fueled fog, I become lucid enough to tell them “don’t bring that bitch here, I have enough stress going on without her lack of bedside manner to make it worse.” The two minions stared at the sudden transformation from my happy cloudy self, to the alert demon before them now. I tell them she tried the put a psych hold on me the last time I saw her and I don’t want her near me in my present state. I will wait til Dr. K returns. I thank them for their time and they leave, and that is the last I hear from gynecological oncology during my stay.

Around 3pm, I head to radiology for the nephrostemy. They give me some meds to relax me, and some local anesthesia in my back. Neither eliminates the stress of what’s about to happen, the pain or the anxiety. I am lying face down on the table while they drill in my back to get to my kidney. After a few false starts, they hit the bonanza, simultaneously finding the only spot in my back that is not anesthetized Screaming commences as they try to get the pain under control; the pain subsides, but I am shaking so hard from the pain I can’t keep still. Somehow they manage to get the tube in and I am eventually returned to recovery. More pain meds follow.

Andy and Tom and my friend Ashley who left me to work for the Governor’s Office all come to visit me. I finally have a phone and a phone number and Erica and Paige call me to talk to me and it between my visitors and callers I feel pretty good and have not had any time to focus on the fact that in less than 24 hours, I have gone from happy-go-lucky cancer girl, to girl-with-a-tube-in-her-kidney-with-a-fucking-giant-cyst-that-is-causing-complications-forever. After everyone leaves, I nibble the snacks Andy and Tom brought and enjoy the flowers that Ashley graciously shared with me. I watch TV. I find that new pee bag became unplugged from its hose and soaked me and the bed. We wash, change and I get back into bed. More pain meds. Dr. R from urology comes by to say he’d like to remove the catheter as he doesn’t want me to have to go home with it. He says they will take it out at 1 am, and if all goes well, I’ll go home in the morning. I get some dinner, a delicious meatloaf and mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. No jello, but a delightful lemon sherbet. When 1 am rolls around, they finally remove the catheter from me. Liberation. I can finally get out of bed, and discover that my bag leaked again. I am not thrilled. Then I discover when the nurse’s aide pinned the bag to my gown the last time she changed it, she put the pin directly through the bag, and not where the pin can safely go. Now we need a new bag. We get things in order, I get to use the bathroom and actually tinkle on my own in one of those awesome “hats” and I try to get comfortable enough to sleep. I now have the IV in the back of my hand (location 3) it’s hard to find a position in which I am not kinking something up or cutting something off or being speared in the kidney by a hose. It’s a fucking circus.

Nancy, the nurse’s assistant or patient care aide I think is what she’s called, is a talker. I had her care for me back in December when I had the laparoscopy. One son is a genius, and is an aerospace engineer with no common sense, who now wants to be a lawyer, and her other son, well he’s just normal. Her husband had his arm torn off and reattached and when he’s grumpy, he makes her grumpy. She has a migraine but what can you do, you have to come for work. She cannot get over the beauty of the sunflowers from Ashley’s yard. She’s never seen anything like them. She’s loud and funny and talks non-stop, which isn’t helping with the sleep. I tell her I would like her to take the flowers when she leaves, and enjoy them, and she is overjoyed and begins to tell me how she is going to dry them and get the seeds so she can plant them in her garden next year. I finally fall asleep for an hour or so, and then the early rounds start – the urology minions first, then the radiology team. I am free to go, once I can get Andy to answer his phone. Andy also has to be here to learn how to clean my tube daily and to change the dressing – they offered to show me how to do it, but um, yeah, it’s on my BACK, and I am not an octopus with multiple arms nor am I an owl who can turn my head to see my back. I eat my breakfast and wait. I put the clothes on that Andy sent down with Lori. His picks were from the “these clothes are being thrown away” pile, so I put on the shorts with no elastic and decide to wear the shirt I came in with instead of the too small one Andy packed. Finally, sleepy head gets there and we learn wound care and off we go.

I get home, feel pretty good for having an hole in my back. I sleep most of the day away, until 11pm, when the no peeing thing starts all over again. Long story short, it was a horrible horrible night. I tell Andy I need to go to the ER, and I pack extra clothes and a seat cover in case of accidents and off we go. About ½ way there, my bladder lets go with no warning. Good call on the seat cover. I tell Andy to take the back way to Hershey because there’s a portapotty at one of the trail entrances on the state game lands. We get there and to my surprise, it’s been upgraded to a real national park bathroom. As gross as a portapotty but larger. I change and we resume our journey. Unfortunately I also have another bladder eruption as we are turning into the driveway for the ER. How can there be so much pee! Andy has to go get a wheelchair and bring me in that way again.

You would think the fun was almost over here wouldn’t you??? I would. I have to give an urine sample. I try to do it in the bathroom, and squeeze out a little. I go back to the exam room, and guess what? Bladder eruption, but this time I am on one of those pads, so it’s all good. While waiting for urology and the er docs to come by I discover that I can pee, but only if I am sitting on a fucking diaper on a flat chair, because it pushes the cyst back up into my body and lets the urethra do its thing. When I try to use the toilet, it rolls down like fucking boulder and shuts everything off. I share my discovery with the Dr. who says it sounds reasonable but not a long term solution so guess who’s getting another catheter. It is at this time I learn that the reason I had such discomfort with the last one was because they used a latex catheter and uh, yeah, I am fucking allergic to latex. Nurse Sara tries her best to gently insert this one, being herself a vagina owner, and knowing how brutally uncomfortable this is. She can’t get it in; Urology is called, and they will come do it. Two doctors arrive, and no matter how hard they are trying to be gentle, they don’t own a vagina, so they have no idea how ridiculously painful this whole process is. Finally it’s in, and my bladder starts to empty. Despite the number of times I managed to empty my bladder using the chair method, it’s still pretty full. They are going to do one more urine analysis and then I can go home. Andy has already left for work, and my beloved Paige and baby Kenny have agreed to come get me. They tell me I will have the catheter in for a week or so – then they will take it out and see if I can just intermittently catheterize myself on my own daily instead of having the giant pee snake invading my vagina. They will call me with an appointment. Nurse Sara comes in to show me how to take care of this set of tubes on my own and then shows me that I also get a snazzy “daytime bag” that I can strap to my leg when I want to go out and about. OOOh, a fancy pee bag accessory – IT’S A FUCKING PEE BAG – not a clutch. I laugh because I doubt that I’ll be all that concerned about the size and shape of bag when there’s a fucking gigantic garden house dangling between my legs. Sara leaves me to the business of figuring out how to dress to accommodate the gargantuan hose and bag. When Paige lets me know she’s close, I ask Sara if I can leave, and she gives me the okay…at this point I couldn’t bear another minute after listening to the dude in the next room grunt for two hours while someone else kept their finger on the call button almost the whole time I was there. I’m outtie.

Not so fast, says the Drop Dead Fred look-a-like at check out. You must check out. I tell DDF, no, I don’t, I was dismissed by the ER. Yes, yes, you do says DDF. He demands my checkout papers. I don’t have any DDF, I tell him. DDF asks if I have any papers from the ER, I say yes, and he demands I turn them over. So I slam my pee bag on his desk, and open my backpack and hand him the papers. DDF peruses them and says, um, yeah, you don’t have to check out. I grab my pee bag and leave in a huff.

I keep falling asleep on the way home, because I am exhausted. Paige and I hit Wendy’s because the last thing I ate I can’t remember. When I get home, pop a muscle relaxer, have some herbal meds, empty the pee bags and pass out in sweet sleep. When I wake up in four hours, the pee bags must again be emptied, as they fill quickly when you sleep.

I’ve since named the pee bags. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Fucking Dumber. I carry the big one around in my backpack, the little one’s pinned to my side. There’s no getting comfortable, only being able to tolerate the positions. It still feels like having to pee all the time. Like there a rock stuck in my vagina on the end of stick. And while I am grateful for being able to sleep for more than 1 hour at a time, I still have to get up and drain them at least twice a night.

This is my new reality, and why I am so angry. Like I told my nurses, I knew something like this would be down the road, I am not a pollyfuckinganna. I just wanted those last two months, the two months when I could feel like a normal human, not a fucking cancerous blob, who will just sit in bed and wait to die. I wanted quality over quantity. This is not quality. This is a nightmarish hellscape that I am not waking up from. Yes, it could be worse, which is easy to say when you aren’t the one with the pee bags. I know it could be worse, and I am grateful that it’s not. But today when the Urology dept called for my follow-up and said my appointment to determine if they would remove the catheter would be September 14th, that was the last straw. No Riot Fest. No Whoopie Pie Festival. No more swimming. No more baths, no more hot tubs. Just fucking days of emptying and cleaning pee bags, self medicating and sleeping because there’s not much else I can do. I can’t even go to the beach because SAND. I am not happy. I am not.

