Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Number one. Why are you not-right now-running to the Jewel to get another banana to make this? Boo hoo hoo, you say. The mean chia seeds hide in my teeth. Au contraire, says me. It's like entertainment when you find one later in the day. A reminder of extreme deliciousness. 

Oh yeah. Better like this. 

Today was art therapy day! (Which rhymes with yay!) I found a flyer at the cancer center inviting people to come and paint on silk. I am sure you do not recall, but ages ago P and me met with the art therapist and plotted a project that would reflect my extreme anger at having been pulled out of my former life. I don't even remember what my former life was-to be honest. And I'm not sure that's a bad thing. 

Loyola doesn't have ya know, all the accoutrements of a Cancer Center of America but at least they're trying. 

We were going to smash plates for anger release and glue them back together with gold seams along the lines of what those Japanese artisans do but, Mr. Practicality said that we really couldn't get involved in a project that didn't involve us getting paid for our time and while he was oh so wrong-because art is a necessary food group for one's survival-he was also absolutely right, but now this flyer appeared and I was ready. 

Should I tell you about the toenails? 

I walked into this little office and the receptionist indicated a chair for me to sit and I walked over and noticed it was sprinkled with nails. Maybe they were fingernails. They weren't clippings. They were canoes. 


Here's me: OH MAH GAWD, ARE THOSE TOE NAILS? And then I make a gacky sound of disgust. 

And the ladies who had arrived earlier PRETENDED that this was a revelation but YOU KNOW they had seen them because why didn't they sit there? Right? Toenail blindness? I think not. 

Yeah so explain to me how a bunch of human snippings ends up on a chair in a cancer center. What. Was somebody collecting them and they fell out of their back pocket or something? Gaaaaaaah. 

The nice lady receptionist with the pink breast cancer ribbon decorated glasses picked up a tissue and some hand sanitizer and made it all go away and I said, well THAT'S something you can now add to your resume. (because that's what I always think when something gets severely gross in my universe). 

I feel now a certain sense of chill towards my co-artists who left me that place to sit. We were supposed to be being friendly. Uh-huh. Not so much. 

Also one of the ladies said something massively patronizing to me art-wise-like that it was OH-kay that I wasn't following a pattern and I was like, uh yeah. I. know. 

(There was a woman who came into the library who started preaching at me about art. I mean like-it was all I could do to just stand there and take it which is-of course-what I did but come ON people. FIVE YEARS METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. Ya got me?  I will talk with you but do not talk at me. )

I digress. 

We went into a room where there were 4 sort-of easels set up and I took a spot. The white silk was stretched with little clippies already and the dye was pre-poured into ice cube trays. They had plastic medical gowns for us to wear and rubber gloves if we wanted them and they squirted extra dye into our ice cube trays using a hypodermic needle without the needle. Pretty crafty, no?

The Woman In Charge made us go around and say something that we were grateful for. In retrospect, at this point, I wish I had mentioned not sitting in the toenails. 

My plan was to do my flower. According to my mother, our family flower is supposed to be the Calla Lily but my personal flower (if I am permitted a personal flower and I believe that I am)is this one

They explained the process and how the dye bleeds so I knew I wasn't painting any Siberian squill. Not on this day. 

Next thought was the flowers on the bag that a certain woman carries into the library every so often. I so totally dig it. I was thinking of doing them in blue.

And I started in? And it really looked like crap. And the PROCESS of making something ugly and terrible and then fixing it. Ah! I looooooooooooved it. 

So then I thought I was making clouds. Dudes-I was having so much fun because the dye goes on like a dry brush? So cool. I thought-hmm a cloud scarf would be really cool. Scarves don't sit still especially, so pictures didn't really matter, right?

And I got to a point where I didn't know where I was going and I decided maybe I needed some contrasting dots or something so I started checking out the other colors. And totally by accident? This showed up.

You see it? 

And all of a sudden I knew I was painting the ocean. Oh man. That was so cool. 

And before I knew it? I was done. 

You see him? It's a goldfish. So happy he turned up. 

