I have a lot of things going against me: I’m from Maine; I’m a woman; I’m a Virgo; I’m introverted; I don’t know how to use semicolons effectively. These aspects of my personality result in a few glaring facts — I have no tact, I think too much, I talk a lot, I make too many lists.
Well, excuuuuuse me (Steve Martin) if I see things for how they truly are, then feel compelled to blurt these nuggets of wisdom to anyone within earshot. I can’t help it. Life, death, human existence, string theory, string cheese existence. How do you NOT think about these things?!
Usually I save up all my bone-chilling revelations during the day, only to unleash them onto my poor husband just as he’s drifting off to sleep.
“Hey, honey?” I ask, ignoring the gentle snoring and loud farting. (We’ve been married a long time, I think I’m allowed to let a few rip every now and then.)
“Huh?” he asks, rubbing his eyes.
“There is a theory that the universe is just a big-ass hologram. Our 3D reality is actually stored on a 2D surface. So what we’re experiencing isn’t real at all, just an illusion. Yeah. I believe it. Makes total sense.”
“Okay,” says my husband as he rolls over.
Silence. More farting.
“Hey, honey?” I whisper. “Did you know that some dude, I think it was Elon Musk…but maybe it was Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory…anyway, he said that there is a huge chance we are in a computer simulation, created from the future. Like we’re inside some insane Sims game, living out our pathetic little lives for some advanced civilization, just for the shits and giggles! Maybe we’re only one of millions of other simulations! The universe is just one big video game!”
Silence. I continue to think so intently, my brain leaks out of my ears.
“Dammit, if only I could live in the simulation where I’m Oprah,” I sigh into the dark.
“Okay,” murmurs my husband.
Silence. Soft farting.
“Hey, honey?” I prop myself up on my elbow. “I was talking with Judy who used to work for a big power plant out in Washington State like 40 years ago. She said she knows things, top secret things about all the nuclear waste they’ve buried over the years in the ground! Just massive amounts all over the country. And all these power plants buried this toxic crap in underground tanks that have shelf lives of like 50 years, and pretty soon, all of it will leak into all our water supply! I’m pretty sure it already has! We’re all gonna die a slow radioactive death!”
“Ah well, good night, honey,” I whisper. Then I fall into a deep peaceful sleep and dream I’m riding bareback on a unicorn with Sting.
My husband suffers from insomnia; I have no idea why.
Sometimes the daily grind of life is all too much for one 47-year-old woman from the quaint coastal village of East Scrotum, Maine (not to be confused with Scrotum’s Point, a sad little town north of South Bunghole).
Ah yes, Maine — The Way Life Should Be.™
Unless your life should be that you’re perpetually broke, your feet ache, your boobs sag, and your shit stinks.*
I met up with Starla Turdbucketsen early one morning to see how she does it. How does she survive in today’s crazy-ass world? How in god’s name does she wake up every effing day — remember who she is — yet continue to get up anyway?
“It ain’t easy,” Starla sighed, blowing a steady stream of smoke into my face.
“So, you smoke cigarettes now?”
“Let’s talk about your life. Who is Starla Turdbucketsen? You’re a daughter of an elderly parent who thinks Elvis reincarnated as a 13-year-old gospel singer from Sweden. You’re a mom of a teen who thinks he’s going to college to triple major in YouTube Celebrity/Video Gamer/Culinary Farts. You’re a mom to a tween daughter. You’re a wife to a man who incessantly watches MASH reruns in his underwear.”
“Starla, in the past year, you’ve gone through menopause, major surgery, and the legal separation of Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. You work two jobs, yet you’re wearing a bra you bought circa 1989. Any thoughts, insights or revelations you’d care to share with us about being a modern woman in today’s society?”
“Well, if I have to pluck one more freaking gray hair out of my chin, I swear I’m gonna lose my shit. So there’s that. ”
“So, why do it? What gets you going day after day? Why not just drive your Toyota Corolla into the nearest brick wall?”
“Are you deaf, you unbelievable nimrod? The commute!”
Oh yeah, the work commute!
(And yes, my doctor says I’m currently suffering from progressive hearing loss, but let’s get back to Starla and her desperate attempt to cling to those last few scraps of sanity.)
Let’s face it — most of our lives would be a never-ending shit parade if not for those blissful 28 minutes of the morning when you are alone in your car, driving to your soul-sucking job.
