Sunday, June 12, 2016

My sign ...

My dad died on January 3, 2016. Yesterday was his memorial service in my hometown of Northville, NY. My stepmom, brother and sister did an amazing job, from what I hear. Cancer kept Robin and me from attending.

Even though I wasn't there, I have been quite emotional for the past couple days. I even feel physically worse than I have been, and I'll chalk it up to stress.

This morning I decided to hit the treadmill to see if I could shake some of it off. No big whoop, just three or four songs, or 15 to 20 minutes.

I have a picture of my dad waving in front of my treadmill and I talk to him while walking. This morning my mind was like a channel surfing marathon, flooded with snip its of memories of my dad. Big memories and small. Memories from him and Paula attending my college graduation and staying with my mom and Nelson, to once when he made me mow the yard knowing I'd hit his liquor cabinet the night before. One memory was a glimpse of hm being proud of me in my performance of the musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown". I was 17 years old and I was Charlie Brown, and yes, I had to sing.

As I was approaching my fourth and final song, I made a deal. I wanted to know that my dad was good, happy, peaceful. I also wanted a sign that I'd be OK. So I asked for a sign that everything is good with him AND I'd survive cancer. I wanted that sign to come to me in the next song.

The next song that played was "Happiness", from Charlie Brown.

It was rather amazing and I happily accept that all is and will be well.

"Happiness is everything, and anything, at all that's loved by you!".

You were happiness to me, Dad.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Silver Lining

Everyone knows what I'm about to say.

The silver lining to cancer is weight loss.

I've lost a nice chunk of weight - 40+ pounds - since discovering I have cancer. I cannot personally take any credit whatsoever. It's all because of chemo.

When this all started, I swore I would keep up with drinking a lot of water and walking.

I've done neither. But because of my lack of appetite, the weight is falling off. (Boo Hoo, I know.)

However, there happens to be a down side to my silver lining. Yesterday I was dead heading my geraniums while wearing a sleeveless top. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what appeared to be my arm fish tailing. Upon closer observation, it was the fat of my upper arm flailing in the wind as I tossed the little dead leaves aside.
I've had body image issues very single day of my life, so really not much rattles me. Cellulite - check. Wrinkles - yep. Age spots - uh huh. Gray hair - what I'd give for hair right now!!!!

But this was different. Ew! I debated as to whether or not to tell Robin. She's seen me at my worst, but technically we are still considered newlyweds, so maybe I should just keep this to myself.

After another minute or two of dead heading, I couldn't keep it in any longer.

"Robin? Come here. I want to show you something. But don't judge me! It's only temporary. When I feel better, I'll figure something out. But come look at this! God, I probably shouldn't let you see this. Just come here and look at this!"

"What? The fat under your arms? You have it on the back of your legs too."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

February 4, 2016 - WORLD CANCER DAY

How did YOU celebrate? That's probably not the right word. Honor it? No. Recognize it? Maybe. Remember it? Surely now for the rest of my life.

I love festivities. I'm that person who puts their Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving. And right after it comes down, my Valentine's Day tree goes up.

But this February 4, 2016, the festivities went a little too far.

I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on WORLD CANCER DAY! Had this been a Christmas lights decorating contest between the Griswald's and us, we would have won.

I'd been having a lot of pain last summer and fall. When I finally went to the hospital on Friday the 13th (see how I am about the special days?), 11/13/15, I recall saying something to Robin about at least it being my gall bladder and not my ... "Oh and the MRI showed a mass on your pancreas too. We're gonna need a CT scan."

No problem. Like sometimes a baby's ultrasound shows a weewee when really it's a hoohoo? I knew there was a mistake. A shadow or something.

No mistake. It was there.

They took care of the gall bladder and said we'd have to keep an eye on that mass. Come back in six weeks for a repeat CT scan.

I was still in constant pain and exhausted all the time. I ignored it. I was thinking menopause. I figured when they took out the gall bladder, they stabbed my uterus or something.

