Sunday, December 10, 2017

What can I do, I ask, to cheer myself up?

Are you feeling blue? asks P.

Worse. I'm feeling purple.

Go watch the cooking show. Here he's indicating that he has good listening skills. I told him the thing that's getting me through(currently)is the treadmill and this Holiday Baking Extravaganza on the food network. 

I don't get to see creativity in action anymore which is a huge and gigantic bummer and these bakers got it going on in a way I could never imagine. 

I visit the treadmill everyday. The idea is not to kill yourself-which is a radical concept for me-gym~wise, but I have a certain preferred treadmill spot where I can watch two teevees at a time AND watch medical people pass by. 

Guess who I saw the other day? I asked P. 

I dunno. 


Was it a surgeon? 

Uh huh.

Which one?

You're supposed to guess. 

The one that just stared at you?

Pink shirt? Nope. Guess again.

I don't know. There were too many.

The hernia guy! 

Oh yeah? He was good. We liked him. 

Yeah. I saw him but he didn't see me. Probably on purpose. I did see The Blood Lady a few weeks ago and I heard her nervous cough. I know she saw me but she looked away. She should look away. That a-hole.

Here's the situation: Into each former cancer patient's life-I'm imagining-comes something called 'follow-up' and ever since I qualified as 'intriguing', the stakes have become uncomfortably high. 

The last two weeks, on top of regular life jibber-jabber-oh ya know like the heat not really coming on properly so you wake up at 2:30 in the AM and your pillow is ice cold, to-oh ya know, just plain old vanilla life-stuff, you have to go through all kinds of medical testing. 

My Mother, maythelordhavemercyonhersoul, were she here, would say to me, Can you just not dwell on it? She was an expert on the unnecessary depth of the dwell gauge of her offspring which worked for her but for me? Not so much.

And the answer is, well, I can try not to think about the ramifications of this every-three-months-cancer-testing, but every time I'd open my arm, I'd be treated to the sight of a blue and yellow bruise from Blood test 1. 

When I returned for Blood test 2, I asked one of the blood draw-ers in the cancer center why they always inquired if a Band-aid was okay. She said it's because people getting certain types of chemo-if they apply a regular Band-aid, it rips their skin right off. Oh, said me. I didn't know. I thought the pink tape that sticks to itself was just that much cooler. 

When I pulled off my Band-aid off from Blood test 2, I had a reddish purple bruise in the shape of the Band-aid. I couldn't ignore it. It was with me all week.

Thank goodness the cold weather brought sleeves. 

So. This week? Everyone's voices seemed louder. They seemed like they were complaining about the stupidest of stuff and manufacturing mountains out of the most moronic mush. I couldn't speak with people who were celebrating extreme good news and I couldn't speak with anyone who was experiencing extreme bad stuff because my entire goal was to try and maintain stability for myself. 

Easier said than done.

My Fairy God Friend threaten to smack me in the head if I continued to try and trivialize the trauma of these weeks of cancer testing. It's embarrassing to me, you know, to appear so weak this late in the game. 

So, I did go to the treadmill and I secretly raced the oblivious woman who was walking next to me and while I was watching two different teevee shows at the very same time, I kicked her ass into Northern New Jersey and she didn't even know I was spying on her treadmill dashboard. Watch out for me. I'm sneaky that way. 

I made it to the Jewel where I saw Carlisa. Carlisa is running the entire joint except she does that from the perspective of collecting the carts and bagging the groceries. 'How you doin'?', she asked and she looked into my 'trying extremely hard just to hold it together' eyes. 

You need to buy yourself some flowers. Right over there. 

I got a bunch of sort of neon fuchsia mini-carnations, because Carlisa knows many things that I do not currently understand.  


Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Play in Two Acts

I was talking on the phone with a good friend I hadn't spoke to in ages and ages and ages and you can tell that because I don't really chat on the phone anymore. I used to be really good at that.

Anyway, times are very difficult for artist-types and so, she was telling me all the crappy things that had happened to her recently, and after every lament, she'd say,: Hey. At least it's not cancer, right?

