Friday, October 30, 2015

I call my Dad everyday and I try and make him laugh. 

My Dad-if he answered the phone when my Mah was alive-he'd immediately pass the receiver over to her and she'd get a chair. I think that's what we called them in the olden days. Receivers. 

So, I never knew what a fantabulous laugher he is. 

Everyday, I try to say something really awful to make him crack up. Last thing we laughed about was that from now on I've decided we're calling it 'wind'. 

He's also been monitoring my health. 
I'd say: I'm itchy. He says: Good. You're healing. 
                                          Cranky. Healing. 
                                          Having burning pain in my belly. Healing.
(A variation on this theme is the classic: Your voice sounds a lot better.) 

So I'm talkin' to him yesterday telling him I'm still uberconstipated** and after he says 'Oh dear.' he says, Didja have a Coke?

A Coke? Is that supposed to do something? I say. (You do not know the extremes I've visited. Shudder. ) 

I don't know, he says. 

Later, P gets home and I say, my Dad asked me if I had a Coke.

And a lightbulb goes off over P's head. Coke and chocolate. 

What? sez me. 

P's Dad told HIM about that combo many years ago, he says. 

What? says me. That sounds crazy. Go get some, will ya?

So I'm drinking a glass of Coca-Cola and eating a couple of those fun-sized Hershey bars and thinking, in another time and space. I would have considered this some sort of a feast but this is pretty gross actually. Drink another Coke. My belly is starting to hurt a little. Wind from the south. Uggh. 

Day goes on. I reinvent the rat trap.(see figure A*)  Feel like crap. Watch three episodes of Blue Bloods in a row. Get in bed with these tiny tiny pains and all of a sudden. Eureka. And Eureka. And Eureka. And Eureka. (can you dig it?) 

Breathing again. 

This morning-for fun-I started looking at pictures of hair colors. Healing.


*(Fig. A) See, we think the rats were squeezing out from under the sink, so with the assistance of these old drawers-we dog proofed the traps.  We haven't captured one but we're also not leaving dog food or water out so maybe they've moved on to the people who live below us and smoke some sort of herbal concoction which is making me wanna heave. A person can hope, right? 

**A friend who also experienced this post-abdominal surgery, hardcore, gut contents turns into plaster of paris said it was so bad for her that she cried.  Have you made your colonoscopy appointment yet? 

: )

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Your New Family

After my Mah made her transition, it was a real shock to me, that what I thought was my fortress of a family was drying up. My Mah had ten brothers and sisters, and I'm not saying we all twirled spaghetti or sliced gigantic pineapple covered hams together on Sunday afternoons because we never did (that I recall) but it was just the idea that we were this thing and now? Almost nothing. 

My Dad came to the hospital every day. He came in and took a nap on the extremely uncomfortable couch and once-by accident-they gave me two-every seven hours-purple popsicles instead of one and I was able to share-which filled me with happiness(we are in the years where I'm supposed to serve him-not the other way around, duh.) 

I don't remember him ever leaving but I will tell you-we are not very demonstrative but there was this one time-he took my wrist and I took his wrist and DANG this magical energy thing happened between us. 

Really, it was a glorious moment and it makes me believe even more in the power of touch. POW. 

(This Paragraph Left Intentionally Blank) 

My next relation was Marilyn. She sent this super fabulous red(my favorite)plant with a polka dot bow and we just sorted out-last Saturday evening-some of the action that took place during my hospital stay. She said she couldn't believe how good I looked sitting up in a chair in the ICU. (Do you know I JUST realized it's also sounds like 'I see you'? Some things I've just never had to think about.) Her next visit was the exact opposite. 

I had gone psycho. Which-I know this is crazy, but as a former professional people-pleaser, I am SO proud of myself. 

Yay me. 

I remember feeling so-oh-oh-oh sick and I remember hearing Marilyn say, 'Hi Norm." and I thought, isn't that so wonderful she remembers his name and then fetal position pain and retching and agony-she said I was banging on the pain juice dispenser like a crazy person,  and sending the cloying Russian-ish respiratory lady away having refused her plastic bag of breathing gunk. Even almost mean-like. I'm so happy about that.  RAWR. And she walked Grantley. And brought over a book. And delivered Jewish-penicillin from Seymour on the day before the Cancer Czar gave us the go to get the hell out of there. Coincidence? I think not. 

Anni-dog walker supreme. She took a few spins with Grantley and did. not. accept. payment. The other super cool move was this: I think it was a day after I got home? She rang P to see how I was doing. I thought, whoa that is SO classy. 

