Caillot de sang sur mon derriere

The Universe tossed me a bone this week.

Hello, Universe, what do you have planned for my backside today?

And yet, at the same time, it delivered another painful lesson to remind me how stupid I am and that I am here for its own amusement.

I visited the cancer hospital, which was an experience in itself and humbling, and met with the colorectal surgeon to fix my rectal prolapse, or what two doctors agreed was a rectal prolapse – first the ER doctor, then my gut doctor, whom I wish had taken a closer look. Maybe he’s dealt with one too many assholes, me, to deal with another.

So, with the opinion of two doctors, I felt confident to make the following statement to the surgeon’s young, highly-attractive doctor in training: “I diagnosed it myself before going to the ER.”

Yes, I looked right into her brown eyes and I said it, selling it with confidence and pride. I should have added: “Give me a mirror and scalpel, hot stuff, and watch me repair it right now. Yes, that’s how awesome and brilliant I am.”

Hello, I’m the Universe. I love it when this idiot gets overconfident. Nothing like a good backhand to the head to teach him a lesson. Wait, it’s about to happen. 

After five minutes of talking about my medical history, it was off to the exam room and getting on my knees and bending over a custom-made, tilting exam table for having your rear-end examined or praying. Or both.

Now I have to mention at this point, as a reminder, as if you needed one, I’m a polarizing person in medical situations that some might consider to be stressful. People either think I’m Mr. Funny Guy dealing with a life of doctors, hospitals, and medical tests, or, on the flip side, the biggest jerk in the world.

Door number two, please.

Many doctors find Home Depot’s tools useful for surgical procedures. And they include a 2-year warranty.

Is there a more appropriate place than an operating or exam room for a joke to lighten the mood? I think not.

Like when the doctor tipped the table forward and my ass raised high in the air for the crammed, standing-room-only crowd of nurses: “Where can I get one of these for my bedroom?”

Dead silence.

Or, how about this classic to the doctor after the scope went in and out and I pulled up my shorts up and faced him: “Well, that happened.” [Confused look by the doctor.] So, I tried to explain the joke: “That’s what Alec Baldwin said in the movie, State and Main, after he drove drunk, crashed with an underage girl in the car, and sent her walking home with a bad injury, then left the scene of the accident himself. ‘Well, that happened.'”

Clearly, I didn’t deliver the line correctly. More silence from the crowd.

This is the universe again. You are such a prick. You never learn. Time for your self-esteem buster. 

“You don’t have a prolapse,” said the doctor.

“What did you say?”

“You have a blood clot, not a prolapse”

“Do I need surgery for that?”

“No.”

Yes, my dear reader, I’ve been walking around for three days thinking I had a backside in need of surgical repair. Perhaps, a symptom of something worse, the C word. But at that moment, happiness flooded my brain and I could have kissed a few of the onlookers (you know who you are).

However, it occurred to me that two doctors had looked at my rump, “my lovely manly rump” (hey, a similar line was good enough for the Black Peas), and confirmed the diagnosis.

Or had I, super-idiot-pretend-doctor, planted the seed in their minds and they followed along?

And then I thought of my wife following the ER doctor’s directions and trying to push it back in place two times a day for the past three days, which according to the surgeon was about the worse thing you could do for it other than stabbing it with a rusty knife.

Hey, it’s an Edvard Munch painting. Oops, it’s just you in looking in the mirror.

Put me back on the bench and whip me for being too stupid to walk the planet.

Agreed. “I diagnosed it myself.” That’s rich. You’re not very bright. That does make me laugh and it’s not easy to make me, the Universe, laugh. Good one. 

But the best, most deflating moment came when I walked out of the exam room and looked down the hall, waved to the doctor and his two assistants, only to have them not notice because they were standing around laughing.

By the way, recounting this story now makes me feel icky inside. It’s one thing to be an idiot, it’s another to know you are and not be able to do anything about it. [hands on head; head hitting the desk over and over. Thud.]

I am like watching a train full of circus clowns derail and explode into a mushroom cloud of fire, flesh, and flaming red rubber noses falling to earth like meteors.

So, it’s two baths a day, four more days of suppositories, some ice packs, and a return visit in two weeks for my next bombing performance. I can’t wait.

