Time flies whether you’re having fun or not

Doesn’t time just fly? I had to read my last post to see where I left off. First thing’s first, I met with the gyn/oncologist and made the mistake of going alone. I was in a lot of pain from my radiation side effects and extremely emotional and couldn’t stop thinking about how much he reminded me of Paul Rudd, so I had no idea most of what he said except that I don’t really need a hysterectomy and there could be more complications because of the radiation. I left crying and with my head spinning after refusing to let him look at anything because I was in so much pain.

The last few weeks of radiation were the worst of my life, including chemo. Because they were shooting the radiation at my pelvis, the skin on all my underparts felt like I was on fire. All the time. And because they were shooting at my colon, all the mucus membrane that’s normally in my colon went away causing me to have urgency issues. I’ll be honest, it was a successful day if I didn’t poop my pants, and I didn’t have very many successful days. I stopped wanting to eat anything because I knew what was going to happen.

And listen, my house is not that big. It’s not like I was running to the east wing bathroom. I couldn’t make it from the kitchen to the bathroom and it’s about 10 steps. I didn’t want to leave the house because of it. I can’t even describe the kind of depression that comes with that. It felt like my lowest point (so far). This went on for a few weeks after radiation because it stays in your body. So now, it still hurts when I poop but the urgency is gone and I can make it to the bathroom and leave the house. Small victories.

More side effects, I can’t feel my fingers and toes or my calves. They say it’s normal with the chemo and will go away in time but for someone who works on a computer all day, not being able to feel your fingers is not ideal. And not being able to feel my toes makes me a little unsteady. I’m not a fall risk but I certainly get around slower.

So what’s next? For my one reader who’s been clamoring for a new post, here you are. Next Wednesday I go in for my pre op appointment with new scans to see where we are. I get another “digital” exam. Not with a camera. And then Thursday I meet with anesthesia to talk about the logistics of the actual day. It’s go time. I’m having this taken out on July 3rd. I’ll have an ileostomy bag, which completely freaks me out, for two months while it heals and then two months later they’ll reverse that. God willing. Although the past few weeks I have been thinking how nice it will be not to poop for two months.

Some good things, at the end of my radiation, Moonshine graduated from college. I took a day off from treatment and flew down on Thursday night. I was on super duper anti-diarrheal drugs because I did not want to poop my pants at the Lloyd Noble (Oklahoma reference) or at her party. Friday night was a ceremony for the whole school. It was really nice. No incidents. Saturday was her party. I was dealing with my stomach and my extreme fatigue but I powered through and she had an amazing party.

Then Saturday night was her graduation and it was amazing. I was so proud of her. After a really nice Mother’s Day Sunday, we flew home, still hopped up on those anti-diarrheals so I wouldn’t have to use that airplane bathroom.

Then I finished treatment and two weeks later, finally started healing. My urgency wasn’t so bad, my skin healed, I was able to leave the house more. I helped Tenderheart move out of her dorm and into a sublease for the summer. I went to dinner for my birthday and didn’t get sick. Baby steps.

Also, my gyn/oncologist Paul Rudd called me and apologized for throwing so much stuff at me in my appointment and he talked me through the pros and cons of a hysterectomy and I decided against it. One because I don’t really need it. My cells came back non-cancerous. And two, there are more complications from the radiation in that area. Basically all my tissue down there is mush and he threw out the word “fistula” and I said, no, thanks. One surgery at a time and if I need it later in life, I’ll have to do it then.

I’ll have more info after my Wednesday appointment, which my sister is flying in for, so I’ll know recovery time and all that jazz. In the meantime, Moonshine moved home to start her job, which she loves. Sunshine is looking at places to live for grad school in Chicago. And Tenderheart will be moving back into the dorms to start her second year of college after staying up there and working all summer. Life goes on whether I’m pooping my pants or not. I can’t wait to never have to talk about my poop again. I’m counting the days.

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In the meantime…

A lot has been going on with my colon, but there are some other ailments that have raised their wicked head to get attention.  Specifically, my cervix. Read ahead at your own risk.

