That which doesn't kill us merely postpones the inevitable.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The Further Adventures of Superman
Superman and I were out for our evening walkies last night, bopping along down the sidewalks of Deep Inferno, minding our own business and cheerfully humming dorky old Abba tunes in two-part harmony while boyfriend heeled at my left knee with impressive military precision. When all of a sudden, I kid you not, a COP CAR pulled up alongside us and turned on his flashing blue lights!
Now in driver's ed they never taught us the protocol for pulling over while walking. Was I supposed to raise my hands in the air like on tv, or what? Does a 90 pound albino Doberman count as a concealed weapon?
And what the hell could the police want with me, anyhow? Come on, dude, I was thinking, no way am I walking over the speed limit, so what, one of my tail lights is out?
Officer Cop rolled down his window and beckoned me over to the squad car. "That's a nice looking dog you've got there, ma'am," he said. "Is he aggressive?"
Ah ha, I get it, he's profiling me: little old white-haired granny, wearing hot pink Chuck Taylors and thick nerdy glasses, bopping along the sidewalk diligently obeying the leash laws while humming Take A Chance On Me? Yup, odds are clearly pretty damn high she's running an illegal vicious dog fighting ring out back behind her petunia bed.
"Oh, no sir, Mr. Officer," I assured him. "He's a real sweetheart, just a great big lovable goofy ol' puppy." Unless you happen to be a cat. Or move one more inch in my direction, you fool, which I really really wouldn't advise. "I take him to obedience classes down at the PetSmart every week!" I blathered on, straining to radiate innocence from every pore. "He's learning to obey and do tricks and he's always on a leash and he has his rabies tag and I'm carrying a poop bag and see? see? See what a good responsible dog owner I am?"
But the cop had stopped listening and was peering at something in his back seat, which I couldn't see through the black tinted windows. "Whaddaya think, Stella?" he asked. Stella didn't answer. "I'm surprised she isn't trying to kill your dog," the cop said to me. "Stella is usually VERY aggressive."
And then it dawned on me, duh: Stella wasn't some belligerent passed out drunk he was hauling in to the station; this was the official Deep Inferno K-9 Unit! And Officer Cop didn't want to lecture me on the dangers of owning an aggressive breed; he just wanted to talk dog shop with me. And possibly find out whether my four-legged penile extension was meaner and scarier than his.
So great, we chatted dog talk for a bit, the cop car blocking the middle of the street with his light still flashing so all my neighbors could peer through their curtains and speculate as to why the heck that weird old lady who just moved into the little shack on the corner was being arrested for walking the streets at dusk. Meanwhile Superman sat obediently at my side, calmly studying cracks in the sidewalk.
"I just don't get why Stella isn't barking at him," the cop said again. And I guess his curiosity finally got the better of him, because he hit a little button on his dashboard that lowered the rear window.
Well cheezis. Thank the everfucking Universe there was a wire mesh screen. Because Stella (aka Cujoella) took one look at Superman and started hurling her ferocious deranged snapping snarling barking foaming German Shepherd self against it with full force, over and over again, her blazing red eyes fixed on his jugular as flames shot out through her nostrils.
Superman took one look at Stella and peed all over his own feet.
Oh well, I guess this means we probably lost the Biggest Penis in Deep Inferno contest? Rats.
"Hey, nice talking to you!" said Officer Macho with a smug grin as he put his cruiser into gear.
"Right," I said cradling my trembling whimpering 90 pound baby who was desperately trying to crawl up onto my shoulders. "We'll have to get the pups together for a play date real soon."
Poor Soopy. When we got home he did his very best to make up for his embarrassing little lapse in protective duty. He spent twenty whole minutes following a big black carpenter ant back and forth across the back porch, bravely barking his head off at it, staunchly defending Miss Lady and the Beloved Homestead.
My big sweet hero! I don't know what I'd ever do without him.
So my latest thing is I've become a groupie for the Thursday Night Blues Band down at the funky little local dive bar here in town. These guys just rock the hell out of that place, every week. So this morning I was talking on the phone to the harmonica player.
Me: You were amazing last night. The whole band was on fire! Excellent show! By the way, what was the name of that great Junior Wells song, the one with Lee on the vocals?
Nick: 'You Don't Care.'
Me: Yes I do, I really liked that song.
