welcome to the danger zone

Posts tagged “happy

Free At Last!! (At Least From The Horrors of the Tubes, Anyway)

I actually got ready early this morning, because we had several things to do be we left for my appointment at Hershey – which included going to vote with Andy and having a discussion about voter suppression, since once again, illegally, the polling place had a sign that said new voters had to show ID. I don’t know whether it’s blatant disregard that that no law was ever passed, or just ignorance developed from watching too much Fox News. Whatever. Not to mention that the polling place door is always surrounded by people campaigning for local candidates, making it somewhat intimidating to enter without being assaulted. But enter we did, and refused all the little cards the lurkers tried to force upon us to help up select our candidates. Really, if you don’t know who you are voting for and why when you get to the polls, you shouldn’t be voting at all, because you are clearly uninformed. I hate the way small town voting always seems shady, but our votes were cast and we received our stickers, which is my favorite part of voting.

After voting, we then had to hit the pharmacy because I was not going anywhere near that hospital today without being armed with a full prescription of pain meds. I wish I had had something for anxiety, because while the pain of the last tube procedure was just a memory for my brain, my body was fully remembering the trauma of the last visit, and on high stress alert. Not to mention that I couldn’t eat or drink anything for several hours before this stabbing, and I was nauseated by the Tamoxifen and shaky from not eating or drinking. My brain kept trying to deny that this time would be as painful as last, but my body was having none of that. Being sedated last time when I was leaving the Vascular Radiology department, I could only remember it was down the hall from Interventional Radiology, and wandered around lost in the bowels of the hospital trying to find it. I did find my friend Joanne, who works at PSHMC, and we then wandered together until I found it. I checked in and went to the waiting cell. As is typical at PSHMC, Fox News was on. I was doing okay until they started interviewing Donald Trump, and he began spewing outright lies, and no one even challenged him. At that point, I went and stood in the hall, because Tamoxifen raises my blood pressure and that asshole was making it worse. Not to mention all the crazy supporters in the waiting area who find him appealing as a candidate. And lest I forget, the man who spent his time reading his magazines aloud, then also audibly commenting on the articles he just read. I could feel my blood pressure soaring.

Finally I was beckoned to the dungeon, er, staging area. IV insertion did not go smoothly, and my very sweet nurse called for a vein whisperer after her first two attempts did not go as planned. My left hand is now going to be a large bruise. The second nurse got the IV started in my right hand after a few harrowing minutes when it looked like that vein was going to blow too. Settled onto my bed, I actually had a pillow this time instead of a fold-up blanket like last time. I tried to lie down, but I wanted to puke, so I asked the nurse to help me sit up so I wasn’t choking. She offered me Zofran, I wanted my herbal medication, and declined, and said I would deal with it when I got home. She said, oh do you drink ginger ale and I giggled and said, yes, but I also smoke marijuana. She nodded her approval. The Dr. then came out and told me that they had discussed my tube at their morning meeting and agreed that if they ran dye through my tube and it made it to my bladder, they would pull that sucker out. I agreed completely – then found out that since that was the plan, there’s be no sedation, no pain meds and no need for the IV so carefully stuck into my hand. However they left it in, and wheeled me into the procedure room, where in 15 minutes, my 13 weeks of torment were over. It was almost painless, but not really. I couldn’t wait to get a drink and some oxy to ward off any impending pain. I was wheeled back to my waiting space and released. Now to find Andy and my mango smoothie.

Andy and I hit the road after finding each other, and headed home. I drank my smoothie and ate my pills and was still cranky because I needed to eat. I wanted wings, but the wing place didn’t have any interesting flavors, so I settled for a jr. bacon cheeseburger, and some nuggets from Wendy’s. After my angry, hungry beast was fed, things were much better. We got home without any serious pain like last time. My little friend Erin was there to great me when I got home, and after a couple minutes of chatting with her, I headed to the tower, more pills, my medicine pipe, some advil and water. Having adequately medicated, I tried to sleep. Then the pain came. I guess I didn’t take my meds at the right time to prevent the last dose from wearing off completely, and just like last time, I couldn’t move my right side for without screeching pain with every movement. It’s since toned down a little, but that’s the main reason I am blogging tonight, because I need to get another dose in before I go to bed, so that I don’t wake up crying. My kidney spasms every now and then like it’s pushing small pieces of glass through it, and that my friends, is horrific. It lasts less than a minute, but it jolts me awake. Hopefully by tomorrow morning it will be tolerable.

