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Posts tagged “treatment

And On Mondays, We Get Probed.

happy-cancer1

Hi there happy people. I hope you’re happy people. It is Friday after all. That means it’s the weekend, right? I don’t care so much about the weekend anymore since I hardly work these days, but it does mean that people are available to do things, which they typically are not during the week.

So I could tell by the number of new views on my Peckalicious facebook page that people were wondering where the most recent post is. While they share the same name, that page is for shit I make and want to try and sell. When I actually thought I could make a side income from making shit. What I learned is that people want handmade shit for like pennies, unless you claim to be Amish, or “country”neither of which apply to me. So now I just make shit to give people. And beside, having to make things for money kind of kills the joy for me. I do it because I like to; money is nice, but I like the creative process.

If you are a facebook friend, you got the condensed version of the Dr. visit on Monday. I get tired of typing it out again and again, so I usually send a group message after my visit and post a synopsis on Facebook. Sometimes it just seems like it’s redundant – things don’t change much, or there’s waiting for things to change. But before I continue, I’d like to make a request or perhaps, just an comment, to people who frequent doctor’s offices, and particularly those who are only there for a damn blood test: YOU DON’T NEED AN ENTOURAGE. Really, unless this is your first blood test ever, you don’t need to bring your whole family. Even if it is, you don’t need more than one person to hold your hand. And pay attention to the instructions at check in. Just because you didn’t listen to the helpful staff who told you what to do with your purple or yellow folder because you were talking to YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE, doesn’t mean that because you sat there with it for an hour and now you realize you were supposed to put it in the bin so they know you are here, that the world should stop and you should be called next. Also, to all the fucking whiners in the waiting room. You have cancer. You are here to see the Dr. Threatening to leave because your name was not called in the 10 minutes since you sat down, (with YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE) is gonna hurt no one but you. You should be grateful you have time to wait. I know I would personally prefer being at home on the couch with my medication, but hey, you drove here, you parked the car, and came inside, commit. I’ve rarely been to a Dr. where I have been seen on time. The nature of medicine itself does not cooperate with linear time. Bring your happy face with you. And if you are in a hurry because you made other plans (with YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE), then you can cancel the plans, or the reschedule that visit. You and YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE took up seven seats in this waiting room. I have to sit out in the hall on a bench, with a sweet grandma and her grandbaby (this is sort of a blessing because the baby is muffling your bitching and moaning). I’m not complaining. I brought a book, and my phone to listen to podcasts. There’s a damn refrigerator with drinks for those of us with cancer. Get a fucking cranberry juice and shut the fuck up. I’d like to clarify that it is usually one or two people complaining, not a large number, but they always have a FUCKING ENTOURAGE and they are always loud. You know this waiting room is small, and there is limited space, but please, make sure that you and your FUCKING ENTOURAGE spread out as much as possible. AND WHATEVER YOU DO, PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU AND YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE STOP DEAD RANDOMLY IN FRONT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE WALKING BEHIND YOU. Here’s a tip – if you are just there for a blood test, try showing up in the morning. Early. BEFORE YOUR FUCKING ENTOURAGE GETS UP.

My appointment was at 2. That’s “the get here on time” time. The appointment is really at 2:15PM. I am feeling week and tired, but am having a lovely conversation with the sweet grandma I met who was also a patient of Dr. K, and was scheduled for 2:30. Her grandbaby kept us all amused. I had enjoyed a brownie on my way to the Dr. so I was rather mellow, which I should bring for the whiners and their FUCKING ENTOURAGES, come to think of it. I was finally called around 3:05, which was pretty good for Dr. K, because unless you are one of the first three appointments for the day, you typically wait. No med students today. Just the nurse, Anne, and the Dr. I have no fever, I am not depressed or suicidal, and my blood pressure after a few moments of meditation, is a sweet 124/83. Dr. K and Anne come in, and I tell him about the continued bleeding and my exhaustion and blood craving. I’m not having any pain. He’s super-stoked when I tell him I’ve been off the opiates since Christmas Eve. My herbal medication does that job, although I’d rather have a brownie or some tincture. Dr. K says he’s pretty sure that the pufferfish exploding and continuing to drain is a good thing at present – at least it’s not crushing anything and forcing the intrusion of tubes into my body. I think Dr. K is trying to impress upon me that my experience with tentacles is not forever over because then he starts talking about the possibility of a fistula pushing into my bladder and then requiring double nephrostomies. I remind him that it’s quality over quantity and I’m on a no-invasive-tubes mission. What’s the point of being housebound and miserable in order to extend your life a couple or three months? Better to burn out like a fucking comet. This should come as no surprise is you know me well, even if it makes you uncomfortable. There’s a huge difference between living life and existing.

Anyway, I tell him I want to go to Ireland in April, and I need to know if that’s a reasonable expectation or should I put things in motion sooner, and Dr. K says he thinks it’s reasonable and he’ll work with my treatment to help it happen. It still doesn’t mean I am getting some delicious rejuvenating blood. He says we’ll wait another month and see how the chemo pills have worked, and then I get to have another thrilling CT scan and then we’ll talk about what’s next. My next appointment is February 1st. It’s almost like the pufferfish will be pelvic groundhog, letting us know if there will be six more weeks of bleeding. It’s not even like a period, it’s so random and weird. There’ll be hours of nothing and then it’s like the tide’s coming in. He asks how many pads a day…I guess at 4, but then when I get home, I realize it’s more like 6. Oh wait, I forgot to do my “THIS IS GROSS” warning. Oh well, suck it up ponies. Anyway, we chat and he says we should probably do an exam, considering there’s a hole in my vagina that spewing internal muck and we should make sure it’s not become a disaster area. I agree as much as I hate the probing. I really do. If you ever get cancer, which I sincerely hope you don’t, wish that it’s in your toes or left pinkie, or ear. This internal examination nonsense never becomes an enjoyable part of the visit. I know that some guys think that we ladies enjoy having things in our vaginas, no matter what that might be, but no. We don’t. Especially not while at the gyno. After we have agreed, he and Anne leave so I can get undressed.

I do what I need to, and notice there has been no bleeding since I took a shower at like 10am. Odd. I hop up on the table (when will a woman doctor design a more exam friendly table? There’s nothing remotely comfortable or relaxing about it.) At least, there are no inspirational quotations on posters that you can stare at while being probed. However, if anyone at the PSH Cancer Institute powers that be are reading this, a small TV screen featuring the food network, or the ID channel, or even South Park would be far more effective in distracting me. I sit there on the edge of the table, swinging my seriously unshaven legs back and forth, when – well, hello there tidal wave of blood. At least Dr. K can now see what I am talking about. Gross. I keep waiting. I hear Dr. K on a phone somewhere and then hear him in another exam room. It seems likes it’s been a really long time that I’ve been waiting. Did he forget me? Time is always a little skewed when you are fueled by a brownie, and I am sorta ready for a nap. I don’t want to lie down, because that’s just weird, but I am nodding off. Finally, after what seems like 2 hours (it was 20 minutes) Anne comes back and asks if Dr. K came back. I say nope, so we both sit and wait and chat .Finally, Dr. K returns and we get to the business of ramming instruments of torture into my vaginal cavity. He confirms that there is still a hole in the vagina, but again, comments that this could be a positive thing, and, once again is pleased that I do not try to leap off the table in pain while he does his exam. As long as there’s no pain, that’s a good sign. He says that fistula word again, I shush him. He says that there any odor is probably just because it’s old blood. Double gross. But I’ll take it because anything is better than tentacles and pain. If I have to start wearing Depends to deal with this, I’ll take it, because ANYTHING is better than dragging a catheter around all day and having it cause you even more pain. I don’t think Dr. K or anyone can fathom what it felt like to have that fucking tube jammed in my bladder and constantly abraded by the movement of the cyst. Anyway, we wrap up the exam, I get another prescription for oxy, and sent on my way. It’s 4:10pm.

