Surgery turned out to be a joyous experience. The team all laughed with me… I implored them all to have fun during surgery… to be mindful, but have fun! They were all wonderful.
During pre-op, I asked the surgeon if he listened to music during surgeries and he said he did… any requests? I said questioningly, “Hamilton?” His eyes lit up and he said he had it on his phone, no problem at all. I was so happy to know I would fall asleep to Lin-Manuel Miranda singing to me.
I am a really hard poke, but the 40-year experienced nurse got me on one stick. YAY! My BP was awesome, I was doing great.
My daughter Aimee hung out with me and was the epitome of great support.
Once in the OR, we all continued laughing and then the surgeon came over, masked as everyone else was, and said, “Now here is the most important question.”
I braced myself.
“Do you want the Soundtrack or the Mixtape?” I laughed loudly and said, “Play the fucking Mixtape!” So I went to sleep listening to Busta Rhymes belting out “My Shot.”
I woke up great and easy. My mom came to say hi, which was nice.
I guess the main tumor on my arm had some roots to it, so they had to dig 1.5 inches further than they expected. Oh, well. The place on my back was smaller and closed with Dermabond (Superglue) and does not hurt one tiny bit. Yay!
Yesterday was my 58th birthday. WOO HOO!
My voice was somewhat hoarse after surgery, normal apparently. I’d never had that happen before, but whatever. Now, however, I am completely mute. A laugh sounds like a mouse squeak.
I called the doc and they said that sometimes intubation can scratch the vocal cords. Yeah, it can take ONE to EIGHT WEEKS to be able to talk again. I asked for a referral to a whomever one sees for vocal cord injuries. For those that do not know, my JOB is talking. A LOT. I cannot NOT work for 8 weeks! Let’s all visualize my vocal cords bathed in healing juices. Oh, and happily, my throat does not hurt at all. So, there is that.
I am doing well, 2 days postop. Am glad it is done, looking forward to the Path Report.
Excision Surgery to remove the malignant melanoma and the dysplastic nevus is scheduled for next week, March 28th, 2019… the day before my 58th birthday. I keep thinking I am okay, not nervous or worried, but my behaviors say differently.
I was in pain a few days ago so bought a bottle of amaretto. In a 24-hour period, I drank the entire bottle. When I was done, I thought, “Hmmm, this is not a good way to cope,” so called my therapist and had an emergency session with her that night. She offered other ways of coping… distraction being the main one… playing more in Second Life, writing more and finding a good book to read.
(Please don’t tune out the next section!)
I considered calling the psychiatrist for some anti-anxiety meds, but thought that wasn’t a good strategy for a former addict either. Instead, I bought Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
When I was in all that liver pain, I meditated a lot, but when the pain was pretty much gone, I stopped (like a goofball). Now, here I am again, needing to meditate and I am having to relearn the skills I knew so well not so long ago. I am not worried, but BE-ing in the moment (did you who meditate chuckle like I did?) and going with where I am and doing it. Talk about the Beginner’s Mind!
In anticipation of next week’s surgery and not using pain meds afterwards to help with pain management, I am going to stay “In the Moment” and meditate to work through the pain I will surely have. Although I am not trying to anticipate it. laughing I sound like an advertisement for MBSR.
Due to a glitch in my insurance and the Latuda company’s lack of medication, I went about a week without it. Might have been more. I have been back on it for 4 days now, but have fallen into depression. I wasn’t sure at first, but after sleeping 20 hours a day 3 days in a row, I think that qualifies as depression.
And the crying.
I hate the crying.
The welling up of tears for (seemingly) no reason. The way they fall unabated, no amount of logic stopping them. They just turn on and off at their own whim.
What am I sad about? Nothing. There is no precipitating factor here, merely biochemical.
I was living with 5 gay friends in a condo, way back in 1979. I was 18 and out on my own for the first time. Going to the Parliament House, the big gay bar in our city, was The Priority in our lives… above eating and, of course, paying our rent.
So when rent was due and we only had $500 between the 5 of us, 3 of us decided to take our winnings, er… rent money… and head to New York City. Living in Orlando, that was quite ambitious thinking, but we were all young and stupid and believed anything was possible.
We stopped by my dad’s house so I could grab the Oldsmobile Delta 88, an enormous light blue wonder that had one back window that wouldn’t go down, another that wouldn’t go up, a trunk that would not open and a hood tied with metal wire to keep it down. I had to dig around for the keys and license plate, but found those and we were off, in my dad’s now-stolen car.
We packed that car with all of our belongings: clothes, shoes, books… and for some reason, several jars of peanut butter and jars of grape jam. (Jars were glass back then, no plastic ruining the environment in the olden days.)
I remember Bobby taking the first shift in the back seat, laying sideways on all the stuff, his shoulder hitting the roof resting on the huge pile. We tried to open the trunk 100 times, to no avail, so finally resigned ourselves that sleeping like the Princess in the Pea was a part of this adventure.
Bobby, a bright-red redhead, curly hair down around his shoulders, ached to be a drag queen, dancing and miming songs at every chance. Even up on his back seat perch, I laughed hysterically, seeing him in the rear view mirror, holding a hairbrush and lip synching to “I Will Survive” on the radio.
Bobby was a liar, telling us, with complete conviction, that the Oscar Meyer little boy was his brother. At first we were awed, then the lies built onto each other and when it took a teasel to figure one truth from another, we just shrugged and laughed no matter what he said.
The other roommate who came with us was Scott, a gay guy I had known since junior high. Scott was so smart and clever, but more of a book nerd than either Bobby or I; he was a good balance for us. Scott found his way into laughing for the sake of laughing on this trip, which makes me so happy since he died of AIDS not 3 years hence. I was very glad to witness his joy. Bobby also died of AIDS a couple of years after Scott.
