Ah, to be a woman!

Although I know you’ve been waiting for the dirt, I will not be sharing the rundown of this week’s therapy session. The content is clearly Chapter 4 material. I will, however, acknowledge that I feel lighter and I trust my therapist does not feel heavier. We therapists with good emotional boundaries do not take on our clients’ woes as our own.

Rather, I need something to distract me from this upcoming Monday’s operating room encounter with Dr. Woman. No, I’m not undergoing an operation, just an investigation, but there will be a general anaesthetic involved. It’s been a while since I’ve had a general, and I’m not looking forward to it, for a few reasons.

First, my liver doesn’t like anaesthetic so much and can rebel if taxed. My mock pregnancy first arose following a surgery many years ago, and never really went away.

Also, it turns out my platelets are running low right now, which places me at higher risk of bleeding. I will be topped up with donated platelets before any cutting starts and hope that will stem my tide, but I was told to bring my jammies and toothbrush just in case I need to be watched overnight. I don’t want to be watched overnight.

Perhaps most scarily, this procedure will be taking place in the same building as the ICU, where I spent 13 death-defying days in September 2012. Although I am glad to be alive, I do not want to hang out anywhere near that place again. Brings back bad memories. You can understand that, can’t you?

A timely gynecological distraction has arisen, however: the July 1 elimination of the Tampon Tax. This tax has been the outrage of women since it was instigated with the Goods and Services Tax on January 1, 1991. Almost 25 years later, feminine hygiene products are finally being viewed as an essential product–to be fair, they are just essential for women–and the tax will be rescinded. In my research for this post, I have learned that a group named Canadian Menstruators has been pursuing this legislation change for some time now. Despite my creative bent, I could never have come up with that catchy group moniker!

Not that I would be welcome in this group because, sadly, this tax reversal comes too late for me. At the risk of TMI, I have not needed such products for some time now. But as part of a female-dominated household, I used to dedicate a large washroom drawer to all manner of such goods. Now I use this drawer to store various and sundry anti-aging products.

Thank goodness this situation has been righted for the younger generations. Think of the money young women will save, money they can now put toward the gender pay gap. Way to go, Canadian Menstruators!

One final ungynecological note: I will not be able to publish my usual Monday post because my sedation will render me unable to sign any legal or financial documents, to use power tools, or, most importantly, to write an appropriate entry for my blog. Who knows what I might share as my anaesthetic wears off? Talk about TMI! I’ll be back in the saddle as soon as my judgement returns.

Basset hound sleeping on couch with tongue out



What you don’t know won’t hurt me

Picture of beagle on chair reading a Dr. Seuss bookI try to tell you everything that’s going on with me, except when I don’t. Sometimes I get news that I don’t feel like sharing, so I keep you out of the loop. I am an open book, but only through Chapter 3 or so.

Lest you think I’m trying to protect you from bad news, let me clarify. I trust that you, my loyal readers, can handle anything I throw your way. You’ve shown me so time and time again as you ride with me on my cancer roller coaster.

This you-don’t-need-protecting principle guides me every day. I am frank (blunt?) by nature. As a psychologist, I won’t tell my clients what to do, but I will share what I think and how I feel about what they are doing. I’ll try to share my thoughts in a delicate way, but I will tell them because I trust they can handle it. I believe that people are inherently strong, and I treat them accordingly.

So if I think you can handle anything, why don’t I share everything that’s going on? Because I’m not sure I can handle it, or at least not yet. Yes, I’m protecting myself from having to deal with whatever I’m withholding, not you.

The way I’ve coped through my health challenges is to try to focus on only one or two concerns at a time, and to put everything else aside. Leukemia became my focus in the months following my diagnosis, while polycythemia and liver disease moved to the back burner. I figured these other health issues would come forward on an as-needed basis and I’d deal with them then.

When I was admitted to hospital most recently, I got so much information about my health that it was frankly too much for me to process all at once. In order to share everything with you, I’d have to deal with it all myself, and I wasn’t ready to do that.

That’s why I hadn’t mentioned the small nodule in my left lung that showed up on a chest X-ray taken in the ER. No one had told me until the very thorough Dr. Pre-Op casually dropped it into our conversation last week. I’d managed to keep fairly cool about it, but I asked Dr. Blood for her opinion when I saw her yesterday. And she told me–listen carefully in case you ever have a lung x-ray–she suspected it was, excuse the medical jargon, “nipple shadow”. Yes, because the technician did not cover my intimate parts with (jargon again) nipple markers, and I had left my tassels at home, my you-know-whats left a shadow on the image. Oh me, oh my, I feel so exposed! No more airport security scans for me!