Unmercifully (for both of us) it continued. 
Blah blah blah blah blah, Hey. At least it's not cancer


One more time. 
Dah dah dah dahhhhhhh. At least it's not cancer

So, she asks, how are things with you? 




I went to a friend's craft faire. I have no official budget for craft items at this time, but I have a mad passion for touching yarn and seeing the colors and the artisan, in this case, is Really Outstanding. I had some dollars in my wallet-just in case. 

The friend is speaking to another acquaintance and upon seeing me, she attempts a flattering introduction. Ann, she says, just did her first 5K. Oh yeah no, I say. That wasn't my first. 

Big blank air space. 


I've ruined my flattering introduction. 

So I say, wellllllll, it was the first since all of this. And here-with the wave of my hand-I indicate the area between my neck and my knees. Just in case. 

The artisan says something about how I provided her with some inspiration and now I'm actually feeling-all of a sudden-sick to my stomach-like I am going to heave and bawl at the very same time. And I am not a heavebawler. Generally speaking. 

Now, I'm not tryin' to be like, whatever(as my friend Alice used to say)but my efforts on the race route were nothing to write home about. I didn't run the really hard part and I am not of the generation who expects to get a medal for trying, so,while I am most grateful to have participated-and I am-I feel like maybe we should all go ahead and talk about something else.  

The artisan explains to the lady that I'd had some Health Challenges and that every time it seemed like it was going to be over, there was another

(and here she paused)


Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, says me. All true. 
So the woman turns to me and says, 

Well. You're here now, aren't you?

The End. 


Saturday, November 11, 2017

I was massaging a very cool person. I get amazingly cool people-that is the very best thing-and she asked me-in conversation, what should you say when your friend shares some sort of terrible-type news(because she herself had been thought a horrendous tragedy and people spewed some severely jerky shit) and I said,I think what you should say is something like this: Shit. 

And I guess maybe it's the inflection that I can't exactly translate from here to there but the thinking here is something along the lines of: God dammit I don't want this for you. 

I really much prefer that to  some sort of blubbery 'I'm sorry'. That's so very box o' Kleenex, isn't it? 


I got a letter from the gym with the word 'unfortunately' all over it and it seems as if I have fallen behind in my societal obligations and you'd think receipt of that letter might bum me out but no. I absolutely appreciated the reminder that it's not too late to get off my ass-not that I was actually ever on my ass especially but, you know-it's Not Too Late to fulfill my obligations and guess what-I had been so scared of feeling dizzy coming offa that damned treadmill and now it's like my most favorite thing in the universe. (Thank you Kristin) 

When I went to school in NYC, it was the time of People's Express so I was able to fly back and forth here and there and every time I'd fly-I'd purposely try something more exotic. Like, this time-I'm gonna get out of my seat and walk to the bathroom. Or-this time I'm going to ask for a magazine. Or-imagine this-the Whole Can of Pop. Whoa, huh? And I'm approaching the treadmill the same way. 

First time-just go slow and try and figure out the buttons and second time, try and figure out how to turn the TeeVee on, and the next time, peek at the person next to you and see how fast they're going and the next time, watch how your neighbors transition into a run. People with headphones grunt like a crazy person. It's fantastic. 

And yeah, I could ask a trainer but where's the person growth in that? 

I went one night this week late. Like at a time I normally would never go and oh mah gawd-they dim the lights and I was so chillaxified I couldn't even believe it. 

I'm also closer to finding the best/worst cable teevee show-I knew I was close when I found the Long Island Medium-last night was some sort of ER medical thing where a man had too much success with his Cialis. You have to keep trotting along just to see what happens. 



Also this week, an episode in which our heroine ends up on her back in bed with her phone in her hands texting another set of fingers connected to the most wonderful person gently cajoling her back in off the edge. Who saw that coming? Not me. 

Here's the sound track

There had been what I thought would be a sort of a not very interesting exchange of physicians so I went without a scribe which was a Big Mistake. I thought I was just letting go of The Blood Lady in exchange for someone with better communication skills. Well I got that, for sure. 

He started with, 'We find your case very intriguing.' and intriguing is not something you'd ever want to be in a cancer center. 


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I got the answer on the How Long Should You Wait For a Doctor's Appointment Question. 