Nick: No no. 'You Don't Care' was...
Me: I DO care, I tell you. I want to know the name so I can download it.
Nick: Right. 'You Don't Care.'
Me: Goddamnit, I DO care! I really want to know the name of the fucking SONG, Nicholas.
Nick: 'YOU DON'T CARE'!!!
Me: YES I DO!
Nick: NO NO NO!!! Listen to me: 'YOU! DON'T! CARE!'
Me: My, my. Are we feeling just a wee tad insecure this morning?
Oh my Dog! LOOK what just came in the morning mail:
From: Our Lady of the Damned Charity Medical Center To: Lymphopo Pain In The Ass Squeaky Wheel
Dear Ms. Pain In The Ass Squeaky Wheel:
You (FINALLY!) have (yet ANOTHER, bwaahahaha!) appointment at the Family Medicine Clinic with Family Practice Minor Surgery on: 08/17/07 at 8:30 AM. Please bring enough food, medication, blankets, pillows, and changes of clothes to ride you through a possible (ok, PROBABLE) 874 hour wait (chump!).
If you miss this appointment it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to call the above number (where you're guaranteed to get a busy signal 24/7--sucker!) to reschedule. For your reference, please note the following: a $15 deposit is required at the time of visit; we will bill you for the remaining $24,792.37 whether or not you actually manage to see a medically trained person at this appointment.
Good luck, fucker!
Whoopeee!!! Once again, for what, the fourth time now? I get to have my hopes all raised up in eager anticipation. Shall we start a betting pool this time on whether or not the hideous port will actually come out on August 17th, or whether Lucy will once again yank the damn football right out from under me at the last minute? Come on, y'all, place your bets! Who all's in?
Ok. Here's the deal. I'm finally getting around to setting up my online personal trainer service, Granny Gets A Six-Pack. But before it can sprout wings and fly, I need to run a beta test on some guinea pigs. So I'm issuing a call for feckless volunteers.
Remember: Granny Gets a Six-Pack is NOT about hating your body, or sacrificing pleasure, or starving yourself to be thin. It's NOT about trying to look like an emaciated runway model, or even a perfectly buff fitness model.
It IS about nurturing yourself, about building beautiful plump juicy muscles and enviably high bone density; it's about growing strong and fit and powerful. It's about respecting your body, enjoying every single bite you eat, and using food to increase your energy, vitality, and well-being.
Strong, fit, and active at 52.
Each client will receive a personalized program, based on his or her individual wishes, dreams, circumstances, and limitations. We'll work on setting realistic long term, short term, and daily goals. I can help you design an eating plan and/or a workout plan (with or without a gym membership), and I'll provide ongoing cheerleading, advice, information, motivation, and help leaping over and beyond the hideous obstacles, both mental and physical, that have been holding you back. There will be short fun written assignments, informative educational reading suggestions, fascinating and lively records to keep, and of course the obligatory show-tune singalongs.
There will be NO boot camp bullying: I'm a big believer that people, like dogs, accomplish much more with positive reinforcement than with scolding and punishment. For every pound you add to your bench press, I'll toss you a liver treat. (kidding!) (about the liver treat, not about the reinforcement.)
A highly accomplished dog
Anyway, I'm still not quite sure exactly how everything's going to fall into place logistically, and that's where y'all come in. I need a handful of courageous volunteers to test drive the thing and help me work out the bugs.
So! All ye brave readers out there in Blogistania who send an email to grannysix at gmail dot com IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS and sign up as willing participants in Granny Gets A Six-Pack, the Beta Version will receive one! free! month! of online training. In exchange all you have to do is help me out with some simple (and I assure you, highly ethical) experiments, fill out some questionnaires, and provide some honest feedback about the program. If the feckless guinea pigs survive the beta program with their faculties intact, then I'll open GGASP wide to the feckfull paying public for $100 per month, and we'll take the world by storm.
So. Who's going first? Be bold! This could be your big chance! Sign up now at: grannysix at gmail dot com (not in the comments here); operators are standing by for 24 hours only with your once in a lifetime FREE one month membership! Go for it!
Here I am sharing my coveted workout secrets with Big Ronnie Coleman, eight-time Mr. Olympia winner. For the next month, this could be YOU!
