Thursday, October 12, 2017

Things I Know Now

Embracing Your Inner Wizzlebeast.  I think the Hairgods only allow you one good haircut at Supercuts. I must have used mine up the first time(dammit) because the haircut I got the last time frightens me. I look like my hair is on backwards. 

I look like a Suburban Mom. I said this to an actual Suburban Mom sporting The Very Coolest Haircut Ever and she said, "That's what you're supposed to look like! That's what you are!"

Actually, that's what I'm not. 

Mammograms. Once you've experienced The C, mammograms frighten the shit out of you. You might be a whole lot more brave about asking to see the results and stuff but still. 



 Pain. I woke up in the middle of the night with my left arm killing me. I didn't know what it was. "Did you think it was The C?" asked my fellow survivor friend because every ache gets your imagination rolling in a bad direction. The strange thing was, I didn't have any idea what it was-until the next day when I remembered I'd gotten my second Hepatitis B vaccine shot. 

How does a person forget a shot? I don't even know.


Working My Ass Off/Doing Too Much. Somewhere in the bowels of my imagination, I have it in my head that if I just work hard enough-I can turn my financial ship around. There's no way this can actually happen under current conditions but do not tell this to my head where my mothers voice whispers unsweetly: MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES! 


Our Pharmacist is Leaving. She told us last night. I think this actually affects P more than me because he was the fetcher but I was happy for her because she appeared to have become so miserable behind the counter at Jewel Osco and later I realized it's kind of a gigantic bummer because it was So Nice to have someone on The Inside. 

We are writing her a Thank You card. It's the least we can do. 


Firing Your Doctor. Got into a conversation with a woman at the library who was also a cancer survivor and she talked about firing doctors if they didn't meet her needs. I have orchestrated the release of The Blood Lady. I should have done that a long time ago but I wasn't this version of myself yet. 

You have to kinda forgive yourself for some of the decisions you make along the way. You might not have actually been you. 


Next time: Running Lessons. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I took a writing class a couple of years ago. And the gist of creating a best seller according to the instructor-who had a whole stack of success stories on his bookshelf-went something like this: make a warm, lovely, likable character and at every opportunity do the Very Worst Thing you can imagine to them. (Read yourself some Gone Girl with this in mind. It will totally ruin it for you.)And this is not to say I think I am warm, lovely or likable. You shouldda seen me on Saturday night. I was a wreck. 

Monday-coming home from job one-I got bitten by a dog.


Next week(or this week coming up)I'm making some drastic changes to my life and I had been almost laughing(but not actually laughing at all-some people don't grasp the difference) to myself. You say to your life, okay, get ready, we're gonna do a few things differently and your life says, oh really? 



I got to go to Peak Running With A Twist and score my pair of freeeeeeeee running shoes courtesy of the good people at Cancer to 5K. I(completely straight-faced)told the charming shopkeeper/acclaimed marathoner that I needed the ones that were magical and she nodded in agreement. 

She wasn't kidding and neither was I. 

Then I asked about socks, because The Penguin says cotton is not your friend and she was kind enough to understand that I absolutely required crazy colored ones and she went in the back and hunted some down and they all go quite well with my fully-functional magic wand, no? 

It's not breast cancer pink. It's Badass pink. Completely different. 

That's what I thought too. 


I had occasion to speak to a woman who's sister died from skin cancer and who's other sibling was diagnosed with stage  4 colon cancer which had metastasized to more organs and if you could possibly find anything good about that conversation-and you could if you looked-we had a few 'colon cancer gets no respect' exchanges and I told her about the giant inflatable colon(rent or own!) and how it would be fun at a pool party and she said she'd pass that on to her sister and we talked about hernias and work and her sister had a hernia too and the woman looked at me and said something like,"And you massage too?!?" and you do not have any idea how good that tiny little sentence made me feel.  

That's all you're really looking for, no? *A little understanding. 


