Thursday, February 25, 2016

I have more tests this morning. Since the big surgery, I have to eat this pill everyday sprinkled over an unmade bed of applesauce and then I have to wait 30 minutes to eat anything else(which is no big deal except I have to get to work) so I waited and then I grabbed a handful of Jelly Belly's which probably shouldn't even be in my house. Maybe like in a tiny gun safe or something. 

I don't have brakes regarding Jelly Belly's(while marshmallows are completely safe around me) so I was chomping slowly along and all of a sudden I thought, Oh Cripes. I have TESTS this morning. This would be one whole hell of a lotta sugar, wouldn't it. 

There's your Jelly Belly brakes. Installed. 

Boom. 

------

This has been one hell of a week.(UNDERSTATEMENT) But the brilliant, brilliant, genius thing was to take the week off from medical gunk. 

I don't think I realized I could even do that and so, so, so happy I did. 

When the going gets tough, remember who is in the drivers seat. Duh. 
------



What if I get the home version of one of these things and have everyone over for some sort of family look at your insides game night? You know you wanna. 


------

Working up to hand-crafting a poached egg with avocado on toast cuz it's supposed to be spectacular so I watched a couple of youtubes and now I'm in the land of poached egg intimidation. 
-----

If you're even feeling down, one place you might want to go is a hospital lobby. You think YOU feel like crap, spend 15 minutes watching everyone else. 

Puts a spring in your step. 

Uh-huh. 




Sunday, February 21, 2016

Get Outta Town


We went to Kenosha because we had to get some fresh air. We've been there enough times that we've got it down to a science. First stop: Jelly Belly. In the icky Jelly Bean free sample flavor department, they had 
'Canned Dog Food'. We got one for G who was waiting patiently in the car. 




P'tooie. 




 It was out of her mouth in 3 seconds. Interestingly, she ate a teeny tiny bit of cantaloupe taffy right after that. 



Gave her a stroll. Or she gave us a stroll. May many many short walks today. A good thing. 








This is the park where Kenosha's Library lives. Abe Lincoln hangs out here too. He gets around. 








This is right before we stopped for two slices 
of New York style pizza. They came with two garlic knots. I had to explain them to Philip. 







Rocks. 





Sculpture Walk. 
Here it was cold and very windy but so many cool people out walking their dogs in the wind. Clears your head. Literally. That water is filled with everyone else's nonsense that has been blown out of people's ears. 
Buh-bye. 







My camera went wacky. I like it. 






Sculpture. 



Me and the G. 
Do you think I look like a schlub? I do. ha ha ha.






On the way home we passed Egypt 
cuz that-my friends-is how we roll. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Thank You, Rich People



This morning was my second try at hypnosis via The Wellness House. I took the day off from the library because I don't wanna be one of those people that doesn't ever put themselves first and I got someone cool to cover for me so eventho I missed The Guild-as the Saturday Morning people been calling ourselves-and I did miss them, I have to get better.

I sat next to an edgy young dude who had been diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer. He was Stage Two because the doctors couldn't figure his diagnosis out based on his demographic. He was nervous about speaking in front of the group. 

Today's topic was: Keeping Your Energy In Your Own Life. I think that's an excellent strategy and I've been doing more and more of it. I'm miles behind in my e-mail, but, listen, I gotta get better. 

So, the talking stone gets passed around the circle and I hear many of the same people from last time say-nearly the Exact Same Things. One lady even sheds 2.5 tears at the exact same interval of her story. 

Huh. 

Meanwhile, outside, it is a glorious day. Like one of those first days of spring sort of days. Ironically, the hypnotist couldn't get one of the window shades down-so there's Mister Sunshine out there saying, Hey dumbass. Don't you own a couple of kites? What are you doing inside?

The introduction thing went on forever. This time, I had my arms crossed over my solar plexus AND my legs crossed and here's why: There's a school of meditation kind of thought that says the way to keep yourself protected from certain people's hideous negativity(you have people like that, right?) is to cover your solar plexus with your arms crossed in front of you and if you have to, even tip your body away from the yammerer. You have to save yourself. 

I do it at the library all the time. I cannot afford to take other people's bad electricity in. I've got enough on my platter. 