The answer is: Emergencies happen but 20-25 minutes. That was from a nurse. 

Someone in charge at the Cancer Center said the doctor in question is "a genius" and "always runs late". P thinks that's crazy and I think a true genius could keep one eyeball on the clock, possibly maybe, but I don't want to get in a fight with people who serve cancer people because they deserve deliveries from The Swiss Colony every day of their lives. 

(Did your parents get that catalogue? I could never understand why my mother didn't get all of our food from there. Little cheeses on green grasses. heh.)

I have a new appointment with the king of hematology on Friday. 


I could have gone to Improv. I was all signed up for it. Rock, Paper, Scissors at Gilda's Club.

And then the bonus hernia showed up. The top of the abdominal incision-when I coughed, I could feel it pop out and I could shove it back in. Plus I had been exercising pretty nicely (not Zumba-quality but getting there)and all of a sudden? Sidelined again. 


I figured the dumbest thing to do would be to do any kind of motion that might further compromise the incision which left me with the choice of my lower extremities. I could walk, fer sher. 

I went to Wellness House for a lecture where I walked away unconvinced about the magical healing powers of aromatherapy, but I did, on my way out, pick up a flyer about Cancer to 5k because I'm always looking for The Next Thing. 

I did a lot of investigating on-line because this program is funded by The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and I haven't been one of those in years. But! In the few photos that I could find on-line, there was one woman who was neither young nor skinny and I thought, okay. 

I'm in. 

The first night, I drove about an hour to a suburb I'd never heard of to meet these mystery people outside of a library. My hands were sweaty-I was pretty worried/afraid/anxious. "What's your fear?" as my Social Media teacher would ask. I was afraid I was in over my head and the expectations would be too much and maybe there'd even be some sort of motivational football coach kinda yelling. Ugh. 

I had only shaken off the wooze from medication the week before. I was in pretty sad shape and that's a cancer thing. Your head thinks you're exactly the same but your body knows better. 

Kristin was the first one there that day. We stood around waiting for everyone else to get there and when it came time to set off to the track, she said: I've got Ann. And I thought, okay cool. 

We walked around the track-we were talking about running and I remember Kristin said something like, This is exactly what you should be doing. And I dunno. I just decided to believe her. 

I just made it a thing-that I was going to show up and of course when you're in a group-you find out that just because everybody had some relationship with cancer doesn't mean you're on the same page philosophically. 

For me, it turned out to be a sort of a volatile time-there was the question of was I going to be taking an additional spin with liver cancer cuzza that whole blood clot thang and one week was the dog bite and ya know, life a la mode. 

Generally speaking? I gotta keep it positive with no gigantic sighs. 

Now here was The Funny Thing. I was determined to walk. I even spoke to some trainers at my gym about it being enough just to cross the finish line. That made sense to them. It made sense to me. Everybody seemed cool with it and then we'd get there and just like your mother would put three brussels sprouts on your plate so you could try them? Kristen would be like, M'kay, what if we just ran for 30 seconds and walked for 3 minutes and I'd say, hmmmokay. 

And we did. 

What I Did Not Know

I didn't know that running was going to be unpleasant. I mean, you see people flying along with those Cute Outfits and you think how good they look and then it's you and you're clomping like an f-ing Clydesdale. 

Kristen straightened me out on that one too. You're not going to just start out and be perfect.(That's not an exact quote and she was kind enough to leave off the 'Duh.')

I didn't know that after I got done with one of these run-walk nights? I was going to feel so happy. I don't mean like, cheesy Hallmark happy. I mean like everything felt yellow. That was something completely new. 

What You Don't See In This Picture

1. These three women woke up in three different neighborhoods in the neighborhood of 4:00 am to do this thing. 

2. The yellow shirt looks like this on the back:

3. There had been a Facebook post that looked like this:
The List
Fancy shoes
Long sleeved shirt

Teeny water bottle
Yellow shirt over everything 

What else?

To which people kindly replied things about layering your shirts and wearing the full-length Chicago-Style down coat for the stroll from the car to the tent. And sunglasses. Who knew how vital those would be?

