Where u at?!

Recently I had to get an abdominal and pelvic ultrasound and the experience was – as many things are in my life these days – absurd.  The technician slicked me down with so much gel that I was worried my ostomy bag would fall off!  The whole process seemed to be taking forever, she scrutinized the computer screen with a concerned look on her face – not what you want to see.  Then she asked me if my gallbladder had been removed during my cancer surgery.  “Why?!  Has it gone missing?!” I cried.  WTH!

Next, she asked me to stand up.  So there I was, naked, except for my Forever 21 banana socks, slicked down like I was ready for some oddball porno, my ostomy bag starting to fill up with its usual liquid grossness and the technician jamming me with the wand.  “The Case of The Missing Gallbladder!” I said with a dramatic flourish.  She did not seem to appreciate my humor.  Finally she found the little bastard!  He was hiding and kind of “flipped over”- whatever the hell that means.  She left the room looking very relieved and I started the process of de-glazing myself.  #glamorouslife

 

 

Turning into Woody

This just in: I am totally turning into Woody Allen’s hypochondriac character in “Hannah and Her Sisters:”

The other morning, while brushing my teeth, I became convinced that the bottom of my mouth – the salivary glands – were swollen with cancer!  I mean I was convinced!  I inspected them and quickly came to the conclusion that they had never been so large and that in the three months since my last CAT scan, my abdominal cancer had taken over my mouth!  I spent a solid fifteen minutes googling and staring at horrible images of mouth tumours.  Then I called my dentist and explained the situation.  I’m sure they thought I was NUTS, but they were totally cool.  Since I was due for a cleaning anyway, they said I should just come in and they would take a look at my highly suspicious, swollen, I’m about to die, cancerous mouth.

On the streetcar over I prepared for the worst.  “Your cancer has spread to your mouth.  We we will have to remove your entire mouth, you will no longer be able to speak.”  I started to sweat.  Walking the few blocks to the dentist’s office I passed a beautiful old church – Toronto has an amazing assortment of stunning old churches – and I decided that I should go in and say a few prayers.  I tossed money in the saint’s box and lit a candle:

Dear God, please don’t let my mouth become mis-shaped from this horrible cancer.  I already have a tummy that is mangled looking, I don’t want a mangled face as well.  Please help Tom and my family deal with this terrible new diagnosis.  If I need to get traditional chemo, please let me keep my eyebrows.  I don’t mind losing my hair, it’s been fucked up ever since my HIPEC/hot chemo treatment.  I will purchase a nice pink wig with bangs, but I really like my eyebrows.   And please don’t let me get down to 90 pounds again, because I already gave away all of my “emaciated clothing” to The Salvation Army.  Again, please bless my family and Tom.  Thank you.”

After several ridiculous prayers and many dollars later, I left the church and walked the death march to the dentist.  I love my dentist, he is the best.  He assured me that although the bottom of my mouth was larger than most people’s, there was nothing to be worried about.  But, he said it was totally normal that with a large-bottomed mouth like mine I might think there was a problem (bless his heart!).  Oh the Joy I felt upon hearing that my cancer had not spread to my mouth!  I practically danced all the way home and then passed out exhausted on my bed, dreaming of pink wigs and saints and perfect mouths.

 

Don’t Stepford Wife Me

 

image

You know that expression that God only gives you as much as he thinks you can handle? Well, I think it’s a ridiculous expression.  But on the off chance that it’s true, then God must think I am one hardcore broad.  Because in addition to dealing with Mesothelioma, (special thanks to Asbestos for giving me this lovely cancer), I also have a Brain Aneurysm to deal with.  Fuckety Fuck Fuck.

On days when I am feeling “oh the glass is so very beautifully half full!” I feel extremely lucky that my brain aneurysm was found.  Most people don’t even know they have one and then one day they’re walking to the 7-Eleven and – pouf! – they die on the spot.  But my brain aneurysm was discovered while I was being treated for Peritoneal Mesothelioma.  I forget exactly why they were scanning my head – that whole time in the hospital is a bit of a blur – but they basically stumbled upon it.  When my Oncologist told me I was like “ok, whatever!” because I had more pressing issues at the time.  But now I’m worried.