The week before I started radiation, my radiologist asked when my last pap was.  What are you, my sister? My sister has been telling me to get one forever.  I said, “2011.” What? Is that not normal? It was the last time I had good insurance. My radiologist was appalled but also thinks I’m hilarious.  She also said since I was getting radiation in the pelvis area, I needed a pap to make sure nothing else was going on.

Backstory: In 1994, I had some abnormal results on some paps and had to have a couple procedures for abnormal pre-cancerous cells.  I was also trying to get pregnant at the time.  My gynecologist was 4′ 2″ with a pornstache.  The first procedure was a colposcopy and there were more abnormal cells so I had to have a leep procedure where they cut off the end of my cervix. It was horrifying.  To say those procedures were invasive is an understatement.  In fact, 9 months later when I had Sunshine, I looked for characteristics of that gynecologist, but she didn’t end up 4′ 2″ with a pornstache, fortunately or unfortunately. You decide.

Remember that fertility doctor who inserted his own sperm into his patients so he had a bunch of kids?  Anyway, I was terrified of that.

Slow forward to a couple of weeks ago when I had a pap and it came back with abnormal cells.  Then last Friday I had a colposcopy, which is basically shooting vinegar at my cervix and shining a light on it to make sure there are no more bad cells.  Well, listen, if I’m going to have anything shot at my cervix, it’s not going to make me smell like I’m coloring Easter eggs in my vagina.

But wait, that’s not all.  Not only did he shoot vinegar and shine the light, he couldn’t get a good look at my cervix so he had to get a hook and pull it forward.  Did your uterus just cringe?  Because it was like no pain I’d ever felt, and I’ve had three kids.  Then he found a polyp on my cervix and clipped that off for a biopsy.  Then he scraped some cells further up.  All this after saying, “I’m just going to look.”

Remember a couple weeks ago when I asked if I could handle any more humiliation?  Apparently I can and I did.

Then my radiologist said we might as well do a hysterectomy when I get my first colon surgery because she doesn’t want to leave anything that might cause me problems in the future.  Oh, good.  So let’s get all of it out.  What’s my appendix doing?  My gallbladder? Do I need my spleen? Anyone need a kidney? Can we put my bladder back where it goes?  I mean, really, while I’m open, let’s just fix everything that could potentially be cancerous or fall out in the future.

So May 8th, right before I leave for Moonshine’s graduation, I’m meeting with the gyn/oncologist to talk about that part of my surgery and hopefully come out with a plan that doesn’t lengthen my recovery process or involve shooting anything at my cervix.

 

Where everybody knows your name

I went to a bar the other day. I go every day now. And when I walk in, everyone shouts, “Christy!” And they’re all excited to see me. It’s exactly like “Cheers.” I’ve already pre-gamed my chemo pills so I don’t get a beer.

The hostess with the mostest Jane gives me a pager you’d get at any restaurant and tells me to have a seat. It goes off when my table’s ready. I’m kind of a VIP now since I’ve been going every day for a week so when my pager goes off, I return it to the basket and walk on back.

It’s kind of a maze back there but I know where I’m going. There’s a children’s play area as you first walk back on the left, and I pass a couple tables where they’re working on sick people. I’m sure they’ve just had too much to drink. I take a left then a right and get to my table, which is already all set up with my plaster of Paris leg mold.

I drop my coat and my purse and take my shoes off. This place is super casual. I’m wearing sweatpants without metal so I can just pull them down on the table and not have to change into a special gown.

The waitresses are so nice. They prefer to be called radiation techs, and they make sure I’m comfortable and that good music is playing and then they leave the room so I can get down to business. The business of radiating this cancer.

Exactly eight minutes later, they come back with some small talk. I tell them it was a piece of cake, only to be made better with actual cake. They need to work on their dessert menu. I pull up my sweats, and off I go. They have to get my table ready with the mold of the next person. I go back out past the sick people, the children’s play place, maybe some babies, which is heart wrenching, and on to the parking garage where I’ve had to fight for a space about 20 minutes prior.

And I go home and work, only to be back every week day until May 15th to hang out with my people where our troubles are all the same.

Wouldn’t you like to get away? I sure would.

