In the car while we headed home from getting groceries, my children discussed an incident on the bus where another kid expressed sympathy for their father and stepmother for having to listen to the girls fight over stuff like taking their dogs out to go to the bathroom.
T: "... Thing is, when they said that on the bus, about feeling sorry for our parents, I wanted to say 'at least we only fight over little things. We don't really ever have to fight over big things.'"
Here's a fun fact I just found out via Tumblr. Apparently, March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month (or as i and others have referred to it, Asshole Cancer, because its fun to say and well, it's kind of an asshole). Rather than take to the Facebook and invoke some meme where you post the colour and length of the skid-marks in your underpants, I'm going to take the time to spread some actual awareness, courtesy of the good folks at Colon Cancer Canada (www.coloncancercanada.ca) mainly because their tag line is "We're Behind Your Behind" which I think is cute as heck. Other info is from my own personal experience with colon cancer.
So, some stuff you may not know:
Colon cancer is ridiculously treatable if caught early, yet has a high mortality rate because many people don't catch it until it is well advanced. My grandpa Murray died from colon cancer, mainly because by the time they caught it, the cancer had spread to his liver. On the other hand, my own cancer was discovered while in Stage one and was removed without the need for chemotherapy or radiation, mainly because it was found during a routine scope I had for my colitis.
The thing is, a lot of cases go undetected because folks can go a long time without showing any outward symptoms.
There are things you can keep an eye out for, however:
- blood in your stool. Not just red. Black or dark purplish stool can indicate blood as well. I learned that the hard way.
- weird, random changes in bowel movements. Getting all bunged up, or a constant case of the runs for no discernible reason.
- gas pains, stomach pains, bloating, pooping
- feeling like you gotta go, but not producing much.
- going, but not feeling empty
- sudden weight loss
- constant fatigue
These are things that might indicate a problem, but as mentioned, a lot of people don't experience any symptoms until the disease is well advanced. This is one of those proactive things, where you're going to want to get screened, especially if you meet certain criteria for risk:
- you're over 50
- you have a history of irritable bowel disease, such as Crohn's Disease or Colitis (oh, hai! *waves*)
- family history of colorectal cancer. If its a parent, You're gonna want to start screening 10 years before the age they were diagnosed. My lucky ladies will need to start screening in their early 20s. Thanks, genetics!
- family history of inherited uterine, ovarian or breast cancer.
- have been previously diagnosed with polyps or precancerous cells
Screening can consist of a couple tests. There's a fecal occult blood test, which sounds a lot more neat and spooky than it is, where you use a small stick to smear some of your poo on a card you get from your doctor who sends it to a lab to get checked for traces of blood.
The other test is a colonscopy, which consists of having a tiny camera on the end of a long flexible tube inserted into your bum and up into your colon with the help of a localized anesthetic, and it is buttloads of fun *snicker*. You'll be instructed to fast the day before and to take a purgative to clean out your system. My advice is as follows for the pre-scope cleanse:
- don't make plans for the day
- stay near a toilet
- shell out for the softest, squishiest toilet paper you can afford. It's worth it, trust me.
There's also the colonoscopy's little baby cousin, the flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is a smaller camera on a tube, about the size of that thing at the dentist they use to suck the spit out of your mouth. The downside is they probably won't put you out for it, so its a bit uncomfortable, but the upside is that since you're awake, you might have the option of watching a video of your own rectum. It's kind of gross and fascinating at the same time.
Fun story: A few days after one of my sigmoidoscopies, we had a sewer back-up and they sent robots into the sewer to find where the blockage was. Afterwards they gave us a copy of the video. Had we had the scope-video, it would have made a rather humorous split-screen.
Anyway, during the scope they'll check for weirdness and abnormalities such as polyps, and may take tissue samples. If biopsies are done, you may feel a bit sore and tender in the abdominal area for a day or two afterwards.
So this is some basic info on screening and prevention, because for something that is fairly easy to treat if caught early, a whole lot of people die unnecessarily. Food for thought.