So it gets to the end of the (gaaaaah) "sharing" portion of the session and I turn to the new dude and I say, so. What do you think?

He looks down and says: sad. 


And I thought, yeah. I don't think I can come back. 

For the actual hypnosis part of the day, I had terrible trouble focussing and at one point I opened my eyes and saw the hypnotist checking his phone. 

ha. 

We will be back to Wellness House for two more things or maybe three. But it's time to move on to funner stuff. 

------

4 Months After


Philip didn't go with me to this appointment. I went straight there from work and I stopped for an Einstein Bagel with a schmear in the hospital lobby because you can't ever get a decent schmear around hea-yuh. 

I was early and probably agitated because this is my third appointment in five days and it's enough already. 

The nice nurse came and got me. You know how you meet someone and you just like them automatically? Anyway, me and my list of complaints sat in the exam room and the nurse and I discussed the wearing of different pants and how different waistlines can be painful. She said her Mom had....uggh I can't remember what it was...some sort of surgery I'll call 'The Ogden'. That's a road here in Chicago that runs diagonally to everything else. So any waistline she'd wear would be killing her. 

AND: The nurse looked at me like a crazy person and she said, ya know you're not healed yet, right? And I said, what are you talking about? Somewhere I got it into my head that at six months I'd be on a pogo stick at least. The nurse said you're not finished healing internally for an entire year

Why did I not know this?

The surgeon enters. Just him and me. And he's doing one hell of a lot of typing. And I'm watching him and I'm wondering if he gets nervous having people watch him type because I don't really enjoy it. 

It's the strangest thing because he got off the Be Positive and Walk elevator way back when we saw the cancer wizard who said: No chemo. That was AGES ago. So he knows nothing about anything. 

And I am having pain. 

I thought it was inside pain. Like some sort of Miralaxical thing. But before we got to that, it was the cancer list of things that must be done next.

I guess where I started to actually snap was with the combination of the phrases: come into the office and have the nurse give you an enema AND some sort of ass scope where he checks the place where he joined the one side of my intestine to the other. 

So by the time he determined that my incision had become herniated? 

Yeah. Not good. 

---------
Goofus: If it weren't for bad luck, you'd have no luck at all.
Gallant: Oh geez. I'm sorry to hear that.
--------


I made banana bread. I thought I'd find making it a satisfying experience but ya know what? I went to one of our local grocery stores after hypnosis and I happened to see quail eggs. Like in an egg carton. For sale. And I thought, in this horn of plenty where I live there are SO many better things. What that has to do with cancer? I think it's something related to how much time you get and how you wanna spend it. 

Or something.

-----


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Steve Harvey headlines at the doctor's office. 
You cannot escape him. 



Verily I say unto you: I had cancer surgery on September 15th, 2016. (Stage One. Colon Cancer.) I mention this again, because my Children's Book writing team cruised this very blog and weren't 100% sure what the topic was. I really like those people very much, because it requires bravery to tell someone you're not exactly sure what they're on about, and seeing as this is four months-ish after my hospital escape, it makes sense to re-introduce it. Oui? 

I have never thought of myself as 'fighting cancer'. I believe my surgeon ripped the holy living shit out of my colon and the other surgeon tore my offending adrenal gland to infinity and beyond ('Holy living shit' used here as a technical term. I don't really like swear wording on the internet but you'll indulge me, won't you?). They say the 4 month appointment sometimes comes with panic attacks. I'm still firmly in the anger phase. 

Dammit. 

-------

New Primary Care Guy! New Primary Care Guy! 

The last straw with my former Primary Care doctor was this: She burst into my work day with the news that I might have a blood clot in my lung, right?  They gave me yet another set of blood tests in the Emergency Department and after the weekend, I dropped her an e to ask if she'd reviewed them. I mean, why did we do this if we weren't checking on something, right? 

She never checked. She said I had to ask for some form or something to permit her to see the results but that was the first I heard of it and I thought, Come On People. You start this nonsense and you don't follow up? 

It's not a game-these hole pokes in my arms, ya know? 

She's gone.

