Saturday, October 31, 2009

So, I Guess I Can Cross "Driving the Get-away" Car Off My List of Potential Occupations

For the past few weeks, I have been marveling at Dr. ___'s secretary's ninja skills. Well, I should have been taking notes because today showed that I clearly need some remedial ninja lessons. Stealth mode: you're doing it wrong.

Let me give you a brief synopsis of the evening:
  • Attempted to dress as Julia Child, but got my big-ass arms stuck in the 1950's waitress costume my mom had. Spent 10 minutes trying to wiggle my way out of it. Finally had to get my mom to free me, which took another 5 minutes. Upon seeing me in my underwear, my mom remarked, "Oh my god! You have a gaping hole on the back of your leg!" Is it a bad sign when the only "oh my God!" moment you've had when naked in the past few months involved a) your mom and b) the extreme muscular atrophy surrounding your anti-ass?
  • Dressed in my sister's Rainbow Brite costume, which screamed "wardrobe malfunction!" Discovered my mom's cache of '80s cocktail dresses and eventually picked out a kick-ass black-and-white polka dotted mini-dress with a huge train and a bow on the back and dressed up as a cigarette girl. (In my defense, I suspect that even the most cat-like ninja would be impaired by a train made of 2 feet of polka-dotted fabric and a great, big bow).
  • Called A. to remind him to not let Mika out on Halloween so that she would be safe from fireworks and drunken assholes. As we were speaking, Mika did her own trick or treating by bringing in a dead bird and dropping it on A.'s backpack. (Snickers bar...lifeless finch....same diff).
  • Went to Cheryl's house for a pumpkin-carving party. Did not carve a pumpkin because, really, the only positive thing to come out of me handling a knife would be a very exciting blog post.
  • Finally, after a quick shower and Steph doing my hair and me being totally late, I arrived with Steph at Jay's party.
Now, see, I am not the hugest fan of Halloween, probably because I already walk like a zombie, so I pretty much celebrate the holiday year-round whether I want to or not. Unless you have a comfortable costume, (or you're drunk, which I wasn't considering the got-hungover-without-being-drunk fiasco of last weekend), you're pretty much guaranteed to spend the evening fidgeting around uncomfortably after the initial "like, oh my God, you look great. What are you supposed to be? I'm a slutty nurse/ladybug/witch/sorority-girl-with-devil-horns!" moment. And, let's face it, between the anti-ass and the swollen hip and the gluteus medius muscle detached from my body, "comfortable" is not something I feel on a regular basis, so my tolerance for restrictive clothing is pretty much at zero.

I was dressed as a cigarette girl, which means that I had the dress and little white gloves and a jaunty cap (it was really jaunty) and my hair done up and, of course, my cigarette tray filled with Popeye cigarettes (sorry, Popeye candy sticks). First, the gloves came off (didn't want to ruin them while gorging on chocolate and chips). Next came the cigarette tray (because it kept dumping candy cigarettes in my lap). Then, the hat, which (though jaunty) was giving me a headache. Then, my hair fell down so I took all the bobbie pins out. Within about an hour, my costume became less "cigarette girl" and more "broke-down '80s prom queen whose hair is out of control even by '80s standards because she's been getting it on in the back seat of someone's dad's Buick." It became increasingly clear that either I had to go home and lounge in my sweatpants or else I was going to get sick of the dress' boning and wind up naked.

So, at 11 pm (yes, lame, I know), Steph, L.P. and I tried to sneak out so that no one would give us the side-eye for our lameness. This was tricky for a number of reasons.
  1. I was driving my mom's SmartCar, which only seats 2 and there were three of us
  2. One of the three was wearing a gigantic polka-dotted cocktail dress with a train.
  3. Everyone at the party was surrounding our car and lighting fireworks within a foot of it.
What's a ninja to do? Using our sneakiest of sneak moves, Steph, L.P. and entered the vehicle in a way that was probably more "clown car" than "crouching tiger, hidden dragon," since L.P. was sort of crouched side-saddle on Steph, holding on to her shoulders. Since the fireworks were in front of us (not to mention a crowd of innocent bystanders), we decided to pull a U-turn. Problem was, some middle-aged lady was so engrossed by festivities that she stood in front of my car and would. not. move. Blowing the horn was, of course, not an option, so we made frantic hand gestures. She didn't notice. More frantic hand gestures. Still nothing. I tried inching towards her in an attempt to give her a gentle love tap with my bumper; (I'm pretty sure the only injury you can get at the hands of a SmartCar is that you'll melt into a puddle from its cuteness). She still didn't notice. Finally, she tore herself away from the riveting spectacle of someone lighting one single firework to move the two feet we needed her too.

Next problem: while small, the SmartCar is difficult to turn because you can't crank the wheels when the car's not in motion. We therefore did (in front of everyone) a 96-point turn, trying to turn the world's smallest car around on a fairly big street. With everyone watching us. And me having more blind spots than Fox News because there was a mass of L.P-on-top-of-Steph-ness blocking my side mirror. And Steph laughing hysterically every time I did one more turn. Ninja. Fail.

After dropping both Steph and L.P. off, I went home to the loving arms (okay, legs) of my sweatpants, whereupon I noticed that my stuck-in-a-dress ordeal had left bruises on my arms. That's how stuck I was.

So, yes, happy fucking Halloween and bring on the daylight savings time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: Okay, This Shit is Getting Boring

SurgeonWatch2009 has been going on so long that I've run out of snarky ways to discuss my surgeon not phoning, so I will give it to you straight up, no chaser: no, Dr. ___ did not call today. After countless days of playing the most one-sided game of phone tag ever, (tag, you're it! Tag, you're still it! Tag, you've been it for three weeks!), I took a day off from SurgeonWatch2009. But today, alas, was not without its disappointments.

You know how I've been talking about how badly I wanted to get down to Illinois to see the Neko Case concert because my friend knew the guitarist and had VIP access, and how my plan was to book a flight the minute I saw the surgeon and knew what the hip-timeline was? Yeah, well, the ticket kind of fell through. So, now, endless questions: do I try to purchase a ticket without knowing whether I can even make the concert? Is there a way to purchase a ticket so that, if I am not able to go, A. could go in my place? Can I even purchase a ticket? Should I take this as a sign that the concert is not to be? This question is made all the more prudent by the fact that I've learned that Sarah Harmer is opening for Neko Case and Sarah Harmer's "Dogs and Thunder" is one of the first songs I ever learned to play on guitar and is my very, very favorite to sing when I'm having a bad day and I really want to hear it live. Fuck. Why can't Urbana be closer to Vancouver?

It did not help that it was dark and rainy in Vancouver today and that I was a dumbass who decided to walk for an hour, then do half an hour on the elliptical machine at my mom's friend's house, then try to walk back home. I slogged through the rain for half an hour until I got a couple of blocks from my house and my hip quite literally refused to go any further. I had to stop, rest, and turn off my Ipod so as to devote my full powers of concentration to walking the last block or else I would probably have still been standing there, humming "I Believe I Can Fly" and trying to levitate home, since it probably takes more than the Jock-Jam remix to get all 160-odd pounds of Arleyness of the ground.

When I used to play basketball, Tuesday practices were devoted to "chair skills," which is a euphemism for "push so hard you vomit your breakfast several times in your mouth and have to swallow it because you're in the middle of a set and can't stop" (sorry, gross). I actually really loved chair skills (there's something so fantastic about being done, when you've exerted absolutely every ounce of energy you have and you're pleasantly tired and that drink of cold water tastes like the best thing in the world), but every once in awhile when I would hit the wall, I would count down how many more pushes I had until I could rest. Just knowing that I only had 50 more pushes (even if it was untrue) gave me something to focus on and made everything seem more managable.

So, there I was, dragging my hip along the wet-leaf-strewn minefield of the sidewalk, counting outloud to myself. I'd set 200 steps as my target goal and it actually turned out to be pretty accurate because I reached my front yard at 190 steps and I got inside the house at 212....where I promptly took a shitload of Extra-Strength Tylenol and had my mom make me tomato soup (thanks, mom!). When I got home, I also learned that my brother's girlfriend's mom (who's an orthopedic nurse) had sent me tons of information about repairing a torn gluteus medius. (Thanks!) I'd found so many conflicting reports on the internet that it was great to read some information that's been sanctioned by an authority higher than Google. Here's hoping that Dr. SecondOpinion can get the surgery party started.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: This Has Been Going on Too Long For Me to Come Up With Interesting Post Titles

It's a few weeks into SurgeonWatch2009 and you all will be shocked (not really) to learn that Dr. ___ did not call. He did, however, have his secretary call again. And, here, the secretary's ninja skills really become apparent. Though my mom was home at the time, the phone did not ring. The voice mail appeared as if some invisible carrier pigeon slipped through the window and dropped it into the phone. Homegirl is good. Anyhow, the secretary didn't have much to report: she thought that Dr. ___ had already called me, but since he hadn't she would put some pressure on him to do so. Obviously, her ninja karate-chopping/ intimidation skills are still under construction because Dr. ___ didn't feel inclined to pick up the phone. Still, you've got to hand it to the secretary for at least calling me back (kinda).

Where was I when the phone message was being delivered magically into our voice-mail inbox as if by tiny phone elves? At physio. What was I doing there? Getting a This-Is-How-You-Recover Seminar courtesy of a physiotherapy repeat customer. When I first started at physio, there was a round little man with a well-groomed moustache who'd had a knee replacement at nearly the same time that I had my hip replacement. About a month after we both started physio, moustache-man graduated and waltzed on out of there swaggering like a rock star, while I stayed behind bruising my ass on the exercise bike and trying for the 3586th time to unsuccessfully do one single clamshell exercise.

Today, I was doing my daily trampoline exercise (don't ask) when who walks in but moustache man! Turns out, he's recently had his second knee replacement. And, yes, he's only three weeks post-surgery and is already walking better than I am. Have you ever played Mario Kart and you run one too many times off the bridge in Bowser's Castle and end up sizzling your ass in lava and wasting precious seconds being fished out by that little cloud guy? And you see some other go-kart smoking up behind you and think, "Damned if I'm going to come in last place," so you unleash the fury of your red shell only to realize that your rival Mario-karter was actually lapping you? Yeah, that's the feeling I had at physio. I was lapped by someone with a finely trimmed moustached.

What's that shaking sound I hear? Oh, that's just the shaker from all the salt that's been poured into my wounds.