I'm a bad Canadian. "Why?" you ask? Because I cannot bring myself to give one thousandth of a fuck about this Canada vs. Sweden game. And it's hockey, so it's pretty much akin to treason to not care. Social media this Sunday morning has become a vast wasteland of play-by-play updates.
I am grouchy. My body has decided to play an elaborate joke on me, which culminated in a trip to the emergency room yesterday with a laundry list of symptoms dating back to last Tuesday.
Thursday: body aches, fever, chills, coated tongue
Friday: fever, chills, body aches, rash covering neck, shoulders, chest.
Saturday: ridiculously bad indigestion (7 on pain scale, enough to inducing sobbing) and severe, sudden onset full-body muscle pain, more rash covering most of my arms, trunk etc.
So the Well-Travelled One and I make the trip to Emerg, because why wouldn't I want to spend a Saturday afternoon at the local hospital? Most of the ER doctors are tolerable, however the one I got insisted on cutting me off and talking over me, as I listed off the symptoms above, and noted that I am a recovering cancer patient lacking a colon and that I had just (on Monday) gotten off a 21 day run of corticosteroid based anti-inflammatory enemas.
Yeah, you read that right. 21 days of enemas. That's a fun tale for another day. Or perhaps a medically-themed Christmas carol.
"Oh, yeah. We've been seeing a lot of this," the doctor tells me.
"What? You've been seeing a lot of people with fever, chills, headaches, rashes, stomache pains, full body aches and coated tongues?"
"At the same time?"
Jesus. So, Dr. Interrupto tells me it is viral and to treat the symptoms until the virus runs its course. Amazing. I'm not sure I'm convinced. My love who, sometimes to his own detriment, lives to research the shit out of stuff, thinks some of it could be a withdrawal from the anti-inflammatories. The rash, which inexplicably comes and goes, feels like an allergic reaction. It's not out of the realm of possibility that I could be suffering an allergic reaction, a withdrawal, and some sort of virus at the same time because let's face it, this is ME we're talking about.
All of the symptoms come and go. Yesterday, the body aches showed up whenever the indigestion subsided. Then, when the indigestion came back, the body aches would go. Then, when both of them subsided, that's when the rash came back with a vengeance.
And I tell you, I am the worst at not scratching. This is what I managed to do to my tender inner-upper arm flesh yesterday:
I know, that's pretty hot, right? Sexxaaaaay.
So, today I am sitting at mildly achy, a little itchy and crazy-lethargic. That could be Sunday talking, however. I'm hoping whatever this is runs its course soon, and that no one else catches it, as I would not wish this on my worst enemy.
I've fallen into that blogging trap of going weeks without posting and as a result, all my posts begin with the requisite apologies for not posting in forever.
And so it goes.
I've been struggling.
This winter has been a tough one and I have found myself in an almost constant state of anxiety dating back to the cancer and the floods, a state of waiting for the other shoe to drop, a sense of looming disaster at every turn.
When I was younger, I was very anxious. I worried about change, about risk and what if? It's one of the things I am sure helped contribute to the destruction of my marriage. Incidentally, that destruction helped quell those thoughts for a long time. After the initial separation, I felt as though if I could get through that, anything else was a piece of cake.
I learned to roll with the punches. That things were never as bad as they seemed, they could always be worse. I'm trying to get that back, because anxiety is a huge asshole that robs you of your ability to enjoy your peace as you are always looking around the corner for the next sign of impending doom. It leaves you with pain from walking with your shoulders at your ears. Everything is a fight and everyday decisions become fraught. Everything that goes wrong becomes a sighing, eye-rolling case of "What the hell else?"
Anxiety has been eating at me, these long winter months, and it's affected my relationship, my children, my work. I've been neglecting friends and hobbies (hi, blog) because being on guard, it's so fucking exhausting that at the end of the day it's easier to zone out and watch episodes of M.A.S.H or surf the Internet than actually try and socialize, which ends up being another source of worry... Either worry about co-ordinating efforts or worry about if you're a horrible person if you just bow out, one more time.
I'm fighting, though. Bit by bit, I'm trying to relax. Breathing.
