Live and Direct

I'm here and feeling pretty good...had my milkshake this morning, so you know that makes for a happy brigita.

They're transitioning me from my epidural to pain pills...I think there's going to be a few rough patches until we can get that all figured out, but all told everything went pretty great (I'll spare you the nightmarish flashes I can recall from the recovery room).

Gonna try to catch a few winks before mom comes by with Miss V...thanks for checking in & much love to you all!


See You Guys in a Few

So yeeeeeeeeeeah, gonna be a little incommunicado for the next couple of days--although I pretty much have a standing order for Jody to bring me (1) my laptop, (b) a Jamba, (iii) and chocolate cake (not necessarily in that order) just as soon as I get the green light, so I might be back sooner than you think. Or not. Who can say?

In the meantime, please keep an eye on my Care Page, where my mom will be posting any and all details she will be able to get out of my sentry and sweetums.

If you have any problems accessing the page, shoot my mom a line at judy[removeallthisnonsense]magenis AT yahoo DAHT com. Just when you do, be sure to id yourself with your standing nickname...I can't tell you how many people had to introduce themselves twice to my mom in our wedding receiving line.

And not to totally draw this out, but thanks to Jenny "Action" Sullivan, Jody and I recently got to watch our unofficial wedding video for the first time. I look much cuter than I remember, Jody looks about 18, and oh boy did we have some fun...

Ok, I really should sign off now.

Let's go crack some skulls.

Odd's 'n Ends

Here I am, trying to get all my metaphorical shit in one sock as the cleaners perform their fortnightly* duties while also doing my prep, and I am once again prioritizing my Internerdtacular life over other parts.

And yes, that includes you guys. So let's go over those poll results!

I'm happy to report that the majority of us are on the same political page, with 70% looking forward to a bit of a sea change in Washington this fall.

17% of folks lean a bit more to the right than myself, and I really don't begrudge any of you that as I have some affection for ol' Johnny, but as Jody says, he's the right guy at the wrong time. Too bad Bush's crew managed to turn the loving act of adoption into something sordid. ASSHOLES.

9% of you guys are excited about a woman in office, and if you'd told me a year ago that I wouldn't be 100% pumped for Hillary I would have thought you a liar, but I've become less a fan due to the way she's run her campaign.

Finally, I have to give big props to the person (who apparently wasn't my husband) that voted for Libertarian candidate Ron Paul. I'm as bleeding-heart big government for social programs liberal as you get, but there's a lot on the Libertarian platform that I agree with. Ok, mostly it's the legalization and regulation of pot & prostitution, but still--kudos to you, third party voter guy.

Anyone interested in letting me know why my political views are wrong (and/or why I'm going to hell), leave a comment! I'm sure they'll be hilarious to read when I'm whacked out on pain meds.

*The jury appears to be out on the definition of biweekly.


The hospital called to give me my schedule: surgery @ 10:15a which translates to a 8:15a arrival.

...That's central time, in case any of you want to shoot some good vibes my way when I'm on the table.

You know, if you wanna. :)


Back to the Now

I am officially in the final stretch. Yesterday I had my ultrasound, which went lots better than the first one for all sorts of reasons, with the main one being that Jody was with me for it (seriously people--is he the best or whut?).

I'm happy to report that the results confirmed that of the CTVP, that my chemoradiation treatment smacked the shit out of that little white ball ass tumor--which looks more like layers of scar tissue than anything at this point--and shrunk my nodes considerably (the biggest one had been about 1cm is now more like 2mm). WOO!

This morning, I had my Last Breakfast (blueberry waffles at the Original Pancake House--not the best ordering job ever but not all bad either) and am looking forward to my Last Lunch at the Old Fashioned...I'm thinking I'll stick with the old standby, the walleye sandwich. Mmm.

After that, I'm off solid food for the foreseeable future, as I start my clear liquid diet tonight. And no, beer doesn't count (I asked).