I won’t be sure I’m in the clear until I have a follow-up x-ray in a few weeks, but it seems that back burnering this issue was a good decision. The doctors were so unconcerned they laughed at my pastie jokes, and you know I only worry when they worry.

It’s a relief, especially for me, that we all didn’t fret needlessly about yet another potential malignancy for the past few weeks. Meanwhile, I will be sure to remember my tassels for the upcoming x-ray.

P.S. FYI, according to my research, boys can have nipple shadows too, but do they make boy tassels? That I don’t know.


When crying is contraindicated

Any good psychologist always ensures there is a full box of Kleenex in the office. I need one because I’m an expert at making my clients cry, and I’m happy when they do. Empathy begets tears. When clients cry, they are allowing themselves to be vulnerable with me. That’s what I want them to do, isn’t it?

What I’ve learned over my years of patienthood is that most doctors don’t know what to do with me when I cry. Contrary to popular belief, I’m actually remarkably stoic most of the time I’m with doctors. But I do cry predictably in response to bad news–“You’re in heart failure and you need to be admitted to hospital!”–or good news–“Your red blood count is up!”

This last hospital admission, despite my unchanged crying quotient, I got a few doctors’ alarm bells going, so much so that they wanted to bring in social work reinforcements. I was a bit surprised by this offer because I felt I was coping fairly well under the circumstances, and I figured I had earned a few tears from what I’d been told. Don’t you think my tears were warranted?

But when I started crying, the doctors panicked a bit. I must have seemed unstable and in need of immediate emotional intervention, yet I politely declined their offer of a visit from social work. As I said to one of the doctors, I think it’s pretty reasonable that I’m upset given all you’ve told me, and I have a tremendous support network (thanks guys!) that I can call on if I need it. Save that limited resource for someone who needs it more.

Don’t get me wrong. You know I’m pro-counselling and I believe we should all seek professional help when we need it. I urge you to do so if you’re ever going through a rough patch. You know I’ve sought counselling myself when I’ve felt the need, and I continue to visit my therapist occasionally when I’m struggling. In fact, due to my paucity of medical appointments this week, I could fit her in on Wednesday. Fortuitously, she had an opening that day.

Why would I test drive a new car for a half hour when I can hop into the old one I already know how to drive? I didn’t really think a visit with a counsellor new to me would be as helpful as returning to someone already in the know.

Rather than calling in social work, the doctors might have taken a few minutes to ask me why I was upset, and I could easily have answered them. I imagine they would have been relieved and I would have felt better too. But doctors can be kind of funny that way, at least from my experience. And I understand: they’re so focussed on making sure my body doesn’t give out that they don’t have time to deal with my emotional reactions.

I doubt I’ll stop crying in front of doctors because some days I’m going to hear things that bring on the tears. But maybe in the future I’ll use the opportunity to teach them a little Bedside Manner 101. I’ll be gentle, though; I don’t want to make them cry.

Doctor wearing scrubs sitting in chair with head in hands

My death may not be imminent after all

Upper body of frightened looking woman with hands just under open mouthAfter a week of public shaming, all of which I’ve brought on myself, I’d like to end the week on a positive note. Let me show you my happy and carefree side. Who doesn’t like a feel-good story anyway?

I must admit I’ve been a touch–what’s the term, “freaked out”?–about my blood counts this past while. Especially my vanishing red blood cells. An unexplained drop from 120 to 80 over a few months is concerning. 120 is the low end of normal, while 80 is nearing transfuse-that-gal anemic. Since those oral iron supplements were just not doing their job, I feared the IV iron might not either.

It’s worrisome if your body can’t use iron to make red blood cells. For someone like me, someone with not just one but two bone-marrow disorders, the question is: “Whazzup, bone marrow? Why are you slacking off?” I don’t want to pursue this line of investigation because the possibilities are scary. That’s why I refuse to tell you about them. Don’t want you crossing that bridge before you come to it; I can do that for you.

