“And all the while the distance grows between you and me. I do not understand.”
In the Blood of Eden, Peter Gabriel
The universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate. As we are looking at the stars in the sky, they are growing more distant from us. The universe is not growing into some space that already existed, the expansion creates space itself.
Photos in Houston along Buffalo Bayou Park including the Tolerance sculptures by Jaume Plensa, downtown impressions, Rosemont Bridge, and the Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain. We walk along this path every night. I kept seeing things I wanted to shoot. Finally got out to do it.
I have been feeling dizzy off and on for the last month or so. It is probably related to my nose bleeding for such a long time plus some seasonal allergies, but it was worth reporting to my oncology team. (As a side note, everything is worth reporting to your oncology team once you have cancer.) I expected the usual dismissal, but instead got some cautionary comments.
“It is extremely unlikely that colon cancer went to your brain, but it isn’t impossible.”
I spent five months in drug rehab in 1987. I was seventeen years old. The youngest person in the adult unit, I was a little too mature for the adolescent unit. The idea of being locked up had never occurred to me as a thing that would actually happen. Looking back on it, I consider myself lucky that I ended up in there instead of jail. It was a mental hospital, so I met a lot of interesting people.
When I first met Justine in 1999, neither of us had a television. In fact, I spent most of my 20’s without a television. There were just so many other things to do with my time. One night, Justine and I were on Harwin near Hilcroft, and we stopped into one of the Indian food dining halls that were clustered in the area, all of which have been replaced with more upscale restaurants, the term upscale in reference to what is there now perhaps an indicator of the quality of the food served at that time. The food was cheap and served cafeteria style.
One year ago in July, I was in New Jersey visiting family and friends, some of which I hadn’t seen in thirty years. In June of last year, I visited friends, a high school reunion of sorts, that I had also not seen in thirty years. For a long time, I had imagined these family and friends as within reach and easy to see whenever I wanted. What a difference a year makes…
I’m so alone and I feel just like somebody else Man I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same
One Headlight, The Wallflowers
One weekend in late October, my sister, Kelli, stayed with me during a chemotherapy weekend. The treatments were fairly routine by this time. As routine as a chemotherapy treatment can be when each is its own odyssey. Still, I was over the initial anxiety, and I thought that I had leveled out. I was wrong. I had a blood pressure spike, and I was out of my mind.
Your ship may be coming in. You’re weak, but not giving in. And you’ll fight it, you’ll go out fighting all of them.
Rilo Kiley, A Better Son/Daughter
At the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, I was driving ride share – killing time and making some extra money while waiting for my friend/colleague Ramon to close a contract that never came through. The contract was four weeks on and four weeks off in the mountains of Argentina doing real time drilling data management and analysis. It seemed like it might be the change I needed right then, but it was one of those contracts that my friend just couldn’t close. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have waited. I should have just found something else, but while I waited, I entertained myself with ride share.
I have always preferred harder surfaces for sleeping, so I have a tatami bed. I would just sleep on the floor as it’s cheaper, but people have a pretty strong reaction to adults sleeping on the floor. Also, sleeping on the floor is not exactly conducive to a harmonious relationship if you happen to be in one. I’m guessing there are not many American couples that choose the floor, or a tatami bed, as a sleeping surface.
And your wise men don’t know how it feels To be thick as a brick
Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick
I have always been restless. I could always feel something coming. Something outside the door. Something in the hallway. Something breathing life into another dark path only illuminated by the next step. I’ve always wanted to leave. To just get up and go…
How exactly does one prepare for major surgery? What is major surgery? I think liver surgery counts. I think it can at least be counted as a big deal. It’s a big deal to me. It’s tomorrow. I’m nervous.
Chloe: Well, I’m still here, but I don’t know for how long. That’s as much certainty as anyone can give me. But I’ve got some good news: I no longer have any fear of death. But I am in a pretty lonely place. No one will have sex with me. I’m so close to the end, and all I want is to get laid for the last time. I have pornographic movies in my apartment, and lubricants and amyl nitrate …
A pervasive condition that accompanies chronic illness is feeling left behind. The first time I noticed this feeling was when I was in the hospital in August. Eleven days is a long time. Each day was a lesson in acceptance. Each day seemed to illuminate more of what was in front of me in the months to come. With that illumination was the unavoidable list of things that I would be missing.