A Break in the Clouds

I feel like my last post was a little dark so I want to start this week and my radiation with some positivity. Some great things have happened in the last almost five months since I was diagnosed. So here we go…

I love my port. I have terrible veins and my port, except for three times which I assume was user error, has worked beautifully.

I have had some amazing nurses. Except for one who was rough with my port and one named Kevin who Shelby wasn’t a fan of, they have been absolutely amazing. A special shout-out to the one who was in charge of calming me down and shooting the barium up my bum. She deserves a raise with what she had to see do. But seriously, being an oncology or radiology nurse has to be really hard.

Sitting there during infusions, I started the day really positive. I dressed up, I did my makeup, I tried to wear eight different outfits so I could get good pics. And as the chemo went in, I could feel the light leaving my eyes. And as the appointments went on, it got harder to stay positive and not vomit by the end of the appointment. But every single nurse except Kevin was absolutely amazing.

My sister is awesome. She set up my GoFundMe, which has been a godsend. She came in for my diagnosis and for chemo and stocked my freezer and changed my toilet seat. She deserves a medal. Several of them. She also got a colonoscopy and came back with a clean colon. Have you had yours?

My best friend Anna missed work to go to chemo appointments, always bringing food from her and her mom for my freezer and one day brought me Chinese in the middle of the day from my favorite place because I was craving fried rice. She’s the kind of friend who doesn’t need small talk and will just sit there for hours watching the light go out of your eyes while entertaining Tenderheart so she doesn’t freak out.

Now, you may think I’m motivated by food, but it never occurred to me how nice it was not to have to worry about dinner when you’re just trying to not vomit. So I guess I am motivated by food, but I really appreciate everyone who has brought me food or given me a ride or has been there to talk to or just reached out to me.

And believe me, I understand it’s hard for people to talk about cancer. I hate that I’m all cancer, cancer, cancer, but it’s that or I talk about my kids. I really don’t have much more going on right now.

When people say, “Let me know if you need anything,” I believe that and I will let you know, but most of the time, I don’t know what I need until I’m in it and I need it now, like when I’m texting with Paige about my constipation and she offers up some products that might help me and brings them over. That’s a friend you need. I remember a time when I didn’t have to be so concerned about my poop, also known as the good old days.

My mom has come in for appointments and she’s coming back for my first week of radiation. I’m so thankful she’s still well enough to travel and come up here because I’m sure it’s hard to be so far away when you find out your kid has cancer no matter how old she is.

Sunshine is an advocate at a domestic violence shelter. She already has a stressful job and then having to deal with me on chemo weeks wasn’t ideal. She’s been so amazing through this. Tenderheart giving up her spring break to come in for my last treatment and taking me over her Christmas break. Her name is “Tenderheart” for a reason but she’s been a champ even though I still won’t let her quit school. Moonshine and her boyfriend spent a Thursday over Christmas break in the oncology ward. I take my people to the most exotic places. But I’m so thankful to have so many amazing people in my life. You don’t know how badly you need people until something like this happens.

My cousin Cindi took me to dinner to celebrate my last chemo and we talked for four hours about true crimes. We didn’t solve anything but we might one day.

And I could never forget Toni or my cousin Gayla who have sent get well cards and motivational things. My old boss Julie who texts almost every day to see how I’m doing, all the comments on Facebook from people I don’t know reaching out, along with everyone who has contributed to my medical fund.

I’ve said it before but knowing this is curative and I’m not going to go bankrupt has been such a blessing. Just having the regular financial stress and not the medical billing stress has been amazing.

If I didn’t mention you specifically just know that I appreciate you, truly.

So this just shows you and me that the last five months haven’t been all bad, and even though I have a long way to go with five weeks of radiation and two surgeries, I got this. I have so many people in my corner rooting for me, so even though it’s overwhelming, I’ve never felt more blessed.

What’s Next?

So I finished chemo.  Eight rounds in 17 weeks and it was exhausting.  I rang the hope bell and told the nurses I would not miss them a bit. 

A couple of other things I won’t miss: the nausea.  Oh, I guess that’s just one.  Wait, and the constipation, which is mostly brought on by the anti-nausea pills.  So really, pick your poison.  Literally.

