Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I wasn't even going to go to Livestrong because I have another gig that happens every couple of Tuesdays, so when I woke up to an exploding stomach, I was down for the count. I still haven't been feeling 100%. I'm being tested every other week and then Monday-based on THOSE numbers-I got called in for a big blood test extravaganza. 

The coolest part of that experience was watching this little girl come out of the lab. She was making these growly gulps of air like she'd just thrown a tornado fit and speaking on behalf of all the adults in the waiting room, I was more than envious. 

They say there's this giant fear thing that happens when you go in for your checkup (I heard a story about someone who didn't return for his checkups and of course, that person is dead-dead-dead.) But these minor aches-those kinda worry me-like what IS this and when is it going away? 

When P returned from the Y-he was making these man grunts. Apparently the leader decided to kick everyone's ass with her chair exercise smorgasbord. He kept saying to me: You're just lucky you didn't go today. I didn't think my stomach situation qualified as 'luck' but whatever. 

In other news, he found the Fannie May outlet. 


I fell immediately asleep to The Rev. C Scot Giels's hypnosis recording. I've listened to enough of them that if he told me to act like a chicken, I'd be clucked. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Assessment

Everybody was a bit anxious about the assessment and I whispered to P that I was going to kick his a@# to New Jersey assessment-wise, because I have this new-found annoying other people on purpose streak. 

For instance, I was just singing along to a recording of Pavarotti-I don't know the words but I try to hold a similar sound as long as Pavarotti did and P's was like, Hey. I thought you had a headache. 

I'm just singing, said I. I thought you'd enjoy it. 

Heh heh heh.

So. We got there. 

One thing I overheard, was the two women-I think I heard them say that when they got their cancer diagnosis, they automatically took an entire year off. 

Umm, wow. 

Anyway, we had to go down to the gym where there were 3 sets of 3 folding chairs set up across the gym floor. The deal was, you had to walk briskly-as if you were rushing to get to the bathroom-for six minutes. 

If you felt weak, you were instructed to sit down in one of the chairs. There were two helpers timing us and taking our pulses before and after. 


It felt exactly like elementary school gym class which was a kind of a wonderful thing. 

It was Happy Smile with a super cute red sports shirt on, me, and a refugee from the evening sessions who was sitting in with us for the assessment. 

Happy Smile was the one to watch. She had this whole arm pump thing I was trying to copy because she was way out in front. My helper was saying crazy stuff to me-like imagine there's a cute guy you're following and I was like....uhhh....oh-kay. 

Anyway hey. I did pretty reasonably okay. I think I did 14.5 laps. Not qualified for the Olympics but I didn't have to sit, right? And I was carrying the remnants of that cold that captured me last week. So I was okay with my baseline. 

Then it was P, the Hispanic man, and The OP lady. I was mostly watching P and it was fun. All hardcore serious foolishness from the helping ladies by this time. Everybody smiling. 

And do not think I did not take notice that these 6 strangers were smiling and clapping for each other all of a sudden. Pretty cool.

Next, we went back upstairs for the balance testing, the flexibility testing and the back scratch testing. And then into the weight room to try a chest press and a leg press. One rep as big as we could do. 

I felt pretty strong-ish and P was very strong. All in all-a pretty terrific day.

Until about 12 hours later, when we went all-acetaminophen because those muscles haven't been worked in for-f*ing-ever.  

In other matters, it's been a week overflowing with other people's stuff. I haven't been feeling 100% and I think it's time to find a new Primary Care Doctor. 

On the positive side, I made some nice soup*.

*okay not that nice but soup crafting on a Sunday afternoon is a glorious thing indeed. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The First Time

I cannot believe that we got our sorry asses to the Y on Tuesday. Nobody feels good around these parts lately. I'm still-it seems-shaking off the hideous prednisone and we shared a wicked cold and after having taken so much time off-one day I went to email in that I was not coming to work and I just couldn't do it. 


I was past the worst part of the cold and P-I found him sleeping face down on the couch-his evening a victim of Nyquil. And I slept crazy-thinking, okay, maybe we can switch to the evening sessions-what was I thinking-eight o'clock in the morning in Berwyn and maybe: We Just Shouldn't Go. 

But it was six in the AM that I heard coffee pot rustling and I thought hey wow, I think we're actually going. 

Both bundled up in the car headed south on Oak Park Ave. We hoped we'd get a parking spot but it was one of those ice cold mornings so I guess nobody else wanted to get up either  so it wasn't a thing. We went in, got lectured by the keeper of the turnstile-is it my age or the events of the last year-when someone is wagging their finger at me I just kinda look at them. It has absolutely no effect on me. Effect. Affect. I still have this stupid cold. 

Our leader sees us shoving our giant wraps into a hall locker. (Isn't it cool to be this age and just know you already have a padlock in your junk drawer.) Do we think we can find our way to the spin room? Umm yes. 

