Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Three of a Kind, One-Eyed Jacks are Wild


There was this little period of time after my diagnosis where I was, like, "Well, I don't feel all that bad. Maybe this isn't such a big deal."

Then all the nice medical people did the procedures to make me better, which made me feel worse. If I'd ever wondered what I would look like after I got into a fight down on the docks, now I know. When I came out of anaesthesia for the first procedure, the recovery nurse asked, "How do you feel?" And I said, "Like I've been eaten by a wolf and shit out over a cliff." It was then they began to realize that if nothing else, my personality was intact.

My doctor was lovely, not only performing the surgery just as he was supposed to, but bringing me a pecan pie for Thanksgiving (he thoughtfully asked my husband what he thought I'd prefer).

Then I was stuck inpatient for five days, with a "Caution, Radioactive Materials" sign on my door. The doctor encouraged me to get out and walk a little. So a couple of times I walked up and down my hall. Maybe fifty yards total. I couldn't really see the point, not that there was much of anything else to do. Reading with one eye was still too uncomfortable, and the TV was positioned up too high to watch comfortably.

The next day, I was awake early, and bored. So I rounded the first corner of the triangle-shaped unit. There I saw a man coming out of a door with the caution markings like mine had. Wearing an eye patch with a lead shield just like I had. "Hey, teammate," I said. His name was Jim and he was going for a walk, too. So I walked with him.

Turns out the day before he had determined that eighteen laps of the unit was a mile. So he did that. Twice. Did I mention he was fifteen or so years older than me? So while he walked, I kept walking with him. He told me about Tommy, the other guy, at the third corner of the unit, who'd also had the surgery.I guess they separated us to avoid having too much radiation all in the same area.

Not that it did much good; we found each other, anyway. The doctor may have saved my life, but Jim and Tommy saved what was left of my sanity.  Tommy's sweet wife Ann came by and introduced herself. She brought me coffee cake from Starbucks. The guys and I went for walks, menacing the unit with our radioactivity. Completely badass in our sweatpants and grippy hospital socks. I talked about forming a street gang, but there was really nobody to go up against except the Infectious Disease Posse. So we walked, and loitered in each others' doorways. When Jim's wife Sarah came up we posed for pictures.

We decided, when nobody won the Powerball while we were inpatient, that we would win the next one. I mean, could the morning shows ask for a more inspiring story? We decided we would have our spouses each go out and buy three tickets, and if any of us won, we would split it.  Heck, even if we threw our doctor ten million or so for research, we'd still have plenty left over for diamond-encrusted eye patches and seeing-eye models. Not that we plan to need them, mind. But they can at least carry drinks to us in our beach chairs if we don't need them to lead us around.

Unfortunately, I forgot to tell my beloved to ask for the cash option if our ticket is the winner, So I guess we'll all have to survive for another thirty years.

Works for me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Speed Bump

Sorry I haven't written in the past week. I've had all kinds of awesome ideas for posts, but not the will to actually write them.

I am scheduled to arrive for my surgery, which is actually an outpatient procedure, at 7:00 tomorrow morning. I will have the radioactive patch removed the following Monday. In between, I am supposed to be inpatient at the hospital, for my safety and that of others. Hospital policy is not to let people with radioactive heads run willy-nilly amongst the populace.

Unfortunately, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama doesn't see it quite the same way. They will cover the surgeries. But they don't feel it's necessary to allow me access to medical support while I have a radioactive patch stitched to the back of my eyeball.

As the young folks say, FML.

The surgeon called to intervene with the BCBS medical director. No dice. The office manager said that she hasn't had inpatient stay for this procedure denied by any company for over two years--and that one was eventually resolved in the patient's favor. But for some reason, they decided to pick on me.

A very nice lady from preregistration called and said not to worry, that she knows how to handle this and will get it worked out once I am actually admitted. She said the office staff should have never even bothered me with it. But it worries me that it's hanging out there.

On the bright side, it's nice to have a husband who says, in effect, "I don't care what it costs, we're going to get you well." They say you can't put a price tag on love, but now I at least have kind of a ballpark of what he'd be willing to pay for me.

