Monday, September 29, 2008

Dazed and confused

Saturday, August 30

I stay overnight at the hospital and am released Saturday late morning, feeling not too bad. I think it’s the drugs. I had this notion that I’d still be able to go to the annual tomato tasting that my gardening friends (the Tomatoettes) and I have every fall, dragging Deanna along with me as chauffeur and honorary Tomatoette, but that’s out in Naperville and it’s a bit too far to go considering that I’d probably be good for about half an hour. So of course we instead decide to go to Taste of Polonia. Yes, Polish Fest. Did I mention the drugs?

Luckily Deanna thinks this is a great idea too (note: Deanna = no drugs, me = on drugs), so off we go. And the pierogies, potato pancakes, and polish sausage are definitely worth it, until the drunken Saturday night crowd starts showing up causing me to cradle my bad arm in its sling and start glaring at people. My Polish is limited to saying things like “the beets are lying fallow” or “sour cream, tasty!” so that doesn’t really seem to do much. Deanna and I decide we might as well leave, because after the pierogies, everything else is redundant anyway.

The next week is a haze of fuzziness. My sanity is saved by the coterie of Chicago Tri Club folks who’ve been organized by Bridget to come by every morning and evening to take Kona for a walk or run. Seriously, they’re amazing. And they bring dinner too, until I wind up with a frig full of food and tell folks it’s not necessary anymore. I’m humbled by their generosity.

Well, as humble as I can be, anyway, given my state of near perfection.

Wednesday, September 10

Today’s a dufecta day, with an appointment with Dr. Jeruss in the morning, one with Dr. MerkHottie in the afternoon, and time to kill in between. After hearing from Dr. Jeruss that everything is healing fine, I go to Water Tower for lunch, then find myself really really tired, as usual. Unbeknownst to me until that day, there’s a lounging area on the first floor of Water Tower, amidst the fancy-schmancy boutique shops selling really expensive crap. About 8 or so comfy chairs set up around a couple of tables – there are a few people there when I sit down and close my eyes, just to rest them for a little while. Then I promptly fall asleep. No really, I do. At the mall. When I open my eyes to see that no one else is sitting there any longer, but that the security guards are looking a bit indecisive, I decide to head back to the Galter Center to wait for my next appointment – I figure, that place is crawling with sickly people, and it’s expected that they’ll (we’ll) doze off at a moment’s notice.

The rest of the week I attempt to highly caffeinate myself so that I can GSD (Get Shit Done), but to no avail, as I just keep sleeping the days away. Great. My friends do give me helpful advice however. To wit: that the tiredness is just a result of my “not working out,” and I just need to get out there and exercise. Get on a spin bike! Walk briskly! A light jog! I try to explain that I’ve felt that kind of “tired” that one gets when one is a lazy slug in the off-season with little incentive to get off the couch – and that’s not the kind of tired that makes one fall asleep at the mall. Nevertheless, one evening I decide that I’m just going to “act the part”, i.e wake up the next morning and pretend I feel fine, that everything’s normal. Maybe it IS just all in my head. Maybe the dizziness, headaches, exhaustion, lack of short-term memory, inability to concentrate – maybe that IS all just me being lazy.

The next morning: I swig down 3 cups of (non-black) coffee, and manage to make it to 2PM. With great effort. At which point I’m so exhausted I zonk out immediately for several hours. So much for that idea.

In the meantime, IMMOO was this previous weekend and I went up to volunteer and cheer on m fellow Tri Clubbers doing the race, including Deanna and Jillian. I head up there on Friday loaded down with Deanna’s favorite foods: gummy lifesavers, Doritos, pie. She somehow thinks I’m trying to sabotage her, rather than seeing this as my attempt to help her carbload properly. I’m incredibly hurt. I buy her another pie at the Saturday farmer’s market there, hoping to smooth things over, but again she looks askance at my peace offering. Shrug. I’m sure she’ll see things differently when she finds the pie in her Special Needs bag and a block of cheese in her bento box – I can’t see why she’d need the Powergels that were in there anyway.

Deanna and I also have a revelatory conversation at this time about my cancer.