We enter the room, there's a round table with some Livestrong stuff on it. Our class consists of a smiling youngish woman, a friendly Hispanic couple probably in their late 60's, an Oak Park couple-he looks a little bit familiar but not really-they're also probably in their 60's and the Hispanic woman says she probably won't be coming because she has to work. There is the exchanging of names and I don't even bother because I'm terrible at that game. P-of course will remember everyone-that's the way he rolls. 

The OP woman mentions her hair. Or that she recognizes the hairstyle of the young girl across the table. They both has very short, dark brown hair that seems to be growing willy nilly. And then it turns to me and that I didn't have to have chemo and how lucky I am-and I remember the words of that nurse-who told me: Don't ever feel guilty for having a positive outcome. And I think, oh. THIS is what she was taking about. Well, personally and quite frankly, this very morning, I have the hair of a Wizzlebeast so I'm not really buying into any of that noise. I think it's rude. And it's early. And who cares. 

This session is all getting-to-know-you ice breaker sort of things.  We have to introduce ourselves with our name, our favorite dessert and an interesting factoid about ourselves. P's is that he hitchhiked along the coast of Norway. Mine is that I can touch my tongue to my nose. No wonder we get along so well. 

We order our shirts.  The "Survivor" one is free, the "Supporter" one is 10 bucks. I say to P-I'll get one for you. Hey-once someone assists in bringing you back from the dead, the sky's the limit, no? We also got those rubber bracelets. They had size XXXL or some XXS. That sorta sums up the YMCA, doesn't it? I tried an XXS. I could get it over my wrist safely but I kept yanking on it all day and for me that's not a good thing so, ya know, whatever. 

After all this (actual)time-killing chat, the front desk opened and we all went downstairs to get our IDs taken. Some people in the group were going to do some working out-or maybe walking the track right after that but we had Things To Do, so we were putting our giant coats on and the woman from the Oak Park couple sidles up to me and say, so, what kinda cancer did YOU have? 


It's not the first time in Cancertown that I felt that kinda like: hey, get the f away from me with your intrusive questions-I am trying to put my coat on-because usually I am so totally willing to discuss whatever anyone needs to know-SO I CAN ASSIST THEM. Like you wanna know what a colonoscopy is like? Ask me. You wanna see my scar? It'll cost you a dollar but I'll show ya fer sher. But do you know that word: cloying? Too sweet, pleasant or emotional. This was that and I didn't like it. 

I suspect I'll be learning something huge by watching that woman. 

Tomorrow-lawd willing-is the assessment. Balance, flexibility, strength and something else-I can't remember. Hopefully it's swear wording. I'm good at that. 

We drove past The Oak Park Bakery on our way home. P says, okay ONLY if there's a clear parking space will we go in there and I laugh to myself because I play those games too. Lucky thing it's jammed. Maybe we'll have to drive home a different way. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I took the day off to go to the Deep Hypnosis class which seems a bit extravagant considering how up against the wall I feel financially but I have been working my ass off and I thought, maybe the end stuff is equally as therapeutic and necessary as drinking the cups of grayish goo was at the beginning. 

I had signed up for a group meeting Monday nights that would have probably been fantastic. That was called: Life After Cancer Post-Treatment Networking Group. But Monday nights belong to massage and I can make nearly what I make in an entire library shift-if I get a good tip-I can almost make that in 90 minutes of massage so, no. 

Speaking of no, I had been dreading another Ear, Nose and Throat doctor appointment but my neighbor downstairs said her guy was fantastic so okay. I had to wait two weeks but Friday at 1:45, there we were, in Berwyn, sitting next to a flat screen teevee that was blasting out Steve Harvey's Surprise Birthday show. At exactly 2:40, the woman behind the counter called my name. "Miss Farrell?" she said. I got up, ready to go in and she said, we've called your insurance company and we're considered out-of-network for you and you have a TEN THOUSAND DOLLAR DEDUCTIBLE. 

Sad, how this has become the norm, where you shuffle off infuriated and nothing to be done except giving the front desk staff a negative Yelp for eating your afternoon and there had been an additional thing, in that I caught a cold. 

No big thang, right? Yeah well, I didn't want to appear at the new Ear Nose and Throat with sudafedded sinuses, right? So there was that too. 

Oh AND, this week, I did my very first Oncologistified Massage. That was another fearful thing-not that I was worried about working on somebody with Cancer. Nope. Not even a little. 

I was worried that the person might need lymphatic drainage that is not my thing but that massage could not have gone better. It was a giant blab-a-thon and you know all those books I read? Now I have something to contribute! Sores in your mouth from chemo? Have you tried eating watermelon? There's a lecture at the library on Sunday about being positive and the YMCA in Berwyn has an exercise program and have you considered Restorative Yoga? And like that. 

