Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I always take the long way home

The rage is almost unbearable. The thought that Betsy Devos dicked around with this for AN ENTIRE YEAR, bleating about “a joint thing!” and “I’m not worried!” and “it can’t be anything since the pain comes and goes!” and on and on. I have one last appointment with her after I get back, for some bloodwork. My speech is prepared; I’m going to tell her what I think of her.

But then, I can’t do it. I’m a fraud. I think I’m still in shock that this is the way all of this is going down. Seriously?? On top of the shit summer I’ve had, now this? Betsy clearly knows she screwed up; she tells me that WHATEVER I want, any prescription, anything I need, let her know and she’ll take care of it. A few days later I message her for an Ativan prescription, and that puppy is at the drugstore in no time flat.  Good thing too, because the thought of waiting until October 2nd for my surgery is in fact making me extremely anxious. Clearly, drugs will be my friend, and will put me at stage 3 on the Kuebler-Ross scale, ie “bitter and drugged up but slightly less obsessive.”

In the meantime, I have one more trip, back to IL for a get-together with old high school classmates. At the same time, I cram in as many visits with other friends as I can, since I don’t know when I’ll be back in Illinois. Friday night, this involved meeting up with the tri girls at a hopping establishment in Ukrainian Village, leading to a series of text messages.

Robyn: We’re never again letting Tasha pick the bar out for us.
Me: What? Stariy Lviv is a classic!
Robyn: I asked for a gin and soda water. The woman told me they have two kinds of soda: Coke and Sprite.
Me: Aaand? That sounds right to me.
Robyn: Yes. IN UKRAINE.
I’m happy to note that after a few shots and a couple of Будьмо!"s here and there, everyone was happy, especially after the delectable varenyky made by the bartender’s mom. It was lovely hanging out with the tri girls, and when Robyn told us her tale of woe, well, it truly put everything into perspective.

Robyn: Not to discount Tasha’s cancer but…… shower curtain rod fell down and it’s just been a disaster to deal with.

Sometimes it hurts to laugh so hard.

* * * * * * * *
I’m also fuming about things that might not occur to (cough) more “mainstream” people. I’m staying with my old friend Laura in Northbrook when I’m in IL, and I have grievances. Lots of grievances.

Me: And you know what ELSE?
Laura: What’s that?
Me: What if it’s cancer and I have 6 months to live thanks to Betsy, and now, here I am, and I haven’t had a chance to have the wedding and shower payback I deserve! ALL THOSE YEARS of wedding after kid’s birthday and baby shower and lingerie shower and blah blah blah and I get NOTHING. That’s bullshit!
Laura: But…I thought you said you have too much stuff?
Me: THAT’S BESIDE THE POINT! I don’t want stuff! It’s the principle of the thing!
Laura: You should have a…..a Cancer Shower!
Me: That’s it! YES. A big-ass party where people have to wear what I tell them to and donate to my favorite charities like Save the Manatees and it’ll be festive and obligatory and the best Cancer Shower ever.
Laura: Yeah it might be the ONLY Cancer Shower ever…..
Me: What’s that?
Laura: Oh, nothing! Great idea!

* * * * * * *
Now that I have an actual diagnosis, I’m not exactly shouting it from the rooftops, but am telling the people who I’ve discussed my maladies with, when I see them. This leads to a bit of cancer redux, and it’s not good.

The other day, as I’m out in the garden, I see a neighbor with whom I’ve had many many many conversations about our respective ailments: his hip problems, my unknown leg/hip problems, with both of us limping around. I even asked him at one point how his hip problem was diagnosed, when I was trying to think of tests that Betsy might actually run.

Me: Hey, how’s it going?
Neighbor: I’m having my next hip surgery in December!
Me: Glad you’re getting that one over with too! And I finally have an update on my leg problem.
Neighbor: Which? Oh, your knee?
Me: Umm, no. The whole leg/hip/back thing I’ve had for months, where I couldn’t walk?
Neighbor: Oh right.
Me: Blah blah mass blah blah surgery blah thanks Betsy.
Neighbor:…..(says nothing, mouth agape)
Me, after a pause: Yeah, I know, it’s kind of shocking whe…
Neighbor, interrupting: Hey, I really have to go, I really gotta go pee.

Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? As I turn away in silence and go back to the garden, I hear him yell “I’m sure it’ll all be fine!” and I mutter to myself, oh sure, cancer is always fine, and you can go fuck yourself. For the first time since all this crap started, I’m brought back rather harshly to CancerWorld, where people disappear or they say stupid things and you’re left all on your own to deal with an incomprehensible medical system, crazy bills, feeling like crap, and endless contemplating of one’s mortality. Sure, everything will be just fine.