So before you try and turn my frown upside down, please understand I need to be angry, I need to be able to feel sorry for myself. I need to say that cancer sucks, and it’s a horrible insidious disease, and that I have every right to be upset that my life is completely different today that it was last week. I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve this, but when I look back on everything I’ve gone through in my life, I kinda feel I’ve been cheated a little. This will pass in a few days I know, but for now I don’t want to talk anymore about it, or pretend my world is a happy fairyland where unicorns play candyland with talking bears. I am grateful for all of the concern, and love, and caring, and well wishes, and prayers, I truly, profoundly am, but I am still coming to terms with what is reality.

And with that my friends, I am going to go have a nice shower with TD1 and TFD2. Good times. I’ll be back to my normal self eventually.


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

lotus_om_mandala_by_lilyas-d7fsjh0


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.


Randomosity

So hey there happy peoples, what are you all doing for fun tonight?

Movies? Bars? Sleeping?

Me? Oh just combing out hair nests, and itching from straggler hairs that end up all over my back and then in weird places – I’m barely going to have enough for the mohawk tomorrow – it’s going to look super weak, but oh well, the hair has to come off. Little known cancer fact – losing your hair doesn’t hurt, but your scalp is super sensitive and hurts for a while until it toughens up. I have to make a few hats to get through the hairless phase intially, because I didn’t lose my hair last time until April I believe, and by then, it was warm enough to go hairless most days. I still have all my hats from last time, both the ones I made and the ones given to me, but an encore of cancer calls for new hats. I’m gearing up for the next few freezing cold days ahead too.

T-4 days until my next 3d live chemo encounter in HD with HY. We are gonna play the chupacabra game! I have to see what other games I have to take too…good times ahead. For the record, chemo day itself isn’t the worst day, because you get pumped so full of fluids, drugs and other goodies, that you actually feel pretty decent that day…and sometimes even the next day, but by the second day after, it’s a nightmare hellscape. Needless to say, the days before are riddled with anxiety. But can I focus on my fears? No, of course not, because in the background the TV is droning so I don’t get lonely, and there’s a commercial for some sort of vagina freshening product that alleges a woman will gain swagger if her vagina is freshened daily with some spray or powder. Swagger? Really? How do I get a marketing job, because seriously, that’s about the most stupid commercial I have ever had to see. And what followed it? A commercial for adult diapers, encouraging me to wear a diaper in solidarity with those who suffer from incontinence. So wait, I am supposed to freshen my vagina to go buy diapers so people with urinary problems know I support them. My life doesn’t need to be this complicated, I have my own struggles!

I don’t really know what the point of my writing this evening is – I’ve been trying to keep myself busy so as not to dwell on the week ahead. I started making a poncho. I pinned stuff I’ll never do to pinterest. I planned to make other shit. I cooked and ate a pork chop. I cooked up some chicken and potatoes to make curry tomorrow and zoned out to Lifetime movies. So clearly, I must be suffering from anxiety. Part of it is the low grade fever I have had for two days – I want it to be gone so I can go to work Monday and Tuesday, and most importantly, not have it delay my treatment on Wednesday. I’ve been slugging back water to make sure my veins are super juicy for visiting the vampires on Monday, and when the nice nurse goes poking for a good vein on Wednesday. Another curious chemo fact – the vein used for the iv for is not the normal wrist or inner arm or back of your hand – it’s usually somewhere on the side of the lower arm, and if you get a really good nurse, she’ll get it the first time, because she (or he) will poke around with their finger until they are sure they have a good one. I have only had one miss in all my treatments so far – and she realized it right away. But according to the nurses, to insure juicy veins, you need to drink drink drink water the DAY before, not just the morning of. So if someone is going to stick a sharp needle of poison in me, I am certainly going to make it as easy as possible for that person to get it right the first time.

I think I am just kind of having the realness of what’s happening to me sink in. Up until now it’s been a bit surreal. But when my hair started coming out after only one treatment, it was like, hey ho, it really is cancer again. I made it through four days of work this week, and the last two were tough because by noon, I was wiped out. I keep thinking my body isn’t busy fighting a battle against cruel invaders, so I am just fine, but I get home and my legs are swollen and achy and all I want is sleep. Ok, eat and sleep. I’ve been stuffing feelings all week. Today, not as bad as the rest of the week, but man, when I found that Irish soda bread, it was game over. I can’t just eat a piece of it – nooooo, I have to keep picking at it until only crumbs remain. And it was delicious. There’s few things as delicious as Irish soda bread. And it’s a fine balm from what ever demon is clutching at your throat.

Tomorrow, Andy has said he will be joining me in the clean head club – I told him he doesn’t have to shave his beloved dreads – he’s worked so hard on them and they are actually starting to look okay. Not that I like them, but I know it’s a big sacrifice for him. Then I will try to vacuum up all the loose strands of hair that are EVERYWHERE. The best thing about losing all my hair is that I won’t have to wake up coughing up a hairball everyday. You think I jest? Not even. Practically everything I have eaten in the last week features at least one hair. Even tea. Tomorrow, I eat hair free, once again.

So that’s it, or all my psyche will allow me to address tonight. Time for me to try and sleep…the wind is howling out there, so it won’t be easy. Please keep sending me good vibes…the support is felt and appreciated. And to all of you who have sent me cards, thank you. I love cards. Even if you make it yourself. Cards are fun. They remind me of my pop-pop…but that’s a story for another day. I keep them all in a box and look at them, and not just cuz I’m a hoarder.

Pleasant slumbers my pals, may your dreams not be filled with hungry flying crocodiles and mirror that duplicate you into an evil clone. Don’t ask. XXOO

PS. I used the lovely sheep picture because there’s a serious lack of cartoons on line that are about chemo and funny.

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Sleepless in Shenandoah

Update on my new year’s resolution(s): I was unable to refrain from reading comments on articles posted on the interwebs. #resolutionfail. And this entry includes the name of the town in which I live. Let’s hope facebook doesn’t read my blog and find out.

I’m doing better. Not as insane as I was just six days ago, but not nearly normal either. I made it to work this week – three days in a row. I was in the office on Wednesday and had training Thursday and Friday. Next week I am planning to do a full week in the office, then Monday and Tuesday of the following week, and then it’s time to roll up the sleeves, pump up a vein and get down with the mad chemo party. Chemo buddy for the next adventure will be the lovely Heidi Y, and I am way to excited to be able to bring and play the Chupacabra dice game with we are there!!! Yay!!!

I’m struggling a lot with anxiety at night lately – this is new to me – I’ve never had this kind of panic/terror/unsettled feeling before. My legs are mad restless, and then as I close my eyes, all kinds of madness creeps into my mind and BAM, I am wide awake and trying to find a way into sleep. Last night I tried to meditate, listen to some talks about lovingkindness and the only thing that shut my mind down at approximately 3 am was a coconut vodka eggnog and two percocet. Yes, I know it’s not the wisest combination or something I should use on a regular basis, but hey a girl has got to sleep. I try to unwind in a myriad of ways – not a single one worked.

It’s a day later, I’m still writing this entry and it’s again 3:30am. I’m having a lovely hotcocoavodka, listening to some classical music and trying to write myself to sleep. I was going to read myself to sleep, but then I couldn’t find my glasses – until I got out of bed and settled down in the writing chair to write. I’m still having anxiety. I’ve realized that my body is also out of control with hunger lately, that too is partially anxiety. The other part is my body stocking up for the next great famine. As for the anxiety, I can feel it in my shoulders, my stomach and neck. It’s hard to be “ok” when your body is being a rebel.

There really isn’t much more for me to write about tonight – I mean there is, but I’m not feeling it. It’s like it just wants to stay bottled up inside – maybe it’s waiting for me to be funny again? To write better? To not drink vodka? Who knows, but I know that this is the best way out of my head for me. I can’t even describe how different this whole experience is this time – it’s so much harder emotionally and psychologically. I hate being a reader. I hate being curious – it turns up way more information than I am ready to handle. I know that much of what I learn is really not applicable to my situation, but it’s still now in my head. That is why I am trying to turn my intellectual pursuits in a more spiritual direction. No, I’m not begging God to heal me – not that I mind prayers, because they are positive energy that I need right now to help scour my body of this nasty annoying disease – rather I am seeking a way to center all this fear and anxiety. To find my spiritual core again – I shouldn’t freak out in the middle of a lovingkindness meditation because cause I can’t forgive myself and love myself completely while I am still blaming myself for choice I made in my 20’s that may or may not have contributed to cancer in my, well, my later life. And bam, writing that hit the crux of everything. I’m blaming myself – for my cancer coming back – was it negative thinking? Was it poor food choices? Is the laptop on my belly causing radiation to make cells grow? Is it negative thoughts? Too many sexual partners? Poor health care? Eating ice cream? Birth control choices? Hamburgers? I can’t accept that this is random and keep blaming myself, irrational as that is, that my negative thinking and bad decision making caused this and the only way out is to get back to a better spiritual core and man, I suck as a a human being.

