Sunday, July 31, 2016

We are doing GISHWHES-which seems sort of ill-advised, no? Right in the middle of all this madness? 

I found out about it from Jessica who used to work at the library. She took the risk, and I was thinking and thinking and got up to: maybe next year. This year-I'll Just Watch. 

And then I remembered cancer and how nobody is guaranteed a next year(duh), so I asked my art school pals and two came through-which is so exciting and they brought their people, which is even more exciting and since we couldn't possibly pull a whole team together that quickly, we went with the option of joining our team with another partial team floating across the globe. They are from Austria. They're young. And perfectly coo-coo for cocoa puffs. 

I happened to be the first one to get to pick. I got so excited, ya know? So, I probably picked too many things to do-just out of being too excited. (Don't forget I've spent the majority of the last five years in a sensory deprivation tank listening to people tell me not to be afraid to 'really dig in-if I find a knot' like I'm some sort of puppy working for a milk bone let loose in their backyard of angst. #Don'tgetmestarted/Toolate.)

Anyway, it got us out and hunting down artichokes and rubber stamps and sidewalk chalk and just for the tiniest moment-when we were talking about what to put in these phony parking ticket envelopes we're talking about distributing at the lot at the Cancer Center(it's that or the VA-we're down with both of those places.) and we were talking about how, if you found some sort of food-like Lemonheads-on your windshield how you might just automatically throw those away and we thought, how about a five dollar bill-to cover those five people's parking fee for the day-where I felt that kinda magical fairy dust twinkly be kind to others sort of a thing and that's the real name of the game. 

Here's the website. For next year.

Lawd willin'. 

Friday also brought an appointment with a(I think) rheumatologist. It was a ridiculous wait to get the appointment. Like three months or something. 

This is what's known as The First Appointment of The Day. 

It was a 'cross the T's/dot the i's/leave no stone unturned' decision by the Blood Lady(the hematologist), but I kinda knew I didn't have any of the items on the rheumatology menu so when they asked me to say-in my own words-why I thought I was there-I was like, ummm I am not really sure. 

And after a brief exam, they said I should get a blood test just to rule everything out and for the first time in my Loyola career, I didn't go straight downstairs to get it. 

It's on my list. At the bottom. 

I seemed glib in my last post, right?(<---understatement) Mammograms can be frightening things. Plus they are uncomfortable-altho I always laugh when a medical professional picks up my bosom. It's just that weird, ya know? 

But that has been my go-to mammogram stand-up routine for as long as I can remember. I say to the tech-what if the power goes out? Like that would NEVER happen(ha ha ha) but it actually did. And the answer is: there exists a hand crank to get you off the platter. I suppose the difficult thing would be to try not to panic. Oy. Let's not even think about that. 

Thank you. 

I had an excellent tech. She looked just like my Facebook friend/note-worthy chef Renee and she was funny and sympathetic and nearly apologetic and she RAN to push the button while I was holding my breath and not moving-which was exceptionally cool and my advice to you is to just give in to that whole process and keep breathing until they tell you to stop. That's all you really have-at that moment, right? That and a droopy fuchsia gown. 

They'll have the results in 3 days or 10 days and of course I'm sort of back-burneredly worried but I am supposed to be re-writing The Constitution right now into common language, so ya know, wish me luck if you've got some extra lying around. 


Friday, July 29, 2016

Roses are red
Violets are blue
You're not going to believe this,
But it's absolutely true. 
just as the tech was handing me the
sweet sticky metal balls of nipplage distinction
(if you've had a mammogram, you know of what I speak)
the power went out. 
And just before I dissolved in a puddle of laughter. 

I was like: NO WAY. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

P is an opera singer. 

And if he hasn't been singing, there's something really wrong-life~wise. That HALT thing. Too hungry, too tired, too much doing of the laundry, too angry at the Cubs. Something like that. 

The other morning, I was slow in getting out of bed and yacking about something or other, and the opera singer appeared. He puts one hand near his throat so he can gesture with the other hand like Pavarotti. 

Oh yes. He does. 

"If there could only be a day-ay-ay-ay-ayyyyyyyyyy, that I did not have to hear about your bow-w-w-w-w-w-wels."

I was dying laughing on the bed. Not literally, of course. Gawd fahbid.


It was lunchtime at Jury Duty and I watched everyone else drink things. 

Like all different things. Lots o' pop. Big bottles. Coffee. Iced Green Tea with pictures of lemon and limes on the label. It's good to get out and watch what people are doing even if, you fear liquids with drawings of citrus fruits on the labels. (And cheeseburgers fresh from the grille.) 

