Hello Truthseekers.  As many of you know, our family has been dealing with my bladder cancer diagnosis since late July, so my apologies for all the unanswered email, book order questions, and  podcast issues that have not been addressed in a timely fashion (email webmaster@mikemalloy.com).  Same with updates to our new website.  Good news is I have adjusted to the chemo, am back at the board and feeling great and catching up on all I missed, full steam ahead!

Last weekend I recorded a Bonus Show for podcast subscribers.  I think everyone should hear it, if they have time, because I know there are many more women out there like me who were told their symptoms were “normal” and instead, it was cancer.  So, we will also air my “bonus show” Friday night 09/20/19.

We will have a fresh subscriber-exclusive bonus show for you this weekend.

I have a longer narrative I wrote as a “script” for the bonus show and I am also including it here (below), just in case it might help another woman.  Feel free to share.

——————————————————————–

This brief memoir is intended as a PSA to all the middle-aged women out there who – like me – ignored their bladder cancer symptoms because their medical providers told them they were “normal” for perimenopause.  It has a happy ending, but not every woman in my situation will be so fortunate.  I tell this story for them.

To understand my recent experience with cancer – and the health care system –  you must endure the following backstory.  Fair warning – despite the happy ending this isn’t a fairy tale.  It’s a cautionary tale.  It is graphic, everything is on the table – menstrual blood, odors, sex – all kinds of real life human body stuff.  So if that makes you queasy and you need to skip this bonus podcast episode, you won‘t hurt my feelings:

When my speedometer flipped over another zero in January 2018 it was like an invisible “Menopause On” switch was triggered. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to lace up the psychic battle armor to shield me from the multiple ground and airstrikes that was menopause.  Menopause hit me so hard at 50 and with so many stereotypical symptoms and situations it was surreal.  Night sweats, hot flashes, moodiness, cravings, middle age spread, greying hair, hearing loss…….I turned 50 and every physical and psychological cliché was happening to my mind and body at the same time.  Or that was at least the reality in my head, who knows!  I wasn’t thinking very clearly either, kept losing things.  Forgetting phone calls.  Maybe it was also early onset Alzheimer’s instead.

I took care of my grandmother when I was 22 and she was 92.  She died from Altzheimer’s in my LR when I was 25 and she was 95. She was non-verbal and fed with a tube the last 18 months of her life, covered in bedsores, with a catheter that caused UTIs, and tissue-paper-thin skin that tore off in sheets when I changed her pajamas. But that’s a story for another bonus show.

I started to imagine my instant menopause as a SNL skit about a woman’s 50th Birthday Party.  She is excited and getting ready and making the house nice, and there’s a banner with “Fifty Down, Firty to GO” and a big cake with the number 50, etc.   The guests arrive and she says they have to light the candles in 5 min when she turns 50 eaactly.  So the do, sing Happy Birthday and she is thrust into Instant Menopause – all the symptoms start happening at once – POP! the night sweats, the painful, heavy periods, the hot flashes – Pop! Pop! Pop!

Then her body changes – Her boobs fall, like deflating balloons, hhhsssssssssss……….. her ass spreads and splits her jeans.  Her hair turns grey, her vision and hearing fail, then her teeth fall out. The guests are mostly oblivious and chatting with each other.  Eventually, instead of getting drunk and making out with a friend like most normal women, she gets Alzheimer’s and confuses her her son in law with her long lost love, her High School boyfriend.  Turns out Sonny always thought mom was a MILF, so it’s all good. He’s even happy he can screw her and she’ll forget about it instantly, including his crappy performance, and the wife will never know.  Everybody Wins!

Then Michael Che walks in on them going at it – he’s the nice neighbor bringing her mail to her. He seems them and is stunned, the mail spils out of his hands and we see its a mix of DEPENDS ads, Preperation H samples, Reverse Mortgage offers, and an Alex Trebeck. Poster.

Scene.

I could see Kate McKinnon in this skit, or Aidy Bryant as the lead. Maybe a cute guest host as the son in law, like Ben Affleck or the other one.

That’s the real trauma of menopause – the psyops.  The media and advertisements, the mailing and the email spam that scream at you: ‘YOU’RE OLD!” Two days after my 50th they made their first appearance in my mailbox – a slick, glossy AARP invitation. A white-haired couple in a convertible were open-mouth smiling as the wind blew back their hair. Is that what I look like?

By my first missed period six weeks later I was filling a weekly recycle bin with geriatric junk mail – dental implant offers, herbal “Geritol” supplement samples, long-term care facility brochures, senior mountain community land offers, and pre-need funeral arrangements.

As a result of some sleepy online marketer purchasing the wrong list, my email inbox was pounded with ads for ED drugs. “Make her beg for it!” Stay Up All Night!” Denture cleaner coupons automatically appeared in my Kroger account, with a helpful suggestion of a few similar items I might enjoy, like Metamucil, or Aspercream.  My local Jiffy Lube sent me a special coupon, just for “Our Valued Senior Customers.”  If they really valued me, they’d stop charging the $5.00 “oil disposal” fee.  Ripoff.

The physical symptoms waited until the sweltering heat of one of the hottest summers on record in Atlanta to make their appearance, which was like the Final Curse of Moses against the Pharaoh.  God opened up the Skies and sucked the Red Sea up into a cloud and rained down nocturnal torrents of blistering Night Sweats that left my nightgown so thoroughly drenched I could ring water from it into the sink.  Usually I woke up goose-flesh shivering because I was soaking wet under a high ceiling fan. Somehow Mike slept through all this.  Most of the time.

If I magically slept through one of these deluges, I would awaken feeling like I had slept in a wetland, with salt crust in the corners of my mouth and lines of salt crystals in all my sensitive creases.  With my wet hair glued to my face I looked and smelled like seaweed.  I would stumble into the bathroom and look in the mirror – I looked like Naked and Afraid Day 19 before the inevitable and magical last-minute protein save.  Yup. I look ready for a lizard kebab.  I would pull off my nightgown and it felt like skinning a fish.  Schlurp – even made a sound.

I would towel off and put on another big Tee Shirt, spread out a beach towel over my wet spot and try to go back to sleep. I wonder if this is how teenage boys feel when they have their nocturnal emissions?  Poor boys, with so little control over their developing bodies, just like me now.  Menopause is like having all the life-changing aspects of puberty, only now you’re old and apathetic.  Acne, backne, weight gain, bloating, raging hormones, crying jags over sappy Publix TV commercials or baby photos, irregular periods, moodiness, weird food cravings. Then the periods start reversing themselves, like that clock in Benjamin Button. Until you end up with a few little spots once and awhile, easily overlooked.

