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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Home Again

Ah, the joys of my own home.  My own smells, and those of my cats, bring a comfort that trumps any amount of sterile bed sheets and rubber mattresses.  They give those out to everyone, right?  It pleases me to no end to say that after 4 days at John Muir, I am back at my house and doing well.

Friday was sort of a blur.  I was treating it like a chore I didn't want to do but had to, like taking out the garbage, or flushing.  So I didn't really think about it too much, and I tell you, that all caught up with me when they were prepping me for surgery.  Once that gown was on and I was laying in that bed, the tears found their path and came freely. I was scared shitless - not of one thing in particular, but just going through the whole experience.  The entirety of surgery scared me.  One of my surgeons came in and saw this and asked if reality had just set in.  I replied, asking him if it was that obvious, and he smiled, kindly.  It was a nice break.

Then my Anesthesiologist came in, and he looked exactly like my friend Brad which was simultaneously funny and excruciatingly terrifying.  Brad is a good man and all, but I wouldn't want him in charge of my pain threshold.  Anyway, he went over some of the drugs he was going to give me, and then listened as I suddenly had fears for each one.  The first, he said, was sort of like having a couple of beers, and that drug actually worked along the same neural pathways as alcohol.  Finally, something I was prepared to experience.  Shooting me up with the chem-beer, we were off to surgery - after several tear-filled hugs for Taren and my brother Paul.  By the time I got to the surgery room, I was pretty lit.  I remember looking around and commenting on how cool the room looked, then FakeBrad said something like, "I'm going to just give you oxygen - " and then I was out hard.  No counting needed.

I remember coming around in the recovery chamber to the sound of the nurse asking me to stop cursing.  Not quite sure why she would ask me that, I wondered aloud what the fuck I was saying.  Apparently there were children in the room with me, or something, and my swearing was bothering everyone, as it was loud and without merit.  I tried to tone it down and just come out of my cloud as best I could.  As for the passage of time, I knew something had happened, but it didn't feel like one second I was awake and the next I was awake again.  There was a definite gap there.  According to the nurse, in addition to my swears, I was waking up talking about German Pilsners a lot, and then when my surgeon came to visit, he said I was trying to hold a conversation with him on the subject and merits of IPA.  I'm such a cliche.

I'm running out of steam, so I'll save the boring, introspective stuff for later.  But being wheeled into my room after I woke up and being surrounded by most of my family was a really lovely thing to experience.  I felt I was clear-headed, but my short-term memory was affected, so I was semi-aware of what was happening, but I couldn't - and can't remember the things I said to anyone, save for what they tell me I said.  That was all very interesting.

So yes - I made it.  I made it out and I'm pretty much pain-free.  Thanks to all for your comments and well-wishes, and I'll write more later.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Night Before

Well, here we are.  By this time tomorrow I'll have been laid out on an operating table for 7 hours, getting things that I have had since birth snipped out of me.  For awhile I have been avoiding any sort of deep thoughts on the subject.  It didn't really seem that helpful to me to sit around and think about the upcoming surgery, or my life thereafter.  I mean, really, what's the point?  But I suppose that's why I had more than one stare-off-into-space moment over the past few weeks.  Having an impending surgery is probably a bit nerve-wracking as it is, but adding cancer to the mix must heighten that in some respect.  Or maybe it's me.  Or both.

Probably me.

I'm no longer fearing any sort of death-by-doctor scenario, which is a big step for me.  Instead, I'm now more concerned with being in hospital for so long.  I keep envisioning how it will be at 4am when I wake up, some oaf in the bed next to me, and all I want to do is go home.  It's like being in an airplane for 4 days.  At least in my head it is.  I'm nervous about staying in that room for so long - 3 to 4 days - because I feel like if you have to stay overnight at a hospital for longer than 2 days, you will give up on life and die there.  Hospitals are super depressing, and I feel like you only get worse when you are in one.  I'd much rather heal at home.  It's cheaper, and the nurse is better looking.

To be frank, I'm sort of looking forward to the whole experience, really.  It's useless to think about how much I don't want this to happen, so let's just go with it, baby!  I went book shopping, and I have loads of shit to read now, plus my laptop for movies and my phone for games.  I wonder how reading a comic book will be on drugs.  I haven't done that since my early 20's ...

So, until next time, thank you all for the kind words and the positivity.  You have made it a bit better.  Thanks for taking the time out from your lives to think about mine, however briefly.  I'll post some photos in the hospital and let you all know what's going on.

And if I do happen to die ...
Making people laugh has always been a dream of mine.  Thanks for making that dream come true.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Where the hell am I?

2014 is off to a rough start.  On January 1st I lost one of my nephews, Stephen, to an as-yet undetermined cause.  His death was not only a shock to the entire family, but it sort of dropped a big fat boulder over everyone's hearts and minds.

