and then 2020 tried to kill me

This year will go down in history as a complete disaster. A world wide shit show.

I’ve been floating along this first half of the year like most of you. Just going with the flow. Dealing with pandemic stuff same as you. The great toilet paper shortage, wearing a mask to appear in public, grabbing any essentials you could find from the grocery shelf.

No dining out, no shopping in stores. No movie theaters, no bars, no parks. No being in public if you don’t need to be. You know normal American of ’20 stuff.

Some of us being off work and some of us being essential and subject to virus. It is pure crazy, Covid rates are up and down and none of it makes any sense but we are all terrified. I didn’t think it could get worse but then it did.

Monday was like any day. I went to work, I did the payroll and made the calls and sent the emails. I gossiped with my office mate and begged for 5pm to roll around on the time clock. I came home and had a normal dinner, cleaned up and packed a box for our upcoming move. I went to bed with the trusty alarm set for the next day. I cussed the need to work at all and fell asleep with the assumption I would be back at it Tuesday. Little did I know.

Sometime in the middle of the night I started to feel that nagging feeling in my gut like I had eaten something bad. Like week old sushi I bought at a gas station and left in my car on a hot summer night then chowed down on for breakfast after a night of mid week drinking. You know the feeling. Like something is very wrong.

It started as nausea. Then progressed to pain so bad I called out hours before the office would need opened. I thought a good day of rest and some OTC meds would do it. Not a chance. This is 2020 after all and there are no logical sequences to life.

At about 9am I gave up trying to rest and drove myself to the ER to see about what demon had crawled into my belly. By 11am I was in a whirlwind of needle sticks and hospital gowns about to be admitted. They said something about my liver and my gallbladder. As if I couldn’t tell by the searing pain something was wrong here.

The ER doc came into my dimly lit room sectioned off by a curtain and a glass door to throw the lights on like we were heading onstage to do a bit on a Broadway show.  She announced with a bit too much excitement that I had a gall stone. I was clearly taken back as I had been napping and must have looked at her oddly with my eyes closed into slivers trying to adjust. She said the stone was nearly as big as my gallbladder and did so with wide eyes as she peered at me over her face mask. It would have to come out ASAP, she said. It was the biggest she had ever seen. I would have laughed if I wasn’t still trying to figure out what the flip she just said and who she was.

Late Tuesday morning I was moved to my own room and the surgeon came in shortly after to see me. He said “whoa, that gallbladder is nasty! Girl, what you eat?” Fine, he didn’t say it like that but he did say there was a big problem in getting that sucker out. Apparently my body was near the stage of giving up, the stone had caused a blockage and infection and thus created a swollen giant. One very angry gallbladder was coming out one way or another. He ordered an antibiotic drip, pain killers and an ice chip diet. He promised to be back the next day to see if we had any improvement before surgery.

I ate my ice chips and sulked all day on Tuesday. I was in alot of pain so sleep was a blessing. Wednesday morning the surgeon comes in and checks things out. Still not happy with the progress he orders a day of clear liquid and more antibiotics. “The swelling must come down, maybe tomorrow” he gave me hope for the next day and left. I sipped my veggie broth and ate more ice chips. I don’t remember much else. The pain was getting unbearable. Another ice chip diet started at midnight. The demon was getting cranky without chicken tenders, I guess, and my pain was unreal.

Thursday morning rolls around. Success! The swelling is down and the surgery is scheduled for noon. I let everyone know via text.

11:15 AM Thursday morning and I am rolled to surgery. Getting closer! I am shaking and nervous and very tired but I am trying to be a trooper. My IV clogs or stops working or like 2020 just gives in entirely to chaos. They need to start a new line.

Panic is setting in now because for each  time I have needed labs the poor techs have had to poke me 4 or 5 times. Rubbing and patting and sighing at each failed attempt and my hateful stare. This new IV insertion was going to be painful. I tried to be calm. I tried to be understanding. I tried not to have a full on panic attack.

At one point the nurse went to get an ultrasound machine for veins. (I didn’t know they existed either!) While she was gone I sat up straight like out of one of those horror movies where the chick is possessed and I start panting and shaking. I’m dizzy and freaking out and I can’t do anything to stop this crazy train from plowing straight into the station. The nurse comes back and calls for help. They placed a cold wet cloth on the back of my neck and requested that I lay flat. No can do I whisper, still panting and ready to spew green slime at the crowd of scrubs around me.

I ask if I may go to the restroom. I’m sure they had sent someone to get some night night meds for me by then but I needed some air and I wanted to hyperventilate in private. One nurse eagerly agreed and off I went. It did the trick because when I came back a new guy who sounded like he does puppet shows was ready to get this IV show on the road. He was successful in one pinch. I wanted to praise the almighty but was afraid they would really strap me down this time.

The next thing I remember was an oxygen mask going on and then waking up to someone standing beside me. I was still in the same place. What the heck. I wasn’t sure if the surgery was over or if they didn’t do it or what. I fell back asleep.

When I woke in my room Thursday late afternoon the nurse was asking me about my pain. It took me a minute to realize it was all over. Then someone knocked on the door, it was dietary and they had some beef broth or something for me. A few seconds later they came and took it away realizing the surgeon had not changed my diet. Still ice chips and IV pain meds. I was literally so hungry I started wondering if I could find some old stale candy in my purse. Unfortunately for my empty stomach I had sent my Dooney home. No bottom of the purse, unwrapped, lint covered who knows how old candy for me.

Finally late Friday morning my nurse is able to catch the surgeon about getting me some food. She rushes to my room with a paper to go box complete with scrambled eggs, a biscuit, sausage, and oatmeal. I barely ate 3 bites but those were the best eggs I have ever tasted. I owe that nurse a huge, huge thank you. Actually if you know a nurse just hug them for me. Nurses are the most amazing, selfless people in all the world.