Steph's Birthday Cake

Since I promised I would post pictures of the cake I made for Steph's birthday (read: since I will take any opportunity to showcase my cakes), here it is in all its glory. The inside was a spice cake with cream-cheese frosting.

If I ever have a cake company, I am going to call it either O-C-Delicious (due to my obsessive degree of one makes chest hair out of tootsie rolls like I do) or Ghetto Cakes, due to the fact that I own hardly any cake-decorating tools. For example, you'll notice that most of my cakes lately have been blue/turquoise. This is because it's the only shade of food colouring I own up here. How many cake pans do I have? One. Which makes that baking layer cakes takes twice as long. Do I own a piping bag? I do not. Instead, I cut the tip off a Ziploc bag. After this foray into scroll-work, however, I think that I might invest in a piping bag, but cake-making can be an expensive (not to mention fattening) hobby and it's a slippery slope. Today, it's a piping bag. Tomorrow, I'm buying little silicone molds and edible glue and various luster dusts.

Okay, none of this is hip-related. Moving on!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: Takin' It Back to the Old School

Another day, another message on Dr. ___'s answering machine and I am beginning to feel like a stalker. If Dr. ___ had a facebook page, I would totally be creeping on him. (I just checked to see if Dr. ___ really does have a facebook page, but unless he dresses up as a 20-year-old goth kid with high cheekbones from Michigan on his days off, I suspect that he does not. Oh well. There goes my chance to beat him at Bejeweled Blitz or send him a fix-my-fucking-hip-themed snowglobe). So, yes, SurgeonWatch2009 continues with a vengance.

In the meantime, I decided to get out my frustration the old-fashioned way: by pumping some iron. I used to really like weight-lifting. There's just something about lifting hundreds of pounds of solid metal above your head that makes you go fuck yeah. In fact, back in the day my max bench press was 245 pounds. I was kind of a beast.

For about two years before the surgery, I couldn't weight train because a) I had some mono-related heart problems and for a good year the only exercise I was allowed to do was watch "Bulging Brides" or "Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp" on TV and b) when I was finally cleared to weight train, I almost immediately developed the "hip not staying in its little socket home" problem, which weight-training aggravated. Want to know what's not fun? Having your hip come out of its socket while you have over a hundred pounds of metal suspended over your head. True story.

Since it's been 2 years since I've done any serious weight training, I decided to go back to the basics so I didn't get injured, because Lord knows that the last thing I need is a torn rotator cuff to match my torn gluteus medius. If I'd had my way, I would have gone back to the modified Jillian-Michaels cardio-plus-mild-weight-training workout I was doing before the surgery, (which was fun in a "my face is so purple I suspect my head might explode" kind of way), but none of it was post-hip-replacement friendly. Luckily, I remembered that way back in 2001, when I was starting to get serious about weight training, a friend of mine sent me the program he used to do when he was a national-team wheelchair racer in the 1980's, which he had named the Lifting Heavy Things workout. Even more luckily, I am an email packrat and never throw anything out, and I had even saved the workouts in a handy folder.

I figured that since my life is beginning to resemble the summer of 2001 more and more (no job, living with my parents, etc. etc.) I might as well embrace the deja vu by taking my weight training plan back to where it started. You know, like the circle of life, but with lat-pulldowns instead of the whole birth/death/ashes to ashes business. The fact that the weight-training program was created in around 1986 didn't deter me in the slightest, since the '80s gave us all sorts of awesomeness, like Pavement and Felt and The Pogues and Jesus and Mary Chain and, of course, me. (Speaking of me being born, International Arley Appreciation Day is Nov. 15th. Mark your calendars and prepare your sacrifices to the Arley shrine that I know you have in your house. I will also accept mixed tapes/CDs and cake).

Anyhow, weight-training ended up being a rather ambivalent experience. Yeah, it felt good to feel the familiar lactic-acid burn, but on the other hand I was depressingly weak and kitten-like and nearly everyone was stronger than me. To those of you who say "stop comparing yourself to other people! It's the journey, not the destination!" I say, "What's the point of weight training if you can't out-bench-press teenage boys, causing them to crowd around your lifting station with ego-deflation and reverence, whispering amongst themselves that, dude, she can totally bench press more than you and she's, like, a woman?" Another downside: I was so unused to weight-training that my arms began to shake, which made using my cane a little wobbly.

It is, however, good to mix up the workout program. I've been relying too much on the elliptical machine, which is making my anti-ass swollen. This is not entirely bad, since it would be very easy for people to mistake the swelling for my having a real ass. Nothing like a little inflammation to even things out down there. It does, however, make sitting down particularly unpleasant.

Anyhow, yes, bottom line: despite the fact that my workout should be renamed Lifting Fairly Light Things To Prevent Injuries, it was a tiny, little victory. Considering my obsessive nature as of late, though, I will have to work hard to not over-do it. I don't want to have to report in a month's time that either a) I have become a quadriplegic from dropping a bench-press bar on my throat or b) my arms have gone all Popeye-on-steroids. Moderation: not one of my strong suits.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: And the SurgeonWatch Continues

There are some things in this crazy world that you can rely on: the earth is round, the sky is blue (unless you live in Vancouver), the delicious taste of beef brisket cures all manners of ailments and afflictions, and my surgeon will not freaking call. Yup, it's been nearly three weeks since my doctor received my MRI reports and a week since my family doctor told me about the torn gluteus medius, and still Dr. ___ is still playing hard to get.

Have I left messages? Yes indeed. Has anyone called back? Absolutely not. So, as time ticks by and my phone does not ring, I'm turning to the power of the internets for answers. Usually, the internet is a divine source of all knowledge, wisdom and pictures of cats using bad grammar. (I am, after all, the woman who beefed up a 30-page graduate-level essay by wikipedia-ing various lit-crit scholars and tossing in a few quotes. Academia: ur doing it wrong). In this case, however, the internet seems only to be a source of confusion.

Most sites I've visited say that a torn gluteus medius is usually repaired surgically. Some, however, say that surgery is often unsuccessful and can only be done in some cases. (Though, why some cases are operate-able and some are not is unclear. Is it based on the severity of the tear or the time elapsed between the tear and when it's discovered?). One site even bucked the trend and said that a torn gluteus medius never requires surgery. Medical writers of the internets: you people need to have a conference call and get your story straight because this shit is ridiculous.

Now, of course, this whole labryinth of confusion could be prevented if the doctor would pick up the phone and/or schedule me an appointment so we could have a little chit-chat about what is to be done. Instead, I'm watching episode after episode of "House," which is like medical porn to me because everything happens very quickly. People get sick, tests are performed, diagnoses are made and revised and re-made, someone has an "aha!" moment at exacly the right time to save a patient's life, and everything is wrapped up with a bow in an hour. No one waits three weeks for a phone call. No one resorts to google to see what's wrong with them. A lot of people run around frantically, House makes a few caustic remarks and does something borderline unethical, and happy endings abound.

See, at the end of the day, I don't mind if my doctor is a douche-kabob as long as he gets shit done. We don't have to bond over martinis or have a meaningful heart-to-heart over tea and scones. I just want prompt medical attention. Or, if there's a good reason why I can't have prompt medical attention, I want to know that reason so that I don't find myself trying to decipher the medical-ese of some internet article at 3 a.m. Because, believe me, the number of medical articles I read at 3 a.m. is directly proportional to the amount of cranky phone messages Dr. ___'s office will receive the next day, which isn't good for anyone involved.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why I Will Never Again Drink a Mango Margarita

I am good at many things: getting myself into bizarre situations, writing elaborate similes, baking X-rated cakes, the list goes on. Something I am not good at, however, is drinking. The reason: I get terrible hangovers. Worse, my body does not seem to understand that to get a hangover, you usually have to be drunk the night before. Clearly, it missed the memo that a hangover is nature's way of saying, "Sure, waking up next to that unfamiliar man in a seedy hotel room wearing someone else's clothes was fun, but I hope you enjoyed yourself because you're about to pay the price for your misbehavior." Hangovers: nature's time-out chair.

Last night was Steph's birthday party and I made her a cake (the pictures of which will shortly follow). For her party, she made mango margaritas. Now, usually, I stick to whiskey, since I'm allergic to wine, can't drink more than two beers without my stomach feeling like it's filled with bread dough that's quickly rising and threatening to rupture my stomach lining, and can't drink sugary chick drinks because they give me bad hangovers. Last night, however, I decided to break my whiskey-only rule and drink some mango margaritas because a) they weren't very strong and b) the fact that I hadn't been hungover since my surgery suggested that perhaps my Freaky Cyborg Hip could hold its alcohol better than I could and maybe I'd been cured of my bad hangovers. Yeah, not so much.

As the evening went on, I decided to break my "I don't get drunk because it makes me annoying" rule, so I had a couple of mango martinis. After four (the drinks really weren't that strong) and a beer, I felt only mildly buzzed. That's when the little angel on my shoulder began alerting me to the following facts:
  • The only good reason to get drunk is to get the courage to hit on someone and there were no single men at the party.
  • It's going to take me probably 8 mango martinis to get drunk, which will put me on a fast train to Hangover Town, stopping only briefly in ThrowUpYourGutsInFrontOfEveryoneVille.
  • I drove to the party and should stop drinking because I can't stay overnight since my parents would worry if I didn't come home and, yeah, sure, I could take a cab but that costs money I don't have and then I have to get someone to drive me down in the morning, which is annoying.
The voice of reason won. I stopped drinking and quickly became sober, even though my hip began to hurt really badly for some reason, and I spent a great deal of the evening completely distracted by my Freaky Cyborg Hip, staring off to space with my "pain face" on, which is the vacant, glassy-eyed heroin-addict-y expression I get whenever my hip hurts. (A random side-note about my pain face: it's fairly easy to recognize and once, many years ago, A. and I were in the same fiction workshop and he noticed that I was clearly in pain because I was staring off into space. A few hours before, I'd been in the hospital because my hip was having one of those turning-blue-and-being-excruciatingly-painful episodes and I'd gone into shock and my hip was still in a weird position and it was all I could do to stay sitting and not rip my hip out and beat myself senseless with it. So, A. smiled at me in order to cheer me up. I smiled back. The teacher noticed me smiling and made a big fuss in front of the whole class asking two or three times whether I'd like to share what was funny with the whole class--this is, remember, a graduate workshop--and basically treating me like some unruly kindergartener. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I will never do a PhD).

