Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

I woke up to a light rain falling outside my window. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was curled up in a tight knot on the pillow next to me and all felt right in the world just for that quiet moment lying in my warm comfortable bed listening to the glorious sound of water falling from the sky. California has been so dry the past few years. It fascinates me there are people out there still trying to argue climate change is a figment of people’s imaginations. The polar ice cap is melting, sea levels are rising, mega storms in the Atlantic are becoming the norm, drought is on tap nearly every year out here on the west coast and fire season now lasts all year long, and still there are doubters shaking their heads in disbelief. What, one has to wonder, will it take for these non believers to see what is clearly unfolding in front of their eyes? I really do try to leave room for opinions other than my own under this mop of blonde hair, but this I have trouble even following the logic of the opposing argument. How do you argue with what is obviously happening as a result of we human beings being less than diligent caretakers of this beautiful planet? Perhaps it’s just easier to deny. Doing nothing is always easier in some way, then taking a stand.

I get denial, believe you me. My daughter used to call me “The Queen of Denial”. I have to confess to being a bit of a fairy duster. I would prefer to think the best of people initially and perhaps later be proven wrong, then to assume the worst from the onset and find out I was mistaken down the road. Always I will assume a friend or loved one to be telling me the truth unless given reason to believe otherwise. I do have to say though, once I have confirmed a person has lied to me about something important, that original assumption goes out with the bath water. Now I’m not speaking to little white lies. I believe most of us will admit to telling those little fabrications now and then. Aunt Millie calls when you’re in the middle of a good book, and you tell her you’d love to talk but you’re on the way to the dentist. I’m sure these little “fibs” get noted on our record somewhere, but I think in the end they are fairly harmless diversions meant to keep the other person from feeling hurt or offended. Anyhow, whether this premise is true or not, it works for me, and until proven otherwise, I am sticking to that plan of action.

I am a terrible liar. My face gives me up every time. So, in my case, there is no point in even launching into a big whopper. For one thing, I over embellish, providing details as finite as commenting on what color footwear the person was wearing in the concocted fairy tale, or what they were eating at the time the incident occurred. People telling the truth don’t need to add copious details or write things down to recall the intricacies of what happened when relating a story. They do not need to take notes because what they are saying actually did happen and they have imprinted the sequence of events to their memory bank. Hello? Dale, as far as I know, has only attempted to tell me one “fib”. Have to say, he wasn’t very adept at it. It was at the beginning of both our relationship and the pandemic. Like everyone else on the planet, I was nervous about contracting the dreaded virus. I told Dale because of my asthma, it would be helpful for him to avoid public places if possible with large gatherings of unmasked people. There was no vaccination to turn to at that time, so masks and social distancing were about the only weapons available against the disease. A friend of Dales has a brother who races cars. This particular Saturday the brother was bringing his current “ride” to a local track and Dale had been asked to come and watch the car put through it’s paces. The temptation proved to much. He went, knowing this probably wouldn’t sit well with me. To keep me from knowing where he was, he called me from a copse of trees about a half a mile away so I wouldn’t hear the engines roaring in the background. The thing about lying, is one lie generally breeds another. In order to support the first fabrication, other fabrications need to fall into line after it to keep the illusion going. If you have a healthy conscience, once you have let the lie out out of the gate, then the guilt sets in. Sitting in the stands after our phone call, Dale began to not only feel the guilt, but guilt had invited a new friend to the party, worry. He began to worry I might find out he had not told me the truth. Remembering I knew the friend’s wife, he texted her to ask she not mention where the two men had gotten off to. Problem in this move being, he sent the text to me instead of her by accident. Oh-oh. The text I received read, “Please don’t mention to Susie I went to the track with Mike. This might upset her. Thanks so much.” I replied, “Too late, Bubba. The jig is up, the cat is out of the bag, the beans, as they say, have been spilled.” There was no reply for a moment, and then the phone rang. Somebody was in trouble. I told him then and there lying was one of my least favorite behaviors in a mate. If you can’t trust your partner, and believe me I have been there, then there isn’t much point in going forward.

Lying to avoid consequences is something we learn at a young age. I remember finding one of my grandchildren, around four years old at the time, standing at my outside refrigerator with the door open. I had put a lot of food out on the table in the kitchen for whatever party was going on, including a huge bowl of fruit for everyone to enjoy. The one statement I had made to the children specifically was “You may have everything I put out, but the strawberries in the back refrigerator are for a luncheon I’m going to tomorrow so please don’t touch them”. Standing there in his bare feet he looked up at me with that innocent baby face nearly totally obscured by red strawberry juice. In his hands, and on the floor below him, were an assortment of leaves and partially eaten berries. I said to him, “did you eat Nana’s strawberries?” To which he answered vehemently while shaking his head, “no”. Uh-huh. Nana’s got your number little man.