That’s where I was when I had my annual visit with my OB-GYN in March of 2018 and we discussed my nosedive into early menopause, which a blood test confirmed.

I’ve only been seeing her a few years, this is my 3rd physical. I like her, she’s about 5 years older than I am and African-American.  She is so confident, not cocky, but self-assured I trusted her immediately.  She’s no-nonsense, but friendly. She explained that my estrogen wasn’t low enough to warrant supplementation, so she suggested I try diet and exercise. She also suggested I eliminate as much “inflammatory” food as possible, like meat.

That seemed like good advice, I had packed on 20 pounds in the last couple of years – pre-menopausal weight gain just like pre-adolescent weight gain! We liked it so nice we’re doing it twice! Isn’t this fun?! I left with an order for a mammogram and sample of some homeopathic estrogen cream that might ease the night sweats.

I rejoined the gym for the 20th time but this time I went.  I decided it was bad enough being 50, fat and 50 was just too pathetic and depressing. I still hung onto all my Chicago-size clothes, the good stuff I bought when we lived there and Mike worked late nights on WLS. Where baseball games are snowed out.  But that’s a story for another bonus show. I hoped I would squeeze back into them someday, like Miranda and her skinny jeans on Sex and the City.  Now I’m passing the baton and the Bloomingdale’s bags with my tiny treasures to Molly and her friends, it’s all vintage now anyway, and hip again. They look adorable in my neutral toned Talbots linen suits with the cropped jackets and square necklines. Respectable late 90’s shoulder-pads. Pencil skirt to the knee with a tasteful kick pleat.  Like little junior flight attendants from the Jackie O days, I wish I had those huge dark sunglasses glasses to give them so they’d look like posh insects.

Whoopsie, see what I mean?  Menopause brain went off the rails again.  Back on track now, apologies.

I made the mammogram appointment for the following week at the Big Corporate Hospital in North Atlanta.  The #1 Baby Factory in the USA –More births than anywhere else in America – most of them live!

Anyway, I went for the mammogram in April and grinned and bore it while the tech flattened my boobs between two ice-cold metal plates and contorted me into position.  If you’ve never had the pleasure, having a mammogram is like trying to do a Pilates move while your boob is in a steel vice.  They expect you to hold one arm straight up in the air and curve the other around the machine grasping a handle, bending slightly at the waist toward the equipment. Then hold your breath for 20 seconds while the tech scurries behind the leaded glass window.

It looks like a machine from the 1950’s.  This technology has not improved in 60 years.  If men had to have mammograms this medieval practice would be over. No cold metal plates and akward ballet moves for a “testiculogram.” It would probably be conducted with puffs of warm air and feathers.

After a couple of days, on Thursday I get a letter in the mail with my lab results.  Normal pap smear, blood work is fine, low estrogen as we expected, yada yada.  Then there is a separate letter asking me to call and schedule a repeat mammogram.  Seems the radiologist saw a “suspicious area” and wanted a more specific, high frequency test.  I don’t know why I wasn’t freaked out, but I was calm. I called and scheduled for the next Tuesday, their first available.  I waited for Mike and Molly to come home to share the news, and I thought – maybe I’m in denial?  Is this dementia?  Should I be worried?  I just don’t feel any real concern about this, and I have a lot of personal experience with breast cancer.  My best friend’s mother, my god mother, and three other close personal friends have or had the disease.  Two have died from it and the other three are in remission.  Maybe that’s why I wasn’t afraid – it was so familiar.

Mike and Molly had a different reaction.  Molly’s eyes spilled over with tears and she asked me if I felt sick like Grandma.  Of course I didn’t I felt perfectly fine.  Mike stared at the floor a long time, finally sighed, looked up and asked me if I wanted him to call Chris – his son the nurse – and talk with him about it.   Not really, I didn’t have any questions.  Plus Chris runs the cardiac cath unit at the VA in Charleston, SC so I didn’t think he’d see a lot of mammograms.  Or women.

Later that night I started to get this feeling I call “a little crispy around the edges”  I felt anxious, twitchy, and irritable.  I didn’t want to be touched or talked to.  Mike and Molly sensed this, probably by my subtle body language and my telling them to get out of my face.  I scared myself to sleep with Internet horror stories and “The Other Side of the Mountain” type inspirational mini-memoirs. Jesus, I don’t want to be a survivor of anything, except maybe talk radio.

This tension lasted 72 more hours, and I was mostly able to put it out of my head and attend to the more pressing matters of my life – mainly my volunteer work for Molly.  Less importantly my real estate business and podcast production.  8AM Tuesday I’m in the Big Corporate Hospital again in the mammography department, but this time they take me to the OTHER side of the office.  There is a separate entrance, I just learned, for us mammogram repeat offenders, we are the Level Two Lottery winners and have earned a separate waiting room. It’s quieter in there. No kids. I guess they don’t want to parade a bunch of scared, stricken women through the louder waiting room with the new moms and other normals – we were a haunted-looking group.

Today I was a different tech, with a gentle touch and practiced manner that said “I’ve seen thousands of women in here just like you, be strong.”  She only needed two quick images and I was out of there in ten minutes, back in the dressing room applying one of those little moist toweletts of deodorant.

I left for the ride home through typical Atlanta traffic, meaning stops and spurts of 30-70mph bursts.  Someday I will talk about traffic and public transit and racism – but today is not that podcast. Northside does invest and excel in patient services.  If it sometimes feels like a mass-production line in an automotive plant because of it’s size, it runs like the finest German engineering. They know their patients are on pins and needles, so their pathology department is like a small city, teeming with radiologists in every sub specialty. My cell phone rang as my garage door opened pulling in the driveway, I thought for a minute the ringing had opened the door. I was losing my mind. Or was it tinnitus? Isn’t that often an early sign of adult schizophrenia?  Wasn’t that where my mom was headed if the tongue cancer hadn’t taken her five years ago? All this ran through my head as I lifted the phone to my ear.

It was Northside, the pathology was negative.  The second xray showed no mass.  The “suspicious area” on the first xray was just a bundle of improperly-positioned tissue.  Operator error.  Bitch.  Probably a Trump supporter.

I went home, told Mike and Molly and Chris on speakerphone and we all let out an exhausted sigh of relief and prepared to put that whole scary scenario behind us.  That was going to be my cancer story.  How the first radiology tech didn’t flatten me out enough – so we had this false alarm weekend.  Brush with the grim reaper and live to tell the tale.  Ha Ha Ha they couldn’t get me flat!  I still got it!  LOL!  Gotta remember that for Facebook.