On May 18th I  go back to the hospital – cue the scary music – to get my aneurysm “coiled.”  Basically the surgeon packs the aneurysm with platinum coils which prevents it from bursting.  Luckily they don’t have to open up my head lobotomy style – thank you Jesus!  Instead they weave a small catheter from my groin all the way up to my brain.  Is it just me, or does that seem like something that you would see on The X-Files?  I have decided to think of the platinum in my brain as an alternative engagement ring from my partner.  Instead of wearing platinum on my finger I am wearing it in my brain.

Intellectually I understand what the operation involves and I trust my amazing Neurologist.  But I also have an irrational fear that I will wake up from this operation a changed woman, that I will be turned into some weird Stepford Wife. I will go from a tchotke, sparkle loving collector, to a Plain Jane Minimalist.  Or worse, all the things that make me “me” – my many neuroses, my belief that I was a showtune singing Broadway star in a former life, my rule about never leaving the house without lipstick on – will vanish and I will become someone different.  I realize that it’s a ridiculous fear, but there is just something about messing around with my brain that freaks me out.  It feels like I am about to enter an old episode of The Twilight Zone.  Stay Tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

Bony Moronie

“I got a girl named Bony Moronie.  She’s as skinny as a stick of macaroni!”

“Bony Moronie” by Larry Williams was my theme song while I was sick.  My partner introduced me to the great little ditty and it became my go-to song to lift my spirits.  I’ve always weighed between 115 and 120 pounds.  I’ve never been Bony Moronie “skinny” per se – I have the stocky farmer limbs of my Irish ancestors – but I’ve always been slim.  By the time I went into surgery for my Mesothelioma, anxiety (and cancer), had caused me to start to lose weight and I was down to 110.  After the grueling surgery I was fed only ice chips for ten days. ICE CHIPS people, nothing else.

One day my nurse announced cheerily that she was going to weigh me.  Suddenly I found myself standing precariously on the scale, hunched over like a frail old lady. “90 pounds!” cried the nurse, with a touch of theatrical flair.  Ninety Pounds.  OMG.  What normal 47 year-woman weighs 90 pounds?!  The number horrified me.  At that time I had not yet viewed myself in a full-length mirror, I had only seen my face in my makeup compact.  I was not emotionally prepared for how shocking my appearance truly was.

It wasn’t until January 2015 when I saw myself naked in a large mirror.  I was at the rehab hospital and tipping the scales at 96 pounds.  I remember the moment I saw my whole figure for the first time, I had sort of an out of body experience.  I looked at the pale, stringy haired, emaciated woman in the mirror and wondered who she was.  It was very difficult and painful to accept that I was looking at my own reflection.  From that moment on I mostly tried to avoid looking at myself, for I feared that I would spiral down into the depths of despair and not be able to climb back out.

One of the things that drives me bat-sh*t crazy is the expectation by many people that because I am “lucky to be alive,” I somehow don’t have the right – or it’s deemed in poor taste – for me to talk about how bad I feel about my body.  As cancer survivors we are allowed to feel both tremendous gratitude for the second chance at life and simultaneously feel deep pain about the ravaging of our physical selves.

And with that, Larry Williams – take it away…

Cookie Monster

In the late summer of 2014 I started having panic attacks.  It was as if my psyche knew that something was very wrong before I actually found out that I had cancer.  My anxiety was making it hard for me to eat and I was starting to lose weight (of course the cancer was also causing me to lose weight but I didn’t know that at the time).  Fast forward to the Fall when I was diagnosed with Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma, my anxiety levels went off the charts.  So one of my dear friends, whom I have known since our University of Toronto days, made me Pot Chocolate Chip cookies to calm my nerves.  Like many things in life, it seemed like a good idea at the time…

One night, after not being able to eat more than a few forkfuls of dinner, I took a small bite of one of her cookies.  It tasted horrific and I worried that perhaps I was going to be accidentally poisoned.  I didn’t feel anything right away and like a complete idiot I took another bite.  Big Mistake.  Next thing I remember I was organizing the bathroom.  I became enthralled with the toothbrush holder and spent a long time placing it “just so” on the counter.  Then I became obsessed with my face, staring at myself in the mirror, admiring my small pores.  But then there was a shift and all of a sudden I was on a BAD trip!