ADDENDUM: Yikes! I'm sorry but I'm going to have to close sign ups a couple of hours early, folks, because I already have about 8,000 volunteers and my inbox is still exploding. But this is good! Part of my experiment is about discovering what kind of client load I can handle before I have a nervous breakdown and/or the computer ignites into flames. So, as of 12:00 noon Louisiana time on Thursday the 26th of July, GGASP is closed to new volunteers, and would somebody please pass me that fire extinguisher over there? If you were negligent in checking my blog every four minutes around the clock and thus missed your big chance to participate, don't despair! If this batch of guinea pigs doesn't do me in, in a month I'll be open for aplha business and by then I should have figured out some very basic stuff like how to not delete all you important records thus causing you to lose all your hard earned muscles with one careless stroke of the keyboard. Stay tuned!
So, the time of the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is rapidly approaching, and I'm beginning to feel the predictable gloom that sad anniversaries so often bring.
Earlier today I was rereading an entry that I wrote in my late lamented Granny Gets A Vibrator blog exactly one year ago this week. This was back when I first knew I was very sick, but didn't yet know how sick. I'd been coughing for months and I knew there was something suspicious on the chest x-ray, but words like "neoplastic mass" and "advanced cancer" hadn't yet been tossed around. The man I called "the painter" had temporarily walked out on me in a huff because I wasn't sufficiently grateful when he tried to take charge of my situation; he was merrily going out dancing every night, and I was left struggling with my fears all alone.
In late July 2006, in an entry titled "An Apology to My Readers," I wrote this:
When I started this blog, back at the beginning of the year, I hoped I could be an inspiring and optimistic role model: Look at me! I wanted to shout from the rooftops to younger women everywhere. Don’t be afraid of aging, or the empty nest! It’s not so bad being over 50! This is a time to look forward to! I’m happy, healthy, strong, independent, full of energy, pursuing a life filled with passionate interests, laughter, learning, love, sex, and daring adventures. Life is good!
And for a few months I managed to pull it off pretty well.
But I would be inexcusably dishonest if I didn’t confess that right now, over here at Chez Le Vibrator, morale has reached an all-time low. I’m no longer feeling very healthy or strong or sexy or optimistic. In fact, I’m feeling about as weary, discouraged, depressed, and defeated as I’ve ever felt. And scared. I’m really scared about what upcoming medical tests are going to find, and scared about what it’s going to mean to be without health insurance.
I’m afraid I’ll have to give up weight lifting, and dancing, and my home, and garden and dogs and everything I’ve loved doing. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to trust being in a relationship with a man again. I’m afraid I’ve already lost the ability to take much pleasure in these things anyway. I’m scared and angry and discouraged about the state of the world and the wars and the hate and racism and brutality that never seems to stop. I’m scared about facing a bleak, dismal, and possibly brief future, old and tired and alone. And I know, it’s been a long long time since I’ve been able to be funny. If it weren’t for my magnificent sons and their wonderful partners, I wouldn’t have much good to say about anything these days.
And so, I really want to apologize to those readers who innocently wandered over to this blog expecting to read witty, sexy, feisty, optimistic, well-written vignettes about the joys of growing older, and instead have found a grumpy, rambling, self-absorbed, discouraged and embittered old woman. If I’d known last January that things were going to take such a turn, I never would have started this blog. I’m sorry about the way it’s gone south lately. And I’m sorry for being such a whiny pissy complaining sissy about my troubles, and airing my dirty laundry in public etc. I’m going to cut back on the negative stuff for a while, for my own sanity as well as yours.
Anyway, I go in for another round of x-rays tomorrow, then to meet with the doctor on Wednesday. I am really scared. Wish me luck.
God, what an awful time that was. And I really didn't even have a clue what a grim nightmare I had ahead of me. I wish I could go back in a magic time machine and find my poor scared July 2006 self and say something, do something, hell, I don't know, just wrap my arms around that self and cry with her. She was so right to be scared.
And now here it is a year later. I keep going back to these prescient worries: "I’m afraid I’ll have to give up weight lifting, and dancing, and my home, and garden and dogs and everything I’ve loved doing. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to trust being in a relationship with a man again."
And all I can say now is: well thank goodness it wasn't quite that bad! At least I managed to hang onto the dogs.
Anyway, my motto remains: Onward.
Or as Alfred Lord Tennyson said so much more eloquently in his poem Ulysses:
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
I just have to tell y'all what an amazing hero my Superman was today.