The pain however was what got me thinking about blogging tonight was, because I don’t know if this happens for other people, but it does for me, when I am in pain I tend to hum, and then I hear songs in my head that are relevant to my situation. For instance, the song of the evening that is replaying in my head is Off With Their Heads’ Trying to Breathe. It’s my way of self-soothing I suppose. But I seem to have certain soundtracks to my life – like last month, I often heard one of U2’s earlier songs, October, over and over in my head. November is the month of the Jesus and Mary Chain because Joey’s birthday and the day he died are both this month, and the JMC is what reminds me of our friendship. And when the depression hits, I often turn to the Smiths and Elliott Smith to highlight my misery. When I was first diagnosed with cancer and I had to make the 4:30am drive back and forth to Hershey, I listened to OWTH’s In Desolation, to and from, every day…it got me through those six weeks and far beyond. OWTH is still one of my go-to bands for catharsis, and that’s the reason I try to see them as often as I can because there’s a sense of belonging among that crowd that I am not alone in my pain, fear, and frustration. It’s healing and cleansing. In fact, if you were to ask me about specific times in my life, there would be an album or a band that I would identify it with. R.E.M got me through being dumped during my pregnancy. I made mix CDs (and now playlists) of songs for seasons – there were summer songs, and loneliness songs, and dark brooding goth mixes with Black Tape for A Blue Girl. Some people enjoy music – my music gets me through the hard times, helping me put to words what I am feeling inside, and scream it out loud on winding back roads, helping me heal. There’s even driving music, which I have to be careful with because it seems to enhance my leadfoot. Then there were the new bands I discovered and would listen to when I first got to California and had to take the 2.5 bus ride to and from work every day – Husker Du, the Replacements and the Hoodoo Gurus to name a few. And Echo and The Bunnymen’s Songs to Learn and Sing. Andy’s first show was the very first Lollapalooza when I was 8 months pregnant. Most of my friends are clueless about the bands I listen to and love, but without my music, I’d be lost. It’s not just music, it’s my way to cope. Especially while I have been dealing with this C-monster that has me in its clutches. When I got the last prognosis, I spent hours driving and crying and singing my throat raw before I could pull it together to come home. I listen to classical when I need to focus; I listen to weird rhythmic pieces by Gabrielle Roth when I need to stretch, and I had playlists for the gym when I still had the strength to go. There was music for strength training and music for the elipti-hell machine. And there are songs that I will listen to on repeat until every ounce of pain has been expunged. And while I find peace in the bands I discover and love, there’s also music that makes my ears bleed – and gets under my skin like a festering splinter that I can’t wait to be rid of. Like when we went on the dinner cruise in DC, and the music they played on the observation deck made me want to leap into the Potomac or shoot out the speakers, or both – music can indeed make me miserable. Or it can make me laugh, like the song Bunnies by Pansy Division. (Go ahead and download that one) And for those who received them as holiday gifts – there are my impressive holiday songs collection, which have had some gems on them. It’s not just music, it’s part of who I am.

Music was the reason I was willing to put off chemo for two months so I could go to shows and festivals and see the bands I love. And while I made it the shows that mattered most to me, we all know how difficult the kidneys and bladder made following through on a lot of that was. In fact, going to shows made me fight a little harder to stay healthy so I could go. And it gives me a connection with Andy, that we enjoy a lot of the same music gives us something we can do together. In fact, my Christmas present is going to Chicago for the War On Christmas shows in December. Part of my “things I still need to do list” includes seeing bands I’ve always wanted to see live, which is a pretty short list these days, but there are still a few I haven’t seen.