I won’t miss the infusions, the shared bays, the smell, the anxiety, the canned soup, the  two and a half hours where I can’t concentrate on anything, the cold sensitivity, the nausea.  I’m so tired of being nauseous.  I’m usually better the Monday after chemo, but last week it lasted until Wednesday, with Tuesday bringing on a migraine I had to work through.

On my last chemo appointment, I met with my oncologist Doogie Howser’s younger sister who told me about the next phase, which is radiation.  I said, “I got this.” And then she said, “You’ll get a call about your chemo pills you have to take during radiation.” And I said, “What’s that now?” Wah-wah.  So I’m not done with chemo, just the infusions.  I still have to take the anti-nausea and the chemo pills until I’m done with radiation in five or so weeks.

Then I met with the radiologist last week who told me about a wealth of other side effects that were to come.  Oh, joy.  I get why people just die.  I’m not saying I’m going to, but I get it.  I told Tenderheart that, but I meant, I get why older people say, “I’ve lived a good life. Jesus, take the wheel.” It’s a lot.  Some might say too much.  Tenderheart thought I meant I wanted to die and she had a total breakdown, and I didn’t mean me, but it’s a lot.

And the hits just keep on coming.  I had to get mapped last week so they could radiate only my tumor and not my whole body.  Stop reading here if you’re squeamish.  I would.  They shot barium up my bottom to radiate the part where my tumor is.  I said, “Literally, just shoot me.” Can I take another humiliation?  Apparently I can and I did.  And the nurse was so amazing, but really, it’s a lot.  Then they did a plaster of Paris on my legs to make a mold so every time I go in for radiation, I just stick my legs in that mold and lay exactly like I was laying today so they can radiate my insides.  Awesome.  Can’t wait.

And I get it.  I’m fortunate in that I can get the care I need and I am so lucky this is curable, but just when I think it’s the worst, there’s something else.  There’s a vaginal dilator so my vagina doesn’t close up during radiation, there’s barium up my butt, there’s too much talk about my butt.  I’ve spent my whole life trying to ignore it and now it’s front and center in the spotlight.

And then this put it into perspective.  For my infusions, I was on the adult area of oncology with a bunch of oldies getting treated for various cancers.  I was one of the younger ones.  However, on the radiation floor, it’s all ages.  There was a teen who was there for the first time sitting with her mom. There was a 2-year-old who was going to have her last radiation treatment the next day.  There was the bald 10-year-old skipping out with her sister and mom. There were all ages.  Cancer doesn’t care.  It doesn’t care if I’m uncomfortable or if I’m old or young.  It literally affects everyone indiscriminately. And I know this took a dark turn, but you get what you pay for.  I should just shut up about my barium up the butt and thank God this isn’t worse.

So here’s what’s next. I have radiation every week day starting next Tuesday. Supposedly it will only be about 15 or 20 minutes a day and the longest part will probably be the valet if there’s no parking in the garage. I booked my flight for Moonshine’s graduation and took that day off, and I’m praying I’m not too fatigued on her graduation weekend. Prayers still accepted. Let’s get this next stage going!

Just a bunch of musings

What happens when a cancer blog doesn’t have new posts? Do people assume you died? Not me, I’m alive!! And I’m currently at my 7th chemo infusion.

My sister flew in for the 4th one and made me a bunch of dinners to freeze. My bff Anna came to my 5th and brought me a bunch of freezer meals. And my mom flew in for the 6th and you guessed it, filled my freezer. The way to my heart is meals I don’t have to think about.

Let’s see, what was I not prepared for the last few weeks. My hair to keep falling out. I thought we were done and only the strong hairs had survived but it never really stopped so I cut it off. The thought is that as soon as I’m done with chemo it will start growing back, so fingers crossed the gypsy curse is done.

I wasn’t prepared for the amount of snot I would constantly make or the pain in my esophagus or the vomiting. When I thought of chemo, my first impression was the movie “Dying Young” where Campbell Scott hired Julia Roberts to be his nurse and he threw up all the time. I was assured with my three variations of anti-emetics that not only would I never have the hair of Julia Roberts, but that I wouldn’t be throwing up like Campbell Scott.