4. You can't see how cold it was and you can't see the one guy who said something like: 'Way to go ladies!' when we passed. And you can't see the person who was already coming back on a tiny ambulance just as we were setting off and you can't hear Kristen and Renee enforcing the most hilarious 'Ann doesn't get to talk when we're running' rule and and you cannot feel how soaked my hands were in my gloves and you can't see the young woman on the sidewalk injured-which reminded me exactly of cancer-like you're on the side all torn up and the rest of humanity is just passing you by.

5. What you do see, is me looking at my feet because I wanted to watch them cross the finish line. 

And, amazingly, I did. 


Thursday, October 26, 2017

 How Long I'll Be Left Waiting in a Doctors Office

If I arrive at 3:45 for a 4:00 appointment and get called in after 4:29 only to wait until 5:05? 

That's too long. 

I've never walked out of a doctor's appointment before. I guess I've established a baseline, huh. 

How long would you wait? 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Things I Know Now

Embracing Your Inner Wizzlebeast.  I think the Hairgods only allow you one good haircut at Supercuts. I must have used mine up the first time(dammit) because the haircut I got the last time frightens me. I look like my hair is on backwards. 

I look like a Suburban Mom. I said this to an actual Suburban Mom sporting The Very Coolest Haircut Ever and she said, "That's what you're supposed to look like! That's what you are!"

Actually, that's what I'm not. 

Mammograms. Once you've experienced The C, mammograms frighten the shit out of you. You might be a whole lot more brave about asking to see the results and stuff but still. 



 Pain. I woke up in the middle of the night with my left arm killing me. I didn't know what it was. "Did you think it was The C?" asked my fellow survivor friend because every ache gets your imagination rolling in a bad direction. The strange thing was, I didn't have any idea what it was-until the next day when I remembered I'd gotten my second Hepatitis B vaccine shot. 

How does a person forget a shot? I don't even know.


Working My Ass Off/Doing Too Much. Somewhere in the bowels of my imagination, I have it in my head that if I just work hard enough-I can turn my financial ship around. There's no way this can actually happen under current conditions but do not tell this to my head where my mothers voice whispers unsweetly: MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES! 


Our Pharmacist is Leaving. She told us last night. I think this actually affects P more than me because he was the fetcher but I was happy for her because she appeared to have become so miserable behind the counter at Jewel Osco and later I realized it's kind of a gigantic bummer because it was So Nice to have someone on The Inside. 

We are writing her a Thank You card. It's the least we can do. 


Firing Your Doctor. Got into a conversation with a woman at the library who was also a cancer survivor and she talked about firing doctors if they didn't meet her needs. I have orchestrated the release of The Blood Lady. I should have done that a long time ago but I wasn't this version of myself yet. 

You have to kinda forgive yourself for some of the decisions you make along the way. You might not have actually been you. 


Next time: Running Lessons. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I took a writing class a couple of years ago. And the gist of creating a best seller according to the instructor-who had a whole stack of success stories on his bookshelf-went something like this: make a warm, lovely, likable character and at every opportunity do the Very Worst Thing you can imagine to them. (Read yourself some Gone Girl with this in mind. It will totally ruin it for you.)And this is not to say I think I am warm, lovely or likable. You shouldda seen me on Saturday night. I was a wreck. 

Monday-coming home from job one-I got bitten by a dog.


Next week(or this week coming up)I'm making some drastic changes to my life and I had been almost laughing(but not actually laughing at all-some people don't grasp the difference) to myself. You say to your life, okay, get ready, we're gonna do a few things differently and your life says, oh really? 



I got to go to Peak Running With A Twist and score my pair of freeeeeeeee running shoes courtesy of the good people at Cancer to 5K. I(completely straight-faced)told the charming shopkeeper/acclaimed marathoner that I needed the ones that were magical and she nodded in agreement. 

She wasn't kidding and neither was I. 

Then I asked about socks, because The Penguin says cotton is not your friend and she was kind enough to understand that I absolutely required crazy colored ones and she went in the back and hunted some down and they all go quite well with my fully-functional magic wand, no? 

It's not breast cancer pink. It's Badass pink. Completely different. 

That's what I thought too. 