That was April of 2018.  By that summer my climacteric hormone freak show was in full, juicy bloom.  I was flashing and freezing and manic and crying and spotting and flooding and it took maximum effort on minimum caloric intake to lose 8 pounds in three months.  I felt like shit.  My hair was brittle and turning grey, it broke between my fingers.  I made another appointment with my doc and asked her again if it was estrogen time.  She tested my thyroid and hormone levels and they were still within normal range.  Low normal, but still normal.  I wonder if leeches would work.

“Then what’s wrong with me?” I asked.

Why did I feel sick and so low energy, with periods of frantic energy?  Some days I was practically manic.  I would paint all the wood baseboards or work in the yard pulling weeds and moving plants until my hands were blistered and my forehead peeled. Once I decided I didn’t like the shape of the stone patio around the firepit and I dug up all the stones by hand and moved them around for hours and hours way after the street lights came on.  Mike had to pull me inside, made me strip in the garage and hose off before coming in, that’s how muddy I was. Pulling twigs and cobwebs out of my hair.

Other days I could barely get out of bed.  I would wake up thick, like my head was full of wax.  My tongue felt like a club in my mouth, I had to gulp a tumbler of coffee and 3 ibuprofin to feel human enough to drive Molly to school.  Then I’d collapse on the living room sofa, turn on the last hour of Morning Joe and fall asleep composing angry Tweets in my pudding-head.  Mike would be out walking his mid- morning mile or swimming his late morning 36 laps and would have to rouse me from this muddy-headed stupor on the sofa around 10:30AM.  I knew this wasn’t normal.  Was it some auto-immune disease?  Some systemic yeast infection?  Did I pick up a parasite that was eating my nervous system?  Those damn authentic Buford Highway restaurants, bet I have worms. Brain worms. That’s why my memory is shot full of holes.

The doc listened patiently and nodded, took notes, then suggested I see a psychiatrist.  Well, thanks, I’m way ahead of you there m’am.  I’ve been seeing one for years.  You should see it there in my chart – the Cymbalta and Wellbutrin combo that keep me passing the open windows.  I wasn’t depressed, just felt like my blood had turned to corn syrup on occasion, or like I was attached to an invisible rocket.  That’s what I imagined a cocaine high must be like.  Honestly have never tried it.  That heart condition I used to have before the ablation scared the bejeesus out of me.  I was afraid to drink decaf.  I avoided stimulants like they were arsenic. And yet ANOTHER story for a weekend bonus podcast.

But I did make a new appointment with my psychiatrist because I knew there was something going on.  My psychiatrist was been around forever.  Old school Atlanta Emory Doctor – about Mike’s age.  When I met him the next week, we discussed my near-psychotic symptoms, which I was convinced were related to menopause.  I was in “hormone hell” as my grandmother used to say. He agreed and said that erratic behavior and mood swings were to be expected with the hormone fluctuations. He chuckled and wiped his glasses, adding that his wife “went nuts” when she had “the change” and sold all their furniture. She’s also his office manager, and in a wheelchair.  Sweet as pie, I bring her Girl Scout cookies every year, my treat.

This little misogynistic detour aside, we decided we should up both dosages a little bit.  Tweak and titrate a nudge to boost my Dopamine and see if my psychiatric and physical symptoms improved.  He also suggested that even though my TSH was normal, I might benefit from some supplemental thyroid medicine and should discuss that next time with my doc.

I left the office that sizzling July day a little less dazed and confused, but still unable to pinpoint the source of these symptoms.  The next morning, I awoke with a symptom I could identify with gun-sight precision – I couldn’t pee.  Or rather, I could pee, but it felt like I was peeing a swarm of angry hornets, and they were all carrying tiny razor blades.

When I did manage, painfully and with much wincing, to void my bladder, I knew something was wrong. And here is your first gross-out alert if you want to mute your listening device – It was dark like cola, cloudy, and foul-smelling. Looked like swamp water.  I didn’t have a fever or any bad abdominal pain, but when I had to go, it burned like fire and smelled like how I imagined the brimstone and sulfuric pits of hell.  I got dressed and went to the new emergent care center up the street and signed in, put on the paper towel gown, screamed a few drops of disgusting urine into a cup and waited for the physician’s assistant.  I like this place. It’s new and smells like fresh paint and there isn’t a decade-old two-inch ring of grime around the baseboards.  Are you noticing a theme?  I have a thing for clean doors and trim.

The young PA comes in and tells me yup – it’s a wicked UTI.  They are going to send it off to culture to see exactly what species of nastiness has taken up residence in my bladder.  Meanwhile I get the Macrobid.  And Hebiclense to wash with – down there.  And some lidocaine ointment for topical analgesic until the Pyridium kicks in, those fun orange dye tablets that stain everything, but do ease the symptoms.

After 24 hours on the Macribid the symptoms are almost gone and I feel fine.  I call my doc’s office and leave a message.  Her nurse calls back – yes, it’s normal to have increased infections during “the change” like UTIs and yeast infections.  My pH is changing, the environment is different. It is more acidic, and drier.

She sounded like she was describing some exotic destination in a travel magazine….everything is different here in the lost jungles of dwindling Estrogen ….it’s hotter, more arid and much drier than the other jungles.  Not as much tourism. Probably because there are twice as many bugs and bacteria. The water is like acid and it rains every night, but you never cool off. ….She asked me about my mental state and I said, truthfully, it was better.  Or I was adapting.  Either the titrated meds or passage of time were easing my symptoms.

Three months later it happened again.  October 2018 was very very not great, as President Trump would say.  We had a basement flood – brown water – from a sewage pipe behind Mike’s broadcast studio.  Mike is a little like Jerry Seinfield, if you didn’t know.  His first reaction to the soggy carpet dotted with clotted toilet paper was “we gotta move.” We went to a hotel for two days instead while the very expensive mediation company did it’s thing.

We had to have all the carpet ripped out, the drywall cut in a horizontal line six feet off the floor, the remaining walls and cement floor washed with industrial strength antibacterial solution and baked with hot fans for five days.

That’s when Bob Kincaid subbed for us most of that week.  Well, in the middle of that disaster both our cars broke down, the upstairs HVAC died, Rusty got sick, and so did I.  He was impacted, constipated – poor buddy – and I had another nasty UTI. Not nearly as nasty as before, however.  That was the good news.

Same symptoms – peeing barbed wire dipped in battery acid, just not quite as bog-water evocative.  No fever or swollen glands or back pain.  Back to the antiseptic Urgent Care and a different PA looks over my chart and informs me my last culture grew out E. Coli. Very common, but Macrobid wasn’t always effective against that beastie.  He suggested old school – sulfa drugs.  Bactrim.  Hell, I remember my grandmother lived on that stuff.  When he asked about my family history I suddenly remembered my grandma had constant UTIs, not so much my mother, but she was prone to yeast infections.  Okay – I’m not going to continue the family gynecological history here, although parts of it are interesting.  Suffice it to say there was a significant history of female urogenital disorders in my maternal lineage.

