No. Bad. Monkeys!!!

I have been remiss in updating the results of my latest scans done in the search for bad monkeys. There’s been some other stuff going on in my life, so I’ll just take this quiet moment to take a breath, compose myself, and scream NO BAD MONKEYS!!!!
The MRI of my leg, site of the original bad monkey uprising, shows no evidence of a return to the scene of the crime. I wouldn’t return either if someone had come in slicing and dicing like my surgeon did. Still, one worries. Well, I suspect the one that worries most is actually my surgical oncologist. I’m pretty sure those monkeys won’t be back, especially not there.
The other scan was a CT scan of my chest, because it is thought that the bad monkeys are attracted to the open caverns of the lungs. Not sure why. Maybe there is more space to swing from things and fling poo and such. At any rate, above mentioned surgical oncologist keeps wanting to scan my chest in case any of the bad monkeys try setting up shop there. And there was some concern as a CT scan I had done last spring for a completely unrelated thing (I decided to have a stroke because life just wasn’t interesting enough with only cancer) showed a small “nodule” at the apex of one of my lungs.
Well, the report of the CT scan of my chest showed NO BAD MONKEYS! there either! As my god-daughter would say, booyah!
Having repeated scans can produce a lot of anxiety – scanxiety some call it. But when they come back clear it really helps one look forward and feel confident. This has given me a spring in my step, even in the surgically altered leg, as I head towards spring.
No bad monkeys is good monkeys.


The Automatic Shutoff Gift

After years of killing innocent pots, pans, and kettles with the flames of distracted cooking, I finally wised up and bought myself an electric kettle and electric rice cooker, both with automatic shut off features. Now, when the water is boiled, or the rice cooked, these devices quietly shut themselves off and patiently wait for me to remember that I was at one time interested in what they were cooking or heating up. This patience is needed, as sometimes the black hole of Facebook or some similar, terribly important and vital, internet offerings will have sucked my mind and soul into a place where time passes slowly there, but quickly back in the real world. This is similar to one of those planets they visit in the movie Interstellar.

What does any of this have to do with bad monkeys or my health and healing?

Well, I was thinking about it this morning – we ALL have that automatic off feature in us. At some point in time we will be, shall we say, cooked, and a switch with control over our fates will flip and that will be that.

And, in a way, that is comforting for me to think about. When one hears dire news of ones health, and graven faced doctors deliver you the news that you are just a bad monkey or two away from absolute ruin, it is natural we get scared and feel panic. We want to fight for our very lives. Which is good. It is important to want to fight. But it can also set you up for the feeling that you are failing in that fight, and if you start judging it too much that can cause depression, more panic, confusion, anger, etc… a lot of emotions that might actually interfere with not only your healing energy, but your ability to enjoy the time you do have remaining,

We all have a switch that will turn the process off, so worrying about when that is going to happen or how, is not going to change anything, except make you feel more anxious and unable to enjoy that very process.

Our egos think very highly of themselves. They think they are the centre of the universe and, thus, they MUST stay alive to keep all matter existent! Which is true in a sense. But also an illusion, ignorant of a greater reality. It is my ego which veers out of control when faced with the idea of being switched off one day. How dare they! Don’t they know who I am?

There are many ways to learn to accept and embrace your automatic shutoff switch. And doing so will allow you to accept the inevitable and allow you to enjoy the process of cooking through life without worrying about whether you will burst into smoke and flames. You won’t. When your time comes, the switch will flip, and you’ll be ready for your next adventure.

(image from dzdrawz on tumblr)

Expect the best, prepare for the worst.

My surgery is less than a week away and I am starting to fret. I am anxious about having this “wide resection” (what an interesting word, resection: Surgical removal of all or part of an organ, tissue, or structure) of a “significant” amount of the calf muscle in my right leg, and what that may mean for me.

The goal is to rid my leg, and hopefully my body, of any hiding cancer cells who may yet live to foment rebellion another day. While my surgeon has a plan of how much muscle and tissue he will take out in an effort to round-up any strays, he also told me that if he “sees cancer” while he in there rooting around he will go after it. This is both reassuring and unsettling. It’s like asking my dog to fetch me one piece of pizza out of the pizza box. Ok, that was a weird analogy. I couldn’t think of a better one. I spent 15 minutes trying to. But I would never ask my dog to fetch me a piece of pizza. It is like asking a black hole not to swallow stars.

Okay, perhaps I should steer clear of analogies tonight.

I grilled my surgeon on his plans, like a mother asking her daughter what her plans were for a night out with friends. Wait, I said I wouldn’t do any more analogies. I may need a support group for this.