Then there’s the friend who, when I told him what was going on, within the context of an evening of ax throwing, just…said nothing. Sat there and smiled. And when I mentioned I might seriously need a malpractice lawyer, he commented on a potential job offer he had received from a law firm that does malpractice, but he’d need to commute. This one just stunned me into speechlessness. Look, people, it’s not hard. There’s a LOT of pablum out there that makes for decent (or at least inoffensive) responses.

“Oh, I’m sorry, that sucks.”
“Ugh, that’s horrible.”
“OMG you’re kidding A WHOLE YEAR??”

See? Not that difficult. I can forgive young people who haven’t navigated enough of the world and might stumble over what to say, but people in their 40s+? No. Just no. Get it together, people, and act like adults.

Speaking of ax throwing, yes, I went to a cider bar that had the opportunity to practice one’s ax throwing skills on Friday the 13th. I of course wore my “Do Epic Shit” t-shirt in honor of Cancerchick Paige, who died recently, and left us all with a great example of how to live. Fiercely, badassedly, and of course, doing epic shit. Always.
 * * * * * * *

“Cori, I must be dying.”

This is my latest call to Cori.

“No, really. You know how I had to cancel Cycle Oregon because Ragbrai was such a shitshow and I couldn’t bike? Well, I had bought travel insurance in case the ride was cancelled, but I figured they’d try to weasel out of paying for this since it wasn’t an injury like a broken leg or something.”

“I just got a text, a week after I filled out the form, that I’d be getting a full refund. They must have called Betsy’s office and she told them that she fucked up, and ‘FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY GIVE HER WHATEVER MONEY SHE WANTS, SHE’S PISSED OFF ENOUGH AS IT IS!’”

Cori seems skeptical, but I’m sure of it. I mean, I’m happy to have the refund, but since when do insurance companies pay out right out of the gate? Never. I’m doomed.

* * * * * *
For some reason, I’m now becoming obsessed with Gilda Radner and the fact of her not coming out of surgery. She didn’t want to be put under because she was positive she wouldn’t awaken…..and she didn’t. Somehow, I feel I can make a point about this to my surgeon while keeping it light-hearted, and I don’t know what the fuck  all I was thinking with that, but then I read an article that talked about the 10 months her doctors ignored her symptoms, with one of the last ones being “sharp pain up and down her right leg,” after which they “removed a grapefruit-sized mass from her abdomen” and well at that point I decided this all was hitting a bit too close to home.

At least I know I won’t have any “unknown” or random babbling about Gilda while I’m going into surgery, as I’ve made my aversion to Versed very clear. Versed, aka the “forgetting drug,” as I call it. Never again. If I wanted to be yammering about stupid stuff and not remember any of it later, I’d go back to doing shots of peach schnapps like I did in college, so no thanks.

* * * * * * *
A week ago I got a call from a scheduler at the hospital, who told me that there had been a cancellation, and that I could have my surgery on September 25th instead of October 2nd. Did I want to switch? Oh hell yes. One less week of being insanely stressed sounds pretty good to me. Yes, twos of readers, my surgery is this morning. I had my pre-op appointment yesterday, and alas, even after a CT scan, I have no more information than I did before. The possible scenarios range from them going in and removing the ovary and mass with no problem, to them finding cancer and things stuck together and having to do a full gut-opening exploratory thing. That’s the nerve-wracking part, ie going into surgery and not having any idea of what things will be like when you wake up. If you wake up.

When I ride my bike for miles and miles and find the happiness that always seems so elusive, I do a lot of thinking. Much of that thinking is about my stupid, cursed life, and how it got to this point, but I also sometimes think about the fact that we never truly know what other people are thinking or feeling or going through. Maybe that person with a short fuse has just found out she might have cancer, or that sad surly guy has a dog that just died.  Yes, there are a lot of jerks out there, and we don’t have to be nice to everyone. But sometimes it soothes me to think: we are all just walking each other home.

That’s all.

We are all just walking each other home.

All the empty things disguised as me

As I arrive in Oregon, I drive back to the Manor with no small amount of trepidation, wondering what UHA destroyed in his psychoticness. Luckily, he “only” stole a bunch of stuff and broke some things, but nothing major has been destroyed. I bake strudel for the neighbors who had to deal with him and who kept an eye on my place, and they assure me that none of the clusterfuck was my fault.

The next day, I go for my appointment with Betsy, and my hopes are dashed, yet again.