Bitter digressions aside, the bottom line is that I never did get drunk. This is why I was surprised when I woke up this morning with a mouth that felt like I'd been making out with a ball of cotton and a terrible headache. How, I asked, does one wind up with a hangover when one has not been drunk? Isn't that like being wrongly imprisoned for a crime one did not commit?

So, yes, I am still in bed though it is 5 p.m. listening to Jesus and Mary Chain and editing my novel. This is turning into the week of '80s indie rock.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Medical Receptionist Appointment Bazaar

In all my waxing nostalgic about Illinois road-trips and 80's indie rock, I forgot to mention one important update: yesterday, I got an appointment with another surgeon to give me a second opinion. (Actually, considering that I have yet to hear from Dr. ___, I guess it's actually a first opinion). When I called, the receptionist told me that I would have to wait until Nov. 23rd. Luckily, however, my appointment-making skills have been hardened in the crucible of Dr. ___'s secretary, who graduated with high honours from the School of Pissed-Off Medical Receptionist-ry with a degree in Patient Avoidance and/or Intolerance and a minor in Advanced Eye Rolling. I persisted, stressed the urgency of the situation, pulled the whole "Dr. SecondOpinion has already been informed of my case," and presto: my new appointment date is Nov. 4th.

I'm beginning to believe that booking an appointment with a medical professional has reverted to the barter system and now resembles a Turkish bazaar (without the "Hey! Pretty Lady! Hey! Canada! What is the mistake in your body?" business). Perhaps receptionists are trained not to give you the first appointment, but to make you barter with them to insure that you're sick/hurt/desperate enough to really want it. It's only a matter of time before appointments start going like this:

Receptionist: I can fit you in in three month's time. It's my very best deal for a pretty cancer patient such as yourself.
Patient: Three months? You insult me. Two weeks!
Receptionist: Two weeks! I worked long and hard setting up this appointment, writing your name down in the book and highlighting it in yellow marker! Two weeks is an insult! For a loyal patient such as yourself, what about two months?
Patient: Two months? For an appointment without current magazines in the waiting room? Hah! The doctor down the road can get me in in one month and he has a subscription to "People." Three weeks!
Receptionist: Three weeks! I have children to feed! What would people say if they knew I'd given you an appointment in three weeks! Six weeks. That's the best I can do.
Patient: Will you throw in a quick MRI appointment?
Receptionist: For you, my most valued and attractive patient, I think I can make this deal. But do not tell anyone that I got you in in six weeks and threw in a quick MRI appointment. I will be bankrupt in a week and my children will starve.

While I'm glad that I won't have to wait until the end of November to get an appointment, the Nov 4th date puts a damper on my plans to return to Illinois to see a Neko Case concert on Nov 6th. This Neko Case concert is not just any Neko Case concert. My friend Tiff knows the guitarist and had gotten us VIP access, which means that I might have been able to hang out with Neko Case, who clearly would have been charmed by my dry Canadian wit and Ricky-Lake-on-Stilts good looks and invited me to tour with them as their head tambourine player. (The fact that none of Neko Case's songs have tambourines...and that I have no sense of rhythm does not deter me in the slightest).

Considering that I've been wearing my cranky pants quite often these days, it really helps to have something to look forward to. Shortly after the surgery, when I couldn't walk at all, A. would make plans with me to go on a 10-day canoeing trip next summer in the Great Lakes area and, when I was feeling particularly feeble and shitty, I would imagine myself all healthy and able to walk, tromping through the wilderness and portaging my canoe like I was one of the early explorers (minus the beaver-pelt undies and destruction of Native peoples). It made me feel quite a lot better. When Tiff told me about the Neko Case concert, that became the thing I would look forward to. I would say, "Well, it sucks that I'm getting an electrified needle jammed into my ass now, but just think: in a few months I will see Neko Case in concert and if I'm lucky she will play 'At Last' off "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.'"

But now, damn. Barring a last-minute flight, instead of going to the concert I will be weighing my medical options while sitting in bed listening to "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood." Now I need something else to look forward to: ideas?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The World is As Soft As Lace

I have a rare talent for chaos. It's actually kind of a special gift, like the ability to play the violin or recite pi to 14 digits. Case in point: it was Steph's birthday last night (happy birthday, Steph!) and I went out for dinner, which should have been a simple exercise in social manners and stuffing myself to the point of exhaustion with garlic-saturated meat products. Wrong! Before the first appetizer had been served, Hurricane Arley had been upgraded to a category 5 storm.

Steph had told me that the dinner was at the Greek restaurant on Columbia Street, so I arrived, as promised, at the Greek restaurant on Columbia street. Simple enough, yes?, but Steph and Adrian were nowhere to be found. While looking for them in the restaurant, I walked up a flight of stairs and my cane struck a pottery vase on the landing, which promptly shattered into roughly 8.7 million pieces. If there had been a bomb inside the vase, it could not have made more noise and, of course, most of the shrapnel landed on the owner of the restaurant. Everyone in the restaurant stopped and stared and, just when the owner was probably thinking, "Well, at least she's going to buy $20 worth of chicken souvlaki and she's going to need a drink after this soul-crushing embarrassment and Lord knows she's going to tip well..." Adrian walked in to inform me that, whoops, the birthday dinner was actually being held in the Greek restaurant across the street. Party. Foul.

Happily, I did not destroy any decorations at the actual restaurant and had a good time. Three hours later, I arrived home feeling nauseous from way too much tzasiki and pita bread, poisoned with garlic, and generally overwhelmed with the suckery of my current state of medical ridiculousness. Long story short, I wound up downloading some Felt in an attempt to cheer myself up. Felt is an indie-rock band from the '80s. Ever heard the Belle & Sebastian song "I Don't Love Anyone" with the lines "I met a man today/and he told me something pretty strange/ there's always somebody saying something/ he said the world was as soft as lace"? That's an allusion to Felt.

Everything was well and good until I put on "The World Is As Soft as Lace," which is my favorite Felt song. The minute that the opening chords began, instead of feeling buoyed by memories of happier times, I felt as if I'd been hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer. I hadn't listened to that song in years. I don't own as much music as I would like because a) I stupidly left my CD collection in my car four years ago and some fucktard broke in, taking every CD he wanted and breaking in half every CD he didn't and b) for the past three years, I have had access to A.'s stellar record collection, which is like the indie-rock version of the Library of Congress, and he often makes me tapes for various occasions; (I am a sucker for a finely crafted mix tape).

Because most of my Felt collection is on tape and my only tape deck is in my car, I associate "The World is As Soft as Lace" with driving: cruising through the Midwest in A.'s Dodge Aries with its smell of lemon hand-wipes and dust while drinking truck-stop coffee from styrofoam cups with way too much sugar; crossing the bridge into the Bay Area after three weeks on the road to see the city spread out before me practically radiating hipness (or was that smog?); fishtailing along fresh snowfall at 5:30 a.m. in the dark on the way to basketball practice. And that, of course, reminded me of my three years in Illinois, of a time when I was happily driving my hip into the ground with a frenetic, mono-inducing life of friends, basketball, teaching, school, Ninth Letter, road trips, and thesis writing. And that reminded me of a time when my first novel was just getting published and I was on the national team and everything was looking rosy. And that reminded me that here I was, lying in bed with my stomach massively distended by white bread and garlic, after four months of medical purgatory and no action plan and no indication of when I can return to Illinois and no idea of what to do even after my hip is healed....Yeah, I definitely had a moment where I wanted to throw something across the room, only to realize that I had already thrown one artifact across the room and should probably keep my destructive rage in check; (this, by the way, is the power of Felt, ladies and gentlemen).

So, yeah, another day in Medical Purgatory. Still haven't heard from Dr. __. Still approaching my birthday with the chance that I will be celebrating International Arley Appreciation Day in the operating room. But I guess if I didn't have a few "fuck the world" moments I would be like one of those beauty queens receiving the fifth-place pity trophy on stage and trying to keep the five-hundred-watt smile up without shanking a bitch with her eyes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

La - La How The Life Goes On

You would think that given the events of yesterday, today would be a day of shouting matches and sit-ins and general ass-kickery. If my life was a movie, then today should have been the part where Gregorian chants play and there are lots of shots of the intrepid hero readying for battle and striding purposefully towards her destiny in slow motion. (See? More proof that my life should be a movie. You don't even need any special effects to make me walk in slow motion!)

It was not to be. The day started off with a bang, with my physio expressing rage over Dr. ___'s wake-me-up-when-something-more-interesting-than-restoring-Arley's-ability-to-walk-happens behaviour. She was not surprised at the diagnosis and was able to decode the fancy medical jargon of the report to tell me that a) the gluteus medius muscle is torn through, but is still attached at one site, so it's not completely flapping in the breeze like a windsock made of meat (sorry, that was gross) and b) that, despite what the neurologist told me, the nerve test did apparently show that my hip flexors have nerve damage, though on the MRI they are "within normal range." Still, no one can tell me what "fatty infiltration" means, so I am sticking with the mental image of chubby marshmallow men reinacting the beach scene from "Saving Private Ryan" until proven otherwise. So, it's not a total eclipse of the hip, more like a partial eclipse of the hip (a crescent moon?).

According to my physio, she's had one other patient who has had this problem. The patient was sent to the same SuperSurgeon *insert your own images of a really old white guy wearing spandex and a cape here* as I am being referred to and this SuperSurgeon refused to operate on her, even though she was fairly young (in her 50's) and active. The pain and muscle weakness never healed.

So, after that cheerful taste of things to come, I went home feeling incredibly confused. If I go to a second surgeon to get another opinion, will Dr. ___ no longer treat me? Should I phone Dr. ___ and give him hell (well, ok, leave a snarky phone message, since the chance of talking to Dr. ___ is roughly the same as the chance that I'll ever become a classically trained ballerina) or would that merely piss him off? If I go see a second surgeon, will it take months to get an operating time? But do I trust Dr. ___ to do the surgery? But, then again, wouldn't he have the most incentive to heal me? And do I even know if I need surgery? What if it's it already too late and I am fated to spend the rest of my life dropping my cane and being unable to pick it up without great awkwardness?

