My Bi-Annual Bloodletting, 2021-Style

Since my brush with cancer in 2013, I’ve had a blood-test every 6 months specifically to make sure my TSH hasn’t gone all squirrelly on account of not having a thyroid anymore, and the radiation therapy immediately proceeding its removal from my person.

Last year I escaped the bloodletting altogether. Our local hospital where I’d normally get such things taken care of didn’t want anything to do with me, and I certainly didn’t want anything to do with it.

I call 2020 the Year of Covid, and 2021 the Year of Consequences. Consequentially, last week I had my first blood-test since 2019, and because of this delay I was getting tested for everything I’d missed out on. Fasting was required.

(I don’t know about you but I find it a bit of a challenge to go out into the world after I’ve been crook for an extended period of time and I wasn’t completely myself after my vaccine shot)

This how it went down …

Clothes – Shoes and socks are weird.

In the car – OMG!!! Why is everyone driving so FAST?

At the hospital – Where’s my mask? Why won’t it fit properly? (trying to put the mask on over my glasses and my hearing aids) Also, I can’t breeeeeathe!

Waiting room – I’m #82. The display is stuck on #75, and I haven’t had anything to eat or drink (except water) since yester-bloody-day!

Bloodletting – Just exactly how many vials of blood are you taking? (answer – 7)

Back in the car – Mrs Widds had packed a thermos of tea, made just the way I like it. I love her.

Having My Head Examined – Part 1

So, you know that 10-day trailer holiday we just had? … well, I came home to a way too long list of friends who were at the very dire end of cancer diagnoses. This, as you might’ve guessed was firmly in the ‘not fun’ category of ‘things to learn immediately after one returns home from holidays’.

However, this sort of thing gets one to contemplating Mortality and the Universe, and Everything … especially when one has a CT scan scheduled a mere ten days later.

Migraines and vertigo do not friendly bedfellows make, and my GP and I, (said in a very proper British accent) … my GP and I, had decided that an elimination process was in order, so off to hospital I headed last Saturday (10th) for a CT scan of my noggin.

I’d like to think the inside of my brain looks something like this …

An Owl-ish laser-like focus

An Owl-ish laser-like focus

… but it probably looks like this …

Demented flea, on speed

Demented flea, on speed

… back to my story …

The last time I had a scan of a part of my body, a mere ultrasound of my shoulder, I ended up discovering I had cancer. (in my case, thanks to that non-related shoulder scan, my cancer was caught early, surgically removed, and with a hefty dose of radiation, never-no-more was see  again)

That series of fortuitous events, combined with my friend’s recent dire news got me to wondering … in just a little hyperactive (and somewhat hypochondriac-al) part of my mind … what else, completely unrelated to those migraine/vertigo bedfellows, my CT scan might reveal.

After restraining the urge to roll my eyes, I tried to calm that wee bit of my psyche down by telling it that all the scan will show is what’s already there, or not there, as the case may be … which didn’t help … so we overindulged in Mrs Widds absolutely most fabulous pumpkin pie … which did.

So, my friends, in these times of momentous (some good, some not-so-good, and some terrible) changes, when all else fails to soothe the savage psyche, eat pumpkin pie.

-oOo-

If there was something serious I would’ve heard from my GP by now so I’m not too concerned.

-oOo-

As always the images I use are my own, or are clipart, are otherwise attributed, or are artist unknown. These ones are ‘artist unknown’.

A Perfect Ten – 2013

Continuing my countdown to my blog’s 10th Anniversary on 27th September this year, I’m revisiting what I posted on or around that date each year.

Today we land precisely on the 27th of September 2013, wherein I bemoan my fate at losing the threads of a story I began the previous year which suffered from cancerous interruptous.

I had thyroid cancer. In July of 2013 I had surgery to remove my entire thyroid. (and thereafter had radiation therapy to destroy the rest of those nasty little immortal cells – they can be killed, they just refuse to die on their own – who escaped the scalpel)

So, by the end of September I was starting to feel like I could pick up the threads of my life again.

But, after such a momentous interlude the pieces of my life were scattered hither, thither and yon. (the irony of currently searching hither, thither, and you, for bits and pieces of my dreams and plans here in 2020 is not lost on me either)

Back then, it was a bit of an excruciating joust between my brain, exhaustion, my computer, and the very sparse notes I’d made prior to my interlude.

Today, I’m jousting with drills and wood-stain, and hammers and foam underlay, screws and staple-guns, as I work on finishing up the renovations to our travel trailer that we started … hmm … probably they had their genesis after our 2015 cross-Canada trip.

Storage and ventilation and paneling, oh my!

Storage and ventilation and paneling, oh my!

We’re planning on having a bit of a holiday (more like a Retreat for me, really) at a campground not far away from here, in the very, very near future – hence my jousting to get everything, if not finished, then at least travel-worthy and livable.

