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An Overdue Thank You for Thanksgiving and Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the list of donors and businesses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Return to Mania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


Beating Back the Blackness

So as I was shoving that third piece of pizza into the yawning chasm of my mouth, I finally gave in and accepted that I am sunk in blackness and I was stuffing my feelings. Also why I have put off writing for so long again. Because I’m a scaredy cat. Not like a cheetah or a lynx, but like a big ol’ cowardly lioness. And it’s paralyzing.

I promised myself that I would write first about the good things, because there have been a lot and when I look back at them, I feel like a whiner for feeling the way I do. Of course that doesn’t make my pain and weakness go away, or make it any less valid, but I am grateful for so much and for the people in my life, and I don’t say it enough. So let’s do this, and if I am not ready to pass out when I get through the good, then we’ll move on to the bad. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

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OWTH

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Silent Bell

So first there was the fabulous road trip to Minneapolis. Once again, Andy and I hit the road for punk rock adventure. Andy got me tickets to Dillinger Four’s 21 birthday 4th of July Show at the Triple Rock in Minneapolis. We drove straight from home to Minneapolis, speeding through the dark night through the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Well, okay, it was getting a little light out as we drove through Chicago, but for the most part, dark Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio are similar to the daylight version. Wisconsin was pretty and has a curious number of large animal statues at different roadside shops and hotels. Like a giant moose. Or a giant mouse with cheese. There were more, but Andy wouldn’t pull over for everyone. Minnesota is also quite lovely. We hit the aquarium in the Mall of America, which was small but very cool, unlike the Mall of America, which is, though large, a mall. Okay, okay, it has an aquarium, and that Nickelodeon amusement park area, and a way cool lego store, but bottom line, its a mall, and the massive amount of people and the mindless consumerism reminded me of why I shop online. Of course, that was the first time during the trip my body betrayed me and we headed back to the hotel, which was fabulous. My sore sick body fell in love with the bed, and even more so after I swam for an hour in the pool. The next day, we went to the Minneapolis sculpture garden which was very cool. (Note to self: EARLY mornings and LATE afternoons are best to be outside when your body likes to randoIMAG2366mly overheat to 1000 degrees throughout the day.) They have a giant spoon with a cherry on it that’s a fountain, and a bell that doesn’t ring, for which Andy and I posited theories about what a silent bell represents before moving on to two sculptures which we both decided were representative of vaginas. Once again I had to retire to the hotel to rest before we could go to the D4th show. After a quick nap, we headed out to the Triple Rock. The show was amazing – albeit hot – and I hid behind a tree most of the time avoiding sun. Even cooler than the show was getting to meet Ranae and hang out with her at the show, not to mention that Ryan gave me an awesome gift of the vinyl Jesus and Mary Chain’s Darklands, which is my favorite record of all time. I also got to meet a bunch of great people and make fun of a selfie stick. After the show, Andy and I went back to the hotel to catch a quick nap before the after party, but Andy is a still a young pup and he fell asleep so I ended up going back to see The Underground Railroad to Candyland by myself, which was a big deal, since I never have gone to a club in a strange city by myself. I was glad I did, because they were amazing. Really, every band that played was excellent, we missed some of the openers, but thanks to seeing the line up posted on FB, we got there in plenty of time for OWTH. We also saw Toys That Kill, Dillinger Four, Lftr Pllr (the special guest whom I never heard before but were amazing) Scared of Chaka, Tim Barry and Against Me! It was just one of the best days ever, and after the show, I went back to the room and tried to trick Andy into letting me sleep in, but no, he was up and ready to head back at the crack of dawn. So with a stop at the cheese shop where we bought a ridiculous amount of snacks, we headed home, tired, bruised, but happy happy happy. And Andy and I had only two screaming matches at each other during the whole trip – once at 5am when I needed to pee and couldn’t find a bathroom and the second when we were stuck in traffic in Chicago for 2.5 hours because of those damn hippies at the Grateful Dead thing going on there. Still, it was a fantastically fun weekend and I am so glad we did it. Plus spending the time talking with Andy always is worth it. And Andy got a ton of fireworks that could not be purchased here, so he was very happy too.

Then I got to see two of my oldest and dearest friends, Donna and Denise, who were in town for a wedding. It was 15 years since I’d seen either of them, and it was like we never had been separated. We drank and laughed and looked at photos to point out all the people we knew who were dead. I also got to see all of the kids, which was great. Then we also got together for breakfast which was another laugh riot. It would have been complete if our friend Anne could have joined us, but she had an event that she needed to prep for, so hopefully another time. Nevertheless, we had a blast and we need to not wait so long to hang out the next time.

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me, Denise and Donna

After that, my friend and former common law domestic partner, Debbie, her husband, kids, and her parents, brothers, sister in law, and niece and nephew came to Hershey to meet Andy and I to hit Chocolate World and get some dinner. I hadn’t seen Debbie since Andy’s graduation, and I hadn’t seen her family since Andy was 10. It was a day of great hugs, great laughs, and fun. The girls, Tyler and Kylie, are gorgeous and I adore them. And again, it was like the miles and the years between us just disappeared, I only wish we had had more time to just hang and talk, but I’ll find my way home to the west coast eventually.