Out with the jive, in with the love.
Slowly, but surely, I feel like I may be able to pull myself out of this darkness and enjoy the light once again. It's going to take some self-care and taking some time to fix the things I can, but each day I'm feeling a little more hopeful.
The year, dare I say it, is off to a decent start. We survived that vicious hell storm and cold snap, or polar vortex, as the kids are calling it these days. Alls I know is that I have not been witness to such a blizzard since the winter of 1991 when I got sent home from school and went to my friend Corina's place instead, effectively scaring the shit out of my parents, whom I did not call at work since I didn't know their work number. Instead I called home and left numerous messages on the answering machine, all the while wondering where the hell they were. Meanwhile, having heard that the schools were closed, they were frantically leaving messages for me, wondering where the hell I was.
For you kids reading this, before voicemail, we used to have what were known as "answering machines", which were basically cassette recorders attached to you stationary phone (aka your landline). Not that I expect anyone born after the year 2000 to know just what a "cassette recorder" is supposed to be. At any rate, you could not simply call and check your message. You had to wait until you got home, which is how we finally ended up with 20 minutes worth of "Where are you?" messages.
Long story short, cell phones for kids aren't always such a bad idea.
But, back to the present. We survived the nearly 60cm of snow in a two day period, as well as the frigid colder-than-freaking-Mars -40 wind chills. Despite my having left ordering heating oil to the last minute and the oil guy being unable to get through for two days, we did NOT run out of heat. The noise and struggling of the furnace over the last couple of weeks ended up being easily fixable when the furnace guy came on Friday, in spite of being completely convinced that I was going to find out I needed a new furnace because why wouldn't I? We also found out the chimney, which we were also worried about, does indeed have a proper liner (which is necessary with oil heat) so sweet Jesus and hallelujah somebody actually did something fucking RIGHT when building this place.
Lastly, the sump pump and basement has (so far) survived the thaw and the rain that brought the snow banks down by a good foot in the course of the day, as has the roof. Turns out the ice from last months ice storm has formed a bit of a barrier between the melting snow and the ground, keeping it from melting too rapidly and flooding us with an over abundance of groundwater, or submerging the end of the drain pipe.
So, a week and a bit into the year I am feeling very cautiously optimistic. I am enjoying a quiet Saturday evening taking turns playing Hatris (it's like Tetris, but with with hats!) with the The Well Travelled One. This leaves me enough time for an update, since the one downfall to this game is that we're both good enough at it that a "turn" takes about an hour or more.
Enjoy your evening, Internet.
Yup. Hatris. This is an actual thing. It's surprisingly addictive.
Thanks to Aunt Becky, I've got a handy-dandy survey-style template with which to outline some of the highlights and lowlights of my year, which is good, since a full run down of this year would probably be a novel.
1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
I did an 8 kilometre hike through the Bruce Trail with full-pack (16km if you count the return trip) and children in tow.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't think I actually made any, except to make it through another year if it kills me.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
One of my bestest pals and his lovely partner had an adorable baby girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Another of my very close friends lost her mother to cancer, which was quite the loss. Nancy had always been beyond kind to me and she is missed quite a bit.
5. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Flood coverage. A fully functioning sump pump. A well insulated roof and properly sealed duct work. Oh, hell. A complete freaking home makeover.
6. What countries did you visit?
I stayed within Canadian borders this year.
7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? September 30th. 2013. The day I got my cancer diagnosis. Worst day ever.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Maintaining my sanity, and keeping my plants alive. Some are even thriving.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Trying to make fucking gravy tonight. I swear, once upon a time I successfully made gravy, but I've completely lost that skill somewhere.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
To quote one Ms. Steph Gas "hahahahahahahaha. yes."