I ended up at the local hospital, where they already knew me well from my various panic attack freak-outs.  At the front desk the nurse asked me why I was there.  I said “because I have cancer and I ate a pot cookie and now I am having a very bad and scary trip.”  She motioned me to the waiting room where my dad sat with me  – bless his heart – until my partner arrived.  I sat low in my seat, trying to hide from the others whom I deemed all highly suspicious.  Once my partner arrived I was interviewed by another nurse.  I told my story and then I threw up in a small bowl that magically appeared before me.  I was very scared.  I was like the lamest drug taker in the history of drug taking.  The nurse put me on a gurney in the waiting room so that I could “come down” while my partner stood next to me listening to my gibberish (he’s a saint).  Unfortunately it was a busy night at the hospital and I live in a big city – Toronto.  So very quickly the hospital waiting room filled up with characters right out of a Law & Order episode.  Next thing I knew I was lying in my gurney next to two crazy broads who were each shackled to their gurneys.  There was also a gaggle of police officers.  Why oh why did I eat that second bite of the cookie?!   I was also in a panic because I couldn’t remember if I had properly disposed of the rancid cookie.  I was paranoid that my dog Leroy would eat it – though looking back now I realize that the cookie smelled so disgusting that Leroy would have – unlike me – just said no.

Moral of the story:  take one bite and wait, wait a long time.  Or, better yet, ask your doctor for some medicinal pot.

Go Juice Yourself

If one more freaking person tells me that juicing will prevent my terminal cancer from returning, I will strangle them.  Or, at the very least, I will de-friend them on Facebook. Believe me, I know all about juicing – I lived in Los Angeles for twelve years!  And it’s not like I’m sitting around all day eating Doritos and drinking Orange Crush!  I eat a balanced diet, but I also include one daily treat – like a couple of cookies or a bowl of ice cream.  I inherited my sweet tooth from my paternal Grandmother who used to hide chocolate bars all over her house!  If anything, I am more aware than others about the importance of diet because I have an ileostomy.  With ileostomies, and mine is a “high-output” one, food (or juice!) goes right through you.  So I am very aware of getting enough calories and nutrients to keep my immune system strong.  I have managed to get myself back up to 115 pounds – from a low of 90 pounds! – so I clearly know what I’m doing.  I understand that people just want to help and that often they don’t know what to say and I truly appreciate everyone’s concern.  But please, enough with the Juicing.

The Great Escape

After having two surgeries and the trendy “shake & bake,” (aka HIPEC), to treat my Peritoneal Mesothelioma, I was put on some serious drugs.  I was out of my mind and delusional.  I was SO high that although I was hooked up to a gaggle of tubes, I was determined to escape from the ICU.  LOL!  I had decided that I hated my entire medical team and that I was more than ready to leave the hospital to recuperate at home.  So I asked my partner to retrieve my belongings for me & bless his heart he did.  “Where are my skinny jeans?! I don’t see them!” I cried like the lunatic I was at that moment, as I weakly rifled through my bag.  I eventually found everything I needed and then lay back in bed, satisfied that I had my outfit ready for my upcoming great escape.

Shortly thereafter, unbeknownst to me, I was restrained to my bed with some soft canvas ties.  I didn’t understand what they were, but I didn’t like them, so I tried hiding them under my sheets – even in my hot mess state I still had a sense of style and I thought the ties were hideously ugly!  Later that day I was lucky enough to get my own private nurse!  I felt like a movie star!   She sat next to me and when I asked her she told me all about her family and showed me photos on her phone.  She even braided my hair!

image

I loved having my own nurse, everyone should have this luxury I decided.  What I didn’t realize was that the lovely nurse was actually my “minder,” – she was there to make sure that I didn’t try to pull out my tubes and escape.  Again, LOL.  Needless to say my plans were thwarted. After what seemed like an eternity I graduated to a room in the Step-Down unit. That at least felt like an accomplishment, though not as satisfying as had I actually escaped!