At some point today, I have to mix up my GoLYTELY (OkIWILLTHANKS) to have it all good and dissolved for tomorrow, when the fun prep begins.


Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Where was I?...

After brunch, we powered down a bit back at the hotel before striking out for Whirlyball. For the uninitiated, Whirlyball is a 5-on-5 hybrid of basketball and lacrosse, played in bumper cars. So fun.

It took us a while to get the hang of things, going scoreless for an embarrassing number of 10-minute rounds, but we eventually figured some things out and I even managed to put one on the board.

The only downsides of the outing were the aforementioned leaving behind of my relatively new camera (requisite Craiglist post here) and the fact that my body got so beat up, I'm still feeling it four days later.

We intentionally didn't have any plans post-Whirly, so I was a little worried about us flailing, but friends were able to score a big table at Dublin's Pub where we all had a bit of dinner and hoisted a pint or three.

Next, we headed off to Lincoln Karaoke, a beyond nondescript place in the north end of town. Thanks to Crawfy (who was also the mastermind behind Whirlyball), had a huge room in which to mangle Journey, Bon Jovi, and Elton John, once we figured out the remote control. The owner was super nice, comping us water, potstickers, and champagne and I think we all had a ridiculously good time, singing and dancing and making total asses of ourselves.

That was pretty much it for the weekend, with the epilogue being coffee on Easter morning with those folks with later flights. All the girls in the hotel lobby dressed in their holiday finery made us miss our wee one, so we hightailed it home for some down time with our girl.

So that's pretty much that...like I said, no pics from me, but hopefully there will be some floating around out there in the Internet ether...


"So Where the Hell Are You and How Was the Weekend?" You're Asking

Fabulous. Absolutely wonderful, save for the shit weather on Friday (the 2.5h drive took us nearly 5, making us miss our couples massage in the process) and the fact that I pulled a classic brigita bonehead maneuver and left my digicam behind at Whirlyball, so no pics from me, I'm afraid.

Jody and I checked into our room and it was lovely, with the only curious bit being that there was a crib and full kid-friendly layout in there. The majority of this stuff was promptly whisked away by staff, but they left the kids shampoo/bubble bath and a big duckie cookie behind, so hey, free stuff!

Oh, and speaking of toiletries, I'm usually not one to swipe itty bitty shampoos and soaps, but when they're made by L'Occitane, I shift into greedy gear. Mmm...verbena.

Jody and I changed into our fancy duds and went down to the lounge, where I had a totally unseasonal mojito and he had the world's most complicated/pretentious cocktail, a blueberry tea. Crazy thing is it all came together well, tasted pretty good, and was nice and toasty.

After being joined by Matty Matt Matt, esq., we went down to The Grill on the Alley for our fancy dinner.

Before I get any further, I need to tell a quick story:

The weekend before Chicago, I was all a twitter making reservations for Friday dinner and Saturday Whirlyball, beating myself up for having waited so long. Fortunately I had no problems with either and was so surprised I could make reservations less than a week in advance. Fast forward to Thursday morning, when I realize that I had had March 28th burned into my brain (surgery day) and had accidentally made all these reservations for that weekend.

The good news is that (1) I didn't realize this at 3am and (b) they were all able to accommodate our revised schedule without too much strain. I did swipe the cancer card in the process of rescheduling, but I totally did have my surgery on the brain!

Anyhoo, Friday night was dinner, and while the flight delays and cancellations did add a layer of stress to everyone's evening, it was kinda cool how a new person would trickle in every half hour or so. I made the rookie mistake of both continuing to drink cocktails and ordering the soup instead of salad, so by the time my gigantic stuffed trout entree showed up, I could only eat about three bites before pushing it away. It was so delicious, but I was so stuffed.

After dinner, most folks filed out while some of us went to the adjoining bar for one last bevvie. I cashed in my chips early due to the previous night's baby circus, with Jody retiring about an hour later.

