Mah spiritual needz!

Since this came up in comments on my previous post, I thought I’d regale readers with the tale of that one time I had a so-called nondenominational cleric and self-proclaimed “spiritual counselor” approach me during chemo.

Yes, some pasty-faced white d00d in a somber black suit and white collar straight out of central casting came by my station, introduced himself as a “spiritual counselor” and handed me his business card:

Yes that’s right: an official Staff Chaplain was here to help me with aaaaall mah spiritual counseling needz! Whoo-hoo!

Now, contrary to my fearsome reputation as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist*, I do not generally begrudge my free fellow Americans their own personal supernatural fantasies and frivolities, except for when I do absolutely and unequivocally begrudge them. For instance, when they see fit to inflict said fantasies and frivolities upon myself or others by force of law or otherwise. And I have a particularly dismal opinion of clergy, whom I hold in the very lowest esteem for many reasons, including the fact that they are either primary vectors for spreading all manner of hellish evils and deadly nonsense here in the US and around the world, or at best apologists therefor. Also, in my experience clergy are, without exception, all. flaming. narcissists.

And yet, believe it or not, I was SUPER NICE to the Staff Chaplain! We had a looong chat wherein I pretended to be interested in his theological education and its flavor of supernaturalism: some kind of Protestant Christian (*omg yawn*). Then I asked him about his chaplaining philosophy and experience: “oh, it’s non-denominational,” he answered. Why, he could provide me with Buddhist spiritual counseling, even! He said so when I pressed, and I pretended to be impressed.

This “conversation,” if we can call it that, went on and on AND ON, more or less in the form of a monologue, with just a few little prompts and prods here and there from me: his utterly captive audience, attached at the chest to slowly draining IV bags via a one-inch needle recently pierced into a surgically implanted port.

But this part was expected. Just ask any run-of-the-mill narcissist to talk about themselves, then sit back and behold the MEEEEEE that pours forth without end.

Once I was sure he was enjoying himself thoroughly, I pounced. I asked him ever so sweetly about, you know, his actual counseling qualifications. Any certifications? None. Academic degrees in psychology? None. Clinical social work? None. Perhaps institutional internships or residencies as a counselor? None. Any actual license to practice counseling in New York State? None.

NONE.

“Huh,” I said cooly, and pretended to be disappointed. Hurt, even.

By this point his hackles were visibly rising, but yet he looked torn. I mean, I had only moments ago been such a delightful, rapt and eager listener, so generous with my encouraging wide eyes, “uh-huhs” and a few tactical “wows.”

I waited a beat – and yes, I admit I enjoyed watching him squirm – then casually dropped the “Well, I’m atheist” bomb. “But I am sooo interested in discussing religion and spirituality with you! I’ve got nothing but time to kill here!”

The Staff Chaplain seemed taken aback for a second, maybe two. Then he very quickly offered up some banal farewell pleasantries, and oh man, this d00d was out the door of the chemo suite in a streaky black blur. Oh well. I guess nobody else locked up to hideous poisons drip drip dripping into their fragile veins was in need of spiritual counseling that day?**

Listen, as far as I’m concerned, amusing myself by toying with a clergyperson while I’m quite literally stuck getting chemo? Now that is addressing mah spiritual needz!

I never once saw him again at the hospital, despite being a frequent flyer. Or maybe he just saw me first.

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*Okay, so maybe I am a hopeless raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist. But I prefer to think of myself, at least in this instance, as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist Cheshire Cat.

Sir John Tenniel's hand-colored proof of Cheshire Cat in the Tree Above Alice for The Nursery "Alice"

**Yes I know, there were religious/spiritual/nondenominational/whatever patients lining the long wall of the chemo suite right along with me. But Iris, don’t they deserve access to an official Staff Chaplain to comfort them if they so desire? HOW COULD YOU BE SO AWFUL?!!! Indeed, I myself have said before, not coincidentally to my therapist, and also to my much-missed dear friend and FtB colleague Caine, cancer treatments are trauma. Full stop.

But no. No, my fellow patients most certainly do not deserve this. And I’ll tell you why in my next post.

Tuesday Premonitions.

CONTENT NOTE: Graphic image. No, seriously: g-r-a-p-h-i-c. Contains a partial photographic image of an open wound with medical-level detail of a laparoscopic procedure; female frontal nudity.

__________

Hey, so whatcha doing Tuesday? Nothing nearly as fucking strange as I am, I’ll bet. As I mentioned in my last post, September kicks off Surgery Season here in New York City, and we’re about to kickoff on Tuesday with a laparoscopic exploration under anesthesia (“EUA”). At least two surgeons and possibly three will be having themselves a really close-up look-see at the tissues they would need to construct what radiation has destroyed – namely, a functioning colon as well as a sparkling new vagina. I call this aspiration “Plan A.”