I think most harried Americans would agree, the commute is that rare time when you are free to let it all go. That’s right…just take a deep breath…roll down the windows to air out the stench of “medicinal” marijuana…crank some hip-hop…and forget our president is a cross between Forrest Gump and Gary Busey.
“What is it about the commute that appeals to you, Starla?”
“Two words: No. News.”
“Two more words: ‘Nuff said.”
And so concludes another in-depth interview! Stay tuned next week when I ask Starla her take on the current nuclear crisis with North Korea! (Preview: She thinks it’s the classic “my missile/ego/therapy bill is bigger than yours” dust-up)
*In 2007, the Maine State Tourism Board fired the marketing director after he presented the slogan: Maine: The Way Life Should Be (Except For Those Who Are Perpetually Broke & Their Feet Ache & Their Boobs Sag & Their Shit Stinks. If That’s You–Move To New Hampshire.)
Lately, I’ve had zero time to blog. So I thought I’d quickly throw up a mishmash of the super important stuff that’s currently taking up all of my precious time.
Let’s start with Gordon Ramsay.
My 10-year-old daughter is obsessed with him. She watches all 179 of his current TV shows. Here’s just a sampling:
Master Chef Master Chef Junior
Kitchen Nightmares Hell’s Kitchen Hotel Hell
The F Word* Satan’s Pantry
Beelzebub’s BBQ Jamboree The ‘Goddammit, My Face Resembles a Shar-Pei’s Ass, So You’d Better %$#^ing Suck It Up and Cook, You *&^%ing Donut!’ Kitchen
My favorite Ramsay show? It’s Raw! Where top-level culinary geniuses from around the globe forget how to cook a piece of chicken.
While Gordon’s ranting and raving are a bit much, I do appreciate the enlightening cooking tips he dishes out to the contestants like razor-sharp jabs to the nads.
“It’s raw!” and “IT’S RAW!” and “IT’S BLOODY %^%^%$##$%$%$% RAW!”
My daughter and I watch Master Chef Junior, because who doesn’t want to see an impressionable young child have her dreams crushed to paprika in front of millions of people?
And every episode is chock-full of suspense.
[ominous music] Will they cook it right?
…or won’t they?
Speaking of salty, what in the bleeping name of Jiminy Cricket is going on with these dagnabbit hoozeewhazzits?
In case you’ve been living in an underground bunker filled with a lifetime supply of Spam and Dr. Pepper, these are Fidget Spinners. Or as I like to call them:
This is a true story that happened over 13 years ago.
“Say your goodbye,” the emergency room doctor suggested, his eyes brimming with compassion. But the deep wrinkles etched across his brow revealed the weariness of all the pain and death they had witnessed behind the hastily drawn curtain.
Say your goodbye.
The beeping of machines dissolved into the background. The relentless ticktock of the clock on the ER wall paused as if waiting for my response. I felt myself sinking into black nothingness. My fingers shook as I clasped her limp hand and traced her wedding ring, its sharp edges jolting me awake. The abyss beckoned me: Don’t be afraid! Lean in! Peer into the darkness!
Say your goodbye.
I leaned over to kiss her pale cheek for one last time. I knew my mother was minutes away from leaving her body, but never expected the stark coldness, the unforgiving finality, the emptiness lying beneath my lips.
I wasn’t sure what to do next. I never had the chance to say goodbye to my dying dad. How do you say goodbye? What do I say? Thanks? Thanks for raising me? For teaching me hard lessons? I’ll see you again someday? Catch you on the flip side? Don’t go? Don’t leave me here all alone? Fear gripped my heart, squeezing the air out of my lungs. I was suffocating right along with my mother. A torrent of tears spilled down from my eyes onto her face. My entire body shook as I held onto her hand. I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this. I can’t say goodbye. I’m not ready.
“Mom…I love you,” I sputtered into the abyss.
“I’m…..fine….don’t….worry,” my mother gasped, her breath gurgling between each word. “I love you…tell….your brothers…I love them.” She closed her eyes.
This was it. I can’t believe she’s dying. My mom! Dying! It’s just not real. It can’t be real. An ER nurse gently ushered me away from my mother as the doctor closed the curtain around the stretcher once again. She walked me to a small windowless waiting room separate from the larger waiting room outside the ER. This must be the private room for family members waiting for someone to die? Will they move me to an even smaller room when they tell me she’s dead? “We will try and get her stable,” the nurse said. “For now just wait in here. I’ll come get you if anything happens.”