Well, that happened.

Yes. Yes it did.

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An American Work Vacation for Me

I have three weeks off. It’s because I didn’t take much vacation this year and I can’t roll over the days to next year.

Here's where I want to be on my vacation. I'm pretty sure this island lacks cellular coverage

So, I’m catching up on projects around the house and working, as in “work work.”

Yes, the work I’m supposed to be off from right now.

Last week, just before we were about to launch a new video – 5 ,4, 3, 2, abort, ABORT – my manager asked for a major change  – one he and others could have caught early in the review process.

This led to a week of my time tweaking it and the programmers devoting another week to the changes. I like my manager, great guy, but the bummer of this change is that it won’t make much of a difference for the end user, and I now have to shepherd and review the project during my vacation.

Part of this is my fault. I have a hard time making a clean break from work. I have to come down slowly and wean myself off it like a junkie breaking a habit. But technology, limited resources in our department, and the economy are the pushers.

And one device stands out as the villain of my story.

Blackberry, oh Blackberry, the enemy and destroyer of vacations. Blackberry, oh Blackberry.

What a turd of a device at times and savior when I need it. I want to fling it like a rock across a glassy pond. Watch it bounce off the payment and explode into a thousand shards of plastic. But then there are days I want to marry it, be its mate. I love you, little BB.

Future generations will discover piles of these buried in landfills, plastic dinosaur bones

Blackberry, oh Blackberry, you tease. I try not to look at my email, but I can’t help it. I’m Pavlov’s dog and run when the ringer sounds or red light flashes. Email, must read now. Bark. Bark. Must read now. [Drool everywhere.] Why did I read that now? I’m such a stupid f**K. It could have waited. Where’s my bowl of food?

Now I imagine you reading this and thinking, “Why doesn’t someone else do the work while you’re gone?”

Good question, O Wise Reader. I have several answers for you.

First, no one knows the content like I do and they’re buried with their own work and planning for their own vacations. Second, we have limited resources. Over the years, we’ve been told “do more with less.” It’s all about maximizing production and working ourselves to the bone, which ties into my third answer to your question, the economy. Yes, if you don’t do more with less and work every minute of the day and beyond, there is someone unemployed who will. And if you’re thinking of getting another job, don’t.

“There ain’t none to be had, Mister,” said the imaginary hobo by the bus stop.

I guess I shouldn’t feel too sorry for myself. I have a very good job and according to this Yahoo!/CNNMoney article, $34.3 billion in vacation days to go unused this year, a good percentage of Americans don’t use many of the vacation days they earn. At least I get to take my days with some work sprinkled in.

So, bring on the holidays, Xbox madness, and day trips with my daughter to places unknown, like a lake with a smooth surface, perfect for skipping stones.

Bye bye, Tooth. Hello Happiness – I think I’m gonna cry

It’s gone. Lost forever. Pulled out by an oral surgeon who went to medical school to learn how to do it without a hammer and chisel, or string and doorknob. Or black magic. Thank the universe for good, old-fashioned science.

This is the same type of x-ray they took for my tooth extraction. Scary looking. It reminds me of the alien Predator. Creative commons.

It wasn’t as bad I thought it would be. I tapered off the blood thinner to avoid a small gusher when he pulled it, but it wasn’t as bad as the root canals I’ve had, which last a couple of hours.

Five minutes of tugging on it while I was loaded up on a full dose of Xanax and listening to Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave” and life was good again with a piece of gauze to bite down on for an hour.

I was so happy when it was over I think the dentist thought me to be a wee bit mad, as in “Mad Hatter” mad.

It’s just that the stress of the decision to get it removed while stabbing myself with generic Lovenox twice a day worked me over in the head for a few weeks. I had visions of bad things happening, something I’m sure a mere dentist couldn’t understand.

And when I lived, I was so damn happy, I must have confused him by acting like a lottery winner who was happy to lose a tooth because he still had a million bucks in the bank.

I’ve alive. How do you like those apples?

Pulling my big fat tooth, which cracked thanks to the stressors of life causing me to grind my teeth, didn’t kill me – yet. I survived another medical procedure, one of hundreds, which I’m experiencing like restaurants on a “Best of” list.