11. What was the best thing you bought?
My TV, after the old one caught fire. Also, my hiking boots. Going for a hike after months of wearing cheap-ass Zellers running shoes was an absolute revelation.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
All the people, including but not limited to the Well-Travelled One, the kiddies, the parentals, and numerous friends who have been insanely supportive through all the bullshit that went on this last quarter. I may need to mention the Well-Travelled One twice, just for the sheer fact that he hasn't run screaming. You'd almost think he liked me or something.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Almost every person I've had to deal with on a professional level lately, with a very special fuck-you-very-much to insurance companies and Service Canada.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I got pretty teary-excited upon finding out my cancer was stage one, and wouldn't require chemotherapy. However I still think I may have been more excited getting pointed out by Hugh Dillon at the Headstones concert in July.
16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
I don't think I have a specific song for this year. I know I listened to a lot of the Mountain Goats and Murder By Death. Although I could say that "Titanium" has been my theme this year (along with tMG's "This Year")
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Maybe not sadder, but way more stressed out.
ii. thinner or fatter? Sameish? Down about 7 or more pounds worth of colon
iii. richer or poorer? poorer. Oh, poorer. Definitely poorer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I'd done more of the home improvements that I meant to do in the summer when I still had the strength, ability and finances to do them.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Putting stuff off.
20. How will you be did you spending Christmas?
I spent a good portion of Christmas morning on the phone and the Facebook trying to locate someone who could come and jump my car, seeing as the battery had picked an inopportune time to die. After getting it started, I ended up forgoing plans with family since my sisters house was host to some sort of plague that me and my broken digestive system felt that we should avoid like.. well... the plague. So I spent a lot of the day being bummed out. Then we had pizza.
21. There was no #21. I don’t know why there was no 21.
22. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Only more so.
23. How many one-night stands?
Um, well... I got two new night stands. Does that count?
24. What was your favourite TV program?
Got obsessed with Revolution and fell in love with New Girl.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Kind of hating the woman at Service Canada who gave me attitude and then proceeded to lose my Record of Employment
26. What was the best book you read?
1985 by Jian Ghomeshi. I'm a sucker for pop culture, nostalgia and randomly placed top five lists.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I've been loving the hell out of Murder By Death.. Whom I guess I actually discovered at CMW in 2012, but they've been getting really heavy rotation this year.
28. What did you want and get?
I don't really want for much, or covet anything, really so nothing is jumping out at me. I wanted a camera. I got one for Christmas from work.
29. Wait.. is there no 29 either?
30. What was your favourite film of this year?
I've only seen a small handful of movies from this year and most of them were pretty underwhelming. I've spent more time filling in the list of movies I should have watched ages ago. I think the one I had the most feelings over was Leon the Professional.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33, and drove to Tobermory to camp with the kids and the Well Travelled One.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
An almost complete do-over.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
I don't have much of a fashion concept. I got a lot more practical and tried to work on getting some good quality basics that will last for some time, while supplementing with the occasional fun thrift store find.
34. What kept you sane?
Dark, inappropriate humour.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I, like most of the Internet, have a huge love for Jenny Lawson.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I've been following the fast food and retail strikes with a lot of interest. They deserve more, especially since we are talking about more than just high-schoolers needing extra cash.. These are people trying to raise families and survive.
37. Who did you miss?
A lot of people. I haven't been terribly social this year.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
I don't feel like I've met too many new people this year.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
Always buy the flood insurance. ALWAYS BUY THE FLOOD INSURANCE.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (because this Meme is apparently written for tweens):
"Someone say a Hail Mary for this house. Bless the corners and burn the devil out."
Not gonna lie. Christmas was kind of (not entirely, just kind of) a bust this year. And I am bummed out. Plans to spend the day with my family at my sisters place were thwarted first when my car battery, which has been on its way out, decided to die on me, leaving The Well-Travelled One and I stranded in the driveway, without a way to pick up my children from their dad's house or go and let our friend's dog out while they were away visiting their family.
After calling around, feeling horribly about interrupting people on their Christmas Day to see out a booster pack or something with which to jump my car, rescue came in the form of my friend Nic who assisted in pushing my car out of the driveway so we could hook his truck up and jump the car.
We were again thwarted when I found out that a majority percentage of my sisters family were down with a stomach flu of some sort. After some hemming and hawing I decided not to go, as Gord only knows what kind of havoc a stomach flu would have on my incomplete, still healing digestive tract. So I made the difficult decision to sit out Christmas dinner this year.