I am trying to keep in mind the saying of Elder Paisios: "When we believe in God and have trust in His fatherly providence and concern, then we do not think of ourselves; instead we know that God is aware of our needs and looks after our problems, from the simplest to the most serious one." Will try to keep that in mind again if I get a medical bill for more than I've ever made in a year. 

In the meantime, I'm choosing music for the EyeGotCancer playlist. So far, I've got something philosophical, something badass, and something inspirational. You like what I did with that last one? Anyhow, feel free to suggest more in the comments. 

I'll be offline for a week or so. I'll try to persuade my husband to update here. Like I haven't already caused him enough trouble.

Catch you on the flip side, my friends. Keep me in your prayers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Life Worth Fighting For

Yesterday, one of my friends posted on her Facebook page a simple question: Is your life worth fighting for?

What a question.

Of course it is, most of us would say. And it is, in the sense that most of us would rather have our lives than not. But there's life--in the sense of being alive or dead--and there's YOUR life.

How hard would you really be willing to fight, not just for being alive, but for the life you have? If we have a life-threatening illness, we will do everything within our power, for as long as we can, to continue to be alive. At some point it doesn't work anymore. We're too sick, too broken, or in too much pain. But if the future is threatened, and we can, we fight.

But what if we were not just talking about the state of being alive? The life you've built, or allowed to accumulate around you in piles and drifts (see also: my laundry and mail)--how much of a fight is it worth?

One of my most and least favorite parables in the New Testament is the Parable of the Talents. You might have heard of it. Master gives his servants talents, or fairly large units of currency, to take care of while he's away. The first servant gets five talents. He invests it, and when the Master comes home, the servant puts ten talents into his hand and is rewarded with the famous phrase, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  The second servant had two talents, and likewise invested and doubled them. The third servant got one talent to manage, and, fearful of losing it and angering his Master, simply buried it. When the Master came home, the servant returned the talent to him, figuring, hey, at least I broke even.

And the Master is righteously pissed. "That all you got?" he thunders. I may be playing fast and loose with the translation at this point.

He doesn't just not give the unprofitable servant a raise. He doesn't give him two weeks notice. He orders him cast into the outer darkness, where there's wailing and gnashing of teeth and presumably no Internet access.

It's one of my least favorite parables, because guess which servant reminds me of me?

It's one of my most favorite because it fairly screams, and you may imagine Samuel L. Jackson's voice here if you wish, "WAKE THE F*** UP!"

We're all born with and acquire talents. Literal talents, not big gold coins. Life is for discovering those talents, using them, making our homes and our communities and our worlds better because we exercised that particular combination of gifts that is ours alone. By failing to do so, we're cheating ourselves and the Master. He knows what he gave us. He doesn't need us to give it back. He needs us to work it.

Too much of the time, I am not working it. For me, the big fear is what if I try to exercise my talent, and find out it's not nearly as much of a talent as I thought? Look at the other guys--the ones with more talents. Mine's not very impressive, not much to offer. What if it gets rejected or diminished? Also, I always figured I could work it later. Cancer is a rather unattractive reminder that "later" has a shelf life.

I would submit that if you're burying your talents, out of fear, or laziness, or bitterness, or selfishness, or whatever reason, that break-even is not enough. Break-even does not create a life worth fighting for. In your gut, you know it. So, start fighting. Start fighting for a reason to fight. Work it.

Later may be sooner than you think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One Week

So, it seems I have this tiny surgery coming up.

Two surgeries, actually: the one to put in the patch with the radioactive seeds, and the one to take it out. And the first surgery takes place one week from today. I will be going into Duke University Hospital next Wednesday, having Surgery #1, spending my weekend glowing, not from the excitement of the holiday season, but from radiation.. The following Monday they take out the patch and discharge me. On Tuesday I have my post-op appointment. And then I wait a few months to find out if it worked.

