Friday, September 18, 2020

Health: Weight Loss, Week 1

We’ll start with the good news: I have been on a really aggressive and restrictive diet for the past week. It’s been…an adjustment…to say the least, but I have lost 8 lbs and 5 inches in that week.

And before you say anything, let me stop you right here and say, “I know.” This is not my first rodeo. I know all about it. Your advice is, and I say this with no acrimony whatsoever, not welcome. You can’t help me. No one can help me. The only person that can help me is me. And I’m doing it this way because that’s the only way that I can move forward at this time. So, 8 lbs and 5 inches.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Hospice: Our New Normal

 Cathy has been in Hospice for five weeks now. It feels like forever. I am struggling with watching Cathy's gradual shutting down. She is at the point now where she is bedridden; her leg muscles can't support her and so any scenery changes she wants to make are done with nurses and a wheelchair. Her short term memory continues to fade, as well. People, faces, events and things are all crystal clear to her. But she can't keep up with her phone. In bed. She can't quite remember from day-to-day how to work it, either. She learns it in the morning, but by the evening, she needs help again. Hospice keeps telling me it's "disease progression." It's getting on my nerves. She's not sick, she's hungry. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Cancer: Hospice, Week 4

 (Warning: Language)

What a shitty week. 

Sonya wasn't too happy about us leaving Cathy behind at the Hospice Center. This is her as I was driving out of the parking lot. Her way of saying, "You left a man behind, dude!" 

Trust me, Sonya. I know. And I'm not happy about it, either. 

Cathy continues to hang on, her heart beating strong, her mind struggling to connect, to understand, her lungs working, her muscles flexing. She's willing. But her body is slowly killing her. It's the worst kind of torture to see her slipping in increments that could be measured in centimeters, and there's not a thing anyone can do about it. 

What makes this doubly galling is that Cathy's own body is cutting off her food supply. And Cathy has never been one of those people with hang ups about food or eating. She loves to eat, and she loves good food. She's always appreciative of anyone who cooks for her. Our first date, I made her chicken parmesan, and she was so impressed, she married me three years later. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Cancer: Hospice Supplemental


Most long-time readers here will recognize the name of Sonya, our affable pit bull pooch with the winning personality and a bevvy of entertaining tricks. She's ten years old now, and she's lost a little bit of bounce, but only a little. We've been pretty lucky in terms of dog maintenance; she hasn't cost an arm nor a leg, and aside from the occasional itchy eye from high pollen days, she's reasonably healthy. 

Last year, we took her to a specialist in Wichita Falls because (and I didn't know this) apparently pit bulls have those big, fleshy mouths that continue to grow as they age. The teeth get covered up by the gums and that's what causes the stinky-mouth, and left untreated, can rot teeth, forcing an extraction. We didn't want that, but Sonya's mouth was definitely in bad shape. 

The process is straightforward; they use a laser to cut off the excess tissue and cauterize it. This was a little more than Cathy and I could pull off last year, so we made plans to do it in 2020. 

Fast Forward to August, with the world on fire and my life in turmoil. I've got a dog with a stinky mouth, and she's in the dumps because she can't find her human, Cathy, anywhere. I've also got Cathy, pining away for her sweet baby. I've squirreled some money away for Sonya's health needs, and I thought this would be a great way to kill two birds with one stone. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Cancer: Hospice, Week 3

I'm running hot and cold. Some days, I've got full functionality and can do normal things and feel like an adult, and other days, I'm clutching my stomach and staggering around like I've been junk-punched by a silverback gorilla. The worst days are the ones that start out as normal and end up junk-punched. 

Cathy is still in hospice. I don't want the word "still" to have any undue emphasis, like I'm disappointed. Quite the contrary. Rather, the emphasis should be on "in hospice," meaning, she's not home yet. Yet. 

I'm still trying to find a scenario where she gets to come home. I don't have a solution yet, but I'm working on it. In the meantime, I find that a routine is settling in with us, almost like the schedule of a long-distance trucker. I'm on for three, off four four. But those three are 18 hour days a piece. This is exhausting, and the whole family has been rocked back and forth, up and down, and we are all frazzled. 

I don't want anyone to think that I am not grateful for the assistance; I am. It's been really nice having someone, anyone, in the house when I get home. But I want everyone to know that I am absolutely festooned with feminine energy right now. Covered up, even. I'm pretty sure I've started to ovulate. Everyone's cycle is all linked up, now. Mine, the dog's, everyone. 

