Archive of ‘musings’ category
By the time most of you read this, I will be in the pre-op area about to get my knee fixed. My husband and I have been self-employed and tried to get health insurance coverage for over five years. Since breast cancer automatically qualifies me for our state’s version of Medicare, I now have insurance coverage until at least one year after my diagnosis. As my doctor put it, my car is in the shop, so I might as well get everything taken care of.
I have a mildly torn lateral meniscus. I have no idea how it happened. I was in San Francisco, and I would love to say that I slipped on stage during my first ever drag king show tune. Or that I did it breakdancing. Or that I was helping to protect the rebel headquarters. Or that I tore it doing something unspeakable while at the Folsom Street Fair. But no – I have no story.
My knee has been messed up for over two years. It’s kept me from doing things to stay fit like running or walking, and it’s kept me from doing things I love like yoga, hiking and dancing. I would normally be thrilled by the fact that I was finally going to have my knee fixed, but I’ve been having mini panic attacks since this past Tuesday about this surgery. Rationally I know I’ll be fine. It’s a quick and easy procedure being done by a good doctor in a nice hospital. But irrationally, I’m terrified.
I’ll explain in more detail later, but this is the second time I’ve been in for this surgery. The last time I was in the pre-op area, my lumpectomy incision popped open because I had a huge abscess in my breast. My knee surgery was cancelled last minute while my family rushed me over to UT. I ended up having to have emergency surgery that evening, and the complications that have ensued have been awful. All of this was caused by a shitty luck set of dominoes, not by any care that I received at UT.
I desperately want this surgery to be done before my first appointment for radiation. Otherwise I’ll have to wait at least two more months to attempt it again. So as irrational as it may be any prayers, good thoughts, mojo, juju or voodoo magic that you can send would be greatly appreciated. See you on the other side. Don’t worry. Hugh’s riding shotgun on this one as well. He’s even brought a friend along for the ride.
This is a speech I gave recently at our church. Our associate pastor had asked people to contribute stories of good Samaritans in our lives since that was the reading for the week. I edited it down for a time limit for our Church, but this is the unedited version. I mean, why try for brevity when I don’t have to?
Writing this speech was hard. Really hard. Not because I lacked examples; I was overwhelmed with examples. I just wanted to do the speech justice because of all the ways my husband and I have been showered with love and support this year.
I also wanted to feel competent. There has not been a surfeit of that in my life lately. I felt so out of control that I almost didn’t write it. Procrastination through perfectionism – my specialty. But I made myself do it. I wanted to feel like I had given something back to all the people who have helped us. I’ve been dealing with some ongoing vertigo and balance issues, so Marcus went up to the podium with me.
As soon as I started, I just got this wonderful feeling running through my veins. I’m pretty damn good at giving speeches or talks, and that adrenaline rushed over me. As I walked back to my chair, it was actually hard not to give a big fist pump and shout a “Hell yeah!”. I sat down thinking “I totally kicked ass on that speech”. Then I realized that probably wasn’t what Jesus would have done and asked God to forgive me for being so awful. I do kind of feel like He was down with me feeling like I had kicked ass.
On Good Friday of this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. 2013 had been pretty awful up to that point, but this seemed like a particularly cruel twist. Rationally, I know there is an end game in sight. I have a very good prognosis. Things could be much worse.
But it’s hard to be rational when you’re in the middle of the storm. Marcus and I are both relieved that my cancer was caught in a very early stage, but the way we found out about it was personally heartbreaking to us both. I’ve had one complication after another. If I had to pick one adjective right now to describe myself, it would be defeated. I know I’m not, but I sure feel that way.
I’m still too new and rubbed raw into this journey to even attempt to make sense of why this has happened to me, why cancer happens to anyone & how to sift the wheat from the chaff from this whole experience.
The one thing I have learned from having cancer is the incredible power of unexpected kindnesses, big and small, from strangers, acquaintances and loved ones.
It’s a friend who sends you a stuffed manatee to make you laugh – a manatee that has been named Hugh and who comes to every doctor’s appointment with me. He’s had his picture taken with every member of my medical team at UT. After my lumpectomy, I woke up to him lying next to me dressed in a surgical outfit.