He woke me up at about 5:00 this morning, pacing and whining and nudging me in the bed. I figured he needed to go potty, but when I opened the back door he refused to go out. He kept pacing and whining, going back to the bed and nudging it (he's not allowed to get up on it except by invitation). Clearly something was bothering him.
Was the house on fire? Nope, I checked everywhere. Were there burglars milling around on the porch? Nope, not that either. I was puzzled, reduced to scratching my head and muttering inane things like, "What is it, Lassie, did Timmy fall down the damn well again?" Superman just rolled his eyes and kept nudging the bed.
Ok, clearly the problem was something in the bed. But what? Snakes?! Spiders?!! The Loch Ness Monster??? No, the only thing in the bed was Dixie Rae. She's allowed to sleep under the covers every night, and while Superman might privately harbor a deep dark resentment over this privilege, he has the good sense to not turn into a drama queen over it at 5:00 in the goddamn morning.
Well, poor little Dixie Rae is deaf as a door knob but finally all that frantic nudging and pacing woke her up, and she dragged her sleepy self out of the covers, yawning and blinking like a mole, to see what the hell all the commotion was about. And as soon as she emerged, Superman pounced on her.
I rushed over, thinking he was about to swallow her whole, but it turned out the big freak was obsessively licking her ears. At a tiny 4.5 pounds, she sports an incongruous pair of giant Yoda ears that give 90-pound Superman's ears a run for their money. They're glorious (if useless) ears, but that doesn't explain why he suddenly wouldn't stop licking them. Every time I dragged him away from her, he'd lunge right back over and start licking again. He wouldn't even let Dixie walk to the door, he cornered her and licked and licked.
I'd never seen him do anything this crazy before. It was the strangest thing. She finally got fed up and started to snap at him. She only has one tooth left, a back molar (typical of the breed--you've probably seen older Chinese Cresteds with their tongues hanging out); nevertheless, he usually cowers and lets her boss him around. But this time he ignored her warning and kept licking her ears, frantically, obsessively, like he'd gone insane. I finally shut him in the bathroom, where he whined and cried and banged against the door, which he NEVER does, he usually LIKES to go in his room to get a break from the bossy little dogs.
At last it occurred to me to stop calling Superman a kinky ear fetishist and start wondering if maybe there was something actually going on with Dixie's ears. Something inside of them sure was attracting Superman like a deranged magnet. Maybe a piece of liver treat had gotten lost inside one of them? Or perhaps an entire steak had fallen in, or maybe that's where the UPS man disappeared? They're certainly big enough.
I got a flashlight and looked around, and all I could see was a little bit of waxy discharge in one ear. It didn't look like much, and she wasn't acting like she was sick or in pain: no head shaking, no pawing at her ears; she was frisky and alert, she had her usual unholy chowhound appetite and was giving Mr. Bingles the eye before the sun was even up. But just to be safe, I decided to take her to the vet and let him have a look.
And you know what? It turns out she has MASSIVE asymptomatic bacterial and yeast infections, in both ears. The vet said it was a miracle we'd caught it in time. And I never would have suspected a thing, if Dr. Superman MD hadn't made the diagnosis! I guess he smelled the infection, and it just freaked him the hell out for some reason. Now that her ears are full of nasty smelling drops he doesn't want to lick them any more, but he still goes over and sniffs them every hour or so: just checking.
So please, a big round of applause for my hero Superman, whose fine-tuned nose and courageous licking may have saved Dixie's life and me thousands of dollars in vet bills! What a guy.
This morning I went down to Our Lady of the Damned to have my hideous port flushed. This is an unpleasant but mercifully quick procedure I have to repeat every four weeks so the damn thing won't clot while it's not in use. I go to the minor surgery drop-in clinic where a heroic nurse uses all her strength to forcefully ram a giant Huber needle into the hideous port's septum. This hurts like hell for about 30 seconds, but I'm so used to it I barely flinch. (A year ago I would have passed out just reading this description.) Then she pushes a saline solution and an anti-clotting agent through the catheter for a few minutes.
Sometimes I have a bad reaction to the flush, and today was one of those times. As soon as the saline hits my bloodstream, it floods my mouth and nose with a distinctive taste and smell that trigger intense flashbacks to chemo. And today was really bad: I was instantly overcome with associative nausea. Even now, ten hours later, when I drink tea it still tastes like the nasty saline and makes me gag.
