Thursday, October 16, 2014

Either This Wallpaper Goes Or I Do

So, today was the first chemotherapy session. I entered with a lot of trepidation, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. (Portions of this narrative have been redacted to avoid any pearl-clutching or fainting couch usage.  Thanks, William Vitka!  You're my hero. Fill in the blanks with whatever your heart desires.  It'll probably be funnier than what actually happened. Also, remember that the visible length of the redacted portions has little relation to actual length of the un-redacted original, because math is hard and hockey is coming on. So make your answers as elaborate as you like!)

Woke up this morning at 5:15, gave up on sleep. I've been having really vivid dreams that wake me like a bucket of cold water, both good dreams and bad, bad ones. The other night I had a dream where I found a lovely old Victorian I wanted to buy, but there was already someone in it refusing to leave. A squatter, if you will. Eventually the remaining members of SAMCRO and Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder came to take care of the problem -- and if you watch those programs you can guess how the problem was taken care of. Let's just say, the person left. Maybe in several pieces. So that was a bad dread that turned into the type of dream that might disturb some people who don't regularly watch the full FX lineup.  Do you know why they don't schedule anything important next to Sons of Anarchy?  The gunfire is bound to spill over into other timeslots and kill a lot of innocent TV bystanders.  So this morning I had a dream about  REDACTED , which I guess was a good dream, but still left me awake.

Got kids up and dressed for school. Went and got them up again and told them to brush their teeth. Went and got them up again and told them NOT TO LAY BACK DOWN IN BED. Eventually they were out the door. REDACTED, which was nice, and left me in a better mood. Then I went to get some biscuits from Piggly Wiggly, where I noticed they had a case of expired meat. Yay!  I came home with six biscuits and $40 worth of expired meat. (For those of you not familiar with the expired meat trade, that's a lot of meat.)

Finally, at the doctor's. Amazingly on the way there we didn't see any  REDACTED which I was beginning to think was unavoidable.  So I didn't have to pull out any of my embarrassing "rollin' in my Volvo" moves, which will probably someday get me arrested.

At the oncologist there was weight (Minus two more pounds since last week, which will make Doctor Davis hit me with her clipboard), blood pressure, temperature and then a visit with Doctor Davis to go over labs. She asked me questions and then gave me a concerned face, the kind of face Doctor Handsome (that's not his real name, but that's how I remember him) gave me whenever he had to talk to me in the hospital and tell me something worrisome. Seems my blood calcium is high -- for those playing at home that's hypercalcemia. She looked back and saw that my blood calcium had been high for quite a while, and wondered why no one had ever mentioned it. I'm thinking with the giant REDACTED tumor, they were probably thinking a little extra calcium was the least of my problems.  But she said we need to figure out why (bone cancer (highly unlikely) a problem with my parathyroid glands, or good old-fashioned dehydration). She also said that if we can't resolve it, she'll need to refer me to an endocrinologist, at which point the voice in my head went to Bill-Paxton-In-Aliens-Game-Over-Man mode, because if add one more doctor to my posse I will be able to field a freaking baseball team -- not a good one, mind you, unless we can bring Doctor Handsome in as a ringer -- but a team, nevertheless. (And you should hear some things the voice in my head says -- if you get agitated by anything I say, just remember the things that get caught in the filters are so, so much worse and so much more plentiful.)

Finally it was time for the chemo. Now, I had read up on "what to bring to chemo" so I had a bag with two novels -- both Neil Gaimen, a bottle of water, carmex, socks, a sleeve of Fig Newtons, a Milky Way bar, and a cold Mango Madness Snapple from the Dollar Store, where they always hide one behind the fruit punch and strawberry-kiwi and you have to dig for it. I also brought my squishy pillow in it's festive, happy, dancing Dio des las Meurtes skeletons pillow case and a blanket. They told me to pick a chair so I picked one in the corner, and then the nurse came to hook me up.  First, I told her that I was having an allergic reaction to the steri strips and they were itching like crazy, so she pulled a couple of them off in the middle, uncovering some decent-sized blisters. She trimmed the others down to the bare minimum, which helped a lot. Then she cleaned the area with alcohol.

I screamed. Loudly. I managed not to blurt out any colorful expletives like REDACTED REDACTED, which I picked up from The Bridge -- ON FX. (I see a pattern here -- and trust me, you don't want me to say that one out loud.)  You know what, if you ever want to go all Jack-Bauer on me, all you need is a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a papercut. The alcohol in that fresh incision hurt like a REDACTED. A few rounds of that and I would break like a dry twig.