Bactim was great. Worked just as fast and didn’t kill Every Single Healthy Organism in my gut.  I love yogurt but have to gulp about a gallon a day when I take antibiotics.  Talk about dehydration. That was another masked symptom.  The AP asked if I had been working out more lately, and I had.  At the gym and in the yard – like a sharecropper – in the nice fall weather.  Well, I was probably dehydrated, too. Probably why the infection returned. I needed to drink more water.  Of course – Dink more water!  Always more water.  They should have flashing neon signs on the road – drink more water.

So I did.  And I got better again. But by the holidays I started to feel sick in a different way.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but I just felt ill.  Mike started noticing it.  He said I looked pale and sometimes had a sick “smell” and should go to the doctor.  Well, I went to the doctor sooner than I planned, but for a different reason.  The story for another day about the sliced finger, my infamous kitchen accident “cutting the cheese.”  Happy Holidays, let’s have tendon surgery.  That procedure, splint, and painful physical therapy sucked all the oxygen out of any other medical issues I might investigate.  Menopausal whining was put on hold while I focused on retaining the grip in my right hand.

I kept spotting and feeling like I had a low grade infection, but hey – every medical provider I’d seen said that’s what you get with menopause – gotta suck it up.  Comes with – like egg roll.

By February 2019 my hand therapy was tapering down and I made an appointment for my annual physical with the OBGYN.  As always we exchanged small talk about holidays, shopping, and travel, then cut to the chase.  Was I still having periods?  Occasionally.  Did I spot during the month?  Yes, frequently.  Do I still have night sweats and hot flashes?  Yes, but eased with the passing of that unbearably hot summer – (what global climate change?)

She ran the usual blood tests and did a urinalysis – sure enough, I had a low grade UTI.  This time I didn’t have any symptoms at all.  She wrote an order for a mammogram but didn’t do a pap smear.  She said the protocol was now once every 3 years on a pap.  I think that is crazy.  A woman can examine her own breasts for lumps and oddities – not so much her ovaries and uterus.  And after my first false positive mammogram I wasn’t sure I was ready for a repeat performance.  She assured me that the UTIs were normal and expected, but I might have a bladder stone.  If I had another one, I should see a urologist.  She gave me a list of names.  Well, I wondered, if I am asymptomatic now but have a low-grade infection, how do I know when to call the urologist?  I left her office pondering this question with a prescription for Augmentin.  A third antibiotic.

As always the antibiotic erased any trace symptoms I was experiencing. By March 2019 I felt much better physically and mentally.  I was following a low carb diet that gave me more energy and more reliable blood sugar and I finally started to lose a few pounds.  The spotting was less frequent, and periods were lighter, coming about every two months, but they weren’t accompanied by killer cramps and clotting.  Molly’s first year of high school was flying by and she was cast as Mona Lipschitz in the Spring Musical Chicago.  She was head over heels ecstatic.  Never saw that kid as happy as when she got that part.  Anyway, it was a good time, it was a busy time.  I had a couple of promising real estate clients and some potentially lucrative opportunities ahead.  Every once in a while, the toilet paper was a faint pink after I peed, or I a saw a speck of red in the bowl, but hey – I was still spotting so there you go.  Docs all say it’s normal.

There’s a moment in the summer in Atlanta I look forward to every year. Usually it’s in June, and the humidity is still low and the air is light and smells like warm 7-UP.  The longest days of the year are my favorite party of summer. Swim meets that end at ten and it’s still light outside.  School is out and there is an expectant feeling that is both lazy and energized. Like that box of last year’s leftover July 4th fireworks leaning off the shelf in the garage. This was the peaceful, easy feeling I had as we headed into the summer of 2019.  Mike had finally published THE BOOK and it was off to the printer’s. Soon we would be able to fulfill those Kickstarter pre-orders!  That was a good feeling.  June came in with a heat wave and we headed to Blairesville for the second Malloy Mountain Getaway and Highland Games, which were rained out. First rain we’d had in two weeks and it was a soaker.  Mike, it seems, is a rain maker.  We are 2-0 now for these mountain trips.  They should rent him out to drought-stricken regions.  Anyway, menopause brain break there, sorry – Molly was busy with swim team and I started feeling really crappy again.

That super low energy melon-head feeling was back. It’s either some oddball menopausal symptom or an autoimmune disease, I figured, this feeling like my blood had turned to molasses and I was moving at about ½ speed.  Same for my thought processes.  I couldn’t remember shit.  I would wander from room to room in my house trying to remember why I had gone into that room to begin with.

I know the inspiration for all those “mad woman in the attic” 1930s-40s film noir.  Those films with the dark antihero who loves the innocent young governess but has this insane wife locked in the attic?  And the film flips to a scene of the grainy black and white shadowy images of the madwoman with her arms extended like a zombie, wandering back and forth in front of a window.

She was probably looking for her keys.  Menopause brain.

And there is something else – and if you’re not grossed out yet and are still listening then we’re good – I did notice that I had a different smell, okay???  Or rather, had a smell.  Up until this 50th birthday-turned Steven King novel, my urine was odorless.  One or two odorless UTIs in my 20s and 30s and that was it.  So I know what “normal” smells like for me, and this wasn’t it.  I dug out the list my OBGYN gave me and made an appointment with one of the Urologists.  My appointment was two-weeks out.  When the appointment approached it fell on the same day as a real estate closing I had to attend, so I called to reschedule.  No problem, but it would be another two weeks.  I made the appointment, but also decided to call another name on the list and see if I could get seen sooner. I had a gut feeling, pardon the pun, this wasn’t good.  The next group I found could seem me two days later.  And they were part of the Big Corporate Hospital Group as my other providers, so sharing records would be easy.  I made an appointment with a urologist who had just moved here from New Jersey, where his reputation as one of the youngest, most respected physicians had earned him awards and placement on all the top ten docs lists.  He and his wife also started a foundation for sick kids.  I think I’m going to like this guy.

I drove myself to that morning appointment Tuesday July 30th and walked into the modern office building.  It looked more like a real estate firm than a doctor’s office.  Comfy sofas and seating groups with soft lighting. Neutral colors and modern artwork.  A mini fridge with sodas and waters.  TV on a Discovery Channel nature documentary, lighted magazine rack with a fresh selection of interesting titles. It was like a Starbucks, but instead of getting a cup of coffee, you pee in the cup.  Which I did, and sorry to say it looked a little like coffee. Uh oh.  Well, no biggie, I thought.  I’ve seen that before.