I gave a brief thought to getting Indian food for dinner, but that would mean exiting the warm car to fetch it. Nope, it’s 20 degrees. I’m not getting out of the car until I am home. As I am exiting, I see Alice, the sweet grandma, and she has still not been called back. I give her a fist bump and tell her I hope they call her soon. I was smart and used free valet parking today, even though I always tip, and stand inside while some poor soul freezes getting my car. I hop in, pleased to find that the root beer I purchased earlier is still delightfully cold. Dinner will be Arby’s. It’s on the way home and no need to exit the car. I’m exhausted. I just want medication and sleep but I still gotta pick up the faux beef sandwiches. Finally, I made it home, and the comfort of my couch. And that’s mostly where I am, except when I am in bed, or at work, or out.

Dr. K is always surprised that I continue to try and work. He said he’d be happy to say I can’t but I tell him I need those couple hours of socialization. He’s fine with that if it’s what I want. I was a little concerned that he didn’t want a CT scan right now, but then I realized, what’s the rush? If the cancer is disappearing through the hole in my vagina, that’s a good thing; if things are status quo, we already know that; and if things have gotten worse, there’s not gonna be a lot to do about it, and the knowledge isn’t going to make me feel any better. So I can wait a month. Bad news is that the scan is on the 27th, and the appointment is on the 1st. Five days of knowing what they find, without being able to see the doctor until Monday. I supposed I should be used to that though.

Well that’s all for now people. I am going to work this afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30 if Andy ever returns home with the car, since, of course, I have work and he decided that he needed to get an oil change NOW and oh, by the way, the check engine light is on and he thinks it’s the O2 sensor. That was two hours ago. So I’m gonna grab a little nappy nap and wait. Have a good weekend, and week, and life, and such. Peace!

Update: I was sitting here thinking how pretty sweet my life has been lately, no drama, bills paid, plenty of oil, etc. Then in walks Andy. There’s a cracked tire rod, blah, blah, blah and it’s going to take at least $1000 to fix what they know is wrong, and that’s not including what is the source of the engine light being on.  Car = undriveable. Fucking yay. Well, I’m not dead. That’s a plus. And we didn’t die in a fiery crash when the tire fell off, so that’s good too, I suppose.

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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.


Pufferfish Takes Its Show On The Road

Joyeux après-midi, mon petit kangourou amis I’ve been putting this off, not because I didn’t want to write it, but more because I am mostly a miserable bitch these days, and I don’t like that part of me. There is no position in which I am comfortable – the best I can get to is tolerable, and that takes a special medication combination that usually ends up with me falling asleep while typing. Or forgetting what I was typing. Or both.

WARNING GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF THE PERILS OF THE PEE BAG AHEAD. If you want to skip over the gruesome details stop here and pick up at the word SAFE.

I just need to bitch right now before I get into the trip to John Hopkins. My thighs are covered in black and blue marks from the tape constantly pulling as it holds the vagina tail to my thigh. It makes me feel like I have to pee constantly. Today there was all sorts of blood and clotty strings in the bag – gross as it is, it’s kinda like a sick set of sea monkeys. This is somewhat alarming when you go to bed with normal pee and wake up to bag of fruit punch. All the walking I have done this week cause irritation in the urethra and caused bleeding. I called urology who told me to stay in bed and drink more water which is silly, because the more water I drink, the more often the sacks of pee need to be drained. Then sometimes it causes a spasm, and then there’s more blood and tissue scooting along the tube. It hurts. I try not to take opiates and just stick to natural cures, which helps most of the time, but the last few days it took the muscle relaxers, medicinal herbs and tinctures and opiates to try and get to a point of just calm. And the hot flashes are still happening, not as often, but dear dog, just let me sleep. The nephrostemy is a piece of cake compared to the catheter, although the last few nights I wake up with the nephrostemy bag ready to burst because that kidney works really hard at night. Rant over.

SAFE TO RESUME READING

Andy and I made the trip to Baltimore to Johns Hopkins to get a second opinion yesterday. It was actually a pretty easy ride, it took just under 3 hours and we did not get lost once. I had to super medicate for the ride, because I didn’t know what to expect being in a car that Andy is driving for that long in my present condition. Needless to say I was quite comfortable when we arrived at JHOC. Well not really, with my vagina tentacle currently holding me down, I’m not ever really without discomfort. I suppose I could really just say I had a really good attitude when we arrived. Andy dropped me off at the door and I found my way to where I needed to be. I found the Women’s Health clinic on the 6th floor – JHOC is huge. Kind of intimidating. You get a wristband as soon as you enter the building – it’s like going to a show. Then there are there touch screen check-in kiosks when you get to where you are going. I tried, but I couldn’t get registered that way. Of course not. When I finally did get registered, I was handed a questionnaire and herded off to the waiting area. And wait for Andy and my nurse navigator to find me. While I was waiting, another female patient came back to the waiting area escorted by a nurse; she was clearly unhappy and shouting about how she should have gone to another hospital because they aren’t giving her the help she needs here. I’m trying not to judge, but her whale tail draws my attention as she’s huffing and bellowing in a seat four seats away. What I want to say is, bitch this hospital is ranked 6th in the nation in treatment, where ya gonna go? But I just keep answering my questionnaire.

I am supposed to meet my nurse navigator here. She said she’s meet me at 1:30, and when I look at the clock it 1:40, and I realize my ringer is off. I rifle through my purse, and find my phone and sure enough I missed her call. I quickly call her back and let her know I’m waiting, when they call me back to the exam room…she’ll meet me there. The nurse brings me back to do my vitals, and the nurse navigator arrives, her name is Liz. Introductions ensue, and I do some deep breathing exercises and surprise surprise, the combination of herbal medication and meditation has kept my blood pressure low. I’ve lost more weight. I’ll take that. I confess to my use of plant medication, and then of the JHOC minions comes in to review my medical history (because she didn’t have time to go through the 5 discs of medical history I provided to them minutes earlier). I tell the sad sad tale of the tumor gigantica and the first series of chemo and then the emergence of the cyst and its current incarnation and end with me crying that the tubes are not letting me live my life and that I how is this quality of life. The minion is very compassionate. They teach bedside manner well here. I regain my composure and make jokes. The Pietkiewicz Way. When faced with horrible circumstances, make a joke. Make many jokes.

Andy asked me on the way what I was hoping to hear at the appointment. I told him best case scenario would be to have them say “we’ll whisk you into surgery tomorrow and cut that cyst right out” and worst case is that I leave the way I came. I relay this to Liz and the minion, Shanae. I just want to be able to walk and sit and sleep without encumbrances and pain. That’s all. I don’t even care that my days are rather numbered – all I want is for them to be good days. I don’t like the bitch this pain is turning me into, I don’t like that taking a shower or making a sandwich or getting some juice becomes a gargantuan task that requires a logistical plan to move myself and my coterie of pee bags without any tubes catching on something or dragging behind. I just want to not have to wear a long skirt to go out to hide my vagina tentacle I hate the spasms and gasping when the pain shoots through my bladder. I hate that I feel trapped and isolated and incapacitated. I feel cheated.

