Drug use & cancer: An unfortunate contrast

A field of Steph’s favorite flowers.

Yesterday, I lost an old friend to leukemia. We worked together at Planned Parenthood for almost nine wonderful years and let me tell you, she was one of the kindest people you would ever meet. Honestly, I cannot think of a single moment when she was mean or annoying or unfriendly or too busy to be kind. She was a sweet, gentle soul who was always giggling and despite impossible odds, she always managed to keep herself out of office politics. Steph was a young girl–several years younger than I–and not only did she leave behind her PP family but she also left behind a young son and husband. I can’t imagine how hard it’s going to be for her son to deal with losing his mother way too early in his life.

Steph’s struggles with cancer began in July of 2012 and yesterday her body finally gave up and understandably sought peace. Cancer is such an impossible battle. I watched it literally consume my sister’s body until there was nothing left. I admire anyone who bravely fights an illness of this kind and the people who stick by their side the whole way. Take it from me, watching a loved one go through something like that is beyond painful. It takes all the strength you possess and more.

I’ve noticed that people who face life-threatening illness tend to buckle down and prepare themselves for the fight of their lives. They develop an unshakable will and determination to do whatever it takes to live. However, I can’t help but consider the contrast too. I think of the people out there who have their health and are not facing death, yet they give up way before their time. A friend of mine lost the love of her life last Christmas Eve. His death was in part due to drug use. She has not gotten over this loss and probably never will. To add insult to injury, just a few days ago, almost exactly a year later, she lost a good friend to drug use. There’s a lot of shame around using drugs, so much so that even close friends are unaware of one’s private struggles with addiction. That’s a lot of energy spent hiding one’s pain from the world and I can see how it would be consuming. I hope for all of those suffering that the will to live overcomes shame and that help is sought.

Hard, deadly drugs seem to be becoming more prevalent in our society today. My 46-year-old brother has lost several friends in the past few years to drugs. He lives in Ocean City, MD and heroin use seems to be exploding there. This absolutely shocked me to hear because, first of all, I thought that only rock stars and Hollywood actresses did heroin and secondly, well…doesn’t everyone and their mother know that heroin is one of the worst recreational drugs one could ever take? If you’re going to a resort town to party, why the heck would you pursue a potential overdose of a toxic substance? Am I alone in this? I just don’t get it. When I was down there last, we went to Rehoboth Beach, DE for some food and they’d just busted a bunch of people selling heroin needles right on the beach. This is the place where we spent our summers as a family! Even in our hometown, they’re finding meth labs every day. What the hell are people thinking?

Rest in peace my friend. Until we meet again.

It’s this contrast that I find puzzling. Some people will fight with every last fiber of the being to live and some easily give up. I’m not going to sugar coat any of this and I have no desire to be judgemental but this isn’t an issue of education or lack there of. The entire world knows that heroin, meth and the like are toxic and potentially lethal. When you begin taking drugs like this, you must know in some capacity that you are giving up on life in some way shape or form. Yes, it’s a form of escapism, and I know life is hard but when I think about people like Steph who face almost certain death and refuse to give up, I have very little pity for those who are feeling down so they need a drug-induced pick-me-up.

Then there is this horrible grey area where unsuspecting people are being sold death in pill form by drug companies. I feel for the well-meaning folks who are hooked on prescription drugs, such as opiate pain medications (basically heroin hiding under a fancy name). We are told that drugs are bad and that they’ll kill you, yet drug companies slap a new name on a deadly substance, provide doctors with incentives to prescribe it, and now people assume that what they’re being given is safe because doctors know best. The only thing safer about these prescribed drugs is that there is dosage, side effect, and contradiction information provided. They’re most certainly as toxic and habit-forming as any street drug though.  They slowly modify and breakdown the body just like any other drug and people often forget that innocently mixing them with alcohol or even Tylenol can be fatal. With the best of intentions, people get hooked and if worst comes to worst and the doctor cuts you off, these medicines are so commonly prescribed that they can easily be found in the pocketbook of the person next to you. And if desperation takes hold, don’t worry, you can find it being sold on the beach in a family resort town.

I just don’t know what to think about all of this. Some people fight so hard for life, some do everything they can to escape it, and some are just duped. Your thoughts?