Steve was taking a shower when he started coughing blood;  he collapsed and pass away en route to the hospital.

He was 28 years old.
Recently married.
Just got a big promotion at work.

He quite literally was just starting his life as an adult.  Fucking tragic.

I can't say that I have ever been that close with my family, or anyone for that matter. I have usually been the loner (shocking, right?), and opening up has been hard for me.  Usually, I just put that on my Dad, but recently I have been taking more control over my life and reaching out to people.  As a result, I got to see Steve on Christmas day - something I haven't done probably since his mother died earlier this year.  Oh yeah, did I mention you may want a Kleenex for this one?  Yeah.

We never spent much time together and that makes me angry.  Angry that I missed so much of his life, but probably more angry that I will miss even more of what it could have been.

Steve's funeral and services are this weekend, and I'm having a real hard time dealing with these past 3 weeks.  Between my looming operation and Stephen dying, I feel like I'm losing my mind.  Legitimately losing my weak grip on reality.   Having never been a real solid sleeper, my stress level has kept me from trying to improve my rest, and I keep having dreams about my cancer and Steve, among other things too weird and bizarre even for this blog.  Not just normal ones, those creepy lucid, half-sleep/half-awake, sweaty dreams that take you a good hour to shake.

I'm supposed to be working, supposed to be being strong for my family and my brothers, but today ... today is a tough sonnabitch.  Friday is the first of the services and I don't know what to expect.  This kid impacted all of our lives so deeply, and it's rare to find someone like that.  Who's absence leaves that hard-to-fill chasm of regret and true, stinging loss.

Driving back from his fathers house today, I was finding it impossible to untangle my feelings.  Was this anxiety and fear based around my surgery, or Steve's funeral?  Am I emotional because I'm getting my will together in case my worst fear is realized and I die on the table, or is it because my OTHER worst fear has already been realized by my nephew - dying from some unknown genetic flaw?  I can feel them both inside, tentacles of the Fear Beast wrapped up together, sucking the energy out of me.  All I want to do is be with my family right now.  All of them.

Especially Steve.

Steve and I, with my Brother Pete, Sister-in-Law Keelie, Taren, and
Steves wife Maggie on Christmas.  Literally the best Christmas ever.
Even if it was only for 10 min. 

I've heard this song at least 100 times, but today it made me think of Steve. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

18 Days And Counting

It's hard to believe, but it's been about 3 weeks since this whole crazy ride started.  With no signs of slowing, I get pulled into 2014 by my glands and to what should be an eventual fresh start.

A few days ago I had my final pre-op meeting with both doctors.  This was an important meeting for two reasons: it was the last chance for me to ask any questions about life post-removal, and it was the last chance for them to scare the tits off of me.  Not on purpose, mind you, but my oncologist had to tell me the "potential complications" of removing my lymph nodes.  Of which there are many.  I could wake up with my left ear numb for life (earrings!), or without the ability to shrug my shoulders.  Of course, I could also have a damaged voice box if he happens to touch the nerves running toward my vocal chords - with the potential to have permanent vocal damage if they have to cut into the right side of my neck.   Then there is the damage to the nerves that help to control my diaphragm and keep it moving in unison with my breathing.  If that nerve gets damaged, I could grow to have breathing problems, as my diaphragm would be unable to let me take in full breaths.  Of course, I could always just slip away on the table and die.  When I brought up that I was worried about that, he replied, "Let me be the one to worry about that."  Easy for him to say.  He'll still be alive.

But at least I won't have cancer.

January 24th is my surgery date, and I'm sure all will be fine.  Confidence check: 40% (up from 25% last week).  Having anxiety is not the easiest way to deal with an impending surgery - one in which I will wake up with pus drains in my neck and missing materials in my neck. Materials that have evolved over the thousands of millions of years to perform a vital function, reduced to a "simple" 7-hour procedure and a tiny tablet to take after. Whatever.

Shit is tough.  It really is.  I was reading a Q & A from some Thyroid expert, and someone had asked if Papillary Carcinoma really was the best cancer to get.  He replied with probably the most perfect quote I had heard in awhile:

"The only people who say that are the ones who have never had it."

And that really hit home for me, because I have been really downplaying this whole thing because my doctors have all been saying it's "the best".  Really?  Ok well then I guess it's no big deal.  But it IS.  To me.  Oddly enough, realizing that and finally letting myself accept that this is a big deal allowed me to let it go a bit more, if that makes sense.  I no longer struggle with the seriousness of this type of cancer, and therefor I can stop internalizing it so much and just focus on the surgery and all that entails.  Which is ... relaxing, in a way.  I don't feel like I'm being dramatic.  This is a real thing and it's life-threatening (sort of).

So now I wait.  I will be making a will, just in case something happens to me, so if you want anything that I have, let me know now.  All my savings go to my cats, sorry.