It turns out that there was nothing to be done anyways. My family doctor's office hadn't yet sent the referral so I couldn't make an appointment with the new surgeon and I decided to hold off on my knee-jerk reaction to phone Dr. ___ and tell him that he better start watching re-runs of "Frankenstein" because homeboy needs to get in the lab and grow me a brand new gluteus medius.

And so, in the absence of any meaningful progress, life went on (and I got that Beatles song stuck in my head). My ass was so bruised from sitting on the hard chairs at Starbucks (oh, New West Starbucks, why do you not have the plush Starbucks throne I enjoyed in Urbana?) that I chose to lay off doing a cardio workout. Instead, I hung out at the library and tried not to be too creeped out by the guys in trenchcoats who use the nonfiction section as their skulking grounds and always seem to be stroking their quasi-beards in great contemplation and holding large-print copies of Camus novels. I read some Canadian poetry, worked on my manuscript, and took out some books (for whatever reason, the overdue fines that I have avoided paying for the past 5 years due to a dispute I had with a librarian which is too ridiculous and convoluted to get into now have miraculously disappeared). Then I walked to the Dollar Store, bought a new notebook, and waited in line to pay for it for 10 minutes as some woman bought $50 worth of artificial plants, the chemically smell of which I could detect from a few feet away.

So, yes, while I was hoping that today would be a day where I go all Angelina-Jolie-In-Every-Movie-She's-Ever-Been-In on the medical community, instead it was a day to crank up the emo ballads and walk in the rain.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Total Eclipse of the Hip

It's no great secret that I've been frustrated by this whole "surgeon erecting the Berlin Wall instead of figuring out what's wrong with me" business. The situation has gotten so bad that today, when I saw a middle-aged guy on the stationary bike at the gym who had the regal, holier-than-thou expression of a surgeon, I considered asking him whether he knew anything about hip replacements. (No, he was not wearing a "trust me: I'm a doctor" shirt). Well, turns out that even if the guy at the gym was a truck driver, he might have been more helpful than my surgeon. As it turns out, Dr. ___ might not need to figure out what's wrong with me, because he already knows.

I am lucky enough to be one of the few people in North America to still have a family doctor: someone who has known me since childhood, has followed my medical ups and downs, and therefore doesn't see me as patient #14,058. Yesterday, I got a call from my family doctor saying that he wanted to see me immediately; (what? You mean it's possible to book an appointment with a doctor without a PhD in conflict resolution? You mean, sometimes a doctor does not run screaming in the other direction when you approach?) I had a sinking feeling that I knew what this was all about and sure enough, my family doctor had received a copy of the MRI reports, the same MRI reports that my surgeon has had since Oct 9th or 10th.

And what does the MRI that my surgeon has had in his possession for nearly two weeks and has yet to speak to me about say? That my gluteus medius has torn away and that there's "mild fatty infiltration at the origin of the gluetus minimus muscle." Translation: it's no wonder that all of my hip-strengthening exercises have been in vain, since it's hard to strengthen something that has torn free and is dangling loose in your body. Translation: I quite literally have an anti-ass, since my ass muscles have been damaged and are wasting away faster than Posh Spice. Now, I don't know what all that "fatty infiltration" business is about, since I don't speak medical-ese, (I envision dozens of little chubby marshmallow men wearing army hats all marching in drill formation), but I am fluent enough in what-the-fuck-ese to cry foul on Dr. ___.

I am not a surgeon. The sum total of my medical knowledge is "my hip hurts" and "my ass gets bruised because my ishial tuberosities are prominent"(ishial tuberosity is fancy medical terminology for "ass bones"). Perhaps it's standard procedure to double-check the results of an MRI considering I'll probably have to have surgery. But the fact that Dr. __ has yet to say, "Hey, look Arley. The MRI turned up this problem. We'll confirm it and then take the following steps" is more than a little worrisome. (What's the fancy medical terminology for "stop fucking around and fix my hip?")

So, yes, assuming that they can fix this problem, it looks like I'll be having more surgery, which means that I can look forward to projectile-vomiting luridly green bile thanks to my inability to keep down narcotic pain relievers, fainting every time I sit up because of blood loss, and generally sucking at life. The only question is: who's going to do the surgery? Dr. ___ doesn't seem so interested and I wouldn't want him to get bored and wander off for a sandwich when I'm on operating table.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: The Battle of the Medical Secretaries!

A few days ago, I wrote how SurgeonWatch2009 had culminated in his secretary calling me to say that they wanted to perform a third MRI. At the time, my reaction was a big ol' WTF because I had already undergone two MRIs in three weeks. (Clearly, my surgeon must have shares in The Learning Channel because he's intent on zapping my baby-making apparatus with so much radiation that in ten years my child will be starring in the hit series "The Two-Headed Boy Who Glows In the Dark And Shoots Lasers Out of His Eyes.")

Well, it turns out that I'm not the only one scratching my head over the decision. Today, I called to try to book my third MRI only to find the magnetic imaging department thrown into great chaos over the request: (well, okay, probably "great chaos" is a little too strong...maybe mild-to-moderate bewilderment). The MRI office expressed uncertainty about whether the surgeon had actually read the report, since they had pretty much scanned all there was to be scanned in my hip area and were of the opinion that my hip has had more pictures taken of it than the Gosselin sextuplets and there's no need to take any more. They won't schedule the MRI until the surgeon speaks to them directly. The secretary noted in classic I'm-trying-to-be-professional-but-I-really-want-to-go-off-on-a-bitch-speak that Dr. ___'s office is "not quite the easiest to get ahold of" and that they hadn't been "exactly forthcoming" as to why they wanted the MRI. They suggested that perhaps I would have better luck getting ahold of someone at the office (hah).

So, I put on my verbal boxing gloves, listened to "Eye of the Tiger," ran up and down the steps a few times Rocky-Balboa-style (read: I walked downstairs and got a Diet Coke, which took me 10 minutes, since stair-climbing is not my strongest suit) and went back into the ring for Round 28599 against Dr. ___'s secretary. To my surprise, she answered. When I explained my predicament--that no one would schedule the MRI until Dr. ___ talked to them directly--she became annoyed and directed her rage to the other secretary: "Oh, that woman is know...she just keeps calling and I've tried to explain to her..." (oh, the nerve of those secretaries trying to do their jobs in a prompt and efficient manner!). Apparently, Dr. ___ "just walked in the office for the first time all week" and she would get back to me today. I must be psychic because the number of times I've called at the exact instant that Dr. ___ has just walked in the office for the first time all week is really quite impressive, as is the number of times I've called at the exact moment when she was just about to pick up the phone and call me back.

So, once again, another roadblock has been thrown up in what should be a pretty normal process. I can't get the MRI until Dr. ___'s office leaps into action and, if the lessons of history mean anything, then I can expect them to pick up the phone roughly around Nov 20th 2012. That means that SurgeonWatch 2009 is back on. Just in case my telephone campaign doesn't bear fruit, I think I should start tuning my guitar, finding myself a fringed leather vest, smoking a bunch of B.C. bud and getting ready for a good old-fashioned sit-in. Perhaps I should also practice sitting cross-legged (which I can't do) on the floor (which I also can't do), while police officers haul me off to jail (which would probably cause a hip dislocation). Hm. Can you stage a sit-in on a comfy non-ass-bruising chair or does that cost you street cred?

Monday, October 19, 2009

No One is Safe from the Curse of the Freaky Cyborg Hip! Not Even Monkey Slippers!

I will admit that I've made several fashion missteps in my life: my beloved dragon pants, my high-school habit of wearing jeans with elastic waists, the fact that right now I'm hanging out in sweatpants and a wheelchair-basketball shirt circa 1998...the list goes on. I refuse, however, to add my beloved monkey slippers into my list of "reasons I should be on 'What Not to Wear.'"

I purchased these particular slippers last year when my apartment was 50 degrees (the heat was controlled by the downstairs apartment) and I needed something that would stay on my feet, have enough traction that I wouldn't wipe out on my hardwood floors, and accommodate the fact that even in the middle of summer my feet are so cold you could use them to keep your daquiri frozen while you are hanging out by the pool (of course you'd probably wind up with some kind of horrible mouth fungus, but still). The monkey slippers fit the bill, and who doesn't want to look down at their feet to see two slightly demonic smiling monkey faces beaming up at them with a cunning little glimmer in their button eyes?

As a bonus, it turns out that A. is terrified of the monkey slippers. Whenever he came over to watch basketball, he would spend most commercial breaks trying to convince me to take them off. (To those of you wondering whether this is the first time a man's tried to convince me to take some article of clothing off: shut up). My Saturday nights therefore often sound like this:

A.: Ok, seriously, I know you have other slippers.
Me: *in a high-pitched demonic monkey voice while wiggling the slippers in his direction* Why do you hate us, A.? We just want to love you! We just want to eat your face when you're sleeping!
A: That's not funny. Why can't you put on your sheepskin slippers?
Me: Ok...sure...Whatever you say...*takes off monkey slippers to reveal matching monkey socks and cackles with great glee*
A: Aaagh!

Yes, a good time was had by all. (Ok, a good time was had by me). I love my monkey slippers so much that I even took them with me to Canada, thinking I could wear them post-surgery. This wasn't as easy as it sounds, since they're impossible to put on with the sock aid but impossible to put on without the sock aid, which means that if I want to wear them I have to use both a shoehorn and a grabber if I don't want to hurt my back by trying to twist myself into bizarre shapes in an effort to reach my feet. It's a five-minute process (sometimes I miss the days before my surgery when I could do things like "put on slippers without uttering at least three f-words") but it's worth it for the little touch of glamour (read: creepiness) they bring into my life.

I am therefore sorry to report that the curse of the Freaky Cyborg Hip has dealt a disastrous blow to the monkey slippers! (Somewhere, A. is wondering why he suddenly breathed a sigh of relief). Today, I was walking down the stairs when the eye of the monkey slipper on my left foot (which is the same side as my Freaky Cyborg Hip) fell off, leaving only an optic nerve dangling behind. My monkey slipper was mortally wounded! Look at the poor thing with its cheerful little thread eyebrows looking so lonely without an eye! Look at its sad little face! If I thought I was walking badly before, wait until you see how I walk when my left foot is being guided by a monkey with a depth-perception problem.