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate this hideous port?
And speaking of the hideous port, I heard some very bad news today. The heroic nurse who performed the flush told me that the chief of surgery recently sent out a memo saying that his department will no longer remove hideous ports until the patient has officially been in remission for some ridiculous number of years. Yes, YEARS! He says that too often they have to turn around and put the port right back in when the cancer recurs, so from henceforth the new hospital policy strictly forbids port removal before the requisite number of years, yes YEARS, have passed. And it doesn't look like I'll be grandfathered in.
Fuck. I just want to bang my head on my desk. In fact, if I weren't feeling so damn seasick from the saline, I would.
The existence of this official memo tells me two things:
1. The doctors are officially not optimistic about their patients' chances for event free survival; and
2. I'm not in charge of my own body. I don't have any say in whether or not this hideous device remains implanted in my chest wall. Fuck. I'm sorry, but it's just so goddamn discouraging, so frustrating; the system is so impervious, and so impersonal. I feel hopelessly powerless and trapped.
Not a good day at all.
But as usual, the one thing that brings me joy and keeps me going is my wonderful dogs. The little girls, as always, are comforting, companionable, and communicative to the point of being telepathic. And my big Superman guy, who's been living here one month today, is just more and more fabulous every day.
Eraser Nose, my schmookums!
Last night I took him to his first class at obedience school. It was crazy and chaotic with 20 untrained dogs milling around but we both had a blast. I'm really impressed with the woman who teaches the class. She has excellent credentials, solid experience, an impressive track record, and an extremely sound philosophy. (For you canine savvy folks out there, I fall squarely into the Ian Dunbar camp, though I do take some helpful tips from Cesar Millan. I also like Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, and Turid Rugaas.) For the next eight weeks the class will be divided into small groups of five dogs so she can give us more individual attention.
Superman and Dolly Louise practice "stay."
Soop watches patiently while Dolly gets the first treat.
Superman is already learning quickly at home, but I like going to a class because it gives him an opportunity to practice responding to commands with lots of distractions around, and also to work on his socialization with people and other dogs. He's generally been mellow and friendly to strangers. Every day we walk three miles, with him heeling perfectly on the leash, and people inevitably approach to admire and pet him. He's aloof and dignified, but not hostile to being touched. I have him sit, and he holds his nose in the air like some regally serene cross between Queen Elizabeth and Ghandi. He's never snapped or growled, not even at the convicts out washing the cop cars (who are of course his biggest fan club).
But there was a bad incident the other day where he snarled at a male guest who came inside the house. This is totally unacceptable. Superman did respond quickly when I told him to stop, he snapped out of it and obeyed when I gave him a down command. But still this concerns me, and it's something the teacher and I will be working on correcting.
It's awkward enough squeezing visitors into our tiny shack. Up until this incident Soop has had a friendly greeting for all the men who've ventured inside, sniffing them then going back about his business and leaving them alone. He tends to be much more affectionate with female guests, lavishing them with kisses, leaning his head on their laps, and gazing up into their eyes like a lovestruck fool. He basically has a good temperament, but he had this one alarming reaction to one person, so now my vigilance is turned on full throttle.
I knew when I adopted Soop that he might be a challenging dog and that I couldn't slack for one minute on training and socialization. And I enjoy the challenge. He's bonded with me strongly, he's gentle with the little dogs and they respect him. He's eager to please, he learns quickly and responds well to positive reinforcement reinforcement. I'm optimistic that he's going to turn out to be a real gem of a dog, and so is the trainer who has evaluated him.
I say "Leave it," and Superman stoically ignores the liver treat on his paw until I say "Ok, take it." Good boy!
So that's the way it is: disappointments, setbacks, bad days, shit happens. But somehow I adjust, I rise to challenges, I find ways to be happy, and life goes on.
Work in progress: Our Lady of the Shitty Days
But it's not going well. I'm learning that it takes a lot more than a mustache and a monobrow to turn a meek, mild, doughy gray virgin with downcast eyes into the glorious and forthright Frida. Stay tuned for further updates as my masterpiece evolves...
Dolly Louise joins me in a rousing round of the hokey pokey. Who can stay glum for long around here!
