Slowly getting there

It’s been a week since the surgery that happened at 5pm last Monday. I am feeling a lot better already but there is a long way to go.

I had a c-section twenty years ago so I was prepared for some of this, but it is worse just like my surgeon cautioned me. Mainly because it is taking much longer to heal than the c-section did. A lot more was removed, and the cut was a lot longer. I also have a huge black bruise on my outside so no idea what the inside looks like.

On the plus side…. I can eat again. My stomach is still small so I can’t feast on a giant turkey dinner, but I can have a small plate and even mostly finish it now.

I can get into and out of chairs now without help, but I can’t lay down completely in bed, and I can’t get myself out of bed without help. I’m also hobbling around the house a bit more, and as long as I don’t go too far it’s okay.

You don’t realize how much of what you do every day depends on your stomach muscles. I tried sitting at the pc today and that lasted all of five minutes before I had to get up. I don’t dare put the laptop in my lap either, it would be too much weight for my stomach. I’m pretty much stuck on small things like my phone, switch, or kindle.

Sleeping is… Interesting. It’s hard to sleep if you have to go pee every couple of hours. It’s worse on those who have to help you get out of bed every two hours because your muscles aren’t strong enough to get you up. I don’t sleep a lot anyway (my normal is 4-6 hours before all this). I could deal with it. Gregg, not so much. The poor guy isn’t suited for sleep deprivation.

So I have been sleeping for a few hours in bed, then when I have to get up I switch to a reclining chair beside the bed so that I can sleep a bit more, and if I have to get up again he doesn’t. It’s a good compromise and we both get sleep.

Gregg and his parents (who we are staying with) have made it abundantly clear that they expect me to focus on getting better, and taking care of myself. Not push too hard, and relax when I need to. I am forever grateful for how much all the of them have helped with my recovery. That doesn’t mean I magically feel okay about laying around and doing little. I can’t cook, clean, or help with dishes. I can’t even carry more than a dish or two without hurting myself. I’m still trying, of course, when I can, but in a reasonable limit.

Recovery is boring. But…. I’d rather be here then the alternative.

But now that I’m more awake, and moving a little better, it’s time to see what I can do. Like writing on my phone, or drawing some designs. Anything that gets me back to doing something productive.

Till then, I’m just recovering.

It’s not cancer!

The big tumor is out, and I am laying in bed with a cut in my stomach but the tests came back and it was BENIGN!The doctor even showed me pictures of him holding the growth. It was huge! 38cm at the largest point. It also had a huge blood supply allowing it to grow fast.Plus my other ovary was also the size of a nerf football. I think I made the right choice removing it all. He even removed my appendix just in case because cysts like mine can sometimes grow there too.I’m just so happy to have it out. I’m eating a small piece of banana bread this morning, the first bread I’ve had in a month.And when I finally get to go home…. Sushi!

So, a lot is happening this month…

This is not a baby bump. I almost wish it were.

This is a tumor or cyst (we’re not sure which yet) growing in my abdomen. It is 8 inches at the largest point, and is filing my entire abdomen so that I can barely eat, and I get faint when I’m walking around.

I am going into surgery Monday to have the tumor we named Lumpy removed. As scary as the idea of being cut open like this is (since they have to take it out all as one piece so have to make a big hole for it) I am so happy that it is coming out.

The last month and a half has been pretty terrible. It started with my abdomen growing larger even though I was eating less and exercising more. I was getting full faster and faster, and my stomach was getting hard. In the last month I’ve been eating less than 1000 calories a day because even one small egg was enough to fill me up for half the day. Currently I’m only able to eat soft foods like pudding, yogurt, and Avacado. On the positive side I’ve lost weight so once Lumpy is out I’ll be pretty skinny. Well, skinny for me.

The fainting is also tough. The mass is sitting on my arteries and constrict blood flow. If I sit up for too long, or walk around much, I start to feel like I’m going to fall over. Gregg has been good about being near me so that if I start to fall he can give me a hand, and making it so if I’m having trouble that day I can just lay down and he can get things for me. I hate being sick, but he has made this so much easier.

But the worst part until this week has been the medical. When you have a giant thing growing inside you there is no option except to remove it. But while we were in Texas we were on cash only for medical needs. We had insurance, but it’s for Washington since that is where our residents is still. Every test has a price tag, and you had to pay up front. And they don’t want to bankrupt you either so they only suggest things you absolutely should get. So after a couple of visits we realized this wasn’t something simple that would need a little medicine. This was worse. There was a mass on my ovaries and I needed to see a specialist. Asap.

So we packed up and drove from Houston to Seattle in three days. Or I should say Gregg drive. I slept most of the way since I was getting worse.