So, yes, some of you might file this post under "most inane things Arley's ever talked about, which is impressive considering how much of this blog is devoted to her ass bruises," but I feel it's important to document all manifestations of the curse of the Freaky Cyborg Hip. After all, I suspect that my doctors are running out of official diagnoses and are soon going to be referring me to a priest for an exorcism. That wouldn't be too bad, since it might clear up that pesky "head spinning and speaking in tongues" problem I've been having.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things That Are Keeping Me Sane Today

I've written at great length about my dwindling patience (okay, actually I've written at great length about pretty much everything. 'Writing at great length' is one of my many talents/weaknesses/character flaws and is the reason why I can't write short fiction). Anyhow, as the weeks tick by, I grow less and less willing to sit on my ass and wait for my hip to stop pulling a Rip Van Winkle and wake the fuck up. Luckily, however, life has handed me a welcome distraction. I've recently plunged headfirst back into my novel for another round of editing, which means that unless you are a woman in 1946 traveling by train from Ymir to New Westminster, I will not be interested in you until around Hallowe'en. My hip can take a number and head to the back of the line.

So what kind of fun-filled adventures can I look forward to when I switch my brain into editing mode? Many, such as waking up in the middle of the night in a panic over whether I have been using the word "trifecta" incorrectly -- (turns out that, yes, I kind of was) -- or spending 30 minutes trying to decide between the word "destroyed" and the word "shattered", or walking up to the New Westminster Public Library to get some work done and being passed by at least 4 four-door baby-blue Toyota Corollas (Corroli?) from mid-90's identical to the one I used to drive and so spending the majority of the day feeling as if I was being stalked by myself circa 2002. Right now, I am alternating between blogging and scouring the internets for recordings of WWII fighter jets taking off.

When your life is feeling out of control, there's nothing better than editing. (Well, okay, there are some things better than editing, namely your surgeon figuring out what the hell is wrong with your Freaky Cyborg Hip, therefore allowing you to get a job and a social life etc. etc. but let's take what we can get, shall we?) Editing allows you to make bold, decisive decisions that will lead to concrete improvements. Comma faults can be tidied up! Annoying tendencies to over-use the "clause - colon - list" sentence pattern can be eradicated! Images can be made crisper and more visceral! Demi-scenes can be moved around so as to heighten the narrative arc! I may not be able to activate my hip flexors, but I can damn well make sure that when two children are playing feverish war games in a hotel-turned-brothel circa 1946, they are doing so with historically accurate plane sounds. This is a deeply satisfying feeling.

Other things that have been keeping me sane:
  • Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes' blog "Clouds of Evil." His description of Canadian taxi-hailing customs rocks my world three ways past Sunday: I wish my blog had descriptions of people mistaking Dan Bejar for my lover. (Well, I suppose my blog could have those kinds of descriptions, but they might result in a slander lawsuit from Dan Bejar not wanting his street cred ruined by being associated with six feet of cane-twirling, penguin-walking, crazy-haired Arleyness).
  • Cranking up Pavement's "Wowee Zowee" and playing air guitar, although this activity is admittedly not as fun when A. is not around to be excruciatingly embarassed by my air-guitar face.
  • Having breakfast at Adrian and Steph's place. I am not the first person to note that bacon cures all wounds and I won't be the last. (Unless, of course, you are either jewish or vegetarian).
  • Yeah...ok...that's pretty much it. But still. Small victories.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: The Dramatic Conclusion

Just when I was beginning to think, "Hey, maybe now that all those searchers looking for the kid in the homemade balloon aren't busy, I could send them to look for my surgeon," a minor miracle happened: four days into SurgeonWatch 2009, my surgeon called. Well, okay, technically my surgeon's secretary called...and she managed to evade any questions I had. L-Cro pointed out that the secretary seems to have taken a page from the Alberto Gonzalez' playbook, because the entire conversation was a case-study in how to speak words without actually saying anything:

Secretary: *calling before 8 a.m., perhaps out of spite* Hello?
Me: *in that husky, I-was-fast-asleep-dreaming-of-not-walking-like-a-broken-robot-until-3-seconds-ago voice* Mmf? Hello?
Secretary: I'm calling from Dr. ___'s office. I talked to the doctor and he says the neuro is fine.
Me: The neuro from the nerve tests or from the MRI?
Secretary: He didn't really say. And he's sorry for not calling you sooner. He wants to do an MRI to look at your muscles.
Me: Did the other MRI show anything?
Secretary: He didn't say.
Me: Because I've had two MRIs in the past three weeks...and I'm assuming they showed the muscles....
Secretary: *getting annoyed* He didn't say. He just said to tell you that he wants you to have an MRI and we can go ahead and schedule it. So someone will call you.
Me: *still groggy and lacking the ability to go from fast asleep to full-on rage in 30 seconds* there's no timeline on when he wants to see me next?.....
Secretary: Look, he really didn't say. If you could get me the address of the MRI place you go to, that would be great. You can just phone and leave it on my answering machine. (Translation: I am screening your calls and will not even pick up the phone when I know that you are calling to give me relevent information I've requested because that's how badly I don't want to hear your voice).
Me: Ok...
Secretary: Ok, bye now! *click*

Alright, Dr. ___ well played. You managed to deliver the phone call you promised (kind of) without giving any information at all. It's obvious that in medical receptionist school, the secretary got an A+ in verbal ninja skills. Someone from Philip Morris or the U.S. Department of Finance give her a job because homegirl is good; ("But aren't cigarettes cancerous?" "We don't have access to that information." "But doesn't lung cancer kill thousands of people each year?" "I haven't been given information on that question.")

In other news, my physio tried again to teach me how to walk properly and everyone ended up frustrated because my hip just. Won't. Fucking. Work. We tried for probably half an hour and nothing could stop by hip from giving out whenever I put pressure on it, which causes my shoulders to dip down in the lurching motion I've been complaining about for weeks. As I was futilely practicing some exercise the physio had given me while holding on to the balance bar (looking rather like a demented ballerina), I heard her whisper to the physio helper lady that things were not looking good, that something is seriously wrong with me and that somebody's going to be in big trouble. Yeah, you know things aren't looking great when the physios begin to whisper about you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: The Action-Packed Trilogy

Well, SurgeonWatch 2009 has entered into its third exciting day and still no sign of the good doctor. If this keeps up, there will be more "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" posts than there are "The Land Before Time" sequels. In fact, the only success I had was getting ahold of his secretary who, before I even had time to say my name, chirped, "Hi, Arley. I've given Dr. ___ your message. He'll get back to you shortly. Okay, talk to you later!", which I guess solves the mystery of whether or not the doctor's office has call display and is screening my calls. Access. Denied.

I, however, was not about to sit around sulking and waiting for the phone to ring like a moony teenager in an Archie comic. Instead, I took off downtown were I could do my daily walk without the old ladies of New Westminster peering out of their houses and giving me the side-eye because they suspect that I am casing the joint because I pass by so often. (I don't blame them. With my cat-like agility and speed, I am the perfect candidate for a robber).

The main reason for my downtown visit, however, was to meet my new agent. I'm now being represented by the Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency, which is super exciting because they represent some authors I really like (M.A.C. Farrant, Aislinn Hunter, W.P. Kinsella) and are small enough that they can care about all of their authors. (Also, those of you have witnessed the rather haphazard way I conduct my life can probably see why I'm happy to have someone else handle the important job of finding a publisher for my novel). Yes, even though my recovery has stalled, it's good to know that my writing career is sprouting tiny little wings. (Fly, little writing career! Fly!)

The day involved the usual Arley-esque ridiculousness. I arrived an hour early because the meeting was in the Mt. Pleasant district of Vancouver, which has a number of clothing stores I like. As I walked down the street, a homeless man shouted, "God bless your leg, ma'am! God bless your leg!" God may have blessed my leg, but He apparently forgot to bless my big-ass wheelchair-basketball arms because I very quickly got them jammed tight into a 1940's dress I tried on at a vintage consignment shop. Five minutes later, the dress had only moved a fraction of an inch and I began to believe that I would miss the meeting because I was imprisoned forever in mothball-smelling wool and my entire literary career would be de-railed by the fact that seamstresses in the 1940s put ridiculously small zippers in their dresses...and that I've spent half my life under a bench-press machine making sure my guns were fully loaded.

It took the woman who owned the shop another 5 minutes to free me from my wool prison. From there on, it was smooth sailing. My agent was very nice and smart and had some great ideas for improving the book. Reality TV show producers should all band together and send me a nice fruit basket to woo me back because as of today the TV gets turned off. Saddle up your horses, brain! It's back into editing mode! We've got work to do!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You: The Highly Anticipated Sequel

Yesterday, I wrote about waiting around for my surgeon to call. He had promised that he would "definitely" call by Tuesday...or Wednesday "at the very latest." Has he called? Not unless he was the guy who phoned earlier offering to save me hundreds on my cable bill each month. If my relationship with my surgeon was a romantic comedy, it would star Jennifer Aniston and be called "He's Just Not That Into You"... except instead of the "falling in love and living happily ever after" ending, substitute the ending of "The Castle." (If you're saying to yourself, "But, Arley, Kafka died without finishing "The Castle" and it therefore has no ending," then give yourself a pat on the back and an honorary master's degree in English Literature because that is exactly the point). The ending of "Waiting For Godot" would also work.

Patience has never been a strong suit of mine and with each day that I wake up still walking like a 50-year-old retired WWE wrestler who's been hit on the back with a fold-up chair one too many times, I have less and less of it. A. had suggested that I just march down to his office and stage a little sit-in until I get some answers. I could bring my guitar and change the words to protest folk songs. For example, instead of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," I could sing "Like a Fucked-Up Gnome" to describe my walking abilities and instead of "There Is Power in a Union," I could sing "There is Power in a Lawsuit" (just kidding, doctor!) I decided, however, that all this would get me was arrested.

I tried a less-extreme measure. After lunch, I phoned the surgeon's office to see if I couldn't light a little fire under him. I, of course, got the answering machine, so I left a nice, decidedly non-bitchy message: "Hey, Dr. ____. It's Arley. I know you said that you'd give me a call by today, so I'm just calling to see if there's been any progress on getting my MRI report...and if you'd had a chance to talk to the neurologist...So if you could give me a call back, that would be great. Have a nice day!..." Non-bitchy, right? Perfectly normal, yes? Well, I should have amped up the bitch factor because homeboy did not give me a call back. Access. Denied.