Me: So not that I would pull out the old cancer excuse or anything, but...
Deanna, interrupting: You can’t use that anymore. You don’t have cancer.
Me, gaping at her: Say wha...??
Deanna: You had surgery. They took the cancer out. So you don’t have it anymore.
Me: But....but.....I still have stitches!! Bandages, even!
Deanna, firmly: Okay, so maybe just until the stitches are out. No longer.
Me: But what about the rest of my treatment? The radiation, say??!
Deanna: Nope, doesn’t count.

Deanna can be quite the hardass when it comes to this stuff. Say, she wouldn’t notice the difference between, say, her Infinit mixture on her bike and something like lime Koolaid, would she???

But somehow, in spite of my "assistance," Deanna did great at her first Ironman, cheese and all. I think she was inspired to greatness by knowing that she had her own special prop at Cross Plains, namely Pepto the bunny in, yes, a blue barrel. For you, Deanna, it was worth it.

(coming soon/eventually: Team in Bacon at the Susan G. Komen Race, my new diet plan for October, and why you don’t want to argue with the man with the electrodes)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It’s the brain that really matters

Monday, August 25th

I go to see Dr. Jeruss (aka The Best Breast Surgeon Ever) on Monday and I’m greeted like a returning rock star the second I walk into the building. I’m used to this, of course, but here on the Cancer Ward it’s a little odd. I think it’s the fact that it’s obvious that I got injured doing something spectacular – and so, sitting there at the Northwestern Breast Cancer Center with my arm in a sling and the entire right side of my face covered in bruises (including a lovely black eye), I am an object of awe. Especially since the average age of someone with BC is oh, about 65 – in other words, people unlikely to be out breaking their collarbones.

This is my interpretation of things anyway.

Dr. Jeruss comes into the room and the dear woman is beside herself. In awe, folks, in awe. I explain what happened, something about my going faster than anyone has been known to go – because I’m just that good – on the Dairyland Dare route, and then some mention of a rabid squirrel derailing my stellar performance – I don’t know, something like that, that’s my understanding of how events unfolded. Dr. Jeruss gives me a hug – clearly feeling grateful and privileged to even be in my august presence.

Me: “....and so,” I finish modestly, “even until the ambulance carted me away, I was determined to finish the ride, all 200K of it. Puh, what’s a broken collarbone? Alas, they wouldn’t let me.”
Dr. Jeruss: “You poor thing. Isn’t it painful?
Me: “Oh, a badly broken bone isn’t that horrendous, even as I feel the bone shards scraping against each other when I try to move. I just gut it out, as I usually do with things that would fell mere mortals. Not a big deal for me. There were other riders that also crashed, a couple of people wound up with broken hips, one girl smashed her three front teeth. A bike crash at high speed – I’m just thankful I didn’t break my neck or something worse. As I always say, my brain is my crowning glory.”
Dr. J: "But what about Ironman? You must be so upset that you won’t get to race this year!"
Me: “There’ll be other Ironmans. Besides,” I say, smiling beatifically, “as my friends are always hearing me say – it could be worse.”

On Tuesday I have an appointment with my new orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Merk. Colleen goes with me, to keep away autograph seekers and, oh yeah, because my mind is a sieve these days. We get there, and lo, what’s this? A McHottie? Finally! Dr. Merk has that manly, “I wrench bones back into place then pin them into submission with a nail gun” air about him, but in a nice way. He hangs up the latest x-ray of my collarbone that’s just been taken.

Dr. MerkHottie: "Up until about a year ago, the accepted wisdom was to not operate to repair collarbones, just let them heal as is. That’s no longer really the case."

We all gaze at the x-ray, which shows the bones overlapping with the top part jutting out towards the sky. As a bonus there are several bone shards perpendicular to the main one.

Me, definitively: "So we’re operating."
Dr. MerkHottie: "Well, I don’t like to tell my patients what to do. But basically your collarbone shattered like a loaf of French bread, that’s why you see those shards. And if we leave the whole thing as is, it’ll probably give you problems later on."
Me: "Yep, definitely operating. My collarbone is my crowning glory, you know."

Dr. MerkHottie is silent and has furrowed his brow slightly. Either he’s worried about his ability to restore my collarbone to its former perfection, or he’s worried about the possibility that’s he’s stuck in a room with a total loon.