It was midnight. Only bad things happen at midnight.
Only a few hours before I was drifting off to sleep next to my snoring husband and one-year-old son in our upstairs bedroom. A heavy rain pounded on the roof of our house. Without warning, I felt the atmosphere shift; the particles in the air pulsing and bright. Something is off, the universe whispered. Something big is happening. Electricity surged through my body. The only other time I’ve felt this way was the night my dad suddenly died in a hospital bed 3,000 miles away.
I sat up, listening intently to the steady thrumming of the rain above our heads. I nudged my husband awake. “What was that? Do you hear that?”
“What? I don’t hear anything,” my husband whispered. “It’s just the rain. It’s nothing.” He rolled over to snore again.
But the rain wasn’t right; the wind urgent. Something was wrong.
I crept down the hallway and stairs into the dark kitchen. I wasn’t sure why I was checking, but I knew I had to check. An unseen force propelled me to walk through the kitchen to the door leading to our attached garage. I slowly opened the door, the wind howling outside in response. A low grown escaped from the shadows on the floor. There was my mom, lying on the bottom steps below her in-law apartment above the garage.
“I…can’t…breathe,” she whispered, her tiny frail body wrapped in her nightgown and bathrobe. She was still clutching her phone in one hand. She had managed to make her way down the steps to get help, but didn’t have the energy to remain standing long enough to knock on my door.
Now I was in a hospital, with my mother and The Abyss hiding a few feet away behind a thin white curtain. Soon two of my older brothers arrived and we waited, the foggy early morning hours bleeding into each other. Finally, a nurse entered the “Waiting For Death” room where we had sat for hours like stone statues. “She’s turned a corner! She’s stable!” she informed us.
We were stunned. The ER doctor suggested many times to me that she would probably die that night as she was drowning in her own fluids, her lungs almost completely filled from the congestive heart failure. But now she was suddenly stable. “If you hadn’t found her when you did…” he said to me, his voice trailing off.
My mom almost died that night back in 2003. I said my final goodbye, but the universe had other ideas. They transferred her to Maine Medical Center in Portland and a week later she underwent a quintuple bypass and valve replacement surgery at the age of 69. After the ten hour operation, she emerged feeling like a new woman. “I have a new heart now!” she told me in recovery. The surgeon informed us the average lifespan after such a surgery was 10 years.
Of course, her Mainer stubbornness proved him wrong. I’m thankful to have spent an additional 13 years with my mother and counting. She’s 83 now and enjoys relatively excellent health. I’ve let a lot of things go since she almost died. Peering into the abyss will do that to you. Our once stormy relationship has softened over the years to one of forgiveness, respect, and love.
Often we talk about those final moments; the time she was almost pulled over the edge. I’ve asked her more than once if it hurt to not be able to breathe, or if she was scared to die.
“Oh no, not at all,” she insists. “There was no pain. It was very peaceful. I saw your dad, you know. He was standing at the foot of my bed with two really big angels on either side of him. I knew I would be okay. Not scared at all. I was ready to go.”
I’ve seen death up close before when I was 21 and viewed my dad’s lifeless body lying in a coffin. I’ve carried the burden of not being present when he left us. I felt cheated out of saying goodbye to him. Yet the years of guilt, anger and sadness gradually faded away, transforming into acceptance and gratitude.
I don’t know why I went out to the garage that night. But the universe has a way of balancing things out. Saying my last goodbye to my mom that rainy October night prepared me again for the final curtain. I know when the time truly comes for my mom or me, I’ll be ready to jump into that abyss with less fear and more love.
It’s that time once again to look at my Saved By The Bell: “Slater Wears Tiny Tank Tops” desk calendar and say to my cat, “Hold up — another year’s gone in the blink of Screech’s lazy eye? What the hell? Is this how time works? Yeah, well screw you, Einstein!”
And for god’s sake, shut the front door. It’s pretty friggin’ cold out.
2016 has proven to be quite the stellar year! And by “stellar” I mean an absolute shit show from start to finish! You too?! Come join me as I zip down memory lane at lightning speed on my greased-up sled and crash land into a Wal-Mart parking lot!
Here’s a quick rundown of the Maineiac family’s year. We’ll start with our 10-year-old daughter.
She spent five solid months of 2016 begging for one gift from Santa. It’s something every hellion in this country wants to get their grubby little hands on Christmas Day.