Now, it could be that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this. Maybe the neurologist is away at a My Little Pony Collector's Convention (though I don't take my neurologist for a "My Little Pony" type). Maybe someone else is staging a sit-in and my surgeon is a little tied up right now. Maybe the MRI report isn't ready because the radiologist saw the image of the Virgin Mary in my scans and they're being sold on Ebay for hundreds of dollars after being blessed by the Pope. Maybe my surgeon accidentally got his Hippocratic Oath mixed up with one of those "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen" How to Make Vulnerable Woman Find You Attractive dating manuals. Who knows? Anything could have happened!

What I do know, however, is that I am not asking for a Louis Vitton cane-cover or a diamond-studded sock aid. How much effort does it cost to give me a call and say, "Hey, this is Dr. ___. Just checking to make sure that the magic hip-replacement fairies haven't descended from on high to restore your powers of ambulation. No? Well, hang in there. I called today about the MRI report but it's not ready yet, so I'm sorry to say that you'll have to wait a few more days. Thanks for your patience!" One minute, tops. He could even get his secretary to do it. Then, I would sit back, relax and trust him to do his job. See, at the end of the day, I don't think my surgeon is a bad guy. I respect the fact that he's busy and when you're busy things slip your mind. I hope, however, that "gee, my 26-year-old patient is walking worse than she was before I operated on her 4 months ago and is not improving. Perhaps I should investigate this" might stay on his radar for more than 24 hours. Perhaps Thanksgiving turkey has "Men in Black" memory-erasing properties.

Okay, Dr. ___. You won this round, but tomorrow is another day. And that day will involve speed dial.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Yesterday, I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in style by eating my weight in candy corn, pumpkin cheesecake and turkey. Today, I feel slightly queasy, probably because the amount of sugar I've consumed has the Diabetes Fairy fluttering her wings at my window. So, between the sugar hangover, the gray Fall day and the fact that I went to visit my grandma today in the care home and all the old people were lined up in their wheelchairs to watch soap operas but none of them could see the TV so they simply stared into space...yeah, it's no wonder I have my cranky pants on.

Part of the reason I am cranky, too, is because today my surgeon was supposed to phone after conferencing with my neurologist to give me some indication of what's wrong with the hip. My surgeon is a nice-enough guy, but like most surgeons he's the master of "don't call us, we'll call you...roughly 3 weeks after we promised we would...and only then to tell you that we've lost your file/MRIs/X-rays/whatever and could you please re-send them so that in a month we'll be able to answer whatever simple request you had." When I was trying to book my surgery, I was so "persistent" (granted, I wouldn't have had to be "persistent" if they hadn't put me through a four-month Kafka-esque trial of ridiculousness just to get an operating date) that they actually changed the answering machine to note that "if you have already called once about your problem, please do not call again."

So, while I had high hopes that today might be the day that someone figures out what's wrong with my Freaky Cyborg Hip, I know that more realistically it could be next week...or two years later....or five days from now when I get fed up and sic my lawyer father on them, which tends to produce better responses. Now, I know that orthopedic surgeons and their secretaries are busy, and I appreciate that most orthopedic surgeons are not truly happy unless their patients are unconscious and they can focus on what really interests them, which is playing with medical powertools. Fair enough. If I had a job like that, I too would probably be like, "Ok, enough will all your jabbering on about your 'complications' and 'pain' and 'inability to walk without looking like a monster.' When do I get to saw someone's leg off?"And I'm sure that if there's one person who wants me to get better, it's my surgeon, since he wants to keep his spotless operating record and to do that, he either needs to prove that he didn't royally fuck me up, or figure out how he royally fucked me up and fix me.

Still, as time ticks on and my patience dwindles, it becomes less and less easy to sit still and wait for medical professionals to figure out what to do with me. So we'll see. I'm giving him until Thursday to call and then I'm coming out with verbal guns blazing. ( know...I will just complain about it on my blog. Whichever).

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Heart Is Made of Gravy

Well, it's Thanksgiving in Canada and you know what that means: look for me in roughly 5 hours face down in a plate of gravy, suffering from some kind of sugar coma induced by eating three bags of candy corn and some cheesecake and some pie and some....God, I love eating. Thanksgiving also means that I will have that line from a Pavement song that goes "my heart is made of gray! Vee!" stuck in my head for the next three weeks. (What? You don't associate a day of thanks with an 80's indie rock band?)

Anyhow, despite all of the various medical melodramas in my life, I have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful for my family who have put up with me and only occasionally (okay, daily) make fun of me for my walk by calling me "Igor," for my friends who have tolerated the fact that I'm rarely in one place, for A., who continues to provide a good home for Mika. I'm thankful for the physios who are working to help me walk again. I'm thankful for the fact that my parents just paid hundreds of dollars to take our poor old kitty Mr. Chubbz to the emergency vet since he's come down with a bad case of the kitty 'flu. I'm thankful to L-Cro who taught me last night how to mix catfood with warm water and feed Mr. Chubbz via oral syringe when he was at death's door (though, frankly, I could have done without watery cat food all over my pants and claw marks all up my thighs because Mr. Chubbz, even when he's too weak to raise his head, is never too weak to cut a bitch down). I am the luckiest six-foot-two, crazy-haired, tip-toe-shuffling Canadian who ever shuffled this earth.

And, of course, I am also thankful for the fact that I'm Canadian (even if it means that I will never fulfill my dream of living in Berkeley). I'm incredibly lucky that being born a mere 30-minute drive on the right side of the border means that I'm not filing for medical bankruptcy, that I'm not wracked with guilt as my parents figure out a way to pay for my bills, and that I'm not having to decide "do I REALLY need that nerve test? Do I REALLY need that MRI?" After all, the only thing worse than getting electrified needles jabbed in your ass is paying thousands of dollars for the privilege of getting electrified needles jabbed in your ass.

I have actually had a lot of experience with doctors on both sides of the border. I've seen some great American doctors; (anyone who has avascular necrosis should see Dr. Mont in Baltimore. I've been to dozens of surgeons and Dr. Mont is the only one who actually viewed me as a whole person, as opposed to just a bad hip). I have, however, waited months and paid hundreds of dollars to see an awful surgeon (who shall remain nameless) who refused to look at my X-rays or MRIs and even told me that I didn't have avascular necrosis ("no, sweetheart. *pat pat* You have arthritis") because he knew I wasn't a straightforward "give the 50-year-old lawyer a new hip, improve his golf game and collect your $60,000" case.

This time last year, I was complaining about the fact that I had to pay both Canadian and American taxes on the paltry $15,000 I was making as a grad student. Well, those taxes were a good investment because I've enjoyed some fantastic medical care since I had my hip replaced and I didn't have to take a job I hate just for medical coverage or refinance my home to get it. Whatever happens with my hip, at least I won't have a case of buyer's remorse because, hey, you can't really complain about something you got for free.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

If I Should Fall From Grace With God Where No Doctor Can Relieve Me

Before my surgery, I would avoid standing-room-only concerts, since I'd spend the entire night trying to lean against various walls/gates/garbage cans/random strangers, then hobble out of the place the instant the last song was over and spend the next day in bed hopped up on painkillers. After the surgery...yeah, not much difference. I did, however, get through my first post-surgical concert and the only damage was getting my mind totally blown...and probably a mild contact high from breathing the same oxygen as lead singer Shane MacGowan. I can't think of a better band to welcome me back to the world of live music than The Pogues.

I was introduced to The Pogues when I was 17 by K.G., a guy I used to play basketball with. I had been listening to second-generation Celtic rock/punk music (Flogging Molly, Great Big Sea, etc) without having ever heard of Shane MacGowan, which is kind of like being a fan of Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen without having ever heard of Jesus. K.G. offered to show me the light and soon I was spending significant chunks of my undergraduate career in his apartment drinking green tea, eating veggie burgers and getting my worldview throughly rearranged by the weird-voice trifecta of Bob Dylan, Shane MacGowan and Neil Young; (I kind of missed the "spend your undergraduate career having sloppy drunken sex" memo). K.G. and I had some ridiculous falling-out five or six years ago (oh, my melodramatic teenage years!) and I haven't seen him since, but my love of The Pogues remains.

So, even though the concert would require me to stand for hours, I was determined to see The Pogues before Shane MacGowan drops dead from the various substances he's been injesting since the '70s; (I've listened to an interview where he claims to have eaten several Beatles records because he was high and believed he was making a statement to Russian diplomats about American Imperialism). My dad drove me to Seattle where the concert was being held (he wanted to go to a car swap meet there) and by 7:30 I was thoroughly hopped up on Extra-Strength Tylenol and Diet Coke and ready to rock; (I know. So punk rock). My plan was to go early and find a seat so that I would not spend the rest of the night getting bodyslammed by wankers flailing around to "Body of An American."

I used the cripple card to get me to the front of the line, but by the time I got indoors all of the seats had been taken by people who were smirking and sitting on their precious chairs as if on thrones and chatting with their equally smirky friends who could watch their chairs when they went to the bathroom so that no six-foot-tall limpy Canadians could steal them. I tried guilt-tripping the ones who were holding empty seats for their friends ("Is that seat taken?...Oh?....It is?....Well, *hobble hobble, pathetic look* I guess I'll just have to find...somewhere else to sit...I just had a hip replacement, you know...") but no one cracked. I did, however, use my ninja stealth powers to steal a folding chair when a bouncer wasn't looking--this bouncer must have either been half-blind or else let me have the chair, since I'm pretty sure that a six-foot-two chick dragging both a cane and a folding chair while limp-shuffling along was not exactly inconspicuous--and planted the chair right in the middle of the dance floor. Not too many people had arrived for the opening act and I could even still see the stage.

I was feeling mighty smug until the folly of my plan became clear. If you're in a room with hundreds of people who are guzzling beer (and, judging by the smell, subsisting on a diet of rancid meat and onions), the very last place you want to be is at ass level. The stench (and people tripping over me and spilling their beers) drove me from my chair and I spent the time between sets sitting on a bench outside the bathroom pretending I was waiting for a friend, feeling a little sorry for myself.

But when Shane MacGowan and the Pogues finally arrived on-stage, all of the waiting and chair-stealing and leaning against various objects was worth it. True, Shane MacGowan is moving a little slower these days (who isn't?) and he dropped the mic stand into the crowd roughly 15 times and forgot some of the words and was often several beats behind the music and whenever he spoke it sounded like a toothless bear growling into a walkie-talkie, but the man can still do the banshee scream during "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" like he fucking means it. Though his voice hasn't aged like fine wine, it has perhaps aged like leftover chili: more depth, if less spiciness. And the band, to their credit, did a fantastic job of keeping up with him. I was so happy that I didn't even mind when two hipsters dressed like European toddlers circa 1894 kept bashing into me in their attempts to dance. (Well, ok, I did mind, but I didn't elbow anyone in the forehead).

