Thursday, September 29, 2016


A Moment with P

A: What kinda test was that? 

P: Test for what?

A: That you had at Loyola. 

P: I just had the brochure and I put it in the recycling bag. Prostate. You want the brochure?

A: Naaah. 



Okay so, I found the hand-out about free prostate screenings at Loyola. Did I find that at the cancer center?

P: Was that in the mail or did you pick it up over there?

A: So, that's a pretty brave thing to do. Get your prostate checked. Right? We have to change this mentality of getting your health stuff fixed being interpreted as bad luck. To get tested is brave. To get something repaired is brave. End of story.


P: It included a little bit of paperwork to fill out. It was all free-which was nice.  I was in and out of there within 20 minutes. Or they were in and out of me within 20 minutes. (Laughs.) The actual exam was like a minute. 

A: You're talking too fast. What about the light refreshments? 

P:  Oh yeah, afterwards. I was directed to a room for beverages and cookies. 

A: What were the beverages?

P: Coffee, soft drinks and water. 

A; What kinda cookies? 

P: Those M&M chocolate chip cookies and butter cookies too.

A: Okay so you go in, right? And then what?

P: I drove. So it was free parking. Beautiful Wednesday, late afternoon around 6:00 PM. Walked in. Warmly greeted. No waiting. Paperwork. Then I was directed for a PSA blood draw by a humorous phlebotomist. That took a minute. 

A: Okay

P: Then I walked out, I was directed to go into a room-escorted by the proctologist-for my eventual digital rectal exam-which I passed. 

A: Uh-huh. When was the last time you were tested? 

P: Several years ago.

A: What motivated you to go now? 

P: You. Ann-no-e. Enlightened me about this free exam. 

A: Because you get your health care from the VA, right?

P: Which can be good and it can be hmmmmmmm.

A: Well, way to go because now you know, right? I'm going to switch gears here. You ready?

P: Uh-huh.

A: Lets talk about caregiving. It's exhausting, isn't it? 

P: It has it's moments.

A: What does that mean? 

P: (distracted by an old Jewel receipt.)

A: Do you think I'm extra cranky today? 

P: Do you? 

A: Ferocious. 














Sunday, September 25, 2016


A week ago Sunday, I had Grantley out. P was way outta town and I was thinking about what I might have for dinner. Maybe like something he hates. I don't know what that is-off the top of my head, so, I was thinking about it. 

I came around the corner and my whole innermost being was filled with pain. I don't mean like 'hey, is it time for another pain killer?' kind of pain. I mean like HOLYMUTHAOFJAYZUZIMGOINGTODIERIGHTNOW pain which is an entirely different thing. There was nobody out on my block. I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. 




I got home, up the three flights of stairs with Grantley and as I tried to open the front door, I began to explode. 

Two days later, I'm in complete internal demolition mode. If something was not shooting out of my mouth-there was something else flying out of some other orifice. P was set to go out and do his day stuff and-for the first time in this final set of surgical olympics-I had to ask him to stay home. 


I emailed the surgeon thinking all of this was a result of the pain killers. My second night sharing a room in the hospital with the nurse who was my roommate and who pointed out the following details:A) The young nurses could not draw blood. B)They never cleaned the bathroom. was when I started throwing up but I just took that as a sign that these were big strong pills and they were kicking my ass to New Jersey, so I sez to the surgeon, hey is there something else I can take? Pepto Bismol? Rolaids? 

He gets back to me about 10 hours later. This cannot be related to the surgery. It's possibly a colon infection. Go to the ER or Urgent Care. 

A trip to the ER for me STARTS at $500 bucks. Not happening. 

We set off for the Urgent Care. Well, sort of. P handcrafted a secret spy bag. It was a big white plastic bag and inside he had several big towels and some smaller ones and one of my blue plastic buckets which was lined with 2 smaller trash bags. He said,"Don't worry, nobody's gonna know." Which I didn't understand. I don't understand a lot of things people said to me this week but that's a story for another day. 

I didn't want to leave the condo. I'm still seriously heaving in all directions here-in fact I was trying to brush my teeth to appear somewhat presentable(funny what your mother insisted upon that is glued in your head) for the doctor and I started heaving again. As I am brushing my teeth. 