Then she put the butterfly needle/valve thing in --which didn't hurt, but felt creepy -- and started the pre-chemo drugs, which take about 20 minutes to infuse. So there I was, and it hadn't been so bad. Then the guy across and down started talking about REDACTED and REDACTED, which upset me to the point that I did use some choice expletives possibly just within hearing. In my head I immediately dubbed him Racist Gerald McRaney, because he looked like Gerald McRaney (no offense to Gerald McRaney, I was a huge fan of Simon and Simon!) He tried to engage me in conversation at some point, at which time I feigned sleep. Eventually I was no longer feigning,  and when I woke up they started 3 hours of Taxol. Note to self: bring headphones, because even if you're not listening to anything, people will still not try to engage you in unacceptable conversations that might cause you to become a little stabby, and will eventually escalate into something untoward.

So now the lines of chairs were starting to fill up. I was the youngest person in there by about 25 years. I was also the only person in there with hair, which made me feel guilty when I took my scrunchy off and shook out my hair so I could get the tendrils back up, and realized I was swinging my hair around like a girl from a '70s Breck commercial. (Do you remember the Breck Girls?  I also remember Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific, which my children refuse to believe is actually a product name, because it just seems like an open invitation to stalkers and pedophiles.) Anyway,  it felt kind of like telling an anti-Semetic joke in the Catskills, where everyone just looked at me in silence. I quickly put my hair back up. Anyway, the joke's on me, because all my hair is going to fall out soon anyway.

Also, everyone in there was dressed like it was a Polka Festival in 1978 Des Moines, Iowa. Very popular were track suits. You know the kind, a little shiny and baggy with white racing stripes and a zippy little jacket, the kind now only worn by white rappers, mid-level Russian mobsters, and elementary school PE teachers who don't realize that 1983 HAS LEFT THE BUILDING. I always think they should hand out an enormous clock necklace with those things. Or at least several gold chains.  (Once  REDACTED and I went to a wedding reception where there was a cadre of guests in those track suits and we spent an amusing hour mocking them and wondering what failed heist they were going to pull when they left all hopped up on Blue Hawaiian daquiries.) But I digress. Suffice to say that I -- in my scoop neck black tank top, fashionably old Levis, black suede mocs and hoodie -- was positively stylin'.  Also, note to others, even Dr. Dre doesn't wear a track suit anymore. Give it up. It is not hip, in fact, it's whatever the opposite of hip is. (Hey, maybe I can get Dr. Dre on my all-doc fantasy baseball team. If I can add Dr. Pepper and Doctor Who -- we'll be unstoppable!)

Also, I sat lotus style the whole time, even when I slept, because that's how I always sit. Apparently I was bucking the flow there. The lady across from me whispered to nurse about how could I sit like that?  She commented that she couldn't even bend her legs like that, let alone sleep. So now everything was falling into the normal rhythm.  I was the weird girl in the corner, with all the hair and no track suit, sitting funny, pretending she didn't hear Racist Gerald McRaney trying to start a conversation, nibbling her snooty Fig Newtons and sipping her West Coast Mango Madness Snapple, with her skeleton pillow. Then my son brought me a chocolate malt from Sonic, which I think the woman across from me found a little quease-inducining, in the vain attempt that Doctor Davis wouldn't berate me for not eating. But I ate five Fig Newtons, most of the chocolate malt, half a junior cheeseburger, and my Snapple. So that's a win in my book. I guess I'll save the Milky Way for next time.

The time came when I decided I was too hot instead of too cold, so I attempted to remove the hoodie. I had not realized that the nurse had taped the infusion line to the hoodie, which led to me wrapping both the hoodie and the infusion line around my head, and trying to signal the nurse with my one free hand to come help me before I pulled the port right out of the not-quite-healed incision, for dog's sake, because now I'm like a toddler who has his underwear on his head and can't quite get the snowsuit on over them. Eventually I was untangled and retaped and all was right with the world. I texted for a couple of hours, which made me realize that I need a full-size keyboard attached to my phone to text adequately, because it took me forever to get all the corrections, especially since the "A" is right next to the Shift, so every letter ends up a capital A, and the BACKSPACE it next to the M, so every M ends up erasing the letter that preceded it. I could always do the thing where I speak into the phone, but then people could hear what I was saying, and nothing good would come of that. Really. But the texting was really good and calming despite the corrections. REDACTED It kept me occupied and made me happy.