Despite all my Scroogey griping in the months leading up to it, I really do enjoy Christmas, at least I enjoy the part that involves getting together with my family and the fun togetherness. It makes the stress of all the crap leading up to it (shopping, financial worries, the endless Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debates) worth it. So it really, really bummed me out that I ended up missing out on the part I like the most.
It wasn't all bad. I did get to have time with my own kids, and got to watch them open gifts that for the first time, I got to take complete credit for. I got at least two really excited reactions to stuff that I had picked out (Angry Birds bed sheets for Reagan, and a Black Butler t-shirt that brought tears to Tierney's eyes) and got a blender for myself from the girls which is one kitchen appliance I have been missing for quite some time. I also got to try out the camera I got from work this year (but have yet to upload any pictures from).
And we had pizza for dinner. Which I don't know whether to call that a loss or a win. Because pizza. I dunno. Pizza is usually awesome. I guess I'm just feeling meh because this year, Christmas didn't feel different from any other day and I'm still bitter that I missed my other favourite holiday, Halloween. So it feels kind of unfair that they both were kind of crap, and for roughly the same reason. Any other year I would have braved the risk of illness in order to spend time with my family, but this year I had to weigh that risk because what if I got sick and threw up to the point that I ruptured something? Or got some other kind of infection.
I know I will see most of my family later in the week when everybody is feeling better, and we'll have a good time then (plus I get to meet my recently discovered cousin, which is exciting) but right now I feel like I've been ripped off.
I'll be honest. I've only ever watched Duck Dynasty once. I thought the episode I saw was fairly amusing. I have some friends and family who adore it. I'm not here to offer my criticism of the show itself, but I do have a few things to say about Dynasty patriarch, Phil Robertson, and his recent GQ interview where he likened homosexuality to bestiality and also implied that black people were happier under Jim Crow.
More accurately, I'm going to reiterate a few points that come up every time someone gets shit for saying something bigoted in the media and everyone and their grandma starts yelling about "FREEZE PEACH!"
Let's make one thing clear. No ones constitutional rights are being trampled here. The government has not stepped in prevent Phil Robertson from expressing his views, through threat of punishment or sanction. Free speech does not mean that he is free from consequence or criticism.
The ability to criticize is also a part of free speech. In fact, there was a whole lot of free speech going on here:
- Phil was fully within his rights to express his views to GQ, knowing that GQ would be publishing his words.
- People who disagreed and found his words hurtful and/or oppressive were within their rights to contact A&E and tell them that they would no longer support A&E should A&E continue to either implicitly or explicity support Phil Robertson
- A&E is within their rights to verbally distance themselves from Robertson (even if hypocritically so, since they've apparently been aware of his views for years, and only now seem to have a problem when it could potentially bite them in the ass) and they are within their rights to refuse to give him a platform
- Supporters of Robertson are also within their rights to tell A&E that they will no support A&E if they DON'T reinstate Robertson. They are also free to, rather disingenuously, claim that they don't agree with his views but care more about their comfort zone and viewing habits than the people that Phil has figuratively shat on, so they will hereby be boycotting A&E until Phil is reinstated so they can return happily to their comfort zone of apathy.
- edited to add: people were also within their rights to continue to watch or not watch the show without comment, because freedom of speech also includes the freedom to withhold an opinion.
See? Free speech abounds.
As far as the claim is being persecuted for his Christian beliefs.. Well, no. He's being called out on his shitty beliefs. It is my understanding that the family on Duck Dynasty make no bones about being faithful Christians, right down to ending every meal with a prayer. As far as I know, I don't recall too many people complaining about their Christian beliefs before this interview came out. I've not read about people up in arms about the Robertson's dinner prayers or references to God and The Bible. People got complainy when those beliefs started to shit on marginalized people.