2012-05-07 13.24.41 It’s been a little while since I’ve posted so I thought I would check in.  As of today, I’m a free agent when it comes to work– which is a completely scary thought. This past Sunday, I was lifting one of my patients (who is heavier than me–dumb idea, right?) and I literally burst the blood vessels in my head. Throughout the day, this turned into the mother of all migraines and I knew I should probably consider a trip to the hospital.  I tried to contact my supervisor to tell her of my situation but she never takes her phone with her and/or never answers so I knew I had to stick it out because Alzheimer’s patients aren’t safe to leave alone. So I put the needs of my patients first and worked through the pain for a grand total of 14 hours. This is not the first time that this has happened to me in this job. Usually the migraines are from not stopping to eat or properly hydrate but sadly, I have burst blood vessels in my head before because of lifting beyond my capacity. My supervisor (actually her husband) showed up four hours late to relieve me and found me a complete mess. By the time he got home, I could barely open my eyes and I was on the verge of vomiting. The pain was beyond comprehension. Eventually, I made it home, took two Aleve (my saving grace) and went to sleep with the complete joy of knowing I had to do it all again the next day. Monday comes and my head is still killing me, of course. I go to work and tell my supervisor what happened so she does the lifting for me that morning. The only problem is that she puts the patient on her couch without a pee-pad under her so she of course wets the couch. This becomes my fault because I should have been able to know when she was going to pee and lift her to get her changed. So I ended the day on Monday knowing that I had to choose between my health or my job.

To make matters very much worse, on my drive home from work I see a very fresh accident up ahead. There are about five fire trucks (presumably because it happened about a mile from a fire station) on the side of the road, no ambulance or police yet, and some people have pulled off. I keep waiting for someone to either direct me around the accident or tell me to stop but no one does. So I slowly keep on driving. I see what I think is a bumper in the road so I cautiously swerve around just a few feet from it. Then I realize that it’s not a bumper, it is, in fact, a person. I stopped my car right there next to him and froze in a complete state of shock and panic. Most of his dead body was on the left side of my car, one of his legs was on the right side of my car, his shoes were ahead of me. And my car is literally stopped on the fifteen-foot blood streak made by his head being smeared on the pavement. I couldn’t believe any of it. There were five or more first responders there and no one was managing the situation. This person’s body was just alone out in the middle of a dark, unlit, country road for someone (like me) to hit again. He wasn’t covered up, there was no one directing me around his body, there was no one there slowing me down, nothing. It felt like a complete disregard for life. I spent all day yesterday in bed basically. I just felt so lost. This morning, I finally searched for the accident to see what exactly happened. He was a 19-year old boy riding his bicycle. That’s all they know. It barely made the news.

2012-05-07 13.24.29It can all be taken away from us so fast and yet we live our lives like it’s forever. We’re one of the most intelligent species on the planet, yet we’re completely stupid. We worry too much, we’re afraid of anything that is even remotely meaningful, and we put everything off…even our happiness. What the hell are we waiting for? I just don’t understand sometimes. Clearly, I haven’t got any solid answers because I basically gave myself a brain aneurysm over a job. Once again, I must pick myself up and dust myself off and you think it would get easier but it doesn’t. And I’m not ashaimed to say that right now, I’m not okay. I AM NOT OKAY. And that is okay to say. None of us will ever be perfect so let’s stop striving for something that doesn’t exist. Sorry for such a depressing post. I promise the next one will be on the happier side. Pinky swear. Now, I’m gunna go make some lemonade out of these lemons because lemonade is freakin’ delicious!


A gift from a new friend

DSCF1526Thanks to the marketing geniuses over at the Chronogram, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of wonderful people and gain some beneficial connections. One of the many awesome people I’ve been lucky enough to meet through the Chronogram experience is Ami. He’s a musician, poet, and bad ass Kombucha (Ombucha) maker from New Paltz, NY. He contacted me after reading my post about losing Barry White Kitty. Being the cat lover he is, he was moved to write B&W a song on guitar with lyrics that will make you cry like a baby. Here’s the link to the video of him performing the song. Thank you Ami, for letting me share this with the folks who knew and loved B&W. Grab a hanky because here are the lyrics/poem he wrote for my little furry companion:

He was a friend. He was a lover. Much more than that. He was a life-hugger.

Though barry white
stole a heart
his soul’s an ever part
with black patches
in a sea of white
his memories float above
in the light
of his boundless love.




wpid-IMG_20120524_071852.jpgwpid-IMG_20120522_090038.jpgwpid-IMG_20120522_090045.jpgOne of my favorite birds of all time, a house wren, has taken up residence in the funky bird house on my porch. I just assumed that the bird house would end up being a wasps nest so I was delighted to see the tiny little male building a nest in it the second day it was out. I left him some cotton from vitamin bottles to pad his nest with. It took a few days for the bird to trust my gift enough to use it but eventually he couldn’t resist. So hopefully if all works out well and the female approves, I will see 5 to 6 little wren chicks on my porch. I’m crossing my fingers.

At the same time of the move in, I found a dead baby bird in our driveway. I buried it in a place where I can easily dig it back up a year from now to collect the bones and re-articulate them.  The world works in strange ways…life just beginning and ending. But I don’t believe in either really. I just believe in transformation. It’s moments like this that I find the 1st Law of Thermodynamics insightful: energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy can change forms and energy can flow from one place to another, but the total energy of a system remains the same. It’s a comforting thought.