I've been sitting on some short takes and little incidents that have stacked up in the last few weeks, and I want to share a few, if only to take my mind off of the grind of the days. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Cancer: Hospice Week Two Update

I'm going to start this with a strange little coincidence. Cathy was moved into the hospice care center in Wichita Falls about ten days ago. They got her in and comfortable and settled and I hung around outside while nurses and orderlies swarmed over her and did stuff. 

As I was sitting outside, I noticed the tiles in the building were all donated--you know what I mean, where you pay a certain amount and sponsor an oblong tile in the name of a loved one, or just as a donation from a family or an organization. These tiles (bricks?) run two-up all around the walls, like wainscoting, down every wall and across each doorway. Outside each room, however, there is a larger plaque, presumably reserved for larger donations, or to sponsor a room. Here is the plaque outside of Cathy's room.

It says "The Hoblitzelle Foundation" for those of you who can't make it out. I read it and a chill ran down my neck. Let me explain why.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Cancer: Hospice

We tried.
We really did.
Cathy tried hardest. 
But in the end, the pain won out. 

I took her home from the hospital on Wednesday, with the understanding that in order to qualify for this eleventh hour clinical trial that had just opened up, Cathy would need to be able to eat without throwing up. She had to keep food down. Or, well, you know, broth. Soup. Liquid. 

Her family was waiting for her when we got home, and they helped her upstairs and get settled. It was nice having folks around, and Cathy seemed cheered by their presence, if a little tired. She tried to eat something, but gave up. The heartburn and nausea were back. 

We tried to get home health to come out, but a snafu with the hospital showed our visits had been canceled because the social worker thought we were going to Oklahoma City. That was frustrating, to say the least, and so I spent an hour on the phone lining up meds for Cathy to be administered tomorrow. All she had to do was get through the night.

She got about one hour of sleep. The pain and the cramps were just too much. I didn't do much better, but I napped a bit, and then started calling people at 7:30 to get her some help. I was on and off the phone for roughly four hours. In the middle of all of it, Cathy said, "Call hospice." 

When everyone showed up, it was all within a ten minute window. The house was full of health care folks, and it took a bit of sorting out. In the end, this is what we decided: the Hospice people have an actual facility in Wichita Falls, and by checking her in there she'd have constant care. They would get her stabilized and comfortable, and then we could send her home for home care in a couple of days. 

Back into the car we went, and drove back to Wichita Falls. I've come to really resent that drive.

She was made comfortable, in a nice, spacious room, that looks like a nursing home room decorated by a mid-price hotel room. Hey, it beats the hospital. She was feeling better, and we were amiably chatting about I don't even remember what, when she grabbed her nausea bag and filled it. 

I jammed the button and yelled for nurses. They came running and took over as the crap in her stomach poured out of her. I've never been so scared, nor felt so helpless. 

They cleaned her up and changed sheets and all of that, and also gave her a powerful anti-nausea med in her port. Later, at midnight, she would get a drug that limits the production of stomach acid. But even after she threw up, she was feeling better. And I think we both realized at that point that what she did next was dependent on her stomach. She wouldn't be able to eat solid food anymore. And for now, liquids were working, but they may one day stop. And then the clock would start counting down. 

I read to her until she fell asleep. I watched her, until some time after midnight, and then I crashed in the chair. I woke up with a nurse in the room, and Cathy awake. "Hi, Honey!" she said. Perky. Like her old self. She was hungry, and wondered if they would bring her crackers. I told her no. But I get it; she's feeling better now. We had a long talk about stuff, interrupted only by a nurse who said her doctor had ordered some more drugs for her. He wanted to know if he should order a NG tube (that thing that went up her nose in the hospital).  I said no, she didn't want that. Cathy looked at me and said, "Well, maybe."

This is what we are currently weighing. With the tube, she's going to be able to hang on for a while. But she will have to stay in the center. She can't come home with the NG tube. If she takes that NG tube out, the timeline is shortened, but then so is her pain and discomfort. 

The drugs she is on right now seem to be working spectacularly. She has a day or two to mull it over. We've all decided that whatever Cathy wants, Cathy gets. That includes Ginger Beer, as I am under strict instructions to bring some back when I return. 