The dental assistant told me it would take 45 minutes, which meant from the time I got in the chair and received the many Novocaine shots, including one into my infected gum that brought tears to my eyes.

“That area was a little sensitive, huh?” the dentist said, which makes me think it would be hard to lie to dentist, as they’re probably good at reading minute changes in facial expressions, and could have second careers working for the CIA ferreting out lying informants, thus bringing down the need to waterboard every enemy in Iraq.

So, I drove home, carefully, but happy I didn’t transform into a Bellagio Fountain of blood and that it didn’t take 60 minutes of chipping away and drilling to dig the tooth out. Pull, pull, pull – it’s out, go home. Yay.

But I do miss my tooth because, slowly, life is chipping away at me one piece at a time, most of which I cannot see, but feel.

But I can see the bloody socket where the tooth was and work at it with my tongue.  I have a feeling of loss, along with memories of drinking 8 16-oz bottles of Coca-Cola a day when I was younger. And letting the sticky soda work its magic on my teeth for hours at a time.

It all catches up to us at some point down the road, they say. And they would be right, whoever they are, #&$#@*s who want to be right all the time. Well, they are.

Caught in the medical riptide

I’m back in heaving ocean waters again. A sea full of medical tests and ailments. And it’s going to be awhile before I can escape its grasp and swim to shore.

It started with the blood clot in my neck and the twice-a-day “shots  from hell” to the gut. Now I have two hematomas on my fat-covered six-pack – large bruises with nodules of what I guess is hardening blood in the middle. Kind of like chocolate candies with almond centers, not that I’ll ever eat those again now.

There are a million rocks under that whipped cream

Then last week on a vacation day, the ocean attacked me by throwing a large stone at my foot. A trail of cuts runs up my right foot to a large bruise near my ankle bone.

I was standing in a field of rocks with my daughter searching for cool looking specimens to take home when a foamy wave shot up the beach, rolled a nice big rock and beaned my foot. It hurt, but I was fine until I went bowling Sunday.

That’s right, bowling.

Who’s bright idea was that? Oh, yeah, mine.

So, we went, Sunday, bowling. And on the second ball I rolled, I pulled a muscle in my ass and back. Embarrassment does come with an injury like that, but I can brag that I played through the pain and bowled three games without being able to bend over to roll the ball. I just sort of had to throw it down the alley to manage the pain. (Grunt, toss, thud, sound of pins falling.)

Clearly, I was not in bowling shape

But we still had fun, with my daughter providing the highlight by leaning over the fan on the ball return and putting the gate down as my ball was heading down the lane. CLANK. Then, as we were figuring out what black magic prevented me from picking up the spare, my ball rolled all the way back and I picked it up as if nothing happened. Good times.

Until I took my shoe off.

Something about the bowling shoe irritated the bruise and caused a golf ball sized hematoma on my ankle, confirmed by the ortho Dr. yesterday.

By bedtime, my foot looks like it belongs to someone you’d see on Jerry Springer who hasn’t left the house for five years because he enjoyed home delivery of ten large Domino’s pizzas each day and crushed his scale north of a 1,000 lbs.

But that wasn’t the best part of the appointment with the ortho. I received a bonus gift during my visit, which is so often the case with visits to the doctor. I choose door 3, but they surprised me with door 2. He told me there is calcification in the artery? Wasn’t clear on that, but he said he normally only sees it in much older patients and I need to see my heart doctor about it.

In CF years, I’m 132. Does that count?

Now I have to get a stress echo or cardiac cath, the latter makes me sweat and want to throw up. Not big on caths of any kind, especially on a blood thinner.

Caption says it all

Oh, and I have the tooth that needs to be pulled asap because the gum is bubbling again, but which I keep putting off because I need to get an oral surgeon to do it thanks to the blood thinner.

Despite all of this, I’m doing my best to power through it, have the best summer possible, and keep swimming with the pain and riptide until the tide turns and I can swim to shore. This is about endurance and mental toughness right now – both of which I often lack.

Or I’ve reached the point in the movie where the lead character has lost it and is waving his gun at the monster in the fog and screaming, “come on, if you’re going to kill me, do it. DO IT. What are you waiting for? Come and get me.”