And there it is, and now you see visually what writing this blog does for me, other than give me a place to randomly make commentary – it lets me keep picking the scab of what I am trying to bury until I make it bleed. And when it bleeds, as painful as that may be, I get to let go of a layer of self-blame and self-doubt. The other night as I was meditating, I couldn’t get to the place where I loved myself unconditionally – I know that this is an issue for a lot of people, but I couldn’t let go of the big grey concrete block keeping me from forgiving myself and being able to love the wondrous, loving and generous person I am – the creative and funny and intelligent being – the person who has a spirit of adventure and sense of magic – because all I could see was the person who made some less than stellar choices in my 20’s, choices I don’t regret, because they are the reason I am who I am and if I had made other choices, my life path would be completely different, but I still can’t get those monolithic barriers out of the way so I can love who I am completely.

~ Newsbreak ~ 4:11. One of the drunk ass neighbors on Lloyd St is making his relationship issues public in the middle of the street. I am always torn between being a lookie-lou and running to the window to hear more and just hoping the police arrive and make an arrest. I usually go with the latter, and I am tonight. I don’t understand the people of this town, at least once a night, somewhere in the two block radius of my house, someone is always in the street between midnight and five am, having some sort of argument, involving screaming, daily. The only time I don’t hear it is when I have the AC on. And it’s winter, so no luck there. ~End  Newsbreak ~

So yeah, back to my inadequate self, and my loathing of it. I believe tomorrow it may be time for a list here of my good qualities. And some clean up in this cave I call a bedroom. Some day, I will have my own studio, with a real desk, and storage for my mountains of craft supplies, and I won’t be all jam-packed in one room with it all like I am now. I wish I could apply some of my incredible life-coaching skills to myself. I am so good at helping others get their lives together, mine, not so much. Then I put off doing things until I shit in order, which I then don’t, and then I have just a mountain of unfinished projects and snakes of yarn everywhere. I just need a giant dumpster that seals itself shut after I toss stuff in it right outside my bedroom window. When did I become a fucking hoarder? When did I get so attached to my material shit?

I think it’s time to go now. Otherwise, I will start to analyze my actions and I want to sleep at some point. Sorry again for boring you with self-psychoanalysis. I’ll get funny again, I promise. But for now, I must finish my cocoa and crawl back into bed. Since I found my glasses, I will be starting to re-read “Awakening the Sacred Within” – I’m going to shoot for a book a week. For now my friends, this is it – and although boring, this entry is at least, somewhat shorter than most. We are almost one month through this winter thing! So, bon nuit mes amis. I was going to say don’t let the bed bugs bite, but for those of you in the child welfare system with me, that will simply evoke itching because we’ve all had to encounter the little critters at least once in our illustrious careers. Sleep well my friends. And remember to send those cancer killing thoughts my way. xo.

abcsleep


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.

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Return, Resolutions, Repeat

I'm back....

I’m back….

That’s right, my lovelies – I did not run over any armadillos, I did not get a cat, I did not mix vodka with orange juice, I did not become a brain eating zombie, I managed to stay awake for at least one hour a day, I resolved to clean the house when absolutely necessary (which it never truly was), I did not use a drone to attack the neighbors, I ate no cauliflower, I checked my phone once a day, and I never told facebook what city I live in, no matter how many times it asked. 10 Resolutions made, 10 completed. Completing such daunting tasks gives me such a sense of satisfaction. I don’t know that I can top this in 2015, but damn it, what’s live without challenge?

I’ll get to this year’s resolutions in a moment. I really want to give the real ending to the attack on the cyst, because I couldn’t before I told my dad (aka pop) the facts – I didn’t want to ruin the holiday for him or for my niece – I mean I had to ruin it for Andy and some of my brothers, co-workers and friends, and of course, it was a bit of a downer for me too, but I couldn’t do it to my dad. I think I’ve told most people, if I haven’t and this is where you get the news first, I’m sorry. It’s not the thing you get any enjoyment out of telling people and one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how many people I tell, there’s always going to be someone that I forgot to. I can think of five or ten or fifteen now. Fact is, I’m tired of telling people. Here’s a fact: Telling people you have cancer (again) is fucking hard. You feel bad that your are giving people bad news, you feel you have to make them feel better, they always ask how they can help and it’s just generally a bad thing. If I tell you, just tell me that you love me. Or if you don’t love me, just say, hey, whatever you need. I’ll keep talking if I feel like talking about it, and if I don’t keep talking about it, and you have questions, ask me. I have a blog, seriously, it’s not like this shit is secret.

Anyhow, I read the CT scan before the surgery. I saw the words “possible malignancy” – I saw the look on the ER doctors face when he had to tell me there were some concerning items on the scan. I know my body. I knew something was wrong. After surgery, when Minion 1 arrived, and I asked her about the offending nodule and if they found cancer, she danced around it, saying that they “don’t think” anything is wrong, but they are only using human eyes. I much preferred the way I found out the first time – the resident held my hand and said it straight up, we can’t confirm it yet, but from the preliminary pathology, it looks like cancer. This time, I knew I was going to hear not very good news at my appointment. I know when they take a biopsy, they look at the sample to make sure it’s a good one. They don’t just randomly snap out a bit of tissue and hope for the best. And while they are checking, they can notice whether they have good cells or abnormal cells. Sure, they may not know if it’s malignant with certainty, but they know if something’s up or not. Minion 1 needs to work on her delivery. I should give lessons.

I also knew I wasn’t healing as quickly as I have in the past. I had some pretty hideous bruising. I lost my appetite. I knew things were different, but I wanted to believe what the Minion 1 told me. So when I got to my appointment on the 22nd, I was ready for the news, or at least I thought so. I went by myself because Andy was in Pittsburgh with my nephew and brothers for a Steelers game. I didn’t want him to not have fun because I had an appointment. I asked my niece’s mom to go with me last minute, but she couldn’t. So I just resigned myself to going it alone. I got there on time, checked in, and waited. I got weighed, and found out I’d lost 40lbs since October. That’s a lot. And then I waited. My blood pressure was almost normal, but there was much excitement by the nurse when I told her I was off the morphine and just taking percocet. I wasn’t in pain. That’s good. Yay. No need to undress. Hang out, Dr. will be in. Now, Dr. K is a presence. He’s a tall, funny guy, with a southern twang to his voice and he’s always cracking jokes with nurses and staff and patients. I suppose you have to when you have to give the news he’s giving. He’s almost never late. I can sometimes hear him talking to other patients when I wait for him. Today I can hear him telling one that they will beat this thing, and that they will be in to review the chemo and radiation schedule with her, etc, etc, etc. Not good. It’s still taking a while for him to see me. I wonder where my treatment coordinator is – I have presents for her and Nurse Sue and Dr. K – just little holiday gifts to say thanks. I don’t hear Anne outside either – not good. Finally, Dr. K arrives with Minion 2 from the ER nightmare. They sit down. Sit. That doesn’t usually happen, so yes, it’s another harbinger of doom. Dr. K looks at me and doesn’t mess around – the biopsy shows cancer, and launches into how we could treat it. No surgery, no radiation, two different ways to address it with chemo, there’s no protocol for cancer in this area, quite frankly he doesn’t even know how or why it came back, it shouldn’t have at this point, once you pass two years, there’s a much less likelihood of recurrence. I just kinda look at him, and tell him I don’t have dying on my agenda. He said that’s good because he hasn’t, and isn’t, giving me permission to die. I’m not crying, I’m almost relieved because now I know – I awkwardly hand him the card and ornament I brought him – tell him I don’t know if he Jewish, or celebrates Kwanza or Christmas, but he can hang the ornament on his Hanukkah bush if he wants to – and thank him for taking such good care of me. I can tell this is as hard on him as it is for me. I think the Minion 2 wants to bolt, but is glad I am not crying and that I am, matter-of-factly, addressing what I need to do. Dr. K tells him to talk to me about the MRI, since he hasn’t staged it yet, and needs the MRI to determine what all is happening in the dark recesses of where the stupid pufferfish lies. I tell him I think the unwieldy beast is starting its dark resurgence because I’m having some discomfort in the area, and he says that’s what he wants to see on the MRI. Minion 2 has ceased sweating, I truly believe he thought I would lose it like I did when they offered my the psych hold in the ER. I maintained calm. OK, I was in shock, but it still didn’t involve crying.