As a mother I was a big consequence girl. I felt “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime”. Never was I a hitter, but there was punishment to be exacted if they did something they knew was not in their best interest or mine. Usually my punishments involved extra chores, or lost privileges. To me, an integral part of being a parent is teaching them about life. When you grow up and do something you should not, there are consequences for your actions. I remember one time asking my son to take out the trash I had sitting in a 33 gallon trash bag by the door heading out to the garage. I asked twice, as the dogs, a large golden retriever named Barnaby, and a Shih Zsu answering to Sushi, would have access to the house through the dog door due to the rain outside. Barnaby, already had his name on the books as a known trasher.”Sure, Mom”, was the standard answer. I placed the bag against the door as I left for work so that my son would literally have to repel over it to get out to the garage to go to school. No problemo. Later that day, I arrived home from work before my children had gotten in from school. Pushing on the door to go into the kitchen, it did not move easily. As I pushed harder against the door, I heard tin cans rattle and paper rustle. From beneath the door, an ooze of tomato juice seeped through onto the stairs. Sigh. Inside, the kitchen floor was littered with trash and debris. Barnaby, so it would seem, had made the best of his time on his rainy day break in the house, indulging himself of the feast left at his disposal. Calling the dog’s name, I got no response other than the familiar thump, thump, thump, of the dog’s tail whacking against the hardwood floor in the next room. Sushi, wisely had distanced herself from the scenario, having her back to me sleeping in her dog bed. She did not look up, lest she be caught in the crossfire. Conveniently, Barn had already put himself in the corner in the family room, totally aware trash bags were not a place I wanted him to bury his head. The culprit, it would appear, had been apprehended. This was not his first infraction. Giving me a side eyed glance while I told him I was unhappy about the situation, I could see flecks of cheese clinging like stalagmites to the end of his snout. What a mess. Shortly thereafter, my son arrived. Surveying the damage, I could see my boy’s mind working to find some plausible explanation to offer me as an excuse for the oversight that would get him out of cleaning up the ungodly mess. Nope, nothing there. There really was no explanation needed, so I handed him the broom and the mop and left him to his job. Truthfully, it was not the dog’s fault temptation was left in his way. The next time I asked for the trash to be taken out, I noticed it had disappeared when I got home. Lesson learned.

As I say often, life is but a series of lessons. We either learn them, at least in my case this is true, or they show up again somewhere down the road offering us another chance for redemption. I have found the lessons I have most stubbornly resisted learning, are the one’s in the end to have hit me the hardest. The current process we are going through with Dale as the cancer tightens it’s grip, makes me wonder what the lessons I am to be understanding in this. For him, I would guess it is a lesson in surrendering, a lesson in faith, and in the beginning, a lesson in unrelenting hope for a miracle. How difficult I was thinking this morning, it must be to know that your time here on earth is coming to an end. That the sip of delicious sweet coffee you are taking might be your last sip, or the kiss your daughter plants on your forehead might be the one that fills the cup. I struggle with understanding all that is going on in my world, but try to still find much joy in the lovely fall colors sneaking into my neighborhood as each day unfolds, or watching the silly antics of my crazy cat as she chases a furry mouse (toy of course) around the kitchen floor. Each day really is a gift, perhaps that is the simple lesson here. Ta ta for now.

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Sometimes I think our devices are more trouble then they’re worth. My new phone, though I love it, can be really annoying at times. For example, I had the phone sitting in front of me recently and was engaged in a discussion with someone in the room about the weather. Suddenly, my phone lit up and displayed a link to to an APP for making weather tracking easier. Siri, it appears, was listening. Siri is always listening. If she had a cup pressed up against our walls, she couldn’t be gathering more information about our lives. I just hope she isn’t watching. I’m just saying.

