A Day In The Life

Since the new year I’ve watched 9 different friends make the decision to try to quit smoking. They’ve had varying degrees of success, but I’m proud of all of them. Let me pause to make one thing clear – I’m in no position to be telling people shit when it comes to vices like smoking, drinking, and drugs. I’ve done my share of all of those, and I still actively partake in pretty much all of them.

No, I’m not a chain smoker. No, I’m not doing a bump of coke just to get my day started. I am, however, almost certainly a textbook functional alcoholic. But that’s not the point right now! The point is – I get it. I get how hard it is to walk away from something that is not only a useful outlet or release, but to walk away from something that has the grip on you that addiction can. I get it. I’ve been there. But I also get why you want to quit. And even though I’m kind of a poster child for “sometimes life just fucks you over” cases of cancer, I’m ALL for people reducing risk factors in any way. And here’s why: this is what a pretty typical day in my life looks like:

7:30 AM – First Alarm: This is what I’ve started to refer to as my Zombie Alarm. I simultaneously sit up and cringe as I wake up enough to become very aware of the stabbing pains and absurd tension my body has acquired overnight. I grab the six pills I sat next to my bed the previous night and take them. I lay back down and try to go back to sleep while they do their thing to dull the stabbing pains to a much more manageable throbbing ache.

8:30 AM – Second Alarm: Time to vomit! Yes, every day. Because while the pain medications do a great job of making my body less sore, they’re hell on my digestive system and don’t play well with my stomach. So the first thing I really do every day is vomit. The quick trot or frantic sprint to the bathroom (depending how long I put this part of my day off) is the first test of how rough of a day it’s going to be, because some days – well, some days my body just doesn’t let me move as fast as I’d like.

9:30 AM – By this point I’m usually done vomiting (although not always), and I’ve usually also managed to brush my teeth at least once by this point. It’s getting close to the time that I need to take my next round of pills, and I need to eat with this particular set. I spend the next 30 minutes scowling into my pantry as I exhaust all the options of things that seem like they might be edible and easily digestible (read: not quite so terrible to throw up later), before settling on Teddy Grahams. (At least they’re cute, right?)

10:00 AM – More pill popping! Oh, and if it’s a Wednesday, I get to give myself a shot, too! Double Fun!

10:30 AM – More vomiting, usually. If not, it’s back to bed because it takes all those meds a while to get their shit together and it’s just best to sleep off the worst of the beginning of side effects.

12:30 PM – Time to get up and go to work. If I’m lucky, the side effects are now manageable. If I’m not, I chug Pepto, take four advil, chug a glass of water, and hope the room stops spinning before I need to leave the house.

2:00 PM – Leave for work. And, yes, it takes me an hour and a half to shower, change, and put on make-up. The process that normally would take me 20 minutes, 30 minutes tops, is drastically slowed by 1) the three times I have to get out of the shower to throw up, 2) the constant battle against the ever present cotton mouth side effect, 3) the almost arthritic feeling of pain spread across my body at any given time.

3:30 PM – Work. I rally and show up at my job. I give myself a mental pep talk before standing behind a register for six and a half hours. I regularly tag in a co-worker to cover my register while heading to the bathroom to cringe in pain, take more pain killers, and/or vomit. During my break(s) I sit before I collapse. It’s always a very real struggle to get back up and going again. (And not in the “oh, I don’t wanna go back to work” kind of way. More in the “jesus fucking christ who replaced my legs with concrete and when did six kitchen knives get stuck in my back?” kind of way.)

10:30 PM – Home or Social Time. If I go home I collapse in bed immediately and become agitated with myself for not remembering to refill my water bottle when I wake up two hours later with the worst case of cotton mouth I’ve had all day. If I decide to be social to get all those “I haven’t seen you in ages” texts off my back or to escape my own depressing reality for a while, I slap on a game face first. I know no matter who I run into someone’s bound to do the “*sigh* so… how ARE you? *head-tilt*” thing. I fortify myself against the feelings of defeat and terror that seeing that response from friends will instill in me, and try to remember they’re only expressing concern out of a place of love.

1:30 AM – If I’ve been social, I’m home. And I’m collapsing. Sometimes literally. (Okay, only three times literally.) I start filling the bath tub to soak in epsom salts, because maybe, just maybe, that will help dull some of the ever present throbbing pains and aches that I’ve become too accustom to.

2:00 AM – In bed. Trying to sleep, but probably just trying not to cry or scream.

4:30 AM – Wake up to vomit. Realize on the way back that my body’s getting sore.

7:30 AM – Repeat

So, there it is. That’s my day in a nutshell. It’s not glamorous. It’s not fun. It’s not something I would ever wish on my worst enemy. And I sure as fuck wouldn’t want to watch any of my friends go through this.