So imagine my relief when a doctor I’ve never met before, Dr. Pre-op, while assessing me for my little OR visit with Dr. Woman in a few weeks, told me I’m good to go. Tuesday’s blood work is much improved over the previous week’s. My liver enzymes are returning to normal, and a mere 10 days after my iron infusion, my red count has skyrocketed to 100. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles! I was so relieved I started crying. (No surprise there.)  I can stop planning my funeral, for now.

In fact, this kind doctor said I was doing remarkably well given all the curve balls my body has thrown me. What a refreshing contrast with all the Dr. Doomsayers I’ve been up against lately. I wanted to glow with pride, but I know Dr. Pre-op was complimenting my Eveready-Bunny body, not me personally.

Yes, this is really good news. I’d be doing my happy dance if dancing were in my repertoire. But I don’t dance. Just ask J.

Sure, there are still some areas of concern. Why did I get anemic in the first place? I learned in the hospital that my tanking red count likely had to do with the progressive consequences of my ugly blood clot. Yes, there is some internal bleeding. A change in medication dosage may slow this progression, but how much? That remains to be seen.

Despite my bloody insides, my new Dr. Liver–there is only one Dr. Liver, so perhaps another moniker is in order? Dr. Liver the 2nd?–whom I met for the first time in hospital last week, does not want to see me again for three months. J. insists this is a sign that he too is not viewing my demise as imminent.

So don’t choose your outfit for my funeral just yet. I expect you to come to the funeral, by the way. Forget the lame “I don’t like funerals” excuse. Who in their right mind likes funerals? But mine will be fun because J. has always thrown a good party. And on my deathbed, I’ll be sure to nag her about ordering enough food.

Ethics, schmethics

Long line of people waiting, some talking to one another

Do you think anybody saw me sneak in?

Because I know you cannot get enough of the minutiae that are my life, I must tell you how my lab fiasco ended on Tuesday. I am not proud of my behaviour, but the story must be told. Despicable me, I expect no less than a public flogging.

Before I proceed, I want you to know that I uphold the highest ethical standards in my work life. I have memorized the psychology rule book front to back and I follow it to the letter. Ask any of my psychologist friends and I trust they would concur. Unfortunately, my highly ethical behaviour as a psychologist does not always translate to my life outside work.

After showing up to the wrong lab Tuesday morning, waiting with the other appointmentless schmoes, and leaving in frustration, I did return to my usual lab later in the day as planned. I brought a smoothie for nourishment and a good novel to pass the time. Like the other hapless souls, I took my number and glanced up at the sign. I had snagged 146, but the sign read 133. By my completely subjective experience-based calculations, I determined my wait would be at least 90 minutes.

But then I glanced back down at the machine. Lo and behold, the #140 slip was sitting on the table beside it. Yes, someone must have left the lab in frustration, but rather than crumpling up her number as I had earlier in the day, she left it beside the machine. And–bad Annie, bad Annie–I took it, leaving my #146 behind in its place. I even smiled my inside smile when I did it.

Yes, I jumped the queue. In an hour or so, the bearers of #141-145 would see me approach the desk before them, even though I’d arrived after them, and mutter: “I’m sure I got here before her. What the heck….”

But here’s the worst part: I didn’t even feel all that bad about it. I had spent an hour of my potentially abbreviated life waiting earlier in the day (because I’d been so stupid, mind you), and I figured I’d be gaining that hour back. I made a silent promise I’d be the best patient ever so as not to delay the people awaiting their turn. I spelled my last name and provided my birthdate before the technician even asked because I knew she would, I revealed my excellent veins, and I bled as fast as I could. Oh, and I didn’t faint.

There are so many ways I can justify my inappropriate behaviour. Because I am immunocompromised, I didn’t want to spend any more time with sick people than I had already. I needed to get home before my late-afternoon fatigue impaired my driving. And hadn’t I exceeded my quota of waiting of late?

I’ve never taken an ethics course, outside psychology that is, but I know these justifications are lame. I had no right to jump ahead in line. Five other people were kept waiting longer because of me. It didn’t matter to them that I’d spent an hour at the lab earlier in the day; they too just wanted to get on with their evenings, and I was delaying their departure.

I know, I know, I’m a terrible person. I don’t know how I can live with myself. Now tell me, and consider this question carefully before you respond: would you have done the same? On second thought, I don’t want to know. I feel guilty enough as it is.

This joke’s on me

Last post, I acknowledged I need a booking boy to manage my patienthood. If you thought I was joking, I can assure you I wasn’t. Hear me out. Today’s story is timely.