No, not a Cabbage Patch doll. Not a Tickle-Me-Elmo. Not even a Tickle-Me-Cabbage (I wish). But a stupidly overpriced mutant Furby inside a plastic egg, aka the Hatchimal.
That’s right–it’s an egg! With a toy inside! What will these crazy toy manufacturers think of next?
My bet is more useless plastic.
My husband and I stopped at Target last week to find a long line of Hatchimal-less losers standing outside in sub-zero temps. They sold out of 38 of the things in 8 seconds. And no, we did not stand outside for them. I wouldn’t stand in line for hours on a warm summer day for two tickets to a “Back from the Dead” Beatles reunion.
But as luck would have it, some 38-year-old man living in his mom’s basement is selling them on eBay for 300 bucks a pop. Why, just take out a hefty loan or sell your soul to the devil and this little gem could be collecting dust at the bottom of your child’s closet in no time!
After we informed our daughter that Santa might not deliver a Hatchimal this Christmas, this is the following conversation we had with her:
Her: But I really really really really really really really really REALLY want one!
Mr. Maineiac: Really?
Me: Hey, know what I got for Christmas when I was your age?
Me: A Nancy Drew book. Then my brother sat on my head and farted.
Mr. Maineiac: You know what I got one year?
Mr. Maineiac: A penny. And I had to share it with my two sisters. We all took turns holding it. Then they both sat on my head and farted.
Her (pouting): But I want a Hatchimal!
Us (pouting): Where’s that wine?
Next up, my teenage son. Let’s check in and see how his year’s been going!
Ooooookay! That’s all I could get out of him.
(And that really isn’t my son. …but y’know what though? It could be. I haven’t seen his face in about 2 years.)
Finally, let’s check in with my dear ol’ Ma. She spent the better part of 2016 telling me how much she detests Trump. I was talking with her on the phone and tried to change the subject of his upcoming presidency by bringing up other horrible reality TV shows.
Me: Hey, have you seen Naked and Afraid lately?
Mom: No, too icky! I get enough nausea from seeing Trump on the news every damn day. Did ya see that other show?
Me: Which one?
Mom: Y’know the one! That SHOW!
Me: Oh, yeah! Sure! THAT one!
Mom: Where the guy is married to all those crazy women?
Me: Sister Wives?
Mom: It’s ridiculous! First off, that man is not attractive AT ALL. And secondly, he’s ugly. What is wrong with all those women? I wanna see a woman married to four men! Let’s see that! Brother Husbands!
Me: Good idea!
Mom: Jeezum crow, did you see what Trump the Dump did now?
Me: Oops, gotta go! Time for more Hatchimal hunting!
And how was your year? Let me know so I can be totes jealz!
It’s been several years since Oprah retired from her “Be the Best You, You Can Be –Because I Sure As Hell Wouldn’t Wanna Be You” talk show. Among some of her more earth-shattering insights about life:
We need to live in the moment.
Not around or through the moment. Or even under-the-covers-nursing-a-glass-of-wine. But IN.
It should be noted that immediately after she made these comments, she gazed dramatically off the deck of her 50-foot yacht, The Big O, that was floating in the Mediterranean next to As You Wish, a 10-foot dinghy filled with butlers, which was surrounded by a flock of housekeepers and hairdressers on jet skies. And a forlorn Stedman treading water and wearing pink arm floaties.
Yet there is no doubt that over the years her “live in the moment” mantra has managed to transform millions of ordinary people’s lives.
Yes, it’s true! All of us — even butlers-in-dinghy-less and probes-in-butthole losers like you and me — can embrace every single bright and shiny effing moment of life because Oprah said we should.
All of us except for one 55-year-old woman named Marge from East Dingleberry, Maine. Baffling some of the world’s top Oprah experts, she has managed to live her entire life not in the moment at all. Not even once.
I sat down with Marge last week to get to the bottom of this mystery. And to ask her about her hometown’s name because, I mean, come on! That’s just ridic.
Me: Marge, I’ve been informed that you refuse to live in the moment. Why? Don’t you like Oprah? Is your yacht too small?
Marge: Look — I’ve tried okay! I just can’t do it! Last night, I wanted to live like Oprah, but I panicked from all the stress of my craptastic life. Then I frantically reached under my chair for a free gift, only there was nothing there! Just a huge goopy hairball my cat, Mr. Wankers, yorked up from the day before!