I went home Friday afternoon and cried quietly clutching pillows to my belly and getting doggie kisses. Little did I know how much that stinky dog breath could be missed.

Today is day 3 of recovery. I am grateful for scars and life but 2020 has been one hell of a hateful bitch.

Can we just throw some candy at some kids, cook a turkey, decorate a tree and blow on some noise makers and call 2020 over? Please? I don’t want to know what the rest of this year has waiting for us.

Melanoma got it’s ass kicked today and I’ve got 28 stitches to prove it. 

I am home from my 2nd out patient surgery to remove melanoma, the deadly skin cancer from my shoulder. 

It’s been a day so far. 

My anxiety has been out of control, waiting for this last round of flesh removal. Nightmares and mood swings and desperate conversations better saved for when you aren’t fresh out of a cancer diagnosis have been my reality for the last 2 weeks. 

First thing this morning my first round of stitches were removed and the area around the initial incision was removed … just to be safe. 

The doctor was amazing, literally the best of the best and he made me feel totally at ease after the initial honesty session. 

Our talk went something like this:

“This looks like it healed up really well. I didn’t think I would see you back in here, I didn’t want to tell you when you were here but I was sure we would have to send you out.” 

He looks me straight in the eyes and continues this heart to heart …

“I was sure you would need a lymph node check, and that means injecting a dye around the area and doing exploratory surgery. That would mean a lot of scarring. I wanted to spare you an initial large one.”

So … he thought for sure it had grown to a stage of disaster and wanted to spare me the fear and extra pain of a larger, deeper incision.  

He didn’t want to scare me by telling me when he removed the spot … the spot he thought for sure would be sending me straight to the cancer specialist. He didn’t want to tell me right away.

At this point I’m glad he didn’t. I was already a mess. I can’t imagine if he had told me honestly what he thought in the beginning.

I don’t care about the pain or the scar. I care about being prepped for possible death.

My belly flopped like a fish out of water. I started to see spots and tried desperately to breath deeply and stay calm, at least on the outside. 

He had me hop onto the medical table and began the round of local anesthetic. This was painful in itself, a freshly unstiched incision surrounded by stinging injections. Once complete I took position face down into the pillow and waited for the final procedure to be over. 

I could feel the tugging and dabbing, I could smell the cauterization and hear the slight sound of sizzle next to my face. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time.

 The doctor joked about how many stitches I wanted, he said he aimed to please. We laughed when I admitted I wanted enough to look super bad ass … he said it would be no problem 10 on the underside and 18 on the top. 

28 stitches. 

All mine in honor of my battle. I’ll take them. So much better than any alternative. 

I have a chest x-ray, stick removal and a date in 3 months for a body check in my future. 

He said he wouldn’t try to tell me to stay out of the sun but that I should be careful and always wear sunscreen. My diagnosis make it very likely I will need to have other spots removed. 

Today though all I need to do is be still. The pain is incredible. It’s a mix of burning and deep throbbing if I move my arm at all. I want to sleep but I’m terrified I’ll hurt myself. 

I think I’ll take advantage of this prescription and let it all sort itself out.


Almost there … 

Tomorrow morning is (fingers crossed) the final surgery and I am cancer free.

Tonight though real life is being lived. I am a mom, a wife and my family needs dinner. I began by throwing some chicken pieces in a shallow roasting pan and setting the convection oven to slow cook those bird bits to perfection.

I then snuck off and flopped onto my bed. I snuggled into my pile blankets, called my dogs to join and then began to browse the internet. I will need stuff to keep me occupied this week while I recover and this seemed like a good time to get some ideas.

Typical end the weekend stuff.

Only not so much.

The wife came in and belly flopped beside me. I love her but she has some serious bull in a china shop mannerisms. She landed sticking her chin directly into a rib. She says she heard a noise, I just felt the pain. I ignored her for the most part and continued to browse, pretending not to notice her or the now sharp pain in my upper abdominal area.

She grew bored and demanded attention again … about 10 minutes later. This time she tries to pull me away from my browsing with a little story.

She says that before she came in she “smelled something burning” checked the upper oven, nothing in there, checked the bottom. Just then “a poof of smoke came out” at her but since she “didn’t see fire” she thought it was fine.

She thought it was fine. 

I looked away from my phone for the first time with terror in my eyes. I envisioned my oven engulfed in flames and my kitchen filled with thick smoke which would certainly kill us all.

She didn’t even move.

I started to flail, throwing blankets and attempting without much sucess to get up from the canine restrictions currently imposed on my legs.

I got to the door and the smell was clearly something burning, but it was much more than that. Think self cleaning oven. It was obnoxious. I was sure that chicken had tipped or something and we would be having PB&J for dinner tonight.

By tonight I really mean maybe forever because fancy 2 oven ranges are expensive and I am, as I mentioned, a mom aka cash poor.

While I’m running worst case scenarios in my head she had beat me to the kitchen. She opened the lower oven to show me there was no fire …. to prove somehow she had been fine to ignore the initial smoke and smell of burnt cheese on the oven floor.

*I assume the last batch of pizzas spilled over in there, not that I would know it was burnt cheese since nobody mentioned it.

So by now I see the chicken looks fine, perfectly placed and roasting casually. No need to fight over who gets the last of the good jelly or who has to have the butt end of the bread.

Crisis averted.

The house smells weird and I still have surgery tomorrow but it could be worse.

It could be way worse.

I could be dying. I could be a cancer victim and not a survivor.

I am grateful for stinky smells, family dinners and if my family is in a good mood, even for the last of the good jelly.

It’s good to be a mom.

It’s good to be a wife.

It’s good to be alive.