I had occasion to speak to a woman who's sister died from skin cancer and who's other sibling was diagnosed with stage  4 colon cancer which had metastasized to more organs and if you could possibly find anything good about that conversation-and you could if you looked-we had a few 'colon cancer gets no respect' exchanges and I told her about the giant inflatable colon(rent or own!) and how it would be fun at a pool party and she said she'd pass that on to her sister and we talked about hernias and work and her sister had a hernia too and the woman looked at me and said something like,"And you massage too?!?" and you do not have any idea how good that tiny little sentence made me feel.  

That's all you're really looking for, no? *A little understanding. 


*Okay. That and a winning lottery ticket. Or two. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

I found my current hairlady from a massage client who used to manage a-not a Supercuts-the other one-Hair Cuttery. She was a manager there but not pulling enough dough(did you know most of these kind of service women are only making minimum wage and not EVEN getting any commission on product sales? To touch people's disgusting heads? It is an honor, a privilege AND a requirement to tip 20%. You don't have the 20%? Go someplace cheaper.) and I'm not sure how we got on my favorite topic in the universe(hair)but we did. 

Origin of favorite topic. It was the 70s? November 24th,1976.(You weren't born yet? Too bad.) I just looked it up. My sibling and I were upstairs cleaning our room. Ugh what a bummer but now I experience those same: You're not going anywhere today you're staying here and CLEANing moments in my own life and I understand. My Mom called us down. Come quick. Vidal Sassoon was on Phil Donahue. 

It was, quite frankly, mind expanding. Women who had kept their hair in a permanent bun-like women did in those days-who Sassoon exposed as getting mold in their hair from putting it up wet. Big funky cube shaped 'fros. Art and design on your head. Just incredible stuff for the time period. I wish you had been there. 

It's not actually the 'do that drives my interest. It's that one slice that makes you look as if your intelligence has been dramatically increased. There was an ad-when I studied that stuff. Cartoon of Frankenstein:"A bad haircut can make anyone look stupid."

I digress. 

I was talking to my massage client and my frustration was that this-not as cheap as Hair Cuttery but close-place I was going to, was costing me So Much Time. I mean, you expect that from a beauty school because people are learning how to hold all that stuff as well as a conversation, but I was getting stuck sitting there for hours. Like an entire Sunday morning. So not cool. 

I was getting bleach applied(I think they call it a Soap Cap? It's for resistant grey hair.) and then sitting and then something called Malibu and then sitting and then color and more sitting and that is not even the cut. 

So my massage client says, Malibu? Do you swim a lot? 

Umm nope. I leap around in the pool but not my head. Hmm she says. That's for taking the chlorine out of your hair. 

Hmmm, thinks me. Bad hmmmm. 

In the words of Judge Judy: Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. 

I switched over to my client's hairlady. Strangely-it's even closer to my house than the last place. And that is coming from someone who would drive for a good haircutter. Far. Really far. 

She is Hispanic-probably late 40's and obsessed with looking younger. Not just her. EVERYBODY. 

She explained that her husband is younger than her and she fears he will leave her for a newer model. 

For me-good lawd have mercy-I have done so much learning in the Department of Self-acceptance. In a million years, I wouldn't ask to look younger. It's a stupid game that you will not ultimately win, right? 

Once, I visited an extremely handsome gay couple in the East Village for dinner. Their bathroom was ringed with a special shelf just for all their skin potions. So when you're 60, you're gonna look 55, huh? said me. I wasn't invited back. 


Here's another one I picked up from a hairman in Elmsville-the town of my yoot. He said, "You go to your class reunion and everybody looks old-except you." 

I have another doctors appointment this afternoon. It's with the blood lady. The hematologist. It's a little worrisome-ish based on her having looked at the new information from the pre-hernia cat scan and now, wanting to see me. 

Hmmm. This morning, looking old seems kind of even more okay as a goal. And getting old. That'd be even better. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday, before the medication arrived, we were sitting here and I was telling P about the video of the dog who brings a carrot out to his horse. He's half listening and I'm all like okay so it's this black dog and he shoots out of his house and goes straight out to the barn, and then you don't see him for a minute and then all of a sudden, he comes out of the barn and he brings this carrot over to the horse and the horse doesn't take it right away, but the dog stands there and then the horse DOES take it and and the dog starts running back-but he gets distracted for a second and starts licking his butt and then he kinda remembers what he was doing and he starts racing back toward the house and P says, wait, the horse was licking the dogs butt? 