I stayed dressed for our initial meeting. I like that. A pet peeve of mine is when a doctor you have never met one time in your life expects you to greet them, for the first time ever, practically naked.  Seriously.  How demeaning is that?
Talk about a power imbalance.  And you can’t stand up when they enter the room because, hello – paper towel – so they must lean over to shake your hand and I’m cringingly close to this strange man standing over me who I just met, and I’m naked and he’s not.  Not fair at all.

Just once I would like a doctor to show up at my real estate firm and I greet him, shake his hand, and hand him a plastic sheet. He can change in the next room and I’ll be in in a minute to review his Seller’s Disclosure. Would you like anything while you wait?  Magazine? Warm blanket? Socks for the foot-stirrups?

Speculum?

Problem is I think a couple of my former providers would be into it.

See? That menopause brain – train keeps running off the tracks. So the urologist walks in, cute as a bald Beatle, but so adorable with this baby face. He has polka dot socks on, I like that, too. We both stand, fully clothed, and he introduces himself and his intern who is shadowing him, and asks how long I’ve been seeing blood in my urine?

Full stop.  Say what?  Seen what in my what?  I’ve never seen blood in my urine.  Well, he says, “You have blood in your urine now, and reported that your previous UTIs were positive for blood…”

“Microscopic blood,” I interrupted.  Not red urine or even pink.  Then I remembered the pink toilet paper.  Maybe that wasn’t period blood. My heart sank into my stomach.  He saw my gradual realization and interrupted my racing thoughts. He’d like to get an ultrasound right then if we could.  If I had time.  “Let’s see if you’re completely voiding your bladder.”  I almost forgot for a second, distracted by polka dots.  THE CHANGE causes us to go all saggy everywhere, including all the important sphincters. So we don’t pee with the vim and vigor of our youth and some residual remains to cook up some bacteria stew.  Sounds reasonable.

Off to the ultrasound down the hall.  I haven’t had one since I was pregnant.  I used to love that appointment – that quickening flutter and wocka wocka wocka of Molly’s heartbeat on the monitor, watching it and hearing it, knowing she was just chugging along full speed ahead! My little fighter.  The one I got to keep, after four miscarriages. “You get the one you’re supposed to have” my reproductive endocrinologist said when he handed me off the the OB-GYN at 6 weeks. Molly was The Little Liberal engine that could. Never a quitter. Never say never Molly Malloy. Wocka wocka wocka wocak I think I can I think I can I know I can I know I can wocka wocka I thought I could I thought I could wocka wocka wocka

This ultrasound was different.  They still have the cold room with the warm sheets, which is the greatest thig ever, and warm gel. But no comforting prenatal heartbeat. No sound at all, but the technician is chatty in a bland way about local restaurants and the Atlanta Braves and her boyfriend just moved in with his turtle and it’s so smelly and she doesn’t want him to think she’s a whiner and he has a really nice car – that kind of thing. She’s rolling me from side to side to image my kidneys.  Okay, that’s disquieting. Then I do hear a heart sound, but it’s more of a whoosh – woosh-woosh than a wocka wocka wocka.  It’s my blood flow.  Got it, she turned on the Doppler. I’m flashing back to nursing classes at UIC 20+ years ago.  And that’s yet another story for another weekend bonus show.

20 minutes later I’m dressed again and in his office, not the exam room. He still hasn’t seen me naked!  He walks in and sits down, flips on a white board behind his desk and puts up an image of my ultrasound.  He looks me straight in the eye and says “I’m not going to sugar coat anything, that’s not my style.” “You have a 3 cm mass in your bladder and it has me worried.”  “I want to schedule a CAT scan and then a biopsy.”  “Do you have anything you need to do in the next two weeks you could re-schedule?”

I knew it. I knew it the minute I sat in the ultrasound chair, I could tell.  Unlike the false positive mammogram, I knew this was cancer.

“Maybe not,” he said.  “Could be a puss pocket – a cyst or stone from previous infections.”

“The good news is it looks like the tumor is close to your right ureter, but your right kidney looks great – they both do.”  “And your blood work is normal, kidney function is good – that’s all positive.” Didn’t sound positive to me, sounded like I had cancer.  My mother died a terrible, long, painful death five years ago from tongue cancer, I vowed I would never get chemo or radiation.

“And if it in cancer,” he continued, “there’s a 70% chance it will be the easily treatable type.”

“What if it is the 30% type?” I asked.  “We fix it,” he answered, again looking straight in the eye.  “I’m good, you’ll have to trust me.”  “You’re in the right place.”

I did feel that, instinctively.  I did trust him, too.  Now here’s the weird thing, bladder cancer is the 5th most common cancer in America but it’s almost never discussed.  Personally, Mike and I know THREE different men with bladder cancer.  Two in their 60s and one in his 50s.  No women at all.  And here is where I’m going Full PSA on you – When a woman receives a bladder cancer diagnosis, the prognosis is much worse than it is for a man.  Women will ignore the symptoms, or their providers will misdiagnose them, especially if they are also menopausal.  A man at any age who sees red pee runs to the doctor, of course they do, and should.  So their cancer is caught early.  A 70 year old woman with pink toilet tissue will probably run to the doctor as well, but a 50 year old probably won’t. Especially If she’s spotting all the time.

So here I am, and I’ll be damned.  I didn’t ignore my symptoms.  I went to three different providers; three times was told it was normal and part of The Change.  Not one suggested it might be bladder cancer. Even my OBGYN thought it might just be a stone, or a chronic, antibiotic-resistant bug.  No one gave me a reason to worry before, but I had one now!

It’s all water under the bridge now – so to speak – but as the doc would soon explain, this tumor probably dated back over a year ago to that initial UTI that was so god-awful in the Spring of 2018.  18 months ago.  18 months to grow and plant and fertilize with eColi little cancer seedlings all over my bladder.  Probably my uterus too.  Little fluffy baby cancer cells were circulating through my lymph nodes like pink fairies, sprinkling metastatic pixie dust over all my internal organs.  My lungs, liver, pancreas, spine, brain….sparkling with freshly-altered DNA.  Or so I imagined on my zombie-walk back to the car to call Mike.  I made an appointment for the Cat scan before I left the office.  I would have it Thursday August 1st – two days from now. Two more days to wait and worry and wonder what this tumor looked like, floating like coral in a sea of pee.