The next step they said was to take an iron and I said, what's that? Because I do not dig the assumption from anyone that I- as a human-own or have time to iron. 

So I guess they're gonna iron it and that makes the dye stay and ya know what? I don't even care. My head was so delightfully relaxed. 

And for that I am eternally grateful. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

I did a lot of cancering this week but not doctors appointments for a change. (Tanks Be To Jezuz. A week off from that.) I went to a talk about nutrition at Wellness House in Hinsdale. I had a big, long-can't say anything more about it because I signed a paper that I wouldn't-interview about cancer stuff in glorious Chicago. And I danced around like a coocoo bird at Gilda's Club in front of one of the Chicago White Sox playas. 

(Thank goodness I did all that Zumba-ing so I had a little bit of a groove-thang going on. That stuff dries up, ya know.  Also-am I too old to dance to this?  Somebody would tell me, right?*)

I was supposed to do even one more cancer thing(I know.) but I had to crap out, because my tires got ugly and had to be replaced and I am doing some serious running around lately and I cannot afford a breakdown, ya know what I'm sayin'? So, I missed the female Beastie Boys cover band which was a gigantic bummer but could not be helped. 

I learned a lot. I stayed in motion. I represented. I was surprised by my own depth of cancer trivia expertise and corresponding fury and my spine felt So Good from the jiggley parts of Zumba on Thursday night. 

Who knew.

There was one thing.

Tuesday, after working Really Hard All Day(I like working really hard. I sleep good.), I drove something like an hour and a half to get to Wellness House but I have a new interest in the topic because this blood cancer thang-I don't know anybody that has it(which frightened me a little bit) and this presentation offered to tell you this:

So, okay. I get there. And good lawd have mercy there are snacks on the table. I don't think I've even been that happy to see a fruit plate and it was a happy one as well! And fresh coffee. And a coconut chocolate chunk cookie and popcorn! 

Whoa, huh? All my favorite things. 
Look! A mercy carrot! 

So before the featured speaker-which was a pretty cool doctor/nutrition person from Cancer Centers of America(A place that one of my neighbors-a long time ago-marched up to me and said if THEY had cancer that's where THEY'D go and you know, what greater gift can you hand someone than a dollop of uncertainty when you clearly have no expertise in the field but ya know, whatever, a-hole)-there was another presenter who had actually coughed up the snackages. I liked her already.

She goes on to say, that there are many many many resources(and here she is indicating money) available to people with that particular strain of blood cancer (I won't say what it is but it starts with an L and I don't think I qualify.) but
(!) she continues: This is not for people who only make $7000 a year. Or people who are about to lose their house. 

I was like


I mean what does THAT have to do with anything? And hey, have you checked the tax returns of all of the people in your audience? A cancer person can EASILY have a year or series of years where they earn minor tiddley-winkage. Some people take an entire year off from working just to get back to better. For me? That person is both brave and heroic for even getting out of bed, let alone having to listen to that flavor of nonsense from a person who's lived their entire life under a west suburban shrub. 

The smug. 

I can barely stand them. 

The next day, I got a strange call from Wellness House. There had been some sort of error in information release and they just wanted to let me know and I was like, ya know what? Now that I have you on the line? Let's have a word about that woman calling out people who are losing their houses, shall we? 

I fought the smug. 

I won. 


*never tell me. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

This week was rough.

For you, too?

And then this happened: 

Yeah, laundry. Did you know I haven't done a stitch of laundry in maybe like three entire years? Uh-huh. Crazy, right? It just shows me exactly how much care my caregiver was givin'-ya know what I mean? Kah-ray-zee. 

We even had a chat-a long time ago-with one of the surgeons who told us that he was also the designated laundry do-er in his household. He picked that job strategically, because he figured cleaning the bathroom was a job that never actually got finished. 

Here's me: a surgeon has to do laundry?!?! 

Well, Saturday was time for me to get back into the laundry saddle and ya know what? Aside from dragging it up and down three flights? I don't hate it and personally and quite frankly, in this case it's a sign of life. 

So, we made a night of it. Pulled out all the stops. 