*Okay. That and a winning lottery ticket. Or two. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

I found my current hairlady from a massage client who used to manage a-not a Supercuts-the other one-Hair Cuttery. She was a manager there but not pulling enough dough(did you know most of these kind of service women are only making minimum wage and not EVEN getting any commission on product sales? To touch people's disgusting heads? It is an honor, a privilege AND a requirement to tip 20%. You don't have the 20%? Go someplace cheaper.) and I'm not sure how we got on my favorite topic in the universe(hair)but we did. 

Origin of favorite topic. It was the 70s? November 24th,1976.(You weren't born yet? Too bad.) I just looked it up. My sibling and I were upstairs cleaning our room. Ugh what a bummer but now I experience those same: You're not going anywhere today you're staying here and CLEANing moments in my own life and I understand. My Mom called us down. Come quick. Vidal Sassoon was on Phil Donahue. 

It was, quite frankly, mind expanding. Women who had kept their hair in a permanent bun-like women did in those days-who Sassoon exposed as getting mold in their hair from putting it up wet. Big funky cube shaped 'fros. Art and design on your head. Just incredible stuff for the time period. I wish you had been there. 

It's not actually the 'do that drives my interest. It's that one slice that makes you look as if your intelligence has been dramatically increased. There was an ad-when I studied that stuff. Cartoon of Frankenstein:"A bad haircut can make anyone look stupid."

I digress. 

I was talking to my massage client and my frustration was that this-not as cheap as Hair Cuttery but close-place I was going to, was costing me So Much Time. I mean, you expect that from a beauty school because people are learning how to hold all that stuff as well as a conversation, but I was getting stuck sitting there for hours. Like an entire Sunday morning. So not cool. 

I was getting bleach applied(I think they call it a Soap Cap? It's for resistant grey hair.) and then sitting and then something called Malibu and then sitting and then color and more sitting and that is not even the cut. 

So my massage client says, Malibu? Do you swim a lot? 

Umm nope. I leap around in the pool but not my head. Hmm she says. That's for taking the chlorine out of your hair. 

Hmmm, thinks me. Bad hmmmm. 

In the words of Judge Judy: Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. 

I switched over to my client's hairlady. Strangely-it's even closer to my house than the last place. And that is coming from someone who would drive for a good haircutter. Far. Really far. 

She is Hispanic-probably late 40's and obsessed with looking younger. Not just her. EVERYBODY. 

She explained that her husband is younger than her and she fears he will leave her for a newer model. 

For me-good lawd have mercy-I have done so much learning in the Department of Self-acceptance. In a million years, I wouldn't ask to look younger. It's a stupid game that you will not ultimately win, right? 

Once, I visited an extremely handsome gay couple in the East Village for dinner. Their bathroom was ringed with a special shelf just for all their skin potions. So when you're 60, you're gonna look 55, huh? said me. I wasn't invited back. 


Here's another one I picked up from a hairman in Elmsville-the town of my yoot. He said, "You go to your class reunion and everybody looks old-except you." 

I have another doctors appointment this afternoon. It's with the blood lady. The hematologist. It's a little worrisome-ish based on her having looked at the new information from the pre-hernia cat scan and now, wanting to see me. 

Hmmm. This morning, looking old seems kind of even more okay as a goal. And getting old. That'd be even better. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday, before the medication arrived, we were sitting here and I was telling P about the video of the dog who brings a carrot out to his horse. He's half listening and I'm all like okay so it's this black dog and he shoots out of his house and goes straight out to the barn, and then you don't see him for a minute and then all of a sudden, he comes out of the barn and he brings this carrot over to the horse and the horse doesn't take it right away, but the dog stands there and then the horse DOES take it and and the dog starts running back-but he gets distracted for a second and starts licking his butt and then he kinda remembers what he was doing and he starts racing back toward the house and P says, wait, the horse was licking the dogs butt? 

Laughing hurts me so much right now it's a beautiful thing. I had to sit here with a pillow across myself to keep my internal organs from flying across the room but oh mah gawd so worth it. This whole being alive thing. Fantastic. 