Betsy: So we’ll do a bonescan and some x-rays.
Me: But x-rays won’t show stuff like bulging or herniated discs, right?
Betsy: True, but insurance won’t approve anything else. I’ll send you to physical therapy.
Me: But…what’s the point of PT if I can’t tell them what’s wrong?
Betsy: Sometimes PT can help pinpoint or narrow down what the problem is.

Really? And do we know this insurance thing for a fact, or is Betsy just trying to keep costs down? I look into DIY MRI places, and in Oregon, an MRI is around $1500 each, and I have no idea what the actual issue might be. Luckily, I see Cancerchick Cori at a spa retreat in New Mexico a couple of weeks later, and lo and behold, she Has Ideas.

Cori: Dan can write you a referral! Get all the MRIs when you’re in Illinois!
Me: How much are they?
Cori: I’ll have his office person email the price lists.

Dan being her husband, a chiropractor, and sure enough, each MRI is only about $300.

Me: I’m doing ALL OF THEM! Lumbar, thoracic, cervical, shoulder.
Cori: Uhh, each one takes about an hour.
Me: Fine! I’ll have a cocktail beforehand, and then I’ll just be dozing.
Cori: Dan says, don’t do thoracic – nothing ever shows up on that one.
Me: Okay, I’ll just do the rest.

I spend our spa retreat weekend NOT going on the hikes that Cori goes on, because I can barely walk, but I do get a private lesson in rifle shooting, where I am a total sniper, even though I’ve never shot a rifle before. Now, I’m not saying I have a gun and will take out anyone who fucks with me….but I have a gun and will take you out if you fuck with me.

When I get back to Oregon, I message Betsy yet again, telling her that the pain is getting worse, that I can’t stand the length of time needed to do anything in the kitchen AT ALL, and that I almost cancelled my out of town trip because it’s so bad. Which is true – I only didn’t because I figured a spa retreat with hot pools and massage is the only kind of trip I can take at this point. The airport was a problem though- so hard to walk that I thought, my god, I’m going to have to be one of those people pushing people aside to get a scooter! And getting a handicapped parking sticker, whereby people will glare at me because I don’t LOOK disabled (except when I’m walking slowly, hunched over in pain), and I’ll tell them to fuck right off. Awesome.

Betsy tells me that she finally put in a referral for a hip MRI – just the hip, based on a random guess because the hip hurts all of the time while the back is more sporadic. So the next Monday, I have the hip MRI in Silverton, and then get the red-eye that night to go to Illinois to help my mom with final packing and moving, and so I’ve booked my trifecta of MRIs for the next Tuesday. I have this fleeting thought – what if nothing shows up? What if I look like a total fraud? Like I have phantom pains but nothing is physically wrong? Man, would I ever feel like a dumbass.

I go for the hip MRI in Oregon. FINALLY. I try to read the demeanor of the tech doing the scan: is that a look of sympathy? Of impending doom? Hmm. Betsy later messages me through the patient portal to tell me she doesn’t have results yet, probably on Tuesday. On Tuesday I’m in IL, getting my other MRIs done.  I walk out and check the patient portal. Lo, a message from Betsy!

(Now, if I were a horrible person, I’d leave things here as a cliffhanger until next season. But I’m not, so, off we go.)

Betsy: I have the results from the hip MRI, and it looks like you do have a torn labrum in the hip. Buttherearesomeotherthingsthatareconcerningsocanyoucomeintoseemetoday?

I read that whole second part just as I imagine she wrote it, rapidly and all squished together, when you’re trying to stuff in bad news unnoticed.

Wait. Say what? “Something concerning”????

Me: Umm, that sounds worrisome. I’m in Illinois and won’t be back in Oregon until next week. What’s going on?
Betsy: You have a very large cyst on the left side of your abdomen near your ovary, this could be the cause of any lower back pain- as it is big enough to push backward and press on nerves, etc.
Betsy: I’m sending you a referral to a gynecological oncologist – it needs to come out as it is too large. I am not worried but always act quickly on any abnormal findings.

A mass. Large. Nerves. Pain. A LARGE MASS.


I look at the report she sends. “This cyst measures 9.7” x 6.9 by 8.2 cm. Differential certainly includes an ovarian tumor.”

What. The. Everloving. Fuck. A mass the size of a grapefruit floating around in my pelvic region. That’s probably been there for the PAST YEAR, growing away, merrily. While Betsy has been dismissing my debilitating pain as “oh, just a joint thing. I’m not worried!”