Eilene. She wanted to assist and I asked her to help me with this rat nonsense. (They seemed to have disappeared. I do not believe it for a minute.) She was all over getting life stuff organized and now, she's going to help me change the universe. No big thang. 

Philip. Look. We're not married. We met a couple years ago via a personal ad. That's the big joke around here. We would say: I don't remember THIS being mentioned in your Chicago Reader ad as he goes out in the rain after 10:00 at night for glycerine suppositories OR puts me to bed and stacks covers on me. 

There's above and there's beyond and then there's Philip. 

Gail and Shari. Kind words regarding my writing are propelling me forward. It's the smallest gestures-don't cha think? 

Kelly and Julie. EA. Jeanne. Francesca. Terry. (I'm gonna miss someone-watch for updates) Lindsay. I wish she could teach classes in effective cheering uppage. Mary Kay, Leni. Mayjaynemilla. Queester. Joey. The pray-ers. The positive energy senders. (Your name here.) And stupid, stupid facebook. The clicks, the comments, looking at your photos. 

People, you is my family now. 


The nurse didn't call me back which seems kinda uncool, no? The plumbers did not arrive. The remodeler did not ever show or call(hey so guess what? You lost the gig. Dumbass.) The rats got quiet. There was a tiny bit o bowel action but we're not out of the woods yet. 

I spent the day standing with a bottle of Windex and walking around the palatial estate wiping things off and after reading a paragraph about a woman who was diagnosed with colon cancer who died after one year post diagnosis-who's advice from beyond the grave was: Be as active as you possibly can, me and the G went outside for a walk. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I'm waiting.

To evacuate.(Nothing worked. I used the other half of lemon to clean the microwave.)

For the nurse to call me back again. (I asked for some concoction that you don't have to drink. She said there's no such thing.)

Waiting for the rats to eat the Polish ham that's been lovingly draped over big new traps-so we've kinda like opened up a rat restaurant. (Ratstaurant, if you will.) The idea being, the first day it's a soft opening. The food is free and artfully draped on these big new asskicking traps with the yellow plastic cheese-ham serving feature. When the time is right, the brand new (and dare I say improved) exterminator will return, there will be fresh ham and then he'll set the traps to kill. 

I thought we'd captured one a few days ago. I heard screaming. My neck got hot. But no. 

We did get money knocked off the price because P is in change of removal. I can't sweep up a rat in a full body cringe. How would I hold the broom? 

Of the ten new traps that have been set up, only one attracted a diner last night, so phase two might not start today. So I'm waiting.

Also today they're supposed to come and rotoroot the big drain out to the street because we've been smelling sewer gas and the first floor's been having some issues and they asked if someone could be home and that's me. 

Prime Minister of Waiting. 

And an old acquaintance is going to stop by and give an estimate for pulling out and replacing the cabinet(is that what you call it?) that surrounds the kitchen sink because we suspect that's the point of entry.  We can't do that until the restaurants close for good. We wait. 
One of my many bosses-who's driven through Cancertown herself(as a passenger with her Mom, I believe)-had a question: What do we tell the others? Because, pre-surgery, I didn't want to be additionally frightened by anyone's else's crazyassed fiction so I slipped outta there and didn't think about it again, until she got in touch with me, and asked again, what do you want to tell people? 

I'm working on this.

 During a routine health exam, the beginnings of a cancer appeared in Ann's rectum(See? Right there. TMI. Gack.)the beginning of a cancer appeared in Ann's lower digestive system. On the way to removing that cancer, the doctors noticed Ann's adrenal gland 'lit up' and it was decided that it was best to remove that too. 

The adrenal gland isn't a place where cancer starts. So if they found cancer in that thing, it would indicate that there was another source and that her whole belly would have been a sort of a cancer stew. 

That did not happen.

Six hour surgery(in which my Dad and P encountered Surgeon One eating his lunch outside while Surgeon 2 took his turn), 13 inch scar right up the middle of her belly(actually chopping her belly button in two).  Many issues getting back on track. 

Then rats. 

Too wordy, right? 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When you call the doctor (Did anyone else come from a household that never ever ever ever called the doctor?) you're actually calling the nurse. They have a sort of a nurse hotline set up. And it took me WAY too long to figure out that I didn't have to explain my entire life story on their answering machine. I think the third time I had to call-I realized the nurse had No Idea what I was on about. 

Anyway, you say your problem and the nurse asks questions and she hangs up and runs off to ask the doctor. 

Whoa I feel SO very weird bothering a surgeon. Awkweird. 