A couple of days before the concert, A. asked me what on earth I saw in The Pogues. I have tried for three years to turn A. into a Pogues fan, but still whenever I have them playing in the car he begins to writhe around in his seat and beg me to turn them off because the fiddles and '80s-production-values saxophones and mandolins are too much for him. Even the fact that the Pogues make up an important part of the soundtrack for "The Wire" couldn't convince him of their greatness. At the time, I gave some half-assed answer about how they were "fun" and I "just liked them."

Towards the end of the concert, however, I realized what my answer should have been. Throughout the night, the band dedicated many songs to Kristy MacColl, who collaborated with Shane on "Fairytale of New York" and who toured with them in the late '80s. Kristy MacColl was killed in a boating accident while saving her son and Oct. 10th would have been her 50th birthday. As one of the last songs, Shane dedicated "Rainy Night in Soho" to her ("we watched our friends grow up together/ and we watched them as they fell/ some of them fell into heaven/ some of them fell into hell"..."now the song is nearly over/ we may never find out what it means/ still there's a light I hold before me/ you're the measure of my dreams."). "Rainy Night in Soho" is one of my favorite Pogues songs because of its ambivalence: equal parts sadness and regret and fondness and nostalgia and resignation.

I think this ambivalence is what I love most about The Pogues' songs. Most of the lyrics are about lives that have not gone according to plan, loves that have not gone according to plan, and hopes and dreams and ambitions that have been waylaid. This is, of course, familiar territory for most musicians, but I think the reason that Shane MacGowan is a genius is because he doesn't just write a love song, or a breakup song, or a my-life's-fucked-up song or a drinking song: he writes all of them at once. Even the darkest songs have moments of humour or sweetness and even the love songs are a little bit sad. He is kind of like the Cormac McCarthy of songwriting: not afraid to show the shit and puke and blood of every-day life, not trying to glorify or vilify a lifestyle, but merely explore it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love Destroyer and Pavement and Echo & The Bunnymen and all those bands who create layered sonic landscapes and write sly, biting, often-nonsensical lyrics with puns and little jokes, those songs that make you think, "Yeah, this could be a break-up song, but it could also be about heroin." But at this stage of my life (at the ripe old age of 26), what with the hip and the unemployment and the short-on-longterm-goal-ness of my life, I'm beginning to appreciate The Pogues less for their high-energy dance music (because, let's face it, I am officially at the age where being in the mosh pit might kill me) and more for the emotional tenor of their songs.

I suspect that this is a common Pogues response. Towards the end of the night, I was caught in the ambivalence of never wanting the show to end and wanting the show to end immediately so that I could sit down. I looked around and there were several old guys (I suspect I was not the only one with a fake hip since I was not the only one who pumped a fist in the air during the lyric "I will not be reconstructed!") leaning and shifting uncomfortably: one hand swaying in the air during "Rainy Night in Soho," one hand on their aching backs, probably wishing like I was that they could be up at the front sustaining hearing loss and rib-cage bruising from being crushed against the railing. (I was remembering being at the front of a Spirit of the West concert nearly 10 years ago, when I snuck into the club using my cousin's ID and ran into K.G. and during the show the drummer, who was celebrating his birthday, fed K.G. cake). Even Shane had to shuffle off the stage every once in awhile for a little rest and a cigarette. It was this "we're fucked up in the most mundane, least punk-rock ways but we're still on our feet with our firsts in the air" quality that resonates with me, and it's the reason why The Pogues are a great band.

So, yes, it's 2 p.m. the next day and I'm still in bed recovering from the night before and I haven't done my exercises, but it was totally worth it. (And, K.G., wherever you are, thanks).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You Are a Very Beautiful Lady! Does Your Boyfriend Mind That You Have a Bad Leg?

Last night, S.G, her friend K (or is it C.? See? This whole 'initials' thing is driving me crazy) and I went to see "Julie and Julia." I had originally resisted this movie because the whole "I'm going to write a blog for the sole purpose of getting famous!" thing is kind of annoying to me. (As opposed to me, who's writing a blog for the sole purpose of enlightening the masses about every nuance, shade and variation of my ass bruises, which is clearly a public service). True to expectation, I loved the Julia Child storyline and pretty much despised the "whiny blogger" storyline; (if you're thinking the "whiny blogger" storyline might have hit a little too close to home, you're probably right, except that Julie had a husband and a job and a New-York lifestyle, which is slightly more glamorous than my New Westminster lifestyle, though granted she also appears to have a sort of mullet). When Julia Child hates Julie Powell's blog, I liked Julia Child even more, since Julia Child wrote a cookbook because she had a passion for cooking and Julie Powell wrote a blog as a quick way to become a writer without any of that "knowing how to write" business. (Okay, rant over).

I realized very quickly, however, that Julia Child is my perfect role model. She's very tall and she is not afraid to wear high heels, which I would totally do if high heels didn't cause me to roll my ankles! She has crazy hair that she does not tame, though her lack of taming is because of conviction and mine is because of laziness! She has a loud voice and will not pipe down; me neither! She is not afraid to date men who are shorter than her; I, in fact, prefer it that way, though the men do not necessarily agree! In fact, I think that I will go as Julia Child for Hallowe'en and scrap my original plan to go as a zombie, since Hallowe'en would be the one time of the year when my unusual gait would fit right in. (Well, Hallowe'en or a Polio Survivor's Convention).

After the movie, S.G, K/C and I realized that our dinners had been pathetic (S and I had eaten popcorn for dinner) and we cruised Vancouver for fancy desserts, which we found (hurrah!) and which were fantastic. I must admit that Vancouver thoroughly kicks the ass of Champaign-Urbana in the food department (frozen yogurt excepted). It was a fun night!

I rode the SkyTrain to the movie theatre and, as I got off at my stop, I thought, "Gee, could it be that I will get through an encounter on public transit without any weirdness? Someone has not hit on me in a completely inappropriate way, told me their life story while sobbing or asked me some wildly bizarre question." Well, I should have knocked on wood because, sure enough, just as I was going down the escalator of the New Westminster Skytrain station ( a few feet from freedom!), I was subjected to this encounter:

African man: You are a very beautiful lady!
Me: Thanks.
African man: Very beautiful! Very tall! You are very tall and beautiful.
Me: Thanks.
African man: You are so tall and beautiful I think I should have your phone number and we should get together.
Me: I have a boyfriend.
African man's friend: That's ok! He has three wives!
African man: Well, I hope I do not insult you by telling you that you are so beautiful. Does your boyfriend mind that you have a bad leg?
Me: No, he doesn't care. He likes me the way I am.
African man: That is good! That is good! Have a good night, beautiful lady!

Well, I guess that's not so much weird as kind of flattering. (I'll take compliments in whatever form they arrive in). I mean, "you're beautiful" beats the hell out of "hey, sweetheart. What's wrong with your legs? Want me to teach you how to spread them?" I always feel a little bad, however, about inventing a boyfriend, though I feel like it's the nicest thing to do. And it's not really lying to say that I have a boyfriend. I am a great believer in the "branching universe" theory that posits that, when someone makes a decision, all other outcomes happen simultaneously in alternate worlds. So, yes, somewhere in the universe, there are probably multiple Arleys with multiple boyfriends/husbands/lovers (these multiple Arleys should quit hogging all the men!) and probably a few of those partners do not care that I have a bad leg. It's not lying, it's quantum physics!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Arley's (House's) Small-Screen Debut!

You might find yourself thinking, "Gee, I hear so much about the house where Arley logs all of her exciting TV-watching time and where the 'Young and Hip' magic happens. Perhaps I should stalk her so that I can satisfy my curiosity about what it looks like." Well, I'm flattered, but put down that telephoto lens and step away from Google Earth because there is no need. Last night, my house was featured on an episode of "Supernatural," so you can see it in all of its creepy, built-in-1908-and-has-a-century-worth-of-ghosts glory. (I will spare you the ghost stories about my house, but suffice to say that one of them involves a pile of dog shit on a fancy handkerchief on top of our washing machine. And we did not have a dog. True story).

Back in the day, Winston Churchill visited our house when he was touring New Westminster, and now we can add "an angry demonic Lincoln" to our list of distinguished guests; (it's a short list). If you download the episode entitled "Fallen Idols," you can see a demon in the form of Abe Lincoln laying the face-eating smack down on some professor in my house. The exterior of the house, our dining room (which has been turned into a study) and our hall are all featured. We got lucky because Paris Hilton was also in that episode, so we narrowly avoided an infestation; (can a house come down with an STD?). has been detailing the curse of Paris Hilton for years, so though it would have been nice to blame my hip problems on Paris Hilton, I think I will stay well away from any potential sources of bad luck, thank you very much.

On an unrelated note, I have decided that this whole "using the initials of everyone I talk about on the blog" thing is getting really complicated, since I know way too many people with the same initials and then people get married and change their initials and it all becomes hopelessly complicated and Lord knows there is enough "hopelessly complicated" in my life. Also, I was beginning to feel like I was trapped in Kafka's "The Castle," though the surreal, bureaucracy-on-crack-ness of that book is actually pretty relevant to my whole hip situation.

For that reason, everyone who's been mentioned on this blog (or would like to be mentioned on this blog) should come up with an appropriate name for yourself. You can use your real name or come up with a fun-filled nickname. I haven't decided whether I will stick with initials for people I talk about on a regular basis who do not read the blog (A., for example) or whether I will punish those people for not basking in my literary greatness by giving them unflattering nicknames. (Yeah, we'll probably stick to initials).

You can either email me/ Facebook-message me your name choice or leave it as a comment on the blog.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Okay, "WTF?" is Not an Official Diagnosis

Today, I saw my surgeon and I was expecting to be able to post an exciting blog entry; I was hoping for "Surgeon Waves A Magic Wand And Cures Me!" but I would also have accepted "Blog Indefinitely Postponed as Arley Serves a Jail Sentence for Taking the Surgeon Hostage Like In That Episode of 'House' But Finally Gets Answers When Some Plucky Intern Makes an Intricate Diagnosis With Only Minutes to Spare Before the FBI Open Fire." Well, I'm sorry to report that there were no fireworks/revelations/arrests/epiphanies/answers/ or throw-downs, which once again proves that my life needs to take a page out of the scripts of various TV medical dramas and wrap up after an hour.