I made an appointment with a gynecologist before we left, but they didn’t have an appointment available for a week. So we got to Seattle, checked into a hotel, and waited.

The first appointment went fast. The Dr had already looked at my chart, and read that I had a 22 cm mass and realized we had to get moving on this fast. She did another ultrasound to check the size… And it is now 30cm. Lumpy is growing, and fast.

So she gave me a box test to see if it is cancer or not (since it could still be a really big cyst) and sent me across the street to get a CT scan while calling a surgeon to get me in a list ASAP! Dr Keys has been amazing!

I talked to the surgeon yesterday. He is also pretty awesome, and very confident that we can get this taken care of. But he also saw the urgency and got me scheduled for this Monday. Just a couple days away.

I’ve had some prep to do, like a covid test since I can’t have surgery if I test positive. I will go in Monday around 11am and be poked and stick with needles before finally getting into the surgery. They will take out the lump, and my ovaries since they are both affected, and send it to test before closing me up. If it is the malignant kind of cancer they will take out a few other things, like lymph nodes, before sewing me up. If it’s benign they will just sew me up.

So, in short I’ll lose 20-30 lbs, and my ability to have periods (yay! I hate those things). And I’ll have to heal for a bit since my stomach will be cut open. Last time it took a week or two before I could walk normally again.

I hope it’s benign because then once I’m healed up I can go back to life as normal. If it isn’t…. Well I’ll still have some treatment to do.

I won’t be able to give an update for a few days. I’ll be in the hospital for at least two days, maybe more. And they won’t let anyone in except Gregg while I’m there, which makes me sad. I’d like to see my kids too. But there’s always video chat.

Corona has made everything a little tougher. Appointments aren’t as available as they once were, and if I had Corona I couldn’t get the life saving surgery I needed. Plus you can’t have visitors, or even a family member at your appointment to talk about your diagnosis. He has to do me off at the door, and I have to waddle in. Thank goodness I can still walk, though I think the nurses were really worried about me falling down at the hospital today. She kept offering me a wheelchair.

One and a half more days….

What is an “essential worker”?

One of the things I struggled with when I worked at various businesses was the thought that I didn’t matter. The job I did wasn’t important, and I wasn’t “essential” to the running of society. Today we have a whole government that has decided who is and who isn’t essential, and everyone else has been deemed unessential. To have the work you do to earn a living dictated in such a fashion seems a bit harsh, but we did it for a good reason, right?

“Essential worker” is an interesting thought experiment. What do you need? Let’s try a laptop to work from home. How many people are required to make that laptop, ship the various ingredients, refine them, mold them, and assemble them? How about tech support when it breaks, or a repair person? How about electricians to keep the power plants running, ISP workers to keep your internet working, and all the people necessary to make the parts (fiber optics, copper wires, mechanics for the trucks, etc. Etc) that the techs are going to need.

Everything can be bought through Amazon, but they don’t build it. They don’t get the raw materials or refine it. They don’t keep the system running that you need to use it.

Heck, even thinking about Avocado toast and all the people needed to grow, pick, process, bake, ship, and sell the items in that simple meal…. It’s a chain of people and they all have their place.

It has taken me a while to realize that it wasn’t the jobs I had that made me feel unimportant. A lot of it was the fact that management made it known that I could be replaced with anyone else, and it wasn’t my job that wasn’t important, it was me. They boiled the job down to the necessities, and it didn’t matter who did it, they just needed a warm body.

And if it wasn’t the employer reminding me how little they needed me it was sometimes the customer that looked down on me for having that job. The shouts, snide looks, or condescending attitude that said they were better than me because they managed to get a “real” job. And yet they were there for my customer service. What would they do if that job disappeared?

One of the jobs I had was making noodles at a noodle factory. It seems like an unimportant job, but in the first days of the corona virus noodles were one of the first things to disappear from the shelves. It seemed important to all the millions of people who eat noodles every day.

Another job was a storage facility. It seems like a perfectly useless job, so many people just have them for “stuff” right? But I met so many people who had just lost a parent and were storing their stuff while they dealt with the funeral arrangements. Or people moving to new opportunities. Or people who just lost their home and had to have storage because they had no other option. I had so many people thank me for a warm smile, or a kind word. I had people cry telling me about their mom who just passed away, and how they just didn’t know what they were going to do now that she was gone. For those brief moments… I mattered.

What is “essential”? Humanity has been building upon the jobs and inventions of past generations for centuries. Each part fits together to hold up the other.

