Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More Self Pity Than Usual

I suppose at this point spitting blood into the sink shouldn't be so shocking, but there's something very basic about seeing the red, red kroovy splatter the porcelain. It's not a lot of it, and I don't feel panic or scared, just bothered more than I should be. The same thing happens when my feeding tube stoma gets irritated and bleeds. It's normal but still unnerving.

It's similar to the feeling I get when I try to swallow certain liquids or solids and it's painful. I feel like I shouldn't be doing it, like I'm causing damage and should avoid it. I mean, that's what pain is right? Your body telling you something's wrong and you should stop, right? The docs assure me that it's just pain from the muscles and tissue that are already damaged, but it doesn't relieve the feeling that I'm tearing something by forcing it to do what I'm doing.

I don't really know how to describe a lot of what I'm going through. I don't think I've ever been scared, at least not of the treatment or the outcome. I've been afraid on certain occasions. During recovery from surgery, for example, when I know the doctor is going to come in and do something that's sure to be painful. That's a different kind of scared I think. Me being a big baby is how I would have described it to Jolly, my old ICU nurse. Me being afraid of her taking out the staples. That's just fear of pain to come. Even still, I don't really have any fear of the pain of the present and coming treatment, the side effects. Maybe it's that 'ignorance is bliss' thing, not knowing what to really expect, but not really. Normally not knowing increases fear, builds it in our heads and makes it larger than it will likely be. I guess my only real fear at this point is the possibility that it all might not work and I won't be able to see Kaia again. That's the only thing that seems to really stop me short and scare me. Even writing it down makes my throat tighten painfully.

It's late right now and I can't sleep. Headache, mostly. That and the constant mucositis. I've been avoiding describing this particular part of the side effects because it's just so gross. Basically, the skin cells in my mouth are dying off and sloughing away. This combined with my immune system's white blood cell destruction, those awesome little guys who die by the trillions fighting infection and repairing damage, make the back of my throat feel like a waterfall of goo. When you get a cold or an allergy attack, all that gunk you blow out your nose is pretty much white blood cells that died in the fight. With allergies it's usually clear but when you have an infection, the gunk is another color; green or orange depending on the kind of infection you have. Mine is all clear (aside from the blood), which is a good thing. The problem is there's so much more of it and it's not draining out of my nose, so blowing my nose doesn't help. It's draining from where the damage is occurring: in my mouth and the back of my throat. This does sort of relieve the dry mouth that's another side effect of the radiation - my saliva glands have taken a massive hit as well - but it's not a good wet. It's a sticky, nasty and gross thing. I can still brush my teeth without too much trouble, but no amount of brushing or rinsing or spitting relieves the gunky cascade of ick.

Now that no one will ever think of kissing me again...

Ever since I got divorced, which is going on something like 13 years ago, I've felt like I've had post traumatic stress syndrome. Not exactly that, but something akin to it. Before then I felt like I was this normal guy, but ever since having to go through that, my emotions are all completely screwed. I don't want to be overly dramatic, but my divorce was bad. I have heard that one of the counselors brought in to evaluate my ex-wife, daughter and I, quit doing evaluations because of it. I've heard rumor that one of my attorneys still views my case as a horror story to frighten little lawyer children at night. I admit that I'm still bitter over a lot of what happened to this day. I don't talk about it much anymore, mostly because people don't really want to hear this crap, but also because it does make me sound very bitter and a bit sexist and well, like a cranky old ass. I do still have a lot of animosity for the whole family law process, as it was made very clear to me during the entire thing, that as a man, I was brought down by one or two minor things that people said about me - you know, hearsay and character attacks by my ex-wife's friends and family, while things my ex-wife did, things that should have landed her in jail or even prison were ignored almost outright. Of course it's more than that. A huge, disgusting combination of bad lawyers, biases within the system and within the people administering that system. People often tried to reassure me that the system was getting better, that laws and procedures were in place to make it more fair, but the problem I saw was that, despite black and white legal bullshit, there were people in that system, people administering those laws and deciding whether or not to apply them, how they were applied, how they fit or didn't fit. People with their own biases about mothers and fathers and daughters. No matter how many laws you write or papers you author, once you sit in front of a person who has authority, it's all about their beliefs and their opinions. No matter how many Casey Anthonys or Lashanda Armstrongs or Julie Scheneckers, people instinctively believe that a child belongs to, not with, TO, their mother. They believe, despite how many papers or news reports or even personal experiences, that a mother is the best person to raise HER child.