I feel very much like I'm on a roller coaster. I don't especially like roller coasters, but I have gone on them, under protest, when my companion was not tall enough to ride without an alleged adult. So I am familiar with the feeling of creaking slowly, up, up, up an incline, preparing in my mind for the precipitous drop, which turns out to be only a little one--so funny! And then just as my stomach is settling back into place, BAM! You round a corner and fall off the edge of the earth. Or so it seems to me. Everyone else is having a perfectly delightful time.

I don't know if anyone is going to have a delightful time on this roller coaster. The kids have known for a few weeks that I have "a growth" in my eye. I used the word "cancer" with them for the first time a few days ago. Their own eyes got big and frightened. I explained that the doctors feel really good about their ability to treat me. I reminded them of all the people we know who have had cancer and are doing fine; some of those had their treatment so long ago the kids didn't even know they'd had cancer. They settled down. Within minutes they stopped treating me like a precious china figurine and started asking when dinner was going to be ready.  I would like to keep them there, in the back of the roller coaster car, where they can take their cues about how to react from the riders in front of them.

In front of the car, of course, is me. I will not be able to act like this is fun, but I do have to disguise the rising panic and the distinct sensation that I'm going to throw up at any moment. I will try to convey the impression, as I do on real roller coasters, that this is no big deal. I hate those cameras they have on roller coasters that take a picture of your face when you're dropping, and then the monitors that post the picture at the exit so everyone can see that, despite what you say, you are SO not cool. I'm glad they don't have those things in hospitals. I hope.

One week. This thing is in motion and climbing, and it's too late to get off now. Buckle your seatbelts. Here we go.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Am Apparently Not Very Good at Having Cancer

In the first few days after my diagnosis, I was doing remarkably, surprisingly well.

The obvious explanation for that was that I was in denial. But I wasn't. I had digested the information from the retina specialist. I knew that things could end badly, by which I mean I knew that I could die from this, although statistically speaking, it was more likely that I wouldn't. I was not bitter when I saw other people experiencing happy life events; in fact, I was comforted: there is still good in the world, and I can take joy in it.

But man, have I ever tanked lately. To put it simply, I have been depressed. Not the constantly-crying, feeling sad kind of depressed. The "Nothing Seems Terribly Interesting or Worth Doing" kind. I have managed the bare minimum of household chores. Enough laundry gets done that people don't need to turn their underwear inside out to get another day's use out of it. There is enough to eat, because I have gone to the grocery store. I even managed to produce a fairly nice dinner and cake for my husband's birthday. But the twice-weekly vacuuming has fallen by the wayside. Don't even ask about dusting. Things pile up on surfaces because I lack the energy to put them away or, more frequently, to instruct their owners to do so. I still give a damn, but not enough to do anything about it.

It is just after noon, and I am still in my bathrobe, because taking a shower seems like an awful lot of work. It takes a long time for the shower to heat up, and there's not a lot of water pressure. Meanwhile, I have to stand in a cold bathroom and marvel at just how dirty white grout can get in a short period of time. I had intended at one time to have the bathroom redone, but my tile budget is going to get eaten up by CT scans, and that ticks me off. I feel like a drain on the system.

And speaking of drains on the system: one of my son's few chores is unloading the dishwasher. Not reloading it, just unloading it. When I pointed out to him in the nicest possible way that the dishwasher has been ready for unloading since yesterday, and that my cleanup of the kitchen sort of hinges on my ability to put the more recently dirtied dishes in an empty dishwasher, he rolled his eyes at me. He rolled his eyes. When I inquired, in the nicest possible way, why he rolled his eyes, he responded that unloading the dishwasher "isn't very fun." Whereupon I unloaded upon him a litany of things in my life that "aren't very fun." I didn't use the word cancer, which we have not introduced into the discussion yet, but I came perilously close. I did use the phrase "washing your underwear."

I went downstairs and waited fifteen minutes for him to unload the dishwasher. When he failed to do so, I did it myself, as loudly and as passive-aggressively as possible. When my son and his sister timidly inquired as to the reason for the ruckus, I might have intimated that they would find themselves the subject of an episode of "Hoarders" by the end of my five-day hospital stay. Then I burst into tears. Perhaps I should ask if I can get some electroconvulsive therapy while I am cooling my heels inpatient.