I cannot chance it. Not far away from home. My intestines are still really wacky. 

Beverage envy. 

You asked me if I was happy about the CEA results. I'm kinda not allowing for happiness exactly. This cancer business was too way-outta-nowhere to be able to kinda clap at what you hope is the end. Also there are so many other people having a worse time than me. 

When I saw this chart of my CEA blood test results
(Carcinoembryonic Antigen), I did have a moment of Jubilee Showcase cuz THAT'S the way I roll. 

I got a box in the mail. This was hand colored on the side. 

Curious, right? 

What was in the box made me want to jump off a bridge. Somebody(and I know you meant well) put me on a sort of a religious prayer box 'o'cancer accoutrements list. 


What was in it, you ask? Oh a bible and a handcrafted "blanket" which was actually two pieces of fleece tied together (one is zebra striped. Yipes.) and a plastic water bottle and some dollar store chapstick and a Large Type Wordfind book and all this other plastic stuff I spend hours trying to remove from my universe but the worst...(and I really know you meant well) was a chemo cap. 

How bad would it be for you, if I told you I would not wear that thing(if I did have chemo and tomorrow is my mammogram so never say never) for all the plastic water bottles manufactured in China. 

Ya know, chemo isn't a style lobotomy. We gotta work on this people. 

I promise to find it a better home. Perhaps on a farm. 

You see me in a cap like this? Alert the authorities. 

The gym is going well. I talked to the trainer and maybe by next week? 


Somebody brought in an old copy of Random Acts of Kindness from 1993. A few of us are participating in G.I.S.H.W.E.S. starting Saturday so I thought I'd read this for homework. 
This one sounded very familiar-kinda sorta. And this is how I like my Jesus delivered. In action. 

Not in a box. 

But I know you meant well. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thursday, I was working at the library. It was my turn to answer the library phone-I like doing it. I like knowing the answer-whatever that means. My own phone buzzed. 


The day before, I went to my six month colon cancer check-up. Okay so, I was actually I was five months late but there I was, sitting in the waiting room watching a gigantic family slurp down bottles of Pepsi and Mountain Dew.(I think that s!@t is killing us. One big gulp at a time. Sweet Jesus.) I texted my sympathetic friend. Do you know she exchanged pleasantries with me for the entire 20 minutes they were running behind? (Gifts come in many forms. I tay ya.) I was really anxious(<---understatement) because this was supposed to be the episode in which a camera entered my a-hole aided by a live enema delivered on site by a massively unlucky nurse. 

Holy f!@#. 

Got called in. The doctor was in fine form. It was actually The Best Appointment I've Ever Had With Him. (This is sharp haircut/good shoes. Not pink shirt.) We had a real back and forth about what we thought. I told him what I thought I'd do about this hernia thang. I explained to him that I'd like to see someone other than Pink Shirt 'due to communication problems' and I never used the phrase 'a@#hole' once. 

The thing with the surgical relationship that I've learned over the last almost year now-you do spend very little time with them overall? But it's a long term thing. Somebody was telling me I should go with Pink Shirt-just for the convenience/expertise factor but he's gonna be poking at me in the hospital and I want someone with whom I can have an intelligent conversation lacking an F-U thought bubble over my head. 

I was awarded the prize of NOT having the enema(oh joy/ rapture)in exchange for another colonoscopy coming soon. Okay said I. Works for me. 

He said I needed my CEA and I said okay and we both kinda said that we thought I was probably fine in the cosmic sense. Everything was kinda pointing to fine anyway and off I went. 

I was so happy, I took the steps. 

The Lab. 

The Lab is on the first floor of the hospital. At different points in my hospital experience, I'd actually grown to really appreciate the women who work in this department. They put up with a whole lotta nonsense and I'm just guessing they're not rolling in dough and even though they've been flat out rude to me on occasion-I just keep pushing my 'hey how's YOUR day going?' thing until I break them down. 

That all ended on Wednesday. 

I can't decide if she was dour or sullen or maybe she was even sullendour which would be a terrible thing, but she refused to acknowledge me. I said, is this the time where I tell you I'm a hard stick and they never get blood out of my right arm? She totally ignored me. Went ahead and tied the orange rubber thing around my right arm(I have now learned that I am to immediately ask for someone else. I can even say, I'd like someone from the ER to do this. I really didn't know this officially until today.) and here's what happened:

Right arm? She had the needle dangling half way in and had to call her friend over to try and assist and yeah her friend couldn't get it either because hello, I just TOLD her it wasn't going to work. 