I’m looking at it as a trial run for next year, when we really get going with our plans.

Covid-19 may have cost us a year, (which at our age feels a whole lot more important than it might’ve when we were in the first few decades of our lives) but I’ll be damned if it costs us more than that.

The world, most of the world, has a handle on how to live with this virus now, (we certainly do) and within this new paradigm, barring the Unforeseen, we’ll be able to move ahead with a new-and-improved version of our Dream.

Dream Machine

Dream Machine

I am not Just a Cancer Survivor

I am a cancer destroyer.

I am a cancer obliterator.

I am the Cancer-nator!!!

I am Cancer-free!

Isolation

The last phase of my cancer treatment is over. Everything is looking good, but I’m not really going to celebrate until I see the results of the final scan, which won’t be until 4th December – talk about your hurry-up-and-wait!

It’s been a very interesting and intense week-and-a-half for all three of us here on Widder Island. First came daily visits to the hospital for shots and tests to prepare my body for ‘the deed’, then the ‘deed’ itself, wherein I voluntarily ingest poison.

Segue: When I was growing up and as a young adult, the world shivered on the brink of nuclear annihilation. It’s a daunting thought even now to remember that many of us didn’t think we would live through those times. That U.S. and U.S.S.R’s pissing contest prompted my younger self to learn about nuclear radiation and what, if anything, she could do about it. Turned out, not a lot, but she did gain a very vivid understanding of the effects of radiation on the human body.

Fast forward to last Friday: I’m looking at this plastic cup encased in layers of lead sheeting with a huge white pill in it. This is my radiated iodine. This is what will kill any last remaining cancerous thyroid cells in my body. The irony does not escape me.

Nor did the fact that the technician who delivered this contraption backed off almost to the other side of the room once he’d put it in front of me. A slight exaggeration, the room was small. I felt like saying, “Yeah, this stuff is poisonous to healthy people, what do you think it’s gonna do to me!” But I didn’t. I swallowed my horse pill and got out of there too.

Then we came home to our separated life. Separate bathroom, separate bedroom, separate food. Separated from any contact by a 1 meter buffer zone between me and all that I am used to touching. We knew it would be an inconvenience, possibly a logistical conundrum, and Widdercat would certainly not approve.

But it turned out to be more than that. It challenged how we, I, lived.

Try this for a moment. Everything you touch or come near will be poisoned by your presence. You must pay attention to how far away you are from your family, and it is your responsibility to keep that distance. Flip a light switch. Turn on a tap. Open the door to go outside. Do you do these things, knowing your touch is poisonous, or ask someone to do them for you? Or don’t do them at all? – also a choice.

By late Saturday my tongue felt like it’d been scorched, and my throat, in the empty place where my thyroid gland used to reside, felt swollen and sore to touch.

My stomach wasn’t too happy either. In fact my entire digestive system … well, you can imagine the rest of that sentence. I was surrounded by my life, but almost completely isolated from it.

Thankfully I could use my computer (the radioactive isotope used has a very short half life) so long as no-one else (of any species) used it, but I had the attention span of a gnat on speed, so I read a lot (my TBR pile is significantly smaller) and slept in three-hour bursts.

Now I’m trying to get my brain out of neutral and engage the think gears. I have high hopes that tomorrow I’ll be able to NaNo my allotted span of words. With what I’ve already written I’ll need to hit 2500+ words per day to make the finish line on time.

And Widdercat? … She didn’t come near me. It was only last night (Wednesday) that she approached me for cuddles. Try and tell me she didn’t know what was what!

*

“There’s an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses it’s wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention” Chris Baty, accidental founder of NaNoWriMo

Healing Woes

It’s been a busy time, this healing.

Have you ever had a major illness/accident, and it’s taken up all your energies, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, to overcome?

Then, when you’re at your lowest ebb, you catch a cold, or a paper cut gets infected, or you stub your little toe.

Or you suddenly experience menstrual cramps that you’d forgotten how bad they could be because you haven’t had a period for eighteen months and have no tampons or pads in the house because you never wanted to see one ever again … and it’s the middle of the night and you live on an island in the middle of nowhere … and your voice squeaks through at least three octaves because the swelling from your thyroid cancer surgery is still pressing on your vocal cords … and sneezing hurts … and the hottest of summer days have finally arrived and you hate the heat you came to Canada for the snow for goodness sake … and the family at the end of your road are having a family reunion and there are parties down by the lake and BBQ’s everywhere … and you have no appetite because you now have a bladder infection … and your cat bit you for no reason except that she’s very old and crabby …

July 2013 is a month that I am truly glad to see the rear end of as it heads out across the lake and disappears over the horizon, never to be heard of again.

Bring on August!