 The rest of the session was uneventful, and after only 5.5 hours, I was unhooked and allowed to leave racist Gerald McRaney and his track-suited minions behind, with a bright blue Scooby Doo bandaid over the hole in my chest. Luckily it was just in time to get one kid from school and take him to speech, get the other kid from another school and take him shopping for the cookie guts he needs to make two dozen cookies for Robotics class tomorrow, go back and pick up the first kid again, and get home to bake said cookies, finish a science poster, and whatever else I'm sure I forgot. Luckily the older kids have really stepped up and are taking on driving, cookie-baking, and poster-finalizing with only some input from me, so it'll be okay.

I don't feel too bad, just a lil tired, but the nurse said any bad fatigue and nausea will probably hit Saturday, so there's that to look forward to. Still it's not worse than learning Varly has gone on IR for a non-specific groin injury, the fact that they haven't renewed The Bridge yet, and REDACTED REDACTED. Oh, and I think the heater has decided not to participate in warming the house anymore. I think it's in cahoots with the washer, where you have to use a safety pin to pop the button out to make it work. I tell you, watch it, once the appliances become sentient, we're all doomed.......

And don't get me wrong, especially after today I know how lucky, lucky, lucky I am that this is a temporary blip on my screen. Six months is nothing. I can do six months standing on my head. Well, maybe not actually standing on my head, but you get the idea. I'm Steve McQeen, underneath your radar screen.  I'm the Cooler King, Baby, and it's all going to be copasetic. Just a little patience.....

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I'm going to finish my thrilling hospital tale, I promise. I've just been busy rearranging my entire personal and financial life and all that entails, getting back to work, and suddenly having six doctor's and other professional appointments every couple of days. Add the kid stuff, and it's exhausting. So I haven't had much to say that wouldn't just be depressing, and I figure there's enough depressing out there already. I'm trying to regain my sense of humor, but it may be temporarily in hibernation.

So in the meantime, be kind to each other. Tell someone you love them. Hug your kids, just because. Play a little extra fetch with your dogs. Do something good for yourself that you've been putting off. Time is short, and it goes by so fast -- make those moments count.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Earworm

I have entered the post-operative stage called "permanent nausea." Doctor says it'll get better...eventually. I should "eat smaller meals," although I don't know how much smaller than "one freezer pop three times a day" I'm going to get. Blargh.  Don't get me wrong, I'm tremendously grateful for how well things are going, but still.... 

Before I go barf again, here's the latest song playing constantly in my head. Heard it first on the local college station, and now it's all over in that Levi's ad.  Catchy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (Part Deux)

(When last we left our plucky heroine -- Part I -- she was busy being slapped and wanting to pee, and terribly disappointed at the lack of a Machine That Goes PING. )

As the afternoon wore on, I spent the time mumbling and pushing The Button. They hooked some more things to me -- enough electrode adhesives that I resembled a hyperactive 3-year-old's sticker booklet, a telemetry machine that apparently did something, but did not go PING. Eventually I was introduced to Dr. Napier, who would be my on-call physician overnight. (Of course the first thing I asked Dr. Napier was if he was related to Charles Napier. He looked at me quizzically. "The Blues Brothers?" I said. "Bob's Country Bunker?" Nothing. I gave up.)

If you looked up "tall, dark, and handsome" in a dictionary, there would be a picture of Dr. Napier. He was like a cross between the George Clooney and Johnny Depp of on-call physicians. I imagine that Dr. Napier is tremendously popular with all the nurses and patients, even the semi-conscious ones. Hell, maybe even the unconscious ones. When I talked to one of the nurses about something Dr. Napier had said, she replied, "Oh, yes, Dr. Napier, he's really...nice." Emphasizing "nice" in that way that made it clear that Dr. Napier would be even nicer if he'd take his shirt off. But I digress. He seemed very knowledgeable and competent and sharp, which is the important thing. Mostly.

Dr. Napier took a look at the Foley catheter receptacle and said, "This concerns me." It seems the bag was still mostly empty. If he was concerned, I was concerned. If he had told me they were going to sell me off for medical experimentation, I would have said, "Sure, whatever you want." He then listed a number of steps they would take to address his concerns, something about a bolus of fluids, lasix, and an abdominal CT. He said this all very calmly. They hooked me up to a machine that takes your blood pressure every 10 minutes. After a couple of cycles, he looked even more concerned. "Let's get that CT scan," he said.