One of my primary leukemia patient duties is to have blood drawn at the lab. (Leukemia, blood cancer, makes sense doesn’t it?) A few years ago, the labs instigated an appointment system which shortened the wait times considerably. I can book my appointment on line, show up just before the scheduled time, take a seat, and trust that my name will be called promptly.

Not everyone has as much lab experience as me, though. Those novice appointment makers check when they arrive that their name is on a posted list. Then they check off their attendance in the spot provided by their name. What they don’t realize is that the technicians who process their lab requisitions never look at the list, so there’s no real reason to check off their names.

But I’m smarter than that. I know when I arrive that my name will be on the list, so I bypass that step altogether, take a seat, and await the calling of my name. The lab I normally attend is very punctual, and I can count on hearing my name within 10 or so minutes of the scheduled time. Today I arrived on time, took my seat, and chuckled to myself every time an appointment bearer checked his name off the list. And I waited, and I waited. 15 minutes passed and nothing. Why wasn’t my name being called?

I tentatively approached the technician at the desk. I politely inquired whether I’d missed my calling (we all know I have), only to learn that cocky Annie was not on the list at all. What a dope.

Turns out I had had trouble booking in at my usual lab–this is a Tuesday after a long weekend after all, and I was asked to make the appointment just last Monday. Those limited appointments book up fast. Since I couldn’t find a spot at my usual haunt, I had booked into another lab a bit farther away, put the time and location into my handy phone calendar–no substitute for a booking boy–and promptly forgot that I’d changed the location.

I endured a brief public shaming and was directed to take a number like all the especially stupid people who hadn’t made appointments at all. The technician who had been calling numbers fast and furious when I first arrived stopped completely once I got in line. No numbers were called over the next half hour. My optimism about getting out of the lab before sundown was fading.

So I left. I decided that going to yoga was more important to my well-being than knowing whether I had produced any new red blood cells, although I’m not sure Dr. Blood would agree. Remember, I usually do whatever the doctor tells me to do, except when I don’t. I decided, rightly or wrongly, that immunocompromised Annie would be more at risk if I spent hours in a cramped room with sick people all around me than if I destressed at yoga.

Yoga did help. I’ll go back to the lab later when it will be less busy, with a hot drink and a good novel to help me pass the time. Tomorrow, Dr. Blood will see my bloodwork. Now if I could just stop feeling stressed about my doctor disobedience….

Many hands taking a number from machine

I am but one of these many stupid people.

I’m not jealous by nature, but…

A few weeks back, J. and I joined our dear friend, D., on the Transplant Trot in support of, well, you know, organ and tissue transplants. D., my Sister in Liver Disorders, had assembled a group of friends and family to trot with her. It was emotional considering that D. would not have been there to walk with us if not for her new liver.

I didn’t realize before I knew D. how complicated it is to live with someone else’s organ. Transplant recipients require life-long medical care. I’ve learned that organ transplant is not akin to replacing the radiator in your car. In many ways, D.’s journey has been a lot more challenging than mine, although we’re not competing on this one. Earlier this week, D. did concede that I may be beating her on the specialist front of late.

But I’ve never told D. that there’s one thing that comes with a transplant, in addition to not dying, that makes me envious: D. has a transplant nurse coordinator. This knowledgeable nurse oversees her care and ensures all her medical needs are being met. D. can contact her nurse with any concerns and the nurse will help her sort things out.

Don’t get me wrong, D., I’m glad you have the support you need. You’ve been through so much and deserve anything that can make your path easier. I just want to join your club, without the transplant part. Is that too much to ask? Haven’t I earned a cancer nurse coordinator? Someone I can call if I’m feeling unwell, someone who can help monitor and direct my care? Have I not jumped through enough hoops to merit such a person on my team?

Come to think of it, what I really need is a social convener, someone with an official title to say: “I’m sorry, Dr. Specialist, my patient can’t make that appointment because she has to walk her dog/go to yoga/get her hair cut/meet her friend for lunch. We will have to find another time.” I’m sure if I were to say these things, I’d be laughed off the phone, but coming from someone with an official title?

Failing that, I’ll have to start integrating my social life with my full-time job as a patient. Want to go for coffee? Sure, grab a few cups to go and I’ll meet you at the doctor’s office at 10 a.m. We’ll have plenty of time to visit. Do I have to miss yoga yet again? Well, who says I can’t practice Warrior 3 while I wait for the doctor? Might keep the stress of waiting at bay. (Turns out yesterday’s specialist was delayed in the ICU. It’s so inconvenient when patients are sicker than me.)