---------

I asked the skin doctor for a referral to a new Primary care. If you will recall, when my skin broke out with that HSP weirdness-or as we call it-The Dots, my Primary Care told me it would take me a few days until I could get in to see this doctor that was completely hard of hearing. He took ONE LOOK at my legs and said I should be seen on the University Level. 

I thought to myself, okay so, why-oh-why-oh would I ever waste time (and cash-it was 50 for the primary care's failure to take action and 75 for the deaf guy) NOT being seen on the University Level. 

F that shit. 

She came back with a list. I watched the first physician on the list's little movie. At Loyola, they have these little internet movies of some of the doctors. They're very revealing. 

We went last Friday. 

P was extra silly. He brought his chocolate milk, his two newspapers AND his Snickers bar into the exam room and he wanted to refill my water bottle in the sink where the doctor's wash their hands. 

I got all psycho-like my Mother before me-whispering: If you don't stop it, r-r-r-r-right now.....

Anyway, I already liked the new doctor and here's why: I have had a bajillion tests, right? Urinalysis and a-half-o-rama and so many blood tests-you would not believe it. The day before the appointment, I emailed him to ask if he could have a look at the results. 

That was kind of presumptuous of me, now that I think about it, but I thought it'd be a really good idea-if all of that information already existed-if coming into the appointment-he could have already had a peek at it. 

He did. So cool.

Also seriously cool was watching him think. The last primary care would whisk herself out of the room-now I'm thinking she had to go check google-ooh that's really mean, isn't it? Withdrawn. Sort of. 

Anyway, I have to say, I heard more about my general health in this one appointment than I have heard in my entire life. It was even kind of a lot to handle actually. Kind of still sorting everything out. 

------

Kidney Specialist. 



Because of that HSP infection, my kidneys had to be monitored. So, every other week, after finishing my last massage shift, I'd fly over to Loyola and pee in a cup. This has been my life. Regular work weeks capped off by doctor's appointments. So infuriating. 

We did have a little bit o fun at this one. We were in the waiting area-we were supposed to be what's commonly known as 'next'. Yeah, right. 

There was this dude and I heard the name caller tell him that his doctor was running behind. An hour behind. His name was Armondo.

Well, I guess she sped up or something because they started calling him to come in? And he wasn't there. 

So, in our waiting room chairs, we started to quietly sing to the tune of 'Fernando' by ABBA, our very own lyrics that I can't repeat because they were really, really, really rude. 

We have lost the ability to behave. 

---

Another Resident/ Another Doctor. 
The Kidney Resident was interesting. The best moment was when we were discussing my former leg dots and I propped my feet up on Philip's lap and we're all looking at all the decorative configurations on my ankles. He was also willing to look at my iPhone photos and I think that's really smart-ya know-almost like scene of the crime sort of stuff, right? 

She-is supposed to be one of the finest doctors on the planet-but by the time we saw her-we kinda already knew we were in the clear-kidney~wise so it was no big thang. 

Except the chomping of more of my time on the planet. And the endless, endless co-pays. 

--------

That was a lot of words, huh. Thank you for your time. 

Next episode: The Visit to the Surgeon and another try at Hypnosis. 





















Thursday, February 11, 2016


The Fitness Program



We officially dropped out of the Livestrong thing and here is why: I think I might have signed up too soon(or maybe I just had the complete wrong idea about the whole thing) and that is a giant bummer and a half o rama but I think we maybe started our own Goofstrong program. Possibly maybe. 

Here's me (with Carol Channing's hairdo) in one of my favorite places in the universe. I'm not telling you where it is because I like it better empty. The interesting thing about this photo is this: a few months ago, we drove here for some general lollygagging and I had to sit in the car because I felt like crap. Can you imagine me-the designated car sitter? I was so pissed. 

But on this very, very, very cold day, we took a small stroll. And that was something. 

Phase two-we were watching some teevee and P kept passing me the water bottle. Over and over and over again. Hydrate, he said. 

Right. 
------

Good news. Auditions for a new primary care doctor start tomorrow at 2:30. I asked the skin doctor for a recommendation and this guy was at the top of her list. I like her, she likes him, fingers are crossed. 