Me: Maybe this will help. Here’s a direct quote from Oprah: Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.
Marge: …So I grabbed something to help clean up the mess and noticed it was the overdue electric bill.
Me: Here’s another Oprahism: The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail.
Marge [petting cat on her lap]: Then I started to cry, only I can’t produce any tears because I was diagnosed with chronically dry eye sockets. Why, just last week Mr. Wankers was diagnosed with excessive hairballs, sleep apnea and explosive flatulence. I wanted to weep when I saw the vet bill, but again, no tears! Do you know how painful it is to cry dust? Or what it’s like to be trapped in an apartment with a cat that’s farting swamp gas nonstop? Well, do you?
Mr. Wankers [breathing heavily]: Meow.
Me: Oprah says, The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.
Marge: In blind agony from my tearless crying, I grabbed the eye drops prescription I had to sell my left kidney to afford. But a couple of squirts in, I realized it was the sample size ghost pepper hot sauce my husband left on the kitchen counter next to all the other overdue bills.
Me: Turn your wounds into wisdom.
Marge: The hot sauce was all we had left to eat.
Me: You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.
Marge: Holy balls! I think those bastards just shut off my electricity! How will Mr. Wankers use his CPAP machine now? [tearless sobbing, wiping eyes] OH, IT BURNS! IT BURNS!
Mr. Wankers [farting nervously]: Meow.
Me: Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
Marge: Get out.
Me: What? But you’re not in the moment yet!
Marge: GET OUT!
Me: Hold on! I’m sensing you are almost in the actual moment now! This is a huge breakthrough! How do you feel? Are you angry? Do you feel rage? Feel it, don’t deny it! Live in the moment!
That’s when the interview abruptly ended. Oprah, you’ve done it again — Marge has learned to live in the moment! I’ll be sending your lawyers my hospital bill.
I spent most of the summer reading. Author/spiritual guru/King of Chilltown, Eckhart Tolle, has a simple message: Life is all about balance; there’s an intrinsic ebb and flow. You win some, you lose some. Things come and go. You try to do the tree pose to impress your kids, you fall onto the yoga mat and pull an ass muscle you didn’t know existed.
This summer, I decided to balance my mental state by weeding out the soul-sucking nonsense in my life — social media. What was interesting in this experiment was how little I missed it after a few days. It was very difficult at first. I had the typical withdrawal symptoms: trembling fingers, twitchy eyes, bitchy mood. I had to uninstall apps on my phone to resist the temptation.
Then I would reinstall them. Then uninstall them. Reinstall. Uninstall.
Then I muted almost everyone on Twitter. Then I unmuted some. Then muted them. Mute. Unmute. Mute. Unmute.
Then I scrolled through my Facebook feed, cursing at myself for caving once again.
Finally, I threw my phone in the trash. Then retrieved it. Throw. Retrieve. Throw. Retrieve.
Man, that Eckhart Tolle sure gets on my last nerve. But the smug bastard speaks the truth. When you let go of things that don’t serve you well and life is in harmony, a whole new world opens up.
And yes, I’m an idiot.
After a week with less social media, colors seemed brighter, images sharper, my kids’ names clearer. Still, there were doubts. I did miss the social interaction on the interwebz.
How would I survive without knowing how outraged people were with the asinine thing Trump did this week? How would I go on without seeing in my Facebook feed 35 photos of my friend’s cat that all look the same? How would I cope not knowing how everyone else is having more fun and looks ridiculously more attractive than me this summer?
I’m happy to say I curbed my addiction. I stopped doing things I wasn’t truly enjoying anymore. I let negative stuff go. I didn’t blog for two months. (gasp) I didn’t go on Twitter. I came to the stark realization that no one really cares how tasty my omelet looks on Instagram. (For the record, it had feta cheese and spinach and it was AMAZEBALLS!) I discovered that people no longer say ‘amazeballs’. My Facebook page was (mostly) silent.
Guess what? I exist. I’M STILL ALIVE!!
(Barely, but I do feel a faint pulse…)
Thanks, Eckhart. You’ve changed my life, dude.
Gloating in my success at banning social media, I watched a YouTube video of Tolle talking about another addiction we all face (after I checked out that hysterical Chewbacca Mom clip). It’s an addiction that’s much larger in scope and more difficult to beat.
Our addiction to thinking. Specifically — overthinking. Or thinking about overthinking. Or thinking about not thinking about overthinking thinking.