The best part was when I was whining about the cost of my parking spot in the glorious OP and the woman shouts out: BE POSITIVE! and we both cracked up. 


Okay so. To be completely honest(why stop now?)these cancer gathering things make me a wee bit nervous. Never knowing what you're walking into. But! I took the day off, right? So I had to go. 

It was crowded. I couldn't find a chair. But then, yeah there was one-right by the guy with the black turtleneck and the chunky mystical rings and the Mac Book Air-or whatever you call it. So, I went up to the woman sitting next to that space and I said, hey is anyone sitting here? She smiled.

As it turns out, this group has an inside joke that this particular chair is designated The New Person Chair. And what makes that bad(?)is that the New Person has to Go First. 

Guess what? I have no fear of going first. And it was a lovely chair. All the chairs in this room were like heaven's waiting room. Super soft and cushy with giant pillows. 

The guy. Well, I suppose he was exactly what you'd expect? He works with cancer people at a hospital and he's like a master hypnotist or something. Big credentials. He reminded me a little bit of Wizzo from Bozo's Circus. 

He had a stone-it was black-probably had some sort of mystical quality, right? And we were to take the stone, and introduce ourselves and talk about our experiences with saying no. (This episode of Deep Hypnosis was called Avoid Overcaring For Others. I'm looking forward to the third one called: When People Share Their Drama) Then, we were supposed to take the little bottle of hand sanitizer and clean our hands after we passed it on to the next person. 

Don't know if that was cootie-related or energetic. 

I said my name and the brand of cancer and they wanted to know what stage. It was, as if, as a group-they were sorting me out. He said the cancer I had was particularly tied to over caring for others and-I dunno, ya know? That Louise Hay-you have a sore throat-that's because you can't speak up for yourself school of thought. (Hey maybe you couldn't get into the ENT's office because they said they took your insurance and they don't.) I'm not 100% sold on that philosophically. I know it sold a lotta books. 

Then I said I had recently said no to someone in a sort of a huge way and he asked what happened and I said, nothing. And he said, what were you afraid of, and I said, I thought it would qualify me as a terrible person, and you're not, he said and I nodded and then I passed the stone. And performed the hand-sanitizing ritual. 

It was REALLY interesting to be in a group of cancer people. I can't say survivors because a lot of the people were still negotiating. One whole hell of a lot of psychological pain in that room, fer sher. But some smiles and some cool looking people too. 

The introduction/talking part went on for almost an hour and a half-ish, we took a break and then plugged in our ear phones to this appliance connected to his computer. It was playing Simon and Garfunkel and people nodded along. And then the pre-recorded hypnosis session began. 

I love that kinda stuff. It's got all these weird Aboriginal rain stick background subliminal noise things happening and he tells a story about a king and a whole bunch of other stuff and then it was done.

I said thank you and he said, you'll find it will begin almost immediately. No it won't. I said. (To be hilarious.) See? I'm saying no already!

And that was that. 

All going well, we start our Livestrong class on Tuesday. P has located his Chuck Taylors. We're halfway there. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

I am bursting with words the way a woman's bladder feels 17 minutes after completing a urine test.


People keep cancering. The guy who owns a sausage joint on Roosevelt Road. Terri Hemmert. I used to listen to her gush like a school girl about Paul McCartney on WXRT when I drove to massage in LaGrange at too early o'clock on Sunday mornings. (She gushed so much I had to turn the radio off.) She has not revealed her brand of cancer but I'm all like, oh yeah, it's colon for sure. Why I think that? Because she doesn't wanna tell. 

At my current massage place, they write out this notebook of horrendous "Ann would like to someday visit Paris." bios for people to read while they're waiting and the person that wrote mine said, You want me to put 'cancer survivor' on there? And I was like....uhhh no. (I am on there as certified to perform a massage on a person with cancer. I figure if that is a thing for someone, they can figure it out.) 

And then at Improv, a previous conversation with somebody who knew I had had SOMETHING surgical happening but she thought it was related to my foot(?) led to this: 

She leads off the Improv evening with her character saying to somebody else: I have the results from your test, you're cancer free! 

And I'm thinkin', uhhh that feels a little bit awful. 

But this:

Is something I really want. I'm getting ahead of myself.

First something bad. 
This week, somebody walked up to me and socked me in the solar creativity plexus. I did not see it coming. I never do.

This happens to me (and every creative) every so often. You sell a piece of work-you begin to breathe just a little bit easier because life begins anew and.....POW. 

They change their mind. 

I will tell you what. I did not handle it well.

It took me two days to burn it off. That's a very long time for the people who had to witness me losing my marbliciousness and for that I am sorry because after I started breathing again-about 48 hours later? I thought, ya know what? Expletive deleted-U

And way later I thought, huh. I must be giving off the appearance that I have the strength to accept crappy treatment and that can only mean I must be getting better and better. 

In the words of P when we are trying to walk Grantley on unshoveled sidewalks: Thanks for shoveling, asshole. 

The fantastic thing.

When I was recovering, I was digging like crazy for any kind of information. I found some really good interviews at livestrong.com. I mean like, people telling how they had to carry towels with them after this surgery. (No, I never did and yes, of course, I am grateful.)

Another thing I found was that livestrong partners with the YMCA for survivors and caregivers and they have a program FER FREE to get you up and moving again. I sent an e. There's one starting in January. 

We went and found that there are people in Berwyn(this program comes out of the PAV YMCA)who run the Chicago Marathon in order to raise money so this program can happen. 

Honestly? After all this? The idea that there would be people running 26.2 on my behalf? I was so honored, I felt like I swallowed a butterfly. 


Still some medical schmedical stuff ahead. Changing doctors. Taking tests. But better. Way better. 

Thanks for asking. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Death, Insurance, Oprah and Whatnot

People keep dying. 

A friend's friend who was a writer. Colon cancer. Stage IV. 

And then there's that thing where people are like, didn't she get a colonoscopy? Like there's some sort of blame involved in dying. Like if we can just sort the circumstances out in our heads-figure out the odds-it makes the world safer for us. 

That's just the thing. It's not. 

As I understand it(and I cannot say that I do), this woman was below the age where a colonoscopy is recommended so she didn't have the luxury of pre-screening. No family history. No signs and symbols. No collecting of two hundred dollars. 



I surfed the Marketplace AND spoke to a Marketplace guy on the phone and came up with a new plan from a new company that was more than twice what I paid before, but it seemed as if paying this chunk more would be a better decision long-term. 

As you recall, my plan for 2016 was to stay as far away from doctors and hospitals as humanly possible, but it seems as if you don't get to simply hop off the ride. 

There have been befuddlements already. Like you had to make the first payment to get your coverage to go into effect but you could not possibly get through to them on the phone and so it's the third day of the new year and I only just got my member ID. I made my first monthly premium payment online. And I tried to see if the next doctor I'm supposed to be checking in with is covered under the plan and now I see we're playing a new game involving Tiers. 

She's Tier Three? Or Two? Or something that seems less that ideal-co-pay-wise? 

This. is. not. good. 

I am being bombarded by Oprah. 

(You too?)

So much so that I changed her name. (Noprah has a better ring to it, right?) We were watching some terrible teevee last night and Every Commercial was requesting that you trade them some hard earned dollars and they were going to tell you how to become smaller. 

And while this is high on my list of things to do-enough coddling of myself already, right?-I'm not falling for this nonsense again. 

More of : this

None of this: 

I'm waiting to hear back from the Y


 A little follow-up to the Sweet Potato Guy. (Formerly known as The Dying Guy but who am I to say?) Did he make the spuds? He said he thought he undercooked them. Uggh, thought me, good thing I didn't get those ones that are the size of a cow's thigh, right? 

I've seen him since. A couple times. He remains unwell but that arrives in levels. Sometimes better and sometimes less better. Or something. 

I got called in on a frozen night just to work on him and this time the tip was a hearty thanks and I thought, you don't tip me when I come in especially for you? Seriously? Whoa, huh? 

Got home and discussed the possibilities of Not Ever Really Knowing Someone Else's Situation Especially Regarding The Effects of Medication and offering up the possibility of Giving Back to the same universe that has given so much to me and decided not to give it any more thought. 



Friday, January 1, 2016

I am cleaning off my desk because it gets pretty messy around these parts with all the foolishness that goes on and I found this list and just before I tossed it-something stopped me. 

It says: Bank/Stars/Stamps/Milk.

Then there was this on Facebook this morning:

And I am thinking thinking thinking. 

Something I'd like to let go of is this notion that my 2015 was bad. And that whole sorta-"What horrible thing is going to happen NEXT with you two?!?!" nonsense bullshititude thang that keeps popping up. Because it troubles me and I'm having that removed. 


Because here's the thing: In 2015, they were able to discover a cancer twirling in my deepest depths, take it out and I'm still here. Sitting up and everything. In a different time-maybe when technology wouldn't have been what it is-it might still be percolating, no? 

I am still negotiating the hideous Prednisone and my affordable care act insurance has not coughed me up a new member number which is majorly worrisome, isn't it? The wait time on the Payment Center line yesterday was over 60 minutes. But here is me, up and running. 

Now, did Cinderella make it to the Ball? Nope. We were almost there and it all caught up with me. I'm doing more massages(I'm at 3.5) and Thursday afternoons are not my favorite library shift on a good day and New Year's Eve at the library was not exactly a good day but I'm still standing. 

Yeah yeah yeah.