I can’t and won’t tell you what to do with your life. But, if you’re looking for motivation to keep making healthy decisions for yourself, look no further. You DON’T want this to be your life. Trust me. And keep on fighting the good fight! I believe in you!

Ten Tips To Helping Me Survive Cold And Flu Season

Ah, late November. We’ve all just feasted on many great foods, we’re getting ready to do our holiday shopping, and Christmas music can be heard virtually everywhere. What a wonderful time of year, right? Well, sure. But it’s ALSO the start of cold and flu season – a time that turns a 20 minute commute to work into a gauntlet of dodging coughs and sneezes, mental reminders to TOUCH NOTHING, and panicked rushes for hand sanitizer when you realize you did in fact grab onto that bar to stead yourself when the bus came to a lurching stop because of the asshole with six shopping bags that decided they were too good to use a cross walk. In short, for people with a compromised or nonexistent immune system, the entire world rapidly turns into a scary place where a trip to the hospital and accidental germ warfare lurk around every corner.

Now, I’ve never been one to let curveballs the universe throws me slow me down. But in the interest of, like, living, I might have to significantly limit my time around people during the next few months. I might come across as a total dick and refuse to hug you, shake your hand, or come within an arm’s distance of you if you’re looking anything other than 100%. You see, that little sniffle you have that’s not a huge deal to you – that could be the thing that kills me. Because if I get a cold, there is no “letting it run its course.” It won’t run it’s course. It’ll continue to stick around, getting worse, and ultimately lead to pneumonia, because the little antibodies that fight off the cold and run it out of town are on strike right now.

Several of you keep pestering me about what you can do to help me out, make my life easier, or improve my quality of life during this battle. Here are 10 Things YOU can do to help out me and any other less-than-healthy people in your life this cold and flu season:

1.) Cover Your Goddamn Mouth When You Cough or Sneeze: If you’re coughing or sneezing, even if it’s “just a little cough” or “not because you’re sick,” you still need to cover your goddamn mouth. If you don’t you’re gross, and we can’t be friends.

2.) Carry Hand Sanitizer: And use it liberally. Just because you’re healthy doesn’t mean that the cashier you just handed your credit card is. It doesn’t mean the 27 people on the subway that was holding onto the strap before you were. Not only will your use of hand sanitizer help me stay away from peripheral germs, it’ll help you stay healthy, too! We both win!

3.) GET A FUCKING FLU SHOT!!! I don’t care if you buy into that well-debunked bullshit myth that flu shots actually make you sick. I don’t care if your belief in that myth caused you to have bogus psychosomatic symptoms the last time you got one. There are plenty of ways to get a flu shot for little to no cost.

4.) Stay Home If You’re Contagious: If you’re sick and you don’t absolutely need to go out, don’t. Exposing the rest of the population to your germs won’t do anyone any favors. Obviously there are certain unavoidable things, but don’t go out for a night on the town when you’re still in the red zone for spreading your sickness to others.

5.) Go To The Doctor: When’s the last time you had a physical? Since 90% of my friends are between the ages of 22 and 30, I’m willing to guess that for most of you the answer is “I don’t actually remember.” That should change, for your sake as well as mine. Not only will it help you make sure your own health is on track, it’ll also help you catch any random ailments or risk factors that are going to make you more susceptible to becoming sick and spreading your gross-ass germs to me.

6.) Refrain From Offering To Share Food: How many times have you been out with friends and eaten or drank something delicious and said something like “Oh my god, this is SO good, you HAVE to try it! Here! Take a sip/bite!” It’s normal. It’s polite. But it’s also a really great way to spread germs. Even if you’re feeling perfectly healthy, don’t do it. You have a fully functional immune system, and it might be fighting off something that my body can’t.

7.) Don’t Fucking Touch Me: Especially if you’re feeling less than 100%. I like many of you. But I don’t like most of you enough to risk getting sick because your sniffly self decided you needed to hug me.

8.) Brush Your Fucking Teeth: This is another one that comes with the added knowledge that if you don’t already do this regularly you’re gross and we might need to stop being friends. But I know an astonishing number of people who don’t take oral hygiene nearly as seriously as they should. Especially knowing where some of your mouths have been, ya nasty! Just make sure you’re cleaning out the infectious contagious hot-bed of germs that human mouths become.

9.) Don’t Take It Personally If I Disappear: I will likely cut back on going to places with large crowds. For sanity sake I’ll probably end up emerging for a few key events, but my presence in and around the social scene will become much more scarce. It’s not because I don’t support you or your event. I just need to avoid large groups of people when at least 40% of them are going to be carrying contagious illnesses.

10.) Take Care Of Yourself: Keep yourself healthy. Eat right. Wash your hands regularly. Make sure you’re doing what you need to do to keep yourself healthy. If you’re healthy, it’ll make it a lot easier for me to stay healthy without having to boycott your presence.

Please, and thank you! Until next time, be well.