I feel I am keeping it together pretty well. My mouth is drier than the sahara and I am out of water. Finally the Dr. comes in. What is with the Drop Dead Fred look these days? He’s a much classier DDF. He sits down, and we do a quick review of my history again. He’s a really nice guy, and probably just 30 years old (Ashley F, are you reading this? I didn’t see a wedding ring, you could be a stay at home mom, like for unicorns or cats) He’s rocking a emerald green and royal blue ensemble, so he’s a man of fashion sense and confidence. I like him. Then I brace myself for what’s to come. No, surgery isn’t an option, and not just because I’m a big girl, but because the cyst is smack dab in the middle of the area where I received the radiation treatments when I was first diagnosed. I already knew that I had received my lifetime dose of radiation in that area, which is why there was none this go round. When you get radiation, it forever damages the tissues in the area. This makes them slow to heal and regenerate if you cut into them again. And removing the cyst would require clearing the margins around it which as we know means goodbye rectum, bladder, and vagina, and hello tubes and bags (not all that different from my current rig of hoses and external bladders). And that would entail the removal of a massive amount of tissue in an very damaged area which would be brutally slow to heal and would run the risk of massive infection. The risks of that surgery would far outweigh any minimal benefit and would likely shorten, and without question, diminish the quality of, my life. He would start me on a regimen of more Tamoxifen (boo) and Progesterone which has the delightful side effect of making me even fatter and more miserable emotionally, or since I am not a big fan of Tamoxifen, there is a chemo drug called Doxil which has had some success. Don’t google it. It’s terrifying, but it could work. There’s some other hormone therapy and medications that have shown some success. The prognosis isn’t going to change. I have recurrent endometrial stage 3b cancer, that shows signs of metastasis in the lungs. It’s got a super low survival rate. Recurrent endometrial cancer isn’t one you survive. That said, Dr. T said that the issues I am having now are not really a result of the cancer, and in fact, the cancer is slow growing, and is mostly contained, and that the cyst is the source of all of my woe. For this, we discussed the risk of putting a drain in the cyst for several months to keep the fluid from building up and the possibility of it seeding cancer elsewhere vs. suffering with a catheter forever the duration. As the brutal urine extraction device is painful and unwieldy, I would rather take my chances with the drain. Dr, T agreed that at this point the risk is worth the procedure and said he would recommend that to Dr. K in his notes to him. So hopefully, the visit on the 21st will begin with “let’s pick a surgery date for a drain”. Dr. T said that if Hershey’s interventional radiology still doesn’t want to do it, then give him a call and see is JH’s interventional radiology will. He said the other option is another nephrostemy, but not a really good option. Finally, he said there is the smallest of possibilities that I could participate in a trial that is currently showing promise at JH, and just was published in a medical journal, but he would need a slice of my tumor to find out if there are these special satellite cells in it, because my tumor would have to have them in order to be considered for the trial. Other than that, Dr. T said he would have done exactly what Dr. K did, and would alternate chemo with hormone therapy as my cancer is not aggressively trying to take over. He brought up quality vs. quantity, and I quickly told him that I’m on the side of quality – that being riddled with silicone piping in my excretory systems is not how I want to go out. I would even suffer the permanency of the nephrostemy tube, if only, oh my dog, please, if only I don’t have to live with this catheter.

He also said that I should just continue treatment with PSHMC’s Urology department too. We discussed the potential for self catheterization during the day, and with the difficulty they have had inserting catheters in the hospital because the cyst is in the way, why would anyone think I would have an easier time of it at home? He did say there is a suprapubic catheter that could be inserted into my bladder through my belly, and while there would still be a bag, it would not be brutal and painful like the vaginal one is now. Wicked cruel vagina pee serpent. All I know is that it needs to go. It’s like a fucking albatross, except it’s not around my neck, it’s shoved inside me. So there you have it – even though I left upset that there was nothing else to really do, that wasn’t already being done, I felt validated that my Dr. was doing all he can. I knew that in my gut already, because it clearly pains Dr. K to give me bad news, but now, I’ve heard the same things from another well respected professional, so I can just say fuck off to the next person who says “there has to be something else they can do.”

So I held my breakdown in check until I was in the car, and even then, Andy and I just made death jokes. Being told this kind of news takes days to sink in, the sheer magnitude of what it means is overwhelming. I know I’ve told a handful of people personally, but with shitty news like this, blogging about it is easier than texts or phone calls. I don’t have to hear people tell me their sorry. I don’t have to see sad faces. I don’t want to be around people who are saddened by this. I want to spend my days laughing when I can. I want to say cancer fucking sucks. So I called my little fucking hummingbird friend Debbie, and had the conversation that only someone else who has had to face cancer can truly understand. And at the risk of alienating people, I need to be brutally honest, just give me fist bumps, stop asking me how I am. I have cancer, I’m sick and in pain, that’s my fucking reality and I am tired of pretending that my fucking world is fine. Yes, I can still laugh and smile and appreciate the beauty of the world around me, but asking me how I am doesn’t help me or you. And stop talking about miracles and me kicking cancer’s ass because while it may happen, it probably won’t – and I am not being pessimistic, I am a realist. I’m going to do all I can to prolong my life as long as it fit in with what I want out of life. Please don’t tell me what you think I should do, unless you yourself have been in my situation. Because until you are here, you don’t fucking know. And stop talking about this being a battle, and being a survivor or keeping up the fight, because you what that implies? That if I die, I failed. That I was not strong enough to overcome this disease or that I didn’t have the strength or will to beat this disease. That’s a judgment on me that I don’t need. Bottom line is this: In a perfect world, I will live a long disease free life. In a perfect world, I will go to my next appointment and Dr. K will have a cure. In a perfect world, no one will ever have to go through this again. It’s not a perfect world, and while I am not giving up hope that things can turn around, I am also not going to live in fantasy land, avoiding the very probably outcome. And I am gonna make death jokes. Because I can. I know I’ve said some of this before, but it bears repeating. I am comfortable with dying; I’m not afraid of it, but I am not going to stop living to wait for it. I am not ok with what is happening, but I am not going to sit in the window and wait for death. Support me by spending time with me and laughing with me. I need as much laughter in my life as I can get. And there are only so many names Andy and I can come up with for the hideous hose that rules my life right now. (Thank you Deb, for the conversation that was long overdue, and for letting me rant and not trying to make anything better, punches to you my friend)

Well it’s taken two days to write this. Oh and one other thing – think about this whenever you have to talk to someone who has something unfortunate going on in their lives – don’t say “ I felt so bad when I heard” or “I feel so bad that I didn’t know” – you know what that does? It makes the person feel like they have to make you feel better, which is the exact opposite of what they need. I hate that people get upset when I lay out the facts, because I feel like I am hurting them, and what I should be doing is using my energy to stay healthy. Not trying to make you feel better about my disease. I know it’s all done with love, and with a pure spirit, but it makes me not want to talk to anyone because it’s hard work to make other people feel better about my sad news. And now that I told the story, and vented, it’s time to release the sea monkeys in the pee bags to the ocean via the toilet-ocean pipeline, and then take some more pills and go to bed. I plan to venture out in the morning with Andy to go get supplies, so I can stop suffering from the assault of this nasty tape that is holding on my bandage on my back.

On the positive side of things, you can order replacement catheter bags from Amazon. I got to have onion rings when we went to JH. It’s only three weeks til OWTH in Philly/Baltimore. And since I can’t go to Riot Fest, I can use that money to get my passport. Sleep well my friends, and visitors, and critics. Hug your people and tell them you love them, and tell them how much they mean to you. And appreciate your excretory system. For real. Love you all.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pause here for a breaking funny story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pufferfish’s Evil Return

Well, well, well.

I noticed from the upswing in hits on the blog that people have been anxiously awaiting this blog entry. It’s certainly not one I wanted to write, and it took a few days for me to get my head around the news from the Dr. and actually sit down and write. Mostly I have just been lying in bed, super-high on narcotics and whatever else is lying around, trying to pretend that none of this is happening. Do you think just once, my body and mind could cooperate? Just once, for a few blissful hours of mind and body numbing peace. No fucking way.

First, I couldn’t get numb enough. And believe me I tried. But then things kicked in and I was all sorta fuzzy warm and mellow and just kinda caught in that sweet spot between sleep and awake where you can just lie there and not care. Until the pain started. Then I had to revisit my dear narcotic friends, and a few Advil just for good measure. Next thing you knew, I was asleep. Well, for two hours anyway, because my increasingly smaller bladder had me up stumbling to the bathroom every two hours, as in the new normal in this house. And of course, I need to drink a lot of water, so that fun never stops. But here we are, Sunday morning, almost noon, and I am enjoying the bitter turmeric tea and encouraging it to kill cancer cells as I type.

