Monday, October 28, 2019

I belong with you, you belong with me

Today is the 2-year anniversary of my beloved HRH the Kone’s death, and it still feels as if no time at all has passed.  His last days haunt me, as does the guilt that I did the wrong things, and the end was terrible. I’ll never not be bitter that he was stolen from me so early and in such cruel fashion. And I still cry every time I think of him; Kone was my heart, my soul, everything.

I recently had an epiphany of sorts, realizing that getting a dog in general makes absolutely no sense, as it always leads to certain heartbreak in the end. Always. Given lifespans, there can be no other ending: it’s like an endless loop of Logan’s Run, where everyone dies at the age of 21. Or 35. Whatever, it’s fuzzy. But this is one part of why I’m anti-dog, for myself at least.

Having said all that, rattling around in a big house with a big fenced-in yard alone seems churlish, so at the beginning of the year I started fostering for the Marion County Dog Shelter in Salem. It’s been…..interesting. Let’s take a look back, shall we?


I offer to foster Enzo, a stray who they have little info on other than that he’s not good with other dogs, so he needs a no-pet foster home, and he’s too skinny. Miss Tasha’s Fatten ‘em Up Camp it is! Sweet Enzo is a devilish little rascal who wastes no time in making himself at home. He loves to snuggle, play with all the toys, and has no manners whatsoever. Thankfully he’s a quick learner. He’s adopted by a wonderful couple that I stay in touch with.


I….who….what….why, why did no one ever tell me black Labs are insane? Aster is the sweetiest, smushiest, cuddliest black bear of a Lab…and she’s insane. Or at least my definition, where she does. Not. Stop. At all. Ever. There’s no off switch. No matter how much I throw the ball, she lopes back to me happily, waiting for me to toss it again. And again. I bribe Thomas and Allen to throw the ball for her, but they prove themselves to be an unreliable workforce. (Note to self: avoid hiring cheap labor ages 5 and 7.)
I develop chuck-it elbow. I get two, and rotate throwing. It’s not enough. We go to different dog parks in my foolish hopes that a new venue will get her excited and tire her out. Hahahahaha!

She too goes to a wonderful couple, after I query multiple times about their previous Lab experience. They know. Whew.


I haven’t had a chance to foster all spring/summer due to bike stuff, travel, then the aforeblogged medical stuff. Somehow I randomly decide the week before I’m going out of town (again) that it’s a good time to get another foster, so I offer to take Zeek, a Dobe mix of some sort. I’m schedule to pick him up that afternoon, when I get an email.

Shelter person J.: I just learned that Zeek is on hold to be adopted, sorry about that! Could you possibly take Opie? He’s a 10-year-old Chihuahua who’s stressed out in the shelter.

Opie? A geriatric Chihuahua? I’m bemused by the thought of me, the quintessential big dog person, with a wee pup named Opie. Okay then!
Then, another email.

Shelter person J: I’m sorry again, I just learned that Opie is going to a rescue! How about Murphy? We don’t know much about him and could use some additional info.
Me: Sure! And I’m happy to take a different dog as well, just let me know what’s needed.

I go in, and A. tells me about Murphy.

A.: Honestly, he seems kind of feral – we actually had to catch him in a trap since he was eluding us for so long. So far I’m the only one who’s been working with him.

A. and another employee D. and I go outside with Murphy – or rather, A. takes him to the outdoor fenced-in yard, and D. and I follow at a distance. Murphy looks at us only to look displeased at our presence.

A.: I’m the only person he’s really been in contact with, so he might only trust me. We think he might have some wolf in him?

We all gaze at Murphy and his big black shaggy wolf-eyed self. Murphy now refuses to look at any of us but has his tail down and exudes unapproachability.

D.: Look at him! He’s so BEAUTIFUL!

I look at Murphy, who looks like he wants to eat anyone who isn’t A.

A.: You know, I’m not sure it’s the best idea to send him to a home with a brand new person, given he’s only comfortable with me so far. We should try getting him used to other people at the shelter first.
Collectively: So, maybe another dog?