Mike was calm when I told him they found a mass, and rational.  But later he told me he started sobbing as soon as we hung up.  Well, his son Chris told me anyway.  And so did Molly.  We told her together after school but she said she knew it was bad news when dad picked her up – he was still red and tear-stained.  We drove into the subdivision almost exact same time – there is so much synchronicity to this story it’s spooky.  Reminds me of those paranormal crime dramas my mother used to love.  Like the stack of books she was returning to the library, but she accidentally set on fire in the front seat of her car when she tossed a kitchen match into the car after lighting a cigarette.  This was Memorial Day weekend and Molly was three. Right on the curb in front of our old house, with neighbors’ grilling and watering their lawns.  Molly ran up the driveway so excited, yelling “Grandma! Grandma!”  Mike was running behind her with a fire extinguisher.  You guessed it – a story for another bonus podcast.

Maybe cancer diagnoses make you search for patterns and meaning because of all that mortality that’s slammed you up against the wall. Is déjà vu a natural side effect of a possibly terminal diagnosis?

I spent the next 48 hours pouring over every Internet resource I could find, at the highest academic level I could comprehend, about bladder cancer.  I became a bladder cancer expert overnight.  I could quote statistics like a Jeopardy champ.

I won’t bore you with it here, but I was most fascinated by the stats that affected me, menopausal women.  That’s the story I wanted to hear.

In 2016, about 18,000 women will be told they have bladder cancer.

This is mainly a disease of old white men. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 73.

Men are 4 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women, but women are more likely to die from bladder cancer than men. Because early signs are often ignored, women have a higher chance of being diagnosed at an advanced stage than men.

Bladder cancer symptoms may be the same as those of a bladder infection. If symptoms do not go away after you completed your antibiotics, follow up with your doctor to find out whether bladder cancer is present.

The next set of stats that interest me is the survival rates.  The 5-year survival rate of people with bladder cancer that has not spread beyond the inner layer of the bladder wall is 95%. About half of people are diagnosed with this stage. HALF?  I feel cheated, my wonderdoc said 70%

If the tumor is invasive but has not yet spread outside the bladder, the 5-year survival rate is 69%. If the cancer extends through the bladder to the surrounding tissue or has spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs, the 5-year survival rate is 35%. If the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 5%. About 4% of people are diagnosed with this stage.

I stay up all night reading.  I read blog posts, personal stories, love stories, horror stories, I squinted at blurry cat scan images on YouTube like I had some clue what metastasized bladder cancer looks like on a Cat scan.  I’m starting to get scared and sad and panicky.  What if I don’t live to see Molly graduate High School?  What if all the times we joked about Molly being an orphan because Mike was so dammed old, the ultimate irony is that he was going to out-live ME!

And My Molly – my poor baby doll.  First she had to live through my mother’s cancer and losing her grandmother she loved so deeply, now she was facing this with me five years later.  Not fair.  So not fair.  So very very double plus ungood not fair! As Trump would say.  Or something.

Cat scan Thursday morning with contrast dye has finally arrived and I’m signing “hold harmless” waivers, in case I have a fatal allergic reaction.  First time I’ve heard that possibility, thank you for that send-off, Mr. Anestheologist, can I have my happy shot now?

Doc needs the dye to get a good look at the vascular system of the “neoplasm of unspecific behavior.”   I get it.

We’ve not shared this news with anybody except Chris and a couple of very close family friends. No need to panic the public if it’s nothing, right?  But I am scared.  Really.  And not looking forward to the endless, timeless, grey hours that stretch forever between test and test result. The pathology report will be Friday, maybe Monday. An eternity.  The tech is another chatty young woman who runs me through a practice drill with a grid mark projected on my belly. She instructs me to hold my breath and lie perfectly still.  She offers me ear foamies to block the noise. Then she injects the dye, which makes me feel hot and cold at the same time. And for a skinny second I think I’m going to vomit, but the heat foams up in my throat, then sinks again and it’s over.  The dye is in and I didn’t die. Time for the main event.

 

After the machine whirled around me for 60 seconds it opened like the space shuttle pod.  She walked up and helped me sit up. “How did they find it?” she asked in a more serious tone.  And there it is.  My cancer confirmed before the phone call.  There was an “it” after all.  And then it got just a smidgeon worse.

“Did you see blood in your urine?”  Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, It’s cancer.  Game over.  “Well, you’re in the right place, they will take such good care of you” she patted my arm and left the room.

Mike walked me to the car and for the first time, I cried.  More like fell completely apart in the passenger seat.  Hot and nasty ugly crying.  Tammy Faye Baker face and everything. Just disgusting. I had a tee shirt once that had this smudged makeup face imprint on it, like you had pressed a drag queen’s face into the shirt and peeled it off like a sticker.  Above it in iron-on block letters it read: “I ran into Tammy Faye at the Mall”

I loved that shirt.  I wore it roller skating at Sparkles and everybody laughed.  I dressed up as Tammy Faye for Halloween.  But again – I digress.  That menopause brain train is off the rails again!

Mike is holding me across the center console, stroking my hair.  Trying to comfort me but I know his voice is shaking and his body is shaking, too.  And I don’t think either of us have been that scared before. Not since we thought for a few awful moments that he might have thyroid cancer back in Chicagoland in the bad old WLS AM 890 days.  Turned out it was a benign cyst, thank Goddess. But it was suspicious because unlike bladder cancer, thyroid cancer is MUCH more common in women, so if a man has a lump it’s usually Bad News.

Got home and braced for the Molly talk.  I didn’t want to think about this at all, not at all.  What do I say to her?  Hey, if I die of cancer and your dad dies of natural causes, do you want to stay here and live with your godfather Jack and continue at your High school, or move in with your brother in South Carolina?  Which sounds better to you?

Might as well ask her if she’d rather fail her algebra class or spend an afternoon in a room full of snakes. How do you have that conversation?  We quickly decided – you don’t.  Not now.  Not until it’s absolutely necessary.  So we kept those crazy conversations locked safely away and told Molly what we knew – there is a mass, but never fear – wonderdoc is going to fix it all up next Tuesday.  TURBT procedure. Trans-urethral resection of bladder tumor.  She nods and says she’s not worried, it’s not going to be cancer.  I wish I had that certainty.

The doc calls that night and confirms what we already know – the CT showed a tumor on the anterior wall near the right ureter opening.  But its closer to 7cm – not 3cm.

He emailed the digital CT photo. I saw a fuzzy oval with an arrow, guess that was the bad boy.  Getting a bit more anxious.  He said try to have a good weekend and put it out of my head, because worry doesn’t do anything to heal my body, mind, or spirit.  He suggested Burbon.  I like this guy, and so does Mike.  They bonded over coffee pods and my CT results.

Our household mood fell into this kind of ambivalent limbo netherworld where we were happy and upbeat one minute, and sad and near tears the next.  It was an exhausting roller coaster and, honestly, it only lasted about a long week before we had the pathology report.  That was head-spinning and dizzying, too.  First visit Tuesday, Cat scan Thursday, biopsy the next Tuesday, path report on Friday.

