Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Nobody does it all on their own. Even Batman had a butler." 
Amy K. 

"Ann. Is your hair getting(big pause here)bigger?" 
Massage Co-worker

P was even a little annoyed that I hadn't yet called my State Senator's office but ugh, ya know? My people run for office. They don't ask for assistance. But one day, I ran out of excuses and hey, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois were behaving like gigantic a-holes leaving me with no id card, no group number, and it was even starting to look like no policy at all. So incredibly not cool. 

What is a good plan in taking on a gigantic insurance company because I sure didn't have one and so I did my internal post-turning-50-and-thinking-I-knew-everything chanting that goes something like,"Stay open. Stay open. Stay open." and I got out of the car and we went in. 

We met a lovely woman, explained the situation and asked for help. She said she thought they could assist. She warned us that the process is not speedy but she took all this information and said she'd see what they could do. 

(The actual Senator-well, I never saw him, and what I learned is that being a State Senator in Illinois is a part-time job so he was probably off being a lawyer in private practice. Huh.) 

We also had a fine chat about events of the past 13 months or so and at the end she said, "You sound like you could use a bag of groceries." She gave me a referral to the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry to see what I could find out. 

The Food Pantry lives in the church next to the Main Library where I get to work. It is the sorriest thing, but when I got the library gig, I prayed to the Gods of J.K. Rowling who also hit some low points on her way to Harry Potter and I thought it was Very Funny that the OP/RF Food Pantry was open only on the days I had to work. I took it as a Good Thing.

But I talked to my Library Supervisors of Maximum Fabulosity  and what I hoped, was that this one division of the Food Pantry people  that handle other stuff besides frozen chickens could help me with my insurance problems, and my Supervisors encouraged me to go over there. 

I still didn't wanna go. 
I mean like not even a little bit, but I ran over on my break time and I talked to a woman with thick red lipstick who told me the person I needed to speak to wasn't in yet but that I could wait in these green chairs. 

I waited 30 minutes. For nothing. 

The view to the left.

The view to the right. 

Oh and she'd noticed my library ID at this point and she said I was welcome to take all those old books in the hallway which I would totally do as soon as hell actually freezes over. 

I don't know who that mural lady is but she's so disappointed she can't even look at me. 
She also has absolutely no use for an old dusty copy of Lake Wobegon Days for God Sakes. 
You know who wants that? Nobody. 

Long story shorter: Blue Cross doesn't like it if you contact your local officials. In fact, if you file an actual complaint with the Department of Insurance, they'll cease to communicate with you but despite the fact that they snuck my $24.09 back into my checking account without my knowledge or any communication, it seems as if there might be some positive progress because for the first time in 29 days, they told me all of a sudden they had an ID number and a Group number for me. 

Imagine that. 

The Food Pantry people have been ridiculous. I've been told to return there at three different exact times and when I get there, this person I need to have contact with is nowhere to be found. (It's not far but I have other less glamorous things to do like hmmm I don't know, go back to work.) In fact, on Saturday when they told me to come over after work at 1:00 and because my Supervisor encouraged me to follow through on it(I totally did not want to go.)I got to this woman's office only to find it completely shuttered. 

My new opening line when I speak to these folks goes something like,"I hope this is no indication of how you treat people because this. is. crazy."


I'm on page 157 of Scott Hamilton's book called The Great Eight-How To Be Happy. He's had cancer three times, is very religious, and the book includes about 27 references to his receding hairline which bored the crap out of me. 

Bald dudes are hot. Duh.

Last night during the Cubs game, there was this thing called Stand Up To Cancer, so everybody in Wrigley Field seemed to be holding up a placard with a handwritten name or sweeping sentiment of names and the cameras went around and showed us how it seemed as if everyone's lives had been touched by cancer. (Some touched. Some demolished, right?)

I felt P's hand on my back. Pat, pat, pat. 



Friday, October 28, 2016

As of tonight, I have successfully passed test number two. I've been out and actually sat through two library presentations. 

This is big. 

It was not very long ago that I wouldn't have been able to do that. I would have been connected to either my bed or my bathroom-it's a really strange thing to have that be your universe. Even stranger to take the risk to get out but it has to be done and so far/so good/knock wood. 