They weren't about to have me try to stand up again after the last fiasco, so in some manner involving a sheet they transferred me to a gurney. I don't remember much of that, except the disconcerting feeling that if they weren't careful my abdomen was going to burst open like a pinata and it wouldn't be candy that would come spilling out. We went through a series of doors and elevators and hallways while the theme music from "Get Smart" played in my head. They has sent me with the assistant-assistant nurse, probably so that if anything happened to me on the way, they would have plausible deniability. Finally we ended up at the CT scanner place, which seemed to be somewhere in the bowels of the hospital. It was dark and quiet and soothing, and the scanner was manned by three very pleasant young men in scrubs.

They transferred me to the Scanner Gurney (or whatever it's called) and ran me through a couple times, telling me to put my arms up over my head and hold my breath. When they seemed satisfied, they stopped. One of the scanner guys asked me to sit up. I said, "I don't think that's a good idea." He said it would only be for a minute.  What could it hurt?

I was right, and it was a very bad idea. As soon as I was upright, I felt an intense wave of nausea. I barely had time to register the thought that, "Boy, am I nauseated," before I projectile vomited all over the CT scanner and the pleasant young man standing next to it. And when I say "projectile vomited," I mean Saturday-Night-Live-Will-Ferrell-Parody projectile vomiting. I mean Linda-Blair-Exorcist projectile vomiting. I mean six-foot-distance-several-quarts-of-fluorescent-yellow-goo projectile vomiting. 

There was a slight pause. Then I vomited again. And again. Everyone was rushing around trying to find something for me to vomit in. First try was a partial cardboard box, which proved inadequate. Then there was something like a plastic sleeve, which proved even less adequate than the cardboard box. Finally somebody emptied some kind of a container full of something that made a clattering noise when it hit the floor. I hope it wasn't expensive. Eventually I stopped vomiting. I apologized profusely to the pleasant young man now covered in fluorescent yellow goo. He said, "Don't worry, it's not the worst thing that's happened to me," but he sounded like he was lying. 

Next thing I remember, I'm back up in my room, and Dr. Napier is still looking concerned. He's also looking very disapprovingly at the numbers on the blood pressure machine. I eventually learned that was because numbers that low are considered "incompatible with life." Yikes. Turns out the CT scan had showed I had a large hematoma in my abdomen that had collapsed my bladder, and that event had followed backward up the chain of command until it was throwing my whole system off. Add to that the fact that I was very probably overly dehydrated when I went into surgery (thanks to the bowel prep stuff I drank on Sunday), and the fact that I had spent 20 minutes vomiting on everything, and it was a perfect storm, but not the kind where William Fitchner has the Southie accent.

For a while, it was just fluids, blood pressure readouts where they called out numbers like a really boring game of bingo, a parade of phlebotomists tasked to draw blood every hour, and lots of people looking very concerned. At least until the spiders.....

(This is turning out much longer than I had anticipated. I blame Stephen King. To be continued....)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (Part I)

This should be the penultimate of the giant tumor updates, in which I detail the removal of the giant tumor and all that came after it. It's funny now, mainly because I didn't die. What I don't specifically remember, I'm filling in with things other observers have told me.  Think of it as a shoddily made documentary related by numerous unreliable narrators.....

On the morning of the 15th, I went to the hospital, arriving promptly at about 5:30 AM for a scheduled surgery at 7:00. I changed into a gown and handed over my clothes to the SO to be kept in a plastic bag until such time as I might need them again. It was pretty boring for a while, interspersed with some drawing of labs, placing of IVs, etcetera, and a final pass by my doctor, who explained I would not be receiving the robot surgery (BOO!), but would have a full laparotomy because she doubted she'd be able to actually remove the tumor unless I had a HUGE incision. I reluctantly agreed. Then the nurse asked me to hand over my glasses to the SO for safekeeping, and explained she was going to give me a little Versed to relax me. That's the last thing I remember, although I'm told I did say, "I feel a little woozy...."

Flash forward some hours later -- I'm not sure how many hours, because a lot of Monday is just strobe-lit images and vague sensations, and not a lot was really clear until much later in the day. I'm told I said a lot of nonsensical things, to which I replied, "And how would that be different than any other day?"

Anyway, at some point I woke up in the room. My mom and oldest son were there, along with a nurse and assistant nurse. (Apparently you get a doctor, a nurse, an assistant nurse and an assistant-assistant nurse assigned to you, which makes you feel special and important until you realize that all of these people will be constantly poking you with various sharp and dull implements for as long as you're there.) It was probably sometime in the early afternoon. I was hooked up to all manner of machines and tubes: oxygen, blood pressure, pulse ox, fluids, pain killer drip, foley catheter. It had taken me longer than anticipated to come out of anesthesia, so there was mild concern and I was being carefully monitored. I asked questions about how the surgery had gone, and then asked those same questions several times more because I immediately forgot what the answers were. Apparently my doctor was "positive" and "upbeat" and "90% sure" that the surgery would take care of the cancer. They had removed cervix/uterus/ovaries/fallopian tubes and, as a special bonus, my appendix. Apparently with this kind of cancer, the appendix acts as some kind sleeper agent, waiting until you're not paying attention and then going all crazy like a mole in an old episode of "24," so it's best to dispense with it early.