But I’m jumping ahead.  First we faced the long four day weekend from CT scan to TURBT procedure, which was also with the killer dye, this time under general anesthetic.  Still outpatient, I would go in at 8AM and be home by 2PM.  Nothing to it, he does it all day every Tuesday. This and prostate surgery are his top two hits he says, he can do them blindfolded.  “But you won’t,” I add……he laughs and it‘s natural and friendly.  I like this guy and his cute socks.

Now, something about that long weekend you gotta understand.  Molly and I are throwing her best friend a surprise 15th birthday party at our house that Saturday.  With sleepover guests.  Yes Truthseekers, so cancer diagnosis Thursday, Huge surprise party with 20 screaming coed teenagers in sweaty midsummer hormonal glory decorating our yard and basement on Saturday.  Theme is Stanger Things, so we’ve been up in the hell mouth of an attic digging up colored Christmas lights and Halloween fog machines and gauzy fabric and black lights and plaster of paris and modge podge and spirit gum and liquid latex and cheesecloth and alcohol face paint and all that stuff you have in your attic, right?  Or is that just me?

So here are these giggly teenage girls coming over early to decorate and I’m totally freaked out and so is Mike and all I can say is…….thank you spirit in the sky.  Great Spaghetti Monster or whatever.  Those girls saved my sanity that weekend.  Maybe my life.

I couldn’t think about cancer, I was too busy blowing up balloons and stringing Christmas lights and turning the basement into “the Upside Down” ad hiding fog machines and working extremely hard to make sure the birthday girl didn’t discover our plans.

Meanwhile we did tell the three buddies who are living with this diagnosis and were overwhelmed by their support.  It was generous and instantaneous.  They sent me encouraging email, helpful websites, articles about research and new treatments.  They called and checked on me.  I have not felt that loved in that way in a long time.  I hope everyone has a few of those people in their lives.  We all need a cheerleader or two in our corner when the trade winds change and the seas get rough.

Tuesday August 6th we wake at 6AM and I rinse my mouth, spit and don’t swallow.  I’ve shaved my “upside down” because the last time I had a procedure was my cardiac ablation, which was accessed through my femoral arteries.  Right before they knocked me out – I still wonder why they didn’t gas me first, it would have avoided SOOOOOO  much PTSD. – somebody attacked my lady parts with a single-blade razor, and I was bone dry.  I tried to sit up when she cut me the first time, but she shoved me back down. I thought I’d fallen through a wormhole into a bad woman’s prison B-movie. She hacked me up like Sid and Nancy and left me with scabs and road rash, THEN the bitch turned on the gas. She must’ve been a Nazi death camp warden in a previous life.

No thanks, I’ll tidy up my bits all by myself, if you please. So I did. I also started cutting my head hair this year. I got tired of spending too much cash at over-hyped salons to have bored millennials gush about my thick hair while they over processed my highlights.   But I digress again – oops.

So I’m neat and bright as a pin when we arrive at 8AM on the dot. We dropped Molly off early, which she loves because it gives her extra time in the morning to hang out with her friends or finish homework.  Win-win.  We check in at the outpatient center and they snap the little id bracelet on me and ask me when I last ate or drank anything.  I asked if vodka counted?  She nodded seriously.  I told her I was joking.  And I was.  She asked me if I had any concerns and I said I was worried Trump was going to continue to lock children in cages and deport immigrants seeking political asylum because they’re fleeing dangerous situations in south American countries that are only dangerous because of American political practices during the Reagan Bush Iran Contra Gulf War One war crime.

“Are you still taking your Wellbuterin and Cymbalta every day as prescribed, Mrs. Mallory?” she asked.

Mrs. Mallory.  They will probably misspell it on our tomb stones.  Or at least mine.  People have heard “Mike Malloy” enough to get it right, but they always stick an “r” in our last name.  Maybe it’s a gender thing, like a psychological science fair school project in middle school.  Mallory.  Why?  It defies logic.  Must be one of those NY Times brain teasers about visual acuity and vowels, or repeated consonants like double “lls”.  Or something.

This is what’s floating in my narcotized brain, after the happy shot, while I’m staring at Mike sitting in the chair across from me and he is trembling.  His legs are shaking and he looks freezing cold, but he smiles at me and makes a funny face.  And I have never felt more love for anybody in my life. The past didn’t matter, nothing did.  It was true mindfulness in that moment, or as close to it as I have ever felt.  I was so present in that room, and so was he and we were locked, connected, and we both knew it and understood it completely at the same time. It was a common, single thought expressed wordlessly.  I love you.

Didn’t matter what pain had passed between us, it had all dissolved into the ether.  Our 25-year age difference was meaningless to me, always has been. But it continues to trouble Mike.  So worried about leaving me and Molly before she is an adult.  So devastated knowing he would never live to see the awesome, ass-kicking, humanist, protector and citizen of the world we knew she would become.  Or her children, his grandchildren.  That is some heavy weight when you’re already way past traditional retirement age.

Here he was, trembling. Cold. Didn’t know where to look or put his hands. He hates hospitals, oh don’t you know it.  Hates visiting, hates being a patient, just hates them.  Full of disease and death and evil spirits I guess, I don’t know.  But he’s there and will stay there until it’s time to take me home, semi-conscious, tethered to a catheter bag, about 2:00 that afternoon.  Mike told me Wonderdoc said he got it all, or is 99% certain he did. He took a “big scoop.” Sounds delicious.  There were two other small “satellite sites” that he also cut out. My bladder looked otherwise pink and healthy.  This tumor was like a football-shaped broccoli stalk, he explained.

I would later see the photos – Egad, it’s a sea monster after all!  Looked like a convoluted football-shaped clump of seaweed floating peacefully in a yellow ocean.

The tumor didn’t appear to be invasive, but he was slightly concerned because the stalk of the broccoli was thicker and rubbery and that was a bit suspicious of a higher-grade neoplasm. He doesn’t sugar coat anything, I really, really like this guy.  The tumor was sent to pathology biopsy and we should know by Friday or probably Monday. Dammit, another weekend.  This is what Mike told me the doc said while I was in recovery.  I was propped up on the sofa trying to find a compromise position with this catheter.  I had never been that physically uncomfortable in my life.  I was groggy but I stood up and tried to reposition it, but that hurt worse.  Wonderdoc told me I could take it out myself by cutting all the tubes as long as my urine was clear for 24 hours.  Probably Friday.  I didn’t think I would live that long.