We head back inside, and I tell A. to just let me know what other dog needs to get out of the shelter most, if only for a week before I leave town. She’s about to bring me back to meet a couple, when we’re informed that apparently that’s a no-no, A. can only describe them and then I can choose from that. Okay then.
A.: Well, there’s Pongo who’s a pit bull mix, very sweet, stressed out in the shelter, around 80 pounds. Then there’s Tommy, a Thai Ridgeback, REALLY hates the shelter, around 45 pounds.
Me: I….damn. I really really love the pibbles, but…I can’t walk very well and have an upcoming surgery, so I should probably take the smaller dog since he’ll be easier to handle. Okay, I’ll take Tommy.


What the hell is a Thai Ridgeback? Time to do some research. Hmm. “The Thai Ridgeback is a primitive dog breed that originates from Thailand, dating back at least three thousand years, and while it is common there, it is very rare in other parts of the world. In fact, it is estimated that there are only a thousand Thai Ridgeback dogs outside of Thailand, and only about 300 in the U.S.”

Okay, so clearly this isn’t a Thai Ridgeback, because how would one of these end up in a shelter in Salem? Granted, he does have a ridge, so that must have prompted the guess at a breed by the shelter.

Then I look at some pictures of actual Thai Ridgebacks. And…..he’s the spitting image of one. Then he yawns. And….his tongue is black and blue, like it is for TRs. I guess that’s what he is then. They’re stubborn, extremely smart, very active, escape artists. This should be interesting.

The next day

This is the most ridiculous dog I’ve ever seen. I take him out to explore the big yard, and suddenly, it’s zoomie time! Whee! Except whereas most dogs get the zoomies once in a blue moon, for Tommy it’s a non-stop thing. Which isn’t BAD, of course, as he’s tiring himself out, but it’s unusual.

And he leaps like a springbok.

And he’s perfectly potty-trained. Not one single accident – he waits until he’s outside to pee. He also has a perfect sit and shake. Wth? I find out that he kept escaping his house, and this last time, in August, his owner didn’t want to pay to get him back. Escape artist – check.

That week

“Tommy” is a completely inappropriate name for this guy. He also has zero name recognition with it. I’m not sure what else would fit, but one day as I’m calling him, it just pops out: Kingsly. Yes. Kingsly. That fits. I’ve also learned that the TR is considered the “Royal Dog of Thailand.” Royalty, really?

Well, he may be royal, but he’s certainly nothing like my Kone. Kone was the most chill, laidback, fearless, happy-go-lucky little man ever. He assumed everyone was put on earth to pet him and that naturally he was welcome everywhere, because everyone adored him, which was basically true.

Kingsly is skittish, inscrutable, aloof, wary, and the shelter has said he’s “dog aggressive.”  Awesome Friend Peg and I meet at the dog park so that Kingsly can meet her pups, and yep, he doesn’t like them very much. There’s no biting, but lots of snarling and teeth. I start to wonder if Kone sent him to me – since Kone came along when I was diagnosed with cancer the first time around, and now I might have cancer again, and here I randomly wind up with this funny rare little dog under very convoluted circumstances. But I don’t want another dog ever, so that’s that.

The breed overall is one that every article notes – repeatedly – needs “an experienced owner,” and I can see why. Some fool trying the “alpha male” routine would get his face bitten off. I worry about the likely idiots who might want to adopt him, just because he’s a rare and exotic breed. Before I take him back to the shelter as I’m getting ready to go out of town, I try to find another foster who’ll take him, with no luck. I bawl as I’m taking him back – the guilt is overwhelming. No wonder he’s wary; people keep letting him down. I’ve already told them my view on potential adopters:

“He should ONLY be placed with very experienced dog people. Have they had dogs? Have they had primitive dogs? Have they had a THAI RIDGEBACK TAN IN COLOR WHO WEIGHS 53 POUNDS? No? That’s a CLEAR no then.”

End of September

I’m planning on picking him up as soon as I get back, but I get back on Monday the 23rd, and because there was a cancellation, my surgery was moved up to the 25th. I let the shelter know that I’ll get him after my surgery date, and they tell me that I should know that he’s deteriorating in the shelter. My poor little guy. Surgery is Wednesday, and on Thursday, since I can’t find a good Polish Fest or Oktoberfest to go to, I decide to head to the shelter to pick up Kingsly. Makes sense to me.