It’s a voice teacher who helps put your confidence back together after two awful choir teachers stole the joy of singing from you.
It’s a woman I don’t know very well from the internet who commiserates with me about well-meaning people who say stupid things about cancer and/or your health and who makes and sends you a t-shirt that has a manatee on it and says “Leave me Alone – I Have Cancer”.
It’s a Facebook or twitter message from a friend checking in on you. A friend posting a picture on your timeline of the most ridiculous use of baking twine yet. A kind reply on a status that you’ve posted from someone that you really admire.
It’s the cards from people telling me they’re praying for me. It’s multiple encouraging cards from a woman here who just held me one day when I cried, telling me it was going to be ok.
It’s the nurse and the nurse practioner who have answered every call, helped me through every setback, hugged me each time they see me. It’s a nurse that hugs you and gently wipes the band-aid smegma off your wrist and arm. It’s a doctor that’s done surgery on you who ends a personal phone call because he sees you in a walkway and wants to know how you’re doing. It’s a nurse practitioner who waits around after his workday is done, so he can get a prescription for you to your husband.
It’s the local Young Survivors group leader whose closed door you can knock on just so she can comfort you, love you and get you the help you need. It’s the UT Cancer Center social worker who has a safe place to melt down when you’ve needed it.
It’s the neighbors who have helped your husband scrape the rest of the paint off of your house and the big bunch of them who showed up one Saturday to paint most of your house with primer.
It’s a text message from someone who wants you to know they love you. It’s a call from a friend telling you that you can get through this. It’s a post card of a pigeon shit covered statue from a friend who tells you that no matter how shitty life may feel, at least you’re not a statue covered in pigeon shit.
It’s the neighbors and friends who make stealth deliveries of food, bourbon, duck eggs & crayon pictures.
It’s the 4 women at my yoga studio who insisted you take their classes for free and who are eagerly awaiting the time when they can help you get stronger again.
It’s friends and church members who know you’re struggling financially right now, and have offered to help you by letting your husband know about job opportunities and hiring him to do odd jobs so you both can make ends meet. It’s a pastor and friend who visits you in the hospital.
It’s the man you meet in the cancer center parking lot who volunteers at the Norris Animal Shelter and offers to take the scrawny kitten, who has just run up to you and climbed into your arms purring, to the shelter and make sure she gets a good home.
It’s a group of church members who buy you a birthday pastry cake and sing happy birthday to you , especially because they wanted to bring some joy to an unjoyful 40th birthday.
It’s a husband who holds your hair back when you vomit. It’s a husband who sits there and strokes your hair while you dry-heave for 20 minutes. It’s a husband who has taken the wedding vow of ‘in sickness and in health’ and who has proven that he meant that in every way possible, no matter how disgusting or hard or how strong he’s had to be for you. It’s a husband who tells you every day how beautiful you are.
When Marcus and I went looking for a church, we had two very simple requirements. One – that they loved and accepted people no matter what gender, race or sexual orientation they might be. The second was that we wanted a church that focused on Jesus’ teachings about love and kindness. We wanted a church that walked the talk. Marcus and I felt very honored to become members here. Because we’ve also found a church full of Good Samaritans.
Actually, we really do love just about every person that’s taken care of Kristina at UT. I kind of feel like Kristina helps them too. Her deadpan wit has kept many a medical professional on their toes.
Once again, I’d like to take the time to post a picture of my lovely wife showing just how she feels about more medical procedures:
It’s a GI scope. Nothing major, but we’ve all gotten a bit anxious over anything medical related. Hopefully they’ll get to the bottom (pun intended) of why Kristina was so sick and why she still suffers from nausea. She set her alarm for 3am, woke up and took some Zofran and ate all my doughnuts. She said there was no way in hell that she was going to go this thing anxious AND starved.
I’ll post on her account on twitter and on her Facebook page when she’s done. She gets mad but when the drugs kick in, I take over her phone. I’ve seen her drugged text messages. They are a treat, but can frighten small children. I’ll be sure to keep you updated; it comforts me to know that you all worry as much as I do.
This past week has been full of both good and bad news; news that Marcus and I had a hard time processing. At one point, Marcus mentioned running away to an island. That’s a really great plan except for the whole “we don’t own an island thing”, and I’m not on a first name basis with Richard Branson. Someone would also have to feed the cats.
