Monday, December 10, 2018

Health Update: Pneumonia Sucks

I will keep this short.

Cathy got out of the house today, for the first time since coming home from the hospital. With her portable oxygen tank strapped to her back, we made it down the stairs, to the hospital for a chest X-ray, and then over to our primary care physician for a check up, in just under two hours. Considering that all of the above locations are a five minute drive from the theater, you can be assured that yes, it took a long time.

That's what pneumonia does, apparently. In blocking your airway, it starves your body and your blood of oxygen. I mean, we're looking at a four-to-six week recovery time...and we caught it early. I shudder to think what would have happened if we had waited a couple of days. Cathy would probably still be in the hospital.

Still, she is feeling better. She's out of the hospital, at home, in her own clothes, and dealing with me, playing the role of Patch Adams. Here's a free life lesson for you: when someone you know is on home oxygen, connected to about fifty feet of tubing, and trying to cross a room, moving very slowly, you may be tempted to make space-walk astronaut noises, and imitate the radio crackle of Neil Armstrong talking from the surface of the moon. My advice to you is this: the person will not find it funny, no matter how dead-on accurate your Neil Armstrong impression is.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Health Update: Home

Cathy in repose. Taken during her last night in the hospital.
Part of my journey into wellness (and I know how fruit-loop that sounds, okay?) involves taking my negative emotions, my dark thoughts, my little grievances that crop up every day, and instead of tamping them down into my stomach like an emotionally-stunted garbage compactor, I process those emotions and thoughts and, well, expel them. Yeah, that's a word that doesn't sound like poop, sure. And I have been doing pretty good with that strategy, writing a lot more on this blog and turning my family's struggles into something less than poignant and a little more than maudlin.

Even so, I was not prepared for Cathy's stay in the hospital. Not at all. It was a clothesline maneuver from the get-go. We walked in to get blood work done, and then she got an oxygen tube in her nose, and then they ordered a chest X-ray, and then here comes a second doctor, and suddenly, they are admitting her for pneumonia. Onetwothree like that. Oh, and in the midst of her dealing with pneumonia, here comes this whack-a-do muscle spasm that is locking her body up like a rictus, shooting agonizing pain through her with every breath, every sneeze, and oh, hello there, pneumonia, every single cough.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Cancer: Pain Management

Cathy, under the blanket her sister knitted for her. The damn
thing weighs twenty five pounds, I kid you not. It's like a
Thunder Shirt for grown-ups. Cathy loves it. 
I should have known better. It was going so well. In every movie, every comic book, every aspect of cliched storytelling the world over, it's the guy in the war movie who stands up and says, "I can't wait to get home tomorrow to see my baby girl!" that gets taken out by a sniper.

The "we've got a handle on this pneumonia" post must have felt a lot like bragging, because the Stage Three Ovarian Cancer Sniper was quick to remind us that he's still out there, and he's an asshole.

Ever since her diagnosis, and a little before, Cathy has complained of intense, localized lower back pain--think a charlie horse, but up in the middle of your back. We have examined, poked, prodded, massaged and kneaded the area, to no avail. Muscle relaxers? Tried 'em. Yoga? You betcha. Nothing worked. The thing was this: it didn't feel like a back muscle spasm. No knots, no bulges, no tightness, nothing I could feel. The muscles in her back were fine, even in the midst of a 'spasm.'

With her cancer diagnosis, Cathy was quick to report the problem to her oncologist, who confirmed what we knew: not only was there no muscular problems, there was no cancer, either. Not there, anyway. The cancer and its accompanying physiological problems could still be the culprit, however. Neurological pain is complicated, and without being able to isolate something, there could be any number of things pressing down on somewhere else, and the pain receptor in her back is going haywire.

Yeah. This sucks, all right.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Health: Cathy Update

Dateline: Sunday December 2

One of the things that they tell you look out for when you start taking chemotherapy is "flu-like symptoms." They are serious about it; emphatic. The doctors tell you. The nurses tell you. The guy making the sandwiches tells  you. "Hey...no screwing around, now. You get to feeling sick? You call in and let us know immediately."

And it makes perfect sense, right? I mean, after all, the chemotherapy messes with your immune system. Your white blood cells, etc. It's part of what makes the chemotherapy work, and also part of what everyone dreads about it. I've written before about some of the symptoms that Cathy has endured in these past six months, and while I've tried to be as whimsical about it as I can, it's still a problem, especially since Cathy has an ever-rotating palette of symptoms and side-effects that present themselves, at different times, dependent on where we are in her chemotherapy cycle. It's a lot like living with a werewolf.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Health Update: Well, Shit.

It's been a difficult month. I've been prepping for surgery for the last two and a half weeks. Lots of logistical loose ends to tie up, everything from assigning various theater duties to minions and/or training them, to dealing with insurance companies and the vast sums of money that prop up the medical health profession, not to mention my own normal fears about doctors, needles, surgery, and body invasion that have been hounding me for as long as I've been aware that I will need surgery.

I've done my best to embrace the change: "This is a good thing," I told myself, over and over again, usually whilst rocking in a a near-fetal position with a glass of bourbon. "These are necessary for your ongoing health, wellness, and recovery." I've used every moment of physical discomfort or an inability to lift something as a way of reinforcing the idea that soon, this will be addressed, and then you'll have some mobility back as well as a quality of life that you haven't had in years.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stan Lee (1922 - 2018)

This is my enduring image of Stan, and from
the time when I was most enamored of him.