I called his office and told them I needed some lidocaine to numb this area and they called it in – Mike rant out to get it and pick Molly up from school.  I wiggled around onto my side and fell asleep for an hour, woke up when they came in.  Cotton mouth and dopey.  Mike brought me the medicine – thank you so much – and I slowly climbed the stairs –  hanging onto Mike, the catheter tubing, and the railing.  I’m not used to being this off my game, this dependent and helpless.

Upstairs I use the lidocaine and feel better.  I drink some water and soon my head is clearing, and I start to tackle this catheter problem.  I untape it from the two places on my calf and thigh and realize that the tubing is so long its pushing too far inside my bladder.  Great.  How to fix this?  I call my friend the nurse.  I quickly catch her up to speed and explain my predicament.

“Jesus, you have cancer?”  “Jesus.”

Okay yes, and I know and I was going to tell everyone once I had a firm diagnosis after the biopsy. Sorry BFF.  Now will you please tell me how to fix this catheter so I don’t yank it out myself?

She asked me to describe it, then asked if I had any kind of similar tubing.  Now, what kind of freak has clear plastic tubing in the house?  Not like having life-size posable zombies in your attic is weird or anything. Come to think of it, I do have clear plastic tubing!

Aquarium tubing. Thank you Girl Scouts, I have survival skills.  I grab Molly’s aquarium tubing (new/clean) and follow Tina’s phone instructions.  Soon my catheter is in the right position, taped neatly with coban, and about 6 inches shorter.  Mission accomplished, I sleep for the next 10 hours. How delightful not to have to get up to pee, not even once.

I wake up Wednesday with a headache and what feels like gas pains everywhere.  I notice I have an extremely full bag and it is the oddest feeling dragging a five-pound bag of warm urine across your bedroom floor.  May you never experience it. We have beige carpet and this toxic solution was bright orange and looked radioactive, I guess it was the killer dye.  I imagined it was the stuff they dropped on Vietnam.

As soon as I get to the bathroom I start laughing.  I am about to go boldly where few woman have gone before, I am going to pee standing up.  So I’m holding the plastic artificial bladder in one hand and trying to lift the toilet lid with the other, because that’s what men do, and I almost drop the thing, but finally get the little valve open and I stand there holding it like a deflating bagpipe draining into the toilet, neon orange easter egg dye staining the porcelain on contact.  I close my eyes and listen to the sound, gentle, steady splashing like a garden hose into a swimming pool.  Images of ancient Greek tragic heroes and their mother troubles, and the ladies who are dying from envy appear like wallpaper.  Am I tripping? What’s in that dye anyway, was it made in China?

I manage to get the bag empty and I flush three or ten times and dump a bunch of bleach into the toilet because that’s what they told me will neutralize the chemicals.  Bleach is Mike’s least favorite smell in the world.  Only thing worse is ammonia or cat pee, which is really the same thing. Then a dead rat. Top three worst smells according to Mike. Bleach, ammonia, dead rat.  So this isn’t going to be happy for anybody.  But Mike takes it like a champ.  I move into the basement anyway because there is a full bath and shower now that we’ve fixed it from the brown water flood.  Remember that?  Seems like a long time ago now, I know.  For me too, Truthseekers, me too.

Almost to the end of this chapter, just one grossout left to relate.  Now you will admit if you’re telling a story about bladder cancer there’s gonna be some pee pee right?  So after the first post-surgical elimination, that’s a nicer word, the color returned to normal and never changed again.  Not even a speck of blood or a thread of tissue.  It was wheat colored and transparent.  I took the catheter out Thursday morning.  But I was grateful for that experience because I was convinced I had stage 4 disease and I was going to end up with a radical cystectomy, with hysterectomy and lymph node removal, then palliative care. Always was curious about Fentanyl patches.

I guess I wanted to be prepared for the worst possible news, more likely since I was a menopausal woman, that it was advanced invasive and/or high grade and metastasized and I might have a 50% chance of living to see Molly graduate high school.

I wasn’t terrified, just terribly sad. And overwhelmed with the realization of how trite and cliché but absolutely true it is that we spend way too much time on petty bullshit when time is the only thing we can’t afford to waste.  Like blue collar workers voting Republican, it’s against their best interest and they do it anyway.

No reason to keep you in suspense any longer, and many of you now know, I was lucky. The cancer was superficial and non-invasive stage one, low grade.  About the best possible outcome we could hope for. I shot up some gratitude toward whatever energy was receiving and cried happy tears for the first time in a very long time.  But it was only two weeks.  How is that possible?   Time warp?

There was one final test result – the pathology review by Memorial Sloan-Kettering in NYC, the gold standard for bladder cancer research, Wonderdoc studied there and knew the staff.  The local pathology report said “no muscle tissue present in sample,“ and the doc said he KNOWS he sent them muscle tissue, so he wanted to confirm there wasn’t anything else they missed.  Leave no cancer cell unturned.  Or something.  And thankfully, once again we dodged the bullet.  The results were confirmed, they found muscle in the sample, but it was superficial stage one papillary carcinoma.

I’ve had one additional biopsy on September 3rd to remove a bit more around those two satellite sites, and my first – of six – Mitomycin c intravesicular chemo treatments directly into my bladder.  I will have five more over the next several weeks.  After my first treatment last week at the time of the biopsy, I became very nauseous and had the dry heaves.  I was dizzy and light headed and had to be returned to the hospital by ambulance early the next morning.  In retrospect I think I was dehydrated, because as soon as the IV fluids began flowing, I felt much better.  Maybe it was the contrast dye and the chemo drug combo, or the new antibiotic.  Anyway, that unexpected return trip to the hospital last week is the reason Bob Kincaid guest hosted a couple of extra days, then Molly manned the controls and I am told really did her momma proud!

As of now I am in remission.  Still getting used to this new vocabulary.  From diagnosis to remission in two weeks, its head-spinning. I have five more chemo treatments, then a three month wait and another cystoscope.  I will have these every 3-6 months for two years, because bladder cancer has a 70% recurrence rate (such highly active cells), but Mitomyecin should reduce that by 50%.  Soon I will start quoting baseball scores from the 1980s

I want to thank everyone who has sent their bright healing energy our way and held us in the light.  We felt it all the way to our hospital room in Atlanta.  Your notes and letters and email and warm wishes are so appreciated. They are treasured, as are you all. And I apologize for being so far behind in correspondence.  I literally had 700+ email waiting for me when I finally got back in front of a computer. I know there are book order issues and sponsorships and donations and questions, and I am working backwards through them all with what I am calling Militant Mindfulness.  Kinda like a Jedi Knight.  But the force is in you. Force yourself. Force yourself to stop, or at least slow down.

Not everyone has to be slammed to the ground by a cosmic ninja warrior to get the message.