I suppose I should reveal the news from the Dr. I have already had to text or tell a bunch of people, and first let me say, the words I hate to hear are “I’m sorry” – I know you are, you don’t have to say it. I also hate the sad look. So, if you can spare me any of that, it would be awesome. I am not going anywhere yet, unless the Tamoxifen gives me a heart attack or embolism. I’ll reveal the full prognosis after I set the stage, because even though the moments are etched forever in my brain, they aren’t stuck in yours yet.

So Heidi and I head off to Hershey that morning, bright and chipper. Okay, maybe the chipper part is an exaggeration, since I already viewed the CT scan report online, Friday night, after it was posted. I already knew one of the tumors had shrunken significantly, and that my bladder lining had thickened. I also knew that that fucking pufferfish was living, larger than ever, in the dark vastness of my uterine cavity. Inside of it was no longer a clear or murky liquid, but evil nodules of the deadliest kind (which they might not be, but in my mind, I’d already given the diagnosis). These were new and growing nodules. Evil bits that plague the pufferfish. However, despite the new larger size of the pufferfish, it was not causing me any real pain, that is to say, there was some achiness that I had attributed to just being lazy, but that I now knew to be pressure from the beast. It was not the relentless traumatic pain that I had before that warranted morphine just in order to function. In fact, I could get away most days without any medication at all.

Despite the two young deer that decided that crossing Interstate 81 was a good choice at 9:15 am, we arrived early at the appointment – and of course the waiting room was crowded, but not as crowded as it had been in the past. Of course, I was anxious, but I had kept deluding myself with the thoughts that Dr. K would just tell me it was nothing, put me on hormones, and send me on my way for three months. I was busy checking my facebook between talking to Heidi, or playing Red Herring and thinking “why didn’t I make that neato sign that says “I’m in remission”?” so I could take a selfie later. Then I was called. Well first they called for Diana, and ended up with the wrong person, then they realized their error and came back for me. And it was actually early for my appointment. Omen 1.

Well I went back alone, and was weighed and measured. When I looked at the scale, it looked like I gained three pounds, which was annoying, but turns out, I lost five. It’s hard to read upside down. I went in to the exam room with my nurse, and we did the blood pressure thing and reviewed my meds, and I gave a two for my pain level, and then this unfamiliar nurse left me and told me Dr. K would be in soon. And I waited. And waited. And waited. I heard and saw medical students wandering about, so I knew it was a minion day. This might take a bit.

And I waited. After 45 minutes, there was knock on the door. In came a young woman, who let me know she was a chief resident. She had a copy of my CT report, and asked me the usual minion questions. I told her I had already reviewed my report on line, and compared it to previous reports and she asked me what I thought. I told her I was pleased that one tumor had shrunk, but I was concerned about the other information. She smiled and said the tumor shrinking is good news, right? I agreed, and then she excused herself and told me they would be right back in a few minutes.

And I waited. By this time, I have concluded that this visit is going to have bad news. I never wait this long to see the Dr. It’s almost an hour. Dr. K has a southern drawl. I hear him going in and out of exam rooms, but never mine. My treatment coordinator, Anne, has not arrived to hug me. Something’s up. It’s not the usual laugh riot that my trip to the Dr. usually is. Even though I consciously want to explain away the delay, I know that the last time I had to wait this long, it was not good news at all. Nope. My gut knows this is bad. Omen 2.

Still waiting. The chief minion pokes her head in and says it will be just a few more minutes, smiles and exits. I hear Dr. K in the room next to me talking to the posse. I can’t hear what he is saying, but I am texting Heidi to tell her this is not good and I am still waiting. Then I hear him in the hall, telling someone to go find Anne and tell her he needs her. Then he says, tell her I’m in here, I am going in. And in comes Dr. K, at 11:45ish, with his somber face on. I notice this and say “hey, you have your somber face on,” and he sits down. It is never good when he sits down right away. Omen 3.

He whips out that CT report and begins. He says, well you already saw this, but I’m going over it. I say of course, I saw it, but my medical degree from google and web md are not helping me understand it. He says well the one tumor outside is significantly smaller. I nod. Then he says, but your cyst is back, and bigger, and again I nod. He says that this is not good. The chemo did nothing to the murky death cells in the cyst. They even grew. This is not good at all. We do not want murky death cell growth. He tells me that recurrent endometrial cancer is very bad, and I remind him I have used google and know this. He says that the only thing we can do now is try to stop the cyst from growing and/or keeping cancer from spreading. I nod, I’m on board for this. He sighs.

Anne arrived and she has a serious face on too. The chief minion in the chair aside me is silent. Dr. K says we can try another series of chemo, he can put me on a chemo pill, or we can do nothing. Ruling out “do nothing” as an option, I ask him what he thinks I should do, since he is the professional. and has a degree in medicine from a school and not web md, and he says that I have had a rough round of chemo and I should take the pill for three months, and enjoy my summer. Then he throws out “I am not going to bullshit you, if this things grows or spreads, this cancer is going to kill you.” Bottom line. He can’t give me a time frame or an idea of progression, but I know Dr. K long enough now that he wouldn’t be telling me this if it wasn’t a likely outcome. He then reminds me that I am not a candidate for surgery because of where and how this thing is situated and that even if I was, that again, he would have to remove my bladder, rectum, and as a new added bonus, my vagina. No, that is not anything we’d be considering anyway. Quality of life over quantity. I have done an amazing job keeping it together through all this, even making a few jokes. I ask for more oxycodone, while everyone scurries for my prescriptions and to write orders for CT scans in three months. Dr. K reminds me that I WILL be able to go see OWTH in September if they play in Philly. The grandchildren thing is still not something he can guarantee me, and frankly, it’s probably not likely.

Then he hugs me. I want to break down sobbing but I assure him I’ll be ok. Anne hugs me. I am in a state of shock, I think, and then I cry a little. I don’t want to go to check-out sobbing, because I will scare the other patients. I am choking it back. I am saying all the things that other people will say to me over the next few days in my head, there’s always miracles, get a second opinion, be positive – you know, all the shit that people say when they are trying to make you feel better. I let Heidi know I’m out and then I go to check out and stuff my bag with tissues, because the breakdown is coming.

I successfully hold it together until I get to Heidi’s car. Then I tell her my prognosis, and cry a little. Then we go to lunch. At Houlihan’s. I have two hard cherry lemonades. I am relaxed. I can deal with this, but I am devastated that I will have to tell Andy. I don’t want to ruin his future plans and make him feel like he has to put his life on hold while I wait for cancer to finish me off. I don’t want him to have to be without his mom. I don’t want to have to tell him.

For the record, I have told brother’s Michael and Alan that I am on Tamoxifen for three months, and that we will see what happens when we have CT scans in August. I didn’t tell them the endometrial cancer will likely kill me part. I am sure someone I have told or that reads this blog will spill the beans, but I couldn’t. I am also not telling my dad or my other brothers. I am sure again, that someone will tell them even though I DO NOT want them to know. I couldn’t not blog about it, because frankly I am tired of telling people and facing the sad face and hearing words that do nothing to make either of us feel better.

So for right now, I am in limbo. Knowing the history of this pufferfish and its habits, it’s more likely to keep growing than not. I am taking Tamoxifen twice a day, and hoping it helps. I am drinking turmeric tea and trying to eat better. I am chanting for healing. I am visualizing the pufferfish drying up and vanishing, but I also know better than to dismiss the likely reality. As I’ve pointed out to many of my friends, there are advantages. I’ll be able to get a prescription for medical marijuana when the law passes here in PA, and I will probably never have to pay back my student loans. One of the possible side effects of the Tamoxifen is that I may lose weight (I could also gain it, or die of an embolism, heart attack or stroke). So who knows?