You are never really prepared for the news. I’m still not sure I have accepted it, and probably won’t until they hang the poison bag on the rack and it starts dripping into my arm. Dr. K and I hug, he assures me that we will kick cancer’s ass and be laughing about this in no time. He tells me this is a shitty way to end the year, and a shitty way to start a new one, but go home, enjoy the holiday, and they will call me with the chemo schedule the day after Christmas. I tell him I trust him, he got me through it the last time and will this time. I shake the Minion 2’s hand, and like a scared bunny, he hands me the packet of papers for checkout and flees the room. I head to checkout. As I stand there, alone, having just been told my body has betrayed me, it hits me, and I tear up. I have cancer. Fuck. The receptionist asks me about the papers – I tell her all I know is I have a 4 week appointment on the 5th, and Dr. K wants me to have an MRI. She asks if it is scheduled – I tell her I don’t know – I was just handed papers by the Minion 2. She looks, and doesn’t have a clue why I have been handed all of Dr. K’s results and notes. I suddenly realize I need a note for work, and another prescription for percocet. I ask if she can get that for me when she asks him about the other papers. She does – he tells me I’m off until after my 4 week check up. I realize we never even looked at the incisions. Good thing I heal OK. She comes back with all my papers – I ask her if she can give Anne and Sue my cards and ornaments. She will. I’m still not really connecting to any of this. I get my appointment for the MRI and visit summary and head for the elevators.

I don’t break down until I am in the car. Then I am a snotty, sobbing, weeping, sniveling, snorting, coughing, choking mess for about five minutes. And alone. Horribly alone. And also very glad to be alone because I don’t have to worry about making anyone else feel better about my breakdown. I text who I need to text. I need to get groceries while I am down here. It’s funny how the trauma and the mundane activities intersect here. I need to get food. I also need to get home. I start the car and go to Giant, and mindlessly wheel the cart up and down the aisles, tossing shit in I don’t really need, but I have a fuck-it-you-only-live-once attitude and decide we’re having a fucking rib roast and ask at the butcher counter for a small incredibly expensive rib roast. Two hundred dollars later, I’m checking out of Giant with my rib roast. I forget to buy water. I’m not even hungry. I need to go home and that’s the last place I want to be. My iPod won’t fucking charge. I’m not going home until I have the opportunity to sing loudly with my iPod, and preferably with OWTH, until the pain inside is purged. I must also see my friend, Pony-Pony. I need some normality in this surreal scene. I also need gas. Actually, GAS first.

So I drive – first to a gas station. I fuel up and head to the MHS barn to see Pony-Pony. He’s not there. They probably are making him be the stupid donkey is some live nativity somewhere. I keep driving. I see my friends, the goats, at the goat barn, and I yell “fuck you” at the sheep in their pasture. My iPod is still not charged. I see some cows. I see another pony, and another, none of which are Pony-Pony, but at least I saw them. I keep driving. I realize my blood sugar is quite low, and I am a little shaky – I’ll got to Hardee’s. This whole time I feel like I am in weird freaky film where my character is in a dream world unbeknownst to everyone who sees her. It’s like none of this is real. I finally get the iPod charged enough to commence screamsinging. Fortunately, RTE 322 is not busy and I can cry and sing and drive all at once with no worries. It’s not real. It’s not real. I get to Hardee’s and order some sort of burger and onion rings. I manage to choke down the onion rings. I head home.

The drive was cathartic. And pretty scary. Occasionally I would look down at the speedometer during pauses between songs. I pushed 100+mph more than a few times. It’s not really my fault the car goes that fast. I slowed down several times. I wanted to get home and then I didn’t. I would have to tell Andy and then other people. This is the part that sucks. I finally drove home – I walked in and Andy was all excited to tell me about his trip and the game – and I killed that with a look. He asked how the visit went and I lost it. I sobbed and cried and told him how sorry I was he had to go through this all again. My kid is a good hugger. He told me I was the strongest person he knew and it was just cancer, and I could beat it. Then he proceeded to hug me some more. When he was adequately covered in snot, he went and got the groceries from the car. I didn’t want my expensive rib roast being stolen in this neighborhood

The C-monster is such a fucking burden. Not only do you have to worry about being sick, but you have to worry about bills and work, and the house and telling people and not upsetting people all while being told that this is the time you are supposed to focus on yourself. If there are people who are able to do that, I wish they would have a network where you could find out their secret. Because once you recover from the shock, you have to think about who to tell, and when and where and how and how are they gonna react and if they are old, like my dad, are you going to kill them? And then there’s the logistics – appointments and chemo and food and laundry and the joys of all the changes in smell and touch and taste. And when you have been the head of household for the last 24 years, that just doesn’t stop, you still worry about that. It’s just a lot. And no matter how much you have people tell you they will do whatever they can to help you, you don’t want to ask, because you don’t want to be a burden, and you want to be strong and tackle this yourself.

I’m tired of writing tonight, and I am tired of watching this fucking pathetic Steelers game while I type. I’m tired of being sick and doctor’s appointments, and not wanting to get out of bed. At least there’s minimal pain. At least there’s plenty of food in our house and we have functioning utilities. I can still write. My bed is comfy. I have a new blanket to take to chemo with me. It’s all gonna be over in 18 weeks (it better be). Tomorrow is the MRI – it will be a whole new experience for me, so look forward to that blog entry. I sure hope there’s no metal inside that suddenly gets torn from my body like I’ve seen in horror movies.

Good night my happy people…I’ll be keeping you updated – hug on your loved ones and do something fun with them before they can’t, or you can’t. Sleep well. Oh, about those resolutions, still working on them. I won’t be bound by your constrictive linear timetables. Kisses.

Oh yeah – three years ago yesterday, I got my first diagnosis. Happy Anniversary. I didn’t know the 3rd anniversary was also cancer.


 My Days in Poppyland…

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So, I’m trying to wean off of the morphine. I had my appointment with Dr. K. My treatment plan is this: suffer. No, really, it’s manage the pain for now, try to lose 30lbs or the weight of a medium size dog, and then try some laparoscopic surgery in the New Year. Not exactly what I wanted to hear as my doctor was stabbing me in the side saying “yep, your cyst is back and no, I won’t cut you open.” Apparently, the pufferfish is not the toxic life threatening kind of blowfish. It’s just a pest. An inconvenience. A bother. And I’m stuck with it at least a while longer. Because of where it is, and my “fluffiness”, the Dr. would like to see me drop some “fluff” to be in a better place for the procedure. He has said if he goes in and it would be more hazardous to remove it, than it would to leave it be, it’s gonna stay. If he can’t get it with a laser, I’m stuck with it unless something more dangerous grows alongside it or I am impregnated as part of an alien experiment. It’s like a baby I’ll never deliver. Again, another example of me wishing for something and getting it, but only in the universe’s twisted system of fulfilling my dreams.

So my days are now categorized into “manageable” and “unmanageable” – the pain is ever present, but there are days when it is tolerable, and days, like this morning, where it is brutally cruel and tortuous. I waited too long to take a pill, and I was rewarded with two hours of writhing around on the bed bellowing like an elephant seal and looking like a beached beluga whale. And to make is stop, or rather, dull it, I had to double up on the opiates and send myself into a coma for an hour until it was time to go to work. Don’t worry, I am smart enough to not drive on coma mornings. And every time this happens, I make a silent wish that medical marijuana will someday be the law in PA. Because I believe that much of my pain would be squelched by a cannabis brownie.

This will not deter me from the Wine and Whine OTR trip this weekend in which we shall descend on local wineries like thirsty locusts and suck up grape nectar until we tumble back onto the bus. I’ve never done one of these wine tasting trips, but I am looking forward to it. Although I believe there’s some sort of cautionary bit on my prescriptions about alcohol intensifying the effects. Also long as it’s not intensifying the pain, I should be OK.

I apologize for my failure in the witty blogging that you’ve grown accustomed to, but the narcotics dull my shine. I hate not being myself, and I hate being in pain and there’s no happy medium. But I’ve committed to myself to write my way through this, so maybe one other person who is struggling with the magnificent residual gift of the c-monster doesn’t feel insane. They give you all these pamphlets about what treatment is like and what the effects of chemo are, etc, etc. And they show all these smiling “survivors” on TV, all bright and beautiful – but what you don’t hear about is all the goodies that the disease and the treatment leave behind. I’m still having to randomly smell phantom odors (all of which are unpleasant), I’m tired a lot, my hair still tries to be curly, and then there’s this fucking stupid cyst. But there’s no evidence of any cancer, so for that I’m grateful

So since I took my happy little blue pill an hour ago, I’m nodding off as I type, so this signals I should try to get some rest while I’m in the honeymoon stage of numbness. But before I go, I should announce that in my efforts to defluffitize, I’ll be trying to eat in a healthy manner. That means no more “single serving” pints of Ben and Jerry’s and stuffing pizza in my mouth like I am the beaked creature in Beetlejuice whose head practically opened in half. I’ve asked my coworkers to punch me or knock unhealthy food from my hands at the office, so if you see me in a public space dining on sugar bombs, please feel free to do the same. I am somewhat upset that I am trying to do this during the eating season when orange kitkats, turkey cranberry paninis, and warm chocolate cookies are taunting me like tiny demon sprites around my head. And now it’s time to watch American Horror Story, because the morphine and percocet don’t give me enough weird scary dreams on their own.