And then there’s the dog. Poor Jelly has gotten especially short shrift this past while. Maybe I’ll start taking her to appointments with me. She loves a social outing. I can just imagine her cuddling with my fellow waiting patients, howling as she races around the receptionist’s desk, and stealing Cheerios from unsuspecting infants. And if the wait is too long, well, I’m sorry for the puddle she left by your feet. Maybe you could take me in a bit sooner next time.

Puppy standing beside toilet paper and roll


My almost-final resting place

I hope you don’t mind another post or two about my hospital stay. I know I’ve been excessively health focussed in my blog lately, but, let’s face it, I haven’t had time for many non-health-related experiences this past while. I’ll get working on that.

After Dr. Emerg determined he needed to admit me to hospital last Thursday, he wasn’t sure where to put me. Over the course of my extensive admission history, I’ve been on general medical units, a geriatric unit, a cardiac unit (no heart problems then, they just had space), the Intensive Care Unit, and the Medical Teaching Unit, which loves complex cases like me. Each unit has had its pros and cons, but I’ll go anywhere they’ll have me. Yes, I am a hospital-unit slut.

Woman laying on bed, arms crossed over eyes, in spare psychiatric room in ERBut this latest admission, I crossed into new territory: I landed in a wing of the Hematology Unit located on the floor of the Palliative Care Unit. Yes, I managed both cancer and death in one fell swoop. I can joke about it now, but truth is I was a little freaked out by this placement initially, so much so that Dr. Emerg moved me to one of the psychiatric rooms while I awaited my transfer. Here I am, on the right, completely overwrought. (I’m really just trying to hide my face from the camera.)

You know I’m playing with you, right? I was indeed moved to the crazy room, but only while I awaited an inpatient bed. Since I’d been in the ER for hours already, I was provided a quiet place to rest. Sure, it was a locked room with bright fluorescent lighting and a camera watching my every move, but I appreciated the gesture, and you can bet I was the most compliant patient there.

Turns out the unit I was admitted to shortly thereafter was not half bad. There were no 6-person rooms, no noisy visitors, and the patients themselves, because of the nature of their ailments, were very, very quiet. Because infection control is critical there, most rooms are private. I had my own washroom, my own TV tuned to Food Network 24/7, and my own door that I could close. I could actually sleep! There was even food available at any hour in the fridge down the hall. All the nurses were lovely and accommodating and caring. What more could an ailing girl ask for?

I also had a practice run at palliative care for when the time comes. Just so you know–this won’t be news to J.–I have no plans to die at home. I don’t want a hospital bed in our living room or J. as my nurse. Sorry, honey, but I want a trained professional caring for me in a designated facility. At least when I’ve been ailing in hospital, J. has been able to retreat to our home at the end of the day. I don’t want to mess up that refuge with memories of my dying there. She’ll have enough to contend with after I’m gone.

So, as much as I’ve now gone over to the dark side, and I imagine any future admissions will be to this area, now that I’ve had a trial run, I won’t dread being there. And not many people can claim they were discharged from palliative care. If I had a bucket list, I’d add that accomplishment to it for sure.

Just call me Mellow Yellow

I know I’ve been a bit absent lately, like the parent who works hours that are too long. But I’m not that parent, I’m that patient. So, to improve my patienting skills, I’ve been in the hospital. That’s not really true: I didn’t really need any more experience in patienthood, I’m a pro at this point. But I wasn’t the one competent to make this decision.

“Not another trip to the ER, Annie!” you exclaim with alarm. Well, it wasn’t my idea, trust me. But after 48 hours of a high fever, I had to consult the professionals. Dr. Blood said: “Get thee to the ER!” I never disobey Dr. Blood because I hold her in the highest esteem. I didn’t have much time for wardrobe selection this time but still I carefully matched my underwear to my yoga pants, put on my whitest socks, and off I went.

And so the very nice Dr. Emerg did every test under the sun, initially suggesting I’d be able to go home and follow up with my specialists and then, to my dismay, changing his mind. Here’s the thing: if any doctor performs enough tests on me, one or two or all will come back wonky. But I guess the ones that came back were concerning enough that more information was needed, and it would be quicker and easier to gather that information if I remained in hospital. Consider it a diagnostic admission. That’s why I’m home today, many invasive tests and physician consultations later.