I call Cori.  Our conversation consists of a lot of “fucking Betsy!!” and “it has to be a cyst” and promises to St. Elizabeth of Hungary that if she comes through on this and makes it a cyst, I’ll name a jam after her. And more:

Me: Cori, what if I turn into a religious nutball? What THEN?
Cori: It won’t happen, but if it does, at least swear fealty to St. Elizabeth.
Me: I know, I could have a whole line of religious jams! All the forgotten saints: St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Cornelius. There’s a Cornelius, right?
Cori: Hell yes.
Me: I just got an amazing 1890 piano from the nicest people in Salem. If this is cancer, first, I can guarantee I’ll be the most bitter and rageful person this world has ever seen. Then, I’m going to play haunting and lugubrious melodies at 2AM, like a tragic heroine of yore. Or maybe I’m thinking of the Haunted Mansion at DisneyWorld. Whatever, close enough.
Cori: Excellent idea.
Me: And I’ll wear even more shirts, hats, etc. that say “fuck” on them.  Snarl at people while driving and tell them to fuck off. Okay so it seems like a lot of these are things I do already. I may have to work on this list.
Cori: Hey, it’s a work in progress.
Me: I’m going to be fighting with large people at Walmart for the scootypuffs.
Cori: You don’t shop at Walmart.
Me: But still. The point stands.
Cori: Uhh, no it doesn’t?
Me: Whatever.  Hey, maybe it could be a new reality tv show! Scooter Wars.

Cori must have lost her phone connection, because the line goes dead. Oh well.

Later, I get the results from the Illinois MRIs, which show:

Shoulder: oh look, a shoulder/labral tear
Cervical: a synovial cyst pressing against nerves
Lumbar: bulging discs, severe facet osteoarthritis, and OH LOOK IT’S THE BORG

Yes, the mass shows up on this MRI as well. Since the imaging place also uploads the actual scans, Cori and I spend a lot of time studying and dissecting them.

Me: If I compare it to pictures of ovarian tumors, it looks like a malignancy. See? There’s….texture, or something.
Cori: But it seems smooth and round, so that’s good.
Me: Which blob is it exactly? I’m assuming it’s the big white blob.
Cori: I think so? Let me ask Julian.

Julian is Cori’s son, who I (ahem) helped with his medical school applications, and he is now (ahem) a doctor.

Cori: Julian says we’re looking at the bladder.
Me: Of course we are. How can anyone ever tell what anything is on these??
Cori: I have no idea. It all looks the same to me.
Me: If the mass lights up, what are those are areas that are lit up, like in the lungs? Are those….lung masses??
Cori: I think fluid lights up. Maybe.

We give up, at least for the night.

In the meantime, I head back to my mom’s place with cookies, cannoli, and booze. I know she’s going to start once I walk in the door, asking why I bought so much stuff when we’re trying to pack up everything, so I preempt her.

Me: Mom, before you say anything, I got my results and I have a huge cyst that needs surgery so we need booze and cookies and that’s all there is to it.

That’s the extent of what I tell my mom, because really, it could be true. And the thing is, when you have a lot to deal with yourself, you just don’t have the mental energy to console other people.

Normal Brother gets to town the next night, and I tell him what’s going on, rather unceremoniously as we’re picking up pizza in town.

Me: Let’s get a drink at the bar while they’re packing up our pizza.
NB: We can have a drink at mom’s, we might as well get goin….
Me: I might have cancer again.
NB: So, let’s have a drink at the bar!
NB: And, you couldn’t wait until we were somewhere in Missouri to tell me this?
Me: I thought about it, but then you’d be a captive audience and it might put a damper on our epic Rt. 66 road trip.
NB: Oh, and we wouldn’t want THAT to happen.
Me: Exactly!

The next day, I go for my final bike ride on the bucolic country roads of Huntley. The ride out is lovely. Fast, quiet, peaceful. I had checked the weather and there was going to be very little wind. I turn around at 20 miles so that this is a quick out and back, and….what fresh hell is this? WIND???  I actually shake my fist at the sky, no lie.

Me:  Couldn’t I have JUST ONE RIDE without the DAMN WIND?????

Yes, I’ve become the crazy old man shouting at the sky. So be it.

I get back to my mom’s house and set about moving things and putting aside boxes and loading up the car with what we’re taking with us. My mom sees me hunched over and limping around and in serious pain and is appalled, and I realize how much I’ve gotten used to this over the past year.

(Ed. Note: the Rt. 66 road trip was indeed epic, and will have to be the subject of a future blog post.)

* * * * * * * * *
It’s amazing how quickly things happen now, because Betsy sent a referral to the surgeon/oncologist that day, and I have an appointment with him the day after I get back to Oregon.
Me: So, can you tell where the mass is originating? Is it ovarian, or uterine, or something else? I’m confused.
Surgeon: Well, the mass is so large that we really can’t tell where it’s originating from.
Me: And you can’t tell if it’s malignant or not from the MRI.
Surgeon: No, we won’t know until we actually take it out.
Me: So....just tell me the truth. What do you think are the chances it's cancer?
Surgeon: I'd say, 25%.