And that's another part of the problem. The idea that a child belongs to the mother outright. That belief that men are simply throwing their seed into a woman and that's the end of it. How often have I heard women say exactly that? How often do we have to hear women say "my child"? How often does it happen that a mother will deny a father the right to see his child or even know his child exists because the woman believes she's the child's only real parent? When Forrest Gump came out, I feel like I was the only person on the planet that was seriously pissed off that Jenny had kept the knowledge that Forrest even had a child from him for years and only when she wasn't able to care for him anymore because she was dying of her own self-centered behavior, only then did she drop the kid in his lap. And people responded like it was a selfless, kind act! I'm sorry, but it's not. It's a selfish, evil and cruel thing to do to someone. To the child and to the father. That's the kind of ingrained lie we live in. The lie that men are not needed. The lie that men can't be nurturing or caring or that they have as much right to be a parent as women.

Tangents, I goes on em. I did have a point before I wandered into my own bitter tirade. PTSD, yes. Ever since the disgusting fiasco that was my divorce and the following custody fight (I have to admit to having a lot of help from my friend Deborah. I wouldn't be where I am in regards to my relationship with my daughter without her. For all the bitterness I have towards women and the system, it was a woman who gave me the most help. Part of my bitterness actually comes from that, because I believe that without that "inside" assistance I would not have been able to accomplish anything and would have gone the way of most fathers. To the sidelines hoping that the mother of my daughter wasn't doing her best to alienate me from her. It's not a myth that there are absentee fathers, but it is a myth that they are all deadbeats and don't care. The truth is that many simply remove themselves from their children's lives out of sadness and to relieve their children of the animosity and petty power games)...

...sorry. Ever since the fiasco that was my divorce, I have felt damaged. I don't seem to be able to watch a movie or a tv show without being on the verge of tears if there is a theme about children, especially daughters, or love or heartache. I feel like that part of my psyche is damaged beyond repair. Even music does it to me sometimes. I know it's not unique or earthshattering that this happens, but it's been bothering me more and more lately. Knowing why it happens and facing the truth of that why doesn't help at all. Maybe some would say that it only means I'm more closely in touch with my feelings. After all, isn't that the idea of these types of things? To elicit a reaction? Women cry in movies all the time. Should I be bothered that I do now too? I am. I do feel like something's broken. That my emotions shouldn't be so close to the damn surface all the time. Especially since those same emotions don't seem to be present at all concerning my own health problems. If my emotions are so raw, shouldn't I be more of a wreck concerning my cancer? Shouldn't my fear and depression be more evident in all things, not just where they concern women or my daughter? It's that disconnect that makes me feel like there's something wrong, not just that I'm closer to my emotions.

I do feel sometimes like I've given up on most things. Maybe it's part of getting old and making an emotional priority list. I feel as though the only thing that matters anymore is my daughter. I don't hold any real hope of finding love again. In the back of my mind I do hope for it, but it's not real and not...realistic. Sometimes I think it's more like the reason I don't drink anymore. The hangovers aren't worth it. I used to feel like I could give my heart completely and damn the consequences. I don't feel like I could do that anymore even if I wanted to. And I don't really want to. I feel like the last one took too much out of me and there isn't anything left there. Maybe it's partly because of the cancer and how damaged I feel, but I think I felt this before the cancer. I know I felt it. It's not about the scars and the limitations of my "new normal", though I think that would make a big difference. Who knows? Maybe those limitations will be the very thing that fixes me. Like limiting a palette sometimes makes for a more beautiful painting. I guess I still have some hope.

I used to joke that she was 18 and off on her own and now I can die, but the idea wasn't only a joke. I felt like I did my job and finished what I'm here to do. I really felt ok with being done with life. Not that I wanted to die. I want to live forever. But that I didn't have to struggle anymore to remain strong and keep struggling through this shitty world. I don't feel like that anymore. Maybe it's because I did get cancer that I really understood what not being here and seeing her grow up meant. Now I feel a determination to be 'here'. Part of it is surely that she has essentially lost her mother and the idea that she would lose her father also is too much for me to cope with. She's a rock and I know she'd be okay but I feel like I can't let that happen. Maybe that's why I'm not really afraid of what's coming and what's happening. at least not afraid for myself. It's just one more thing I have to do to still be 'here'. One more struggle. One more fight. There's something to be said for being stubborn I guess.

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