The other day while seated in the movie theater, the flashlight on my phone turned itself on without any encouragement from me. For some reason, no matter what I tried, including putting in a request to the ever present Siri, it refused to turn off. I wrestled with it so long, an usher finally came to the aisle and asked if something was wrong. Explaining the situation to him, he suggested turning the phone off. Oh. Embarrassing. Have to give it to that kid, he resisted what I suspect was his first impulse, rolling his eyes. The fun part of that sentence is, I was in a movie theater. It’s been some time since I’ve ventured into one, and have to say I really enjoyed it. The theater we chose is one of those with the incredibly comfortable chairs where you can pre-select your seats. The seating chart on the website allows you to see what seats have already been purchased, so we chose three seats in a section away from the majority of the people, and it worked out perfectly. You might ask, why would we do that when Dale, dealing with cancer, is obviously someone not needing to be exposed to a precarious health situation where the virus might be lurking. After weighing the pros and cons involved with taking a chance and going, and following all the necessary measures to ensure he was well protected, the best answer would have to be, “because he really wanted to go”. We have all been vaccinated and he and I have survived the virus, we wore masks and we kept far away from the other movie goers. He has a lot on his bucket list to accomplish and we want to make sure he crosses some of those items off as the disease progresses. In the end, no matter what the circumstance, I believe it is better to live your life as fully as you can, while you can, and never sit around passing time waiting for life to happen to you. Life is very whimsical. Truth is, feeling secure about tomorrow in many ways is only an illusion. So many things can come along in a twenty-four hour period capable of totally changing the direction you are currently heading. While tucked away in your bed a tree could fall on your roof, a runaway car could come flying through your bedroom wall, or a poisonous spider could plant a mouthful of fatal venom in your behind. There are no guarantees on what tomorrow will look like, so best to do what you can when you can. Not to be depressing, but the reality is we, as living beings, are marching steadily towards dying, from the day we draw our first breath. So, without being irresponsible or stupid about what you are doing, I think it is important to live with the most verve that you can each day you are here. Expect the unexpected. That is my mantra, and I’m giving it my best shot. I may have a tee shirt made.

Speaking of making tee shirts, I believe that will be my next project. Several months ago, I had some demo shirts printed of my various designs. I wore several of them around town to see if that elicited any comments or reactions from people I interacted with. Happily they did. So far, the feedback has been positive, which gives me incentive to move forward with my plans. Definitely within the next year, I need to come us with something to generate some extra income. I don’t want to go back to a regular job, but would rather pursue something that captures my imagination. It’s a weird time for me, as I’m sure it is for many of us, and I need to find my joy and center myself once again.

Another unexpected occurrence, though not really a surprise with the drought and lack of rain of late, was there was yet another fire in my old neighborhood this week. The unexpected part of that statement, is not that there was a fire, but that is was the second to pop up in that many weeks, and closer to the town itself. Friends of mine were evacuated, making me thankful yet one more time, I made the decision to sell my house in the mountains and move down to the valley. Also, made me most grateful those who were evacuated were able to return to their homes today thanks to the wonderful firefighters getting the fire quickly under control. These firefighters are amazing. Our unsung heroes. They get out on the fire lines weighed down by layers of heavy protective gear, work in unbearable heat, and battle these dangerous blazes until the last ember is extinguished. Because I have some understanding from the footage I see on TV of what they must be enduring, I try not to complain too much about the smoke in the air. Hard to work up a good whine, when I am safely inside with the A/C running and my air purifier cranking away in the corner.

Life is in such disarray these days, I keep my mind off things by enjoying pleasant daydreams of moving to a lovely cottage by the shore. In my minds eye, I can picture the interior of the building with French doors opening up onto a bright and sunny deck. I see sheer curtains blowing in the gentle sea breeze at one of the many windows, each providing a view of the glistening sea beyond the deck. Each morning waking up to the calling of the gulls and the peaceful heartbeat of the ocean as it moves in and back across the sand. Ahhhhhh. In this cottage in one corner where the light is perfect, I would set up an easel, with all my drawing tools arranged on trays around it. The kitchen would have an oval pan rack hanging over a generous center workspace, and in the bedroom, there would be a wood stove and a comfy overstuffed bed with lots of brightly colored pillows and throws tossed across it for settling in with an excellent book. They say if you imagine it long enough ……