So the surgery was deemed a great success and the hard part was over, now all I had to do was rest, and I might even get released late the next day or early on Wednesday if I could jump through all the pre-release hoops that are set up. You have to perform a number of tricks before they'll let you go, to make sure you're not going to expire in the parking lot and make them look bad. Easy-peasy. I was encouraged to push my painkiller button as often as I wanted to, which I certainly intended to do.

At some point my daughter arrived, and everybody just camped out waiting for me to do something unintentionally hilarious or embarrassing that they could mock me with later. Be careful what you wish for.

I was pretty doped up, but I had this terrible sensation of needing to pee. Most of you, especially women who have been pregnant, will understand the extremely uncomfortable, overwhelming desire to empty your bladder. If you are forced to wait, it becomes incredibley painful and nearly unbearable. I didn't want to be a problem, but I finally told the nurse that she needed to do something. She told me not to worry, that sensation was just a sensation, and that there was no way my bladder would become distended because the Foley catheter would take care of that. I heard what she was saying, but the agony in my lower pelvis was not buying it. I became a little agitated.  Time went by and I became more agitated. It was getting no better.

Finally someone looked at the collection bag for the Foley catheter. (I'm assuming nobody had looked at it before.)  It was distinctly lacking urine. "Well," the nurse said, in that way that indicates the words following "well" are not going to be good. I'm a little fuzzy on the exact next chain of events, but it involved clearing the room and calling in additional personnel and at my best count, four different people tried 3 different catheters. (I think this has something to do with the lemon-sized dark-purple bruise somewhere very uncomfortable). Whatever occurred, it did not produce a satisfactory result for anyone. I believe I am partially to blame for what happened next, because by that point I was in considerable pain AND was "hopped up on goofballs," as they used to say in the 1950s teen crime dramas, and I may have overtly threatened someone that if I wasn't allowed to pee RIGHT NOW bloodshed would ensue.

So, against their better judgement and probably out of extreme frustration that my bladder seemed to have adopted a "no catheter" policy, the nurses agreed to help me to the bathroom so that I could actually pee like a normal person. Sitting up in the bed went well, and I think I managed to take an actual step before I uttered the famous last words I had uttered once already that morning: "I feel a little woozy...." That's the last thing I remember until I woke up to this:

There were literally doctors and nurses standing on the furniture and spilling out the doorway. Various health care personnel kept slapping me and asking if I was awake. I was very annoyed that so many people kept slapping me and asking me stupid questions. Really, like six different people slapped me, as if I'd opened up a slapping booth at a local fair and was having a two-for-one happy hour -- a slappy hour, if you will.  Various crowd estimates have come in so that as best I can figure there were between 15-22 hospital employees shoved into my room in the space of a few minutes.   Unbeknownst to me, at the exact moment they had called the rapid response code on me, my SO and the two smaller children had just stepped off the elevator to visit.  This apparently led to some consternation, especially on the part of the 9-year-old, who burst into tears, causing his sister to burst into tears. Or so I'm told. I was busy being slapped. At one point I distinctly remember requesting "The machine that goes PING," and being upset that no one laughed. At that point I was only talking in movie quotes, which may have made them worry I was not getting enough oxygen. Other than that, I was semi-conscious, which is probably good because at some point someone put in another Foley catheter, and I'm sure there was a sternly-worded admonition not to get up to any further shenanigans. Time passed, slapping me lost its novelty, and most everyone shuffled out to find entertainment elsewhere. Which is a shame, because that was only the opening act.....

(To Be Continued, because I can only sit in the desk chair for so long before I need a pill to combat the numerous throbbing bruises....)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Friday Earworm -- Just a Tad Early

Been working like a dog. Well, not my dogs. They mostly lay on the bed, unless the ice maker goes off, and then they run to defend me, barking furiously.

Here's the earworm around our house right now, and the song we sing really loudly in the car. (Well, when I get the boys to stop singing Billy Joel -- today it was "Moving Out.")

Meghan Trainor is pretty adorable. Dare you not to dance.