You know what? It was almost worth everything: worth getting cancer, and nearly dying, and going through chemo hell, and losing my house and my savings and especially my beautiful muscles, the whole shebang, just so I could experience that single gloriously august moment this morning when I was getting out of my car at the grocery store and a woman getting into the car parked next to mine happened to glance through my rear window, and upon seeing the enormous concrete Virgin reclining on my back seat turned to me and said, "Yeah, some days a little plastic one on the dashboard just won't do the trick, will it?"
I hate not having my big beautiful muscles anymore. It's not all about vanity, though I'm certainly not in love with the way these scrawny little pipe cleaner arms look right now. What I really hate the most is being weak, too weak to be useful, too weak to be independent, too weak to do the things I really need to do.
For example. I got it into my head recently that I wanted to buy a bunch of concrete Virgin Marys and paint and decorate them to make them look like Frida all decked out in her various self-portraits. Fun little craft project! Besides, every tiny shack needs a bunch of colorful festive virgins lurking around in its corners. So I went to the little nursery in downtown Deep Inferno and purchased myself a 36" tall statue of the Blessed Mother With Sacred Heart, to be the first of my Fridas.
The guy at the nursery loaded her into my car for me, and you know, it never even occurred to me that I'd have trouble getting her out when I got home. Back in the day, which is to say exactly one year ago, I could have easily tossed her over my shoulder and toted her to hell and back without batting an eye. But now? I can't even budge her. Not one stupid inch.
So now I have this damn virgin lying supine on my back seat, her hands outstretched, eyes aglow, and heart bursting out of her flat little chest like an eighth grader on her very first car date.
Our Lady of the Back Seat
And she'll have to stay back there, riding around with me on my various errands, until next week when Mr. Oscar Lewis, my elderly yard helper, comes to clean the back fence. Mr. Oscar Lewis's claim to fame is that he doesn't catch poison ivy, so his services are much in demand around these parts. The evil stuff grows on my fence like kudzu, and I dread that the dogs will roll in it and bring it inside to me. Anyway, between the two of us, me and the elderly Mr. Oscar Lewis, we might be able to lug her into the kitchen so I can start painting.
So you see? This is why I wish to hell I could have this hideous port taken out, so I can start working out again and rebuild my strength. I could have done five or six virgins by now.
Ah well. Meanwhile, the multi-colored Crape Myrtles along my fence are starting to bloom, and in spite of the nonstop rain my poor little flower bed is blooming like crazy and finally starting to fill in. Until the hideous port is out, all I can do is focus on building inner strength. Too bad there's not a competition to see who can bench press the most bad-news biopsies, brutal bankruptcies, and bastardly boyfriends. I've always wanted to win a trophy.
Thanks so much everyone for the kind supportive comments after my port debacle yesterday. I'm feeling better today. It's amazing--and a little alarming--how much comfort and joy I derive from my blog and my dogs. Alarming because I worry that I'm in increasingly deep doo-doo danger of becoming one of those crazy old dog ladies who totally eschews non-virtual human companionship.
When I came home from the hospital yesterday I was totally exhausted, angry, defeated, and on the verge of tears. But my dogs were just so unabashedly overjoyed to see me! They didn't berate me for not being assertive enough, they didn't blame me for being such a loser, they didn't yell at me for crying, they didn't threaten to leave me because my life is too fucked up. And hey, neither did y'all!
My dogs have never once recoiled with repulsion at the sight of my port, and they don't remind me daily that I'm no longer attractive. They were just there for me yesterday when I needed them, happy and waggy and lovey-dovey, comforting me with their silly goofy grins and big wet kisses. Not for one minute were they critical or judgmental or irritated at my many failings. Why the hell is it so hard for some people to be like that?
The port that won't go away
Anyway, the dogs and the kind comments got me through a rough night, and today I'm feeling ok again. So I still didn't get my hideous port removed. But at least it wasn't a life-threatening failure on the part of the System. And I hate to complain because I know many of the other folks waiting with me yesterday had bigger hardships than I did. Quite a few of them had to leave after waiting six hours or more, before they even saw a doctor. Some had obligations like picking up kids at daycare; others had to catch the last bus because if they missed it they'd have no way to get home. One woman had to leave because she had her 36-year-old Down syndrome daughter in tow and the daughter was starting to have a serious meltdown from the long crowded wait.