Trainer/Behaviorist Day

Purely so that the shelter has more info, I’ve found a behaviorist who’s going to come by to assess Kingsly to see if his dog aggression is manageable, if it’s a breed thing, his upbringing, etc.  She does some really interesting tests and sees how smart and wonderful he is. He does his usual zoomies and this time bowls me over, and I’d be falling over laughing if I weren’t already on the ground.

The shelter has people who might be interested in him, and they want to know if I want to keep him and I don’t know what to do. No dog can ever replace my sweet Kone, and my heart is too broken to let another pup into my life.

On the other hand, how did I wind up with this odd ultra-rare royal dog if Kone didn’t drop him into my life? Or is that just a lie I tell myself? I ugly cry, as always.

Kingsly is starting to settle in a little, as he shows me his tum to be scratched, and goes upstairs for sleeps.

I hear Kone’s voice in my head as I keep dithering:

“Momma, come ons. I sent you the most ridiculousems dog I could finds. Really, you need to thinkums about this?”

He does have a point. To wit:

-   Kingsly LOVES massages. If I start massaging his back, within 3 seconds his eyes droop and suddenly his bones disintegrate and he topples over, falling like a tree.
-   He bounces like a kangaroo…..but won’t jump up on the bed at night. Yes, I have to lift him.
-   He loves ranch dip.
-   He does yoga poses.
-   He snores. Loudly.

-   I cook special treats for him for training: steak, chicken livers, roast chicken. When I give him one, he sniffs at it suspiciously. Curls his lip back, touches a tooth to it, lets it drop to the ground. Sniffs it some more. Sometimes he leaves it (roast beef, really??). Other times, in the absence of the royal taster he desires, he’ll think “mayhap I shall deign to try the foodstuff the peasant is offering” and will delicately eat it. Then the other day I idly picked up a bag of store-bought treats I had and offered him one. What did he do? Suddenly omg it was the HAPPIEST DAY EVER as he gleefully snatched it out of my hand, tossed it into the air, danced around in jubilation, then triumphantly pranced off with this oh-so-special of sacred treats. What was this treat you ask? A BEGGIN’ STRIP. No lie. Beggin’ Strips. I shake my head.

I’ve done some sleuthing, and have found out more about his background, from the original owner having him shipped from NYC, then him somehow winding up with this other person in Salem, him escaping and being on the lam back in April for almost 2 weeks and being hit by a car, then in the shelter, then with loony Salem person, then escaping again and her not getting him back and him being stuck in the shelter again.
I’m not surprised he’s slightly broken, wary, and highly suspicious. We’re kind of a perfect match that way.

I signed the adoption papers last Friday. 

That same day, I took a pic of him as he was going into the back foyer. When I looked at that picture later, I saw that Kone had given Kingsly his pawstamp of approval. A slightly goofy pawstamp to be sure – “Momma, I did the bests I could!” – but what else would it be? Message received, Mr. Handsomes, message received.

I believe HRH the Kone has just welcomed you to The Manor, little Kingsly.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Some of us surviving

Surgery day

I get up and dress like the badass warrior I am: socks that say “It’s a beautiful morning….don’t fuck it up” and my axe-throwing, rifle-snipering t-shirt that says “Do Epic Shit.” Awesome Friend Peg is driving me to surgery, and while I was nervous in the days leading up to it, now I just want to get this shit over with. I’ve also brought my usual brownies, as I do to every surgery. I figure, they haven’t killed me yet so obviously it’s working. Far be it from me to mess with success.

I’m disappointed that the bureaucrats at the hospital have deemed it necessary for people to wear hospital socks into surgery, the ones with the bumpies on the bottom, as if to say that people not slipping and falling and cracking their heads open is somehow more important than cool socks. Bah.  Dr. W. ,Surgeon to the Stars, bounces in and I insist on showing him my socks.

Me: See? “Don’t. Fuck. It. Up.”
Dr. W.: Hmm. I like those, but….