Well now that I spilled all of that out there, it’s time for another round of pills. I’m still having pain, but it’s getting better – I will probably need my dressing changed in the morning – the doctor said that my kidney will seal itself, but there may be some discharge for a few days. I am allowed to swim and take baths again – they said 2 days, but I’ll wait a little longer, like when the hole is actually closed, and I don’t need a bandage on my back. It’s really the tape tugging at my skin that causes the most pain – there are scars around my back where the tape tore away my skin just like it did on my thigh. And it itches. But it’s almost completely over and I am so thrilled that I can’t even stand it. I rolled around on the bed just for fun, because nothing was tugging and pulling at my skin and kidney for the first time in over two months. I could literally feel the stress slide off after I got in the car to come home. I can deal with cancer, and I know at some point these things might have to be a part of my life n the months to come, but they don’t need to be here now. I just want to be able to do things and go places now while I can, without these encumbrances. Not that I minded taking the punk rock stroller to the shows, but I’d much rather be free of the attachments. No, that’s a lie, I did mind taking it, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

So now that my pain pills are slowly making their way into my bloodstream, I am ready to head to bed so that I can get up and get things done tomorrow, at least some laundry and maybe making dinner. We’ve been eating a lot of fast food, food other people have so kindly made for us, and frozen food. I haven’t had the energy to cook, but I’m hungry for jerk chicken and mashed potatoes and corn, and I know Andy would be grateful for his mother’s cooking again. The ladies arrive from CA here in Shenandoah on Friday, and Saturday morning we are going to Shady Maple for breakfast (and for the gift shop so I can get a new toy). I am so excited to see them all and spend time with them. And I am very thrilled to see all my other friend at the benefit on Saturday, and to score some of the good food that will be there, especially the stuff Lisa’s making, because that woman can cook. Best breaded chicken ever. My only hope is that my dad doesn’t over do the wine and drag up every less that optimal decision I ever made in my life. Presently, he’s blaming my circumstances on moving to FL with my much older alcoholic and drug addicted boyfriend when I was 17. That’s a long time and a lot of therapy ago. But that’s my dad. It’s still going to be a good time.

Before I forget, I did get my panda suit. It was very hot. I sat on the porch for over an hour waving at cars, but only 4 people total ever waved back. I scared Andy, Eric and two other people walking by. People showed the panda no love. If I saw a giant panda just sitting and waving on a porch, I would have stopped the car for pictures. Then I let Andy borrow the costume for a show he was going to. The panda body no longer exists any more because he was far too tall for it, and it showed. However, panda’s head is just fine, so I’ll just toss on my new security blanket, my OWTH hoodie, and sit on the porch as punk rock panda, and see if that makes a difference. Now it’s time for bed, and more water because we have to keep the kidney in good shape. Sweetest of dreams, I’ll probably be back after everyone returns to the West coast with pictures and stories to tell. Enjoy these last few warm days. And remember to give lots of hugs and tell people you love them every chance you get. You can’t do either enough. And sorry for the rambling, it’s the medication, I swear.

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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.


100 Reasons to Be… (Fill in the Blank)

I needed a list to remind me. It’s way too easy to get sucked in to the black hole of despair.

  1. Andy
  2. Friends
  3. Family
  4. Spring
  5. Fresh Air
  6. Long Fast Drives
  7. Roads with lots of curves and air
  8. Fast Cars
  9. Corgis
  10. Music
  11. Cheese
  12. Blankets
  13. Netflix
  14. Cemeteries
  15. Sunsets
  16. Sunrises
  17. Birds singing
  18. Coloring Books
  19. Pizza
  20. Ice Cream
  21. Badgers
  22. Llamas
  23. Babies
  24. Komodo Dragons
  25. Laughter
  26. Tears
  27. Warm Showers
  28. Swimming Pools
  29. Naps
  30. Flowers
  31. Vikings
  32. Good Movies
  33. Rainy Saturdays
  34. Christmas
  35. Eyebrow Waxing
  36. Dreams
  37. Leggings
  38. Memory Foam Pillow
  39. Hugs
  40. Sleep
  41. Oceans
  42. Swimming
  43. Meatloaf
  44. Cookies
  45. Warm Breezes
  46. Feeling Healthy
  47. Puppies
  48. Thunderstorms
  49. Rain
  50. Rainbows
  51. Giggling
  52. Bad morbid jokes
  53. Laughing with Andy
  54. Cliffs
  55. Shooting stars
  56. Memories
  57. Sandals
  58. Rolling down hills
  59. Fainting goats
  60. Painting
  61. Writing
  62. Dancing
  63. Bubbles
  64. Tattoos
  65. Pedicures
  66. Reading stories
  67. Reading
  68. Poetry
  69. Horror Movies
  70. Chocolate
  71. Chocolate Milk
  72. Journaling
  73. Splashing in puddles
  74. Letters
  75. Old pictures
  76. Being alone
  77. Learning
  78. Halloween
  79. Barley sugar pops
  80. Sweet corn
  81. Peaches
  82. Cherries
  83. Whoopie pies
  84. Ginger beer
  85. Vodka
  86. Herbal medication
  87. Lavender
  88. Kites
  89. Hoodies
  90. Road trips
  91. California
  92. Puppets
  93. Breakfast
  94. Cake
  95. White chocolate peanut butter
  96. Stars
  97. Sleeping with the windows open
  98. Chanting
  99. Tea