The next sound you hear will be me firing my remaining shots into the fog.

The two Hells of cystic fibrosis

There are two Hells of having cystic fibrosis.

There’s the first one, which includes all of the torture that comes from having the disease – the coughing up of blood, collapsed lungs, hospitalizations, sinuses filled with polyps, breathing treatments, and anything else directly related to the disease. It’s a long list and longer than I want to capture here.

And then there is a second hell, which is one created from the pain and suffering from ailments caused by being in the churn of the medical system and/or medical devices. Or, indirectly caused by CF. For example: Blood clots. That’s a good one. Cystic fibrosis didn’t cause my newest clot, a medical device I needed to fight CF did. Welcome to Hell 2.0.

Fox thought these shots were called "Love a Fox" and stole them from me. Had to break it to him that they were generic "Lovenox." Silly Fox.

And what about the gut buster known as C-diff? It’s a beauty caused by taking too many antibiotics and/or being in the hospital.  How many times have I come home from the hospital feeling all shiny and new only to have C-Diff spoil my party? Still in Hell 2.0.

There are other side effects of being caught up in the medical grinder. Burned kidneys from the tobra, different strains of bacteria, nurses that slide into bed with you at night while you’re sleeping.  You name it, anything goes in Hell 2.0.

And what about medical bills? Don’t they deserve a hell of their own? Nothing like phone calls to insurance companies and hospital billing departments. Ah, the empathy and understanding of a customer service rep when a claim has been miscoded or rejected. Collection agencies? Devil’s spawn. This is Hell 3.0.

We’re fighting on more than one front here. How many Hells do I have so far?

I have one more. There’s the hell when my wife comes in and lets me know she has an early meeting in two weeks and asks if I can bring our daughter to camp.

Then the asterisk leaves her gentle mouth – “if you’re around.” Not as in “if you’re alive” but rather “if you’re not in the hospital with a blood thinner enema running 24/7.” Ouch, that hurts. Planning two weeks ahead can be impossible in . . . Hell 4.0.

That’s it. End of rant. No fancy ending. Just the simple feeling I’ll never be able to communicate the complexity of this disease to anyone, even my close friends. But I’m grateful there are people out there who get it and donate their time and money to the fight. They’ll be going to nice cushy cloud palaces in the sky when they pass. Me? I’ll be frying in Real Hell where I have to do three treatments a day and stick blood thinner shots in my stomach and . . . hold it. Bloody hell, that sounds like what I have to do now. NO, I’m already there. Where’s the elevator outta this place?

[p.s. I do know things can always be worse. I’m just venting some steam, letting it out. It’s all good. This too shall pass.]

Eating wet dynamite while the universe shoots me in the groin

Gunshot #1: I’ll be saying goodbye to a tooth soon. It’s fractured and needs to come out. Gunshot #2: I have big clot in my neck from my four-month old port. Thank you, universe, for the double tap to my groin. It hurts so good.

A month ago I started having pain in one of my back teeth. I grind a lot and have been too busy to get a fancy nightguard to prevent it. I ate through the last one. Along with the pain, I noticed a lump on the gum that would fill up with blood and pop and repeat the process.

The first dentist called it a fistula, which made me think of Dr. Nanos’s research cows that still cause me nightmares. The third dentist, a periodontist, told me I fractured the tooth and it needed to come out. Oh, and better yet, I have very dense bone and the tooth is quite attached to its current location. No rusty pliers and go-go juice will pull this one out. Bring in the power grinder and drill.

Yet, that wasn’t the best surprise of the week. Tuesday during my treatments I felt pain in the right side of my neck and trap. I had been to the chiropractor the day before and thought the neck adjustment must have injured something. But in the back of my mind I thought that it felt like clot pain.

Wednesday, the pain was still there on and off. When it started throbbing on Thursday, I went to the mirror and looked at my neck and there was a large golf ball bulge behind my collar bone. When I pressed on it, a pulse of fluid shot up my neck.

What hellish medical practical joke is this, Universe?

This is the Urgent Care television. Why do they even have it on the wall? I felt like ripping it down.