What’s interesting, to me at least, about these daydreams, is I have never verbalized them to anyone. Well, at least, until the paragraph above, which I wrote yesterday. Up until I hit publish on this blog, they have remained only sweet, wistful wishes floating about in my brain as I’ve been going through my day. Oddly enough, however, after writing the paragraph, essentially giving the thoughts life, I have begun to be inundated with pictures of beautiful homes by the sea on my social media pages. Siri really is good. Not only can she see you and hear you, but apparently she can also feel you. Someone posted an array of pictures featuring a gorgeous home on Prince Edward Island. How I would love to visit there one of these days. The home was Victorian in style with modern flourishes. The aerial view of the property showed the ocean not far from where the house was located. The inside was immaculate and impeccably decorated. The huge well-appointed kitchen literally made me salivate on my new “If you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine” tee shirt. I’m spreading the word. There were numerous bedrooms and bathrooms, a great room, a formal living and dining room, a large laundry room and a myriad of other enticing amenities. All that house on a large chunk of ocean front land and they were asking $386,000 and change. Wow. This house I’m currently occupying is under 1,200 square feet. If you turn around in one room you might find yourself entering another. In California the market value for this home runs close to $500,000. There is no garage, mind you, and the grounds, though not postage stamp size, are most certainly not what you’d advertise as acreage. If you wish to get an ocean view from here, it will necessitate getting in your car and driving four hours west.

My “wishcraft” as Rick was always calling it, seems to be on the money of late. I think about something I would like to happen, and before long it seems to materialize. I believe my receptors somehow either got a good cleaning with all the high wind passing through our area, or that knock on the head I got last week when someone left the cupboard door open (no names shall be mentioned), shook something loose over the hair line. Rick often hinted I should use some of my pseudo magic powers to work the numbers on the lottery or the Keno cards in Vegas. I don’t think it’s that kind of magic. If it was, I would throw a spell in Dale’s direction to reverse the cancer and rewrite the end of that story. Unfortunately, we are where we are. Watching him begin to fail, brings up a lot of memories for me of when Rick was at a similar stage. Though they both were diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, it has manifested itself differently in both men. Thankfully, at least so far, there has been discomfort, but little pain. I hope that will remain the case. In this way, the cancer experience for both men has similarities. For those dealing with lung cancer, from my experience, it is all about the breathing. Being an asthmatic, I totally empathize with that feeling of being unable to gather a breath. It is very scary, triggering the bodies fear mechanisms and creating much anxiety. There are so many synchronizations between these two men in my life. Same diagnosis, same doctor. It’s weird, but then my life tends to run along a weird and peculiar vein. People ask how we’re dealing. Hard to answer that question. We’re dealing. One step in front of the other. Deep breaths, I say, and then we soldier on. All you can do really. We throw in lots of hugs, and many laughs and pour in a large helping of hope and make the best of a bad situation.

On the subject of soldiering, I want to stop here to acknowledge the fallen men and women in Afghanistan. Like our firefighters, these brave people are responsible for depending our citizens and those in foreign lands, and sacrifice so much to keep us safe. I will never understand war. The cost will always be too much, in my estimation, to ever justify the gains expected to be achieved by engaging in it. Watching what is going on overseas, does solidify my feeling of gratefulness at being fortunate enough to live in a country that welcomes freedom. I guess I don’t think anymore, as I have logged a few years on this planet, that anything is really totally free. As with the balance in all things, for what you receive, something is generally given up in kind to keep the scales in check. However, I am viewing my blessings today, and trying not to dwell on those things that make my heart heavy.

The winds are up outside this morning. The air is supposed to get better as the day progresses so my plants and flowers in my unhappily neglected garden will be thankful to get some much needed oxygen and water. Have a safe and grateful day.

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I had a discussion with a young parent the other day I found interesting. She told me she asks her children what they would like to eat before preparing a meal. Things really are different then when I was growing up. I can honestly say I was never consulted about a meal really. What was put on my plate and served to me, I ate. If I chose not to eat it, my grandmother, at least to my recollection, never got up from the table and went in the kitchen and whipped me up something else more to my liking. Sometimes at breakfast, my grandmother did ask if I wanted my eggs poached, scrambled or fried, but other than that, what showed up on the plate was generally what I was expected to eat.

Now that I think more about it why shouldn’t children have some choice in their menu plan? They aren’t old enough always to make all the choices but I do think after they have tried a food several times and still have a strong distaste for it, perhaps they shouldn’t be made to eat it? This does not mean they can exclude every vegetable, fruit, or meat and substitute ice cream or candy bars, but within reason if there is a food they really do not like perhaps they need not be made to eat it? My son, for example, could not stand peas. His father, thought children should eat what was placed in front of them, and not waste food. The “starving children in China” script was pulled out often when food was left uneaten on their plates. This particular meal, the peas remained intact on my son’s plate and like the elephant in the room did not go unnoticed by my husband. “Eat your peas before leaving the table” was put out there. The gauntlet had been thrown. Dishes done, I came back to find my little one still staring at his plate. Stubbornness is definitely genetic. After a while the fork was lifted to his lips and he took a big bite of the dreaded little green bullets. The face was too much as the chewing commenced. Shortly, as quickly as they had gone down the chute they made a return visit all over my tablecloth. Having had enough of both men in my household, I scooped up my son and headed for the bathtub and handed his father the cleaning utensils to clean up the mess. Peas were no longer an issue at our house.