Also ya know, those people who are out there speaking at libraries? They Know Things and you cannot pick up those kinds of things shuffling from your bed to the fridge. 

Item of Interest.

I've been back at massaging. I mean, on the one hand, it's an awful thing to have to be doing post-abdominal surgery-I'd much prefer sitting behind a desk playing Tiddley Winks. (Hey is that a job? Are there benefits?) But the sad fact is that the dancing around the table of massage-if you will and you don't have to-has only been a great stimulant to my peristalsis action and okay that whole spiderwebs in my checkbook thing. (I was just charged 12 bucks by Chase Bank because my balance had dipped and my direct deposit had fallen below $500 a month. Woo Hoo.) 

But something funny had happened and I think it's Worth Noting. 

I started back doing one massage per shift. My back hurt, my front hurt-you get the picture. Then I went to two with a break in between. (In my heyday-and when I say 'heyday', it was actually more like Hey Why Do I Have To Be Doing This Shitty Work/What did I do wrong in a former life? kind of a thing) I was doing five in a row which was nuts but I could not stand the moronic 'Verrrgoes arrrre two faced' kind of horoscopular jibber-jabber in the break room and I wanted out of there as quick as I could). 

So then I was at two with a break. And then all of a sudden they gave me a 90 and an hour-back to back and I'm at my house and I am sitting in front of the computer and I am Really Mad. I know I cannot do 2.5 hours in a row. Not yet. 

And I am shaking my fist at the computer-lamenting my lot in life and P says: You have to tell them.

And I'm like, Whattttttt? Why don't they ASK me what I can do? 

And I thought for a moment and recognized this all as that thing where you can't get mad at your husband for not buying you a diamond(or whatever)because he does not possess the skills to be able to read your mind. Same thing jobs, right? Duh.

So I was able to transfer this newly found genius over to my other job-I needed a bathroom break at 3:00-as opposed to a whole hour for lunch and they went to Great Lengths to accommodate me and it was win win win win win win win. 

One day this week it was sunny and I was coming back from work and I felt like my skin was not so...well, I felt like it has started to kinda forgive me but putting it through so many hole pokes. 

Then I had the most magnificent thing happen, I was in the shower thinking about something and all of a sudden I realized I had an actual cartoon idea. 

I wasn't even looking for one. It was The Coolest Thing. 

Next time: Asking for help. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Jacket

When I thought I was dying, and I totally thought I was dying just over a year ago, I went out and bought a pretend motorcycle jacket. I didn't want to have lived a life that didn't have a leather-esque motorcycle jacket in it-even if it had to be at the very end. 


And then I never really got to wear it. The weather, being so sick over and over and over, not going out, the weather again, general unorganization, forgot all about it-that kinda thing. The other day, my groovy SVA sweatshirt seemed to have become magically sprinkled in fur. Someone furry must have wanted to redirect my fashion sense across new horizons and I was on a mad dash to work and I grabbed the black jacket. 

It got rave reviews from my incredibly complimentary generous co-workers(They clapped when I was finally able to wear jeans again-that's just how good they are.) and I hung the coat up on the coat rack thing and I came back about an hour later and noticed this giant gash behind one of the arms. "Did Grantley get it?" asked Leigh Ann and I thought no, it was way outta her reach and it's not her flavor. It was in one of those giant plastic Tupperware sorta storage tubs. 

Did a rat rip it? I thought. Listen. In this house, EVERYTHING has happened. If you recall, there were TWENTY rats roaming in our condo(A fact that seems to have eluded our condo board as somebody has installed a plastic compost bin IN THE COURTYARD where we recently saw a rat enter a downstairs unit through a tear in a window screen. Honest to God, I will never live in a condo again. Sooner I should live under an f-ing bowling alley, ya know?)  Anyway, maybe one of the rats was a tailor in a former life. Er sumpthin. 

I digress.

I don't know where the hole came from but I thought, okay there's some sorta message in here and it has to do with something along the lines of Life is too short or You don't use it, you lose it or Hey dumbass, wear your silly coat already, will ya? Or something like that. 

I'm not going to worry about the hole. You won't either. 


Fatigue: The Struggle is Real. 

I didn't write that. My comedy pal who is also kicking the ass of The Cancer(as we are now referring to it) wrote that to me a long time ago. I thought it was great because here's something else they never tell you about. Ya get tired so easily. 

One day-last week or two weeks ago, I plopped down on the bed, but I wasn't planning on staying, so I had both legs dangling from my knees down and I fell fast asleep-as they say in children's books-and my phone woke me and for a moment there, I didn't think I could walk. My legs were still sleeping. 

Hilarity is there. You just have to find it. 


General Misbehaving

So, this colon reconstruction business has left me with something known as 'reflux'. They never mentioned this in the normal life permanent vacation brochures. Reflux rhymes with sucks(or Re(-ally) Sucks) and that is No Accident. It's left me feeling like I have a part of a ping-pong ball in the back of my throat. I have to take two different pills for it-and if you enjoy the hilarity of working with me, and you see me shoving a parade of couch drops into my face, it's because I feel like I'm choking. Not really that fun, ya know?

I've been checking out cookbooks like a mad woman. I get the cancer survivor ones and the ones with titles like, Dropping Acid. It's kinda like having an electromagnet pull all of the fun out of your existence because of all the things You Suddenly Can't Have

You think I'm kidding? 

Number one is coffee. I can't have coffee. As in "Hey you wanna meet for coffee?"/"Uhhh nope.") I can't have any liquids of entertainment. No alcohol. No tea. No juice. No nothing. I DID handcraft some ice cold water with ginger in it and yes you can(!) still drive with this magical elixir in your system.  I made my second bottle full and I handed it to P so he could taste it, and he said, I already tried it. And I said, this is different. It has more ginger.

Oy, ya know? That's how it is, right now. 

Saturday, at work, I did some major misbehaving and I marched myself up to the second floor and scored myself this delightful treat. These are two things I don't normally ingest. I just couldn't take no-no' mo'

The Doctor is In

PS: I'll try to befriend silken tofu but Chamomile will forever remind me of armpits. Amen. 


One day last week, I had to actually ask for assistance from a state senator of all people. Gaaaaah. Walking in-or actually procrastinating about going at all-I felt like I was auditioning for The Biggest Loser-All of Humanity Edition. 

We spoke to someone who was really nice and they were not at all surprised to see me based on current events. 

Nothing has happened so far of course, but if it does and it's something good, I'll let you know. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Shaking my head. 


You are probably not aware that there are regular single song festivals that go on in my house. Are ya? Yeah I didn't think so. We regularly jam to Top Hits of the 60's and 70's. Loud. One of our best ones is Monday Monday but we'll sing anything if we know at least 75% of the words. So, I'm leaving the library on Saturday feeling pretty good and I pass this. 

Here I am performing a very illegal driving maneuver to get this shot. 
You're welcome. 

And I thought yeah, dammit. 

But things are never that simple(are they?) and on Sunday, when I got around to opening my mail(not that fun when you're escaping Cancer town) there was a letter from Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois telling me that because they did not get my payment in by the deadline, my application could no longer be accepted this year and my 'next step' was to return to the Marketplace if I still needed coverage. 

In the second envelope was a bill from that last trip to urgent care. Total charges $918.00. (Coudda been worse. Could have followed the doctors orders with trip to the emergency room, right?) 

And I just thought, how in the hell am I ever going to be able to even BEGIN to get these things paid. I got more and more agitated by the hour because if you're me, that is what you do and finally I posted on BSBC-ILL's Facebook page and ya know, who doesn't enjoy airing their laundry with the entire universe, right? (Not me of course. I love it.) But I wanted things in writing. Documented. 

They contacted me late morning on Monday and I've had to produce a screen shot of my cancelled check because they can't figure out where they put it. Nice. 

I told the woman I was dealing with that I hoped they understood just how upsetting this was and that they shouldn't forget that these are people they're dealing with. Not numbers and applications. And then I told her again because I am just that furious and tired of this nonsense. 

She didn't get back to me today. I'm sure they're probably standing knee deep in a dumpster with flashlights trying to locate my check as we speak.

Care Taking

There is caregiving and then there's care taking and sometimes what that feels like, is that you've lent someone the keys to your car only to return to find the radio station changed and the seat feels weird and the mirrors are wrong and there's an air freshener that smells like someone you've never met hanging off the dash. 

While you find yourself deeply in debt (indebted?)to the person that kept you alive and they most certainly did, the reentry into the earth's atmosphere is not without a certain amount of turbulence. 

We have that happening here. 

I'm okay with it actually. I'm not cool with resentment and snarky sniping. We're gonna try and fix this and the first step is...

We became members of Gilda's Club. Yippee! We went today. We had a tour and got to talk about the resources that are available AND free parking. 

Ironically, I got to do quite a bit of volunteer work with my Creative Thinking students and a couple of super cool faculty people from the American Academy of Art a few years back and the last time I went to Gilda's Club, it was with the National Cartoonist Society dudes and we were drawing on greeting cards with horrible colored pencils. When I get feeling better better better, I want to do that again. Better pencils tho. That's fer sher. 

When it was my turn to wait for P to come out of the individual consultation, a man walked by pushing a woman in a wheelchair and he was SO kind to her and respectful. He said something like, I'm going to wait here with you, if that's okay with you. And I thought jesusgod what DO I have to complain about.

There's a value in that too.

On the way home, we stopped to talk to the adoptees at The Anti-Cruelty Society and then we noticed the streets of Chicago smelled like a warm brownie so since P had never been, we popped in at Blommer's and bought some pecans. Okay Praline Pecans. 



I seem to have a cold. I'm going to try not to complain. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Yet Another Thing I Didn't Know. 

I had no idea that I'd be negotiating longer-term, post-surgical, physical leftovers This Many Months after getting all this stuff done. I'm home today, because I haven't gotten to a comfortable ~~~~~place~~~~~ in the department of elimination. 


If I told you I went to Taco Bell last night and got myself a bean burrito, could you slide that into your manila envelope marked: 'nuff said? 

I knew you could. 



A couple of Sundays ago, when I was feeling hopeful, we went to the Dollar Store. I had experienced exactly NO mental stimulation for weeks before that-sometimes I just have to go over to the Goodwill and look at things to clear my head. Same for you? 

So there was a woman at the Dollar Store and-well, here. A quick scribble. 

She had, not one, but two neon pink extensions in her hair. She had a giant bag with a giant pink ribbon as part of the design. She had several pairs of pink readers. Some very cheap pink ribbon scarves. All kinds of pink stationary items. 

At Ulta-where I stopped for shampoo, I saw the proudest of mothers talking about her three grade-school daughters who reminded her that October is breast cancer month and they needed to go over to Ulta and each get their $10 pink hair extension installed. (I'm thinkin to myself, whoa-that's thirty bucks. How do people afford children?)I can't even responsibly swing the cost of a Barbie right now.  

And the pink things on the NFL players. Have you noticed just how quickly they sweep the injured players off the field now? They seem to like them to hop to the side of the field and give the 'thumbs up' but if there's serious-serious trouble? It's straight to commercial. Here lads, won't you enjoy some nice pink wrist bands on your way to take the concussion test? 

And I was trying to think about how long October has been pink and wondering if any of that merchandise has made a bit of difference to the universe-unless wrapping yourself in pink gives someone comfort, when I saw my first pink mop-it was all over for me. 

The colon cancer people want to hop on the bandwagon by encouraging people to turn their Facebook profile photos blue but I'm hoping people just exercise their own common sense. Duh. 

I filled out the form for Gilda's Club Chicago. I wasn't all-in at Wellness House. Those are not my people anymore. And-I didn't know-Gilda's Club has free parking. 


I found this photo when I was sorting art on my desktop. This is the day that P and Grantley and I-on a complete and total unprepared whim decided to do the 3-Dune Challenge in the Indiana Dunes. 

How do you explain to a corgi that there's going to be three dunes all together and that running in circles like a coocoo bird 
3/4ths of the way up the first dune is probably not such a good idea. 

It was three months before the cancer train pulled into my station. I include this photo, because I felt pretty fantastic that day and completely did not see this coming. 

I am cleaning the sickness out of my house. Okay it's not a house. Okay it's not a sort of a tangible kind of thing-this variation of 'sickness', but I can feel it and if I am to ever move forward, it has got to go. Like that teal green basin thing that's been patiently waiting under my side of the bed-that needs to live someplace else. And I really don't need a half a pack of gauze on the nightstand, right? I haven't felt well enough to take this project on until today, but you can't have 'Get Well Soon' cards peaceably coexisting with neon green super fantastic gym shoes of joy. It just doesn't work. 

Hmm I wonder what I will blog about after this. Something to think about while I swif. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On the Topic of Caregiving

Okay so we're sitting here and P is reading names out of the paper. I thought he was reading the obituaries but no. Marathon results. For some reason, our names weren't included! Shocking I tell you. Have we not just been in a marathon of medicine? 

Anyway, yeah. Time to talk about caregiving. 

A: First thing caregivers need to know: You're the most important person in the equation. What do you think? Like when there's a diagnosis of cancer in your partner. 

I kinda also want to say that nobody else can completely understand the situation, because the caregiver has the most unique perspective on everything. What do you think? 


A: What do you mean exactly?

P: Situations can quickly change. Whether it's an appointment, an uninvited visitor, Murphy's Law...

A: Is there anything good about being a caregiver? 

P: Life experiences. And knowing what you can expect in the future. Like if something happens to you. 

A; I thought you were going to say chocolate milk. 

P: what?

A: I noticed that you always pack a bag for yourself. 

P: What?!?!?

A: I noticed that you come to all these appointments prepared. You have something to read. Pen and paper. Maybe some snacks. You're not afraid to go get yourself some chocolate milk. I think it's good advice. Practice extreme self care. 

P: Oh. I got it. 

A: Another thing I learned from you-they call this a take-away-isn't that nauseating? Is, that a lotta times I got on your last nerve because I was medicated. 

I need to remember this when I'm dealing with certain people who are ill. They are not always in their right mind. 

Where did you learn that?

P: Body chemistry and medication equals Get ready for ANYTHING. 

A; Where did you learn that?

P: Experience. Watching, waiting, dealing with multiple situations. 

A: You have a strong stomach. That laundry was gross. 

P: If that's the biggest problem, you're lucky. 
The biggest priority is the patient. If you can't handle the laundry, you're in the wrong job. Not everyone can be a mercenary. 

A: I could be a mercenary. What is that exactly?

P : No. You don't qualify. Period. 

A: (Cracks up.) What about that day when you stopped for the free chair massage at the cancer center and the therapist solicited your business-like when I was 'getting a treatment' (I think she meant chemotherapy.), you should book yourself a massage. I thought that was kinda sleazy. Like a sales pitch. Not that I would ever stop you from getting a massage. But I thought that was weird. 

P: Your medical treatments are also like a sales pitch. 

(Here we get WAY off the topic.)

A: Another mistake I think I made. People offered to assist and I declined because I don't want people watching me throw up (or whatever) but in a perfect world, maybe I should have asked you what you might have needed. You did all the work. 

P: Say "Thank you for your offer, I'll keep you in mind." Then confer with your caregiver. 

A: Speaking of 'thank you'. How could I ever thank you? 

P: Remember me in your will. 

A: (Waits for better answer.)

P: Okay, do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. You want more coffee?

A: Yeah. 


Monday, October 10, 2016

Where Are My Pants? 

I'm going back to work today. Just one shift. Just four hours. If something goes really wrong, I can be home in less than 10 minutes. Later I can rest. 

If I had a hammock with one end tied to a money tree(or a palm tree), I'd give it another week (or two if I wanted to actually look good upon reentry) but my checkbook gently weeps so I'm going back. Looking good doesn't really matter at this point, does it? Pants matter. 

My multitude of employers have been more than patient but enough's enough. I have blue Gatorade, I had saltines for breakfast, I'm bring apples physician repellants for sharing. 


The Creatures Are Back

And the truth is, they never left. And the real truth is, that's what I did when I was alone in all these yuck town hospital situations. I waited just to see who(or what)might be waiting with me. I saw all kinds of things but I didn't have my phone so I didn't get their photos but that's okay. 

There's always more bathing hippos. Lawd willin'. 


Work was fine. Okay, better than fine-the sleeping through the night/waking up on time in the morning part needs to be ironed out but it was so good to see the smiling faces of my co-workers. There's some really wonderful people at the library. <---understatement/duh. 