I am so screwed. I love to think! It’s what I do best! Or worst. First step to get back on my road to Chilltown: Buy beige sweater vest.
Thankfully, I’ve practiced meditation for nearly 25 years, so I’ve got this nonthinking shit down. I just have to not think about it so much. Easy! I need to breathe in….and breathe out….just…..be….one with my true essence…ahhhhh…
I feel dizzy now, but it’s all good.
Because — like Eckhart has said many times in that soft, mesmerizing, endearing Yoda-like way — we are all simply forms of consciousness, always transforming, manifesting and dissolving into formlessness. This is the true reality of existence. Not worrying about how big my thighs look in my leggings or how in the hell I’m going to survive until our election is finally over.
You hear that, Trump?
You are a temporary form of consciousness! Everything has its purpose! It’s OK! (deep inhale) You’re just manifesting! (long exhale)
Sigh. I think I need to meditate again. Om.
How was your summer?
How long have you gone with no social media?
Do you have any extra beige sweater vests lying around?
Is this election all just a crazy, mixed-up, endless, nightmarish trip I’m having due to that time I accidentally smoked the ganja?
Warning: This isn’t my typical lame humor post. In this one things get real. And graphic. I’m talking about (gasp) female reproductive health issues! Feel free to close your eyes and run away screaming. I won’t take it personally.
Okay…are they gone? What? You guys are still here? Look, I’m not kidding. This isn’t the good fun reproductive stuff, it’s the uglier side about pain and disease. Fine, stay if you want but I tried to warn you…
Once upon a time I was a young girl who suffered agonizing pain during periods. I ate Advil like candy and spent several days every month writhing in bed with a heating pad on my belly. It was difficult to get up and walk around, much less go to school. People told me this was “normal” and that I was being a baby. I believed them and sucked it up.
In my late 20s I met my husband. We got married, and not soon after we decided to try to get pregnant. I felt becoming a mom was my destiny, a lifelong yearning rooted deep in my bones. We tried for over a year with no luck. Around this time I started to have strange vague symptoms: bloating, pelvic pain, urinary, digestive issues. I saw many doctors over several years. One said I was “depressed”. One told me I had IBS. Another said it was stress-related.
Well, I thought, if they think it’s all in my head, I must be crazy. I trudged on, trying to live my life while ignoring that nagging feeling something was very wrong. Finally, feeling humiliated and defeated, I gave it one last shot and saw a Nurse Practitioner. She patiently listened to me and gave me a pelvic exam. The next words she said changed my life: “You have a large mass. I’m sending you for an ultrasound immediately.”
During the ultrasound I wasn’t scared. I felt pure relief. That may be hard to understand, but when you’ve basically been patted on the head by doctors for so many years, when one finally believes you, and there’s proof something IS wrong, it’s like a godsend.
The ultrasound tech was very quiet for a long time. Not a good sign. Then she kept asking me if I had to use the bathroom. Finally, she left the room to get a doctor. Yikes. After several minutes, they returned. She finally turned the ultrasound monitor toward me and pointed. “See that?” she asked.
“What? I don’t see anything.” It looked all black to me with no discernible shapes that resembled organs.
“That is a mass. It is so large it’s covering all your organs. Your bladder is flattened. I’m surprised you can hold urine at all at this point.” She put her hand on my shoulder. “Are you all right?” I was surprised at the technician’s warmth and kindness. It was probably the most compassionate interaction with medical staff I had had in decades, aside from the NP.
It turned out I had a large ovarian cyst, about 15 cm in diameter, or six inches, roughly the size of a soccer ball. I know, crazy. Why couldn’t it have been a baseball? Why not fruit of some kind? Pomegranates are nice. And how in the hell did I not know it was there? I suppose I thought I was just gaining weight or very bloated. Not to mention the rest of my abdominal organs were all squished to make room for this… thing. As much as I was happy to know what was wrong with me, I felt like a total freak. Like I should be on the cover of one of those old Ripley’s Believe it or Not! books: “Woman lives with giant tumor for months and doesn’t know it!”
Soon I met with a wonderful OB/GYN (who went on to deliver both of my babies) and he said I had to have major surgery as well as a biopsy of the cyst to rule out cancer. I was 31. My gut reaction? (pun totally intended) Get it out now. What in hell are you waiting for?