Short Update

My first post-surgery biopsy results are in and it looks like I dodged a bullet … just. The cancer cells were merely using my thyroid as a staging area. An invasion of my lymphatic system was immanent – which has now been terminated with extreme prejudice. One or two cells may have escaped into the hills, but rest assured we will flush the little buggers out and nuke ‘em.

*

‘For me, writing a novel is like solving a puzzle. But I don’t intend my novels as puzzles. I intend them as invitations to dance’ Mohsin Hamid, writer.

Memento

Hurry to the hospital … wait …

Hurry to fill in the last of the checked and re-re-checked paperwork, and change into a one-size-fits-all (it doesn’t) hospital gown … wait …

Hurry into the operating theatre … wait …

Anesthetic takes effect … Cone of Surrealness finally shatters.

A rodent with razor claws sits at my throat and gnaws at it with poisoned fangs … I’m almost convinced it’s an hallucination.

“What is your pain on a scale of one to ten?” …

“Eleven,” I croak.

The rodent continues its feast. I hurry up and wait for whatever painkiller they’re pumping into me to chase it away … wait some more …

I open my eyes to a large wall clock. Time has no meaning, but the second hand transits smoothly through each minute rather than ticking off each second individually. I am grateful, it saves me from counting each agonising one.

The painkillers kick in. My rodent friend disappears.

Bang! … rumble, rumble, clang, rattle. Elevator doors open, close, open again.

Rumble, swerve, clack, click, side-to-side jiggle. Thud-ump … stillness.

Another room, same clock with the sliding second hand. What is my pain level? Seven, with a twist of lemon, … that shifts gears and feels like a two.

… stop … wait …

*

THANK YOU, Thank you, to all who called, emailed, and left comments. I am home again, sleeping lots, and healing as I ought. I don’t smell like hospital anymore so Widdercat is speaking to me.

All is well.

The Cone of Surrealness Closes In

Cone of Surrealness

Cone of Surrealness

My world has narrowed to a singular event. From this rather unique perspective, all that has gone before fades into a rainbow-ish mist. Anything ahead is obscured by the singularity … slated to occur 7.30am tomorrow morning. I wish this was the human/A.I. singularity, that Vernor Vinge, among others has theorised, but alas, mine is a far more mundane and mortal one.

 Time has behaved differently these last few days too. It has slowed to a stately halt so that I’ve been tempted to get out and offer to push, and then it has moved so fast I’ve barely been able to hang on to its coat-tails.

All my previous encounters with general anesthetic, although bizarrely fascinating (consciously entering oblivion) have been in order to put something in my body to make it work better. This time we’re taking something out to achieve a similar result. For some reason this offends my sense of propriety.

I will see all of you on the other side, where my horizon will again stretch as far as my minds eye can imagine.

*

The last word goes to Vernor Vinge, whose Law, I think, applies not only to writing, but to life Herself: (I look forward to the advancement of my plot!)

“All scenes need to accomplish at least two of three things. 1 – Provide background information, 2 – Develop the Characters, and 3 – Advance the plot”Vernor Vinge, professor, scientist, science fiction writer.

Blessed Beltane – Biopsy

1st May – Beltane – I had my second biopsy on that golf ball in my thyroid. For those who came in late, in March this year I discovered I had a lump in my thyroid that was cancerous.  I blogged about thecone of surrealness’ of that time and got on with life … until today.

Today was biopsy #2, wherein we hope to find some more definitive ‘anomalous cells’ that will give my throat-cutting guy a better idea of where we go next. It’s a fair bet that my golf ball has to relocate, and sooner rather than later. The rest is up for discussion. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

But here’s an interesting thing. Today I got to see the ultrasound image the biopsy-taking guy used to guide a very long needle into my throat. I’ve seen gazillions of x-rays of my knee in it’s various incarnations, from completely busted up to staples, screws and other hardware, but seeing inside myself in real time (in glorious black-and-white video) was … weird. I gotta be honest, it felt a little squicky, (like a slow-motion punch in the throat) but also absolutely fascinating. I took notes, mentally that is. It’s hard to write in my notebook, flat on my back with a needle in my neck. (It wasn’t really that long, but it felt like it, so therefore it was!)

There’s a story somewhere in this … maybe something about google glass’  that sees in all sorts of different ways, infra-red, untra-violet, see-through, (like non-dangerous ultrasounds or x-rays)  … and what would become of the people who couldn’t afford it … and what would happen to art if people only saw through the google glass? Who would clean the streets if no-one saw the mess? (sounds a bit like that Bruce Willis movie Surrogates’) I’ll work with it.

So, that was my Beltane. A little different, eh?

So, Have a Merry and Blessed Beltane, one and all … let’s kick the tires and light the fires! … and finish out the night with a bracing cuppa tea!

*

“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things” Muriel Babery,  from her novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog