Cancer Can’t Steal My…& Other Lies

Michelle – 1991 (I think?)

Michelle & her amazing daughter, Jenna, about to jump out of a plane…like the crazy woman she was!

Tonight, I went to my friend Michelle’s funeral. I only talked to her a few time in the last few months. Those conversations were great and it made me remember what a beautiful person she was. I could see her personality through the written word. She had a huge presence; it filled a room. I could hear her voice and laughter and wanted to be near it. She was such an advocate for everyone who needed comfort. She had a perfect personality for an ER nurse. She passed away on October 16th. Depression is like so many other diseases. It infests and destroys.

I had treatment 2 1/2 hours before the service, so I was feeling kinda crappy. Over the course of the night, I was getting a bit worse, but it was tolerable. I thought I was going to make it! Success! I sat down with some high school friends and was having a good night. I hadn’t seen these chicks in 20 years and it was great to get hugs and say hi after so long. At that moment, I was just me. Not a sick person, just another friend. It was a feeling I missed greatly! After about 20 minutes, the achiness started. Then the nausea. Close at its heels was the bone pain. It felt like I had bruises up and down my arms and shoulders. Everything was sensitive. 30mg of morphine didn’t even touch the pain. All I wanted was spend time with my old friends at this very morbid excuse for a reunion. But cancer is a cruel bastard and it reminded me that I shouldn’t get too comfortable or too happy.

So now, I’m back at home; hooked up to my IV and in horrible pain. Thank God for my ondansetron injections! If not for that precious 8mg vial, I would have been getting sick all the way home. I’ve had some THC and am finally comfortable enough to rest with minimal pain.

I’ve seen things on Pinterest about cancer not being able to steal this or that. A lot of those are true. But sometimes no matter how hard you try, cancer shows up and rips you out of a good situation to remind you of your place in the patient/survivor role. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of this shit disease for one reason or another, but tonight we were all there to celebrate Michelle’s life. But cancer never rests. It took me away from a bit of time to spend with old friends. For that you can fuck right the hell off.

Halloween Horror: 2017 Edition

Halloween is truly the best holiday ever! The true start of cooler weather (in SoCal, at least), scary movies all month long, twerps dressed up like their favorite heroes and villains, and let’s not forget the candy. Ahh the glorious chocolate!! But this year, a true horror is lurking in front of me. Yesterday, I had testing done to check for metastasis (mets) to my bones, specially my hip. The pain has been there for months, I just attributed it to a lingering complication from intrathecal treatment, and it very well could be! One treatment resulted in a “wet tap” (the spinal fluid leaked out of the infusion site). I don’t get the results until Friday.

I don’t even know how to truly react other than to lay here in the dark, staring into nothing and cry. I’m numb with the exception of a cold, sweaty panic running over me every so often.

On top of this issue, I have had a “barking seal” type of raspy, wheezing cough for about the same amount of time…2 months or so. They are bad enough that I require an inhaler and an anesthetic cough drop. I see my doctor on a regular basis, but I never had the bad coughing episode that, as one of my friends asked, “Is that real or are you fucking with me?” I don’t have them everyday so it’s easy to put on the back burner.

Let’s add to the fun. I’ve had an IV in for 34 days for hydration and ondansetron infusions for 20 hours a day. Thank goodness the insurance allows me to be at home. Let me tell you, pushing around an IV pole or carrying around a pump and 2 liter bag of fluids is not as glamorous as it seems.

Bonus issue…I have intrathecal treatment on Friday, then my friends funeral is less than 3 hours later.

Suck it, cancer.

*the images are not my own.

If tears are cleansing, I must be sterile…

*photo credit needed

I spent the last week crying. A lot. It wasn’t until this afternoon, after a very inspiring conversation, that I realized why. It’s been about 6 weeks since finding out I’m cancer free, but learning everything that’s needed to control stage 4 cancer is daunting, at best. Hormone therapy twice a week, monthly check ups and blood draws at medical oncology, exams every 3 months at gynecology oncology (starting next month, every 6 months, heeeyyyy), palliative intrathecal treatment, a laundry list of new meds…and a partridge in a pear tree. I even had my 2nd experience with “chemo coma”. 23 hours later I woke up feeling awful and very dehydrated.

My friend laid it out simply. “Own it. Don’t let it own you”. So, I gave it a voice. I cried over it. Then I beat its b*tch-ass in the ground. It was satisfying. Rewarding. Horrible and wonderful at the same time.