25%? That doesn't sound very good.

Me: What will the surgery consist of?
Surgeon: We’ll take out the mass and the ovary on that side, and then if people have a cancer history, we’ll take out the uterus and other ovary and…
Me: Umm, no.
Surgeon: Well, it would put you immediately into menopause, so that’s a drawback.
Me: Plus, I know this is dumb and stupid and I’m old as dirt, but….I still had this thought that I could have a baby. That obviously can’t happen if I don’t have a uterus.
Surgeon: Okay, we can leave it.
Me: Okay.
Surgeon: But.
Surgeon: Well… looks like the mass might be vascularly attached to the uterus.
Me: So obviously you wouldn’t be able to remove just the mass in that case.
Surgeon: Right.
Me: I’m not stupid, and you can’t leave the mass in, so, if that’s the case, do what you have to do.

Fuck. My. Life.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Things fall apart

I return to camp and go to check in with Mike, the Bike Guy.

MtBG: Well, your handlebars were mangled and I pushed them back into place and replaced the bar tape. The derailleur was crumpled so that too I shoved back into a semblance of functionality. Tires, shredded, replaced. The frame looks okay, but you know there’s no guarantee with carbon fiber.
Me: Good enough. Can you put the new saddle on?
MtBG: Sure. Oh, and the derailleur hanger, I don’t like the looks of it. But there are so many different kinds that I don’t have a replacement – try to ask another bike repair place during the week. Soon. Hopefully soon.

This qualifies as a “good enough” in my book.

The next morning

The first day of RAGBRAI! It’s pouring out. Team Sloth sloths around for a while, but eventually, we need to get moving. My bike seems….okay? Knock on wood and all that.

Now. We know about the leg/hip/back problems. I’ve been riding all summer and those have been constant once I’m OFF the bike, but on the bike? Fine. Until today. Because as soon as I start riding, I have horrible pain in my:

-       Left shoulder blade
-       Left shoulder
-       Left arm
-       all of the above
Yes folks, ALL OF THE FUCKING ABOVE. I swear I am not making this up. Out of absolutely nowhere, I am in serious pain, with that pain radiating down my entire arm. What fresh hell is this??

I honestly think to myself, I’m going to have to SAG all week. This is horrible. Maybe it’ll go away. Why am I cursed? WHO WAS I IN A FORMER LIFE?????

These are my thoughts as I toodle along the countryside, in the rain. I am going to cry. I hate my life. Later in the day, I’m attempting to message with neighbor Stephanie to see what’s going on with UHA. Though in a sense I know that shit is going down, because he keeps calling me. And leaving ramblings messages and text messages, all along the same lines – that is, after his first couple of texts where he told me how crazy Stephanie and I are. Then, he apparently thinks of himself as the so-called adult in the room.

UHA: Let’s discuss this like adults.
UHA: I’m going to keep calling so you need to call me back.
UHA: Call me now. This isn’t working for me.

I block him, and then call the Keystone Cops in Silverton to report someone on my property who won’t vacate it. Whereupon I discover that in Oregon, if someone has been anywhere on your property for more than 15 days, they’re considered a resident. No, seriously. I have no words.


I’m in a lovely small town in Iowa when I get a text from Stephanie.

Stephanie: I don’t think you were getting rid of these, were you? UHA put them against the fence with notes that they were “free.”

There’s a picture that I can’t see (see: no connectivity), but I can tell this isn’t good. I try to call Stephanie to see what’s going on, with no luck. In the meantime, I’m taking oxy to see if that’ll help with the new shoulder/arm problem, along with the 800mg ibuprofen horsepill. I bike to the next town, hasn’t helped, take another oxy. They’re only 5mg, so what the hell, right? It does occur to me to take notes on my phone, in case I pass out in a ditch somewhere. #mesosmart

Finally, I can see the pic that Stephanie sent, and UHA has propped up some antique doors that I had behind the garage against the fence, indicating that they’re free for the taking. What. The. Fuck. Time to call the police! Surely now they can do something, since this asshole has actually stolen things, right?

Me: Blah blah, so he can be charge for theft, right? This is outright theft.
Keystone Cop: What’s that again?
Me, shouting on a crap connection: THEFT! HE’S A THIEF.
KC: What’s his name again?
Me: UHA. He has a record, so you have him in your files.
KC: He put something against a fence?
Me: He STOLE items that do NOT belong to him. Giving them away is the same thing as STEALING.
KC: He put a door against a fence?