It was during this surgery that my doctor made another startling discovery. I had endometriosis. Everywhere. To put it simply, it’s when the uterus lining for some reason spreads and grows in other places it shouldn’t. Then every month it bleeds and becomes inflamed as if it were inside the uterus. And it was all over my bowel and my bladder and my ovaries and my fallopian tubes and oh, let’s just say it was all over the goddamned place.
So I had one obliterated ovary, one disintegrated fallopian tube, and the stupid giant cyst thing removed. It was benign. “But doc,” I cried. “Can I still get pregnant with only one pathetic, diseased, lonely ovary?”
“Yes,” he said. And I believed him.
After several miscarriages, (and along the way another diagnosis of a blood clotting disorder to boot, called the MTHFR gene or as I like to call it, the Motherf—er Mutation ), I eventually had my two babies. I’d even go so far as to call them miracles.
Unfortunately, the endometriosis didn’t go away entirely. (Maybe you’ve seen on the news this week that actress Lena Dunham knows what that’s like. I wish I knew who in the hell she is.) For years I tried several IUDs and drug therapies to keep it at bay. For some reason, the endo didn’t get the memo. To say I was in constant pain is an understatement.
After much deliberation, I had a partial hysterectomy at 39. Worst surgery of my life. And that was my fifth one. When my surgeon, in her words, “got in there to look around” (a phrase that makes me think of someone opening a suitcase and rummaging around for some socks) she discovered a horror show of Stage 4 endo. It was just a mess of adhesions and nodules and lesions, oh my. My organs — my bladder, uterus and bowel — were stuck together, some of them frozen in place, most of them crunched and flattened. What was supposed to be a quick 45 minutes turned into nearly 3 hours. She had to call in another surgeon to help her excise everything. I think there may have been a chainsaw or a weed wacker involved at one point. And to top it off, I was bleeding somewhere after the five incisions and they couldn’t stop it. Apparently, a nurse came out and told my husband it was “touch and go” at one point.
“It was a pretty hairy situation,” was how my surgeon put it later on when she sat by my hospital bed. “You really had us worried. You gave me a run for my money.”
Well. It’s how I do.
But I lived through it. I’m sure you guessed that part already. I even came home after a few days and managed to take care of my two year old not long after the surgery, a point I like to bring up to my husband whenever he has a cold. So, all in all I had a few good healthy years and felt like a new woman again. Until I felt like crap again.
Which brings me to today. It’s been over 6 years since my last surgery and you guessed it, another one is coming. I didn’t make this decision lightly. My doctor is open to alternative medicine and last year put me on a strict diet to curb the endo. I tried herbs, vitamins. I’ve seen chiropractors to help with my lower back pain. I even tried Lupron last summer. (A horrible, terrible, no-good chemo drug used for men with prostate cancer. Too bad I’m neither a man nor do I have a prostate.) I’m going to start seeing an acupuncturist this month. I’m not sure what’s left to try. Maybe a full body transplant? Give me Sofia Vergara’s.
So, another surgery it is. Will it finally cure the endo? I’ve read good things and bad. Mostly, the answer is maybe. Honestly, I have run out of options at this point. And chronic pain tends to wear you down enough to make you actually want to have major surgery. I admit I’m a little scared shitless this time. I suppose this is why I’m writing about it because it helps me gain some distance from that fear brewing in the back of my mind.
Last week, my doctor said it’s time to take out my remaining sad ovary and clean out the endo again, except this time I’ll be plunged into instant menopause. I don’t know about you, but just the sound of that gives me a hot flash. And to top it off, because of the extensive bowel endo I had last time, there’s a possibility of a bowel resection. (Oh, my god! I swore if there were anything I would never write about on this blog it would be a bowel resection!) She’s going to have a general surgeon on standby just in case they decide to yank part of it out. If they don’t, well, there’s a good chance I’ll end up with another surgery just for that in the near future.
“Oh, hell,” I told her. “Just take it all out! I don’t need no stinkin’ bowel! Could you give me a good tummy tuck while you’re at it? Maybe inject all that excess fat into my boobs? I swear I have a punch card somewhere that says Buy 6 Surgeries, Get One Free.”
The best part was when my surgeon, someone who’s been doing this for decades, said to me, “I’m not gonna lie, I am dreading your surgery. Dreading. It.”
When I told her, “that makes two of us” she responded with, “Yeah, but you’re the lucky one! You’ll be asleep! I’ll be awake!”