Last straw with former primary care? There were these hospital blood test results-she's the one that started that whole nonsensical rigamarole, no? And I asked her if she'd reviewed them. And she replied that it was I that had to request that she'd be sent a copy and I thought, man, you are seriously playing fast and loose with my health. 

I shoudda last-strawed her a long time ago. Duh=me. 

------

On the horizon: an appointment with a nutritionist. The next hypnosis thing is called: Keeping Your Energy in Your Own Life. A visit to a kidney doctor. And the 4 month anniversary with the surgeon which I thought was this week but is actually next. 


It feels like an occasion that requires a candle shoved into something. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016


The first photo in a very long time where I can look at myself and not 
immediately think about how horrendous I was feeling at the time. 

I saw the offering in the Wellness House brochure-it has to be over a month ago. The night was called: Some Enchanted Evening and I thought ya know, we could use some of that action around here. 

Of course, you get to that night and you think to yourself, it'd be so much more enchanting to sit on the couch and watch TeeVee but we went out the night before to get P some pants(and of COURSE I started feeling awful almost as soon as we got to Kohl's because that's the way the past 4 months have gone) so I monitored myself like a crazy person all day Friday so I wouldn't wreck the enchantment. 

It's a long drive from OP to Hinsdale and we got there and were ushered in and offered Red or White. We got our table card and discovered we were being seated alone/together like a restaurant and the staff and board members of Wellness House were there to serve us. 

We had a nice salad, and then-I think loin of pork with some fancy mushrooms and a twice baked potato-ling and asparagus and if we were not offered wine at least 7 more times(The brand was called 'Expensive'.)I could be underestimating. There were croissants seated next to balls of butter which cracked me up because aren't croissants like 87 percent butter already? 

I'm not sure that we hadn't run out of conversation on the drive over there and I know we got to one very minor flash point where it was like: okay we're gonna have to talk about that later and I say that to illustrate just how out of enchantment practice these two people had become. 

After the dinner, we were ushered into a different room where the piano player was jamming in the corner. I heard many complaints that the music was too loud. I know this is a crazy thing, but I looked over the group and thought, ye gods what a shower of old people. Have I become one of them? 

I don't think so because as far as I could see, I'm the only one that dropped ice cream on her polka dotted skirt of maximum fabulocity but hey, ya never know. A haircutter I once had, said he went to his high school reunion and everybody looked old except him. 

I got cornered shouting back and forth to a couple from India. We enjoyed very little in the way of connection. He led with how terrible the roads are and how terrible the neighborhoods are on his two hour commute and I was like, holy jezuz in a million years I would never make a 2 hour commute. What a waste of your life. And this being shouted over Piano Man. Lahhh la lahhh did dee dahhhhh dah dah. 

She and I were in agreement about how this cancer business completely stuns you for a period of time and it's a funny thing how you have to do this incredibly important thinking when your head is reeling. 

P, of course, was totally bonding with another couple-specifically the man and I had to peel him away at the end because that's the kind of guy he is. I'm the coat holder while he is asking the musician about his time in the Navy Band. 

On our way out, they gave us prizes. Prizes? I thought. Wasn't this entire night a prize all by itself? 



They gave us the centerpiece from the table, a big jar of almost completely prepared granola stuff AND a Five For Fighting CD. Wow. 

We agreed that it had been a very nice evening but that we had taken our turn and were going to leave our chairs open for the next people who might need enchantment. 

-------

Item of interest:  Remember the awfulness of the day my front filling broke? I remember thinking, what the hell ELSE is going to go wrong here. Ahh what a simpleton. I had no idea, did I?

My Dad took me to his dentist. Because we were in his town. Because my Dad could make a phone call and get me in. That kind of thing. 

Well. I learned something gigantically valuable that day. My Dad's dentist was so far superior to the one I had been seeing-not in a glamorous way-just the opposite actually, but that guy just got down to work and there was no having to sit and listen to 4 women completely jibber-jabber for the torturous appointment. I'm an very anxious patient with a laundry list of special needs and listening to these women cluck(the dentist teases her people and it's kinda on the mean side) does not help me at all. 

So, ha HA! I went looking on the internet and I found a very credible person pointing me toward a dentist I'd never heard of. 