Me: "I’m just joking."

He looks relieved.

Dr. MerkHottie: "And if you do sports, the collarbone could also present problems, especially with something like swimming."
Me: "Oh, that’s not good. As a triathlete, I’m very much about the swimming."

To Colleen’s credit, she does NOT break out into loud guffaws.

Dr. MerkHottie: "And you do know that if we operate there’ll be a scar."
Me, with eyebrows raised: "Umm, yeah. That’s what usually happens when you operate......"
Dr. MerkHottie: "Well, some women are surprised and complain that they have a scar, when they wear things that show off their shoulders."
Me: "Not to worry. Not only do I understand the concept of surgery, I also look forward to having a way cool scar that will immediately identify me as a serious cyclist. As if it weren’t already obvious," I add.

Dr. MerkHottie lapses into silence again. But at least we have surgery scheduled, for this Friday. Then later that afternoon Dr. Jeruss calls me and tells me that some lab results came back that show that I might not need chemo after all, just radiation, so she says we might as well go ahead and do the breast cancer surgery as well. So now I have both surgeries scheduled for Friday.

And at this point, all I can say is thank God for broken collarbones! Because the damn thing is bothering me so much, to the point that I can’t sleep and so I get up and pace and try to read and then doze off on the couch and then pace some all I can think is “let’s get this fucking collarbone taken care of already, shall we? Bring on the surgery!” The other surgery doesn’t even enter my head, which is good, because if it did I might be a bit more perturbed about it. But it doesn’t, so I’m not.

Friday, August 29th – Surgery Day

Yet again I have a bone to pick with the crackheads who write for Grey’s Anatomy or any other medical tv show. Because every time a patient is going into surgery, they show said patient engaging in witty banter, engaging repartee, etc., all the way until the counting down and the anesthesia kicks in.


For me, this is how things unfold. First I’m visited by about 8 anesthesiologists – the head one being a cranky schlub who rolls his eyes when I don’t answer his questions quickly enough. Maybe there’s a reason he went into a profession where he just puts people to sleep.

Then soon enough it’s showtime, and they wheel me out of my little room and down a hall, and are about to wheel me over to the adjoining wing, first giving me a little cap to put over my hair. The next thing you know, I’m being poked awake by a nurse and 5 ½ hours have elapsed. WTF? I’m stunned! Outraged! Where the hell was my witty banter, dammit?! I remember nothing! It’s all a bit fuzzy, but as Dr. Jeruss later tells me, apparently I’m still ranting about this when she comes in to tell me that the operation went well. Luckily, as she also explains, one of the nurses said that since I was a finely-honed, clean-living athlete, the anesthesia and drugs probably affected me more than most which is why I was so completely loopy post-surgery. I nod sagely and do nothing to disabuse Dr. Jeruss of this notion. Nothing at all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scenes from a hospital....

NOTE: I do not recall the actual bike crash, anything about the hospital stay except for tiny snippets (actual recollections will be highlighted in a different color), nor most of the subsequent week(s) of recovery when my brain and I were (are) mired in sludge. However, with the use of transcripts and eyewitness accounts, all events have been recreated and depicted here EXACTLY as they occurred, using the fanatical devotion to accuracy and the attention to detail I am widely known for.

I’m riding along, contemplating how much I looove the Dairyland Dare, it being so scenic and such a well-supported ride and so on. I’ve been alternating riding along with Jillian and changing places with her – at this point she’s a bit ahead of me, but I note that we’re just 3 miles from the Clyde rest stop so we’ll catch up to each other there. And given that I’ve ridden about 80 miles so far, I feel pretty damn good. Wheee!

At the Clyde rest stop:

Jillian is wondering where I am - even given my propensity for gazing at butterflies and racing hawks and saving turtles and the like, I should have been at Clyde by now. She asks the next cyclists who arrive if they've seen a girl with a blue jersey somewhere on the road nearby.

Cyclist 1: Yeah, she crashed, looked like she was in shock.
Jillian: WHAT? What do you mean, what happened, where?
Cyclist 2: Not too far back - she was by the side of the road. Definitely in shock. Hey, where are those beef sticks?