Strangely enough, I am also okay with this. Knowing beats waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I can finally go get that new tattoo and get my ears pierced so I can get big gold hoops that say “sexy” and “baby” to rock with my bald ostrich head. And I only need to get through 2.5 months before my next CT scan before I know if the tamoxifen had any effect. Oh, and I get to return to work full-time on June 8th. Woo hoo. I probably could have had my Dr. write me off for the whole summer if I asked, but hell, I am tired of not getting a paycheck and having to rely on Andy for money. So we’ll see how this all works out.

That my friends, it the story. Now I’m off to make some lunch, or take a nap, or something. Enjoy your Sunday afternoon. Peace out.

PS. I have this goal of reading 1000 books before I die. I am on number 2. However, it’s heavy on feminist theory, so it could be a while. But you should be happy because it’s about feminism and you know how I love that. Just wait.

BTW, if you like this or any of my entries, hit the ol’ like button on this page. Maybe more people will read it then. And it gives me a happy star when someone likes my entry. It’s the little things, folks.

hilarious_grim_reaper_gag_by_ATLbladerunner


Of Mice and Mummies

There’ something dead in my throat. I am guessing it probably crawled in while I was snoring and became trapped and slowly met its demise. Whatever it is, it’s really nasty and it adds to the nasty metal taste in my mouth that I cannot get rid of. Apparently, I forgot that you don’t get used to chemo as you move further into treatment, you just get sicker. And I am – I am still not up to getting out of bed and driving to Hershey to do my blood work, but that will change tomorrow, because I can’t put it off anymore.

This whole chemo thing is getting boring. TV is boring, being sick is boring, drinking tea is boring and this weather? It sucks. If I ever get cancer again, it better be in the fucking spring, because somehow I think if I could go sit in the sun for a few minutes a day, I’d feel better but alas, I am trapped here in the tower of gloom and clutter with nothing to do but toss side to side and hope to slip into drug enhanced sleep.

The chemo is killing my sense of humor too. I suppose part of that is because I am trapped here in solitary. Of course, I crack myself up, but I am a captive audience. A captive audience with no energy to escape. I did manage a shower today – and I made some toast, so I guess that’s progress. I just feel like my brain is turning into jello – I haven’t had any serious academic conversations in days, nay, months. I feel like a jumbo hamster on a squeaky wheel, just going around and around, with occasional escapes into the real world, until I am captured by the chemo beast and shoved back in the cage. Even pinterest doesn’t hold my attention for things I will never make or buy the way it used to. Red pandas only amuse me for a short while, and alpacas, well they just make me long for a house on the beach. I have this list of things I could probably make while sitting here if only my eyes would agree to stay open for extended periods of time. I mean things have gotten so bad, that I don’t even turn off Hoda and Kathie Lee at 10 am anymore, I just suffer their stupidity. I even find myself watching the 700 Club more than once a week and that doesn’t bring any laughs either. Okay, well it did today, when the only man who I believe is Pat Robertson told some viewer that it was okay that their daughter did yoga, but only if she didn’t chant afterward, because that’s the worship of Hindu gods. The funniest part was the seriousness in which Pat Robertson tried to mimic the chant. I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, I am gonna keep this short, because being in the tower and watching reruns of Kitchen Nightmares and the Middle don’t really make me the wicked conversationalist. I did however watch some show on the History channel last night that has had me thinking all day. Apparently, mummies have enough DNA in the remains that once the technology is available, we can clone, or reanimate them. Now – stay with me on this – the scientists state we aren’t that far off from being able to do this. I mean we have already injected human brain matter into the brains of mice successfully. Reanimation could quite possibly involve retaining all your memories and experiences of your previous life, and then you would start adding new ones. Would that be a good thing? I wonder. I mean some things you want to forget. And if you remember the past, does it also mean that all your ailments and illnesses are also with you? What if you died a particularly painful death? Would you remember that? And would you be reconstituted in the same state you were when you mummified? Would you want that? Would you want to relive all the experiences you had all over again or would you want a fresh start? I tend to believe we are energy just moving from one form to another, so I don’t know that I would like a restart for this life, if I was already dead. Wouldn’t you always wonder if you were still the same as you were, or if something was missing, or damaged? No one who knew you would still be around, so how would you know? And isn’t the choice of whether you come back or not, taken from your hands by whoever manages to bring you back to life? It seems like an easy question at first, but it’s incredibly complicated when you really think about it. I know there are people who have passed in my life that I would never want to have back in my life again, and then there are people I would love to have back, but I’ve moved on, and would they fit into the life I have now? And what about these mice with human brain bits? What do they do with them and whose brain bits are they inserting in there? And what if they escape and start reproducing? Are these random combinations ever a good thing? Maybe we should worry less about GMO corn and more about these human-mouse hybrids. Think about that.

SmartMouse

Well that’s all for now my friends. I’ve exercised my brain more than expected today, and I have some ice cold killers in Alaska to watch now. Have a wonderful afternoon, and wish me luck on getting to Hershey for blood work tomorrow, because I need another sticker for my collection. Plus I am sure the vampires miss me. Until next we meet.


Randomosity

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

Movies? Bars? Sleeping?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Taste of Metal and the Sting of Tears.

I’m giving you plenty of warning today.abcsnot

If you woke up to birds singing and cuddles and happiness, click that X in the top right corner and get the fuck out of here now. I’ll give you a few seconds to escape.

Still here? Well I am not responsible for how you feel all day if you read this. I’m giving you fair warning.

Okay, fine, the choice is yours, but you will be sorry. I am, and I am writing the shit.

I started having panic attacks yesterday. Serious sobbing, full on snot slinging, not enough tissues in this fucking box, I can’t catch my breath panic attacks. I am still having them, on a less severe scale than last night, but isn’t that how horror works? The most terrifying things live in the dark and no amount of light, sunlight, electric, candle, is gonna take the terror out of it.

I am still sick. I want to get the fuck out of this house today, and just go somewhere. Anywhere. No, not anywhere. An ocean – okay, Pacific ocean where my tears can get sucked into the gigantic vastness that oceans are. It seems like it’s been months since I got this news. It’s only five weeks, but it seems like forever. And all at once it seem like it all happened so fast. And here I sit again, with a fucking cancer garden dying deep inside of me. (That’s right you nasty poisonous bastard, you’re dying inside me, because you have no right to be there) It’s so very different this time – last time I was all like, okay stupid cancer, you will be gone in six months. The second time, you’re not so cocky. I mean, I was supposed to have made it past the recurrence window. This little monster sprouted and started taking over in a two month window. I know what my stage is, I know what my odds are, I know that it is definitely possible to win again, but it’s a 1000x more scary the second time. And a second time where they can’t just do in and cut it out like last time. I have to live with it inside, knowing that the only way it’s going anywhere is if the combination of chemo, positive energy and visualization of it vanishing make it go away. Stupid cancer. It takes so much more than your health.

Yeah, I am strong, and brave and have the guts to take this on again. But I am also a tearful mess who is so scared I am not gonna be around to see the way life is supposed to play out. What if I am not to see Andy get married? To see my grandbabies? To see my niece graduate or my nephews get married? I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of what I’ll miss. What I thought was in my future and what might be so unfairly snatched away from me now. Oh sure, I know you’re thinking, well miss fucking sunshine, that’s not a very positive attitude! You’re right, it’s not, but it’s a very real one. It’s whats’ gnawing at the back of my mind 24 hours a day. Most people are afraid of dying – I’m not. I’m afraid of leaving. I know I will always be connected to the people in my life now, we’re all energy, we all are connected, but I am not done with this life yet. I have plans. I need to retire in Bali, I need to join the Peace Corps, I need to make a half-assed attempt at surfing, I have several more tattoos planned, I need to drive cross country and couch surf a few months on the west coast. I still want to get a PhD, and teach. I am not pleased that my plans are compromised by something completely out of my control. And in my mind, I rehash every doctor visit, every test result, every procedure and I wonder why the fuck I can’t win the lotto, but cancer II? I win that. How could it just show up like that? What did I do wrong? And believe me, I look back over my life, at every less that stellar choice or thought I had over the last several decades, and wonder what I am being punished for? It seems like every questionable thing I have ever done is being returned to me in the form of a nasty little parasite that is eating me up from the inside.

