Last day in the CO.

Sitting at work, frustrated simply due to trying to trade municipal bonds on a Friday.  I should know better, but I can only chalk that up on the list of things that I used to be good at remembering and now, probably due to chemotherapy, I forget.  It’s weird, having a life centered around being cerebral, and then having that fail on a regular basis.

We leave tomorrow, assuming the weather allows us to.  I’ll be taking a very expensive flight Sunday if it doesn’t, I guess.  Not too worried though — roads were fine today, albeit icy, and all we have to do is get about 1/3rd of the way there and it’s smooth sailing.


I haven’t packed yet — not that it will be too difficult a task, since I’m basically only bringing t-shirts, sweats, underwear, socks, 1 pair of shoes, a couple pairs of jeans and perhaps a polo or two.  Some henleys in case I get cold and my lightweight pullover fleece for the same reason.  A few dive-related shirts like my Guide shirts from the Aquarium to remind me of happier times.  I have all of my tax stuff ready to roll, laptop and Kindle are set, battery charger, headphones, toiletries.  If there’s room I’ll stuff my pillow in.  A phone charger, pictures of the wife and kiddo.  I would be worried more about it not being packed already but it’s not like I’m going to Fiji or something.  It’s Arizona, if I forget it I can buy it.

Saw a friend and coworker yesterday and had the longest chat I’ve ever had with her.  As I told her in a thank you email, it’s been enlightening during this whole thing to see who the truly good people are in my life.  People I never would have expected to hear from have stepped up in amazing ways.  I’m not comfortable with that, since I’m not good with being the recipient of that kind of stuff, but it’s humbling and makes me want to pay it forward, karma-wise, all the more.  Perhaps that’s partially to defray the guilt I seem to feel over people worrying about me?  Not sure, but regardless of motive a little more positivity can’t hurt.

I can’t remember if I mentioned my new Iron Maiden shirt in my last post, for which I again am going to blame chemo.  It’s great, now I have something else to blame for that shit besides college bong hits.  Anyways, I went to dim sum with a bunch of friends last weekend and apparently, since this cancer thing first started, two of them hatched a plan to get me a Iron Maiden soccer shirt with “FUCK CANCER” on the back where the name would go.  Maiden’s merchandiser refused, bizarrely, so some coworkers at the scuba shop who own a printing shop did it.  So they hand me this shirt, signed by a ton of people I know, and I didn’t even know how to react.  Just blew me away.

Anyways my favorite Maiden song is “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” which has everything a Maiden fan could want — cool lyrics, harmonized guitars, sweet solos, the signature Maiden guitar “gallop,” etc.  I could probably sink a few hours of solid debate over whether this is cause or effect, but for whatever reason since July I’ve had this song running in my head for obvious reasons.

I’m waiting in my cold cell when the bell begins to chime
Reflecting on my past life and it doesn’t have much time
‘Cause at 5 o’clock they take me to the Gallows Pole
The sands of time for me are running low

When the priest comes to read me the last rites
I take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for me

Can it be that there’s some sort of an error
Hard to stop the surmounting terror
Is it really the end not some crazy dream?

Somebody please tell me that I’m dreaming
It’s not easy to stop from screaming
But words escape me when I try to speak

There’s a lot of truth in that song — it’s odd because lately people have asked me how I can be so seemingly calm about everything coming down the pipe.  I’m not, really, but I just don’t have the strength to rail against this anymore. Plus I have no choice, which makes this simple.  I mean I could skip the transplant and treatments and die painfully or try to extend my life as long as possible to be with my family.  That’s it, that’s my choices.  I have the best medical care I can possibly get, the logistics are worked out, the appointments all made.  Not looking forward to any of this outside of my plan to try to bribe a nurse to bring me In n’ Out in the hospital, but what can I do?