I went today. Guess what?




Prizes. 


------

Next week is my four month surgical anniversary. Anything you'd like me to ask? 

Thursday, February 4, 2016




Here is something you might not know. After cancer, while you're having some sort of teeny tiny random pain connected to God knows what, somebody will come up to you and tell a story-or maybe even two or seven-that includes the word 'metastasize' and you're going to be spending the next few minutes forcing your head to disconnect your thing from theirs. 

It's like head aerobics. Not for the weak. 


-------

We were in the ED and The Attending comes in-P explains to me that's what his title is-and I don't know what I was thinking but I was all,"So, can I go back to work tomorrow?". And he said, Probably yes. 

So, another cancer thing is the sweet mystery of the people you contact in an emergency. You have this new sort of interpersonal relationship with-of all people-your employer. Not the person you REALLY want to be sharing with, right? 

That's your second phone call. 

Anyway, one of my employers-I have several-after she sent me healing vibes-she suggested I take a day or two off. I was like, oh that won't be necessary. I'll be there. Dammit. 





It took me maybe overnight, but it finally occurred to me that her thinking was far superior to mine. I think I had it in my head that if I just kept slamming(staying too busy/working my ass off/appointments-appointments-appointments/running running running)-everything was gonna be okay. When-in fact-that version of 'okay' is long gone. 

When I was able to make that connection? I actually kinda started feeling a little bit better. 


I got my hair cut. The stylist told me three or possibly ninety two metastasizing cancer stories. I can't say for sure because I wasn't listening. 






Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Last night, I did my first massage and I went to my little locker and grabbed my phone and there was a message from Primary Care. 

"Ann? The Chest X-ray looked completely normal. That one blood test came back abnormal and it raises the question of whether there's a blood clot in your lung. 

This is really not just something where you just sit back and let it play out. I do think you should go for something called a CT of the Chest to look at whether there's a blood clot. 

Often we do that in the emergency department-getting you in-in a timely manner doesn't work. (Cell phone number.) Feel free to call me to talk about it. If you feel short of breath or this pain is worse go to the ER right away." 


I call her back on her cell. She's got a very sympathetic voice for the delivery of bad news and she's not from here so when she says 'Ann' it doesn't sound midwestern-like rhyming with 'can'. Closer to 'Ehnn' which sounds kind of nice. Maybe when this is all over-I'll switch it. 

She runs the possibilities. It seems as if I need this test pronto, and the only way I can get it promptly is via the ER. Well then. I think my Obamacare in it's discouragement of people using the ER for the sniffles makes some gigantic billing for the use of the ER. 

I use my usual: If it was you, what would YOU do? Because really, my rational thought process got a little jammed up after the first time she said 'blood clot'. 

I said, I have one more massage to do. Should I do it? She said, how it your breathing? Wheezie, I said. Then maybe you should go.


Behold, my brand new gym shoes first time outta the box, which 
match my heartlight which is this thing they stick to your finger. 



I texted P and by some combination of miracles-he had just returned to the homestead after a big walk with Grantley. He has a list of things to do and he was just about to start on them and I happened to catch him. 

Off we went. P is the most tremendous pier in the ocean-oh yes he is-but if you blast him with a chunk of heavy drama-he has to push back. This outrage, was that I went for these tests last Friday afternoon and only now-at maybe like 5:25 on a Monday night-did we get the results. 

I just wait it out. The thing is-I don't know what a blood clot in your lung even means. Like am I gonna drop dead any second now? I force myself to be calm and I do not look at google. 

We get to Loyola-I kinda know where the ER is from going to the  gym there-but I never in a million years thought I'd be entering THAT department. We're not sure where to park. We pass a sign that says: ED PARKING. We do not know what that means, so we scoot around and it appears to be the only place to park so we took a ticket and went in. We had to walk a bit-seemed very unemergency-ish, no? 

The waiting area was ubercrowded. We had to check in and P was trying to negotiate the possibility that I could possibly maybe just do some sorta STAT thing in the regular Cat Scan Pavilion of Joy as opposed to financial destruction in the ED but the check in guy was like, yeah no. 