No biggie. Let the dust settle from the gall bladder and surely the pancreas stuff will have gone away. Had it been, they would have been all over it immediately, right? Six weeks seemed leisurely. Cancer is not a leisurely thing. It's a scary thing. That fact that they were waiting six weeks was a good thing. It was clearly a matter of them just covering their heinies thing.

But on January 5th, we learned it had doubled in size. My dad had died rather unexpectedly on January 3, so the timing was perfect. I'd had about 40 hours to get over his death.

Still not to worry. I was not jaundice and I certainly did not have inexplicable weight loss. I was certain it was just pancreatitis. They wanted to send me out of town for a biopsy. Wake Forest. A cancer place. A cancer place that specializes in pancreatic cancer. Well, they were just going to rule cancer out. Then I'd continue receiving treatment locally for pancreatitis or whatever it was.

Then on WORLD CANCER DAY, the doctor called. The nice looking, clean cut doctor, whose socks matched his shirt because he probably grew up with Granimals doctor. He called to tell me that I had pancreatic cancer and I was to go back to Wake Forest on February 8th to meet with the surgical oncologist who specializes in pancreatic cancer. We would then formulate the treatment plan.

That's where we are right now. I don't know if it's going to be chemo then surgery, or surgery then chemo. (It feels strange writing these words.)

I spend a little time on the FACEBOOK, shocking to you, I know. (Robin hates when I put the word "the" in front of words, like, "Wanna go to the WalMart?" So the this and the that it is!) I've seen my share of memes, the little postcard thingys. If they don't pertain to me, I just see the gist and move on without a lot of thought.

Within a month and a day, the memes about your dad being in heaven and being your guardian angel and the ones about sharing this rose if you know someone who's been touched by cancer have an entirely new meaning to me.

There isn't anything I can do about my dad being gone, but I can ask him to watch over me and make this less awful than it has to be. And he will.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pumpkins and cider and wings - oh my! But the best part of the day ....

was visiting Robin's client in the hospital.

I've heard a lot about Leroy.  Robin's phone rings at all hours of the day and night, and she gets annoyed by that, but not when it's Leroy.  I felt like I knew him.  He's an old black man with 22 kids by eight different women.  He spent most of his life in prison.   He uses the N word like nobody I've ever heard before and swears even worse.  But he was homeless and Robin found him housing. 

I know she loves him a lot, so when she asked me to go to the hospital to see him before we began our day, I said I would.  When we went into his room, my first impression was a weak little old man lying in a hospital bed.  The nurse looked surprised that he had visitors.  He looked asleep, or maybe permanently asleep.  But his toothless little face lit up when he saw his boo, Robin.  She hugged him with more love and warmth than I think I've ever seen her demonstrate before.  He looked like a cute little smiling old black man baby. I half expected her to  blow a raspberry on his belly.  To which, I later learned, he'd say, "Lower, Boo!!!"

Robin introduced me to him as her wife.  The first words I heard this sickly little man say, "Oh, Miss Kim.  YOU IN HELL!" and he laughed and laughed and held Robin's hand and I was in love with him too. 

I learned quite a bit in the short hour we where there.  He can't keep all his kids' names straight, so he referred to a few of them as Double L (Little Leroy), Big Leroy, Little Leroy and Dumb Leroy.  Four of his kids were named after him.  One of his sons has an old lady the size of two elephants and he can't figure out how his kid can "find it".  ("No offence. Miss Kim")  And few of his daughters are apparently heffers.   Oh, and his mama was a devil whore, but she had her good points too.

He loves to cook but isn't eating well these days.  He can barely take a shower by himself.  He has a couple kids who stop by to supposedly check on him, but he knows they're just there to get a meal and take a shower.  He knows he's being used and he admits it hurts.  You'd think that with 22 kids, someone would step up.  The whole thing made me sad.