Let’s just say I’ll never be able to have Italian seasoned chicken or a grilled cheese again without thinking of it coming back up. And really, when’s the last time you’ve vomited? Not told your boss you couldn’t stop throwing up so you couldn’t come to work, but were actually throwing up. And listen, I don’t want to talk about poop let alone vomit but here we are. I couldn’t remember the last time I actually threw up but now I won’t forget it.

When my kids were little I think they didn’t think they could throw up without me. They felt like they had to come to my room first to tell me and then I’d go with them to the bathroom. Sometimes it was pretty close. And listen, feel free to go without me and I’ll meet you there. Do you need an audience? I’d personally like to throw up in peace or not at all if it was actually up to me.

I wasn’t prepared for all the outside stress. Life doesn’t stop when you have cancer. Your bills don’t stop coming, other people’s lives don’t stop, your landlord can still sell your house, my cancer doesn’t stop anyone else’s life from going on. And there’s very little concession from other people’s high sense of urgency. I’m scared all the time. Of everything. I’m stressed about everything except medical bills thanks to my go fund me.

And now some musings from the waiting room. It snowed last night and an old man just walked in wearing shorts and Birkenstocks. How did he even walk from his car? My boots were covered in snow, how are your feet not freezing? Also, you have to give your birthdate for everything and a man walked in with a 1989 birthday, which is the year I graduated from high school. The next guy was 1986. So young.

There was a woman last time and she was on her 8th treatment of the chemo I get and she looked haggard. Just like tired and sick. You know I have a fear of looking sick. And my mom said she was much older than me but she wasn’t. She was only five years older. Am I going to look haggard after two more of these? I feel like I already look haggard.

And now Fox News is on in this waiting room. What is happening? I’d almost rather die than listen to it, but I shouldn’t say that too loud.

This man is in the waiting room with his maybe 30 year old son, and the dad says, “My lady friend is here so I’m going to go get her. Text me what room you’re in.” He went down, got his lady friend, his son went back, and the dad is here in the waiting room chatting up his lady friend while his son is in the back getting chemo. What is wrong with people?

My life is a comedy of errors

Last week I had to go to the emergency room. Now, if you know me, you know it takes a lot to get me to an emergency room. It took me seven years just to get to a doctor, and a knee that wouldn’t extend for three days to get me to an urgent care. I do not go to the emergency room. Ever. In fact, this was my first time in my adult years to go to the emergency room for myself.

So it was bad. I thought I was dying. And actually what I thought was that I was having a fake heart attack like they had warned me about in my first chemo. Then I called the cancer clinic and they started throwing around words like “pulmonary embolism”, and you have to know besides my appendix bursting, an embolism is quite possibly the scariest thing I can think of.

And now that I’ve said that, it’s an aneurism that’s the scariest thing because there’s no warning. I would never go to the emergency room for a headache, I’d probably just die of an aneurism.

So I was having chest pain. Like right in the middle of my chest. And severe pain like I was doubled over and having trouble breathing. And it came on fast. I had just had lunch with Heather holla! She brought me a calzone and we chatted for a couple hours. Then as I was signing in to work, the pain started. I thought I could breathe through it because I didn’t want to waste a sick day or anyone’s time but it got so bad, I had to call.

The cancer center told me to call 911 or go straight to the emergency room and I was like, “Nah, it’ll pass.” And then they said heart attack or embolism and it didn’t get better in 10 minutes so I called Heather holla! to see if she’d drop me at the emergency room.

Here’s the deal. I don’t want anything to be wrong with me, but I also don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including my own. So if I’m going to the emergency room, I want it to be for something they can fix and tell me, “You were smart to come in.” I don’t want them to tell me it’s heartburn and go home, or worse yet, tell me it’s nothing.

And let’s not even get into how expensive the emergency room is. There’s a reason people don’t go unless they think they’re dying.

So I get dropped off and go in and have to wait in a security line to be checked in. I don’t know why there’s such security at an emergency room, but there’s obviously a reason. I wish they could just read my scan from the X-ray machine and save me the copay. I get checked in and they put me in a room and do an EKG, which took about 10 seconds.