In matters of bowel, the first question is: are you passing gas?(Which, thanks to the Australians-from now on it's ONLY going to be referred to as 'wind')  And I THINK the reason is, my bowel has been handcrafted into a 2015 version and they want to insure the seal is holding. Then there are instructions and usually I have to say, some of the issues have been MY misunderstanding of-let's say-the prescription. I have this stuff called Doc-Q-Lace. I didn't really even know what it was for and here's why: I'm off my game. Duh. 


A wonderful reader sends this anonymous tip: I swear by this: squeeze half a lemon into a big glass of water and drink it. You can probably add honey if you want - but DON'T use reconstituted lemon juice - only fresh because of the enzymes! 
My mother's recipe :)

I'm sipping it right now.  Thanks reader! And your Mom. : ) 


This morning, P asked me(and this is AFTER he was glorious enough to go fetch me a lemon on this fine day and he was, so we're giving him that-fer sher): 
You TOLD people you were constipated? 

Like I'm supposed to feel bad about feeling bad


See, there's something very small happening here and I fear there will be casualties. 

It's called: a cancer diagnosis. 

My agenda has changed. 


More tips:

Here's the webpage from downunduh.  I really could have used this, America.


Re: Sneezing

Press a pillow against your stomach if you are going to sneeze or anything else that tightens those muscles.

Re: Soothing-

For the explosive D- if that continues, you are going to want the Epsom salts we all laughed at as kids. A couple of inches of warm water in the tub and your back side will feel better. 

(Hmm Explosive D. That might be my new rap name. : D Yo yo yo.)

Things you really wanna have at the hospital: Wide tooth comb. Fantastic black underpants. Solid sleep.

Ooh one last thing: I got an angel.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Pretty soon, I have to get back to work, so with that in mind, off I went to Central Foundations. I needed a bra that wasn't resting on my sternum and C.F. is not too far away and I figured they'd be good with special needs. 

The owner was really, actually lovely and tried her very best to accommodate me. She was also super helpful helping me hook these monstrosities because since I've been perforated, I'm having some troubles(<---understatement). 

I wore one out of the shop. Absolutely not my style(it might come in handy for serving guacamole and chips some other day.) but I had to get something. Also crazy expensive but as I left, I thought: okay, what you just bought there was some hard-core, old school. customer service.

So I'm on Facebook and I see a friend has a post that said something like: I fought the bra and the bra won. I don't think I even read it right away. Just poking around and she shares her genius idea of de-boneing her underwire bra.  WhAt?!?! 

She yanked an offending underwire. SUCH GENIUS. In a million years, I wouldn't have thought of it but I performed some surgery on one of my own last night and EUREKA.  Thanks Mindy! 

The hospital is having some sort social event this week where women are invited to come in and Bedazzle a bra.  You know, like with a bedazzler. In my previous life? I'd probably find that amusing but hmmmmno. Not any more. 

The rats. Oh I am SO furious. Be happy I'm in isolation, because really, at this point, I'd be willing to kill someone. (Altho not the actually rats because they scare the crap outta me.) There are 10 traps sprinkled throughout my reality. Our buildings' contracted exterminator stopped in on Saturday morning and that's what he brought. I asked about metal traps( like where you could drive them out to the country and enter them into the witness protection program?) but I suspect his tiny business doesn't stock them. 

Generally, we can live in our living space during the day. Grantley is on her leash which is drooped over my left thigh. But other than that? We've been hiding out in our bedroom.  Who's in a cage now? 

Last night after Madame Secretary, we went out for a longer walk, I opened the condo door and they're already playing croquet in our dining room. 


So now we're back in Constipationtown. Called the doc this morning(that means it's serious)and he prescribed a bottle of sweet delicious magnesium citrate. (About a third of the price at Osco pharmacy than Walgreens). Small problem. Last time, I drank this I threw up. So, I'm sitting here with a bottle of cold water and I'm trying to get it down. I'm trying to think about Smarties. Like this is liquid Smarties or maybe like Lemonheads. Uh-huh. 

I am not good at tossing back any kind of liquids. I eat jello shots off the toothpick.

I found a really good informational colon-ish website out of Australia.(I hope I can find it again) Thanks Vegemites! 

If anyone has thoughts or ideas about how to get Miralax into my body every morning-I'd sure appreciate it. That's on the menu as well. 



Dear Normal Life, 
Please come back.

PS: Soon. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

P: Are you working on your thank you notes? 

Me: Nope. I'm coloring. 