Saturday morning wasn't too rough (possibly thanks to Chaser), so we were able to strike out early enough to get to the Chicago Diner when they opened (@10a). We were the second party in line, so they were able to push together five small tables for a large table of 10.

We quickly filled this and just about every other table in the area as more and more folks arrived and filed in. Every time the door would open and we would go "Hey!...", our waiter would give us a look like "How many of you are there?" He was super nice tho and did not grumble once about our multiple groups, splitting of checks, young kids, etc.

While I love me some breakfast (just an excuse to eat syrup), I had to try the cheesesteak:

Philly Cheese 'Steak': Sliced seitan with sauteed onions & peppers, melted cheese, served on an Italian baguette.
Um, crazy good. I wanted to fold up the restaurant and put it in my pocket. There's at least a dozen other things I'm dying to try, so the Chicago Diner is going to be a mainstay the next time we're down that way.

:::And now a brief intermission to go get the kid from daycare:::


An Open Letter to My Nemesis

Dear Mother Nature,

Eat shit and die.



New Poll!

I don't want this to devolve into some sort of politicolon blog, but the upcoming elections are pretty hard to escape in this age of 24/7 news cycles, especially in this house, where the mortgage is being paid by a once-upon-a-time polisci major, so we might as well get this poll out of the way before the fur really starts to fly.

Note: I threw in a few unlikely/third party candidates to keep things interesting and chose to withhold my (and every other hipster's) dream ticket of Colbert/Stewart because hello? Slam-dunk.


Results from CTVP

Just followed up with the doc who was present during my CT virtual proctoscopy (who felt horrible for not having contacted me earlier--don't sweat it, guy) and he said that comparing the after scan to the before showed:

  • Primary tumor: considerable shrinkage and smoothing of the previously ruffled borders
  • Lymph nodes: several had completely disappeared, while others were much smaller
Notes to self to follow up with Dr. Onc: does the tumor show signs of microsatellite instability? I guess this is a genetic test, so I have to weight the pros & cons of having that kind of information in my file...I don't care so much about me as Vi's ability to get health/life insurance down the road...

Upshot: my cancer responded very well to treatment. HUZZAH!

My New Favorite Show

Do you know that HDNet has a program called Nothing But Trailers?

It's pretty much the best thing ever, especially for those of us who haven't had their ass in a movie theater seat since they were days from their due date.

Because the only thing better than Christian Bale, McDreamy, and The Clooney is all of the above in high-def.


Funny What Passes for Good News These Days

  • Rather than get shit-faced with the rest of NYC, my dear brother got a colonoscopy this morning. The good (?) news is that they found and subsequently removed two polyps. No report from the pathology lab as yet.
  • My surgery has been pre-approved by my insurance company. Guess that saves me a phone call.


There Will Be Blood

It all began with blood.

First, the blood stopped. And we were happy. It meant that our lives were changing forever, and we welcomed this.

Then, the other blood started. Doctors were dramatically concerned, but I didn't think much of it because I didn't think much of them.

After some time, and some pain, there was more blood. And we were thrilled. She was here and nothing would ever be the same.

But that other blood, it didn't go away. In fact, it had gotten worse. And I grudgingly admitted that the doctor might have been on to something. So I saw another doctor and we made a plan to look into things.

Still, I really thought it was much ado about nothing.

So things were looked into, and they looked bad. The worst possible, actually. Time ground to a halt and stood perfectly still. The air went out of the room. Every room.

A team was assembled and they formulated a plan. We followed the plan to the letter, and all seemed to be well. As well as it could be, under the god-forsaken circumstances. The blood was gone. Things seemed almost normal.

And then.


The blood came back. The blood with which I had made my peace. Gotten closure. Said goodbye.


Is this hope? Dare I?



The bill for my ovary transposition surgery is still in insurance limbo:

At least it's moved from "pending" to "in process." If it doesn't proceed directly to "paid," Violet will know why she gets to choose from the finest in-state school that Wisconsin has to offer 17 years from now...


Something About Discontent...

Today, winter broke.

