I fear my poor blog has become so boring and neglected.
I know there are still some of you out there checking in, and let me tell you right now, every time I see a comment or a stat showing me that you were here, it makes me so happy. Because lately life has been a little too much for our Piper.
I don’t want to sit here and bitch. That’s not my point. But there are some things I haven’t mentioned because I just don’t know how. You may know that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. She has gone through two surgeries and five months of chemotherapy. I will make this short and sweet so you get the general gist: Chemotherapy sucks ass. It makes people sick and tired and it also makes some people crazy and a little bit mean. That’s all I’m going to say.
Then two and a half weeks ago, we found out my little sister Shea has a tumor growing in her spine. A TUMOR. Oh my god, are you fucking kidding me?? Really?? Shea is 35 years old and has a 4-year old and a 1-year old. She had been dealing with pretty bad back pain for at least nine months and her normal doctor was like, OH JUST GO TO PHYSICAL THERAPY, which is what most doctors would do. But when it doesn’t help and she still hurts really bad, wouldn’t you think that a doctor would stop GUESSING and have her go get a definitive image of the area in question??
Then Shea’s feet started to get strangely numb and her legs weren’t working right. Like she wasn’t sure about her foot placement and had to concentrate really hard to make sure she didn’t fall while walking. When she tried to go hiking on a camping trip and literally COULDN’T do the uneven terrain,she knew something was really wrong.
So she tells me all this and then when she said she didn’t want to pay the co-pay of $800 for an MRI, I lost my mind and said again (out loud??) ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?? YOU ARE WORTH WAY MORE THAN EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS. And I told her to shuffle her numb feet into that clinic and get into that imaging tube, STAT.
Which she did. She got the MRI. And the people called her and told her she had a tumor in her spine that same night. Which, of course, made her scared and freaked out and PISSED AS HELL. Because anyone would be pissed at their doctor and at themselves that they waited that long to figure out what was wrong with their body. And then, just like the determined little shit Shea is, she dried her tears and went into planning mode and said get that lame tumor out of me. She was even mad they had to wait a week to schedule the surgery.
We had a Fourth of July party at my house with some of her and her husband Paul’s friends before the surgery. I really, really like Shea’s friends. They are such cool people, so smart and well-read in lots of crazy subjects and way more knowledgeable about community activism than me. They also have stepped up to help out my sister’s little family with childcare and meals, hospital visits and treats, emails and love to my sister. It makes me feel so good because I have been sort of dangling by a thread, racked with stress and worry and sadness – and her friends loving and supporting her makes me feel that what I can do is enough.
Here we are, on the fourth with the smiley Geordie:
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Shea had her back surgery last Tuesday at the University of Utah hospital.
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The first few days were NOT fun. NOT FUN. So I figured I would climb onto the back of her hospital bed with bad hair and take a typical stupid Piper picture.
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The kids and Brad came with me to the hospital yesterday to have a picnic lunch with Shea in her new room on the long-term physical rehab floor. After the initial shock of seeing a hospital for the first time, (Sloan was very subtle about this, as you can see in the picture) the kids had a great time monkeying around the room and fighting over her wheelchair. Thank god there was no roommate in the room with Shea. They would have had to request some Valium or morphine or something.
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Shea is doing SO much better now. She is actually walking (slowly) and doing lots of physical therapy and hoping to go home as soon as possible.
I’m going to finish with an excerpt from an email she sent to her friends. I hope she doesn’t mind too much. Especially the part about the poop, but really, has anyone out there ever tried to poop IN A BEDPAN?? Seriously impossible.
Hi super supportive peeps-
You all rock. Thanks so much for the kid care, the flowers, the visits, the calls, the car, the texts. I’m so lucky!… uh, wait… except for the god-damn tumor, that part doesn’t feel too lucky. But to all of the bulbous little bastard tumors out there in the universe that may be looking for a spine to plant themselves in– you little punks should at least have the courtesy to invade nervous systems of people like me who have amazing friends and family to jump in and help. Seriously, Paul and I have such an incredible support community we should just get tumors more often.
How has it been such a busy week? Being flat on your back for 5 days doesn’t sound like it would be busy. Yeah, it’s pretty much just not, but pain medication hallucinations take up a significant chunk, bodily function time allotment has skyrocketed, and I have yet to actually watch something on a TV, turn on the computer, or crack open a new book. Of course, who needs manufactured media when you can just see the floaty marble bouncy balls exiting out of your bellybutton and up into the air above your hospital bed spinning around in the sky in front of you (this was one of the nicer pain med trips, perhaps symbolic of saying good-bye to the tumor?… if you want to hear about the worst pain med trip ask me for more details on the face in fiery furnace MRI tube hell.).
The surgery itself went long but well. The tumor was a bit disintegratey and wily so they spend around 7 hours taking it out instead of the 4 they planned on. But my adorably geeky surgeon seemed very proud of himself when I talked to him yesterday– results from the post-surgery MRI (the fiery furnace MRI nonetheless) showed that they got everything out and that I didn’t leak any important brain juices. We haven’t gotten a pathology report back (probably Monday) but the surgeon felt really certain that it was benign. Which prompted me to wonder what “benign” really means. After all, here are a bunch of cells growing out of control… how is that really different from cancer? The difference is largely the rate. My tumor had probably been growing for a couple of years (causing pain since last August) but it didn’t have any yucky dead parts in the middle that indicated it was really out doing itself.
My feet and legs are still pretty numb from the spinal cord compression, not super different from what’s been going on for the last month, but today I started in-hospital rehab and stood, shuffled, pooped!!!! Amazing. I’m not exaggerating. This has been a really good day. I needed a really good day after having a major melt down yesterday when they told me that I was being admitted to in-hospital rehab for 3 weeks. I feel entirely justified in my melt down since I had only ever been told up to 4 days in the hospital. I think they (though I’ m not sure exactly who “they” are) deserve my fiery scalding tears aimed right at their hearts because for-crying-out-loud why didn’t they tell me this before the surgery?????
So the last part of this email is just to say thanks for the help so far, and to keep it coming. I don’t think I’ll really be here for 3 more weeks (though I, of course, want to do whatever is best to get my legs back in the best shape they can be). It is certain that I’m going to be in the hospital much longer than I thought. Paul is, of course, doing an amazing job as single dad. It helps a ton for people to play with the boys, bring meals, visit me. My friend Jess set up that online calendar, but it’s a bit clunky so we’d rather just do things from now on via email and phone. Paul is busy enough and since there’s so much parenting I can’t do right now I’m looking forward to pulling some of my weight by being a coordinator. So gimme a call or email if you’ve got something to pitch in. My cell phone doesn’t work in my hospital room, but you can call the room number. Right now I feel like things are well lined up through Tuesday. And I think I’m going to even crack open a new book now!
love to you all,
There we go. Shea is going to be fine. I am eventually going to get my sense of humor back. And if you find anything funny on YouTube to help me with that, go ahead and email it to me. You can find my email over on my “Contact” page.