That's right. Taco Bell. 

Aaaaand. Tasty Freeze. 

In glorious Berwyn. 


It was a good opportunity to realize that even after all of this, we still like each other. What could be sweeter than that?

Sunday, May 6, 2018

When I heard that I had a third cancer, I had a hard time talking. 

I wasn't weeping or anything. I just couldn't completely speak. 

And the funnier part was when I'd hear someone in my universe complain about something random like that they had to wait extra time for their unicorn's golden horn to be reinstalled(or like maybe a new bathtub that they had to stay home for an entire day! Perish the thought!), I'd be like, wha-haaaaaaat? Because generally speaking, people in my universe have it okay. As far as I can tell. 

You never really know tho, do ya? 

Sometime before that news, I had taken the day off for what-I think-they call 'Women's Day' at my gym. They have speakers and presentations and things and I never got to go because I work Saturdays and because Dave from Improv was going to be presenting-only they call him 'Doctor' there at Loyola-I thought it'd be cool to go see him. He's very funny and funny is good. 

Another one of the presenters-and I remember the room was freezing and I almost didn't stay-was a therapist who specialized in issues of eating AND weirdly enough she had done her fellowship-I think-in the Cancer Department so she had two things going on that I needed assistance with, so I asked my delightful Primary Care if he thought it'd be okay if I went to see her and he agreed immediately which was supercoolio in my book. 

It was hard to get in to see her and I had to wait because that is the way life goes and I was cool with it because I knew it was on the horizon and I did start speaking okay again after awhile. 

So now, if you're me, every three months you have this new ritual where you go and do a blood test and then follow up with your specialist. I have two doctors that I have to/get to see-every three months. Instead of freaking out, I lifted some advice from a formerly cancered friend who said that she looks forward (I know!) to these visits, because in case something goes wrong-they can catch it right away. That is some high-level thinking right there, no?

Well, at my last visit, I asked what was going to happen as a result of the third cancer and the doctor told me that my life would be shorter. 

Hmm. Thought me. And off I went.

But, because of my work with my therapist-and the reason I am sharing this is because it was so amazingly helpful-she told me how to ask the hard questions in a language I'm really unfamiliar with. Doctor talk. 

So here-and this is SO especially wonderful because this is written with Kelly's pen and Gail's notebook that they both individually shared with me and one of them said, I wish I could be there with you for this appointment and I was like oh believe me, you TOTALLY are. Not to worry. ha ha ha. But anyway, these were questions that I asked the doctor and it seemed to be like a language he was comfortable with and we had the coolest appointment ever in terms of communication. It does not hurt that he was voted one of those Chicago Magazine top pick doctors that a ton of other doctors would send their own people to AND it didn't hurt that in the past 6 months I've unloaded 22 pounds. 


The good news is-as far as I know today-I'm not exiting the planet any time soon and the other good news is that this week, we go into production with the purpose of curing cancer. 

The bad news is, there isn't any. 

Imagine that. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

This has been a hell of a week. 

(and for those that keep track, right now I'm drinking water infused with fresh raspberries and pink grapefruit. ('What are you drrrinkin' Ann?', asked my Jamaican co-worker. 'Looks like brains.' Oh yeah N'ketchi. Of course I'm drinking brains. Whatddaya think?!) Before this water, I had some cucumber/basil going on but someone told me that the giant jug actually leapt offa the bottom shelf of the fridge and spilled all over the floor and to be honest, I was kind of okay with that. I'm not spending time getting emotionally attached to a green puddle, right?)

Yeah so. Shit. Ya know? 

I could just post that and leave it right there and you'd know almost exactly what I was experiencing, but that would be so far less therapeutic (for me. Heh heh heh). 

I have been practicing Advanced Bravery. I don't now if you've noticed but, uh-huh. That means, I've been actively taking on all the things(all the things? I ask myself? Well maybe.) I have been so skillfully avoiding. (Insert POW emoji here. A big one if you have it.) So there's been phone calls and legal discussions and awful appointments and just one giant thing slamming into the next. 