And by leaving these people totally forfeited their appointment, so they'll have to wait several months for another one. Which means they'll have no choice but to go that hellhole of an emergency room to wait 12-15 hours if they need help with infected incisions or excruciatingly painful stumps.
This system totally sucks.
Speaking of which, how many of y'all have seen Sicko? I haven't, because as I said in comments, it will probably get to Netflix long before it's ever shown in a theater within 90 miles of Deep Inferno. But I've been hoovering reviews and really looking forward to the various dialogs it's bound to open. Though I know it's inevitably going to unleash an angry backlash from the fully insured who are afraid that any improvements for the less fortunate will mean they might have to relinquish some of their healthcare privileges.
And sure enough. A couple of days ago some folks were discussing Sicko on one of the online lymphoma boards I sometimes frequent. I was pretty shaken by some of the comments. For example, I quote:
"I have no desire to see it. The health care in the US is the best in the world. We are free to seek the opinions and treatment from any institution anywhere. Many here can attest to seeking opinions from sources in MD anderson, Mayo, Sini, and the list goes on. People from other contries come here when their state controlled Health care fails them.
I know I come across as a hard ass on some threads but I honestly have compassion for the terible choices we all face. The money it takes to develop the drugs we take are stagering. The drug companies test 1000s of drugs to find 1 that actually works. The cost to develop those drugs have to come from the users of those drugs. Thats the free market - profit incintive causes better drugs to be developed plain and simple.
People will pay for new cars, cable TV, Cell phones, vacations, starbuck coffee, ... and claim Health insurance is too much. But the fact is they see that the cost benifit of health insurance was just too far down on their list. Many (not all) are uninusred due to choice." [sic]
Sheesh. I guarantee you the miserable throng of uninsured people crammed in that drab airless waiting room at Our Lady of the Damned yesterday were not sipping raspberry mocha frappuccinos while they jingled their BMW keys and discussed upcoming vacations to the French Riviera.
What the hell planet is this person from? Dude: try being over 50, self-employed, low-income, with several preexisting conditions, and see if you can afford the skyrocketing premiums. And then there's the whole mess of being underinsured. Even if I'd been able to afford to hang on to the shitty little health insurance policy I had managed to qualify and pay through the nose for for five years until 18 months before I got sick, it wouldn't have covered more than maybe an eighth of my cancer expenses. I would still have ended up bankrupt.
Even on lymphoma "support" boards, there is contempt for the less fortunate. Or at best we're invisible. The moderator of one board routinely greets newcomers with advice to seek out top lymphoma specialists at top cancer centers, without a thought to those who can't possibly afford it. Not to mention those who can barely manage to arrange transportation to and from the nearest public charity hospital.
And whenever the topic turns to statistics and prognostics on one of the cancer boards, somebody is bound to trot out Steven Jay Gould's famous essay, The Median Is Not The Message. Gould survived for 20 years after he was given 8 months to live, and we are all expected to take great comfort in his conclusion:
"When I learned about the eight-month median, my first intellectual reaction was: fine, half the people will live longer; now what are my chances of being in that half. I read for a furious and nervous hour and concluded, with relief: damned good. I possessed every one of the characteristics conferring a probability of longer life: I was young; my disease had been recognized in a relatively early stage; I would receive the nation's best medical treatment; I had the world to live for; I knew how to read the data properly and not despair."
But what about those of us who aren't in the good half, who don't possess those magic characteristics for long life? Particularly those of us who won't "receive the nation's best medical treatment"? The general view on the "support" boards seems to be, "Whew! I got mine, so to hell with those poor bastards who fall on the wrong side of the dividing line." Which is one of the reasons I've never spent much time seeking "support" on those boards.
And speaking of contempt, here's a cute furry little anecdote. One of my low points in the nightmare that was yesterday came when the doctor was dismissing me and my tiresome problems with an indifferent wave of her hand. As I was leaving, I pointed to the sign that's on the door of every exam room, a list of Every Patient's Rights and Responsibilities. The number one Patient's Right at the very top of list is the right to "reasonable access to care."
"Do you call this 'reasonable'?" I asked, referring to either my six hour pointless wait or my six month fruitless quest to have the damn port taken out. She shrugged and said, "I'm sorry but it's not always possible."