My colorectal ladysurgeon is running the show, along with the gynecological oncology d00d, tho I’m not yet sure whether this mysterious”plastics” person I’ve heard so much about will also be in attendance. Regardless, there will no doubt be biopsies and good times galore. Which, ideally, I will sleep right through.

Back before my first surgery, i.e. the initial colon resection plus bonus ileostomy in February of 2018, I found myself working with my therapist, my original colorectal surgeon and his Physician Assistant to help me visualize exactly what would be done to me. I had started with some Google image searches, but what I found didn’t seem to line up with what had been explained to me. Also, most images I found, whether photos or drawings, were of men, and I was having a hard time relating those bodies to my own. I ended up creating this:

…wherein the dotted line represents the outline of an ostomy pouch, the oval is the stoma itself and the rest of the marks are incisions. It turned out not to be entirely accurate due to various issues and considerations during the operation, but for my “trying to get my head around this shit” purposes, it was close enough. As un-ugly as I could possibly conceive of it, anyway. I remember the night before the surgery lying in bed, running my hands over the soft, smooth, unblemished skin of my belly, and deeply grieving that it would never, ever feel like this again.

So now there’s this fuckin’ EUA on Tuesday. And I’ve had one before, performed by the very same colorectal ladysurgeon back in March when she gave me an(other) ileostomy. I already know what the recovery is like, and it isn’t terrible: it’s like the deep soreness from a couple hard punches to the gut, that gradually fades over a week or so.

Why, then, am I having so. much. anxiety. over this? Lard knows I’ve been through worse – a lot worse. And there is much worse to come, for sure.

Well, I have a theory. I think it’s because I’m terrified of what they will find, or more precisely, of what they will not find. That the radiation damage has kept right on blooming for all these months, and now there is not enough healthy tissue left to re-do a colon resection. That the blood supply to critical areas has deteriorated to the point where successful healing will be practically impossible. That Plan A gets scrapped. There is no Plan B, at least not one discussed in any detail, because Plan A is the only one with any potential for a good outcome. And it has been impressed upon me, many times, that we only have one shot at fixing this.

So I took to drawing again. Only this time I wasn’t trying to create anything approximating medical accuracy, although it would turn out to embody exactly that, at least in part. I made what envisioning this procedure feels like to me – if that even makes any fucking sense. And once again, I made it as un-ugly as I can possibly conceive of it.

Before you proceed, I just want to remind you again of the content note at the top of this post. I mean, this stuff is triggering to me, which is why I’m doing it in the first place: to help me process it in a healthy way.

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CONFESSIONS OF A DEADBEAT BLOGGER.

[CONTENT NOTE: disgusting bodily functions and fluids are discussed and drawn (poorly).]

To my beloved Many Tens of Loyal Readers:

As you may know, in August 2018, our colleague Caine lost her battle with colon cancer. I was and still am devastated to lose my longtime (Pharyngula/SciBlogs-era) friend, FTB comrade-in-arms and sister trauma survivor.

What you probably didn’t know is that Caine and I shared something else in common: the exact same colon cancer diagnosis. She had that bomb dropped on her just a few months after I did. Unlike Caine, however, I am reticent – or chickenshit? take your pick – about exposing much of my personal life online. As much as I admire it, I do not possess even a fraction of the courage Caine did to write so openly about her life and her illness.

By December 2017, after my first four cycles of chemo and 28 doses of radiation, I was still blogging regularly. But cancer treatments had begun to take more (and more important) pieces of my life and myself away from me. Where writing used to “flow” for me, I was now finding myself blinking back at a blinking cursor. Ideas became jumbled, everyday words escaped me, my focus and concentration kept slipping. Writing coherently about anything of substance was (and still is) an often tedious and frustrating process for me. I naturally drifted away from blogging, and from social media too.

When Caine first wrote about her cancer, I reached out to her immediately and shared with her what was going on with me. We stayed tightly connected (privately). When we lost her, I lost my source of so much comfort and strength from the only person in my life who truly understood what I was going through. (I hope that I gave her some strength and comfort, too. I know I made her laugh at least once or twice.)

As the 1-year anniversary of her death is upon us, I find I would like to start blogging again. Not so much “in Caine’s honor,” but more like…in her footsteps? I mean that I would like to be more open about my health and my life. And yes, this is waaaaay out of my comfort zone.

To be honest, these new blogging endeavors of mine may turn out to be a total bust: nothing more than a bunch of cutting-&-pasting items of interest I find on the ‘net, maybe calling attention to worthy candidates, causes and clicktivism, perhaps keeping readers informed of nefarious squirrel activities. Or, you know, I might fizzle out completely (again). Like many things about my future, I don’t really know. I do know that I miss being a part of this community, and I would like to contribute again to the extent I am able.

So I then I got to thinking: what better way to tell the story of the past two years of my life than…a webcomic! Yes! Having never done one before, indeed having rarely even read one unless PZ or someone posts one? PERFECT.

Enjoy?

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