I didn’t say that last part, but I was certainly thinking it. I was informed that they’d go by my house “if we have time, we’re very busy” and when I asked if he’d be charged with theft, “I can’t tell you anything about what may or may not happen.”


More oxy and ibuprofen. I’m biking with Mary Beth and Michelle, when I see a sign for Bloody Marys.
Me: Oh look, Bloody Marys! I’m in, who’s with me?
Mary Beth: Great idea, nothing like washing the oxycontin down with a couple of Bloody Marys!

This is, objectively, hilarious. We stop for a cocktail. In this town, as in many others, there’s a tent set up with local medical people, in case anyone has a minor ailment.

Me: So…….if someone is having severe shoulder pain, for example, how much oxy can they take? In addition to the 800mg ibuprofen.
Nurse: What strength?
Me: 5mg.
Nurse: One. MAYBE two after a little while, but that’s it.

I don’t bother telling her I’ve already taken 3. That seems incidental, no?

I’m also trying to check in with Stephanie to see what’s happening with UHA. Is he gone? Packing up?

Stephanie:  UHA seems to have a lot of respect for Sarah, so I’ve talked to her and she’s trying to call him, but he's obviously avoiding her.
Me: Why doesn’t she go to the house?
Stephanie: I don’t know.

I try messaging and calling Sarah as well. She ignores me.

That night

The girls and I head into town to get some dinner. My leg problem is getting worse. We’re standing around looking at our food choices, and I just can’t – standing makes my leg/hip worse.

Me: I don’t care where we go; I can’t stand anymore.
Michelle: Let’s walk down to the next block and see what the Mexican restaurant looks like.
Me: I. Can’t. Walk. I can’t. Down the block is too far. You guys go check it out, I’ll wait here.

This is what it’s come to, and I decide, enough. I’m going to call my oncologist the next day, and hope that maybe SHE’LL get me in for some kind of scan. This is insane.

And oh look, a text from Stephanie.

Stephanie: UHA got arrested.
Me: …….

Apparently the Keystone Cops were driving by the Manor, saw UHA, and only then decided to look him up. And saw that he had a warrant for his arrest.  So the police force of Silverton showed up to take him in, he resisted arrest, and poof, off he went to the clink. Great. And the sad story that Sarah passed off about him “down on his luck” and having “made some bad choices a long time ago”? Yeah, those bad choices would include BEATING SOMEONE UP the month before at the local mini-mart.

Then we find out that the guy he beat up? Was BRIAN, THE OWNER OF MY FAVORITE LOCAL COFFEE HUT.

I message Sarah about this.

Sarah: I didn’t know it was Brian.

Oh, but the fact that he beat someone up just a month ago was fine? Thanks, Sarah. You and your “sheltering services” can just go fuck yourself.

Today Michelle and I are wandering around Some Small Town when we see a sign for “Popesicles.” Hmm. I’m intrigued. Not only do they have aforementioned popesicles, but they also have “holy water” beer kozies. Well. If these are blessed, I might be in business. Not that I’m especially religious, but hell, I’ll take all the blessings I can get at this point.

Me to woman: So, have the beer kozies been blessed?
Nice woman dealing with us lunatics all day: Hmm, I don’t think so.
Me: Can we get them blessed? I need all the help I can get these days.
Nice woman: I don’t see why not. Father! Father! Do you have the holy water?
Priest from Ghana: I’ll go get it!

He goes inside the church, and who am I to argue with this, the Anointing of the Beer Kozies? He blesses the kozies, I get one and buy a couple of popesicles for Michelle and myself (frozen grapes dipped in jello powder  = weird sounding but delicious) and shove money at these lovely church people, certain in the knowledge that I’ve just bought myself some holy good luck. Okay, probably not, but it can’t hurt.


I’m now trying to make an appointment with my oncologist, again trying to make calls from lovely middle-of-nowhere Iowa. No really, it IS lovely….but there’s crap cell phone reception. Finally I get through.

Me: Blah blah blah.
Office: An appointment, okay. Umm. So it looks like you haven’t seen Dr. Conlin in 3 years. You need a new referral.
Me: A…what? She’s my oncologist. I’m not a new patient.
Office: If it’s been 3 years you need a referral.
Me: But….I’ve had my mammograms, I just haven’t seen her because they’ve been fine. My insurance doesn’t need a referral.
Office: it’s a requirement of our office.

I call Betsy’s office, tell them I need a referral and I need one fast. They get snippy with me. Oh, DO NOT EVEN give me any bullshit. DO NOT.


I call Betsy’s office. She’s not in today. They’re still snippy. Fuck off.