Peace my pumpkins, be well.


Aside

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.


50.5 Hours ‘Til Depufferization

I am so restless. Monday cannot come soon enough. I had to stop taking motrin last night because of its blood thinning properties, and I’m out of tylenol until later so I’ve been nibbling on percocet trying to make the pain go away. It’s not.

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In an effort to distract me from writhing about in bed, bemoaning my situation, I decided to give cleaning out my closet a go. I applied the fifteen minute rule, and actually was at it nearly an hour. I got rid of a lot of things I won’t/don’t want to wear again. There are still some things I can’t get go of including the very Victorian/gothic long black dress I bought trying to hang on to my goth past, and a crushed red velvet mini dress from the same desperate period when I dreamed of returning to my glorious youth. I tried – I event took the black dress of the hanger, but in the end, I clutched it my hands, as my opiate-sotted brain harkened back to the days of pale skin and clove cigarettes and dancing wildly to Echo and the Bunnymen, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Love and Rockets. Sigh. I realistically know that the dresses will hang in homage to my youth, never to be worn again, the same way there’s a pair of size 5 shorts in a box somewhere from when my short-lived border-line skeletal hips slipped them on one summer day following my high school graduation. Strange the things we treasure. Now, I’m lucky if I could get them over my ankles.

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Even though the pain is still a constant ache despite the medication, the sedative effects are doing just fine. My eyes keep slipping closed and I should probably take a little nap because I’m going to head in to the den of babysnatchers to get a few more things done before I am off on Monday and Tuesday to have my procedure and biopsy done. They pushed the time back to 12:45p so a pathologist can be available when they retrieve the tiny chunks of flesh from SPFXL from snappy steel jaws that will be tearing them out of me. Of course, I don’t expect to have the pathology completed before I am released to go home, even though I secretly know they do because all they have to do is look at the sample and it’s either normal or it’s not. I don’t need to know how normal or abnormal the cells are, I just need to know one way or the other.

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Not that it really matters, because as I was driving back from Pittsburgh on Thursday night, I was on Interstate 99, and if you have never been on it, there are 11 miles of the most beautiful stretch of highway I have been on, outside of Hwy 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway, in California. The sun had just about set, the hills were green and purple and some of PA’s tallest rounded mountains were rising above the fog that was settling into the valleys amongst the farms and random houses spotting the countryside. It was so magically beautiful, I kept waiting for it to end, and each curve of the highway just became more breathtaking than the previous one. At one point, when the sun had almost sunk below the horizon, there was this lone cow standing next to a barbed wire fence on a hill close to the highway, silhouetted black against a violet twilight and I could not even remember when I saw something so simply marvelous. If I wasn’t moving along at 80mph, I would have hit the brakes and captured it on film. Fortunately, I can still picture it in my head. And I realized, after travelling 500+ miles that day, in the car, alone with my thoughts and in silence most of the car ride, that there’s nothing to fear, no matter what happens next. In that moment, it didn’t matter if I was going to live or die, because everything is connected and timeless. Yes, I had brief reminder of nirvana, one of those glimpses of what being human is all about, and why nothing is ever lost, why we are here, and why it matters, and that whatever comes is just another lesson for me to learn. It’s all going to be okay, even if it seems like it’s not. And I’m okay with that. I forget how strong I really am, and how much I have gone through and how I am so grateful for everything I’ve endured because generally speaking, it has made me the pretty fucking awesome person I am. And even all the not so positive bits, the parts of me I don’t like, are just challenges yet to overcome. Including the SPFXL.

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So now that I have waxed philosophical for the day, I’m off to get ready to face the day and head into work to tackle a few things so I can come back after the probing and get back to the grind. Then it’s off to Presto’s 3rd Birthday Party. Have a great weekend, friends. And if I don’t check in before I’m rocking the CT scanner on Monday while I’m probed like an alien in a secret lab out at Area 51 in Arizona, send me some good vibes – especially that they have some good jello in the recovery area. Peace.


The First Offensive, Second Edition

We’ll be going in to try and attack the SPFXL (see previous entry for clarification) which we determined today to be the size of my small desk fan. I’m just waiting for a procedure date – my treatment coordinator told me that they asked for it to happen in the next seven days, and if they don’t schedule it within seven days, she will call and tell them to make it happen, because I am symptomatic (based on my near-encounter with the ER yesterday). On the plus side, most of today was pain-free, or rather, pain-minimum, because for the last six weeks, I’ve been in pain to varying degrees.

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Like the last attack on SPFXL, when it was known as PF, there will be an attempt to aspirate it, followed by the painful snapping of flesh from the beast itself for purpose of looking for the C-monster. The difference is this time, it will be more pieces of flesh being torn from me, and in more areas to see if there is something that was missed last time, resulting in the return of SPFXL. They still will force me to be awake throughout the whole ordeal, but at least I can play with the monitors and make them think I am dead several times for my own personal entertainment.

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I’m trying to be positive, but pain puts a damper on that shit, especially when it feels like sharp spines in my lower back most of the day. The fact that it is in exactly the same are is a plus, and as I was told, I shouldn’t worry about it, it’s just concerning, not alarming. Of course when you have a blob the size of a newborn’s head inside of you, you are just a tad concerned. I will keep you darlings updated, I’m just not feeling the joy tonight.

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Sweet dreams my pretties.


Pufferfish Becomes Superpufferfish XL

Who ever said ignorance is bliss should have a monument erected to them. I believe I would be so much happier if I was stupid. There’s a price to be paid for knowledge, and for having information at our fingertips on the internet.

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I won’t belabor the issue – my most recent CT scan (yesterday) report appeared online last night. In addition to having a ridiculously low and almost non-existent level of thyroid hormone (I knew it was low, but this was way below the low end of the measurement scale) I had the joy of reading that the former pufferfish has, in less that four months, become superpufferfish xl. That’s right, the pelvic mass that we all thought was defeated in a previous episode has not only recovered but has evolved like a Pokemon, say like a Igglybuff transforms into a Jigglypuff (see images below). It is now the size of a pink grapefruit or softball instead of a common baseball. And being that it is a holiday, and my dear Dr. K is out of the office until Monday, and probably did not feel compelled to check my medical records at midnight as I did, will not see the transformation until Monday, and they are not going to call me until Tuesday. I know my treatment coordinator saw it, because she called me about the thyroid thing, and left a message about that, but nothing about the SPFXL (Superpufferfishxl). Back to the waiting for the news.

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Of course, as is typical, I use the sacred interwebs to research this evolution. Things that grow so fast are often malignant. The only positive I can derive from my online inquiries is that there is no change in the nearby lymph nodes or other organs, which is a good sign. Whatever it is, I will deal with it, but I hate being in the no woman’s land of not knowing. I can feel it fighting with the other organs nearby for space, particularly my bladder and stomach, and it is annoying. Not to mention the pain it is inflicting by its inflation as it rests on the nerves in my lower spine and coccyx. (I should state that I love the work coccyx). Either way, it is going to be jabbed and poked and prodded with sharp needles and cutting tools, and it’s gonna mean that there’s gonna be no Riotfest in my future because I’m gonna have to take time off for hospital visits.

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And I’m scared. That actually goes without saying. To deal with the fear, I’ve been binge eating because nothing conquers fear than a package of limeade oreos, Chinese food and coolattas. Which makes me more uncomfortable. But I am letting myself have the 4th of July to wallow in self-pity. Tomorrow I’ll take an extra effexor, and get out in the world and see some babies I don’t have to take away from selfish, self-absorbed and self-indulgent adults, and remember just how strong I am. And see fireworks. The world is a better place with fireworks. Or explosions. Explosions are good too.

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Celebrate the day, my little firecrackers.

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Deep in the Valley of Pufferfish We Go (aka No Two Year Cancer-free Celebration Yet)

Yeah, I started to write a blog on Saturday. I was full of joy and rage and fear and I was inspired; then I got way-laid, and tried again on Sunday, but then the joys of being a baby-snatcher intervened, and I had work to do. Then it was Dr. Day. And after enjoying a day full of describing and pointing and whining and diagnosing I got home and passed out and woke up at 11pm wondering why it was still dark at 6am, and once realizing it was not 6am, I ate a bundukie (lithuanian meatball, a delicacy) and trotted my sleepy butt back to bed. I didn’t even want to write tonight, but as I ate the last cold bundukie in the fridge, I felt compelled to share the events of yesterday with you, my faithful companions.

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Yesterday was starting out pretty well, for Dr. Day. I won a necklace with a raffle ticket I bought at work, and was awarded my prize when I ran in to drop off the carseat I needed on Sunday. Then I buzzed up to court where the court hall patrol tried to halt me from seeing my client before I took the long drive to Hershey. But I could not be denied, and when he wasn’t looking, I grabbed a quick visit. Then I was off.