But on the inside there’s this little boy, a boy I remember from when the world started to hurt when I was small.  When mom was drinking and being abusive, and my parents fought what seemed like every night while I sat in my room and pretended not to hear.  I feel like a part of me stopped growing then while the rest did, and through trauma throughout my life he’s looking out my eyes, scared, alone, and not sure what to do.  He was there when I got destroyed by my first girlfriend cheating on me, when the reality of my first divorce sank in, when I found out I have cancer, etc.  And he’s terrified of all of this coming up, wondering why this is happening, wanting a hug, wanting something else … anything else, but this inevitability.  I think he’s my hope, dashed, the manifestation of what I wanted the world to be and what it ended up doing to me.

Either way, he keeps singing that song.

Pre-Arizona.

Been a tumultuous couple of weeks but figured I should jot a few things down.


I flew out to Arizona for a surgical strike trip in the middle of the month to meet with my doctor and the transplant coordinator I’ll be working with and check out some places to stay.  Both meetings went well although our dates were off a touch — I’ll be doing pre-transplant workups and stuff for 3 weeks, not the two we had thought, before I get admitted to the hospital.  I start on February 3rd and might not be home until April 15th, which is kind of scary.  Especially since I’m paying out of pocket for lodging for all but 3 weeks of that =/

Checked out a bunch of places to stay and settled on a luxury villa I got a good deal on for the entire month (if you can call $3,500 a month a good deal, but supposedly I do get reimbursed for $2,100 of that).  In the end it won’t be that much more than staying in an extended stay hotel that has a kitchenette in the room (our one requirement) and two bedrooms (Ariana needs her own, mostly for our sanity at night).  Fully furnished, washer/dryer, nice kitchen, pool, etc.  The hotels all just felt cramped and uncomfortable and this felt right.

It’s weird to think of leaving for so long — I’ve been doing odd things, too, like organizing my bookshelves, cleaning up my home office.  As in, in case I don’t come back I want things organized for whoever has to deal with it.

Then again being home is weird lately too.  I’m not really getting over the loss of Mischief well.  I think about him all of the time, and I’ve only now come to realize how truly ingrained he was in my day-to-day life.  I take the plastic safety cover off of a bottle of mouthwash and I hesitate to throw it in the garbage because he would always find those and chew/eat them, and then I realize it doesn’t matter anymore.  I sit on the couch and kick my feet up, waiting for him to jump on my lap, and then it hits me that those days are gone.  The list just goes on and on … checking the closet to see if he snuck in before I closed the door, or the washer/dryer, being afraid to leave a door outside open without blocking it with a foot, etc.

Perhaps it’s better that I just go away for a while … I feel almost like a stranger at home, even with Amy and Ariana there and occupying most of my time.  His absence is just so powerful it’s almost overwhelming at times.  Perhaps that seems silly, but when you don’t have a lot of emotional attachments I guess you just lend those you do have that much more weight.

86dc5-mischief

Ariana watched an episode of Diego (Dora-spinoff cartoon) this weekend while Amy was shopping and it had to do with some jungle cat.  At the end she came to my office door and said “where’s my kitty?  Where’s Nischief?”  I told her that Mischief was in kitty Heaven and though he loved her he wasn’t coming back, and she cried.  Me too.

Sometimes life is alltogether too fucking real.  I’ve learned that in spades in the last year.

To add icing to this particularly miserable cake we had to get rid of Trouble too.  A few weeks before Mischief passed she started not using the litter box — I tried everything I could think of  but nothing worked.  She just was so afraid of Amy and Ariana and timid that she’d get emotionally worked up about it.  I put litter boxes upstairs in the guest bedroom where she slept just for her, etc.  Finally a week after Mischief died she pooped in Ariana’s room and that was the final straw.  Hopefully the DFL will be able to find her a home where she’s less stressed — I’m torn up about that loss too, though.  Trouble really was a sweetheart, she was just a typical feral cat.  I think in time, when Ariana had the age and maturity to play with her the right way, that they would have been best friends, but so much for that now.

78452-007

Another balloon hook/tether popped and free, as it were.