Other arm? Her friend got it. 

So entirely not cool.

So Thursday, when I'm at the switchboard, my phone was ringing. And I thought ho-lee s@#$ that has GOT to be bad news(because when it's no news-they send the results via email and when it's Very Bad, the doctor calls) I am not taking it here. 

I left work 10 minutes early because I wanted to hear the message before my visit to the social worker. I thought, okay if this is something horrendous-wouldn't it be delightful to go straight to the social worker and figure things out? 

The message was this: cccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Like they hung up-whomever they were. Now I'm thinking Uh-oh. He wants to speak to me in person. This is Very Bad. 

Because this is the way your mind works 11 months after cancer. 

Got home, talkin' to P, I say-is that your phone? Because I heard a zzzz-zzzz-zzzz. 

I missed the call. It was the nurse. Please call her back right away. 

Called the number, left a message. Said something like, hey and I hope this isn't horrendous news because you're making me very nervous.

And here it is, on the back of an envelope:

It says: Amanda(that was the nurse's name). CEA 1.1 fine.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Okay so. On the 13th, I had my Fitness Assessment. I had to kinda talk myself into walking from the parking lot to the door of the place by saying things to myself like: Olympic athletes do things that are a lot harder than this every dayBecause you know Ann is to an Olympic athlete as a unicorn is to a goldfish cracker. 

Uh huh.

I got in, put my stuff away and met my trainer. She looked exactly like Elsa the Snow Queen. I am not even kidding. 

We went up the way back steps to an area I hadn't been before and then into a room with a couple of machine type things pushed up against the wall. I had to fill out a survey that seemed to be dealing with the emotional side of all of this goo. Like did my current physical condition change the way I interacted with my friends in social situations and stuff like that. (um, yes/duh)

Now because I have this hernia, you see, it puts the kibosh on any lifting of more than 10 pounds so even before we started I was getting modified. I didn't have to do push-ups. And there was some other stuff I got to skip over. 

I did do a wall sit thing pretty okay and I learned these new fangled crunches-I had to see how many I could do in a minute and here's the thing: I still have a sort of a ping pong ball feeling in the back of my throat from the last surgery so that chopped my results by about 80%. Kind of a drag. 

I had to stand barefoot on a machine that determined body fat(this was the reason I had to fast for 4 hours before the test) and I did another thing where I had to sit and pull a kind of a handle and that got measured. Oh and I had to wear a heart monitor. Never did that before. 

She asked me more questions, pushed more buttons on her computer and generated a report. She said, do you want this e-mailed or printed and I looked at her like, uhhh neither. 

Why would I want to bring home this news? You keep it, I said and I'll get it at the end. "Right." said Elsa. "Stay positive."

And that was it. All that angst for really nothing and I was on my way.


The next day I had my first session of the 8 week program. Bad news. Elsa got another job and this would be my last session with her. O-well. Let it go

She said she'd done some research and that riding a bicycle would be good for me and I thought, okay. But first we had to do a whole bunch of maneuvers on this thing that looked like an upside down little kid blow-up swimming pool. It was weird. I felt seriously off my game. In fact, I really wondered if I'd ever even had a game before all of this but I do remember not being worried about doing physical stuff. Now, I'd turned into a popover. I had special needs. All of a sudden. 


I did the swimming pool platform things and she plopped me on a stationary bike that had a fan between your knees, but you know what? It was killing my arse. In my yoot-as my father would say-I would have definitely sucked it up but not now. Got switched to a different bike. Did my 15 minutes of interval training at level 8 and I was done. 

I dunno, ya know? I wasn't tired. I wasn't sore. I was a little sweaty but mostly I was disappointed because it takes a bit of effort to get over to this place and here I'm being handled like a Twinkie. 

They asked me at the desk how I was feeling and I said, it was kind of easy and they said I might have DMR which stand for delayed muscle reaction and I was like, uh okay. But not really. 

I went the next day on my own. I was the Only Person in the warm pool and I was hopping all over the place singing in my head, I'm not dead. I'm not dead. (it's catchy, no?) I played with the barbells, I stretched my entire self out like it's never been stretched before. It was fantastic. 

Saturday we tried the Divvy Bikes. It was a free trial. The bikes live at the end of our street. What the heck. It was kinda cool. Kinda like having an amusement park at the end of your block. The bikes are kind of touring bikes and you have to get them back in 30 minutes so we spun around the 'hood and that was fun too. 