I had to run back to the bathroom once more but after a stern "You need medical attention" talking to from P, I shoved my seriously sorry ass out the door and if anymore mentions fighting cancer to me-that's the kind of thing I'm going to think of. In fact, I wonder how many people die from hospital infections as opposed to actual cancer. Never mind. I don't even wanna know.

Got there. Threw up four times when the car stopped moving. Got inside and tried to negotiate waiting in the parking lot but they weren't having it. They gave me a teal bucket sort of a thing and told me to have a seat. 

I tried to look like Linda Blair. I didn't want anyone coming near me. That didn't seem to be a problem. Go figya. 

Could not pee for the urine sample because I'd used up all my juices for other things. The doctor-here played by Glen Close-came in. I did my Linda Blair for her. A little poking and she determined I had gastroenteritis. Had I eaten something strange? 

See this lady?  She ate something strange. Maybe some bad encased meat at the Cubs game or something. This was different. A) It was me. and B) I was dying.



I was useless at doctor conversation except to say that I would never take off the anti-nausea patch that was stuck behind my ear. Ever. 

Gatorade, she said, was my new best friend. (I voted for blue which P interpreted as 'berry'. FYI: You should probably know your Gatorade flavor ahead of time.) Working my way up to saltines. And they were going to give me some sort of an under the tongue melty pill thing-right there in the office and we'd all wait 15 minutes to see what happened. 

I was cold. I wanted to go home. When she checked back in, she said yet another thing about this infection was that P might get it as well. 

------

I think the Very Worst Thing was that I was only permitted to have small sips of Gatorade and I'd lay there and try to not to think about how much I missed actually swallowing a delicious beverage. Like not sipping. Drinking. Like not scotch. Water. 

Makes me wonder if I was operating too low on the grateful scale or something. 

It's 5 days since I saw Glen Close. We have new toothbrushes. 









Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sometimesssssss Someeeeeetimesssssss I feeeeeeeeel like I ate a wooooooden hanger. 
Without the benefit of teeth. 

Is that the post surgical Blues er whut? 

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Stop me if you've heard this(like you can possibly stop me now that I'm bionic-Pfffft. )but there's this very impressive billboard along the expressway. It's for Loyola and it says: We also treat the human spirit. Which is one fine chunk of copywriting-in my opinion. 

I neglected to say-in the last episode-that just before surgery, we were visited upon by the chaplain. It was this sort of kooky art faire braceleted lady and she came in and she asked me what I wanted and I was like, uhh I dunno. What do you have? (I don't wanna miss out on anything that lies beyond my current level of imagination.) Maybe they have glow in the dark religious swag. 

And she said she'd pray and I said, okay. And she asked me who she should pray for, and I blurted out something like: everyone in the whole wide world. 

And she did. 


Soon after I became a regular at Loyola-I noticed another billboard on First Avenue. It still said: We also treat the human spirit. Also in Melrose Park and I thought to myself, somewhere there's a copywriter with a tear in her eye. 

---------

We went for the two weeks after release/see the surgeon appointment. It was preceded by a sponge bath performed on the edge of our tub. (P got really good at it. He's available for rental. Operators are standing by.) One year, I wanted my bathroom to look like the beach so I bought a whole buncha pails and shovels and the pails came in handy for the rinse portion. Ya neva know, do ya?

Got ready, forgot my drain diary on the counter(I had been emptying and measuring output mornings and evenings since my escape.)went with 'shorts/t-shirt' in terms of fashion selection, and off we went. 

You ever go into a place and you open the door and the air-conditioning actually kicks you back-it's blasting and you're instantly freezing? That was this. I am not usually cold so I was clearly off my game and the thing is, about being in a hospital lobby-there are so many more people suffering WAY more than you so get ova yo' sorry ass already, okay? 

Went to Two. Some nurses said Hi because they kinda know us by now. Got weighed. Noticed a man-way after me-come out of the room with the scale with his shoes in his hands. I figured he must be new to the game. After a while, you just fail to care. That is after you use your-oh that must be because of my 500 pound shoes-joke too many times. 

In the scale room there are brochures. Lots of them and we know who liketh brochures and that is P. We're flipping through and I say: Hey. Look at that guy. 

P is way less amused than I am. Too bad. 



So, another appointment/another resident. She does the run-down. Asks the questions. Gets the first peek at the scar. Lots of apologizing for inadvertent ouching. Everything is cool. 