I didn’t even think it was possible for a human body to hold so much snot. Where does it come from? I am so scared this time. I have never been this scared. I feel like a caged animal. The chemo sick is so much harder this time – five days later and I am still tasting metal and not sure whether or not food is going to stay down. I am out of effexor – this is probably part of my non-stop panic attacks, I know I have a prescription bottle in this house somewhere that’s half full, but I can’t bend over to look for it, because I feel like hurling. Every joint in my body hurts, and motrin, tylenol and percocet are like a roulette wheel to see if one will actually help. I can’t get the weird chemo smell out of my nose, no matter how many bazillion times I blow it. I think my blood is part ginger now. It’s the only thing that keeps me from spending my day huddled over the bathroom sink. I lie down one minute and feel fine, and then in five minutes, my stomach is cramped up so much, that I want to unhinge my jaw and tear my stomach out. And, for comic relief, how about a post-chemo fart? Toxic clouds are less vile. Dick Cheney is less vile. As if you aren’t sick enough already, your body attempts to suffocate you in a noxious cloud at random points throughout the day.

At least the crying has slowed down. Blood tests tomorrow. Woo hoo. And I have two more weeks before I have to go through this nastiness again. I really feel for that 17 year old girl who wants to refuse her chemo – how is it more compassionate to put her through this when it’s not what she wants. I’ve already had the conversation about quality of life vs. quantity with Andy and my brothers – if it ever gets to that point, I’m cashing in my retirement, buying a surfboard, renting a car and driving to California, buying as many edibles as I can eat without freaking out in paranoia, paddling out and waiting for a great white to eat me after it mistakes me for an elephant seal. I am not dying in a hospital, all weak and sickly, it’s gonna be on my terms. Morbid, yes, but when have I truly not been? Really, I continue to watch Meet The Press, and I know how that’s gonna end every week, and yet I go back.

So next time you want to tell me how brave I am, or how strong, just remember that I am also a very scared and tearful little girl, wishing someone would save me from this monster. Facing this a second time is not about a fight, it’s about getting up everyday and doing what I have to keep from being paralyzed with fear. When I smile, it’s because I can’t rub my nose anymore or the skin is going to come off. When I make jokes, it’s because I’m scared and I need to find a way to cope. I’m gonna keep coping – I have to – it’s not time to give up. I’m not a survivor – that’s a fucking stupid word. I’m a person who has a fucking obstacle ahead – I may not overcome it, but I’m still gonna try. I’m also smart enough to know if at some point I have X years or months left, I’m not gonna waste that precious time trying to give me 10 extra sickly days, when I can have 5 days of fun. Look out Disneyland if that happens. Or Ireland. Or Bali. Or all three, and Peru.

You were warned to not read this. If you’re crying or horrified, that’s on you, not me. This is my blog. I have to face this shit down daily, and this is my process. This is how I sort through the rapid firing shit in my head that just won’t stop. You only have to read this once, and never again. I’ll be the one having a breakdown during Fairly Oddparents or Iron Man 3. I can’t promise that I won’t be maudlin or dramatic in the future either, but I can promise that I’ll do what I need to do to get through today, and tomorrow. Like my friend Debbie reminded me, these are the real feelings, these are what people with monsters inside them really do feel, and it’s ok. OMG, where is this fucking snot coming from???? It has to stop sometime!!

So that’s that. I’m gonna try to slog down another ginger tea. And check to see if my prescriptions are ready. And maybe take a drive. It’s a beautiful gloomy day out there, and if I can unswell my eyes, maybe I’ll go hang out among the dead for a few hours with my camera. Or do laundry. The mundane shit goes on, even when you’re having a meltdown.

Enjoy your Sunday, mes jolis canards aperçus! (use your google translate if you must know)

PS. To all of you wonderful friends, who call/text/message me to see if I need anything, thank you. Mostly I don’t need anything – I don’t really eat much lately but these are things that I always can use: Fresh turmeric root, Ginger-Honey Crystals, Reed’s Ginger Brew – Regular, Premium, or especially, Extra Ginger, Ginger Ice Cream, Anti-Viral Tissues, and bottled water – but not Arcadia or whatever the store brand at Boyer’s is – I don’t care what people say, water has different tastes depending on where it comes from. And sesame crackers. My food tastes are really different this time, and what I am hungry for can change hour to hour. If you are worried about Andy starving, don’t be, but if you insist on feeding him, there’s nothing the boy won’t eat except mushrooms. Well, he’ll even eat certain types of those, but he also gets random drug tests at work, so no thank you.

IMAG1489abfeedsGingerBrewTurmeric Roots


My Body is Temple (Of Doom)

Yeah, it was that kind of day. The kind of day you won’t forget and you hope will never come again. It’s still all very surreal, even though I have a folder with hard copies of all that went on and I can sign into the computer and see with my own eyes what I don’t really want to know. Stupid internet. S tupid body. Stupid cancer. You all suck.

I actually was early for my appointment today, even though I didn’t get out of the house as planned this morning. I skipped a coffee because I didn’t want to jack up my blood pressure which I anticipated as already being high due to anxiety. Surprisingly, blood pressure was perfectly normal. Better than ever, and I didn’t even take any pain meds this morning And I only gained a pound and a half in two weeks, which must have mostly come about last night when I was stuffing chocolate into my mouth with pretzels in order to create chocolate covered pretzels and then stuffing more feelings with a bag of sweet potato tortilla chips Yes, I wasn’t really hungry, yes, it made me sick, but the food just kept being shoved into my chomping jaws. Just like after my doctor’s appointment today when I tried to quell my emotional upheaval with taco bell and a banana milkshake at Sonic. As if it matters what I ate today, because tomorrow is chemo and I won’t want food for at least 4 or 5 days.

Okay, okay, I’ll cut to the chase. They didn’t have my MRI results posted last night or today. Dr. K came in to see me by himself, even though I heard the chattering minions whispering outside my exam room door. Not the best indicator. He looked at my MRI images on line and said he really didn’t see too much different from the last CT scan, and again went over the treatment options I had. I asked a few more questions this time, being that I was less in shock than last time – until he started talking about options. My beastly cancer-garden cyst is in a place that should he operate to remove it would cost me both my bladder and my rectum, because the pufferfish and friends are in close proximity to both and somewhat connected and that means they have to take anything that is possibly harboring mutated cells in the neighborhood. Fucking cancer. I don’t really need to elaborate on what the end result of that would look like, because I am not even entertaining that option. Even if he did surgery, there’s no guarantee that it would be a success, for a plethora of reasons including the fact that it would just delay chemo until my body healed, which would cost me time, and it would involve a very long healing time, and would be risky and very hard for me to recover from. Not to mention that it would change the quality of my life forever. He again explained why there’s not going to be any radiation, and discussed chemo versus anti-estrogen therapy. He remains positive that the ol’ c-monster will respond well to chemo, but really what else can you do but hope for the best? So after much sighing, he gave me a big hug, told me Anne would be in with my schedule and paperwork, and said he’d see me in three weeks. No minions today – they appeared to be a fresh batch because it was a new semester and I am sure he didn’t want to traumatize them too much on their first day in gynecological oncology.