After four hours in the doctor's office and probably 100 games of "WordFu" on my Ipod Touch, we're no closer to knowing what's the matter with me. At this rate, you'll be seeing me on one of those "Real-Life Medical Mysteries" shows along with that 16-year-old who stopped developing when she was a toddler. (The good news is, I'm getting closer and closer to my own TLC series: The Human Zombie Girl. Just in time for Hallowe'en).

After examining me, my surgeon agreed that, yes, something is clearly wrong with my hip. (Thank you, Dr. Obvious!) The X-ray, however, seems to be fine and, though we'll have to wait for the official MRI reports to know more, those look good too. Apparently, my prothesis has been nearly entirely cemented in by bone, thanks no doubt to my low-grade chai latte addiction. All is quiet on the Western front.

Now, see, this strikes me as strange. I can understand how some things would be very hard to diagnose. If you come in with abdominal pain, for example, it could be anything from ovarian cancer to a bad corndog to labour pains (there is, after all, an entire TLC series about women who didn't know they were pregnant). But how can two major muscle groups just stop working without any rhyme or reason? It's not like malevolent hip gnomes cast an evil spell on me or someone is jabbing pins into an Arley voodoo doll; (cut to some disgruntled Rhet 105 student cackling evilly and shouting, "I'll show her how to write a thesis statement. A thesis statement of pain!").

I know that the advent of quantum physics has shaken up our worldview--seriously, how can a thing be in two places at once?--but I maintain that the whole "causality" thing should still be in operation and that if two major muscle groups surrounding my hip stop working, there should be a concrete cause and that cause should be obvious on one of the many tests I've had. At least, however, my surgeon seems to understand that I'm currently sitting on the sidelines of the game of life and he needs to figure out what's the matter so that I can be subbed back in. He's going to have little chat with my neurologist once the MRI reports come in see if they can't figure out what's wrong with me. More tests may have to be performed, specifically something like "deep nerve testing." Why do I have the sinking feeling that my poor anti-ass is in for a lot more electrified needles?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Anti-Ass Says No!

Yesterday, I wrote about wanting to train for a triathlon, where I would substitute the elliptical machine for running and the stationary bike for the real bike. Though my mom denounced the plan as my "imaginary triathlon" and I suspected that my physios would not be pleased, I did the first day of training yesterday: 48 minutes of stationary biking followed by 24 minutes of swimming. At the end of the day, I was feeling all cocky. I was going to do something useful! I would end each day with the pleasant feeling of exhaustion that working towards an intense physical goal brings! I would once again bask in the structure and purposefulness of a training plan!

Yeah, turns out I need to clear some room on my Shelf of Broken Dreams (right beside "becoming an Egyptologist" and "having the toned legs of a volleyball player") because the stay-put triathlon is on hold. In my enthusiasm, I forgot to ask permission from my anti-ass. Is the anti-ass down for more than 30 minutes on the stationary bike? No, it is not. The anti-ass says "hells to the N.O.!" I therefore woke up with a black-and-blue swollen ass so painful that I could hardly sit on it. I'll spare you the S&M similes, but suffice to say that there are more fun ways to get an ass that looks like mine. And those ways involve dungeons.

When I went to physio, even laying down was painful and I sheepishly told the physio of my plan. She rather gently suggested that "perhaps I should put the triathlon on hold until I can walk" and that "maybe I should avoid activities that are going to leave my buttocks black and blue." Good points and life lessons both! She did, however, acknowledge that perhaps I need to spend a little more time around "healthy people" to work out my frustrations (read: not the 85-year-olds with walkers) and should go on a training plan at a gym that involves more whole-body weight training so I feel a little more normal.

After physio, my mom and I headed downtown because the MRI people called me yesterday and said I needed to come in for follow-up images. I've never been called in for follow-up scans before, probably since before you didn't need any precise images to say, "Yeah, Arley's got a hip that looks like something a four-year-old would make out of Play-dough." Considering how the tech at my last scan was bragging about what great images they got, however, being called in again to spend some quality time chilling to MRI-techno is never a good sign. Especially since the radiologist had written "STAT!" in big letters over my chart and the technician referred to my scans (again) as "interesting."

As the technician strapped me into the machine, I for some reason felt the need to bring up my aching anti-ass.
Technician: Does it hurt your hip to lie down like this?
Me: No, it's just that my...buttocks...are a little sore and they're spasming and it's making my hip spasm too.
Technician: *while giving me one of those "you're one of those people who has a safety word, aren't you?" looks* .....did something happen?...
Me: Oh, no, it's just that I was cycling on one of those stationary bicycles and it always bruises my...rear end.
Technician: Oh.
Me: Yeah, so it feels like my ishial tuberosity bones are out of alignment, but really it's just the swelling in my ass...buttocks.
Technician: .... *writing down something in her chart that will probably make the radiologist giggle*
Me: It's kind of black and blue down there!
Technician: So, it's the stationary bike that caused it?

It turns out, however, that my anti-ass saved the day. After the scan, the technologist told me that my ass was indeed swollen (she asked several follow-up questions about the nature of my ass bruising/swelling), but that the swelling might actually have been useful, since it helped the technicians to see the muscles more clearly. That anti-ass: such a considerate little thing.

After the scan, I once again tried to milk information from the technologist and I was once again treated to a big, old "access denied." Probably for the best. Reading between the lines when it comes to MRI techs is a little like reading between the lines when your boyfriend makes some cryptic remark that leads you to believe that he is clearly having tawdry motel sex with some unknown woman, when really he is just playing some shoot-aliens-and-carry-big-guns video game at his friend's house and doesn't want you to know that he's about to spend the next two hours trash-talking his buddies using various anal-sex metaphors. (What is it, by the way, about the combination of men and video games that always results in elaborate homoerotic metaphors from even the most straight-laced of men?)

Anyway, the point is that "reading between the lines" very quickly devolves into "turning into a psycho hose-beast" and it's best not to fear the worst before the worst happens. Who knows what they saw when they peered into the dark recesses of my hip? Maybe they saw an image of the Shroud of Turin. Maybe they found weapons of mass destruction (I knew those lasers would kick in one of these days). Maybe my Freaky Cyborg Hip gave them a little wink and a wave and smiled with its eyes like Tyra Banks. Who knows? Either way, opening the MRI scans on my computer can only lead to, "Oh my God! See that little grey smudge that looks like clouds right beside that whitish-grey circly thing that looks like the wax in a lava lamp? Clearly, it's cancer!"

I will therefore let the radiologists and the surgeons do their jobs, while I'll do my job, (which is making elaborate lists of questions to ask the surgeon when I see him tomorrow. Questions like, "So...what the fuck, man?" or "Does this mean I've broken your streak of hundreds of perfect hip replacements?") Unfortunately, I'm currently doing my job all drugged up on pain meds and resting on my side to take the pressure off my anti-ass. Why do I feel another ass massage coming on?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Stay-Put Triathlon

I don't do the whole "staying put" thing very well. Those people who can sit merrily on a beach for hours and work on their suntans while on vacation and return home feeling well-rested? I am not one of those. I do not do "well rested." I do "run myself into the ground and then collapse in a heap and sleep for hours." I am one of those people who annoys the hell out of anyone else on vacation with constant, "I'm going to go for a walk! I'm going to go for a swim! I'm going to do some form of physical activity in the hot sun, which will result in mild-to-moderate sun stroke and hip pain that will confine me to bed for the rest of the day!" This time last year, I was getting up at 5:30 a.m., training full time for wheelchair basketball, teaching two courses, finishing my thesis, working for the literary magazine Ninth Letter, weight-training, socializing with friends, traveling on a bus throughout the country, all the while dragging my hip kicking and screaming behind me.

Fast forward to now. Am I working? Well, yes, but not for pay. Am I training for anything? Only if "trying not to walk like a drunken zombie" counts as a sport. Am I enjoying a busy and active social life? Only if hanging out with the good people of reality television counts as a social life. Am I writing anything new and exciting? No, since my last novel is done and I can't begin writing about my hip replacement until I know how this whole "will I walk again?" thing turns out. So what's a hyper-motivated, relentlessly frustrated, Type-A gal to do? Train for a triathlon!

When I first started considering having a hip replacement, one of my post-replacement goals was to do a triathlon, until my surgeon told me that I could do one but I would find myself on the operating table again roughly a year after surgery. (Despite all the photos of ruggedly handsome 40-something guys on hip replacement websites jogging in the woods, running is apparently the one thing you have to kiss goodbye post-surgery). Then he wondered aloud if I fit the "psychological profile" of someone who thrives with a hip replacement. So, fine, I put that particular dream on the shelf and soon I was wrapped up with all the melodrama of the surgery and the recovery.

There are a couple of things standing in the way of me doing a triathlon:
  • I can't run.
  • I can't ride a bike.
  • Walking...yeah, not so good.
  • Dislike of wearing spandex.
I wasn't, however, about to let a little thing like "inability to perform 2/3 of the events involved in a triathlon" stand in the way of glory. What, I thought, if instead of running, I used the elliptical machine? And what if I rode the stationary bike instead of riding a real bike? It would be just like a real triathlon...except I would be in one place. And I wouldn't be surrounded by hundreds of people with 1% bodyfat while wearing spandex. And I would do it indoors, so I wouldn't have to stuff my workout clothes with dozens of those little "foot warmer" packets. And I wouldn't have to struggle out of a wet swimsuit in public without the help of my grabber. And no one would kick me in the head during the swimming portion.

In fact, my "stay-in-one-place triathlon" seems like the perfect triathlon. It's all the glamour of doing a real triathlon, without the chance of permenantly ruining my artificial hip or getting hypothermia. Plus, now whenever anyone asks, "So, Arley, how did the hip replacement go?" Instead of having to say, "Yeah, not the greatest. Quadriplegics laugh at me whenever I walk unassisted." I can say, "Oh, you know, it's had its ups and downs, but now I'm training for a triathlon."

So, that's it. I've downloaded some triathlon training plans from the internets and I'm ready to go! Today's plan: 24 minute swim, 48-minute bike. We'll see how my hip tolerates this one.