P stands up to show which gauze he's changed-I mean aside from Charge Nurse Grantley, he's the only one that's really gotten to look at anything and he did it, I must say, like a trooper. 

Also-if you've never had the chance to witness his 'Tweezer Man' super hero character-you can't really say you've lived. He's got his hand patting my leg and he says to the resident: She's been through a lot. 

The resident goes out, there's discussion in the hallway. I can't really hear it but I'm not really listening because it's become way less important to me to know things first. She and the Surgeon return to the room. He is so hmmm what's the word. Personable. The anti-pink shirt. 

They set about taking all the sticky stuff off(you're not held together by bandaids-its like clear sticky saran wrap)and then it's a lesson for her about cutting open these stitches. I know there were 14 at least. And I figure, my job is to hold very very still. 

He says nice things like, that I'm healing really well and he answers my silly questions which I'm asking flat on my back without the proper vocabulary and when he mentions something about surgery and I say, for the 400th time, yeah except I'm never coming back for any more surgery and he doesn't go all psycho jerk on me. He made a joke about what you should do if you meet a surgeon. Run. 

So yeah, I was awarded the honor of taking an actual shower. Woo! And he refilled the pain prescription-with no jerky judgements. Hydrocodone. Good stuff. The rest maker. 

He said I need to come back in two weeks. He said 4 weeks after that, I should be completely back to normal. And I asked, so, like uhhh what is it I need to avoid doing, so that I don't end up here again and instantly he said, hey this wasn't your fault. You didn't get here by something you did. 

Totally dig that guy.

------

Food. It's been a theme. Do we stop someplace on our way back from an appointment and which category are we fulfilling. Like, a lotta times I'd have to arrive there empty so we'd get done and need food pronto(Einstein's Bagels in the hospital lobby). Or we'd need to discuss(Dunkin Donuts on 1st and Cermak)so we'd share an Everything bagel or get a couple of those egg wrap things. And then for the good news days, McDonalds for ice cream or very good days(like this one)Polar Bear. 

We got there. It was a beautiful day. I wasn't feeling 1000% but it's the principle of the thing, no? Strawberry Sundae-P. Root Beer Float-me. And we're alone in this little counter area and there's some samba/salsa/something like that music on and one of us bursts out into a dance and the other looks around and she starts dancing too. 

It wasn't this but it wasn't not this either. 

You got me, right? 





Friday, September 16, 2016

How To Have Your Hernia Repaired 

Find out you have the 9:00 appointment which is not the preferred appointment because that means you're in a line. Lines are not cool in the hospital where you are at the mercy of anything happening to anybody. For myself, if I ever have to go back there and I have no plans to do that, I'd do more frowny facing in regard to being the one who goes first. I like 6:00 AM because I'm still sleepy. This, was classified as out-patient surgery which seemed strange because I knew I'd be there for a day or two but whatever, right? 

I brought a book, P brought the paper and we waited and waited and waited. Coolest thing? My pal Jeanne from New York showed me some text-worthy distraction-type love and if you have the opportunity to do that for someone else, it's really kind of a wonderful gift. 

Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinallly, it was our turn to go up. We know the way. 

Got into the pre-surgical line up. Instructed to remove all my clothes, put on the gown and yellow socks and this was all business. The nurse was bright with a small tattoo and orange fingernail polish and it was she, and me and the computer working our way down the lists. When was the last time you've eaten? What prescriptions are you taking? Previous reactions to anesthesiology. Blah blah blah. 

The anesthesiologist came in. This was one of those situations where he was in change of several patients but it was going to be a nurse practitioner doing the actual administration(and strangely-the only reason I have any inkling about that-is that I've massaged TONS of nurses and lots of them have been nurse anesthetists.) It was very clear he was familiar with my paperwork-I asked him to be the one to put the big line in and that went fine too.

The doctor came in with a cast of-I think it was 5. It's a teaching hospital and I have a crazy feeling I might have been a good starter project for some of these residents. 

I don't remember what the general jibber-jabber was. I know I gave P the 'hey there's no reason for two of us to be stuck in the hospital for the next few days. Get your own stuff done.' lecture where I didn't really really mean it but it seemed like the right thing to do. 