100. Heartbeats

Well there it is. I’m not sure what it is a list of other than good things. I can get through today. And I am willing to give tomorrow a shot too.


The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

Okay, it was three days, but that would make a super-long title, and I was trying to be succinct. (As if that ever happens.) I bet you thought I was going to write about Chemo Day, but that’s today, and hasn’t technically happened yet, except for the pre-gaming with Decadron and water and the daily cancer killing tea. I still need to shower and pack my stuff for the day, and am faced with the usual decision of do I take my cute pink back pack and carry the lap-top separately or do I take the black one with wheels? I am leaning towards wheels today because it fits more and well, has wheels, and I’m not feeling my best but I don’t seem to have a cold or ebola, and I don’t have a fever – which is awesome because I was scared I would be sick today and then have to postpone today’s fun fun fun. My chemo-buddy today is Kellie, who I know is thrilled beyond anything to be accompanying me to today’s festivities.

BUT! This entry is about the best three days I have had in a long, long, long, long time. If you have reading my blog, you know Off With Their Heads is one of my very most favorite bands. Listening to their record In Desolation (“Drive” video here) got me through my first six weeks of radiation and all that first round of chemo and their music accompanies to nearly all of my drives to and from Hershey over the last 3.5 years. When I remember my headphones, I listen to Ryan’s Anxious and Angry podcasts at work, or in the car. The music has become part of my support system. Well, Thursday, Andy and I drove to Pittsburgh on what was supposed to be a beautiful day to see OWTH play at Howler’s Coyote Cafe (note: saw no coyotes – I would make a cougar joke here, but I find the term cougar offensive, I prefer tigermom). Their show was amazing, the energy and passion of the band was amazing. They played songs from all of their records, and Ryan was awesome. The energy was awesome. The opening bands – World’s Scariest Police Chases, Barons, and PEARS – were all incredible. I met an internet friend, Erica, her husband Brian and some of her friends at the show – we became friend because we both like OWTH and punk music in general, and surprise, we are both work with kids in the system – I snatch ’em and she assists the ones that the court declares incompetent. After the show, I got to get hugs from Ryan and talk to him for a little while, which is always fan-girlie for me, because I can’t believe someone that I look up to takes time to talk to me. I got to introduce him to Andy too, which was cool. I had to have a drink with him, but alas, Howler’s is a bar that allows smoking, and by the time the shows were over, I was dizzy and shaky and a little nauseous and just wanted to go home. Ryan said they would probably be playing in Philly in September, so I hope to have that drink with him then. It was an amazing night. I also got to meet and talk to Zack from Barons while I was standing outside the bar waiting for Andy to bring the car around. Fucking stupendous night. (and if you read this Ryan – THANK YOU for being who you are – you made my night)

Day two was supposed to be the Warhol Museum, but Andy and I decided that even though it was snowing, we were doing the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, because when I have to choose between becoming more cultured or seeing animals and making animal noises, I will ALWAYS choose the latter. Bring on the Komodo dragon, red pandas, and giraffes. And very sad elephants. And PUFFERFISH. Several different kinds of pufferfish, evil, evil pufferfish. Did I mention that the Zoo is on a hill? Or should I say a mountain? Because it’s a mountain. A huge mountain. And Andy would not push me in a “safari cruiser” IE. wheelchair. So I had to walk. Wearing heavy Doc’s sandals. Carrying water. It was brutal. We probably walked at negative 1 mph. Lots of heaving breathing and a frequently sweating head that was frosted by the subzero wind chill and flurries. It was fun though, spending time with Andy, telling him about the trips to the zoos and aquariums when we lived in California, making animals sounds, trying to find the animals that were clearly not home, and making flattened pennies like when he was 5. Afterwards we went back to the condo, got some great Italian beef sandwiches from a tiny place called Tooties (yum!), then just hung out and watched non-cable tv and napped. Later we got pizza from this greek pizza place called Ephesus, and again, awesome food. We just hung out and talked and slept the rest of the evening.