A detail (among many) that has been lost in the telling of this story is my voice. When I had surgery in August, one of the many symptoms I had afterward was an irritated vocal cord. I only noticed the irritation when I raised my voice and while singing. I did little of either of those things while still in the hospital.
I didn’t realize how much singing I actually do. In the car. In the shower. I write songs and sing them. I hum along with melodies. No longer. I couldn’t sing at all. My voice isn’t that great. The world isn’t missing much, but this has been a source of worry.
Ineffability is the concept that some things cannot or should not be expressed in words. Those things can be as high minded as God, the soul, or a mystical experience. It can be as simple as vulgar language. I am certain that the essence of my experience after the surgery is ineffable of the “can’t be done” variety. I’m going to write about it anyway.
From wikipedia: Paralytic ileus: Obstruction of the intestine due to paralysis of the intestinal muscles. The paralysis does not need to be complete to cause ileus, but the intestinal muscles must be so inactive that it prevents the passage of food and leads to a functional blockage of the intestine.
I have a paradoxical reaction to opioids. From wikipedia: A paradoxical reaction or paradoxical effect is an effect of a chemical substance, mostly a medical drug, opposite to the effect which would normally be expected. An example of a paradoxical reaction is pain caused by a pain relief medication.
Opioids don’t cause me pain as described in the example. They wake me up like speed. I sweat and shake a lot. I become very anxious. This also happens with all benzodiazepines like Valium
I don’t have much experience with opioids or benzodiazepines, because I’ve never enjoyed them. I even avoid them. Doctors always seem to be trying to give me one or the other. There’s no use trying to tell a doctor or a nurse that you have a paradoxical reaction to these drugs. They aren’t listening. Or maybe that’s another part of that thing I do where I don’t show any emotion. People are just going to miss it.
I talk to myself a lot. I say some terrible things. In front of my kids. I don’t often hear the things that I am saying, but sometimes they let me know. Apparently my most often used line is, “Kill them.”
With the news from the CT scan behind me, the logistics of confirmation and testing and the minutia involved in all of that began. I remained in ICU as they really had no idea whether I was still bleeding internally. They wanted to keep an eye on me and continue to monitor periodic lab results like hemoglobin.
Also, a colonoscopy needed to be done. If you know anything about colonoscopies, you know there is prep work involved in this. That means cleaning you out. There can be nothing in your colon when they shove that camera up your butt. The gastroenterologist that was to perform the colonoscopy came to visit.
After a summer of travel, I was a little done with social activities. It was wonderful reconnecting with friends and family. It was just a lot. I was looking forward for some time to process everything that had happened.
I went back to work. Around this time, I realized I wasn’t going to be working for Chevron after the contract ended in August, so I started looking for a job. Then I started on the business of getting the kids back to school – clothes, uniforms, school supplies, registrations – Justine did most of this. I also started looking for a new place to live, because it was apparent that I wasn’t going to have a roommate anymore and I hated the place we were living. It was too dirty. One of those places that will never be clean.
On the subject of 20/20 hindsight. There are many things I could point to now that were out of alignment leading up to the emergency on August 22, 2019. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of them as symptoms of anything but age, stress, depression, newly single over indulgence, and maybe some laziness.
I was depressed for sure. Justine’s illness beginning in 2016 was the start of a snowball that I never recovered from. I won’t detail everything that happened in the 3 years that span August, 2016 to August, 2019, but it was a lot. Anytime I thought I had some air, the downhill roll would start again. I kept telling myself that all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. Do the next right thing. These are cliches I would have told me if I had come to me for advice.
It’s hard to have a sense of humor about kemo (my daughter’s spelling – I’m going to stick with it). Once it’s happening, there’s no turning back. A path to wellness through more sickness. Maybe…
I have had problems with anxiety for as long I can remember. Racing heartbeats, stage fright, social anxiety, whatever… It’s always there. I have landed in the emergency room more than once. I’ve been through long periods of chronic episodes and single episodes that blindside me. Over time, I’ve gotten better at dealing with it. I’ve developed little tricks for dealing with anxiety.