"Then I suggest you take down the sign," I said. "If I don't really have the right to reasonable access to care, then don't advertise that I do."
She shrugged again and said smugly, "Well, you do always have the right to go elsewhere."
Oh don't I wish I had that "right." But she knows as well as I do that without insurance, even if I can pay out of pocket, private doctors and hospitals won't give me the time of day. They'll automatically turn me away, suggesting that I shuffle back over to Our Lady of the Damned. Without insurance, I have no "rights" whatsoever to anything other than the charity system.
Do you know what a slap in the face it is to realize that even your doctor has such utter contempt for you?
I arrived at the surgery clinic at Our Lady of the Damned at 9:30 this morning for my 10:00 appointment. It was 4:00 when I finally saw a doctor. I spent most of that six hour wait standing because the clinic was so packed that those of us who had two legs stood so those with one or none could have the chairs. I couldn't read, or knit, or do anything except stare into space for six long dead hours. I couldn't even leave to get lunch because if they called my name and I wasn't there I'd lose my appointment.
At 4:00 I finally saw a doctor, the rudest MD I've ever encountered which believe me is saying a lot. And it turned out I'd been sent to the wrong damn surgery clinic: port removals are at the minor surgery clinic, not the family practice surgery clinic where my appointment was. So now I'm back to square one. Again. The minor surgery clinic is booked through the end of August, so it won't be any time soon. Maybe I'll have my port taken out in September or October. Or maybe they'll just keep giving me this assinine run around until I go insane with frustration and impotent rage. Which is pointless because the psychiatric beds are all booked solid through 2027.
Excuse me, I'm long overdue for collapsing on the bed and crying myself to sleep.
I'm leaving in a couple of hours to head down to Our Lady of the Damned for my hideous port removal surgery, but first I'd like to ask y'all to do me a big favor while I'm gone. Head over to Schmutzie's place and hold her virtual hand. She's having surgery today too, but hers is a lot bigger and scarier than mine. And hers is going to save her life. Please hold her in your thoughts today. Thanks.
So today is my last day sporting this hideous port. I'm scheduled to have it plucked out tomorrow morning at 10:00. Damn, it will be such a huge relief to have this horrible thing removed from my body. I hate the way it looks, I hate the way it feels, I hate the way it aches when I move, I hate the way my straps rub raw against it, I hate that I can't workout or lift weights with it, I hate going down to the hospital every four weeks to have it flushed out with saline solution. I hate the very idea of having a creepy foreign body implanted in my chest wall. And I especially hate the way it brands me: Person With Cancer.
I know there are lots of people who love their ports, who barely notice them, who keep them for years. I would wager that most of these folks are plumper than I am. Lean people tend to feel more pain and discomfort from their ports. Our skin has to stretch tautly over the protrusion, and our ports are more hideously visible. We don't have enough adipose tissue to anchor them firmly in place so they slide around which can be extremely irritating. But none of the doctors I spoke to in my campaign to have the damn thing removed seemed to be aware of this distinction. The chemo nurses, of course, are well aware of the difference.
Anyway, it's not going to be a big deal surgery. I don't need to bring a designated driver, and I'm allowed to eat breakfast before my appointment. The procedure is performed under a local anesthetic and should take about 45 minutes (though there will certainly be a two to four hour wait for it to start). Then they'll stitch me up, tape me together, and send me home a Brand New Normal Person again!
Of course I'm acutely aware that there's an unpleasantly high chance that I'll have to turn right around and have it put back in again, if my August scans don't bode well, or if my daily checks suddenly reveal an enlarged node. I wish they had taken it out when I first asked, back in April, so I could have spent the last three months working out and building up my stores of lean body mass, replacing the muscle and bone I lost during chemo so I'll be stronger if I do need to go through treatment again. Because if there is a next round of treatment, believe me it's going to make the first round look like a Sunday picnic in the park.
But even knowing how disconcertingly high the odds are that I'll need a new port someday, I'm still so exceedingly happy about having this one taken out tomorrow, I'm about to explode with joy! Stay tuned for magnificently gory suture pics.
A single woman in my fifties, in debt, no income, no health insurance, and then that grapefruit-sized tumor wedged between my lungs turns out to be a malignant high-grade highly aggressive stage IV lymphoma. How much worse can it get? Bwahahaha! Stay tuned and find out.