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Of course, I should have known when I blew by the poor man who was lying on the side of Rte 209 that this was not a good sign. I barely even realized he was human until I did a double take and saw his hand waving. I pulled over as soon as it was safe to stop (not many pull-outs on 209) and called 911. I was stunned that I was the first person to call 911, because he looked like he was there a while. Once I saw someone else had stopped and that an ambulance was dispatched, I was on my way.

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Being a good Samaritan made me late. Much to my glee, when I was finally called, I’d lost 16 pounds. Then the fun began. The nurse, who clearly did not read my chart as so often happens, asked me when my last period was. I told her it was when I last had a uterus and she gave that uncomfortable chuckle that finding out she didn’t read the chart always brings. She didn’t do any of the usual interrogation that my visits begin with. She tried telling me my blood pressure was high. Why do they insist on telling me my blood pressure is high, when it’s really not? Are they trying to see how long it will take to get it high? Fortunately, her painful encounter with me ended quickly and then it was onto the med student.

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Her name was Sam. She had at least read the chart. I told her my symptoms and whined a while about pain and pressure and how I was sure there was some small animal lurking inside. Or a rock. It does really feel like a rock. A boulder. But it was probably the return of the pufferfish. And then she went out to see Dr. K. He came in ready for me to tell him I’m great. You would think I killed his puppy when I said, I have complaints, I believe my pufferfish is back. And then it got really fun. That’s right, you guessed it…we have to feel internally for the pufferfish, and then we have the med student feel for pufferfish, and then we go back in and jab the pufferfish and confirm that yes, there is a large mass in there. Does the fun end then? No of course not – we then poke me in the stomach and lower abdomen about a billion times and ask me if it hurts. YES, YES, YES! It fucking hurts. There and there and ESPECIALLY THERE. Take the pufferfish out I beg, or give me a scalpel and I’ll do it myself. No such luck. Dr. K makes a grumpy face. He does not like that there may be a return of the pufferfish, but gutting me is not going to be our first move. No. Not even close. I will be the lucky recipient of another CT scan, and once we determine that it is a pufferfish and not an invasive lionfish or even a barracuda, or perhaps a giant ball of chewed gum, we can choose an option. Most likely I will get to have another one of those great draining biopsies like last time, except this time, they will take chunks out of the pufferfish in multiple spots using an ultrasound machine. I will undoubtedly be awake again. No morphine, not sedatives to make me enjoy the whole event asleep. Woo hoo. And no fucking jello.

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If it is a rock or a barracuda, we’ll explore other options. At this time we are not tolerating the idea that it is anything other than a return of the pufferfish, which will require a good poke with a sharp needle several times to make it go away.

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You thought that was the end of the adventure, eh? Not so fast.

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So Dr. K’s apprentice comes back and give me papers to checkout. And off I go. Only to get sent back to my exam room to wait for the nurse who does the surgical scheduling to get me over for a ct scan. Today if possible. She has me wait and while I am waiting I hear my treatment coordinator’s voice in the room across from mine talking to someone who has been told there is a contingent of rebel cells in her body that have created the dreaded C monster. I hear her being told she is on a schedule of 3 weeks on and 1 off and for 3 rounds. I want to cry for her. I hear the most feared words in the universe: Taxol and Carboplatin. And a cold chill runs down my spine. I can only imagine what stage she must be at, and I realize Dr. K was expecting me to be disease free to offset having to tell someone they are seriously ill and I really did kill his puppy.

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The nurse comes back and tells me I’m due in the meat slicer with toy story stickers on Thursday at 12:45. And we’ll know on Tuesday what happens next and when that can be scheduled. And you thought that was it? No, I still have one more appointment today.

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Off I go to visit a friend until the next appointment, which I believe is at 2:30. I am sure is at 2:30. So sure I didn’t even listen to my reminder message. And when I arrive at 2:20, I learn my appointment was at 1:50. I could have had a CT scan at 2:00 today, but I couldn’t because I had another appointment. Well now my appointment is at 3:10 because I missed my 1:50. I could have had a scan. I read my book, writhing in pain because the last 3 motrin have yet to kick in. Then I get ushered into the next exam room. No stickers. I read my book. I finally see the Dr. at 3:40. They take my blood pressure, which is NORMAL, but I’ve gained five pounds since this morning and all I ate was some cheese fries with honey mustard and a water. This is a female Dr. K. She’s a brandie-new Dr. She is excited that I came back to see her. She is glad to see the medication is keeping my blood pressure normal. I tell her I don’t take any medication, it’s always normal. Then I tell her about the problem of the pufferfish and what they plan to do about it. She asks me about 10 times if I see an oncologist or a gynecologist and I repeatedly confuse her when I say he’s a gynecological oncologist. And I’ve seen him for over 2 years. I tell her about the pain and now she thinks I have a kidney infection, and I have to talk her down from that. When I finally convince her I know my body better than she does because I’ve had it probably twice as long as she’s been alive, she lets go of the kidney infection diagnosis. But not until I show her EXACTLY when the pain is. Then she leaves me for about 30 minutes to confer with her attending. I’m still in pain. I’m trying to read to distract myself but all I can think about is how I want to go home and sleep the pain away. At least I don’t have to repeat this appointment for another six months. She knocks on the door and comes back in, and tells me they reviewed my blood tests from six months ago and it appears my thyroid level is really really low. I know this, I saw the results myself. Now she thinks that maybe I have too much medication for that and that is why I lost weight. I find this amusing because I’ve been taking this dose of meds for 18 months and weigh more now that I did when I started taking it. If anything, I need to have my dose increased. I don’t argue the point. I will let them take my blood. On Thursday. When I come back for the scan. Because I am tired, and anxious and need a Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard. Can I be excused?. She starts to insist I come back in six weeks for the results, and I tell her no, I see my endocrinologist in six weeks, so I’m good with six months. We agree, and I promise to lay off the lattes and try to walk more. And I am released into the sweltering summer afternoon.

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And thus the two year check-up and Dr. Day ends. So I won’t be celebrating two years cancer-free yet. Keyword YET. Unfortunately I know there will be some sort of procedure because I can feel this thing myself from the outside, and it hurts. I’m gonna make sure there’s jello for this one, and if I have to have the same procedure again, I’m getting that stuffed animal too.

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And there it is, the story of the two year Dr. visit, and a hiccup in the road. I’m gonna go creep into bed now and drift into air-conditioned comfort, and hope things are going better for that lady in the room across from me yesterday and that man on the side of the road. It’s a real reminder that things could always be worse. So sleep well friends, and enjoy tomorrow.

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Oh Yeah! We’re Puking Rainbows Again!

So, massive doses of vitamin B, medication, meditation, and writing kept me from sinking into the sucking abyss. You can all go back to poking me with sticks without fear of my mental breakdown again. It’s something you can’t even explain, but I will try to – it’s like waking up one morning and you just don’t even care that you have no money, and no gas, and there’s nowhere in walking distance that you want to go, and the house is a mess, and you have a stack of bills, but that’s all okay, because you’re fine with just hanging out at home, and it isn’t even depressing. Like that giant safe that was dropped on your soul from forty stories above has been pushed off and you can breathe again, and think of sad things without having a sobbing meltdown. You eat things other than chocolate and ice cream. You don’t really care that you aren’t chasing every dream you ever had, you’re just happy that you don’t have to fight to get out of bed, that you are back to considering a future, and the physical feeling of drowning under the weight of your tears is gone. Boom. Like that. Even though I don’t have the power to turn my depression on and off like a switch, some times it comes and goes like someone else has the power to control it. It’s not like anything changed in my life to make it better, it’s just I woke up on a perfectly gloomy day, continued to do the same mundane things I always do, but suddenly, it wasn’t like physical torture anymore. And I am grateful for everyday it gets to stay this way.