We had lunch Saturday with some friends and one mentioned something they read while coping with their own loss of a pet recently.  She said that one of the things people take for granted is how you tend to have physical contact with pets more than anything or anyone else in your life.  How true that is.  I’ve had cats for so long, and so consistently, that everything feels too quiet now and their absence is tangible.  I reach up to pat whoever is camped out on the back of my home office chair, or move my glass so they don’t knock my water over when they jump on my desk, but all I’m answered by is silence and sadness.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past six months since this all started.  One thing is that while I use things like video gaming (and poker, back in the day) to escape reality and just “not think,” I used cats to connect to reality but in a safe way.

What do you do when that’s gone?

Next time I write will be from Arizona.  I’ll try to update more, but as of late I’ve been reluctant to outright promise things, even trivial things, like that lately.

RIP little friend.

I had to have Mischief euthanized yesterday.  His kidneys failed and even with a ridiculously expensive surgery there wasn’t that great a chance.  I went over to say goodbye and give him a few last kisses and hugs yesterday afternoon.

You think, when you are diagnosed with cancer, that at least there’s not much worse than can happen to you.  But there always is, isn’t there?  I feel detached now, like a balloon that just popped another hook holding me back from floating away.  In the 11 years I had that cat he was a teddy bear, a therapist, a constant comfort, my best friend, and so much more — everyone who met him loved him and thought he was the most amazing cat they had ever seen.

And right when I need him the most, when everything else is going to shit around me, he’s randomly taken from me.

I think I’m in shock.  My marriage has been pretty rocky since all of this started, and without a ton of close friends to lean on I’ve been forced to rely on whatever I could safely get to pull myself through the dark times.  I could always count on Mischief’s purring or the feel of rubbing his neck fur to calm me down and balance things.  There’s something to be said, a lot actually with a disease like this, to just have something that loves you for you and doesn’t care about anything else except to steal a little warmth and a head scratch.

Months ago I was having a beer with a friend on my back patio and talking about cancer and all of this, and we were talking about religion.  Jim mentioned that he held out hope that when he died he’d be reunited with his deceased father.  I never put much stock in stuff like that but I told Mischief last night, quietly, that if there is a place like that, and he can’t find anything better, that I hope I’ll get to have him fall asleep on my lap again someday.

Goodbye, little one.  You were a better friend than I probably deserved but I will always appreciate that you shared your life with me, from the moment you picked me out at the DFL until we said goodbye.

And the hits just keep coming.

I made it through the holidays.  It wasn’t easy … it wasn’t going to be, that was obvious.  My daughter had a good time and that’s all that matters, really, even if I had to fake the holiday cheer bit personally.  It’s impossible to describe to those without the knowledge of what standing in terminal shoes really feels like to explain how the taint creeps in, how often unbidden thoughts come of “how many of these will I have left” and “what will these days be like when I’m gone for those left behind?”

I didn’t write here because it’s just too painful for me.

I am waiting for the Mayo Clinic to look over my latest test results to confirm they are still doing the transplant in February — there was a paperwork snafu, as usual, so it’s being dealt with late.  I am hopeful that I can get down there to meet with the doctor and the logistics folks before things start.

Oh, I discovered last chemo day something new and even more depressing than previous discoveries — I was sitting there next to a pregnant woman.  If there’s one thing an infusion room is good for it’s to remind you of how fucking awful cancer can be.

I feel like I’m in some sort of toxic orbit right now — the last few years have been so painful, with one thing coming after another, and there seems to be no let up.  2013 was fucking terrible, so obviously my family was hoping for a reprieve in 2014.  But here I sit today waiting for news that won’t really make a difference about my cat, Mischief.  He was acting funny last night so I took him to an emergency vet and sure enough, he’s in kidney failure.  They are doing more tests but there’s no way I can afford an estimated $8,000 surgery for a cat so regardless of what they find I’ll probably be going over there later to say goodbye today.  I’ve had several cats but he was truly a one-of-a-kind animal — outgoing, friendly, and a teddy bear to my daughter.  And me.

I’m sick of feeling like life is unfair.