What the hell do you even say? Where do you even start? Ninety-five years. A long life—a charmed, stone-cold lucky, twice over, fairy tale roller coaster of a life—a living reward for a body of creative work that is worth billions today. He died knowing he was beloved, lionized, and canonized the world over. We should all be so lucky.

Stan Lee’s career spans the whole of the comic book industry from its modest origins to the mega-billion dollar Marvel franchise he helped to create. I can’t parse this. It feels like the end of something. Earlier this year when Steve Ditko passed, I knew that there was one shoe left to drop. It doesn’t seem fair to this Spider-Man fan to have to mourn both of his creators in the same year. But Stan Lee was not just Spider-Man’s creator, although if that were all he ever did, it would certainly be enough. Stan was an architect of Cool, the self-styled "Homor of the Comics," the kind of creator that contained multitudes. There's a lot to unpack. Please be patient with me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Health: Nobody Vomits Gracefully

Watch out for this guy. He'll kill ya.

Food poisoning is one of the great equalizers; everyone has at least one instance where they ate something and not long after, it sent their body into open revolt. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and I’d like to think that my recent experiences taught me a thing or two. One seldom expects to encounter life wisdom while poised over a toilet, and yet, beggars can’t be choosers. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Those of you not from Texas probably know all about the storied tourist trap called the Big Texan; it’s been featured in many TV shows and stands as a living, throbbing testament to Texas Excess and all that comes with it. This is one of the many roadside attractions that memorialize the passing of Route 66, an intentional call-back to a bygone era. Their well-publicized signature dish is a 72-ounce sirloin steak and all of the trimmings. If you can finish the entire meal in an hour, it’s on the house.

Even if they didn’t have a steak the size of a hubcap for people to gleefully masticate, the place would still be on the map as the Official Cultural Graveyard of Texas. This is where tourism goes to die. Anything that can hold an image of the Texas flag or any of its composite or ancillary components (a single star, or the distinctive outline of the state, for example) is replicated on a bewildering array of merchandise which is then jacked up to three to five times the normal price, because, you see, everything is bigger in Texas, including con jobs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Top 5 Favorite Witch Movies


Movies about witches and witchcraft are perennially popular, but that’s mostly because they are the same story, often played for laughs, as these women with magical powers help the men in their lives either thwart evil or perpetrate it, by degrees. It’s peculiar to me how many witchcraft movies are some iteration of that basic premise. Lots of things happen in schools, by the way. I’m sure there’s a message in there, somewhere.

When movies about witchcraft are scary, they are pretty terrifying. The alternative is something usually between Bewitched and the Witches of Eastwick. Fun movies, by the way, and certainly, witches usually come down on the Most Fun Classic Monster side of the aisle. However, I like my witches mysterious and weird and scary and Not Right. These are my top 5 favorite Witch movies in that specific vein.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Top 5 Favorite Vincent Price Movies


Vincent Leonard Price Jr. (1911-1993) was an American actor who made over a hundred feature films in a variety of genres, including historical drama, mystery, film noir, and even comedy, but he is best known for his roles in horror films. A graduate of Yale with a degree in art history, he later studied abroad in London, where he kindled his love of theater and later performed onstage opposed Helen Hayes in Victoria Regina. This led to a five-play contract with Orson Welles Mercury Theatre. Eventually he was put on contract at Universal as a character actor, playing romantic leads and scoundrels in equal measure. But he never abandoned the stage, returning to it every chance he got.

In fact, it was during his performance in the 1941 play Angel Street (the American version of Gaslight) playing the cruel Jack Manningham, pushing his wife Helen into madness, that he found his true calling playing villains. Speaking about that role, Price told one interviewer “…I came out for my curtain call and the audience just hissed. I knew I'd found my niche.” He secured a few more villain roles and turns in minor horror movies. Later, in the early 1950s, Price would become wildly successful in the genre, leading to some of his most memorable roles and performances for the next twenty-odd years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cancer: A Setback

The girls, chillaxing, taken a few years ago.
There is that old expression, "God doesn't give us more than we can deal with." I saw the following on a T-Shirt, years ago, and I've never forgotten it. "Lord, I know you don't give me more than I can handle. I just wish you didn't have so much confidence in my abilities."

We hit a snag. Cathy didn't get chemo yesterday, because her white blood cell count was too low. Not a biggie, but while Cathy was at the clinic, she complained about her leg being swollen. They sent her to get an ultrasound, and the results were immediate and serious: she has a blood clot in her artery.

She's probably had it for some time, but it could very well have developed from the Skittles-like array of drugs and chemicals she has been swallowing for months, now. There is a drug she can take that will thin the clot down and dissolve it safely. That's good. The drug works over a three to six month period. See if you can guess where this is going.

Cathy's surgery has been postponed until her clot is gone. They can't risk that clot breaking free while they are operating on her. It would kill her. So, until such time as we can be sure the clot won't be a problem during surgery, she's going to take even more medicine and keep taking weekly chemo treatments.

We are disheartened, frustrated, and confused. That's putting it mildly. More than anything I'm frustrated for Cathy, because I know this treatment is working, but it's doing a number on her. We may not be able to go out of town for our anniversary. She's got to stay mobile on the leg while she's taking the meds. A six hour car ride isn't what she needs right now.

More on this later. I'm tired and irritated. I hate this. I just hate it.