What I noticed just today? Is that I'm running out of the things I seemed so desperate to google. I kinda have a whole lot less to think about. Which is weird. But good weird, because that leaves room for growth-I'm thinkin'-but I'm new at this so don't quote me. 

(Also I ate an entire plastic box of baby kale by myself over a period of 2 hours.What is UP with me?*)

My biggest accomplishment is that I got through a visit at the dentist and-this is even better-I treated myself to a grand dose of nitrous. I learned this particular self-care philosophy from a social worker who had been through some advanced medical trauma herself, and she told me in no uncertain terms that I had the right to demand that my treatments be as painless as possible, so when the dentist offered? I thought, ya know what? The rest of these people have their five hundred craft beers and whatever. I'm getting nitrous! 

The greatest part of that experience happened tonight, when I got to tell my Dad that under the influence of said laughing gas,I called upon my late mother for protection and man. If you could have heard my father roar laughing. It was all so totally worth the trip. 

Thanks for joining me. 

*Okay it's caesar dressing and parmesan cheese on the kale. That's what's up with me. ha ha ha! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

You know that scene in The Wizard of Oz where they're all getting makeovers? (Snip snip here, snip snip there and a couple of Tra La Lah's.) That's kinda what it's like at P.T.. One whole lotta busted people getting repaired. It's so cool. It's hard for me not to stare at people because I'm thinking, hmmm. What happened to that guy? Or what's up with her? 

One day, I was curtained off from a guy who was telling the story of his stroke and how he was watching a Bears game at a bar and he didn't feel good so he thought what he needed was a drink(uh-huh) and he still didn't feel good(shocking!) so he lit a cigarette and then he ends up on the floor and his sister says,"I think you had a stroke!". I'm on the other side of the curtain like, WhAaAaAt?!?! But of course, I'm just listening quietly cuz I'm nosey that way. Who needs to watch movies when there is just so much life? Ya know?

Anyway, what I want to say is that I did not know exactly how holistic and cool P.T. was. (Myself I cannot go to the place of cigarettes and beer for pain relief. Duh.) I really had no idea what P.T. was but it's all working to get back to our good friend Mr. Homeostasis and like my friend Chris said about the trainers at the gym? They like people who work hard at it. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to try. 

Someone told me the P.T. room was filled with whiners and crybabies who didn't do their homework and I can completely understand because in the words of the late radio doctor Joy Browne,"We all move towards pleasure and away from pain."  but you only get so many tries at this and I'm not wasting my turn.

I went there initially, because I was having a hard time getting up offa the floor but interestingly, I ended up having this crazy shoulder pain-out of nowhere-which, of course, in my mind(and every other survivors mind-as I understand) raises the possibility of some sort of cancer. I mean, you can almost watch your head jump from conclusion to conclusion but once that train of thought gets started-only a extremely patient doctor can stop it. (If it was breast cancer, you wouldn't feel it and if it was bone cancer, it would feel like an explosion is what he said. I didn't think it'd ever be in my arm, I said. I imagined my hip. Well, your hip is a bigger bone but you can even have that in your skull. Yipes.) and then add in the news of an acquaintance exiting the planet because of cancer/blood clots/stroke and I mention it all because of something Courtney the PT said yesterday as she was trying to loosen my scapula which must have decided somewhere along the way to fail to cooperate but she asked me if I was working this week and she meant massaging and I said, nope. I'm off this week and she said good. 

And I thought good? A girl's gotta hustle in this town, no?

And she said, you need to rest. 

Hmm thought me. That sounds nice. 

We could all use some of that. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I don't know what day it was that I went to get my taxes done.  Last year I did them myself and I screwed them up and I had to pay and ugh, ya know? P recommended his lady at H&R Block because if I went to her-he'd get some sort of $25 gift card thing and I put it off as long as I possibly could and finally-because I had to show my tax forms for something totally unrelated-I made an appointment. 

This is a place that we had to pass about 500 times on the way to Loyola(Imagine I drove myself to surgery. That is so badass-now that I think about it.) so I knew where it was and I got there and I think I had to wait and this woman comes out and I think, umm okay. I wonder what it was about this particular woman because I'm just not seeing it. 