Laparoscopic surgery is more painful than open surgery. This is what they told me. It doesn't make a bit of sense, does it? In this surgery, they started laparoscopically-there's two extra holes-but they switched over because I needed additional julienning. 

Crazier still. You know how I've been trrrrrrying to eat better and water aerobicize my sorry ass and all. So, so, so very glad that I did. You should see how the organic popcorn wants to blast through the paper bag. It's so much different from Orville Redenbacher and his grocery-store-shelved ilk. So, I'm there on Friday getting the hardware out of my belly(didn't hurt) and the surgeon reaches over and peels off the shiny tops of the two laparoscopic incisions. Like you'd take the top off a Yoplait. 

Super Glue. He says. The stuff that sealed the incisions is made from the exact same thing.

Shaking my head.  

I had a-what do you call that? An epiphany-just about an hour or two ago. A big one. Bear with me.

Start with Cheryl Strayed. I got interested in her because one of the people I featured in my library Facebook feature-if you will-happened to be a professor at Loyola(everything is connected) and was just over the moon(<---understatement) about anything that came from the keyboard of Cheryl Strayed. 

I saw Wild. I remember the boots falling. Right? 

And then for some reason I happened on Dear Sugars. That's like this advice podcast that pops up on Facebook here and there. I like to read it more than I ever listened to it but Saturday, I was diddling around here doing some stuff and I decided to listen. It was an episode where they were going to answer a lot of questions all in a row and then the following episode was going to be Oprah taking about saying no. Or something. I'm paying attention and I'm not paying attention. You understand. (See paragraph one.)

Cheryl Strayed mentions her broken relationship with her father. I almost think she did it twice and I'd read about it in her super cool book and I was thinking, Jeez, ya know? Do you never resolve something like that in your head or is it just something you carry forever like an American Express card er whut?

Well, (like many other people),I have my own American Express card of familial disappointment and it just churns in my head continually like for sport. And I thought ya know, maybe if I sang it all the way through(like a song that sticks in your head) maybe then it will go away but it only churns and churns. 

I have a sibling and a nephew and a father. I believe under the current circumstances, these people would be considered my immediate family. Maybe not the nephew. I talk to my Dad every day around 1:30. We are completely cool. 

And there's been four surgeries at Loyola. 2 cancers plus the adrenal gland plus 2 hernia repairs. 

And do you know who's shown up for all of them?

This guy. 

And you know who has taken care of these things?

Yeah. Same guy. 

(You know I've only known him for a couple of years, right?) 

And for a long time, from what I'd read, the reason they say your own people don't show up for each other for these kind of life threatening kinda things is that they're too scared. And for what? A year or two now? I've been kinda jangling that idea around in my head. (She's too scared?!? What about me?)

A high school friend, Susan, died-from lung cancer nosheneversmoked-right before our very eyes on Facebook-I mean, one day she was there laughing so hard and the next day it got Too Quiet and I could not put myself in motion in the direction of her funeral. I just sat here like a maroon and felt numb but this has been Four Separate Occasions. 

Four different pairs of no-slip yellow socks as it were. No call. No card. No visit. No dog walk. No, hey I understand you don't get paid while you're down for the count here's 10 bucks.  No giant bag of delicious fruit because that came from Mary Next Door. No funny book because that came from Lindz. No cookbooks to look at because that came from Patty down the street. No hey what can I do for you/name it because that came from Amy. No I'm praying for you/Girl you look good! because that came from Carlisa pushing carts in the Jewel parking lot. And on and on and on. 

And I realize, this very evening, why Cheryl Strayed has to keep talking about cutting her father out of her life. Because you just cannot believe that something like that could possibly be true and in case the relationship rears its head again, you've got to remember why it died in the first place. 

Got it now. Moving on. 


Friday, July 21, 2017


Did I mention that I had to get tied down in recovery? Uh huh. I guess when I was coming out of the anesthesia, I decided it was time for me to go home and the nurse told me I was fighting her and ooh, I said, sorry about that, but internally I was like, heh heh heh cool. Good to know there's some fight left inside.