Do you know what this is? They had the audacity to call it a 'toy'. I want to try and redesign it because it both sucks and blows(from your very first attempt-you're going to be doing it wrong) and I think it can be done better. I've never officially reinvented anything. Do you have any experience doing stuff like that? They said the Head of Respiratory would look at ideas. 


Top image gratefully adapted from Sexuality for the Woman With Cancer C in a circle 2011 American Cancer Society.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A reader writes: Oh man! Have you guys had any sleep at all?

Nope and now, I'm writing while surrounded by all kinds of traps-both glue and smash. I've got Grantley on the leash nearly tied to my ankle. 

We have had better nights. Collectively speaking. 


After the Cancer Doctor appointment, we had some time before our Art Therapy appointment so I called my Dad to make the No Chemo announcement and my Dad tells me I'm not walking enough-which is absolutely untrue-but a thing that happens in Cancertown-so many unqualified people telling me how I feel or what to do. Cripes. 

There are 41 steps straight up to get to my condo-it took me days to even think about going down at all and every day I add to what I did the day before. So whatEVA. 

Grain of salt. POW. 


We went into the side area that looked sort of like a terrible hat shop and waited to meet our therapist. She was very young and very snazzy. Most of the employees you see in a Cancer Center are not especially sparkly.  She did not get the memo. Thank goodness. 

She took us into the salon where they fit people with wigs and instruct them in how to draw eyebrows. She explained to us that there were a variety of projects we could do-anything from creating a video legacy to casting our torsos. We couldn't work with clay-like on a wheel-because there's bad stuff in the clay that can get into your lungs. Counterproductive, eh?

She asked about us. I said we were there really for P ands then I proceeded to be totally bossy. : )

P said he wanted to wrap the hospital like Cristo. He said this with a complete straight face. 

She lit up. 

I was like, oh god. Here we go. 

It went on. She asked how we were feeling emotionally and I do not know who said it(I really don't know) but the phrase 'smash things' came into play. 

She said she needed to figure out how we could smash things safely and our project was born. 

I felt so triumphant-like hey cool. Mission accomplished. And I said to Philip-hey when do you wanna start? And he kinda put me off which was mysterious-ish. And after talk-talk-talking, he pointed out that he's lost a lotta time/energy/money on his OWN stuff which is a gigantic bummer-and-a-half-o-rama.


We had errands on the way home. Wash the car, grab some food, go to Schauer Hardware to get annoying vermin supplies...I got the cheap-but-good special at Starship and I shared it because my tongue seems to have been painted grey. Lost some appetite-which isn't a bad thing at all. P was up ahead and all of a sudden: 

I haven't seen a picture for ages. 


Friday, October 23, 2015

Yesterday was a terrible day. 

We had been hearing-what we thought were-mouse noises. Gross but we got murderous turbo traps and oh yeah, we had bigger worries, right? We went to sleep and oh yeah, here's another chunk of cancer knowledge: You don't sleep the same way. 

It was in the department of 4:00 AM. I shuffled to the fridge to get some water and what did I feel on the top of my foot, but the not tiny foot of some sort of furry creature that was not Grantley. 


Flew back into bed and we laid there listening to the private conversations of vermin. They have a lot to say. 

P got up and went out with his gigantic flashlight and a spray bottle of Tilex. And thus began the morning of advanced terriblitude. 

Because now, we are as wide awake as any two exhausted people can be. And in my frustration, I decided to make the situation better by throwing a shoe. (I dunno. It seemed like the right thing to do.) Guess what happened after that? Grantley went after it. 

Here's me: No no no. Come back

Here's P: The F Word. 


I have NEVER heard that man curse. 
This was bad. 

We stayed awake from 4:30 with all the lights on because P says rats don't like light. They also don't like movement. He stayed up in the kitchen and walked around squirting under the sink smelly stuff all over the place. My eyes were like saucers and then at some point, I felt myself coming out of a tiny sleep. All this nonsense before the Big Meeting with the Cancer Guy. And oh yeah. I woke up furious.

Was this the life I had in mind for myself? Living in a place where rats ran through the walls and hey yeah, while I do have 2 and 1/15th of a job, none of them come with any sick leave(a nice to have item), so while each employer has been exceptionally kind to me in terms of good wishes and time off? I've earned nothing since September 12th. I woke up yesterday and I. was. pissed. 

11:00 was the appointment. We were not too early-a state which I intend to continue to celebrate. We had been making sure to arrive with plenty of time but now, waiting rooms were becoming impossible.(See yesterday's excellent use of anger.). 