During our trip of 1979, AIDS was an unknown. Sex was with utter abandon. The worst sexually transmitted disease one could get was herpes and that seemed like a social death sentence. Little did we know then, herpes would be almost benign.
The first person I knew of who died of the Gay Cancer was Fat Matt. I was fat, too, and Fat Matt and I talked a lot about dieting and trying to lose weight. Being fat as a gay man was not good… being fit and being gorgeous were (and are) a gay thing. So when Matt began losing weight, he was ecstatic. He had no idea what he was doing to lose so fast, but he was thrilled. His sex life picked up, his self-esteem soared… and then he passed through thin, from healthy to gaunt in a few weeks. Matt was gone 6 months after he began losing weight. None of us knew what happened. He was such a dear, fun friend, the bar seemed odd without his flouncing around, showing us his hippo dance from Fantasia.
Then there were others, not fat men, who began losing weight, then their lives. I remember standing in the drag bar, being told two dear club friends had died during the week and reeling with complete confusion about what was happening. It would still be 6 months before the words “Gay Cancer” would be said on the evening news.
Being gay in the late 70’s and early 80’s was still taboo. No “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” no gays in the military, no gay marriage. Homosexuals (and I, the fag hag) clung to each other when our parents changed the locks after throwing our belongings in the front yard. So when our gay friends were dying, we were never invited to the funerals, but held our own memorials at the bar. We would drink to our friends, huddle together, giving each other love and comfort. When there were so many of these bar memorials we’d become numb, we realized we had all run out of tears at the exact same time.
Mom and I sat at the vet the other day, in that tiny side room with the dogs hiding under our feet. We wept together, apologizing for all our past hurts and wrongs. It was extremely freeing to know my mom forgives me for all those horrible kid things I have done… and she has heard that I also forgive her for her own parental difficulties.
Deep inside my colorless cocoon, I have a vague sense of other lives nearby.
I slither through their reality; where is my own? Surrounding myself with the darkness of my depression.
My mirror’d existence bursts into color, fireworks exploding with energy that drains my body, but never my mind.
Having Bipolar Disorder 1 is, quite literally, opposing colors of my brain. I see auras anyway, but during a manic episode, the colors scream off my body, tsunamis of energy crashing into my brain again and again. Voices screech… or whisper… I, never knowing which will be next… raging about how I look, feel, need to act, need to fly, need to find this or that, things that are elusive even after hours of mentally and physically searching.
Exhaustion never comes.
When the electricity finally dissipates after months of zapping me, I collapse into that dark world once again, struggling to keep breathing and not smother myself with the thought that this will go on forever.
Reaching outward, always outward, needing several hands to keep me alive, I am fed my medication, waking only to swallow, then sleeping yet another 23 hours.
Writing is my emotional gauge. By how many words I write in a day, I’m able to see where I stand psychologically.
Not writing for days, weeks, months… I am in that dark place and need help. Too often, because I am alone, I do not recognize the need for many weeks and, by then, am buried by the pain.
However, when I write 20,000 words in a day… several blog posts for me, blog posts and essays for work… long emails to friends and family… run-on sentences with divergent topics… it is they who sense my need for help and their well-rehearsed phone calls are made to see who can get me to the doctor the fastest.
Walking the tightrope, umbrella in hand, I teeter, side to side, always searching for that inaccessible balance.
When I first went to jail in Orlando, I was freaked out and so very alone. I got to talk to my former partner Zack and my other former partner (we were in a triad at the time), but those calls were limited and I spent the majority of time bawling my head off.
I needed to write about my pain. In the worst way.
I did not know how to get pencil and paper yet (through the commissary) and when I did, I ordered it right away. Still, it took a couple more days before I laid hands on writing utensils.
In the meantime, I came up with a creative way to “talk” to my friends and lovers.
I typed on the computer to them. Not a real computer, of course, but a keyboard hovering in the air in front of me. And I typed. A lot.
I was put in my own cell for a few days, which was heaven because I could pee and poop in a tad of privacy except for the one wall made of bulletproof glass.
Once in a cell with other women, the peeing and pooping was entertainment for them and I did everything in my power to wait until they were gone from the room; not always possible. Being extremely fat, it remains one of the most embarrassing experiences in my life, this doing bodily functions in a room with 3 other women.
But, at first, I was still by myself. No one to talk to except the tearfully short conversations to my partners.
So, as I said, I wrote on an invisible computer.
I poured out my fears, sadness, confusion and concern that I would never leave jail ever ever. (Which was ridiculous, but I could not be convinced I would not die an old woman in there.) I wrote to my Disney newsgroup friends, telling them how, as I tried to go to sleep, I would “ride” It’s a Small World or even the WEDWay PeopleMover, rides I knew by heart. I told them how I could hear the music, the announcers, feel the PeopleMover slowing at the right spots or flew over Captain Hook on the Peter Pan ride.
I wrote about how I laid on the flat mattress with no sheet or pillow and only a wafer-thin blanket in this freezing place, singing songs from a myriad of Disney movies. Over and over in my head, I would pull Disney memories and walk or rode or sang them to myself. And I told my friends this as I typed the soundless clickity clack of invisible keyboard keys.
I was absorbed in my “discussions” with my friends. Sometimes in non-existent chatrooms, all of us sharing stories of what we were doing that day or where we would go on our next Disney outing.
So when I heard knocking on the window and looked up, I was rather surprised to see 5 faces watching me. I did not stop typing, my fingers mid-air, moving continuously.
“What the fuck is she doing?”
“That bitch is crazy!”
“They better not put her in with me.”
I glanced up again to see a couple rolling their eyes at me as the all turned away to do something else in the Day Room.
And I smiled that they could really have thought I was crazy… and might just leave me alone to my writing.