I woke up to an extremely nice room. Like The Hilton or a very good Holiday Inn or something. All by myself and no god forsaken beeping from the pole. (Do you remember that from last time? When they got mad because I was shutting off the beep myself?) These nurses seriously hustled. And with one exception they were so nice and if anything I over-thanked them because that's how it should be.  

They were pretty strict about ordering breakfast like, come on. Order something. So, I exhibited Very Good Behavior and ordered spinach and mushroom omelettes with whole wheat english muffins and ate about half. 

The one cranky nurse got off on the wrong foot with me when her opener was something about how she wasn't going to let me just lay around in bed all day and that I had to get out and walk. Oh really? I thought to myself. 

But people say stupid things to ya all the time, don't they. I'm starting to notice it more and more. Maybe the thing to do is learn how to shake them off or to swing offa them until they get you to the next lily pad.  

Here's the craziest thing. Along with the cranky nurse, I seem to have been assigned a special student nurse and she was SO cool. Like the cranky nurse would be saying something random and I'd lock eyes with the student nurse and we'd both be like, uh-huh?!?!?!?!?!?

We just sort of hung out and blabbed and I did my very very best to encourage her as a person-not that she needed my help. No siree Bob. She took me for a stroll. I felt kinda extra fortunate like I got the cool tutor who takes you for ice cream or something. 

Now I'll always know the room I had. The one behind the flag.

Today is the day to get the hardware out. There are 14 big staples running down my belly. My cousin called them bling. 
: ) First, I thought there were 13 and that mystified me-if you were going for 13 why wouldn't you go for 14? But I counted bottom to top and I felt better. 

I intended on having a nice list of questions for the surgeon but I can't think of anything right now. Here's one: How do I never end up in this position again? 

How do I feel? I'm not having that screaming pain that I was getting at first when I shifted positions. After I walk, I've been using an ice pack because I still feel a sort of a burning but I stopped the official pain pills a few days ago because I don't need jet engine fuel running through me while I'm stuck here in park. 

Thanks for all the kind thoughts and stuff. Have a happy day. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I moved back here just before my mother was scheduled for some surgery herself a long long time ago. "Aren't you so glad you were here to help her?" asked my Aunt Lois. "Uhhno.", thought me. 

I was living in the upstairs of the house of the parentals. Stripped of everything except a dog, a car, a visa bill. And kind of a huge mess. This was in Elmhurst, the surgery was set for Oak Park. Ironically-at the hospital that's just down the street from me. I wouldn't go there myself-if I had a choice-and so far I have. Knock wood. 

It was firmly established that I wasn't going along to my mother's surgery.  She knew I wasn't going to be there. I was an anxious, panicky disaster. I wouldn't add anything to the group and so, I ended that evening sweeping the floor and watching Everybody Loves Raymond which I thought was Very Funny. 

The phone rang and I was commanded to go out in the cold because my mother all of a sudden desperately needed her Own Pillow. Of course, I didn't want to go, but how would one live with oneself denying ones own mother a bit of comfort in her hour of need. Shit.

I didn't really know my way, but I drove to Oak Park in the dark and it was so late that the front entrance of the hospital was closed and in the freezing air, carrying her fancy pillow, I had to go around to the emergency entrance. If you thought I was jumpy walking around my parents home sweeping-you had to see me try and make my way through the bowels of a hospital trying to avoid sharing an elevator with any possible dead people or what have you. 


Somehow I got where I had to go. There was a hideous decorative wallpaper border on the edges of the room that made the whole thing close up even faster and ignite my flight response. 

I think my Dad finally came and then we went up to some higher floor where the all-important pillow was delivered to her room. She was asleep. It never mattered. 

Later in the week, I made soup and took her out for walks in the frosty air. She recovered and went on to have a lot more fun. 

Today is one week after the surgery. 

We did one whole lot of running around on Monday collecting the list of stuff we needed to make a terrarium. (They call them 'fairy gardens' too now. I'm not really down with fairies especially. I like a nice gnome.) We got a super cool old pickle jar from the Goodwill(pink tag $1.00 off), and some activated charcoal at the pet store(That was maybe the most expensive thing($6?) but if it makes the whole thing not stink-I say it's well worth it.) A little bag of rocks from the Dollar Store. 

