welcome to the danger zone

Posts tagged “spring

The Robin Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I headed home.

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

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

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

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Just A Lot of Whining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


It’s Spring, Bitch.

Yes, I know that spring is still a few days away according to the calendar, but you really should go by my feet. I’ll explain. I hate shoes. I used to be barefoot all the time, but then I moved back to good ol’PA, where life is not cooperative with my need for foot freedom. This means that at some point, I can not longer plod through the snow in sandals. My foot liberty is curtailed when the temperature gets into the teens, or snow accumulated that it covers my toes. On my little escape to Maryland this weekend, my wiggly toes realized that the temperature was above freezing, and plotted an escape. Monday morning, my fake super cheap ugg boots were set aside for an old pair of Doc’s sandal and I called “Spring.” (note: I still think ugg boots are stupid, but I can say they are warm and when they are only 19$, you can’t go wrong – at least the snow doesn’t soak them as quickly, as say, sneakers) So there you have it, I have declared winter to be over. Today I wore capris to work too…

There are other signs as well here in Northeast-kinda-Central PA. Some are clearly evident, others not quite yet, but my springy senses tell me that even those will emerge by the weekend. Mounds of snow are nearly pure black as they always are within a day or two after a snow; the melting snow on the highway reveals tons of garbage pitched out of car windows by nasty pig people or overturned big rigs who can’t drive in the snow. Firecrackers ring out at night. Bath salt heads screaming the street increase in number. The vampire children emerge from their winter slumbers. And before you know it, the pajama pants parade will commence on the main street of town, when all the teen mommas who proudly announce their job is “stay-at-home-mommy” on Facebook will don their finest pajama pants, pop their spawn into a stroller (first dressing the little in seasonally inappropriate garb) and march proudly, sprag smoking twixt their lips with the ash dropping on the kidlet’s head, up and down the avenue. What a sight the herd of future and/or present CYS clients are! Trying to act like they aren’t pushing a baby buggy, their posturing screams “look at me, I’m a fertile breeder” as they try to attract the attention of their next baby daddy. The cluster of children who have children will then mass together at either the notorious One Stop Shop, where you can get birthday cards, cut rate sunglasses, cold cuts, beer, and all of your bath salt and paraphrenalia needs met, or they will move to the corner closer to the town’s main intersection, and sit on the curb, alternately ignoring or screaming at the little person, while they wave to the potential absent fathers as they walk/drive/stumble by. That very same corner where I once hung out with my girls in my wicked youth, when we would wait to be notified where that nights party was, or for some older boys to stop and ask us to go for quarts or to burn one. Things harder to do when you are pushing a stroller. Although from the looks of Team PJ Pants, I somehow believe they probably manage to push those stroller along narrow wooded paths or up slippery slate banks to get to a bush party. Some nights I wish I had a van and the authority to just scoop those poor babies up and get them to safety – but alas, as a caseworker I don’t have that authority without a court order. The final marker of spring will come when the days final hit 60 degrees, and the pajama pants are replaced by shorts and tank tops that would make Miley Cyrus look modest, and those poor tots being carted about are still roaming the streets at 11pm. Then you know, summer is just about here.

Pennsylvania black snow mountains…way to make winter even more depressing that it already was…

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I managed to escape the my mesmerizing hometown, and came down from the tower to visit with my brother and his wife this past weekend. As wonderful as it was to get away, and spend the weekend eating, drinking and watching my family drink to excess and give me tons of great blackmail video on my phone, it was exhausting and I was glad to come home. My brothers, as wonderful as they are, should never sing. They can dance, but the singing…no, never, nyet. But it was a good time, and amazing to be out of my bed, and socializing with humans, and Bailey, my brother’s playful and willful boxer, who was so excited to see so many people, jumped all over me while I was lying on the couch and gave me multiple bruises from his paws as he attempted to lick my head. I am seriously hoping I don’t have to have an exam tomorrow when I see my Dr. because I may end up in a psych hold for real this time because I am so bruised. No Dr, I wasn’t trying to hurt myself, my brother’s dog threw himself on me, and assaulted me. And then it’s a 72 hour involuntary with chemo. How super would that be?

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Sweet innocent Bailey the rescue boxer. (after he ran away from me when I let him outside without his training collar. I swear he laughed at me before he took off)

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Bailey, projecting innocence because he knew he was in trouble

Yes, tomorrow is chemo infusion number 4. It was a little sketchy earlier, because I came home from work and took my nap only to wake up feeling nauseous and with a low grade fever, but it passed. I probably have one now, because I am now on my second dose of my pre-chemo decadron, the lovely steroid that makes me feel 20 degrees warmer than I actually am. Which is why I am up writing at 5am, instead of sleeping. Decadron is also responsible for keeping me from sleeping. It’s intent is to keep me from getting violently ill from the chemo, but as a steroid will, it gives you a sense of invincibility. So, instead of sleeping, I watch the same episode of Vikings three times, did two digital jigsaw puzzles, sorted my snacks for tomorrow, did two loads of laundry, looked for claw clippers, because the toe and finger claws are growing quickly, cleaned out my purse, packed monka-monka, lotioned my feet, scanned some receipts, updated my C.V. with some additional training info, and ate some crackers. I am sure I did other things, I just can’t remember them. Oh right, I made seven hundred trips to the bathroom as I slurp water to try to plump up my veins for the good time poking tomorrow. I am sure anxiety has played a role too. Since I have to leave early today with my chemo-buddy for the day, Ms. Crystal, I might as well stay awake and just forgo sleep. I did have a few naps, after all.

It’s amazing how great my family, friends and co-workers have been, in being my chemo-buddies, giving me rights, cards, gifts, food (especially food). And even what might seem like little things, like text message and calls, just to see how I’m feeling – it means so very much. I am blessed with astounding people in my life. And I can’t forget how much Andy has stepped up to help too – he’s been working a lot of overtime to make sure bills get paid, and buys groceries, and brings me food when I ask. I am very proud of him – he can still be an asshole sometimes, but he’s still a kid – and feel bad he has to sacrifice to help care for his mom. And don’t tell me I shouldn’t, because that’s what moms do. So thank you for all of you who are there for me, even if I tell you I don’t need anything – I appreciate it all more than you know.

It appears that it is nearly time for me to get ready for today’s fun and to eat some breakfast. I’ll be back again soon – til then, aloha, sweet friends.

Photo Extras:

My sister-in-law, hiding under the table because she didn’t want me to take her picture. Then I explained that cameras can take pictures of people hiding under tables –

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My baby brother, my dad and my sister-in-law rocking out to Eminem

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The Next 64 Days Are The Hardest

I’m restless. I want to crawl out of my skin. I need spring to get here yesterday. I have to see the PCP on Friday and for the first time I am more worried about that than the CT scans. I have a million things I want and need to do and I sit here paralyzed, doing nothing.

At least I’m off the cookies. That was a rough patch.

I wish I was a bear. I could sleep through this and wake up in a few months, eat a person and get started on my summer. I’ve been growing hair on my legs since October anyway.

And I’m rambling.