Back on the route:

I’ve apparently hit some weird asphalt patch on a steep downhill and am lying in the middle of the road, unconscious. A cycling Good Samaritan pulls me off to the side of the road and carefully places me in a patch of poison ivy. Jillian has found a nice volunteer to drive her on the route until they find me, so she shows up and convinces the SAG wagon folks that it would NOT be a good idea to haul me willy-nilly into their van but rather that we should wait for an ambulance.

The hospital:

Jillian: Tasha, do you know where you are?
Me: No.....
Jillian: Do you know why you’re here? What you were doing?
Me: No. Umm, on a bike ride? Hey, what’s with my bike? WHERE’S SÁLOME??

After some tests, the good people at the Dodgeville Hospital decide that I’m in fine shape and can go home soon as soon as they get the okay from the hospital in Madison, to whom they’ve sent my x-rays.

Dodgeville nurse, cheerfully: Okay then, we can let her leave as soon as we get the okay from Madison.
Colleen and Jillian, looking over at me staring intently at the palm of my hand: We don’t think that’s a good idea. She has no idea where she is – and look at her collarbone!
Dodgeville nurse: Oh, she’ll figure things out soon enough – it’ll come to her. And the collarbone, heck, she can get that patched up anytime!
Colleen and Jillian look over at me again. A migratory barn swallow, having mistaken my jutting broken collarbone for a navigational point similar to, say, the Rock of Gibraltar, is now perched on my shoulder. I am looking at the outline of my hand now with amazement.
Colleen and Jillian, in unison: We’re not taking her home.

At that point, the doctor who’s been watching over me at Dodgeville comes into the room.

Me: Hey, a new person! Who are you?
Doctor: Okay, well, since I’ve now come into this room 6 times and each time you have no idea who I am, we’re transferring you to Madison.

Also at that point, Madison calls and confirms that since I have bleeding on my brain and a severe concussion, the ambulance should cart me over there, to join the other slew of people who’ve been transported to Madison today from my beloved Dairyland Dare. Hmm, though I guess the very name of the ride now has a new connotation.


Apparently my arrival at the Madison ER was met with much fanfare – but I don’t recall a second of it, dammit. What fun is it to be the center of attention if you can’t bask in glory later in the retelling of it all?? Though given my level of contribution to the conversation, I guess I should be happy that I have any friends left at all, and that they didn’t just shoot me and dump me in a creek somewhere. Luckily, Deanna did seem to find some benefit from the situation.

Doctor: Say, where are those special compression socks we were going to put on her so that she wouldn’t get life-threatening blood clots?
Deanna: Hey, look at these cool compression socks I found lying around! I’m going to try them out, go for a short 3-hour run. See you all soon!
Doctor: Say, and where’s that IV??


Me, in the hospital bed, looking at my Watch of Doom: Hey, I have Ironman in 3 weeks.
Colleen: Umm, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Me: But I have IMOO in 3 weeks.
Colleen: No, really, not likely to happen.
Me: I have IMOO in 21 days. See?
Deanna: You have a broken collarbone.
Me: IMOO is in 3 weeks. 21 days.
Annette: Nope.
Me: Lookee, I have Ironman in just 21 days.
Me: IMOO is in 3 weeks.
Me: In 3 weeks is IMOO.
Me: Look, just 3 weeks to Ironman.
Doctor, not unkindly: Well, I’ll tell you that I’m in charge of the medical tent at Ironman Wisconsin, so I can tell you that you will NOT be at Ironman Wisconsin in 3 weeks. At least not doing the race.
Me, giggling: Tee hee. Look, Ironman in 3 weeks!
Suddenly I’m staring at my bare wrist. How odd. There’s no Watch of Doom. I’m beyond puzzled and gape at my bare wrist, though out of the corner of my eye I then spot Deanna fiddling with the buttons on my watch. Suddenly the watch is back on my wrist.
Me: See, Ironman in....311 days? Ironspud? Oh, okay. Hey, where’s my bike?

Later, Deanna keeps getting into trouble with the nurses for not stopping me from removing the “collar” around my neck, the one that’s there in case my neck is injured. But I can sympathize with how tough it must be to stop a person with no reasoning power from doing what they want to do at that moment. It would be like dealing with an adult baby, or a Republican. In my case, things are simple, at least in my own mind – the collar annoys me so I remove it. Repeatedly.