I never had to be forced to eat. I liked just about everything my grandmother put in front of me except for the dreaded liver and onions or the god forsaken beefsteak and kidney pie which were both my kryptonite. Ewwwww. Food was where she and I totally bonded. So many of my warmest memories of my younger years were created in my grandmother’s sunny kitchen. Sometimes, one of those memories will pop up in the most expected location. The other day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I had some time to kill. When driving into the complex parking lot I’d noticed a “Grand Opening” sign on a sandwich board in front of a new antiques and collectibles store. Antiques not really my decorating style, I decided it still might be interesting to take a look and see what they had to offer. On entering the store, it gave off that same musty, dusty smell most stores of that genre seem to have. Since the store (at least according to the sign out front) had only been open a couple of weeks, it got me to wondering if that scent actually came in a spray can, like new car smell at the car wash. Perhaps it’s the Moldy Oldie fragrance collection by Air Wick or the Granny’s Attic grouping by Fabreze. At any rate, while looking at the eclectic assortment of oldies but goodies for sale along the cluttered shelves, I came across four little china egg cups. Seeing them on the shelf took my mind immediately to childhood breakfasts in my grandmother’s family home on the hill in Halifax. The main focus of the room, was the lovely picture window looking out over Halifax harbor. Always I loved being in that kitchen with my grandmother. I can see her busy at the stove, apron in place, and if I inhale deeply I can almost smell all the delicious aromas wafting through the air. Our evening meals were usually taken in the formal dining room replete with all the bells and whistles. Breakfast, however, was served with far less fanfare at the little formica table by the window in the kitchen.

My grandmother woke up precisely at 6:00 every day. If asked why in later years why she still got up so early when she could have languished in bed, she said “you have plenty of time to sleep after you die”. Before coming out to greet her day, her nylons were in place neatly secured to her undergarments beneath one of her house dresses as she referred to them. These were cotton dresses all cut from the same pattern in varying fabrics, with short sleeves and a parade of buttons marching down the front. Specifically they were worn for working around the house to keep her good clothes from getting soiled. Up until she was in her eighties, when my mother finally convinced her pants on women were not the work of the devil, did I ever see my grandmother’s knees covered by anything other than a suit, skirt or dress.

The first order of business each morning was always to prepare my grandfather’s breakfast. A urologist, his days often began quite early. Breakfast was served to him on a tray each morning in bed, accompanied by his morning paper. Very health conscious, and dealing with some health concerns himself, the menu was shredded wheat with berries, a glass of juice, one half a grapefruit and a slice of whole grain toast. A small vase with one flower from the garden was added during the summer months next to a colorful little china pot filled with Gammy’s delicious homemade marmalade. Once my grandfather had opened his paper and begun to eat, she tended next to the needs of the smallest member of the family, namely myself. Eggs were often on the menu breakfast. They came dressed up in a variety of ways, my favorite to this day being Eggs Benedict, basically poached eggs perched atop a split English muffin then smothered with buttery Hollandaise sauce. Yum. These days no one has time to whip up homemade Hollandaise, or at least I don’t. Back then, there were no packages to buy at the store to add water to. If you wanted Hollandaise, you dragged out the double boiler and whipped up a batch yourself. Another way I loved eggs was soft boiled and served in an egg cup. The shell was left on with the top sliced through (it’s hat, as my grandmother would say) and you lifted it’s hat, and dipped your toast in the gooey yolk.

Funny how smells, tastes, sounds and pictures can trigger an immediate memory of perhaps an easier time or those you particularly enjoyed. Of course, these sensory reminders can also be of traumatic or unpleasant experiences, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of the moon at the moment so let’s stay there for a while. My memories are often associated with food it seems. Always I have loved to be in the kitchen. Although I have to admit these days I do find myself tiring of coming up with new dishes to tantalize my guests. As I’ve said before they need to introduce a new meat, or at least a new vegetable for those of us who love to cook to play with. Perhaps they’ll just create a new one. My granddaughter, a vegan through and through, says other than organic vegetables and not all of those, you don’t know anymore if the vegetable you’re eating is real or was created in a lab somewhere. I think we need a new blue something, something. At the moment blueberries are kind of holding down that fort all by themselves.

I bought the little egg cups as it turned out. Did I need them? Nope, not in the least, but want won that argument and they are sitting in my china cabinet waiting for a soft boiled egg to bring them back to a useful life.

This has been a rough year. I thought last year was full of potholes but that was just the preliminary match, and, unfortunately, this year seems to be the main event. I am working on my grateful self. I am grateful the virus seems to be getting under control. I am most grateful it got a hold of me and my partner Dale, and then threw us back relatively unharmed. I am grateful all my family and his, and my friends and his, are still here to talk about what a strange year it truly was. I am simply grateful for so many things.

On the downside of things, Dale, my partner and companion, has cancer. Being asked to be grateful about this is certainly an uphill climb. Rick, my partner in crime for nearly twenty years, as I’ve mentioned many times, passed away nearly three years ago from lung cancer. In a stroke of synchronicity even I find hard to grasp, Dale has been given the same dire diagnosis. The oxygen compressor is once again humming in my spare room and questions without answers are swirling and twirling about in my head.

So, I pull up some happy thoughts and fond, fond memories of being young and free and unaware of all the sadness that life insists on being peppered with. Memories, I always feel, are tucked away to be pulled out perhaps when you need a hug and don’t have one handy, or are feeling blue and want to remember the pure joy of laughing out loud. Memory really is such a gift, and probably one we take for granted. One of the hardest things for me is to watch my mum slowly loosing her grasp on all those wonderful mental highlights she has stored away over the years. I am her memory these days and I’m okay with that. Again, I lean to the side of gratefulness and remind myself she remembers my face and that alone is money in the bank.

Sorry if this post is a bit of a song with sad lyrics. Usually I am upbeat, but even a stand up comedienne has days when he or she can’t pull a joke out of the hat.

Have a good one. Remember to not put your “I love you’s” off until a better day, there is never a better day then today. Talk soon.

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Have to say I am totally spent. In a long week, Monday was by far the longest day. For nine hours I sat in one hard chair or another in the ER with my dear friend who they suspect has cancer. With COVID filling in all the cracks for the last year and a half, everything is moving forward in slow motion, so what normally takes an hour in that section of the hospital might take two if you factor in the COVID restrictions. What a miserable disease cancer is. I watched Rick valiantly battle it and now here it is knocking on my front door again. Seems I know a lot of people dealing with this diagnosis or someone in their family having cancer of one type or another at the moment. Someone told me the other day this is the universe or our higher power, or whatever you believe, culling the herd. When we get too large in number we must be thinned out for others to survive. Couldn’t this be done by just putting us to sleep? Never can understand why we have to suffer. Guess in the scheme of things we’re not supposed to know, since no one has come back to fill us in on the secrets of the afterlife up to this juncture.

Anyhow, that subject is a deep well I don’t want to drop my bucket in at the moment. I hold close to my heart a statement made to me by a grief counselor right after Rick passed away. She said simply, “It doesn’t seem like it now, but a year from today life will be much different.” When you’re in pain it doesn’t seem as if it will ever ease up, but life has a way of moving forward and whisking you up in it’s wake whether you feel like going or not.

With nine hours spent in it’s bowels, I found the ER an interesting place to be. Aside from the obvious gravity of the visit hanging over us, there were times when I found it fascinating to watch what was going on around me. They allow one visitor in, now that our county has opened up, and I was the one plus one. At first we sat in a room together, which was nice. About five hours into our stay, they were debating whether or not to send Dale home, or to keep him overnight. As it is always preferable to have a patient exist outside of the hospital rather than in, they finally opted to send him home but with oxygen. Ten days in a hospital bed in older people can equal about ten years of muscle loss, not to mention the obvious germ fest going on inside a hospital ward they are susceptible to while lying there.

At one point the EMT’s brought in a highly agitated man. Two police officers accompanied him and if the red stain on the bandage wrapped around his head was any indication, he hadn’t come in willingly. Nurses and hospital staff were trying to calm the screaming man down but finally had to resort to tougher measures to get him under control. Like a drunken sailor he was throwing expletives about like towels in a clothes dryer. Not that I haven’t heard, or even used, the particular crowd favorites he was spewing, but have to say I’ve never heard them used in a hospital setting before and with so many of them strung together. A cloth bag was finally pulled over the man’s head because he had begun to spit at his perceived captors. Another quiet day at the office for the ER staff I’m sure. Seems people are building up excessive heads of steam all over the place. Flight attendants are being attacked, people on the street walking along minding their own business. Odd time in our history.

A nurse came in to tell us she would have to move Dale into the hallway to provide a private area for the inebriated swear monger. We were done with the doctors, and waiting for the oxygen to arrive so didn’t really require an examination room. Because of the COVID restrictions, I couldn’t sit in the hallway. I was told I would have to wait in the lobby. K. Now, this was not my first rodeo. I have spent a good deal of time over the past decade sitting in ER waiting rooms. Before leaving the house, I tucked my phone charger, a book, a bottle of water, and a small snack in my purse. Girl scouts have nothing on me when it comes to being prepared.

It was Memorial Day, so the usual holidays specials moved in and out of the lobby while I sat there. A teen who sprained his wrist while playing baseball, an older man with a bad burn from a barbecue gone bad, etc. I squirmed about in the incredibly uncomfortable chair for a while until a text came in from Dale saying the oxygen rep on his way with the tanks was stuck in traffic for at least another hour and a half. Hearing that, I stood up and my back decided I needed to walk around the hospital a bit before it was willing to stop twitching about. Outside would have been preferable, as I’m not fond of hospitals on the best of days, but it was 100+ plus out there and I knew there was already a full boat of patients inside. Should I face plant in the parking lot, I most probably would lie there until I fuse with the asphalt.

The hospital corridors were all but deserted, not unexpected on a holiday. The cafeteria was closed to the public because of the virus, and there were no vending machines to be found. My stomach was telling me it was time for something more satisfying than Saltines and string cheese. I wandered toward the main entrance and exited into the lobby when lights began to flash and emergency sequences began coming in over the PA system. Oh-oh. For a moment I thought I’d set them off, which wouldn’t be unexpected in my life. The doors shut in front of me and behind me and I was stuck in the corridor, like the cream filling in an Oreo. For an old claustrophobic like me, this triggered an immediate flight or fight response which fortunately I got a hold of prior to resorting to crashing through the windows before they announced it was a drill and the doors reopened. Whew.

The beleaguered oxygen man finally showed up shortly after six. We had checked in at 8:15 in the morning so to say it was a long day would be somewhat of an understatement. By the time we got home and went through the home instructions on the equipment he brought to the house, I could feel the urge to start running and not look back. I held my feet in place and listened to what the man was saying. Truly it was hard to believe I was experiencing this whole scenario again. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was fully in reality. Oxygen is tricky. There is definitely a learning curve involved until you get it running smoothly. Rick had been on it for the last two months of his life.

According to my metaphysical friend we are once again in a mercury retrograde when everything that could go wrong will. Oh joy. On Tuesday following my day in the ER, I had a hair appointment early in the morning. I have gone back to my old hair dresser. It’s a longer drive, forty-five minutes, but she seems to be the only one in the area who understands how to color my hair. If I say I would like my hair blonde with warm undertones that is exactly what I mean. There is no red, merlot, or auburn in that statement anywhere. Thank you, thank you very much. Feeling like I’d been rode hard and put up wet, I dragged myself to the car and drove all the way up the hill to my appointment (ignoring beauty is never an option) only to be told by the receptionist at the salon my appointment was for the following day. Sigh. My first urge was to scale the counter and dust the floor with the little girl seated behind it with the toothy grin, but I controlled my primal urges and just said “Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Jeez Louise.

I stopped to pick up Dale’s prescriptions on the way home only to be told they had filled them at their store in the town I had just been in for my wrong day hair appointment so they had to be redirected down here. This would not happen until later in the day. Fine. On the way out of the pharmacy I stopped to look at a large display of patio umbrellas. There was one in the middle I specifically wanted to see so I pulled it out to get a better look at it. Removing that one umbrella apparently threw the entire display stand off balance. The whole large unit leaned precariously to one side and then crashed on the tile strewing the umbrellas all over the place like pick up stix. The gentleman standing next to me asked if he could help me pick them up. I told him, “Save yourself. You don’t want to get too close to me you might spontaneously ignite.” Clean up on Aisle 4. Never mind. Never mind it all. I am still smiling. See? I remind myself today I am a warrior and a survivor. I’ve come this far and I will continue along in my journey until I have no further to go.