At this point I call Sunshine to tell her where I am and to pick me up after work. I don’t want her missing work, but she yells at me to find out where I am and says she’s on her way. “Yells” is a strong word but she had a high sense of urgency to find out where exactly I was. I was fine. I was having severe chest pain but I was in a hospital, what could go wrong? Whelp, I have neutropenia so I’m more susceptible to germs, so that could go wrong. Mask securely on.

My EKG was fine but they admitted me anyway because they have to find a way to bill me. I walk back through two more security doors to a hive of rooms that you could easily get lost in. They make me put a gown on and a resident comes in to find out what’s going on.

Because my life is a comedy of errors, one of my curtains is gone and the glass wall where everyone walks by is just open to watching me change. They come in to try and fix it while five doctors are standing over me doing an ultrasound on my heart and throwing around words like “effusion”. Someone from housekeeping definitely saw underboob, but this is what I saw:

Turns out my heart was fine but because it’s a teaching hospital, I had to get a couple more doctors in to tell me there’s no effusion, whatever that is.

Then they do an X-ray of my lungs to make sure they’re clear, but they can’t tell if they’re actually clear unless they do a CT scan with contrast. I’m not sure why we didn’t just start there, but they saved the best for last.

They came in to do an IV and I said I have a port. Then they left because they didn’t know how to do a port. Listen, the only good thing about having a port is it’s convenient and my little wrist vein doesn’t have to do any work. It’s been through enough. The problem is they can’t get my port to work correctly (Sunshine said, “User error”) so they had to call my little wrist vein up from the minors and take blood from there.

However, because it’s a comedy of errors, they can’t do the CT contrast in my wrist vein so it has to be from my elbow or my port, which they can’t figure out. I wish I would have known that before they put the thing in my freaking wrist! After a lot of uncomfortable manipulating, they finally get my port to work and I get the CT scan with contrast and I’d only been there 5 hours at that point. Listen, they are not in any hurry to get you out of there, nor do they offer dinner in the emergency room.

The CT scan comes back clear except a little node on my lung that they’ll send my oncologist. That doesn’t sound terrifying at all, but it also doesn’t explain the pain, which I actually figured out on my own. More on that in a second. The main doctor comes in and tells me I can go as soon as they unplug everything and tells me to come back if it happens again. No, thank you.

7 hours in the ER and no one knows what the pain was but I’m leaving. I’m starving and exhausted. They don’t let you leave until you pay that ridiculous copay, so I do that and we’re on our way. But as I get to the car, my lips start feeling funny, like numb.

They had made me drink this drink with lidocaine and mylanta or something as disgusting earlier in the night that made my throat numb but that had worn off and this was just my lips. Then the right side of my lips started swelling. Well, there was no way I was going back into that ER but when I got home, I looked like this.

Okay, I’m a white woman and maybe it wasn’t that bad but there was definite swelling. I called the hospital and said I was having an allergic reaction to something and asked if I could take Benadryl. They said sometimes the contrast has side effects that don’t show up on the first one, but do show up on the second one. Great. I had had a CT scan with contrast in October and didn’t have any trouble. I took the one Benadryl I had in the house and the swelling went down a little.

The next day I woke up and my lips were swollen and my legs were covered with hives. The hits just keep on coming. Like, come on. I already have cancer, it’s enough.

Long story long, I had to go get a stronger hydrocortisone cream than the one I had and more Benadryl. And on the way to the pharmacy I slipped in my garage and wrenched my knee, however, I’ll probably die before going back to the emergency room. I’ll live with the limp.

Oh, and the pain, it was my esophagus. It’s a side effect of my chemo. But at least now I know my heart is good, my lung has a node, and I’m allergic to contrast. And the ER housekeeping crew knows I have very little underboob.

A Simpler Time

I got a postcard from Sunshine today. Where’s Sunshine been, you ask? Europe…over three months ago.

Aww, October 2018. It was a different time. I didn’t know I had cancer. My goal for the month was to get a doctor and get through the series “The Vampire Diaries”. Not a season, mind you, the whole series. And Sunshine was in Europe for three weeks of the month.

I was also dreaming about the lottery. Remember when it was really high around that time? Instead of looking up shady doctors, I was on Zillow planning which side of the park I was going to live in a four bedroom in Manhattan for two years. Picture of the floor plan? Yes, please.