Someone insisted I make a list of questions including his GENIUS question ("What kind of questions can I ask you?") which I wrote on top of my Talking With Your Doctor booklet, because we weren't 100% sure about anything really. 

The doctor was a sort of an odds maker. Like, he asked a lotta questions: parents living? What diseases did they have. Family histories. Siblings? Healthy? My favorite question was something like: how do you feel emotionally? 

He read notes. He asked questions. And you would think, that when he said: No further treatment is required. I bet you think there was some jubilation going on. 

Nope. Not even a little. 

Here's why: I don't you can enter a cancer center and come out the same way. 

I'll save the rest of the day for tomorrow. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ann's New Non-Negotiable Rules of Waiting Rooms
2015 Edition

1. Hey You. Lady in your 60's. You are f-ing killing me with that perfume. 
You get off the elevator reeking of Estee, followed by your 80 year old Mother with a walker completely Estee-fied, followed by a wave of scent that nearly knocks even P off his seat. 

I am taking anti-nausea pills. 
You are not helping. 

No perfume. 

2. Hey You. Old guy. Number one, you're too f-ing loud. Number two:I don't want to talk to you and Three: When you start ranting about 'The Japs'. We're done. done. done. 
Get me? 
Leave me alone. 
End. Of. Story.

3. No teevee. Or if you must-and I don't see why silence isn't a very good thing to practice-at least provide me with a place to sit that's far, far away from Kathie Lee.  

4. Halloween decorations. Are they all appropriate in a hospital setting? I. think. not

5. The wait. Can you not have some sort of text/website/telephone thing happening where-if the dude is running MORE THAN AN HOUR LATE-it's not possible to let me know in advance? Cripes. What if I'm dying next Thursday or something? You're eating my life. 

6. Magazines. Instead of people stealing all the good ones? We could make it a universal tradition to actually bring your good old mags to the office and abandon them for the next person. 

7. Reception ladies. You're not invisible. We've been sitting here watching you for over an hour because there are no magazines and we have nothing to look at but you.  We can see you playing with your phone. Duh. And maybe, how about some kindness? That would be good too. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I may be wearing out my caregivers. 

He has to be out for the day, so he makes sure I have enough stuff from the grocery store. This means he's walked the dog, he's walked me, taken care of some of his his own stuff, probably done laundry and still pops up his head if he hears me in the kitchen at 4:32 am. 
"Ann? You okay?"

I made a list. 
I don't know if they're toxic but I wanted some of those already-made mashed potatoes. 

The front of my list. 
It says: (Meat case, near milk.)
Mashed potatoes. 
Simply Mashed
(I think they're actually called Simply Potatoes)
Original flavor. 
(also please note: Lutheran Heath Food ingredients)

The spuds are pretty good-in a pinch. They were probably $2.50 on sale. In a green cardboard sleeve. And the name of the game-because there's the possibility of me encountering my meal more than once-is no crazdiculous flavors. 


He came back with this. 

No green sleeve. And weird gravy. And I say, this isn't the right stuff 
and he says I'll go back and I say no no no. 

But I also thought, hmmm. I think he's stopped listening. 

So I say-hey where's the cheese? 
What cheese?-
-It was on the list.

Exhibit B. 
I didn't put it on the list. 

Yesterday? Started the day with an unrelated sorta maintenance-type doctors appointment which is not so delightful when you're feeling like crap.(More on this tomorrow) I was watching my reflection walking towards the car in the window of the corner store. 
Am I me yet?


Then errands. Just because the cosmos have inserted a horseshoe into your life-doesn't mean that you don't have to pay your t-mobile bill. We did a lap of WalMart with me going: hey hey hey not so fast
which totally blows
in my opinion. 

We also saw four. individual. women. cruising WalMart in Hoverounds who they themselves were the size of smart cars. No kidding. 

I keep walking. 

We get home, I'm poking into the refrigerator. 
Look what I found:
Box Cheese. 



There are all sorts of brochures you can pick up at the Cancer Center. And there are all kinds of kinda-like Cancer Places(ya know, like Gilda's Club?). It makes you feel like, yo. Cancer is big business-duh. And double yo. Ya think, should I have done more shopping-in terms of doctors and hospitals and whatnot? 

The cancer diagnosis? it was as if someone was yelling: HEY YOUR FOOT IS ON FIRE and my reaction was 100% like: PUT it OUT NOW

But I don't know, ya know? 

Loyola has free art therapy. You can do it with your partner. And it's free. 
I'm gonna call them next. Not for me.