Sunday morning

I’ve somehow decided that I’m all alone in the hospital, that no one knows what happened or where I am, so I of course call Deanna to fill her in. Because it’s not like we’re staying at the same cute little place in Mineral Point, where she might notice my absence or anything. A short while later, the girls troop in with their morning caffeine.

Me: Hey, coffee. Can I get some?
Deanna: You mean like your fancy coffee that you usually drink?
Me: No, I mean coffee. Just coffee.
Deanna: But you don’t drink regular coffee. I should know from all those 5AM road trips to ride our bikes in the hinterlands.
Me, firmly: Coffee, black. How tough is that?
Colleen, who drinks coffee so strong that it would peel paint off a wall if a cup were set down nearby: That makes sense to me.
Deanna: But, you hate plain coffee. Even the stuff with milk, you chug it down like medicine, just for the caffeine.
Me, exasperated: I just want some coffee! With maybe some sugar.
Deanna: SUGAR?!? You’ll put sugar in your coffee when pigs fly. I know how you drink it – it’s 2 cream, 2 Splenda. That’s it.
Me, who’s been distracted by someone walking by in the hallway: Hey, coffee. Can I get some?

So you see my point about being lucky to make it out of there alive.

One final data point to show just how annoying I was revolves around teacakes. You see, there's a bakery in the town of Dodgeville that makes not only the best baked goods known to man, all for a mere pittance, but also makes THE best baked doughy goodness ever, the teacake: a spongy, doughy yet light morsel, replete with raisins and with sugar on top. I got hooked on them several years ago while camping in WI near Dodgeville, and now every time I'm somewhere in the vicinity, I insist on stopping in. So, Deanna and I had stopped in on Friday on our way up to Mineral Point and stocked up.

Well, of course when I see Deanna on Sunday morning she has my box of goodies in tow, and I clutch the box to my bosom as if it's a long-lost friend. But even better, every time one particular young doctor comes in to check up on me, I offer him a teacake.

Me: Would you like a teacake?
Him: No, but thank you. I'm still on duty.
Me: Really, have a teacake. They're very tasty!
Him: Thank you, but I can't right now.
Me: No teacake, huh? Are you sure?

And so on. Every time. Death is probably too kind an option for me at this point. But I have to note that I do emerge victorious, eventually. Finally at about the 20th time he stops in and I ask him the usual, he actually says yes.

Me: Would you like a teacake? They're very tasty.
Him: Wellll, sure, I can have one now.

As I proffer my box of precious baked goods, and he takes one, all is right with the world. Say...... doctors who work on neuro wards are used to us crazy people, right? Someone, please tell me yes.....

(next up – a week of sleep and fuzziness, and then more doctors’ visits.....)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A beautiful day

Okay, now that I have a) finally remembered that I do indeed *have* a blog that tens of people like to read on occasion, and b) been able to type without having to go back and correct EVERY word because it's misspelled or mistyped, I've decided to work on catching everyone up, which contrary to popular belief, will not be insanely epic in length. Why? Well, because much of the last 3 weeks I either recall only fuzzily, or I've been sleeping. So we have a total of about 6 hours of actual movement that needs to be recounted, which isn't too bad. 20 pages, give or take.

In the meantime, while I'm working on said pithy tome, I've also checked my email on occasion, and lo, what do I find today but an alert to the following comment on my blog: "Hello, Just wanted you to know that when I googled "I have completely lost my mind and I need help", this website was number one. So it must be the help that I need. Thank you ever so kindly, James O'Shaughnessey, Gasquet (Darlingtonia) Ca, USA"

In the spirit of the fact-checking, accuracy, and attention to detail that I'm known for, I try this out, and whatdya know, it's true! Actually, if you just google the phrase "I have completely lost my mind" - that's enough to bring up my little blog in the first slot. I am humbled and proud, and would like to thank all of you and/or Google for making this happen. And thank you James O'Shaughnessey for bringing this delight to my attention. Or as we say around these parts: madness takes its toll, please have exact change.