Laughing hurts me so much right now it's a beautiful thing. I had to sit here with a pillow across myself to keep my internal organs from flying across the room but oh mah gawd so worth it. This whole being alive thing. Fantastic. 

Laparoscopic surgery is more painful than open surgery. This is what they told me. It doesn't make a bit of sense, does it? In this surgery, they started laparoscopically-there's two extra holes-but they switched over because I needed additional julienning. 

Crazier still. You know how I've been trrrrrrying to eat better and water aerobicize my sorry ass and all. So, so, so very glad that I did. You should see how the organic popcorn wants to blast through the paper bag. It's so much different from Orville Redenbacher and his grocery-store-shelved ilk. So, I'm there on Friday getting the hardware out of my belly(didn't hurt) and the surgeon reaches over and peels off the shiny tops of the two laparoscopic incisions. Like you'd take the top off a Yoplait. 

Super Glue. He says. The stuff that sealed the incisions is made from the exact same thing.

Shaking my head.  

I had a-what do you call that? An epiphany-just about an hour or two ago. A big one. Bear with me.

Start with Cheryl Strayed. I got interested in her because one of the people I featured in my library Facebook feature-if you will-happened to be a professor at Loyola(everything is connected) and was just over the moon(<---understatement) about anything that came from the keyboard of Cheryl Strayed. 

I saw Wild. I remember the boots falling. Right? 

And then for some reason I happened on Dear Sugars. That's like this advice podcast that pops up on Facebook here and there. I like to read it more than I ever listened to it but Saturday, I was diddling around here doing some stuff and I decided to listen. It was an episode where they were going to answer a lot of questions all in a row and then the following episode was going to be Oprah taking about saying no. Or something. I'm paying attention and I'm not paying attention. You understand. (See paragraph one.)

Cheryl Strayed mentions her broken relationship with her father. I almost think she did it twice and I'd read about it in her super cool book and I was thinking, Jeez, ya know? Do you never resolve something like that in your head or is it just something you carry forever like an American Express card er whut?

Well, (like many other people),I have my own American Express card of familial disappointment and it just churns in my head continually like for sport. And I thought ya know, maybe if I sang it all the way through(like a song that sticks in your head) maybe then it will go away but it only churns and churns. 

I have a sibling and a nephew and a father. I believe under the current circumstances, these people would be considered my immediate family. Maybe not the nephew. I talk to my Dad every day around 1:30. We are completely cool. 

And there's been four surgeries at Loyola. 2 cancers plus the adrenal gland plus 2 hernia repairs. 

And do you know who's shown up for all of them?

This guy. 

And you know who has taken care of these things?

Yeah. Same guy. 

(You know I've only known him for a couple of years, right?) 

And for a long time, from what I'd read, the reason they say your own people don't show up for each other for these kind of life threatening kinda things is that they're too scared. And for what? A year or two now? I've been kinda jangling that idea around in my head. (She's too scared?!? What about me?)

A high school friend, Susan, died-from lung cancer nosheneversmoked-right before our very eyes on Facebook-I mean, one day she was there laughing so hard and the next day it got Too Quiet and I could not put myself in motion in the direction of her funeral. I just sat here like a maroon and felt numb but this has been Four Separate Occasions. 

Four different pairs of no-slip yellow socks as it were. No call. No card. No visit. No dog walk. No, hey I understand you don't get paid while you're down for the count here's 10 bucks.  No giant bag of delicious fruit because that came from Mary Next Door. No funny book because that came from Lindz. No cookbooks to look at because that came from Patty down the street. No hey what can I do for you/name it because that came from Amy. No I'm praying for you/Girl you look good! because that came from Carlisa pushing carts in the Jewel parking lot. And on and on and on. 

And I realize, this very evening, why Cheryl Strayed has to keep talking about cutting her father out of her life. Because you just cannot believe that something like that could possibly be true and in case the relationship rears its head again, you've got to remember why it died in the first place. 

Got it now. Moving on.