I’d been joking about my appetite loss, which I’ve decided I must never do again, since it’s usually a sign that my liver isn’t happy. As glorious as it is not to be thinking about food every waking moment, this kind of appetite loss is a sign I’m unwell, and one I must listen to, especially if it lasts more than a few days.

I hadn’t realized before I came in that I was a little yellow. Yes, my liver enzymes, including my bilirubin, were off for the first time in a long time, but for no clear reason. Add to that a quickly tanking red blood cell count–full-blown anemia here we come!–and what is casually termed “heart failure” and I lost the possibility of going home.

Now, before you get your yoga-pant-matching knickers in a knot, heart failure isn’t as bad as it sounds. My heart has been working a bit too hard, as evidenced by some fluid in my lungs and some heavier-than-normal breathing. Have you noticed me panting lately? Sure, I may think you’re sexy but that’s not why I’ve been short of breath in your presence, just in case you had the wrong idea. Turns out my heart is working just fine, although it may be a bit fatigued because of recent events.

Finally, since the iron supplements I’ve been on haven’t trumped my anemia yet, I was dosed with IV iron. Now the search is on for some “baby reds” in my blood. No sign of them yet, but here’s hoping.

Today the doctors determined that I could follow up on these ongoing concerns as an outpatient. My yellow has mellowed and my lungs have cleared. But I think they let me go because we agreed I’d never get my appetite back if I had to continue eating hospital food. And they were right, as evidenced by this picture of my last lunch:

Hospital lunch tray with raw vegetables, beef sandwich on whole wheat, minestrone soup, and cantaloupe, with crackers, coffee and plastic cutlery package

I’ll bet you have lunch envy now, don’t you?

I hear it was a momentous day in Alberta

Thermometer with fever in Celcius (39.4 degrees)

I’m not feeling so great.

It was quite the wild ride in Alberta yesterday. First, the NDP swept the provincial election, ending an overly long reign of conservative government. While the election results were being tallied, against all odds, the Calgary Flames won the third game of their series in overtime. I’d love to tell you more but I slept through all of it.

You see, I spiked a fever yesterday, my second in as many weeks, and was out for the count. Before I get into the challenges of the day, let’s focus on the positives: fever begets appetite loss. Between naps, I’m happily moving through the rice phase today. If all goes as planned, within a few days, I won’t have to worry about matching my underwear to my yoga pants. Take that, Chip!

But let’s back up a bit. Before I crashed on the couch yesterday, I went to the Cancer Centre to meet with Dr. Blood. What I learned wasn’t especially comforting. She told me my chemotherapy continues to knock out my leukemia, but, surprise surprise, a blood test has revealed my polycythemia has come back to life after several years of near-dormancy. The doctor thinks my polycythemia may be causing my current health challenges, not my CML.

Does this not sound like a bad joke to you? I’ve told you before that my cancer is the least of my worries, but I was joking.

I haven’t written much about polycythemia in my blog because there hasn’t been much to tell you. Polycythemia is a bone marrow disorder but it’s not considered cancer. People with polycythemia are prone to a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, itchiness, and gout. Let’s skip how polycythemia progresses over time because it’s kind of scary and frankly I don’t want to think about it, let alone worry you.

Unfortunately, medications to manage polycythemia are limited, and not nearly as effective as those for CML. They are largely focussed on reducing symptoms. Once this slow-progressing disorder starts progressing faster, there’s not much anyone can do to stop it in its tracks. I’m just along for the ride, whether I want to be or not. Trust me, I don’t want to be, but I can’t find the exit.

J. and I left the appointment understanding better why I’d been feeling under the weather, but also worried about the implications of this new development. There is a medication that may help me with my symptoms, but I can’t yet add it to my drug arsenal because it may worsen my anemia. So for now I am dosing up with iron supplements, special ones derived from cows’ innards, at a cost of $90/month. Despite our fair country’s socialized medicine, even supplements that are prescribed are not covered by health plans. Being sick is expensive.

If you could pray I get my red blood cell count up, I may score a prescription for this new drug. It won’t cure me of my polycythemia but it will help me feel better. Oh, and while you’re at it, maybe you could pray my polycythemia goes back to sleep for a while. I know your prayers will be more effective than mine, since I ate the Jew’s forbidden fruit–that would be bacon–within the past week. Why would any God listen to me?