And that's all I know at the moment. She's resting and she's comfortable--well, as comfortable as she can be in a hospital bed. She's seen a lot of family and she's got more coming. She's making calls and talking to people. I don't know if this is a rally, but I hope it is. I hope we see a few of them. 

I know these posts are upsetting to a lot of you, and I don't want you to have these terrible images in your head as the last memories of Cathy that you have. I'm not going to show any more pictures of her fight with cancer. Instead, I'm going to show only pictures of the Cathy we all remember, the Cathy we know and love. This is one of the photos we took for our engagement announcement. Not a lot of people have seen it. I guess it was a little too mushy. But it's a really good picture. 

I will post again when something changes. Hopefully I can get Cathy home one last time. 
Thank you, everyone, for your friendship and your love. Thank you for your courage and for going through this with me. Thank you for everything, from me and from Cathy. You've all made an incalculable difference in our lives. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Cancer: Three Days Later

Many of you aren't on Facebook and don't follow me there, so here is the update on our situation. Suffice to say, we are mostly out of the woods now, and Cathy is doing much better. Thank you all for your words of comfort, encouragement and strength and support during this hellish ordeal. It's been a long week. I feel like I've aged a month. But things look much much better.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cancer: Three Days

Happier Times.
Two years ago, almost to the month, Cathy started cancer treatments. At the time, she had a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer, and they were calling it Stage 3, but with a look on their faces that suggested that number could change at any second.

We were terrified, if I may be allowed the largest understatement of my professional writing career. Petrified. But also, weirdly, galvanized. There was a sense—more from me than from Cathy—that this was a temporary state of being. An inconvenience to be conquered, and then monitored closely thereafter. We were getting older. Trade-offs being, now we have health problems. But even though the numbers of recurrence were scary, 48% chance of the cancer returning, we were committed to powering through this. The cancer, after all, showed up at the worst time. Super inconvenient. We were just getting our shit together, after, what? Fifteen years of marriage? But we had time to fix it.

Now we have seventy-two hours. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Waitaminute...orcs are what, now?

This past week, GamerTwitter erupted into a massive feud, ecologically intended to cull followers, block bad actors, and re-affirm tribal politics and practices, by declaring that orcs in D&D are racist. Or, rather, the idea of orcs in D&D are inherently racist. Or, rather, the language used to describe orcs in the official books is the language of oppression and dehumanization used in racist pograms. Or, rather, the historical antecedent of orcs was borne out of racism, i.e. Tolkien was a racist who didn’t like the Huns. Or was it Vikings? Or Asians? Or, rather, or rather, or rather…

Maybe you can see what the problem was, but just in case you can’t, I’ll tell you. Blogger A was arguing X, and Personality B was counter-arguing for Y. Gamer C was really incensed about Z. No one was approaching the subject with agreed-upon terms and criteria. Everyone was talking past one another. Oh, and the name-calling was a nice touch, too. This is why we can’t have nice things.

I saw a lot of people my age and older flip the table at the suggestion that they were racists because for the past forty-five years, orcs have been the default bad guys in D&D. “Why can’t we just play the game?” they yelled. “Why must you people politicize everything?” Setting aside how you might feel about that over-simplification, I think that, if we dial it back a few notches, there might be a useful conversation to have. But it can’t start with, “Um, okay, I think you should know that you’re part of the problem,” because that murders the discourse in its crib.

Let me try this as a way to get into the topic without anyone flipping anything. We didn’t perceive there to actually BE a problem with killing orcs back in 1984, because we were teenagers playing fantasy games, and we weren’t being asked to, nor did we suspect that we even could, examine the cultural implications of what that meant; For a lot of other reasons, but mainly because the game itself has had a moral and ethical compass baked into it (called alignment) that tended to render abstract the underpinnings of everything in the game. There was good and evil, law and chaos. Monsters tended to be evil. People, not really. But only, yes, actually, the players. Well, some players. Most players were good. But there was always that one kid that wanted to play an assassin. Or the bad guys who were humanoid necromancers and raised undead simply because they could. Their goodness or evilness was never examined, unpacked, or sorted through. These stories we were creating together were morality plays, fairy tales, penny dreadfuls. And orcs were bad guys, because they were in the Lord of the Rings, and even back before Peter Jackson, elves were cool and hated orcs and everyone liked them so everyone hated orcs via the transitive property.