They're offering a 15 dollar reduction on the $99 yearly membership but P said he knows of a bicycle(mine) in the basement and I could ride that if I paid him $10. 

Everyone's a comedian. 

Bye for now! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thing one. People keep dying. Really, I wish I could put some sort of a stop to that, because the cancer/death stories come at me like an 'El' train gone express. A co-worker who's Mom died from colon cancer. Fast.The trainer at the gym's Dad who went in with a cancer level of 5 and 2 months later it was like 52367. A cartoonist. First, I say something like, that is some sort of horrendous nightmare you've just been through and then I let the person talk. And I shake my head. 

Thing two. I did something personally brave and heroic and that is related to my hair. (Some people take vacations. I travel through salons.) I had been going to that lady that said all those awful things, and then I couldn't get an appointment with her, so I tried one of the junior girls and while she was cutting, I got to watch The Guy. 

Oh my god The Guy. He was so into it and I was watching and thinking, I want that

So, I called and actually had to talk to the salon owner who is also the sayer of awful things and I said, hey. I'd like to try The Guy. Which turned out to be not a big thing because I'm pretty sure she doesn't recognize my name but anyway I got there and I felt really weird. 

Here's her in the front chair looking at me strangely and I just thought, okay. I'm going to go with the giant confident smile/I don't give a fiddlers f!@# combination and ya know what? The Guy? He had the most gigantic smile for the entire cut. Unrelated to her. He was just grooving on his work. I know it's weird but it felt like whoa, this is so unusually positive-I really don't even care how it comes out. I think this whole deal has been Good For Me like an overflowing bowl of King Vitamin or something. 

(Another minor cancer hair thing. I decided I cannot go and sit in a chair and have some just past high school girl spackle my head with goo while the world spins. Also the cost. Also the general annoyance.

I bought a box. It was 13 bucks. I've ceased to give a s@#$. I have Things To Do.) 

I thought this was pretty. Go figya. 

Thing Three. The gym. Well. I had decided against it. The program they were offering was something like 300 bucks and it featured visits with a nutritionist(which I just got in the cancer center for free) and massages(which are very available to me<---understatement) so I gave up on the phone tag with the Woman In Charge. 

Also-and you can call me crazy-but with all the phone tag I left a message just asking about the cost. Like, hey if you could just tell me the cost-I am familiar with the gym. And she ignored it and it just made it more annoying. Is that just me? All these tunnels we've got now-they're made for communication, no? Gaaaah. 

I tried one more time. I got this guy named Joe. And Joe wanted me to come to the gym. I mean like, he was fantastic-asking questions/answering questions and just making it work. 

It turns out there's a program for $100. It's 8 weeks. Two times a week. And they tell you what you need to do. I ran right over and signed up. And the girl that signed me up-it was a most hilarious conversation because whenever she had to use the word 'cancer', she'd whisper it. 

It was actually irritating me. Blah blah blah blah cancer blah blah blah blah cancer

P said maybe it's cuzza the HIPPA stuff but I thought it was moronic. There's a brochure in my hand and it says: cancer. I think we can all safely move forward from there. 


Thing Four. So my insurance is going to vaporize

What I'd like you to know about that: Ya know this Affordable Care Act? It's not for shiftless people. I have not hustled this hard since I was a janitoress(like a janitor but you have to wear a bra)one summer during college when my sweat went through my underwear before lunch. A Team of 4 cleaned an entire 3 level elementary school. I played the role of The Only Girl. 

Driving one of those floor waxers like the badass you know I am. 

I read about this insurance thing on Facebook on Tuesday. Ya know, there have been so many sort of waves of drama with this cancer experience-I can't really even take more of this stuff in. So, we'll wait and see what happens next. 

One strange thing-I got a call on Wednesday morning and some $1400 blood test had been approved by this insurance company and you can believe I got my arse over there before anyone changed their minds. 

Thing Five. Some friends and I are going to do this. Ya know, I looked at it and thought, I'll just watch this time and maybe I'll do it next year but Thing One. People keep dying. 

King Vitamin. Have breakfast with the king. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

The condo is tight. Two humans and a dog and even SHE'S got 2 beds so you're getting the picture here, yes?

When we sneak away for little adventures-being very careful to get out of the car and seriously stroll around like our friend Patty instructed us to do cuzza the blood thinners and stuff, we stay in Red Roof Inns. 