We worked out a compromise. I spent the morning with a very sweet soul named Crystal. She had a doctor’s appointment and chemo treatment, and she’s delightful to talk to. After that, Marcus and I ran away for a half a day to the Smokies.
Please understand that when I say we ran away to the Smokies, I don’t mean Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. Those two cities are not the mountains. They are amusement parks and a black hole of outlet malls. We cruised around Cades Cove and decided to do a little wet wading and fishing. Of course Hugh came with us. If any of my health care providers are reading this, I want to make it very clear that we sealed up my wound like a boss. Waterproof bandages were used. I was only going to wet wade up to my ankles for abut 10 minutes. I was not putting myself in danger or exhausting. Hugh was getting put back in the car. Please don’t yell at me. Sometimes a girl gets sick of feeling sick and wants to tune out the world with a few well-placed casts.
I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to wildflowers. That’s starting to leach over to fungi and trees as well.
This is a cardinal flower. I love them.
This is a wildflower that’s unknown to me. I’ve never seen it before. It looks very much like a wild iris of some sort. It’s lovely.
This is a bright orange mushroom. I don’t eat brightly colored mushrooms, but I do admire them.
This is a deer. They are all over the country. If you see one and get really excited about it, please pull your car over to sit and watch them. If not, the 20 people backed up behind you will curse you, your children, your children’s children and whatever state is listed on your license plate. My husband is rude, so he might even be heard to mutter the word ”touron”.
Of course Hugh came with us. He had spent some time in the chemo unit as well (sending out healing manatee vibes to all present), but he wanted an adventure. It’s hard to see, but this tree is leaning over but not nearly as far as the picture suggests. There is also a stream running right under it. Normally I wouldn’t worry about Hugh, but there are some bitchy river otters in this stream, and I wanted no bloodshed. It took a while to balance him precariously over the stream. As I was doing so, I told my husband my balance was off, so I would appreciate it if he would do me a solid and not let me fall into the river. I had just gotten Hugh balanced when my husband grabbed my waist and yanked me backwards so hard I almost fell. I was a little pissed. Then I noticed what had been slithering IN BETWEEN MY CHACO SANDAL WEARING FEET!
Please don’t scroll down if snakes make you cry. Personally, I think they’re amazing creatures. I love them in my garden beds. I like to view large ones from a distance, especially poisonous ones.
This picture really doesn’t do him/her justice. It will have to do. Marcus wasn’t getting closer.
We know our snakes, so we were sure it was a copperhead. Since we hadn’t been fishing yet, we aren’t allowed to use fishing measurements. It was about 3.5-4 feet long, with a arrow shaped head. It had a thicker body. It lacked the stripes the water snakes usually have on their heads. We double checked with a ranger later just to make sure. He was pretty impressed with the size.
After our heart rates slowed down to only 500 beats per minutes, we realized that we had to wait for the damn thing to move, so we could rescue Hugh. After that happened, we started laughing imagining what kind of call we’d have to make to the oncologist on call, if I had gotten bitten. It seemed like most everything else that could go wrong with this lumpectomy had, so what was a little snake venom?
I guess I’m trying to look at it this way. This copperhead didn’t want me near it anymore than I wanted to be near it. Yes – I almost stepped on a snake. I didn’t. Part of its body brushed against my sandal. Yet, it left us in peace. I didn’t push my luck. We didn’t fish that day.
Holy shit y’all.
I know, I know. I’ve been very remiss in posting on my blog. A lot of stuff has happened – good things, bad things, shitastic things, etc. I am exhausted. I am still drugged, but not nearly as much as before. I have only been given clearance by my husband to walk up and down the steps by myself (while he hovers in the background) in our house today. Trying to write a post explaining everything that has gone on seems like an insurmountable task. I’ll fill you in later. Right now I need the healing power of snark. ~ Kristina
Reading the blog posts and texts you attempted to write while high on hospital heroin is both disturbing and entertaining.
It is not possible to vomit up your toenails. If someone says “I literally vomited up my toenails”, you can make fun of them for their poor grammar and for lying.