The inside of the thing goes: rocks, activated charcoal, dirt + plants, moss. The gnome came from Michaels as well as a box of reindeer fern that was tinted in shades of green. We were too late to get to the plant store, so we went yesterday for that and it ended up that we had plenty of stuff for two terrariums so back to the Goodwill to find another jar. P would like a monkey for the non-gnome one and I have this urge to hand craft a whole bunch of little tiny ducks. I think that would look really cool. 

Why are we doing this? asked P. 

Because we have to Mark The Occasion, said me. We kicked ass on this one. 


The moment I knew that everything was going to be okay was in the pre-op area. We probably met 11 new people between everyone and the chaplain came in and gave P a chance to pray aloud and we Did Not Even Laugh eventho our faces were set to 100% explosive glee. And the most exotic anesthesiologist who actually listened and believed me(!) when I told her I had spent the last post surgical week throwing up. It's extremely not cool to be heaving when you've just had your linings reinforced. And she adjusted the approach to deliver the drugs via vein as opposed to gas and that totally worked perfectly but that wasn't even it. In the midst of all this drama-they took my blood pressure and it was dead on perfect.   

Even the nurse paused to admire it. 


For the record, you should leave your best pillow at home. It's not going to make you feel like you're not in the hospital(unless you're taking some very significant drugs that I am not aware of) and when you get home, you're going to have to go hunting for a new pillow because your favorite one will have hospital cooties on it and who wants that.

Know from whom random commands may come and listen to your own heart every time.  


Sunday, July 16, 2017

They sprung me on Saturday. 

I had my Get Well balloon and my Smiley face balloon, a card from Marilyn, and half the sandwich from my lunch, and a red jello and a can of Diet Shasta Ginger Ale and some sorta stuff that's supposed to clean your hair without shampooing and one of those plastic lung clearing blowing things and instructions and 2 prescriptions. I asked the woman that was pushing my wheelchair if we could wait for my ride outside(instead of inside)and it was so funny how she maneuvered the wheelchair so that she got to sit down too. 

We got home and P grabbed all the crap and I started up the three flights. I had to stop and rest a bunch of times but I made it and Grantley was SO happy to see me she rubbed her whole self against my leg. 

I think I went straight to the bed and became one with the mattress. Then I realized there was no way I could get up. Quite a few times-in the last day or two-I've thought about upside down turtles because just for the moment I've turned into one. 

P had to come and help me figure out how to get up. Any big movement currently comes with a string of guttural grunts that I've never heard come out of me before. Sometimes it's a string of three F's but the coolest ones are when I don't realize I'm about to really hurt myself. 

With all the arsing around, P didn't leave for the pharmacy 'till 5:00. We weren't even thinking that it was Saturday and that pharmacies close early on Saturdays. SO. Saturday night? No pain pills. 

Hmmm, thought me. If I could just stay still, I'll probably be fine but you know I couldn't sleep properly because I had pain but I was trying to be realistic about it and I held on to the fact that the Jewel pharmacy opened at 9:30 and by 10:00 all would be swell, right?

Despite having the prescription handed in at 9:30ish, I didn't score the pills till way late in the afternoon. There was an issue that a resident signed the prescription instead of the attending? And to our pharmacist and the rules of the Jewel, she couldn't dispense the pills. 

I thought it was quite ridiculous. I mean, she knows us. And did she not realize that these were pills for pain that was actively happening? Cripes. But I made phone calls and I was about to make a second round of calls when my surgeon rang me up and while checking on my status, he took on the whole drama himself. He said he thinks it's the only pharmacy in the state of Illinois that follows that rule. He is Really Nice and Non-Ridiculous.

I decided to walk over there myself looking like a compete wizzlebeast and if she gave me further drama about it-well, I just didn't think that she would. So, we walked on over there. Slowly. 

And I admired my newly elevated levels of badassitude. 

Uh huh.