They are cheap-ish, newly-remodeled and allow dogs. And one more thing. They have these huge mirrors. Like I do not have at home. I need to get one eventually. I mean a really good one and then I need the space to be able to back up enough to see my whole self because on this journey-I think I was headed toward the shower and WHOA.

I mean like WHOA

I hadn't had a really clear shot of the after effects of the past 11 months. It was like waking up to find you had the Mark of Zorro across your entire self. 

whoa, ya know?  


Came back to a terse message from Surgeon One. (I forgot his code name. O well.) I knew I had fallen off the maintenance wagon in terms of the colon cancer stuff which is why I sent him an e but it seems as if I am actually due for my hideous six month check in thing which is 4 months late(see cancer-thyroid). 

I am NOT looking forward to it as I believe it involves the offer of an in-office (what's a nicer word than) enema (asstraction?) administered by the nurse. When he mentioned it, was when I turned bright red and mumbled out furiously angry words to the effect of: 

Have I not
been through
enough already

But I guess it's just the name of the game. 

I guess. 

The end game. As it were. 


Saw a friend last night who I like very much and hadn't seen for a year. July is when this whole thing began so she didn't know a thing about it. On our way out of the a-hem, dining experience(Chili's. Uggh.) she said over and over how sorry she was that all this s!@# had happened to me and I kept saying, no/no/no/no/no.  It's okay. I'm not dead. 

And then we cracked up laughing because that is what we do. 


Saturday, July 2, 2016

For a moment, I forgot I had cancer at all. 

I was digging in to find a spectacular agent for my book-as they had taught me in Second City improv classes-I was finding the game. Like okay, who's the very very very best? And then, who's even better than THAT? 

Help Wanted. Spectacular Picture Agent who neva smells of bahhhhhlayyyyyywah tah.(See Poppins, Mary

So, up strolls one of my favorite-favorites and she says something complimentary and within the sentence is something about having beaten cancer. And for a second I thought, wait, what? 

Oh yeah. 

And you may ask yourself, how is it that I forgot, when I am sporting this number on my forearm. 

Lesson #353425962464564634-Do not arrive at a blood test without having become properly hydrated. I mean, some of that was on me and the other 3/4th was a vein in my hand that kept hopping and a vein that wouldn't release a drop and a vein that blew, so it wasn't allllllll me but still. 


There was a visit to the Social Worker. Really, I would find it delightful if she wore some sort of modest uniform with a red cross cap and rolled bandages while I spoke, but this was all the usual horrendous life crap that I can't seem to negotiate with any shard of elegance and dress-wise, she's purely business casual. 

I have categories-I guess you could say-and I kinda review what's happening or not happening and I dunno. It's not like ever exactly fun to drag out all your drama(especially when it's someone else's fecal matter that keeps being flung in your direction) in front of someone else, so I can't really pin it down as a happy moment of the week but sometimes I feel positive-I guess you could say-that I'm even going there, because it means at least I'm trying. 

A weaker person would stay home and eat the opposite of walnuts-whatever that may be. 


The Nutritionist

Part of cancering at Loyola is, you get to take advantage of a couple of free services. Nothing like what those breast cancer broads rake in-holy muther of jayzuz they get ALL the prizes-this is like, you can visit the art girl or get a rayon wig or learn to draw eyebrows.....I think? (I shouldn't be so glib. I have a cold. I forgive myself. Also I have an order in my files for a mammogram. Holy shit.)

I didn't know you could go back to the nutritionist twice, but I asked and yes you can. The last time I went, I was so sick. I should have just stayed on the couch and watched the rats waltz, but anyway, yeah. And P-who is the chief grocery hunter around these parts-I thought it'd be brilliant genius if HE went with me, right? But only if he wanted to. 

He wanted to go and off we went. 

We lucked out to get a really lovely human. 

Loyola's recommended place for cancer survivorship AND cancer prevention diet recommendations is this: and you can go there and sign up to get emails sent to you with recipes. (you're welcome)

We had a lot of talking and explaining and no jerky judgement or that sort of Weight Watcher's/every other commercial diet on the planet sales pitch bullshit. 

We even did a sort of a lightening round asking her crazy questions. Like what do you eat at McDonalds. What would you NOT eat at McDonalds? And what's the one most recommended food in the whole wide world? And what do YOU eat? 

It was super cool. And free. Thanks to whomever had the bucks to sponsor the program. Well done. 

This morning, P went out to move his car and he comes back with this:

OP Farmers Market Doughnuts

Uh-huh. So I guess some of us are sort of easing into this food thing and that's okay with me.