UHA apparently vacated the premises overnight, and stole a bunch of shit. I call the police again.

Me: Blah blah blah, stole a bunch of shit.
KC: Do you have it on video?
Me: Umm, no. You’re saying you only investigate if there’s video evidence?
KC: Yes.
Me: So people can do anything they want, and it’s fine as long as it’s not recorded? Credible testimony is ignored?
KC: Did you see him steal the Shopvac?
Me: No. But it was in the shed last night, he got his stuff this morning, now the Shopvac is gone.
KC: Well, that doesn’t mean anything.
Me: ……..

I forge ahead.

Me: Now that he’s gone, he can’t step foot on my property, right?
KC: Did you trespass him?
Me: What the hell does THAT mean? I can just declare him a trespasser?
KC: No, it’s something we do.
Me: So you do this, and then he can’t come on my property?
KC: Right.
Me: And if he does I can….
KC: Call 911 and wait for us to show up.
Me: Oh. Right. Of course I would do absolutely that. No question.


I call Betsy’s office, and talk to Snippy Woman. I still don’t have this damn referral. I’ve also made an appointment with my former PA, who left this office to start her own practice with a couple of doctors. Then, I have a message from Betsy on the patient portal.

Betsy: Why do you want a referral? Do you think this is bone mets? Do you have night sweats, fatigue, overall systemic symptoms?
Me: Really?? I saw you a year ago for the leg pain i was having, which at the time you said was "probably just a joint thing." Now it's that leg, hip and back as well, and it is debilitating and constant. I cannot walk at all without pain, sometimes severe pain. I went to the chiropractor as you suggested, and that was a waste of time and money.

She sends the referral. But then I find out that the referral won’t go through because I have new health insurance. At least though Betsy is now saying she’ll order some x-rays, so that’s a start, even as I suspect it’s not a bone issue but something else that’s somehow nerve-related.

(When I get back and see Betsy, she mentions that she had spoken to the doctor at the practice about my case, and his response? “She has a cancer history and has had unexplained pain for a while? Of course we should be doing some scans.”)

Back at the actual Ragbrai, I had stopped taking the oxy and ibuprofen after 2 days, because it wasn’t doing jack shit. I'm biking along and see a repair tent from Trek, and since my bike is a Trek Madone, I figure I’ll ask them about that derailleur hanger to see if they have the right kind.

Me: So, my bike fell off our car driving out to Ragbrai, and our bike mechanic thought I should look into replacing the derailleur hanger.
Trek guy: Oh, we probably have that kind, but you know, we can replace it and give you your old one to keep with you, or you can hang on to a new one and replace it if you need to, because I’m sure it’s fi……okay so we’re going to replace this right now.
Me: You think it needs it?
Trek guy: It’s cracked. If it had broken while you were riding, let’s just say, it would have been ugly.

I guess that’s what passes for my kind of luck these days. Thanks, holy beer kozy?

And on the bright side, my ramping up has actually, finally worked. I’m passing people left and right, even guys who – no lie – speed up after I pass them and make asinine comments like “well NOW I’m awake!” I’ve discovered that the shoulder/arm pain is slightly less excruciating if I dip that shoulder down and tilt my head all the way to the right. I’m looking like a complete idiot as I’m riding, so there’s that. Life is so awesome I almost can’t stand it.

Friday night

All week I’ve been wearing my “Any Functioning Adult 2020” button, which the people of Iowa have just loved. Older women in candy shoppes in small towns wondering why no one has taken him out yet, the person working the table of geodes at Iowa’s National Geode State Park proclaiming that a geode would be a vast improvement, etc. But all this time I’ve also had the Fat Baby Trump balloon that I haven’t been able to have blown up, because I haven’t seen a helium emporium. Finally, Friday night, after margarita night at our charter camp, I’m determined. Fat Baby Trump will fly again! I make some calls. Dollar Tree has helium. Victory is within reach.

I hop on my bike and drunkenly toodle off to the Dollar Tree a mile down the road. When I walk in and ask, the first store clerk isn’t sure they can fill it up. She calls over the manager. Uh oh.

Manager: A balloon? Sure, we can fill that.
Me: Great!
Manager, as she’s trying to get the nozzle on, and turning it over: What is it…..omg, hahahahaha, this is awesome!

I admit, I stereotypically thought she wouldn’t like FBT, but no, she’s dying laughing, and calls over the other clerk, who also starts laughing. These people are my new best friends. I proudly tie FBT to the back of my bike and go back to camp. Much incredulous laughter ensues, even though at night, the specter of FBT looming above in the dark is a bit frightening. These are the sacrifices we make for our art.