But you can't be sad for long around Leroy.  He has a joke for everything and even though they're not that great, the joy he gets from telling them is that great. 

He asked me to give him a sponge bath.  After giving it some serious thought, I declined.  Then he asked me to give Robin a sponge bath.  I played along and promised him a raincheck.

I've always thought that a good attitude is more than half the battle of anything.  Leroy is proof of this.  He's a sickly old man scared to die because of things he's done in his life and is afraid of going to hell.  He has a huge family, none of whom care about him.  If he gets out of the hosptial, he's afraid of winding up back on the streets, knowing he can't take care of himself as it is.  But he was able to find joy in seeing Robin.  She made him smile and he was happy.  

And that was the highlight of my day!      

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Yesterday I posted about having my last drink without knowing that it would be my last drink.

This is because I had no intentions of quitting.  I just wanted to lose one pound a week by not drinking two days a week.  As much as I consumed (2000 calories a day, remember? - more than what's allowed in a daily diet), it was all night drinking.  That doesn't sound right -  I basically only drank at night.  Even while unemployed, I waited until 5:00.  Sure there were exceptions, but I wasn't a wake up and need a drink lush. 

April 8, 2013 was a Monday.  I resisted the urge to drink because it was my new diet plan.  I figured I'd skip Mondays and Wednesdays.  I didn't like it, but I didn't drink.  5:00 came and went and the hours passed on.  I was annoyed and uncomfortable, but I did it!  When we went to bed that night, Robin informed me she was proud of me.  I told her there was nothing to be proud of, that I was counting the hours until 5:00 (p.m., thank you) Tuesday. 

I did not fall asleep easily.  No surprise.  I was accustomed to drinking until I was about to fall asleep, a/k/a pass out.  Every.  Single.  Night.   For many many years (decades) I would be able to socialize with people and drink like a normal heavy drinker.  But what nobody knew, except Robin, is that it didn't stop when the party was over.  I was literally just getting warmed up.  I'd come home and pour some more.  I typically drank out of a 24 ounce plastic cup that would have some meaning to me.  Like when we went to Myrtle Beach with Ingrid and Deb, I wound up with a few Fat Tuesday cups.  Or Halloween cups.  Or Christmas.  The point was it was the biggest size glass I could justify without going straight for the  Big Gulp.  I'd fill it with ice, then fill it with vodka, give it a little swirl and ... voila.

By 3:00 a.m., stuff started to happen.  I'd only dozed on and off and suddenly I found myself sweating, full of anxiety, headachy, and nauseous.  My chest was tight.  I woke up Robin at 5:00 because I was scared.  We thought I had the flu.

I started throwing up and could not keep even the slightest sip of soda down.  This went on for a few days.   A few very long days.  I was in full blown detox and was too sick to even go to the doctor.

In order to feel not dead, I did try sipping on vodka.  Like everything else, it came right back up immediately.  I wasn't sleeping, I was constantly throwing up, had a terrible headache, every time I went to the bathroom, it was black, and I had an awful pain in what I imagined was my liver.  It felt like someone had wrung it out very very tightly and it was slowly unraveling.  I wondered if I was dying of liver failure. 

I felt sorry for Robin.  She was scared and didn't know what to do with me or for me.  I'm sure I was unpleasant to be around, to put it mildly. 

Luckily I wasn't working at this time.  Everything in my system was messed up.  I kept telling myself that I deserved it, because nobody can drink like that for so long and get away with it.  What did I expect?

In the back of my mind, I knew that if I made it to the other side and started feeling better, I'd want to drink.  But for days and days, going on weeks, I wasn't feeling better.  I finally had to face the fact that if I survived, I would have to not drink.  I could not ever go through this again.  This was a warning.

I finally started feeling physically better.   I drank some milkshakes and ate some mashed potatoes.  Yogurt became my best friend.  Toward the end of two weeks, I went to the doctor.  "Kim!  You were detoxing!"  She lectured me about how dangerous it was for me to quit like that, how I should have been hospitalized, and how I could have died. 