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This is a good thing because two year check up is in two weeks. I do believe my baby alien re-inflated itself after the last tortuous surgery, or at least that is what I am hoping. Actually, I’m not hoping that it did, I am just hoping that that is all that is wrong, because something is, and rather than whining about it, I’ve been just patiently waiting for the next day of probing to address it. It’s not like waiting a month would really make a big difference anyway, but I’ve got pain and weird sensations going on in ground zero and I know something is up. I’m pretty sure I’m still cancer-free, but I think that the poking around at the chrysalis in my former uterine cavity did little to eliminate the problem and was just a stop-gap, and at some point it’s gonna be either me, or a qualified surgeon, going in there with a knife and cutting that shit out. And if it is cancer, well, not much I can do about that except treat it – it’s not like it’s flesh eating bacteria or a bot-fly larva erupting from my skin. See? I come out of the darkness, and I’m all like, who gives a fuck? For the record, Vitamin B is nasty, but clearly works. Or I believe it works, and thus I prove the placebo effect valid once again.

puking_rainbows_for_real_by_pacifictoast-d2xv9byHopefully you are all breathing a sigh of relief at my return to normalcy. Normalcy is relative though, and I’m still pondering the secrets of the universe and scheming great schemes. Andy has agreed to go to Riot Fest with his mother, and I am buying his ticket for his birthday. The last time we went on vacation together was when he was five and we went to Disneyland for a week for his birthday – Riot Fest will be much like that trip, except, I won’t be charged with child abuse if I smack him in the head for being whiny. In other words, he will fall asleep in the car, whine about being hungry, complain about the music I am listening too, wander away and want to go in the opposite direction of wherever I want to go. And like when we went to Warped Tour to see AM! and Pennywise, he will spend all his money, and come looking for me only when he is covered in mud and has lost his shoes and is hungry. Mother and son bonding at its finest. If you want to join us, let me know – I will be staying in a hotel – he wants to stay in a tent – or the car – or on the ground – and as he will ditch me to see the bands he wants to see once inside the gate I will technically be alone. We’re driving because I love a good road trip. You can get tickets on layaway, which is the only reason we can afford it – because the universe has some sort of issue with me having a bank account with any sort of substantial balance in it (grasshopper).

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Well friends, it’s almost time to make something for dinner. Maybe if you are lucky, I will make something amazing and you will be treated to pictures of it on FB.  Have a great rest of the weekend, and Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there, including my “son” Corey, and my dad, if he’s ever allowed to return from where he is being held hostage at my brother’s home (detention camp) in Maryland, and to all the moms out there who are filling in as dads. And the men who are like dads to the dad-less. Fight the power!

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Good Weekend? Bad Weekend? You Pick.

I came home this evening from hanging out next door with the Rooney’s, enjoying a glass of blueberry wine that I bought at the Pennsylvania Flavorfest, laughing til I cried while listening to Eric Rooney read some of my best impromptu poetry, including “Ode To Mikey” about his dead rabbit only to get some weird facebook message about pictures being posted of me on some ugly people website. At first I wanted to look, and then I decided not to, because one, I just had a weird vibe this was some sort of hacking activity, and two, because why would I subject myself to someone’s need to hurt me in that way (the link this person gave me had my name in it). This of course took the edge off my happy. I was about to launch into a rant hear about bullies and people who do ugly things like that. I was like, really, at my age who really hates me that much and has pictures of me that are, as the person who messaged me put it, disgusting. Whatever, nothing anyone else can say or do can cause me to feel worse about my body as I already do. So sorry mean people, I believe the word is “fail”.

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What that little message did though, was make me realize, once again, that nothing is permanent. And maybe, I should take my own advice, and make a list of positives and negatives and see which wins out in the total score for the weekend.

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Positive: Ryan Young actually had my email to him on his podcast (Episode Number 8, Anxious and Angry – Free on Itunes or here Anxious and Angry) You should download all of the episodes. They’re funny and interesting and will make you think.) He also said nice things about me. It made me happy.

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Negative: I re-read my email and saw that not only did I use some poor grammar, my dumb ass fingers are still switching letters and my brain is still tricking me into thinking I typed one word when I really typed something else. So, if I have spelled things wrong or used the wrong words in sentences, my brain corrects things so I don’t catch it until days later when I re-read something, or in some cases, never.

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Positive: I had an awesome Saturday with Kelly and her boys who are the most delightful littles ever. Rodney even performed a magic show with a rabbit in a hat. We had an awesome lunch and a semi-awesome milkshake. (Note to Sonic – Jalapeno Chocolate Shakes would be awesome if they did not have chunks of jalapeno getting stuck in the straw all the time. Find a way to fix that.)

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Negative: There were so many chunks of jalapeno in my shake, I thought it was salsa.

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Positive: I went to two impromptu barbecues today.

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Negative: There’s none for this really. I had fun. played in the pool with Presto. wrote some side splitting poetry. Ate corn. Drank wine. Can’t really find a downside.

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Negative: Andy was a served an arrest warrant for non-payment of parking tickets.

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Positive: See above, because those unpaid tickets were mine, and the car is in his name.

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Positive: I had three days off from work.

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Negative: My weekend started with having to do something I hope I never would have to do and trying to prevent from happening for almost two years. This was a big negative. Huge. Unfortunate. Sad. Troubling. Some days, work sucks. The only minute, teensy-weensy upside was that I took care of it myself, and no one else had to do it.

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Negative: I can’t sleep again.

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Positive: You get to have one of my more boring, less comical, blog entries.

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Honestly, I’m a little fired up about misogyny, murders, the internet, stupidity, gender inequality, remembering things I forgot to subtract from my bank account, the lack of breakfast food delivery services. I also hate my hair, the fat suit I am living in, the lack of motivation I have to do anything about it, social injustice, climate change and the fact that there is no IQ or other suitability test before people are allowed to use the internet. I need another week or three off. I got some bad news about a friend and my dad has some serious valve issues with his heart and I am not thrilled with the hospital he is choosing to address it.

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However, I got an awesome hug on Friday from a little who wouldn’t let me go until the stress was all hugged out of me, I laughed a lot, I ate good food, I slept, I met an alpaca that was wearing sunglasses, convince a little that his magic wand turned a girl’s hair pink, got to re-live some of the fun that having little kids around brings to your life, spent some time with my niece and relaxed.

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In other words, it was life. And tomorrow will also either suck or be awesome. Since it’s court day, probably more of the former and less of the latter, and I have the paper work from my unpleasant Friday surprise to deal with.

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If your Tuesday is in need laughter, you should check out Ryan’s podcast, really. It may also make you sad, but again, see above, ie: life.

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Be well my pretties. I wish I had flying monkeys.

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Monday Night MERS

I suppose I could go back and read my own blog to see if I blogged about Mother’s Day. But being that I am sure I am suffering from MERS and insomnia, I prefer to just pretend like I did, and say that the injured knee seems to be healing, without medical intervention. I stayed off it all weekend, and it seems to have made a difference. Remember people, just because other people are having fun on the rocks does not mean it is safe for you. Also, remember the larger you are, the faster you will slide and smash into said rocks.

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So here it is Monday night. I rested all weekend only to wake up from a restless sleep filled with nightmares about centipedes, cockroaches, and rabid aardvarks to realize I am infected with MERS. But I had court today, so naturally I had to drag my ailing body to work despite an half hour of retching in the bathroom sink. Now, I know you are saying to yourself, self, how ever did she get MERS? Was she in Saudi Arabia? Of course not, I just asked Web MD, and of course, my symptoms match. They also match food poisoning, and multiple flus and viruses. But I am positive it’s MERS. And I can’t sleep. I have been trying to nap on and off since I came home after court, but it doesn’t last long. I think I am afraid of having more nightmares. I would try meditating but I am also afraid that whatever opened those shoeboxes of fear in my brain will find meditation an opportunity to empty out a few more boxes of terror. My brain has been in overdrive for a few weeks, and we all know what that can lead to.

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I’ve been meaning to write all week and up until I started writing I have big plans for some serious commentary, but now all I can think about is why I have to wait so long for more lives on Maleficent Free Fall, and how much I want to sleep and can’t. I believe my intestinal tract and stomach have come to terms about how we’ll get through the next 8 hours, so all I need now if for the sandman to cooperate. I’m off tomorrow to go vote, so I can sleep in, but first I have to sleep. The vampire children have even been unusually quite for this time of night so I can even sleep with the window open. I’d go get a cup of chocovodkacocoa if I didn’t think it would make me sick all over again. Maybe I’ll just watch the season finale of Vikings again for the 37th time.

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Be safe my readerlings, I’m gonna go do a jigsaw puzzle and see if I can fall asleep with the computer in my lap.


Black and Tan and Blue

I’m waiting for my laundry to get done so I can hang it up in order to be dry for the morning work. I suppose I should do this earlier in the evening, but I was unwinding from another troubling day of working for the man.

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As you may or may not know, I finally made it to the ocean. The Atlantic, not the Pacific, but the sound and smell of the sea took cleared away a lot of things that can only be washed away by something so vast and timeless as the ocean. I needed that. For those of you who have not seen both, I have to be honest when I say the ocean in northern California is a far more powerful force, even on calm days, than the Atlantic in New Jersey. Not to mention that the shell selection is somewhat better, and there’s more beach glass, and sea otters and sea lions, maybe an elephant seal. But still, the ocean soothes a lot in me. And made for a delightful Mother’s Day, even though it meant spending much more money than I intended to. I am somehow okay with that though, because every cent was worth hanging out with my son and laughing. It reminded me of when he was a little, and we would take road trips and adventures to see and do things we hadn’t done before. I miss that. And I miss the spontaneity – not many people I know are willing to do things at the drop of a hat, and thanks to my excellent child rearing skills, Andy has that inherent spontaneous streak. The beach trip came about at breakfast when I said, hey let’s go to the beach, and he said okay, but I need to go change first. And within an hour, we were on our way. It reminded me of when he was just a toddler and we would be leave the house to head to work/daycare and I would look at him, call “mental health day” and he and I would head to the ocean. Or the zoo. Or a park.