I got my silver beret. It's the hat you wear during surgery-I guess the silver keeps the heat in and of course I put it on like the style master you know I am. The nurse said something about getting a matching one for P and that was all I remember. 
___

I woke up in recovery. That's never happened before-that I knew I was in recovery. There were two women talking to me. I told them I had to go to the bathroom and they shoved this plastic-it felt like a big dust pan-under my hips and they're all like: Go. And I'm all like, not gonna happen. 
______

Woke up again in my room. I actually felt great. I ran my hands along my belly and I thought wow, this is incredible. I also popped right into the chair. The hospital people do not want you in recline-they want you up and I remember slipping right into the chair and feeling so good. And then sleep. 

Lots of sleeping. Lots of getting woken up. Lots of that f-ing computer on a stick alarm going off forever. You had to see the charge nurse's face when mine was going off and P reached over and started poking buttons-like I have done every single hospital stay. Hey they don't come when it goes off and they think we're not going to push the OK button? 

Next day, my very favorite nurse ever Vivian came to get me. They're moving you, she said. You've been really lucky. Yeah? Okay. So me and my beeping pole roll our sorry asses 
down a few doors into a room occupied by three gigantic people. And it is hot. 

And the huge daughter/sister is the one in the bed and at some point she starts whimpering about how she's "doing this for you"-here she indicates her huge Mother and her huge brother-and I thought okay gastric bypass, right? But no, we're in the trauma section so she's had some sort of painful attack delivered upon her organs. And the Mother-I think when she saw me-she thought yippee! A whole new set of fresh ears! Which strangely coincided exactly with the exact moment when I began to heave. 

The lovely thing-was that she came over with three Kleenex and she accepted my apology for not being able to chat right then. And the unlovely thing was that I spent an awful lot of time yakking into that grey basin. So much so, that I kinda got a handle on it. It was like riding a bucking bronco. 

The darling Nurse Vivian-I think she was from the Philippines-we just had a wonderful click. Her Mom died as a result of cancer and there was just all this crazy noise going on in that room and we just had a moment. 

The nurses ran the range from being kinda cool and funny to never answering the call light but Vivian was the best. 

The room was squished and by that I mean, two patients, two beds, two dressers, two rolling table top things and 5 chairs. Inside the bathroom, there was more furniture shoved in the bathtub. I learned something very interesting that I never knew and that is, you're not supposed to use the patients bathroom. I guess aside from the cootie factor, they're watching what goes in and out and the average visitor could screw that up. Who knew?

I also heard that you should never get sick in July because that's when the new residents start and it takes a while for the nurses to break them and their giant attitudes in. 

At some point, the giant family got released and they were immediately followed by a woman-in her 60's for sure and her husband. The woman seemed to be having an attack of pancreatitis. That's supposed to be some evil awful pain. AND, she was a nurse herself. Do you know, I felt exceptionally lucky, because even tho I had no family-this nice woman and I sorta looked out for each other. It was cool. 

The gigantic bummer was that she was supposed to off all food and liquids and here, between us-on my side-was everything she would have killed for. The nurses ordered me this platter-I guess-of the liquid diet selections which-because I kept heaving-heard exactly no appeal. You want lemonade after you've been lacking up bile all night? Yeah not so much. 

As the holiday weekend went on, I saw lower and lower levels of physicians. My guy was completely gone. The higher levels of residents began to disappear and I ended up with some lovely high school students. ha ha. Just kidding. 

Tomorrow is a week after I was released. Today is the exact one year anniversary of the first cancer surgery. A year ago, I was sure I was dying. I can't say that I 'feel better'(in fact I'm more than a little annoyed that I've stepped back onto the 'it takes a year to actually feel better' merry go around.)but I am grateful for the care I received, the people who stepped up for me and the clanging of the actual life alert button that I don't think I actually really understood. 

Tomorrow: Do I get this drain removed or what? 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Woke up this morning(ish) surrounded by my personal home health care nursing staff. 

Left side:


Right side:



So if you were in the least bit worried about me-I'm in good hands. (Charge nurse not pictured.)

----

We slipped out Sunday night for my pre-birthday fondue dinner. Just even getting ready for that-I have this drain thing hanging off me and it has to be disguised. Listen, it could be worse worse worse or even way worse than that-but off we went. There was a shiny penny near the back of my car-I pointed out to P who-I guess in an attempt at gallantry tried to pick it up-when everyone knows the magic lies in being the one who picks it up, right? I think he found my body slam excessive-especially under the current circumstances-but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. 