Then the hard part began.  The constant pounding head and vomiting was the easy part.  Now I had to deal with NOT DRINKING.  When I was sick, it was a breeze.  Now I was feeling better, and ready to start living again.  Drinking was part of my daily life and had been for over 30 years.

But I couldn't drink.  Not allowed.  Nope, can't drink.  What I'd been through was truly a wake up call for me.  It was my rock bottom.  I'd never been in trouble with the law, nobody ever broke up with me over my drinking, I never lost friends or family, I never really even made too much of an ass out of myself while drinking.  I'd never lost a job, never even called in sick with a hangover.  Sure my liver numbers were terrible and I couldn't lose weight, but it wasn't enough for me to give it up.

My wake up call, my rock bottom, was the two week period starting April 8th, 2013 when I was forced to see how fully addicted I was to alcohol.  Without it I felt like I was shriveling up and dying. 

I tried stopping before.  One time I went three months.  Other attempts included weaning down, just drink on weekends, no vodka, but anything else, and AA.Years ago in Miami I went to a shrink to help me stop.  After six months and thousands of dollars later, I'd had made no progress whatsoever.  We were both frustrated with each other.  In the final session, she told me I would never stop drinking - that I was the worst type of addict to treat.  I guess I'll never know what she meant by that.
It's always on my mind.  I miss it terribly.  I miss the buzz, the nightly mini vacations from reality, the relaxation, the bliss, the happiness, the warmth, the surge of energy, the forgetting, the taste, the smell.  I miss it all, and know that I cannot ever have it again.  I've cried because I can't drink.  I'm jealous of people who can drink like a normal person.   My heart has beaten out of my chest at the thought of never again.  Sometimes I can't believe it ...I don't drink ... I quit drinking.  I dream about it an awful lot.  In those dreams, I know I'm slipping, but make promises that I will just get right back on track.  I am always so thankful when I wake up from those dreams. 

Yes, I miss it, but I'm not tempted.  And that's huge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I took my last drink two and a half years ago today.

And I had no idea at the time.

With a just slight hangover, nothing too bad, because let's face it, seasoned drinkers don't get bad hangovers, I decided I needed to curtail my drinking for the sake of losing weight. 

We were at friends'  house.  They were good friends - real grown ups - they always had a big bottle of Smirnoff  Raspberry Vodka on hand for me.  (And to any snob who may be reading this, I quit following the stats, but for many years Smirnoff won all the vodka contests.)  I humored them and let them think that I actually mixed it with diet lime tonic, which they also always had, as well as limes.  The good thing about clear mixers with vodka is that you can't tell how strong the drink really is.  Clear is clear.  If you muddy it with cranberry juice, the amount of the vodka will be revealed for the world to see. 

They made my drinks in the appropriate glassware for cocktails.   As the ice cubes clinked in the short glass, and the little pieces of lime pulp loosened up, we took pen to paper.  I knew it all off the top of my head.  They say if you ever want to know how to lose weight, ask a fat person.  I knew my stuff. 

Not counting the more than once in a while glass (bottle) of wine while making dinner, or a beer (or three) at a restaurant (never wasted money on watered down drinks out, unless it was a top shelf margarita with two extra shots on top),  I would go through a 1.75 bottle in two days.  That's about 59 ounces at about 64 calories an ounce.  This equals 3776, which is about 4000 calories, or 2000 calories per day.  To lose one pound, you have to burn off 3500 calories.  If I gave up drinking just two days per week, one pound would just melt away each week. 

Just two days a week!  In a year, I'd be more than 50 pounds down! 

I had no idea as I was perfecting my diet plan du jour that I would be enjoying my last cocktail.  I certainly didn't think that 912 (but who's counting?) days later I'd be writing about it and telling friends who are struggling that "it's just a feeling and it will pass." 

But here I am!