He takes them and folds them over so that only the “It’s a beautiful morning” part is visible. I look at him skeptically. I’m not sure my curmudgeonly self can truck with this kind of Pollyanna-ish nonsense, but on the other hand, he’s the guy with the scalpel. Robot. Whatever. I graciously let it slide.

Off to surgery! I always refuse Versed so that I can dazzle everyone with my witty banter, but for some reason, they always seem to put the mask on my face right away. Odd. Before I know it, I’m at the bottom of a well and someone is talking. “Blah blah…benign…lab…….test…..blah.” I gather that the Borg is in all likelihood benign but they send it to the lab for testing. Everyone is so damn nice at this hospital, but they kick me out later that day anyway. At least it’s not like the wayback hospital in my beloved Dodgeville, WI, that wanted to send me home when I had bleeding on the brain and a crushed collarbone after my bike crash.

“Oh look! She’s fine!”

I believe at that point I was offering everyone a teacake and insisting that I had Ironman in 3 weeks. Repeatedly. But yes, I was fine.

That night

Peg drives me home, and after a nap, I start looking for festivals I can attend the next day, also as per tradition. I’m doubtful there’s anything like the Polish Fest I went to in Chicago the day after my concurrent cancer/broken collarbone surgery, but perhaps an Oktoberfest? (I’ll note that I was on heavy psychotropic drugs at the time of my visit to Polish Fest, unlike my friend.) (*cough* Deanna *cough*)


I can’t seem to find a local Oktoberfest or anything similar, and my disappointment is palpable. So instead, I decide I need to go pick up my foster dog in Salem – the almost-2-year-old very hyper bouncy pup who I had fostered before surgery. This seems logical.

Otherwise, well, I’ve had so many surgeries I could pass them out like cheap party favors, as I like to say. I’m sore, big deal. I’m back working the next day. I take a total of two oxy, one the night after surgery and one the next morning, and am done with them. Neighbor Laura brings me food, Awesome Carlyn sends me dinner by delivery service. Lab tests confirm that the Borg is benign. Fuck yes.

Final post-op appointment

Being back at the doctor’s office is a revelation, because everyone’s so damn happy. This is good, of course, but a bit different, until I remember oh yeah, this is an oncologist’s office. Where if things have the not-so-good outcome, you have ovarian cancer, which is brutish and cruel.  So hell yes, no cancer, let’s party! I’m contributing to the festivities because I brought Dr. W. a jar of boozy cherries and a jar of gin pickles. I even get to see a picture on his computer of the Borg!

Me: Wait, that huge thing, that’s it?
Dr. W.: Yep. Just took it right out. And I checked your liver too, looks good.
Me: Oh, it does look plump and happy!
Dr. W.: …….
Me: Anyway, I make boozy political jams, but if I don’t know people’s leanings, I give them the more neutral ones, like Boozy Cherry Bitterness or Slim Gin Pickins.
Dr. W.: Political ones would have been fine too! Anything to help deal with that goober who’s in office right now.

Now, normally I’d look askance at anyone who uses that kind of terminology in my presence, but I then realize the ingenuity of this approach, ie of using ridiculously innocuous words in certain circumstances, and appropriately salty language in others. People will be so shocked, you’ll be able to get away with anything. Nicely played, Dr. W., nicely played.

I also belatedly realize that yes, one probably can read between the lines to tell if a scan or appointment is good or bad (beyond the obvious grim faces and “so here’s a referral for a specialist”). Thinking back to my MRIs, the right hip one in Silverton and the rogue ones in Illinois:

Silverton MRI tech: You’re talking to your doctor about these right away, then?
Rogue MRI in IL tech: So you have an appointment with your doctor as soon as you get back, right?

Now that this saga is over, I’m trying to get back to the important things in life. That is to say, cycling. And the quest for Hot Cowboy. Or, as I described my vision to HockeyWhartonCraig:

“So far my tactic of riding my bike in the hinterlands until I have a mechanical and am winsomely standing by the side of the road and then a Hot Cowboy pulls up and says "Hey darlin', need some help?" and then his dog jumps out of his truck chasing after a jackrabbit and we go running after the dog and accidentally fall into a muddy pond and the Rage Cows gather around and stare at us like we're insane........well, it hasn't quite happened yet.”

Hope springs eternal.

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.