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me and Deb

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Jenn, Kellie, Sue, Heidi and moi

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Komodo Dragon

Then was my surprise trip to DC with my friends from work. We left early Saturday and got to DC around noon. After a fun drive with mimosas and my breakfast of brownie, we parked and headed off the Natural History Museum. Now, you may or may not know that the National Mall is under construction which means if you want to get to something on the opposite side you must walk ALL THE WAY AROUND. Now, had I known this I would not have worn my black OWTH shirt and would have applied sunscreen, but I trudged through the heat (and it was fucking hot) darting under shade trees as we traveled along. We paused for rest and put our feet in the fountain on the mall, which was enjoyable until you realized how warm the water was. I saw my favorite strange bunny sculpture,  but my phone dieIMAG2453d so there are no pictures. We checked out the museum, which was crowded but fun, and then took a pedicab back to the hotel which was ultra fun, as I waved, queen-like, to the masses as we traveled. The guy who pedaled our cab was interesting and it made a great way to get back to the hotel. The hotel was very cool, and I had my own room, with another one of those comfy beds. When we got back, we grabbed some drinks and headed up to the rooftop pool, and I got kicked multiple times by a rambunctious child without parental supervision. My leg buckled under me after getting out of the pool, and I had a major cramp, but it went away, and and after a nap, I had a brownie and we headed out to the dinner cruise on the Potomac. Our cab driver was an idiot and it took us twice as long to get there as it would have if we walked, but I couldn’t handle anymore walking. The cruise was very nice, the food was awesome, and I ended up hanging out with Jenn on the observation deck most of the night, just enjoying the night air, the lights on the shore and sailing. Unfortunately there was non-stop “cool jazz” playing and it was making my eyes bleed by the end of the night. After the cruise, we’d planned to go to the hotel bar, but once I got to my room, I was cooked. The next morning we got up and headed out to the National Zoo where we rented me a scooter and began the zoo adventure. Unfortunately, the red pandas were unavailable, and the elephants under quarantine, but the Komodo dragon poked his head out when I got to his enclosure. We got to see some special “double turtles” (see photo) and vultures. I tried to race a cop who was on a segway, realizing after I IMAG2478dared him that I had had a brownie for breakfast and probably shouldn’t have been driving a scooter at all, not to mention racing cops. There were three lazy pandas there though and that was pretty awesome. We made it through the zoo by noon before it got REALLY hot (it was already blazing by then, and not even mid-day). After the zoo, we were all really tired, and headed back home. We stopped to get some fabulous Thai takeout and have lunch at Quaker Steak and Lube, which none of us had been too, and now having been, really have no desire to go again. Tired, and full we finally made it home. It was very fun, and I am jusIMAG2573t glad none of us were arrested. What was even moIMAG2466re special about this trip was that ALL my coworkers contributed to it – they had a pot luck luncheon where we all paid $5 for lunch and we brought a dish, and then the next day, we had a reduced lunch for $3 – which was actually a fundraiser to raise money to do something fun for me. I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t say it enough, I work with the best people – our job may suck, we may bitch and moan, but my friends at work have the most generous hearts, and the fact that they did this for me made the trip even more special – I only hope I can return the kindness for others later. Needless to say, after the trip, my body decided I needed to stay home with crampy legs and nausea, but it was well worth it.

And that brings us today. All that goodness took the edge off the gloom that’s clinging to me. I expect I will write more over the next two weeks as I stress about my upcoming CT scan and Dr. appt. I am bummed that my CT scan is the day before Andy’s birthday, and I am going to try not to read the results until the day after, but let’s be realistic, I’m gonna be hitting refresh until the scan is posted on my online med portal. The next couple months will be busy too, we’re planning to go to Riot Fest, and then I have OWTH tickets for September in Philly and Baltimore, and we got Bouncing Soul tickets in October, and if I can manage it financially, and physically, I want to go to Fest in October too. I’ve been putting these things off for years and I need to do it now or it may never happen, especially since I think there may be chemo ahead and the pain that was my constant companion last year, has returned and PA is still lagging on the medical marijuana bill. Sigh. Call your local representative.

But before I go, I strongly encourage you, if you are a fan of OWTH, or Bad Religion, or good music in general, to go to Ryan’s Anxious and Angry web store and buy something so you can get the free flexi of OWTH covering Bad Religion’s Sorrow. It’s amazing. Just buy something from Ryan even if you don’t want the flexi, because he’s a good guy and is super generous, and is always willing to help people out. And because his cat Stray Charles is blind. Or don’t buy anything and just make a donation to suppor the podcast. And listen to his podcast, which is very interesting if you like punk rock and mental health issues, and has helped a lot of people dealing with mental health concerns know they are not alone. Really, it’s worth the listen. And now it’s time for bathroom trip 5 tonight and then try and sleep. Let’s hope it comes quickly. Sweetest dreams, my dahlings!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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