It was a simpler time. And I don’t want to be all cancer, cancer, cancer but it has consumed my life…and my colon. And I’m off schedule by a week. Remember my tight timeline to get this wrapped up before Moonshine’s graduation? Cancer doesn’t care.

Picture this, Tenderheart and I go to Joann’s to get yarn because we’re going to my chemo and are going to knit/crochet. She knits, I crochet. We’re ready. We have my chemo bag, my new “Knit Happens” reusable bag, and a bunch of yarn. I go to get my blood taken and then wait. “Hurry up and wait” should be the slogan of any hospital.

We finally see the PA, which was okay because the appointment two weeks before, the oncologist made me wait 45 minutes after my appointment time. I hate it. All of it. She quickly tells me my neutrophils are too low to get chemo that day.

I don’t understand, we have yarn. And I feel good. Is there really such a thing as “neutrophils”? Sounds made up.

Apparently it needs to be at 1,000 and it’s at 800, which doesn’t sound terrible but she is unmoved. “But I feel really good,” I tell her. And then I burst into tears. “I’m on a tight timeline.” “Moonshine’s graduation.” “We brought yarn.” “I have people flying in to come to chemo appointments with me.” Un. Moved.

Tenderheart had a look of panic and tells me it’s okay about 100 times. I think if she tried to say anything else she was going to burst into tears too. I tried to be strong. I tried not to cry but the truth is, chemo sucks. And I hate it and I have to psych myself up to go every single time. I can taste the saline flush they do and have to have mints, my mouth tastes metallic, I’m nauseous, it’s awful, so the fact that I show up should be enough of a requirement for me to get it. And the fact that I couldn’t get it was just too much to bear at that moment.

I pulled myself together and Tenderheart and I walked back to the valet to get our car. We felt like we got a half day. And if it hadn’t thrown me completely off with my work schedule and people flying in, it would have been a really nice time. Tenderheart said she felt like I got her out of school early to hang out.

And I know in the whole scheme of things, it is what it is. It’s completely out of my control, which is the problem. I’m not that great of a “go with the flow” gal. I like a plan. Unless, of course, I win the lottery and live in a little flat overlooking Central Park for two years. East or west, doesn’t really matter to me. Then I’ll be as go with the flow as you like. But until then, I’m at the mercy of my “neutrophils” and my white blood cells and my oncologist.

And if you’re wondering, I sure did make it through the entire series of “The Vampire Diaries” in October. It was a simpler time.

Speaking of dying of embarrassment…

I have a horrible colonoscopy story…besides the cancer thing. This is gross and maybe where I lose some people. You’ve been warned.

My colonoscopy was on a Thursday and my prep was on Wednesday. It’s winter so on Sunday, I put on a crockpot of pinto beans to eat for the week. We eat them with cornbread or on tortillas with cheese. It’s a cheap, hearty meal but also one you might not want to eat before a colonoscopy. Unbeknownst to me at the time, beans don’t digest that well, and I had them Sunday and Monday for dinner and Tuesday for lunch. That’s a lot of beans.

Everyone says the colonoscopy prep is the worst part. I completely agree. It was terrible. It was 64 ounces of lemon/lime Gatorade mixed with a full bottle of mirolax, which you drink after taking four stool softeners. Yum. And you also can’t have anything except clear liquids.

I got out my fancy glass pitcher and mixed my drink, got my reusable straw, and had to drink half at one time and half at like 6:00 the following morning. I thankfully had taken the first appointment available, but it was still an afternoon appointment, so my fasting and prepping lasted essentially two days. I was dreaming of omelettes the whole morning of that Thursday. Just something warm and cheesy. I was starving and I was tired because it was such an active evening of “hanging out” in the bathroom.

When I got to the colonoscopy, they had me get completely undressed and put a gown and some socks on and come on out with everyone else while we get an IV in you. Well, I was very concerned that I still might have to go to the bathroom to make sure it was all cleaned out before I went in. There was also an urgency after all that prep. The nurses, who were so amazing, told me you can never get it all out and the scope has a suction on it for that purpose. Number one, Ew. Number two, already more information than I want to know.