Another cool thing. There were some people who had monster colds and they didn't come in. Whoa, you don't know how appreciative I am of that kind of behavior. Or maybe you do cuz you know I'm not all loosey-goosey with my infrequent use of bold text. Perish the thought. 

TIP: I think it would have been smarter to give a return date that had a little more time at the end of it. Then-if everything had been perfect-I could have bounced straight back in. I feel like these are people I do not want to inconvenience beyond what I had to and I should have exhibited the bravery to add some days to what I thought would happen. 

The whole thing's just kind of frightening at the time you have to announce your disappearance so if you don't do that-you're forgiven. It'd just be easier on everybody if the return date given was a bit further away. 

I had to consult my pal who's currently arm wrasseling cancer about one of the medications we both had. She gave me some fantastic advice. I am forever in her debt. I was able to renegotiate the pain killers, play around with the timing of the other medications and possibly maybe so far so good, I feel a lot better. 

I have another friend with a lot of historical yuck in the department of intestiveville. Her contributions were invaluable. 

It's been really weird putting all this personal goo on the internet? But I am telling you, on the days I needed support-I got it and on the days I needed advice-that was there too. 

It's good to be able to speak to someone who comprehends the journey the train wreck-if you will and you certainly don't have to. 

: )

Saturday, October 8, 2016

You're thought about skipping a year of insurance payments. (Or maybe you've done it.) You could save a serious pile of dough. You feel pretty okay, don't cha?

Here's the This Is Not A Bill from just ONE surgery of which, this past year-I've had three-none of which I would've imagined a year ago. 

I felt fine. 


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pssst: I think I'm a little bit better. 

I don't wanna jinx it but yeah, possibly maybe a lot better than yesterday and a WAY lot better than the day before that. Imagine that. 


Facebook is like watching cartoons when you're home sick. I kinda tested out my post surgical wooze factor by how much Facebook I could handle. At first I couldn't even deal but before you knew it, I was disinfriendchizing people like I don't know what. 

I lost the ability to listen to whining. Not after this and this and this and this. So I had to shake some people loose. I think I lost people too-absolutely cool with me. 

But I have to say, when you're all by yourself all day, and somebody nods in your direction, it's a glorious thing.

Thanks for the nods, friends. 

I'd say a few lives back, if you had told me what I'd be doing in 2016 was announcing to the universe that I was going to try fighting a suspected bowel blockage with beans and have actual friends praying for some bowel function-if you told me I would be writing about that? See my face in that picture? Absolutely not happening. 

I didn't think it was particularly funny or high roady enough for my glamorous sensibilities. But when one of my cartoon boys sent me this extra special pencil(I only JUST got the funny joke when I was taking it's photo. Can you read the writing? Credit: T. Brian Kelly) I thought, hmmm I didn't know I needed one of these. Apparently I do. 

Because I will tell you, when you enter any kind of abdominal surgery-they're probably gonna be bumping into your intestines and your intestines don't like it and they demonstrate their displeasure but shutting down. And then you're negotiating the 'controlled wound'(That's what they call it.) from the surgery plus your bowel functions. Way less fun than it sounds. 

And you have to learn to talk about it with your doctor. 

For instance, the first things that came out of me? Looked like rocks from the moon. And then Urgent Care guy-he's trying to get a handle on exactly what's happening so he starts the story with, "So okay first you had the moon rocks..." and I liked that guy even more. 

He also-I think being more of an experienced kinda guy-I didn't get the sense that he needed to be heroic. One of the other best things that happened that day was when I was trying to get a stool softener that wasn't going to shoot me up into the Ethers and I said, should I use my phone to look things up? And he said sure. 

Newer doctors roll their eyes when your sentence starts with, "I was reading this article..." And then, his most genius statement of all was when he said: Let's see what worked last time. 



I had a chat with my Dad and I said, one thing that's gonna be different? I'm not eating those shitty cookies ever again. You know those ones that are packed sideways in a clear plastic container and they taste like oil? Never again. 

And maybe? If I find myself in the position where someone is trying to serve me said shitty cookies? I'm going to start wondering if they have my best interests in mind. 

Take THAT universe. 


Gatorade Frost Glacier Freeze. It's the lightest of the blues without being lemony and it doesn't taste like anything in particular and if you're throwing up, it's not going to stain anything which is a plus.