I came home and decided to ease my pain by doing something cathartic. Sewing always takes my mind off of things. I needed to make a pillow for a new patio chair I’d purchased, so that was the plan. I cut out the fabric, threaded the machine, pushed down and the pedal and bupkis. Really? I tried again and the light went out. Exit stage left.

Sometimes you simply can’t fight the current. Your only option is to point your feet down stream and keep your eyes open for rocks.

Make it a rock free day. Almost Friday.

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Today I spent a good part of my afternoon dealing with insurance companies. It never ceases to amaze me how these huge corporations can charge exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege of insuring you, then when you actually need to use the insurance you have paid for, do everything in their power to make it difficult for you to do so. I was helping someone I care about very much traverse the deep, dark depths of our healthcare system. This person is a complete novice when it comes to being ill, and a very nice and kind human to boot. Allowing him to try to figure this out alone, would be like sending a lamb to the slaughter. The diagnosis is possible lung cancer. I told him, like a roller derby queen with rivals on her heels, you have to elbow and bully your way to the front of the line, because time, particularly with this disease is not your friend. This, I can speak to with experience. Rick also had lung cancer. It was not good to him, as emphasized by the fact he is not here to tell you his story himself.

My friend has an HMO. This supposedly means he can pick and choose from the pool of doctors within his network, rather than be limited to a certain group of physicians. So, we got some recommendations for excellent doctors in this field, and he contacted his primary care physician who in turn sent off a referral to the oncologist we had selected. As luck will have it, his insurance card listed a particular county under the primary physicians name which is the county next to mine. The oncologist he chose is situated in my county. This completely threw a monkey wrench into an already unbelievably red tape bound system, and the wheels of progress came to a loud and grinding halt. I spoke to three different representatives, each one providing us with varying interpretations of his coverage. Now, there is fluid building up on the outside of this man’s lungs while all this is transpiring, a situation destined only to get worse not improve as time marches on. Phone calls are going back and forth and the clock is ticking. Finally, a healthcare representative got on the phone with the oncologist’s insurance person and some sanity returned where lunacy had reigned supreme. Good Lord. Still, we were informed an authorization had to go through the big machine and be approved first prior to seeing the oncologist he had chosen. Okay, let’s do it. This, the rep said, takes 3-4 days. Once that is done, then an assessment is done at the physician level to determine the urgency of the situation. Now, I didn’t go to school for twelve years, I don’t wear a white coat nor do I dangle a stethoscope around my neck, but even I can pretty much predict the outcome to that one. It was urgent two weeks ago. Sigh. A whole other question lingering in the background is how, when under a physician’s care for heart issues the past year, did one of those doctors not hear the sounds in this man’s lungs with an instrument in their ears? Particularly, when I could hear the congestion while standing next to him. Many times as we get older, our complaints are written off as hypochondriacal, or lumped under the “it comes with getting older” umbrella. This too, needs to be looked at under a magnifying glass. For years if I complained about not feeling well it was dismissed as women problems. Right. I am missing two non-essential parts due to doctors waiting too long to diagnose a situation.

No sooner had we put the wheels in motion to get this approval going, another phone call came in telling us it couldn’t be done. It seems in the insurance company the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing and we had been given the wrong information. In the state of California our insurance is divided up into sections. In order to go to a doctor, even under an HMO, the doctor must be located in the section you reside in. We could have used my address but as we’d already explained the situation to several people that train had already left the station. So, back to square one, we began the referral loop for an oncologist in his area. This has been processed, thankfully, and an appointment is on the books for he end of next week. I pushed for sooner, but it seems there are a lot of people dealing with cancer at the moment, so we wait. In the mean time, if his situation goes from tolerable to not, he must go to the ER immediately. I am exhausted, but this is nothing compared to how frightened and unsettled my friend must be feeling as he is the one with the ticking time bomb inside his body.

Hopefully, one of these days we’ll actually get elected officials willing to step up and do something about the exorbitant drug costs as well as the broken insurance situation in this country. It is difficult to get them motivated in the current your side and my side mindset existing in our legislature. To add to that, the people in congress have their healthcare paid for so they aren’t really pushed against the wall on their end to do anything about it. Perhaps that should change?

Anyhow, for this day we have put out the fire. I’m sure many others will pop up along the path but I feel some advancement has been made. Truly you have to be your own advocate if you wish to have the end result you are looking for when dealing with a medical condition. Never be afraid to say you don’t agree or fight for what you know needs to be done and where you need to be seen.

My vent for a Thursday. Have a great day. Stay healthy.

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