She was very overweight, grey hair, limping(or 'vaulting' as we call it in massage town) and she had on a blouse with an autumnal pattern of leaves and this was the beginning of Spring. I just didn't get it but whatever, right? It had to be done. 

So we begin the tax dance and I hand her my stuff and-I had never been to H&R Block before so I don't know if this is 100% normal, but she starts grilling me about receipts. 

Did I not have one for ________? That was the game.

Do you not have any purchases for massage? Not a new table? Not new equipment? Not lotions? Not sheets? Not a new massage chair? Not anything? Are you sure? Are you completely sure? Shaking her head. Shaking her head. Shaking her head. 

And then we went into personal expenses. Do you not have any receipts for a new computer? Or a new phone? Or a new car? Or prescriptions? Or new glasses? Or dental work? Or how about ___ or how about ____ ? What about this? What about that? Frown frown frown. 

This was relentless and she was judgmental. It was crazy uncomfortable. 


I said: Hey. Look. I am dealing with issues of cancer. Financially, the brakes have been on for several years. There are no receipts. There have been no purchases. Stop asking.

For fuck sake. 

We got-at some point-to my birthdate and she smiles because she is something like three years younger than I and I'm thinkin' holee shit. Do I look like that? 

And it gets to quittin' time-mercifully-and it turns out that P isn't going to get his $25 because it's going to be cheaper for me to take the first time customer special of something like 150 bucks(That's not accurate but it was a whole lot of money)as opposed to the 300 I was supposed to be charged(Umm WHUT?!?!) and I end up having to come back another time and she leaves me waiting while she asks some other dude a string of horrendous personal questions that I am overhearing out of her cubicle and I get the Customer Satisfaction Survey where they ask me the likelihood of my return and if there was a button that said 'When hell freezes over' that's what I would have pushed. 

(Later I found out that her day job was a parole officer. A professional quizmaster. Lucky me.)


Last Friday, I was flying. 

No kidding. I even drew myself a picture-this was such an astounding event. 

If you know me in my second Chicagoland lifetime, you might know what scares me. Yeah. The dentist. Having not been for a year or two, on top of many many other frightening things-I knew I had to go but it took almost all I had-to get myself there. 

My strategy for that day was to completely immerse myself in self-care. It was like a blizzard of taking care of myself so that when I finally arrived in the dental chair? I was at a level of such maximum chill that I couldn't even believe it myself. 

The entire dentists office was so delightfully charming to me-really. When I walked in? About five different women all looked at me and smiled encouragingly. It made me laugh-they were so nice. 

So as you can imagine, where I left there having had a successful cleaning? I was euphoric. 

So there I am, in the canned food section of The Jewel. This was my planned prize payoff event for whatever was going to happen at the dentist. 

I am hunting for the appropriate size can of corn that we scored in the latest episode of Jewel Monopoly and I don't have my glasses so, I'm having a bit of a struggle but it's okay because I'm so so so happy with myself it's a kind of a glorious thing. 

A woman I know approaches and plants her feet in front of my cart. I look up and she says, So. 

What color is your hair supposed to be?

My brain goes into slow motion because I never expect something like that. In a million zillion years, under what circumstances would that comment be appropriate because I'm not finding it. I sputter out something like, uhhhwhat color is YOUR hair supposed to be? As if me saying it to her is going to illuminate the crazy inappropriateness of uninvited commentary on another person's appearance cuz you know that went nowhere fast. 

I remember asking my Mom to buy me How Chicks Are Born which-for all this time-I thought was called How Chickens Are Born and I am sure-because I asked for it-I must have read it like 10 thousand times and I can't even explain the fascination except to say it rears it's head again today only in title because from both these stupid, unnecessary, rude experiences(and I know for sure they're not the worst things people have ever said)I-with the help of some magical people-will be announcing the creation of a new business that I believe will contribute to the cure of a certain cancer. 

I'm gonna need your help. There's a lot of pieces to put together. 

Please stand by.