I've been reading through the colon cancer tag on Tumblr, after being followed by another young woman who is also dealing with with this disease, and I really can't believe how easy I've gotten off with the whole colon cancer thing. Aside from the diagnosis itself, which obviously is not awesome, I've really been getting a lot of best case scenarios along the way, and a lot of it has been pretty flukey, starting catching it early enough (stage 1) that chemo and radiation were not necessary, by virtue of what was a routine scope.
The worst of my colitis was concentrated in the ascending colon (where the tumour was located) which meant that my rectum could be left in place even while removing the rest of the colon, making it possible to do a resection that let me avoid things like iliostomies (pooh-bags), when originally I was looking at pooh-bag for life. I had very little post-surgical problems aside from a minor ish infection in my join. I didn't pop any staples or sutures, haven't had any subsequent surgeries. I had a six-week follow up appointment with my surgeon and he's pleased with my progress. I can return to a normal diet, and should be able to return to most normal activities in another month or so. I'm going back to work half-days next week. Did I mention, work has been fantastic and crazy-supportive about this? I know not many people get that luxury when facing major illness.
Even my bathroom trips have been best case scenario. Where I was told I'd probably have to crap 3-4 times a day, it's been mostly once a day, like clockwork almost.
The weird thing about all the best-case scenario business is that I almost feel like I have no right to complain. Long ago I started dealing with shitty things by thinking of all the ways situations could be worse. Problem with that is that I start feeling like I should ALWAYS be looking on the bright side and unless I am dealing with the absolute worst-case then I'm just being a whiner because somebody always has it worse than me. It's the kind of thing that results in me telling doctors in the ER "Oh, I'm okay..." before the Well-Travelled One nudges me and whispers "uh.. No, you're NOT. That's why we're here." It's the kind of thing that makes me apologize to people for getting upset, because I am scared because I had FUCKING COLON CANCER AND HAD MY ENTIRE COLON REMOVED, but it's okay I'm fine. It's also the kind of thing that leads me to sometimes overdo it because I don't always ask for help when I should.
That's messed up, right? I forget that I have every right to get freaked out from time to time, which I still do, not gonna lie. I downplay how tired I get sometimes, because my muscles are shot, post surgery that my body is not used to holding itself up. I feel weird blogging about all this because I kind of feel like, okay, surgery is done, no more cancer, you can stop talking about it now.
I start writing blog posts that get too involved and, in my opinion, boring so I end up abandoning them. So I'm going to keep this short, like bullet points short. In the last week or so since I last posted:
- I saw an oncologist about my pathology report. Stage one tumour, no chemotherapy recommended. Not sure if this qualifies me as a cancer survivor or not. I am told that they don't actual consider you "cured" until you have something like six months or a year cancer-free. This is good. Excellent, in fact. Hold onto that, as it's the high point of this post. It's all downhill from here, folks.
- Right around that time contracted a minor infection in my join. The one set of antibiotics I am on smells like cat-piss. The other one can't be taken with alcohol, coffee or dairy. I missed the dairy part so I have spent the last half a week feeling like absolute dogshit. I'm off dairy as of today after talking to a pharmacy-tech friend who clued me into that particular contraindication.
- One of the odd side effects also seems to be an incredibly heightened sense of smell. I'm wondering when I get the adamantium claws and mutant healing factor. In the meantime, I've been spending the the majority of the day hiding in my bedroom from the smell of industrial disinfectant.
- industrial disinfectant, you ask? Why yes. I woke up this morning and was greeted by the eldest, who informed me that she stepped out of bed and into a foot full of wet carpet, courtesy of a failed sump pump. About 1-2 cm of water greeted us in the basement. For reasons unknown, the pump, the secondary pump, and the pump alarm all failed during the night. Why? Because fuck my life, that's why.
- Did I mention this is all just a couple weeks after a broken pipe caused the sewer to back up into my basement and render my second bathroom unusable. Which is terrific in a house who just had major colon surgery and whose daily movements are still unpredictable, at best.
I was looking over old Facebook posts and I came across one post about what a great year 2012 was and how I was looking forward to seeing what 2013 had in store. I don't mind saying that 2013 Q4 can eat a giant dick. I can't wait for this shit-eating year to be over.