The ice that had encased our street had finally given way to the small streams of snow melt wearing their way to the storm drains. Snowdrifts had shrunk to dirty piles of slush, occasionally revealing a long forgotten mitten or scarf. I left traded my parka for sunglasses since the sun was shining brighter than it had in months.

Today, I spent hours upon hours in the hospital for my pre-op workups.

This morning was round two of the CTVP and while I thought it was going to be so much better this time because I wouldn't be all bound up from post-op pain meds and I would have fully functional abdominal muscles with which I could flip around on the exam table, it was still fucking horrible. But you've already heard about that.

After a quick trip home, I bounced back to meet with my therapist for the first time, which was basically me "telling my story" (a phrase which irritates me just as much as "practicing my craft," blargh), ie me running my mouth for 50 minutes. She was super nice throughout it all and I know we have to lay ground work before we get into the nit an grit of it all.

Then, I skipped off to my pre-op appt, where I got poked and prodded and signed all manner of documents and got to tell someone for the billionth time what supplements I was on and what surgeries I've had.

I got more good news than bad, I'm happy to say, with the best being the fact that the surgery is going to be laproscopic for the most part and that the vertical 6+" incision I had been preparing for will probably more likely be a horizontal <4" scar, alĂ  c-section, and I only have to drink half a gallon of GoLytely to clean me out, aka Hell's Gatorade, instead of the full gallon I got to polish off the last time.

That was the yin--here's the yang: bowel prep starts two days before surgery, not one, meaning I have to spend more than 36 hours on a liquid diet.

People, I eat. I have never been afraid of food. I can count the number of meals that I have skipped (but not slept through on account of crippling hangovers, of course) on two hands. For every reason, emotion, and social function under our sun, I have eaten, and with relish.

So believe me when I tell you that upon hearing about my necessary liquid--nay, clear liquid--fast, I completely forgot about my cancer (and worse, pending ostomy) and focused on how miserable I am going to be on Thursday, March 27th, when I will be alternately terrified and starving.

And then there will be more days without food. After my five hours on the operating table, when I go from being with cancer to most likely without, I will still be NPO until I pass gas into my BAG. Only then will the NG tube be retired from sucking the acid out of my stomach and pulled out my nose and I will begin a new, tenuous, treacherous relationship with food.

Remember my nausea? Remember the first days of chemo radiation and I had no appetite and I had the same fear that I did when I was a social leper for several months my junior year of high school and a kiss in college led to looping weeks of living in my head and when I was in the throes of the first trimester of my first and only pregnancy and all of those times I thought I would never have the desire to eat again?

Today, I gleefully stuff my cakehole with all manner of chow, healthy and otherwise, every chance I get. I am literally eating like there's no tomorrow. Because, in less than 14 days, just about 13 days from right this second, really, there is no tomorrow.

Between the chemo in the short term and my rerouted guts in the long, I have no idea what the simple experience of eating is going to be like for me. How things will taste, what my system will tolerate, what's going to be possible in terms of how much or how often. So I'm having it all now.

I loved chemistry in high school and college, mostly because I did well at it, and that was partly because something in my head clicked when it came to stoichiometry (would you believe me if I told you I spelled it right on the first try?). For those non-science geeks out there, it's all about balancing equations. The amount of reactants on one side have to equal the amount of products on the other.

Except in my case, the equation is about preparing for anticipated loss. I am adding on this side of the equals sign because I know there will be a subtraction on the other, the difference being, I am in control on this side of things.

Speaking of being in control, let's get back to the topic of the weather. Winter is over. Know how I know? I saw the true harbinger of spring today. Not a robin, or the rabbit which thrilled me on the way back from an icy bus stop last March. It was a kid running across the street, dressed in pants and short sleeves.

Tears of joy, people. Ding dong, that bitch is dead.

Imagine the Balloon Animal Possibilities!

Having one's colon inflated for the purpose of a CT virtual proctoscopy is a [somewhat ironic] guaranteed way of taking the metaphorical wind out of one's sails.