The doctor at urgent care took one look at the bulge and told me to go to the emergency room because they had a scanner for clots.

Off to the ER, my favorite place in the entire world. What a joy. And the visit didn’t disappoint.

I was lucky enough to draw the doctor who watched too much of the TV show E.R. and longed for the drama of patients with fence posts through their heads and fifty gunshot wounds to the torso – not patients with bulging necks.

“Urgent Care sent you here?” she asked, letting me know my case wasn’t worthy of a visit and that she’d never seen a clot in the vein that was swollen. Clearly, I was a douche bag to her at that point and an interruption to her day of more interesting patients who needed their heads sewn back on.

She called for the scanner, reluctantly. The scanner scanned me and found nothing, which brought about relief on my part. No clot. Doctor Thrill Seeker hated me even more and couldn’t explain (didn’t care) why I had pain and a pulsating lump in my neck. Go away, uninteresting patient. Come back when a gang banger has put a cap in your ass and your blood is spraying like a Yosemite geyser. Then I’ll be interested in helping you.

Ah, the joys of the random ER doc. Wonderful and delightful. But luckily, I have a good CF doc who agreed to take a look at it the next day at the hospital, even though there was no clinic.

After he looked at it, he ordered another scan. The result: a clot at the point the port enters my vein. The ER didn’t scan low enough by a fraction of an inch. I couldn’t believe it. Instant depression in a cup. This meant more Lovenox shots, of which I’ve done over a 1,000 for past clots. And being prone to coughing up blood, the shots are the equivalent to me eating wet dynamite. It’s not if my lungs are going explode like a dragon spitting fire, it’s when and where

So, that’s where I’m at right now. 5 Lovenex shots down. Who knows how many to go. The banging sound you hear right now is my head hitting the wall.

Or, is it the sound of irony since I got my port to avoid the clots the PICCs gave me?

Stay clot-free.

Tapping the Maple Tree

Lately, I’ve been tapping my anger like one taps a maple tree. I jab a spike in my right leg and let it drip sap into a bucket. Most of the time I keep the anger inside, contained. But slowly, I’ve been draining it, letting go of my fear of using it.

Does this hurt the tree? Because it hurts my leg.

We went to a restaurant a few weeks ago for lunch. It took forever to find a parking space. And when my daughter is hungry, that feels like forever and a day. The restaurant was half full; it was 2 p.m. The hostess came to take our drink order and they were out of fresh squeezed lemonade, their specialty. On a Saturday?

We ordered water and an ice tea. But the hostess never came back with the drinks. She walked by us a dozen times – we had transformed into customer ghosts. Then the waitress helped everyone except us. So, we got up and left. No one cared.

Not getting service made me feel bad because I take it personally. My wife says I shouldn’t because it has nothing to do with me – it was a poorly run restaurant. But I tell her the world revolves around me. It always has something to do with me. Was there something wrong with me? Look, I know there’s something wrong with me, but does it really show in the 10 minutes I’ve been in your restaurant? Are you clairvoyant? Did you read my mind and not like what you saw? I don’t like it either, but you don’t have ESP. If you did, you would have seen I’m a great tipper. So there, Amazing Kreskin.

Then I remembered rule #1 in the Book of the Unknown: Never leave the house without the paper bag on your head – you’ll only frighten people if you do.

So, I wrote the restaurant. I’ve written many emails to companies expressing my happiness or displeasure. I had never used the “F” word in one before. Never. Time to tap the anger tree. Bang. I showed it to my wife: “Are you really going to send it?” Bang, I pressed “send.” Then I thought, “What did I just do?” and panicked, a little. But something about it felt good, like they deserved it. The staff at the restaurant was incompetent and lethargic. They ruined our lunch and made us feel bad. The crappy restaurant needed a wake-up call, something with punch – an email capturing the emotion of how we felt. I did my best to communicate it. I never heard back.

We ate lunch at Jamba Juice next to the blenders. I offered my daughter 10 bucks to walk into the evil restaurant and throw her Mango-a-go-go on the floor. “Then, run like the wind. We’ll have the car ready.” Simple plan. She declined. At least she laughed and saw the humor in it. That’s my girl.