If you’re having major food issues like nausea and are going to visit a medical facility in another city, don’t tweet asking for suggestions for good places to eat. You’re not going to go to any of those places. Why torture yourself?
It is almost impossible to come up with freelance story ideas to pitch when you’re participating in Pukegate Round Four. But if any editors happen to be reading this, I’ve got a great pitch involving ten different ways to spice up cream of wheat. Call me, K?
When dealing with nausea at a cancer center, make sure to wear pants and you might want to add knee pads. Running to four different bathrooms and skidding on hard tile to four different toilets in a skirt produces very impressive bruises. I even got “tile” burn. There’s only one reason for marks like that on your knees, and it should never involve cancer.
It is perfectly alright to repeat the mantra in your head over and over “No puking on Dr. Panella’s shoes. They look really expensive”.
If you post in a local young cancer survivors Facebook group asking for help dealing with nerve pain or nausea, you will get a lot of really good advice in the replies. You will also get about six messages sent to you that say that Magic Brownies helped them through some really dark times. A ‘friend’ tried this and that it didn’t seem to help her much, but she cared a lot less. She also ate half the food in the kitchen.
When prepping for and dealing with the aftereffects of an enema, you might need a way to distract yourself. This is not the time to pull out your favorite novel or your favorite cat video on youtube. You don’t want that tainted with the joys of an enema. This is the time to watch the ‘The Pussycat Dolls: Girlicious‘ or start reading a Tom Clancy novel. Those two will really help set the mood. Candles are nice too.
It is much more fun to be metaphorically full of shit rather than literally full of it.
When you tell the social worker that works with cancer patients that she is natural Xanax, make sure she knows that’s a compliment. If you really want to delight him/her, actually implement some of their suggestions in your life. They’re not used to that, so it’s always a sweet gesture.
If someone comes up to you and mentions the fact that you’ve lost weight, you should explain to them that losing 20 pounds is what happens when you vomit almost continually for 3 weeks. If they tell you to look on the bright side because “Hey – at least you lost weight”, it is perfectly legal to give them a swift punch to the throat. Senator Warren added a rider to the Farm Bill that makes that justifiable throat punching.
You may be one of those people who have taken pride in the fact that you never watch “reality” shows (except for RuPaul’s Drag Race – that’s like the intellectual level of a television version of Anna Karenina). However, you popped your reality cherry watching ‘Girlicious’, so it’s totally ok to then watch old episodes of X Factor. Only the UK version – that somehow makes it classier.
You are still allowed to call yourself a locavore if your diet temporarily consists of plain McDonalds’ hamburgers and Sprite. The Sprite is from the Fellini Kroger just down the street and Micky D’s is 1/2 mile away.
Wetting your lips with bourbon is a piss poor substitute for a proper drink. People – the bourbon industry has taken a pretty big hit. Please make up for my lack of drinking. Feel free to toast to Colleen.
If you have not showered in 6 days, after you shower you will shed a skin that looks remarkably like the baskalik’s skin in Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets.
You know that ‘Who to follow’ section of Twitter? It’s ok to find it hilariously funny when the best nurse practitioner in the world tells you that you showed up in that section of his Twitter account. And don’t even ask me if I asked him if he appreciated my twitter avatar. It’s like you people don’t even know me.
If there is a small chance that you might vomit in the middle of the night, make sure to eat Skittles before you go to bed. That way when you do throw up, you get to taste the rainbow which is much tastier than Tums.
If a medical professional is about to start an IV or draw blood, and they brag about how they never miss, run. Flee as quickly as possible.
It is perfectly alright to appreciate the irony of wearing your Jack Daniels t-shirt while you’re upchucking in the bathroom closest to your oncologist’s exam room. It’s also ok to be amused by the fact that you now wear a scrunchie on your wrist. You haven’t had to do that since your early 20s.
If you use the term ‘bandaid smegma’ in front of a nurse, there’s a 50/50 chance that she’ll run away in disgust or will find it hilarious. The ones who find it funny are always better nurses.
PS – If you ever need horrible advice about whether or not a post will be appropriate, just asking Chris or Michael. They will always lead you the wrong way, and that is one of the many reasons why I love them and want them to carry my unborn children.