Humiliation seems to be the default icing on my particular variety of cancer cake.


When the One is Also the Other

Good news: According to my radiation oncologist, I'm probably never going to have another period! Hooray!

Bad news: ...

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Since this whole thing started, I've gleefully and half-jokingly commented that denial is a powerful thing. But yesterday, for a good fifteen minutes, fear had the upper hand.

Fortunately, I was able to muster the strength for a reversal, to stop my spiraling mantra of "I can't...," turning it around to "I won't."

Failure is not an option.


Scenes from My Nightstand

I go back and outline last week for her again, belaboring every episode so she can acclimate to the thinner air. I know her job is to keep me from harm. After all, I am a mother now too. I know what it is to want to safeguard your children. It starts with the first prenatal vitamin and it never ends. Safety gates, life vests, fire drills, swim lessons, CPR. And still, one day, the kid you've been so careful to protect might call to say she has cancer.
--The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan
Either this book goes back to the library or I'm going to have to stock up on more Kleenex, as that passage kicked off a crying jag that lasted a good 15 minutes.



I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I hate the term "cancer survivor," at least when in reference to me. I feel like it puts me on some kind of pedestal that I am not in the least bit comfortable with.
And don't get me started on the "brave" thing, Derek captures my sentiments much better than I ever could.

But back to the survivor thing. I've been racking my brain for some time to come up with a substitute title I could give myself once this is all said and done and have settled on cancer veteran. In the mean time, you can call me Brigita, the Cancer Slayer.


Giving Bizarro Thanks

Today, my body is grateful for:

  • Putting on a good 5lbs in the last few weeks. Hopefully there's a little muscle in there floating among all the coffee oreo milkshakes I've had (I've been lifting weights ever other day for several weeks now).
  • Getting a nice, fat zit right in the PMS zone on my chin, just right of center. I would give my eye teeth for another 10 years of mood swings, cravings, cramps, and inconvenience.
Hey 16-year-old Sugarmouth: Did you ever think you'd be so glad to gain weight, for your skin to break out, for the irregular imposition of the monthlies, and the simple fact of being able to take a shit?

On Bucket Lists and the Like

Call me a bitter, snarky cynic, but making a list of things to do before you die (Climb Manchu Picchu! Dive the Great Barrier Reef! Learn a foreign language! Raise egg-laying hens and spin my own yarn!) seems like an fanciful exercise indulged in by those who aren't actually facing their own mortality.

My goals are so mundane they're entirely predictable and not the least bit worth mentioning.


Cancer is to Pregnancy...?

While listening to the folks in my GI cancer support group yesterday, I reflected that I was glad to have one pregnancy under my belt.

Other than the "no, DUH" factor, it sounds like lots of the side effects of our various cancer treatments (particularly chemo) are similar to those of pregnancy. To put it into terms for you (ok, we) SAT nerds:

"Morning" sickness : nausea :: placenta brain : chemo brain :: 1st trimester fatigue : mandatory 2pm naps :: goal of steadily putting weight on in a healthy manner : keeping the weight you have

So, at least I have a recent point of reference for some of this stuff. And the knowledge that it won't last forever.


Words/Phrases That Are No Longer in My Vocabulary:

  • Skim (alternately, non-fat)
  • No cheese
  • Hold the mayo
  • "Why no, I don't think I would like to see the dessert menu, thank you."
It's gonna be easier (and a lot more fun) to gain weight now than later.


Careful, This One's On a Hair Trigger

Am I the only one who gets all Hulk smash when putting on crib sheets? Is there some trick I'm missing? They don't sell crib mattresses in extra long, right? So WTF is putting sheets on like wrestling a goddamn greased pig, except the grunting's only coming from moi?


Where Occult Doesn't Refer to Voodoo

Hear ye, hear ye!

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!

So if your doody is red, get your pooper inspected!


I Never Liked You, Anyway

Good Riddance, February! You overstayed your welcome.

Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.