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‘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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