We found a spot to sit. I sat. P stood. You try not to look at people and yet you're TOTALLY looking at people and they're looking at you. Then every few minutes these wooden doors would burst open and some sort of health person would pop out and yell someone's name. 

At one point, a young man leaning against the wall called out inviting everyone to pray with him. He wanted people to bow their heads as he did this loud prayer. I was cruising my Ruth Reichel cookbook. I didn't not listen and I didn't not not listen. I think I was looking at a recipe for banana cake. 

When he was done, he went over and drank green juice and ate Hot Cheetos. 

We think we got called in within about an hour. A nurse called "Ann Fah-RELL?" and in we went to this triage room. I sat on this extra wide chair-there was a nurse on either side of me-typing things on computers and a woman who seemed to be a Paramedic in Training-she took all the vitals and they asked me every question and at one point-it got a teeny bit scary when we were discussing this pain I've been having-for a second they understood it to be in the region of my heart and I was like: Oh no. It moved to my shoulder area. 

It had started in my back. Like this one spot-felt sorta like my lung. I had been dragging this pain around along with everything else until P-as the voice of reason-told me to go to the doctor-and I did. Thursday night. 

They sent us to the hallway and someone gathered me to go get some X-rays where I was able to employ my previous summer camp training of getting your bra off without taking off your shirt. 

Then we waited outside the EKG room for about 10 minutes. A Polish woman in black scrubs took me in. I got on a sort of a bed thing and then I had two people working on me. One was trying to draw blood and one was trying to assist AND get the stickers on me for the EKG. 

The blood draw did not go well. You're dehydrated, they said. Hey I didn't plan on coming here tonight. I was in the middle of working. If I knew-I would have totally juiced up. Like it mattered what I said at this point, right? They were sort of squishing my arm around to get the blood going. That was a first. 

In the end they had to re-poke. Frowny face pancakes. 

The EKG scared me a bit because I couldn't really visualize what it was going to be like. Lots of stickers all over the place and then wires and it was over in seconds. Poor use of scared juice on my end. 

Back out into the waiting room with their apologies that there were no rooms available. The idea here was to get your tests in motion-even if you didn't have a room happening. Later, we found out it's called an ED instead of an ER because it's it's own department as opposed to a room. There were 30 rooms and they were all full. 

Another 45 minutes-P reading the Tribune-me reading Ruth Reichel and we got invited into Room Two. It was a bed and a chair. Not fancy and slick like the other part of the hospital but okay at the moment. I got a gown and put my sorry ass in the bed. 

I was conscious of not all of a sudden getting all dramatic just because I was in a bed. I mean-hours earlier I was sliding my fist along some person's hamstrings so I was trying not to cross over into the sick person side. 

We met our nurse. She was 12. Okay no but maybe like early 20's? Ferocious in her attack on getting a tube into my vein. Seriously. Holy fuck. I felt like I'd been speared by someone on Gilligan's Island. And I am NOT a cry baby about this stuff. I do the alphabet song in my head and I'm usually fine. 

I was all wired up. We did the crosswords from the Tribune and the SunTimes. P is quite hilarious in delivering the clues. One was 'Asp'. It was funny. After a bit a doctor came in. Asked questions. Left. 

I said to Philip-ya know-if this was me? I'd be thinking bronchitis or something. 

Then the CAT scan. They have these super cool playskool looking wheelchair things now. We flew across the ED. The tech said they were so busy they didn't have time to go slow. Got onto the bed. There were photographs of clouds to look at on the ceiling. That was kind of nice. 

So then the scan. In-follow the breathing directions-and then a saline flush before the contrast. Okay OWW. And then really OWWWWW. But then it's over and she had to call my doctor because the contrast passed through me so quickly. And that's a good thing, she said. 

Back to the room. There was a small family parked in the hallway-the lady was coughing-she was in a wheelchair and then her husband and her son. They were all slumped all over the place staring at me. I had a room and they had to wait. Very strange. 

And we saw lotsa law enforcement passing by. And we just waited and waited and once more from the doctor who said it was bronchitis and that after one more blood test we could go. 

We were there for about 5 hours. "Not too bad considering" says P.