Let’s just say that my surgeon had to reassure me a lot, a task he somewhat failed at. He did assuage me enough (well, he sweet talked me with his sexy Australian accent) into going ahead with the surgery. But at the same time as he promised I would regain “normal” use of my leg, he also made it clear that things can unpredictable. The hope is my remaining muscle will compensate and allow me to do most things I can do now, although apparently my future career as an Olympic sprinter is over. Rats, I was just getting psyched for that stardom. Well, at least I will have a legit excuse. Sounds better than, oh, say, lack of ambition and talent.

It is worrisome that I won’t really know how my leg will recover and what it is I will actually lose in the end. Only time will tell. For now, I am trying to get my left leg to up its game. This has been met with some resistance. Ol’ Lefty is kind of the lazy one of my two legs, not to mention the more clumsy one. I hope she is up for the job. She really isn’t used to being the leader and the one counted on the most. So far, in practices, she tends to do her best for a few focused moments and then wander off to her more accustomed place in the background, following Righty’s lead. Well, once Righty is out for the count, we will be relying on Lefty to pick up the slack. I just hope she doesn’t just collapse and run off to eat chocolate in bed to console herself.

So, besides being apprehensive about all the fun stuff that comes with major surgery, such as being able to reel off higher numbers on the pain scale and hallucinating while on painkillers, I am also anxious about what recovery will look like long-term. What if I am left with a permanent limp?

Well, at least I have my answer ready when someone asks me what happened to my leg. I’ll look at them with solemn seriousness and say, “Monkeys. Bad monkeys.”


Me, Nervous? Nahhh.

Every time I hear the sound of that “nahhh” I think of the German man who videotaped the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand . He and his family are on the beach, looking out over the ocean which has retreated after an earlier earthquake. In the distance they spot a white line on the horizon. The man videotaping the scene keeps repeating “what is that?” and finally his wife suggests it could be something caused by the earlier earthquake. “Nahhh!” he exclaims, as the line gets closer and bigger. It is excruciating to watch as we know it is a giant wave and the tourists wait until it is almost upon them before they start running for their lives. The terrorized children, dragged by their panicking parents probably wanted to tell their father, “Next time, listen to mama!”

Sometimes, “Nahhh” is probably not a very good response to impending events.

Am I nervous about my wide resection surgery in less than 2 weeks? Well, I was thinking I was doing ok with keeping calm and confident about things, but yesterday I had two small panic attacks for no apparent reason, and then I dreamt all night of arriving at the hospital and then hobbling home and dealing with the after effects of the surgery. So I suppose it IS bothering me more than I realize.

And it is natural to be nervous about this, just as it is natural to be upset to hear someone tell you that you have cancer. The trick is to try to not let fear and anxiety make it harder for you to go through what you need to do to recover and heal, but at the same time one must acknowledge the feelings of nervousness and fear.

So, “yahhh” I am nervous.

I think, because I recently did a very similar, but smaller, surgery when I had the tumour removed, I know better what to expect… and that is a good thing – less chance of the kind of nasty surprises my partner has had to endure after her own cancer treatments. But it also means I know all too well how hard the first few days will be after surgery – not right away because they sure give you good drugs immediately, but when my body starts healing in earnest the pain will increase. And I can expect MUCH worse this time. When my surgeon told me the reason I will be staying in hospital overnight after this surgery was because I “might want to access the pain control abilities of the hospital” I knew I was in for it. Usually doctors downplay pain, often describing what turns out to be “please kill me now” pain as “some discomfort”.

A couple of years ago I had the very first surgery of my life and it was a big one. I won’t get into details about that right now, but it was premeditated and planned and I got to see how patients who had the same surgery a week earlier were faring. And THAT had me out the door of the clinic’s residence and thinking about how far my Visa card would get me. Would people be upset if I just went off and started a new life somewhere else, running from my challenges?

I eventually went back to the clinic and did do the surgery and suffered like everyone else and got through it. And I’ll get through this too. It’s just I DO know there will be some really tough times for a while and I may have to deal with some unexpected things.

Would it have been better for “Mr. Nahhh” to have known the devastation coming? Probably. They wouldn’t have ended up running for their lives, and would have minimized their risk. But, they would have had to endure that awful event anyway.

I think I would rather be as prepared as possible for this than have it surprise me after. There may be some surprises, but I will be better able to handle those things. Although, being prepared also means finding out as much as I can beforehand and visualizing how it may go, and that can easily cascade into fear. But fear is to be walked through. And other bravados I shall keep telling myself.

And now, to further prepare, I shall practice walking up and down our stairs on crutches without tumbling into the roses. It will be far easier to practice climbing out of the rose-bush with two functioning legs.

Forewarned is forearmed. Or forelegged in my case, I suppose.