Good point. Let’s hope so anyway.
Thanks for reading this long, long, graphic TMI reproductive history of mine. I just had to get this out and let you all know I’ll be taking a very long break and won’t be around much. At least I get to lie in bed for a few weeks and read, right? But before I go, let’s review a few key points to ponder:
Always trust your gut instinct.
Always get a second, third, and in my case, seventh opinion.
Always make sure your surgeon is fully awake during your surgery.
Take care of yourself because it’s all you got, ya dig?
Tell me again, who in the bloody hell is Lena Dunham? I’m stumped.
After it’s all over and I’m fully recovered, maybe I’ll come back here and start blogging about silly stuff again. And if you care to send some positive vibes, say a little prayer, or just say to yourself, “Damn, girl! See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!” I’d appreciate it.
I live next door to my 82-year-old mother. She has never driven a car, loves to read New Age books, and lives for the moment her mail is delivered. Five other notable things about her:
She eats her hamburger in between two toasted (burnt to a crisp) rice cakes because she’s “probably allergic to gluten”.
She once thought my late dad was communicating to her through her smoke detector.
She firmly believes in the afterlife and brings up her own imminent death at least once a day. (Then why bother with the rice cakes?)
There is nothing she hates more than when I try to assist her in any way, especially when I try to help bring her groceries inside. If I pick up her bag, I’d better be prepared for an onslaught of dirty looks and her yelling, “Jeezum crow, Darla! I’m not THAT old for Chrissakes! GOOD LORD! GIVE ME THAT BAG! GIVE IT TO ME!” Her normal speaking voice has the ability to cut through steel. So when she starts screaming at me, and wrestling the bag out of my hands, every neighbor within a five mile radius must assume I’m accosting a poor old lady in an attempt to steal her rice cakes. And she is always fixated on the location and condition of the eggs. Apparently, all hell would break loose if one were cracked in transit. “Did you get my eggs, Darla? Did you bring them in the house? Which one is the eggs? Be careful with that bag! That might be my eggs!” I often reply with, “Oh, the eggs? I slammed that bag against the house a couple of times on my way in. Then swung it around like a windmill while pounding it onto the floor before I gave it a good stomping. I think they’ll be fine.” She never laughs at that bit of sarcasm.
She thinks most female celebrities are cursed with “chests that are too big”. To her, this is something to hide not flaunt.
Celebrity chests and death were (once again) the main topics of conversation when she called me on the phone yesterday to chat about the typical stuff: politics, TV shows, whether we’re a ball of light after we die.
My mom is a huge talker, so all conversations are one-sided. She’s been known to interrupt herself. She could break the world record for speaking the longest nonstop without pausing for even a single breath.
The great thing about my mom is she honestly has no clue that what she says is funny. I’m barely able to enjoy a good guffaw in response because she’s already onto the next zinger. She’s also gifted at dropping a funny observation, then following it up with a heavy topic about the nature of our universe and the afterlife some philosophers spend their entire lives contemplating.
Mom: And you know what show I can’t stand? That Karbuncles crap.
Me: The what?
Mom (exasperated): Keeping Up with the Karbuncles!
Everyone just LOVES that show! And you know why? It’s all about their big chests! Yes! And because it’s illegal to show the nipple area, they have to show the crack instead. I’d rather see the nipple. And there’s a whole bunch of chest crack on that show. The bigger the crack, the better. On some of those girls, that’s all you see! This long crack hanging down to their stomachs! It’s because they don’t wear bras, Darla. Remember: always wear your bra or you’ll turn into a Karbuncle.
Me (laughing): I’ll keep that in mind–
Mom (without pausing): I just finished another book on what happens after we die. What do you think?
Me: Well, I–
Mom: Do you think we’re just a ball of light? What do you think I’ll look like on the other side? Will I be myself or someone else? I’d better not be a Karbuncle! I think I must have lived lots of lives before. And once I’m dead, do you think I can I split up my energy? Be in more than one place at a time? I was thinking, I might stay on the other side, but I might come down here to haunt you. I’ll talk to you all the time from the other side!
Me: Uh…I don’t know if that’s a good idea-
Mom: The mail’s here! (hangs up)
I know I should come up with a clever closing line to this post that neatly ties up the Karbuncles chest crack phenomenon with the afterlife, but my mom has me stumped yet again.
And I have no clue where I get my sense of humor from.