Saturday, we got up, cleaned up the condo, packed and headed out to an overlook to see Pittsburgh from the top of one many hills. Pittsburgh is an awesome city. We found an overlook, not the one we were looking at because in addition to sucking at taking night pictures all of the sudden, my phone’s GPS takes us to places that don’t exist. Or rather, when asked to take us to a location, it agrees but then leaves us in spots that are clearly not even remotely near where we asked to be. We did get to see a lot of Pittsburgh though, and Andy is even considering going out to Pittsburgh to finish school (YAY, FUCK YEAH!) Fortunately, the GPS cooperated with taking us to Abby Lee Miller’s Dance Studio, where I stalked cars pulling into the parking lot to see if there was a real Dance Mom getting out for class. None were available, but there were the cutest little people being brought to class. The studio was less impressive from the outside that it appears on the TV, but it was still cool to see it. Then we headed to Philadelphia. Did I mention it was FREEZING? Like super freezing. And snowy. We got to Philly by about 4, and hung out with Blaine and Lizz and had a delicious dinner from a real Mexican restaurant called El Jarocho that made scrumptious lamb tacos. Then we headed to see TBR/The Wilhelm Scream/ Pennywise, which was a fabulous show, but in my opinion, lacked the energy of the bands on Thursday, although it was very cool to realize that Pennywise has been a band for longer than Andy is alive, and I finally got to see them with their original vocalist. I hadn’t seen them since 2008. Long time. Unfortunately, I got a horrible horrible pain in my side and had to go stand in the back to try to work it out – we ended up leaving before the last song or two, but at least the pain subsided for the most part. We caught a cab back to Blaine’s to get the car, and headed home. But not before we stopped at Wawa, and got to see two drunk girls in ridiculously high heels almost wipe out several times in the store as they tried to outlast the state police DUI checkpoint. Good times.

We finally rolled home about 2 am. The house was freezing, but honestly, it was a small price to pay for such an awesome weekend. It felt so amazing to be among my people, enjoying simple things with my son, and talking about life and lessons and futures and hopes and dreams, and meeting awesome new people, singing at the top of my lungs to songs I love, and finding some peace in all of this. I basically slept through the next day – I was exhausted. I made it to work on Monday, and realized that if I died that day, I’d have no regrets – not like I don’t have plans for the future – but I was pretty damn happy, and would be okay if there wasn’t anything else ahead – I’d made peace with what could lie ahead. And made arrangements with Andy to be turned into fireworks whether things end in the next few years, or 50. I’m okay with it all. That’s not to say that I am not concerned, and wouldn’t prefer to live another 50 years, but whatever is ahead, I’m gonna be okay with it.

I’m actually finishing this early Thursday morning – post chemo. I’m going to stop here, and write about my Dr. visit and chemo later today, because I decided to wind down tonight with a cocoa-vodka/oxycodone mix, so I can sleep pretty soundly tonight. I also drank a lot of water today, so I am trying to avoid waking up ever hour to run to the bathroom. And I’m still feeling okay with my life, and what’s unfolding in it. The three day trip really refreshed me, reminded me that despite the horror of the last year and a half, from the time the pain started to today, dealing with this stupid fucking disease, I’m learning about me and what matters to me again, and finding the strength to make plans again, even if I still can’t act on them. Life is still hard, I’m still not always making the best choices, but this weekend reminded me of the person inside, and what brings me joy. I just need to bring more of it into my life.

So with that said, here’s some of my favorite pictures from the weekend – I didn’t take any pictures at Blaine and Lizz’s house – I don’t know why because their puppy Pancake is a sweet dog and fun to play with. It was great to see them again, and just hang out. But I am derailing again – here’s the pictures, including the evil pufferfish, enjoy them and come back later today to learn what the Dr. said my future looks like…sweet dreams my dahlings, I will have a peaceful early morning rest, hopefully, before the sickness starts.

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

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

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

At least it was. For a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Buttercup kicks “the sick” out of the amoeba boys