There’s so much information for newly diagnosed patients, patients just starting treatment, books on every type of cancer, how to fight chemobrain…and I bought every book on the subject and super stoked I did. But, now what? That’s where the extensive library slows dramatically. How do you move forward in your new normal? Harder question; how do you navigate those tricky waters as a stage 4 survivor? Very little. Harder still; all that, but add beating 2 cancers to the mix? There’s nothing that specific, but I’d be happy with just more information and guidance on chronic cancer. The hashtags #Stage4NeedsMore and #DontIgnoreStage4 are more accurate than I could have ever imagined. That, straight up sucks. A whole group of fighters and survivors cut out of the equation. Why? The medical profession giving up on the whole “one foot creeping too close to the grave” thing? Terminal cancer patients not worth *truly* going out on that limb? Not much use to “rearrange the deck chairs of a sinking ship”? Whatever the reason, being in the bottom end of this cancer soup has really hit me hard this last week. I just couldn’t give it a name. Today I did…

I call you out, traitorous body.

Then, I thought about it. Not just the way of thinking that you rush through and stuff down till another day. I *thought* about it. I came to grips with it. I took inventory of my *path* that was laid out in my skin like a Rand McNally map. The changes of the terrain of my body, inside and out. It destruction of dangerous roadways to make way for new, more inhabitable travels. The whole of the old scenic route gutted. This body suffered. A lot. A breast here, another there. Don’t forget the cuff of the lower cavity, bladder and bowels that were pieced back together and tucked in neatly behind a 10″ scar. An unnecessary and very large scar in lieu of 3 tiny 1″ scars. A scar that was the product of a wayward scalpel on a fairly new version of surgical technology that would make my debulking surgery less invasive and cut down on healing time. It would have been awesome had it happened like that, but that was the half full version of the process and not at all realistic. Not the time for that story…

After making all the mental tally marks, I started to see the beauty in the exposed road. It was…is new. It’s slow going and I’m not naive enough to think I’m able to rush though this process. For better or worse, this is my body. A new body. A new start. A new normal.

12:02am. 42nd year…

Btw, yes I’m aware of the bad pun in the title. My mind was taxed. It’s been a long day.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

This. Fuck.

Didn’t Dr. K say something about “close margins”? Yeah. Too close.

I had been feeling crappy for about a week or so and just ignored it. All the while my left chest is looking more and more like a mistreated orange.

On Sunday I went to the ER for a low grade fever that was steadily climbing and my chest had gotten warm to the touch and quite sore. After 3 hours of waiting (thanks a heap for the mask. My tumbling white count and I will be over here among the plague rats. Dicks) I was taken back. My temp was 102 and my blood pressure and heart rate were erratic. After being there and being tested a million times, I was given antibiotics and told to come back if things didn’t get better. WTF?!?

A week later, I went back to the ER and I was admitted immediately and re-excision surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

The night of surgery, again, not feeling much pain. But I was fairly hostile at being sliced and diced for the 4th time in 7 months.

They found a bit of a spot that crossed the margin along with 2 benign tumors; 1.8cm and 2.3cm. I wasn’t even scared this time. I was outraged. This is bullshit. This traitorous body needs to get its shit together and stop screwing with me. I know, illogical, but I’m pissed.

Over the next 7 days, I got 2 dense doses, a shit load of ondasatron, and more narcotics than you can shake a stick at. Truly, I wonder if they were using the drugs as a way to mellow me out? I was being a raging bitch, but after a dose of dilaudid, I was as docile as a kitten.

By the next morning, I was back to my charming self. I truly do put the “ass” in “class”.

By that afternoon, I was in a chair and enjoying the afternoon sun.

Oof. My bitty hairs had seen better days. I could have waxed a small car with the oiliness on my head! Plus, the hot flashes! Ugh, I think I had maintenance in there every hour adjusting the thermostat. Yeah, they hated me too.

The next few days were a blur of chemo, various antibiotics and meds, and those glorious drugs! Holy bejeezus, I don’t even remember taking this!

Even neutropenic, I was still happy to blow that popsicle stand. This was the last picture before the doctor took the dressing off on that last day. I finally got a good look at my re-excised chest. He had to remove all the muscle down to my chest wall. The new incision is 14″ long. My chest is concave and I can feel my heartbeat thru my chest. All that’s covering it is skin and ribs. My good mood shifted and I fell apart. All that positivity, fight, and sass was gone with one lift of a bandage. The surgeries, chemo, tests, procedures, and everything else too numerous to mention came crashing down and I broke into a million pieces. I just don’t have it in me anymore.

It’s Cool, Baby!

2016 – To try to relax after one of the worst days ever, I went to Chipotle with my daughter and roommate. My daughter told me to sit on the turtle and smile. It was a smile out of fear. I just kept thinking, “I was just told I have cancer for a 2nd time and I’m sitting on a stupid turtle in a courtyard.”

Looking back, I think was more in the healthy denial phase.