Off we went exploring Chicago's crumbling infrastructure road-wise. Every single bump. POW. 

And did I mention that up until that very meal, I'd only been eating toast. 

Uh huh. 
------

On the good side, it was a thing of beauty to watch P navigate fondue for the first time. You never saw someone so wrapped in the challenge at hand. I honestly actually think he could patent his methodology of getting the carrot stuck onto the fondue fork-I have never witnessed such a feat of engineering. 

Also on the good side, the meal and the accompanying flying over potholes ride home seems to have provided the perfect conditions to get my digestive system in motion. "Do you think" I gasped as we pulled into my parking spot, "you could get" pulling myself out of the passenger seat,"all the doors open so I can get upstairs now?". 

I spent the remainder of the evening and well into the wee hours reacquainting myself with the bathroom. I think that's a huge bit about surgery and chopping up a body and whatnot. It all becomes about earning these bodily function type things you never give a second thought to-you kind of have to earn them back and against your own-best laid plans of experiencing time off work? Post-surgical sick leave does not a vacation make. 

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Yesterday turned into my birthday. We had watermelon. 



Saturday, September 10, 2016



"Gas," the young doctor said,"is the one thing we can't control." 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Apres Hernia Repair Libation
(formerly Grandma Mitzi's Late 1960's kiddie cocktail)


2 small scoops orange sherbet(Can substitute rainbow)
ginger ale

Scoop two smallish scoops of orange sherbet into a cocktail glass. Cover slowly with ginger ale. Serve with spoon for sherbet retrieval. Sip slowly. Savor the icy bits. Return slowly to the land of the living. 

----------------

Ya know I knew at some point, I'd be completely alone in the universe. You know, some day that might happen, right? But I figured, by then-I'd have the means to take in an elephant or two and do elephant zumba on a red rug and everything would be okay. Generally speaking. 


I wasn't actually prepared to experience Three Major Surgeries, in one year without benefit of some representative from my family of origin. My Mah-well, if I said she was uncomfortable in hospital situations that would be an understatement and a half-o-rama. 

As far as I can figure it-she came from the top third of a family with ten brothers and sisters and any illness or disease or injury that refused to bounce back by virtue of a bowl of Cheese Soup(Which is our familial go-to when you're circling the drain-also called Macaroni Soup. I'll get my cousin Quee's version so we can all keep it on our back burners. Gawd fah-bid we need it anytime soon.)represented serious financial loss and personal blame/shortcomings, so if you knew anything(and I did), you knew enough not to get hurt or really sick or she'd give you something to cry about. 

But she is gone and I digress. 

I read somewhere-the reason certain people don't show up for ya. They find the the thought of the whole thing just too terrifying. Better they leave you in the hands of sympathetic eyed strangers who sadly watch you retch into a grey plastic tub for three days than risk their own personal discomfort by simply showing up. 

The good news. I seem to have attracted some of the highest quality humans who currently stroll the planet. I really did. 

And there's still plenty of time to find my own permanent elephant or possibly even a herd. 

-------------

My first meal at home came courtesy of MAYJAYNEMILLA(I don't know why I insist on calling her that. She's one of those people who exudes happiness. She's got like a kick to her spirit that few people can resist. 

It was a piece of very very very bumpy toast-lotsa good healthy junk in there with a fat slice of grown-in somebodies yard tomato that tastes like the sun and a sprinkling of grated parmesan. 

I ate it slowly while I looked out the window. Fantastic. 

Then this arrived:


 Whoa, huh? Is it a painting? Is it lunch? Followed by this: 


Delivered with the intention of becoming a post-hospital bouquet. wOw. Genius. 

(And there's even a third part that didn't make it to the camera yet.)

I am telling you friends, after that many days squished into the corner of what they call a 'semi-private room'-being poked every two hours around the clock...
This is what it looks like when a machine takes your blood pressure 
for 4 days. More and more? I like people. 

Just the IDEA that one Ms. Stephanie Kirchner of the Oak Park Public Library knew this would pull me back into the direction of life. So cool. So cool. so cool. 
-------

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the surgery. I really wanted to get everything down on cyber-paper right away, but there was that one small problem of being able to sit in a chair for any length of time and the moaning. Who could type with all that annoying moaning going on? : )

Today's goal: Go down the stairs and come back up. Also the addition of underwear to my current ensemble. So far so good.