Anne came in and more hugs ensued. And crying. And laughing. And she gave me my schedule and reminded me to pick up the good ol’ decadron and compazine so I would be prepared for poisoning tomorrow. She kindly color coded my schedule for me so I know when I have chemo, and dr. appointments and blood tests. Blood tests are going to be weekly this time because the radiation from last time has compromised my bone marrow and they want to make sure my blood counts stay where they should be. I also signed a release for blood transfusions. I got kinda excited about that, because fresh blood is a pretty good thing, I like when I get blood, it makes me all energized. We talked about herbal medicine for side effects and to compliment my treatment and I’m going to explore that with her okay. No zofran this time, just compazine to start for the nausea. She’s a great coach, and told me I did this once and I could do it again – the difference being this time the monster is still inside, and last time they cut the shit right out. And last time they took organs I was not longer using anyway. This time, I’d be missing parts I’m kinda fond of. Which again, not considering as an option. I’ll be seeing her pretty regularly at the ol’ Cancer Institute, as I go through this cycle. I also made sure I got my note saying that chemo would be poisoning me and I would be missing work. And a lovely catalog of hats with fake hair attached as if I am going to be seen sporting fake hair – if I want fake hair, I’ll draw it on with my sharpies. And off I went, to get my first of a bazillion blood draws. I did get a penguin sticker for my bravery during the blood draw. I am going to keep my stickers on my folder. My new rule is no sticker, no blood.

And in a repeat of two weeks ago, me and the phone returned to the car, and did our texting. And crying. Much shorter this time. I just wanted to get home, so I ran in to Karn’s and located both the delicious Halos and some Ginger Brew, so I can get through the next week. Then I comforted myself with the aforementioned taco bell and banana milkshake. It didn’t really work, but I did see my beloved pony-pony and that made me smile. He was hiding in the barn trying to stay out of the freezing wind. Another day out of the glue factory.

I was going to drive around for a while but I decided to just go home and curl up in bed and pretend none of this was happening. Of course, I had to check my online medical record when I got home, so I could add to the joy of this day by reading the MRI report. Apparently, pufferfish is now sporting two tumors, instead of one. Two. Two bloodsucking leech tumors. Two. The second one is 8cm long. The first is 10cm. So they aren’t exactly petite. Doesn’t change the treatment, but causes additional emotional damage. More crying, more curling up in a ball, more cursing my luck and trying to figure out what I did in a past life to be poor, fat, and get cancer in this one. Of course, as you can read, I’ve rebounded somewhat because I am writing about it. Cancer fact – every tumor after your first one is not only considered to be the same type of cancer as your first one, but also considered to be the same stage as the first, so they are all IIIB. Lucky lucky me. If only cancer was the powerball – I wouldn’t have won the jackpot, but I would have five numbers. Cancerpalooza.

So yeah, I am feeling sorry for myself. I’ll get up tomorrow and pull it together and get to chemo with my new skull blanket and some projects to keep me busy for the six hours of poisoning ahead. Cross your fingers that the weather folks are right this time and there’s no more than 3 inches of snow tomorrow. And that I don’t get the evil wicked winter plague that Andy has. And that there’s no more brutal wind. Oh there’s the bell saying take the decadron – be right back. Decadron pills are green. So now I take a pink, purple, green, white, yellow, red and white, and brown pill every day. If I start to take morphine again, I will add a blue one again. A rainbow of pills and no unicorn. So that was my day peeps, what did you do?

It’s time for me to load up the iPod with some podcasts and go down and make sure I turned the oven off because I actually made dinner since by the time I get through chemo sick, the roast would have been ready to throw away. I have to get up early again and pack my stuff. I know this wasn’t one of my funniest or most amusing entries, but hey, we have to take the bad with the good. I am sure chemo will be eventful. Apparently they have me scheduled for an infusion chair instead of a bed, and I am hoping that will change by tomorrow, because I am there for six hours, I should get a bed. I may or may not feel like writing tomorrow after all the fun, but I am sure I will be back in a few days, snarky and sarcastic as ever. As always, keep sending the good juju my way. And I’ll keep you entertained with these thrilling bloggy bits.

Night night my friends, and in case you were wondering, the Daily Show is back. And Crunchwrap sliders do not slide, they must be chewed. You’re welcome.IMAG1485


Magical Mystical MRI (or The Time I Got “Blue in the Face” Instead of “Trying to Breathe”)

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Let me begin with this: I am not going to be making a resolution involving vodka and orange juice, because I decided that my relaxation cocktail is just that: pineapple, orange, and veggie juice with coconut vodka. It’s mighty tasty. I am having a lot of anxiety this evening (as will be discussed in the next paragraph) and I am trying to chill because I need to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for my Dr appointment tomorrow. I know I gained a little weight. I am not sure how, but I feel fluffier. I’m not stressing about that, because in three days, I’ll be so sick that food will be my enemy once again and the only thing I’ll want to eat are my go-to foods: pineapple juice, english muffin, oatmeal, yogurt and ginger beer. I want to make a pork roast tomorrow for dinner but I am afraid if I eat my friend, the pig, before chemo, I will lose my love for the other white meat the way I have lost my taste for artichokes and parmesan cheese the last time. And if I can’t eat bacon, what’s the point of living? Right now I am trying to coordinate with my brothers to get me to chemo and back because Andy is afflicted with the winter death plague, and I cannot be trapped in a car breathing his germs for an hour while we drive to Hershey. As it is, he is forbidden to be within six feet of me. And if he gets close, I pelt him with a hand sanitizer. So right now, it’s looking like I will be arriving two hours early for my appointment, and then waiting an hour or two for a ride home after we’re done. It’s gonna be a long, long, long day. But when in my life has anything been simple or easy. Enough stressing about what hasn’t happened yet, we have to review today’s adventure.

Let me preface this with this: the internet is a dangerous tool. Useful, but dangerous. Damn Penn State Hershey didn’t put my MRI results in my “My Health” account like they do with with my CT scans. How am I supposed to make myself anxious all night before my appointment if I don’t read them like I read my CT scan reports? Hmm? How can I prepare for the worst if I don’t have the info? I, of course, interrogated the nice young technician who did my MRI as to what she saw. She confirmed that there is indeed something in there, but I knew that – when I asked her if I should be prepared for an unpleasant surprise at my visit tomorrow, she would not commit. That typically means yes, I should be, because when they don’t put your fears to rest immediately, they are trying to find a way to avoid a straight answer. So we shall see. But again, I can’t worry about that until tomorrow. That is the point of the relaxation cocktail.

Well it was a lovely ride to Hershey. The fog was thick and murky on the interstate, as I tend to like it. It feels like driving in a thick cloud. I forgot it was a travel day and that Canadians would be in our country and on our roads, making driving difficult, which can also be said of New Yorkers, and also those from New Jersey. They should just stay home and enjoy their holidays in their own country/state. I had to stop and get something to eat because I was feeling nauseous, so I also took a percocet because it’s hard to tell if I am feeling sick from not eating or withdrawal, so I addressed both. I tossed back my chocolate milk and rolled into the parking lot at The Cancer Institute, realizing I would need to pick up my parking pass tomorrow for this lot for my treatments. I scurried into the building, looking like I rolled out of bed and fell into the door because I was trying to dress in things with no metal so I wouldn’t have to change into a gown. Nope, that didn’t work. I soon realized I had to go in the main entrance, and I meandered down to the radiology department, the same place that had tried to empty the cyst for the last year. I was the only one there, so I was personally escorted to the MRI room. I filled out my questionnaire about all of my surgeries and tests and radiations and chemos and skin pokings and jabbings and big giant incisions and medications and answered some math word problems about trains and wrote a short essay on what I did on my winter holiday. I signed releases I didn’t read. Then I was escorted to the changing area. It was pretty much the same deal as going through radiation, except there are no animal themed changing rooms and no waiting corral. I did get a locker for my stuff, and I actually had two gowns that covered me, instead of feeling like I always had to close some area that was exposing skin.