I think if you feel a job is “unessential” then you shouldn’t go there. If you think they really don’t matter than stop giving them your money. Eventually the unessential jobs will fade away. But the jobs that do exist are there for a reason. They provided a service someone needed, either to feed them, cloth them, shelter them, or just keep them entertained. And each job is an intricate part of a greater whole.

I think once quarantine lifts we’re going to realize just how essential some things are, things we perhaps forgot or gave up for a time. I only hope that this reminds us to be kinder to those who serve us because we need them as much as they need us.

Review: Another Life season 1

I love scifi. I grew up watching Star Trek, Aliens, and Flight of the Navigator. Some of them have aged better than others, but that feeling of exploring new worlds and new technology never gets old.

So when I saw Another Life on Netflix I was hopeful. Here’s a crew traveling across the universe to talk to aliens, and find out why they sent a probe to earth. A simple plot, but one that leads to a lot of possibilities.

In the first episode the captain of the ship is introduced. Actually, she wasn’t the captain, she hadn’t been on a ship in a while, but she had more experience so they sent her to take over the ship from the man she once trained. This cliche had been used in Star Trek multiple times, so I wasn’t too mad about it. It did set the show up to be cliche driven, but for some good old fashioned scifi I could play along.

Then the captain is waking from soma (a dream tank that lets people sleep for months while on a voyage) and everything is going wrong. That’s where I started…noticing things.

This is a scifi show. It has space ships, aliens, and a holographic AI. It also has a lot of teen drama. There’s a love triangle, drug use, parties, lots of rivalry, and people throwing around their ego’s like they had a fire sale on them or something.

The crew wasn’t really a crew. It was a collection of people that occasionally worked together when out of soma for a few days. Then they climbed back in the tube and went back to sleep. They didn’t interact, didn’t really know each other, and had no protocols. The crew talked back and second guessed the captain continually, to the point where they had shouting matches, and a mutiny in the first episode. Then instead of locking the mutineers in their quarters, or putting them back into soma, the captain just lets them wander the ship, which results in another incident. Even if you accept that this is a brand new crew NONE of them have discipline. What government in their right mind would send an undisciplined group of rag tag humans on a mission to save the planet? Chain of command is there for a reason, and governments aren’t going to give that up in the future because it works too well.

Regardless, by the fourth episode the character shenanigans start to level out and there’s a little more depth to their interactions, but there are a few other things going on as well.

The science was sometimes thrown out the window in favor of some sort of plot. The AI fails to notice a moon but he can read oxygen levels from orbit. Said moon was clearly within the Roche Limit and should have been ripped into pieces. Coms don’t work in one episode and they do in the next even though they didn’t fix anything. Other things I would say are major plot points so I’ll skip them.

Other design elements of the ship just speak of incompetent design. The ship has all of their electronics connected so that one wire being cut causes catastrophe across the entire ship (none of the writers hear of redundant systems?). The soma tubes are made of unbreakable glass and don’t have manual overrides in case of an emergency. Most of the things are small, but they are there.

I did like the performance by Katee Sackhoff (Captain Nico) and Samuel Anderson (the AI). They were my favorite parts of the show, and did well with what they were given. The writers also did a good job of creating a mystery around the artifact, and some tension in some areas. I just feel like the writers took a crash course in scifi, and didn’t actually grow up with it.\

Another Life is a good popcorn series. If you aren’t looking for hard science with lots of accuracy, and you don’t mind plot-holes or stereotypical characters with a little drama thrown in, you’ll enjoy it. But if you try to break down the science, or try to make the plot make sense in some places, you are going to have a bad time.

Summer sun shining…

Today I have been working on several smaller projects, getting things set up for the rest of the month. That includes getting my bullet journal in order, setting goals for the month, and starting in on a new art challenge to get me warmed up in the morning.

I’ve also made a priority of taking care of my mental health this month. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is having trouble with staying indoors so much. I’ve been trying to just get out in the back yard and sit in the sun a bit more. Exercise every day by dancing. And eating something healthy (with the occasional unhealthy cookie now and then.) I’m in Texas so things are starting to open up again, but I won’t be able to go out just yet. But soon!

This weekend I have two free books, and anthology and a short story.

Twilight Tales: three unusual tales of creatures that go bump in the night.

Ghostly Intentions: A fantasy horror romp through a haunted house.

Dishes and free short stories.

I hope you are doing well.

This week my boyfriend has been making fresh bread. It’s the type of bread that you bake inside a pan with a lid, and it gets a thick crust. Today was the first time he added a few herbs to the dough and it was tasty. He’s really enjoying baking, and I am enjoying eating it.

Meanwhile, I’ve been learning to cook new things, and use food that I’ve never used before. You have to make do when all the potatoes are gone at the local grocery store.