FBT is a smashing success. Mostly it’s the Iowans who love the balloon and take pictures – in one case for a grandfather who’s a fervent trump hater and rails against him to anyone who’ll listen. These are my people. I’m careful to keep my bike with me as opposed to propping it up against lamp posts and such as usual; no sense taking any chances that a derelict neanderthal trump supporter (but I repeat myself) will decide to abscond with FBT, or just destroy him.

For the drive back, I insist on putting my bike IN the truck, and there's silent agreement on this. Over the next couple of days, before I leave Illinois for Oregon, I go for one last ride on my beloved country roads. My shoulder and arm are still killing me, of course. I want to cry. I can't help but think, my life has completely gone to shit since Kone died. It seems fitting.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Miss Tasha’s Series of Calamitous Events

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
This is me, in the back seat of Mike’s pickup, realizing my bike is mangled somewhere on the highway. I’m in shock. The bike falling off the bike rack is every cyclist's worst nightmare, but it never happens. Except to me, of course. Mike has pulled over.

Mike: Where? What?
Michelle: Omg. Omg.

Mike starts driving, slowly. Just then – and luckily we’re already on the highway in Iowa and there are few other cars about – another pickup pulls up alongside us and tells us what the deal is.

Nice people in pickup: Your bike is dragging behind your truck!

We pull over and get out. The bike is indeed dragging behind Mike’s truck. Somehow, fortuitously, after we strapped the bike on, I spied an extra bungee chord and strapped my bike wheel to Mike’s bike’s wheel, and it’s still holding. Right, the thick rubber straps somehow didn’t hold my bike on, but the bungee did.

My bike is somewhat….mangled, but seemingly all in one piece. We can’t do anything about it now, so we put it in the back of the truck bed with the luggage, and drive on. I sit in back staring into space, in shock, thinking, fuck my fucking life, because seriously, what the fuck.
 * * * * * * *

Now, I should note that after Betsy dismissed my leg/hip/back pain YET AGAIN, I did in fact see a chiropractor, because, why not? I suspected a bulging or herniated disc problem, as that seemed like it could be pushing against nerves and causing the leg pain. For the entire month of June, I saw a lovely chiropractor in Silverton, and after a month, even he admitted that it had done absolutely nothing. He referred me to an orthopedist, at my request. Said orthopedist was also lovely, did an x-ray of my hip, which also showed nothing. He referred me to a back specialist, who I didn’t have time to see before leaving for Ragbrai.

* * * * * * *

I should also mention now the saga with Unhinged Homeless Asshole, or UHA. In May I had hired upon referral from Sarah W. (who runs Sheltering Services in Silverton) someone to clean out the washhouse. He then revealed that he was living out of his van, and asked if he could temporarily park his van on the fringes of my property; in a temporary fit of attempting to model the ideals of a “compassionate Silverton,” I said yes, based on the fact that Sarah recommended him, they had “known each other a long time,” would “vouch for him,” etc. This was what’s known as a Bad Move. And before I left for Ragbrai, I needed to talk to him to tell him to move on already, but he had disappeared for several days.

So to recap: I’m in nowhere Iowa trying to figure out my mangled bike, with little connectivity or cell phone reception, and there’s UHA back home and my neighbor who I’ve hired again this year to water the garden. For the bike, luckily at our charter we have My Bike Guy, ie a bike repair guy who’s there all week. I leave him to look over the bike, and I head off to the Expo to buy a new saddle. Mine has been shaved down with frightening precision from being dragged along the highway, such that only about half of it is left. I get a text.

Neighbor who lives behind me: Are you home?
Me: Umm, no, I’m in Iowa.
Neighbor: Half of your tree fell into my yard.

Say….what? Which tree? Wtf?

The old apple tree in the back of my yard has fallen backwards onto the fence, with part of it brushing against the neighbor’s shed. No, there’s no storm, no wind. Yes, this is totally random. I start trying to find someone who can deal with this. I get a text.

Garden Watering Neighbor: UHA thought he was going back to jail, but he left his dog here. And he put a lock on the washhouse so I can’t get to the tomato fertilizer. Oh, and he told Emma to move so he could take a nap on the patio couch. And the tree, he’s decided he’s going to “help” with it, and I keep telling him to NOT TOUCH ANYTHING AT ALL.

What. The. Fuck.

I text UHA to tell him to get his shit and get off my property. I find someone who’ll remove the tree. I limp to the Expo, find a replacement Terry Butterfly saddle, start limping back to our campsite. My leg is killing me. I wonder, can things possibly get worse?

Oh yes, dear one of readers. Oh. Yes.