If you tell me that Tolkien’s depiction of orcs is racist because the language he used to describe them is akin to racial stereotyping or propaganda, I won’t debate you. I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m not, and never was, a huge Tolkien fan. Those books don’t figure into my creative DNA. I read them because as a D&D player, it felt wrong to not read them. So, go ahead. Throw him under the bus. It won’t matter, as his place in the canon is deeply and firmly entrenched. But, sure, yes, okay. Tolkien used them to make humans inhuman, and thus, easier to hate and easier to kill.

So, where does that leave D&D?

Well, the earliest depiction of orcs we were shown were basically pig men in 1970s D&D. Someone somewhere said there was a linguistic reason for this, but I don't want to chase it down. 

By the mid-1980s, the drift over into more humanoid-orcishness was happening. Here’s the image of orcs from the second edition of D&D, published in the 1980s. 

Games Workshop, meanwhile, was developing a wargame and rpg empire over in Great Britain called Warhammer and their orcs were goblin green and had mohawks and spoke with Cockney accents, like British soccer hooligans. Avocado green. Huge, comical underbites with huge, comical tusks jutting out. 

This is a half-orc paladin. From the Player's Handbook.
You've come a long way, baby.
Successive editions of D&D and other games followed suit, until we have the current depictions that run a full spectrum from scary to sexy. Anime kids, it seems, can fetishize anything. I'm not a fan of TVTropes for a large number of reasons, but this entry for Our Orcs Are Different does a good job of breaking down the nomenclature and the genus and phylum of orcs and orks and all other versions of same. 

Over the years, I’ve seen D&D drift more and more into the lanes of playing exotic monster races, including goblins and orcs, as well as minotaurs, yuan-ti, and any other creature type that was perceived as a “monster” but intelligent and thus, capable of free will. Even the original “dark elves,” the Drow, are playable, alongside other races of humanoids from the Underdark. You can even play...*shudder* people...if the DM will let you. Hint: I will not let you.

But D&D is still D&D, and that means at first level, you are probably going to fight goblins (Tolkien's other name for orcs, but let's not further muddy the waters). And when you’re strong enough, you’re going to graduate up to orcs. And then minotaurs, and medusae, and eventually dragons, demons, and so on and so forth. It’s how the game has been played forever.

Except, it hasn’t, not really. There’s no one way to play the game, as you will see if you join any of the hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to D&D. There’s no one way, no “right” way, and there never has been. And moreover, anyone who says so these days is roundly shouted down, pilloried, and beaten with sticks. Every DM is different. Every game table is different. Fifth edition in particular leans into that assertion and customization of D&D is now a feature of the game.

One other note: D&D 5th edition’s artwork is an inclusive cornucopia of skin tones and, if not a fifty-fifty mix of men and women, at least a lot MORE women than in past editions, and no perceived class bias, either. The illustration for the Fighter is a black woman in armor, looking as cool and capable as any D&D player character could. This was largely applauded, and the current rules state that skin color and sexuality are open in the game and have no bearing on mechanics or the world itself. Humans are humans. Everything else is a player’s choice.

I am willing to bet you a million dollars that, when they were working all of this out in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, that they would have ever dreamed that one day, they’d be raked over the coals on Twitter because the orcs aren’t woke.

I must confess, and I realize that I’m opening myself up for this, but I read the original tweet that started the firestorm, and I think this is a non-issue. Or, rather, this is only as big a deal as you want to make it. This, right here? It was  two paragraphs from one of the supplemental books called Volo’s Guide to Monsters. This is a book you do not need in order to play D&D. It’s not part of the core of rules. It’s optional, an add-on, non-essential. You have to seek this book out.

One of the main features of this book was taking many of the humanoid races that have been deemed “monsters” and opening them up for role-playing by players. Those two paragraphs are immediately followed by the background traits tables that all players use to flesh out their D&D characters. They include personality traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws. 

It seems to me that whatever orcs maybe used to be, they aren’t really that now, and that's been 100% by player choice, and if the rest of the 10-page entry on orcs and not just the two paragraphs above are any indicator, this is supported by the game itself. I’m not saying that orcs maybe aren’t differently problematic for some people, but I think it might be worth acknowledging what D&D got right this time before you tell the 40 million people playing it that they are doing it wrong.