I wanted more than anything to keep my panties on because I felt so exposed, but that would have just been in the way. So there I am in all my glory laying sideways on a table and I’m panicked. Not that they’ll find cancer because nothing bad ever happens to me, but that I’ll have an accident on the table.

It’s the same fear when giving birth. I know it happens, but please don’t let it happen to me.

I find out after that they also take pictures of your innards, aka, the entire colon. Dear Lord, I do not want to see that. Oh, there they are right in front of me. And there’s my tumor. Oh, it’s a cute little mushroom thing. That doesn’t look too bad. Oh, wait, it’s actually 3/4 of the circumference of my colon surrounding the little polyp, that makes more sense. The little polyp could have been snipped out if it had been caught 10 years ago.

And then we go further up the colon in my pictograph and what is that? Oh crap, it’s a fully in tact, not digested, pinto bean. Right there on the camera. How embarrassing. And how in the world did that make it through all that prep? I don’t want to be too graphic but there was A LOT of prep. And I was fixated on that bean. Not on the fact that I had just been diagnosed with probable cancer, but that there was actually a bean still left in what should have been a squeaky clean, cancer-free colon. Let me know if you want to see, but also, no, creeper.

Dying of embarrassment

I haven’t been to the doctor since I lost my good job and my good insurance in 2011. I have been to urgent care a couple of times. Once because I woke up and my knee wouldn’t straighten. I waited a couple of days and used old crutches and finally went to an urgent care where she yelled down the hall after an X-ray that I have arthritis in my knee. Well, both parents have bad knees so I knew that was coming. She gave me muscle relaxers and sent me on my way. Hmm, this doctor thing seems okay, or it’s the muscle relaxers talking.

I also had to go to urgent care once when I was tackled by someone and a bone in my foot was cracked. I went in after an excruciating couple of days walking around Estes Park, and I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk anymore. A couple months in a boot and pain medication and I was back on my feet.

Is there an opioid crisis because every time I go to the doctor I get muscle relaxers or hydrocodone? I don’t ask for them. I’m not a pill taker. I don’t like it. I don’t want to be at a place where I have to take something every day to live.

Another reason I haven’t been to the doctor besides money is it’s embarrassing. Someone is going to see me naked and all my parts. I don’t even want to see all my parts and they’re my parts. Spoiler alert, I have some weight to lose, of which I’ve lost 60 pounds but still have more. I have to find a doctor, see previous post, I have to take the time off work or wait forever to go in. I’ll be honest, it’s a hassle. Even going every other Thursday is a whole ordeal and it’s required. I’m certainly not going to do something that’s not mandatory.

And it’s fear too, right? What if something is wrong with me that’s really bad. I certainly don’t want to go in and hear, “months to live.” But that’s even more of a reason to go.

I knew something was wrong with me, I just didn’t know what it was. New Year’s Day 2018, we went around the table and talked about our “resolutions” and I said I had some medical stuff I wanted to take care of this year. I wanted to get a doctor. I’d been having this faint but weird pain in my side when I reached for something. I knew most of it was my weight, but I’d been walking and feeling better but something still just didn’t feel right.

Another excuse is that the side I felt the pain on was the side I walked Lola. If you haven’t met Lola, she’s a lovable beast.

We have a couple of things in common in that her doctor thinks she’s overweight too. And she has more in common with my kids in that she’s not a great listener, which translates to — she pulls a little on walks on the right side where I’m having pain. You can justify a lot and make excuses for anything when you’re scared and embarrassed.

I thought, “If I don’t do something soon, I’m going to literally die of embarrassment.” So I went through the arduous process of finding a doctor, which led me to this part of my journey. And I’ve had this polyp for probably 10 years and who knows how long it’s been cancer, so I’m not too hard on myself that things would have been better if I’d have started this process in January, but at least I’d have only had one year of copays and out of pocket instead of two, and I’d be done by now, so maybe I am mad at myself.

The moral of this story is, “Do not die of embarrassment.” Are you over 50 and haven’t had a colonoscopy? Or 40 with family history of polyps? Are you 40 and haven’t had a mammogram? When was your last pap? All of it sucks and it’s all embarrassing, but it’s also life-saving. Take care of yourself, life is already too short.