In typical fashion, I needed to repeat my name and birth date about 3,129 times. I had to show them my tattoos – MRI tip – an MRI will cause certain inks in tattoos to swell/itch because some inks have metal particles in them, particularly bright, vibrant colors. It’s not the best idea to get a tattoo right before you get an MRI. The technician asked me if I wanted some music during the procedure, and I said sure, but you probably have nothing I listen to – and to my surprise, she said give me the names and I will use Pandora. So I rattled off some of my faves: OWTH, Against Me!, The Go Set, Pennywise, Alkaline Trio, excited that I wasn’t going to be forced to endure One Direction, or Creed, or worse, Nickelback,

We entered the MRI room and to my surprise, the MRI machine is not so different from a CT scanner. However, there is the obvious lack of decorative stickers. I pointed this out immediately, and suggested some Brave, or Jungle Book, but no Toy Story 3, because I am still traumatized from that one. The tech said she’d check but they probably cant because of the risk of metallic particles.

Curiously enough, the room itself has a background hum that sounds like the womb sounds that my Sleep Sheep makes, which would have been soothing if not for their loudness. Unlike the CT meat slicing machine, the MRI tunnel is entered feet first. I had to get an IV started because there would be contrast dye for this one. They put some boards and blankets on my belly, and start the IV, which actually hurts at first. I told her to choose my right arm, because I was saving the left for chemo on Tuesday. Chemo tip – always go for the left arm. You will get a lot of fluids and will spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom – you want that right arm unencumbered. We got the IV issue worked out and that arm got strapped down. I was given a emergency call bell in case I started to freak out for the other hand. Then they put my headphones on, and I get launched into the tube. It’s a pretty small space, and I am a pretty fluffy girl. I had wiggle room but not much. The music started to play, and amusingly, the first song is an Alkaline Trio song, Blue in the Face, which ends with the line, your coffin or mine? I found this so amusing but being that I had to remain still I was not allowed to chuckle. The MRI imaging is done in time limited sessions. 45 seconds, 1.5 minutes, and then 2, 4, 5, 6, and (2) 8 minutes. Then the dye is injected, and you do 2 more 2 minute and 4 minutes sessions, and then (4) 18 second images images holding your breath. The instructions to hold your breath are supposed to come through the headphones – the tech broke into the music to tell me to follow along, except the instructions were in spanish, and she then had to just tell me what to do each time.

The actual imaging sessions are noisy. I was doing okay though, because I had music. Curiously, even though I had given her the names of the bands for Pandora, I got mostly Alkaline Trio and the Menzingers, and no OWTH for the first session – there was some Taking Back Sunday and some AFI – but no OWTH or Against Me!. This was tolerable initially, and I shouldn’t complain, because it could have been worse, like noted above, Nickelback, or even, ~shudder~ Macklemore or Pitbull. When the tech came in to start the dye, I asked her to restart Pandora with OWTH and the other requested bands – I got one OWTH song, and then it went right back to the Menzingers – weirdest thing ever, I wonder why that is? Anyway, the last sessions were the most difficult to stay still during because the machine was literally rattling. And your body gets really hot. Like it’s cooking. But I did really well keeping still, I turned on my meditative brains and pretended that I was a corpse. Of course, then runaway brain came along and I started to think about what it would be like to be buried alive, and this is as close as I hope to ever come to it. Then I started to think about all the poor people who were buried alive and what that must have been like to wake up in a box underground and be trying to claw your way out, and then the terrible realization that this is it, and you are trapped and never getting out. I then realized that I need to modify my living will to specifically state that under no circumstance whatsoever am I to be buried, or placed in any boxes unless my heart has been removed from my body or my head severed. That freaked me out. I realized then that the only suitable way to die would be drowning and then eaten by fish. Fear of being buried alive moved to my number 2 fear. Clowns were downgraded. Fire is still at the top. Again, drowning would be the only acceptable way to go.

Returning to our discussion track, there’s a lot of noise during an MRI. Banging and whirring and swishing and thunking. I did okay with most of it, the music minimized it but it still all seems to be going on by your ears, instead of where they are taking pictures. At one point it felt like the hair on my legs was being magnetized Totally bizarre feeling. It’s not constant. It starts and stops, and they tell you through the headphones when the next imaging will start and how long it will last. I only got caught off guard once with the loud banging, and fortunately, since you are in a restricted space, you can’t really jump out of your skin. I kept referring to my meditation practice and controlled my breathing the best I could, trying to relax. This is an important tip for those having an MRI. Work on your breathing. When it was all said and done, and I got to sit up, my whole body was stiff from staying still for so long. Even though the actual imaging session are short, the whole process lasted about 1.5 hours. Keeping still is a lot more work than you would think it is. As I mentioned, I asked the tech what she saw, but I also asked her why they do MRIs on a Sunday. She said they have to staff the MRI 24/7, and since someone has to be there all the time, they decided to make use of those hours by scheduling outpatient scans so they use the time effectively. There are a lot of emergency and rush procedures during the week, and it’s really stressful. Weekends are more laid back, there’s no tension and it can accommodate both staff who want to work only weekends and patients who need an urgent but not immediate scan, or people who can’t take time during the week. My tech said she actually prefers being there and doing procedures on the weekend. I have to say, it is a much more pleasant experience for the patient too because you aren’t jammed into a room of sick people to wait and you don’t feel rushed and everyone seems more calm and relaxed. There’s also better parking and fewer people in the buildings. After I regained my sense of stability, I was given my key to my locker and changed into my clothes and then scurried (IE. Walked slowly and stiffly) to reward myself with a chestnut praline latte at the hospital’s Starbucks. Twas yummy.

I took a longer scenic route back home – I had planned on going to dinner with my sharksister, Ashley, but she came down with the flu or plague or west nile last night, and we had to cancel. I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to seeing her, but we’ll have time, I have 4 months of appointments yet. We were going to go to Pho Miss Saigon in Hershey – a super yummy pho/noodle house – I still don’t have much of an appetite, but I was looking forward to Vietnamese iced coffee, which is my most favorite. If you frequent the Hershey area, I highly recommend the spot, particularly if you like pho or noodle dishes. It was still quite foggy as I headed home and was dark, so more stupid people than usual were about to hinder my ride home. Tomorrow is doctor and blood work day, and laundry. Weirdly, I need to make sure that I have a fresh blanket and sheets on my bed for after chemo – because of the whole weird smells thing, I need to have things as fresh as possible the first few days. Andy is also going to need to clean the car and quit smoking in it, because the odor of cigarettes is the one scent that makes me want to immediately hurl once I start chemo. At least I know what to expect. I also don’t have to have the nasty neulasta shot, at least not initially, so that’s a huge plus. That shit is the worst part in my opinion – the pain in your bones is as horrible as the pufferfish. I’ll have to get a picture tomorrow while I still have my hair…I figure it will be gone by the beginning of February I’ve started work on a fox hat, and I have patterns for a raccoon, panda and queen crown.

So that was the MRI. To summarize, much like being buried alive but without the bugs or dirt or paralyzing fear. Also much noisier. Not for the claustrophobic. In other news, I facebook blasted that my cancer is back – it may seem like an attempt to get attention to some, or putting “my business out there” but you know what, I don’t really care. People are naturally inquisitive – they want to know – and I don’t think this is something I need to keep private. It’s scary and people are curious. If I make it easier for someone else, all the better. With that ma petites, I shall leave you for today. I’m gonna finish my cocktail, and tuck myself in. Hopefully I’ll have more details tomorrow. Sweetest dreams my friends, and like I said on facebook, send me your good vibes, positive thoughts, prayers, animal sacrifices or good juju, I can feel it and it helps.

And don’t be afraid to ask me questions – it doesn’t bother me a bit.