This morning I complained about dishes, and couldn’t figure out where they were all coming from. “We’ve been eating at home more,” my boyfriend reminded me, and a light bulb went off. Less fast food means more dishes. It also means healthier eating.

I hope all of you are doing well. This week I have two more short stories up for free. Hopefully it will entertain you for a little while.

Footprints – The things in your mind are often worse than the things in the darkness.
The Scarab Necklace –  A tales from the crypt style short story.

The Platform- is there a message?

It’s always interesting when you have a movie or book that is just esoteric enough that you can read different things into it depending on where you are in life, but the person who wrote it refuses to tell you what they actually meant. The Platform (on Netflix) is a movie just like that.

This Netflix original horror movie is about a man who volunteers to be locked up in a prison so he can quit smoking. In this prison you are on a floor that has a giant hole in the center. Every day a platform lowers through the hole and you have two minutes to eat whatever the people above left for you. But there are more than 200 floors, and the people above are hungry.

I almost think this is a psychological horror movie because most of the horror is dealing with the starvation, and knowing that you never have control over this fundamental need to eat every day. However, there are a lot of gory things that happen as well.

The basic premise of the story was interesting. How do you convince the people above you to eat less so that more people can eat? How do you get everyone to ration, especially since you can’t speak to everyone? Especially if many of the people locked up with you are criminals who already committed terrible crimes, and have no compunction about committing more?

If I had any complaints it might be the dialog for the film. I couldn’t tell if it was written poorly, or a translation problem. The film was done in Spanish, and we watched the English dub of it. Because it was dubbed there was, obviously, lip syncing issues. Some of the dialog sounded forced, and unnatural. It tries not to give too much commentary while giving you information on the situation. It could also be that they are trying to increase the unsettlingness of the whole situation with the way they are talking.

The whole movie seems to be a commentary on society. Those above take as much as they want and leave the crumbs for those bellow, and those at the very bottom are left with nothing. But how do you stop that chain? You can try getting everyone to ration, take only what they need, but often they just think “this is the way things are” and go along with it.

It’s an interesting thought experiment, and the movie has a brutal way of presenting it. Considering that each set of prisoners stays on a level for thirty days and there are many, MANY levels, there are probably just as many people dying from starvation as there are from suicide and murder.

Bird Box – The people or the monster?

Since our family is stuck inside right now we got a subscription to Netflix. That means Bjorn and I have been going through all the old movies that we’ve heard about, but didn’t have access to. Today we watched Bird Box.

The basic premise of Bird Box is a woman trying to survive a calamity that has effected the worlds population. Some sort of creature has arrived on earth and if you see it you will commit suicide in the most expedient way possible. Five years after the initial outbreak happened Malorie has lost everyone, is running out of food, and options. She has to get her two children to a safe haven miles away down a river without seeing anything.

But the movie isn’t about the creatures, or the world falling apart. It’s about Malorie and her personal journey to connect with other people amidst all this craziness. She had a terrible father, their mother left them, her boyfriend disappeared after she got pregnant, and her sister committed suicide the first day of the outbreak. She has kept everyone as far away as possible since then to protect herself. Even her children.

This is much like “A Quite Place” in that the story centers around the people, not the outside influences. I guess that is why I love movies like this. I tend to write stories with things in the background that may be dangerous or scary, but the true story focuses on the person. Footprints is about a man dealing with his fathers death, but there’s a monster in the woods. The Scarab Necklace is about a woman trying to find some confidence, and there’s a cursed necklace. Even my series, The Witch’s Trilogy, is about a girl trying to discover what and who she is, and there are acolytes trying to sacrifice her to a big sea monster.

In this sort of story telling there is definitely a monster, but it could often be exchanged for something else. In The Quiet Place and Bird Box it could have been a pandemic, or an alien, or a monster from the deep. The only thing that really mattered was the story of the family trying to find their way in a messed up world. The mechanism of the monster did make things a bit unique, one depending on sound the other on sight, but ultimately they were not the main feature.

The movie, itself, was well done. There wasn’t a lot of dialog, most of the story heavily relying on motion and action to tell the tale. What dialog there was made a point. Malorie’s inability to connect was shown right down to how she talked to her children, giving them short, easy to follow instructions, never showing them much love, and just making sure they survived. But as Tom says surviving isn’t living. You have to have something to hope for or what’s the point.

I think right now this story hit home with me. Like the people here we are cooped up in our homes, fearing an invisible creature outside. We are unable to be close to others, and things have gone a little crazy. But like Malorie we need a little hope, something to live for. There’s a point to all this madness, we just have to look for it.