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And, as you may or may not know, during the beach trip, I learned some important information, which I believe should be shared. Large rocks at the beach are slippery if there is moss on them. Also, slippery without moss. Cement piers are also slippery, with or without moss. Women of my age should be careful on any of these things, lest they fall, as I did, and almost drown in the ocean/smash your camera/kill your ipod/get covered in blood, moss and sand. I also did some serious damage to my unscraped knee. It is getting better – but I keep thinking back to my fall, lying there like a giant beached pilot whale, flopping around as I tried to get up on the very slippery moss. Ah, a mother’s day to remember. My right leg looks like I was mauled by a demon too. Reminded me of the time I was going to showcase my mad skateboard skills for Andy and immediately had the deck shoot out from underneath me and I fell, slow-mo style, to the ground and smashed my head into the drive way. Days to remember.

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Well, I do believe the laundry is ready for my attention. Tomorrow, or today, depending what time you are reading this is “hug-it-out-hump-day” and I encourage you to drop your inhibitions, invade the personal space of friends and coworkers and hug the shit out of them. They might scream or tell you that it is unwelcome or unwarranted, but deep inside, they want them. Don’t let the mace or threats of legal action deter you.

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Good night my friends.

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btw, the title comes from the fact that I had Yuengling Black and Tan ice cream, and I was blue because it was all gone. sigh.

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100

This is the 100th entry on my blog. Before we get into the magnificent writing, I am known for, a little self promotion. To mark this auspicious occasion, I’d like to get to 100 blog subscribers, or followers, you know, people who click “follow” on my blog. I’m at 80, so getting 20 shouldn’t be ridiculously hard. So before I begin spewing today’s brilliant thoughts, I will shamelessly petition you, my kind and incredibly intelligent readers, to promote this humble blog to your friends, and ask them to click that “follow” button. Thank you for your cooperation in fulfilling my little wish here.

I thought long, and sort hard, about what I should write about in my 100th blog entry. What amazing insight I could share, what witticisms, what profound philosophical ponderings…. should I use alliteration? Metaphor? Allegory? Deus Ex Machina?

Nah.

Just a list. A list of why I write and who inspires me and what brings me joy. Honoring what brings me to today:

andy * friends * family * dad * rain * fire * spring * oceans * sylviaplath * eecummings * thunderstorms * poetry * laughter * children * indianfood * sarcasm * satire * alliteration * litote * buddhism * cancer * cemeteries * lemurs * roadtrips * blogging * photography * writing * coloredpens * ipod * futureplans * death * survival * sleep * madness * cut grass * storms * bridges * failures * sleep * owth * obstacles * successes * dreams * tears * giggling * thaifood * am! * thickwarmblankets * fireworks * technology * komododragons * flyingmonkeys * joydivision * joys * gratitude * death* longdays * goodmovies * philosophy * poverty * birth * happybabies * silence * toast * jessicadorman * plato * charliekupher * earthquakes * coffee * newexperiences *memories * time * longtalks * surprises * oldmovies * storytelling * woodchucks * art * jesusandmarychain * fastcars * loudmusic * goodhealthcare * greatvocabulary * depression * journals * miltkids * hugs * personalspace * greatcoworkers * senseofhumor * wonder * magic * destiny * icecream * kindness * nightmares * despair * loneliness * intelligence * peace  

I probably have 100 more. What I’ve found is that what I don’t write is sometimes as cathartic as what I do. And I like it. I write what I write, and it’s both defining and liberating and it’s kept me from the edge more than once. Thanks for traveling with me.

I hope I write 100 more – there will be at least two because don’t forget, it’s almost time for the A-Z challenge. You won’t be sorry.

5e25fff94bd6588096341935594983f1It’s not its – get it right ecards.


And Whatever You Do, Don’t Feed the Pufferfish After Midnight!

The Countdown begins. I am past my no-more-food cutoff, and just an hour away from no-more-water. All I keep thinking about is that they get in there, find out that my new resident, Pufferfish, or FPF for short, has to come out NOW. As some of you may recall from the Gutting of .’11, they were just gonna take the behemoth tumor out via laser, and that ended with 7 hours of surgery and a hideous scar across my belly full of staples that I wouldn’t even look at for the first week. And who can forget those lap sites from when they went in and then changed their minds and fetched a scalpel instead, that days later spouted like a damn fountain? Good times, good times.

Anyway, of course I’m nervous and dreading the forced smile of whoever gets to tell me the results. It better come with jello, that’s all I have to say. It’s supposed to be in-and-out. My pre-scavenger hunt scan is at 8:30 and the theft of fluid and issue is at 10. I am guessing I’ll be done by noon. And back in bed by 4pm. To sleep the weekend away.

I don’t even think I will get results tomorrow, probably not for another week. I’m working on the positive thing, but I think the whole chemo/radiation thing kind of puts the damper on that. It’s hard to shut off the part of the brain that remembers all of that. Not that I haven’t spent hours trying. But, there are more important things to decide…

What to wear to this event? I thought about pajama pants, because it’s not like I am going to go shopping after I am violated, but there’s that stigma about wearing them in public and I really don’t have any slipper that go with them – I don’t even really want to wear shoes, but that whole sub-zero temperature thing is working against that. I mean, I don’t want to be there for both the amputation of frost-bitten toes and FPF exploration. But I know you have suffered enough introspection, reflection, sadness and pathos in this blog lately…I know what you’re really after.

UPDATES AND OBSERVATIONS:

Update: I saw the hooker from the bus again the other morning. She was still working the red rabbit coat, but this time she had a posh purple evening gown on (and she missed the early bus).

Observation: If Dunkin Donuts has cookie batter and brownie batter filled donuts, why don’t they have brownies and cookies?

Observation: Why do pill (tablets) have line scored in them to break in half, and yet be impossible to snap in half?

Update: I bought a new pair of tweezers. This means I will find the other three, most likely by spearing my foot with at least one of them.

Update: Oreos now come in a lemon flavor. I am pleased.

That’s enough for now my friends, I am going to read for a while til I fall asleep. Whatever religious rituals or spiritual practices you partake of, send some mojo my way. I’ll try to pull off a photo essay of the day’s events. Since I am intellectually thwarted by instagram, check FB for fun-filled shots of the day unfolding, as long as my camera is not confiscated. G-rated, of course (if G means gore). And they better give me a ct-scan machine with stickers on it, or there will be hell to pay. Buh-bye lovelies.

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Gutting 2.0 – Pufferfish Has To Go

Well, I will be at Penn State Hershey Medical Center bright and early Friday morning for the live action version of “Operation”. We’ve moved from draining a cyst to doing a biopsy. Under moderate sedation. And while they go in after the pufferfish that has taken up residence in the spot where the ol’ uterus and co. used to reside, I’ll be off will Lil’ Nemo in Slumberland. Seriously, if you have not seen that animate film,. Little Nemo’s Adventures in Slumberland, you need to. One of the most troubling animated films I’ve ever enjoy. Those wacky tree creatures unsettle me every time.

 

So of course I got the call this morning, on my way to work, just in time to screw up the whole day. Then there was pain. Pain unlike I have had since the last neulasta shot. I couldn’t find a place to be comfortable and I only had aspirin at my disposal. I literally wanted to lie on the floor and cry until someone put me out of my misery. When the hospital called at lunch time to review my medical history and asked me my pain level, I was at 5. Which I probably understated. It was a fucking 10. But all is well in the home again, a new prescription of pain medication is within the grasp of my chubby little hands. I just want this all to be over. The not knowing is the worst part – once I know one way or another, I can figure out what is next, but not knowing puts everything on hold.

 

Anyway, that’s where things stand right now. I’m trying to keep my positive attitude and think positive thoughts, but I know that right now I positively need another half of a pill and to try and sleep. However, in other news, I somehow managed to delete all the contacts in my phone last night. If you have my number, text me with your name so I can rebuild my peoples. If you need my number, comment here, or send me a fb message.

 

On the plus side, I bet there will be a rainbow of jello to choose from after I wake up on Friday. And maybe Andy will want to go see the Lego movie with his mommy after the invasive probing is completed. So if you pray, pray for me, or ask the universe for favors, or sacrifice a goat or make a voodoo doll in the shape of my uterine cavity invader. Just send the good thoughts my way. Presents are always welcome, but not required, but again, I’m still looking for a cheap used ipod shuttle or something since my good friend the mini is now lost.

 

I know I can get through what ever it is, I just want whatever it is to be a false alarm.

 

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