Yoga Kicked My Ass

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One of the many benefits that my employer offers is free twice-weekly yoga classes. Over Christmas break I decided that, after almost three years on the job, I would start to take these classes.

Once we returned to work after our break, I made a trip down to Ross and bought the last yoga mat they had to reinforce my commitment – a whole $15 for that mat – to taking these classes.

Last night was the first class. Last night was also my last class.

To put it simply, it kicked my ass. I mean, really. And it’s when you take a yoga class that you realize you’re not in the shape that you thought you were.

Granted I had never taken any classes outside of what’s offered on Wii Fit and some other fitness game I have on Xbox, so there was some familiarity with it but not a full understanding.

She says this to everyone

And from those games I knew the poses everybody knows: warrior, downward-facing dog, and the chair pose. But also, I would do these in the privacy of the den with nobody around and I got used to it, even if I sucked at it.

Taking yoga with people is a different thing entirely. For one, breathing plays a big part in yoga if not the main part. When you’re with a class of people in a small, quiet room listening to new age music and meditation bowls bonging, no matter how hard you’re trying to concentrate on your own breathing, you hear everyone else gasping for air and your focus – well, mine at least – gets lost. And for what it’s worth, I liked it better doing it alone.

Then there’s the flexibility issue. In a word, I’m not. I can easily walk/jog (75/25 I’d estimate) a half-marathon distance, go for a day of hiking without much water or ride 25 miles on the bike at any given time because I’ve conditioned my body and strengthened it for doing those things. Yoga isn’t any of those so it would take some getting used to and even so, I doubt I’d gain the flexibility of others.

The after effects of yoga didn’t sit well with me either. Years ago, Ann got me a massage for my birthday and while it was indeed relaxing, the release of the toxins messed me up by way of a headache and severe sinus issues that lasted for days. Last night I came home to the same symptoms plus I looked like I was hit by a Mack truck. Thankfully all these symptoms went away by morning.

On the plus side: I slept so good but parts of my body are still sore today.

Finally, the class ran really long. I guess for free this shouldn’t be a legitimate complaint but when I’m off at 6 pm and don’t end up getting home until 8 pm, it not only makes for a long day in general but it also bites into a big chunk of family time. And with things being the way they are lately, I don’t need to be around them less.

So I came, I tried, and I didn’t like. I’ll keep my gym membership and not try not to think about that $15 investment not being the best one I’ve made recently.

Unless the cats decide it would make a good bed.

Of Mice and Mental States

I’m not the one to keep resolutions because frankly, I never make them. My motto is “Commit, don’t resolve” because to me a resolution sounds like a one-time deal that, once accomplished, holds no promise for the future. You did it and it’s over. Boom.

Whereas a commitment means you’re in it for the long haul. And when I make up my mind to do something, I commit myself to it.

Photo Jan 13, 9 44 24 PM

The nifty little notebook you see here has become my companion over the last year. I’ve been taking it to Ann’s doctor appointments, Anthony’s high school orientation, and using it to jot down notes whenever I needed to. And in December, I started to compile a list of things I was planning on doing in 2019. The whole new year, new me thing looked like a really good idea.

And it was going fine – until shit hit the fan. Now working on that list is the last thing on my mind. But for shits and giggles, let’s see what it said and how realistic these goals were in the first place or if I plan to pick them up again.

1. Health: weight loss, Buddhism, meditation. From the start of the year up until this weekend, I had lost 3.6 pounds. Then the weekend came and as I stressed out about the baby-daddy bullshit in Texas, I pretty much ate my way through it with only one day at the gym, and it wasn’t even a long day there. I haven’t picked up any books, digital or otherwise, on Buddhism and haven’t meditated. Just not in the right state of mind although I could probably use both. I am, however, going to start taking advantage of the office’s free, twice-weekly yoga classes this week. After being there three years I might as well give it a shot.

2. Following through: getting caught up on bills, cleaning. This is one area that we could definitely use some help with and we have all but one bill under control. Much like sports teams, this is a “rebuilding year” for us and we don’t plan bringing home the hardware; we just want to make it to the finish line in better shape than the start and be ready for the following season after learning from our mistakes. For lack of a better term, you could call this “adulting.” As for cleaning? It’s happened in small bunches.

3. Reading in general. No, no, no. I’m not quite sure who got a hold of my notebook and wrote this one in there because if there’s one thing I simply cannot do for an extended period of time, it’s read. I usually fall asleep when I do and considering I’m stuck in front of a monitor all day proofreading fine print and whatnot, reading on my own free time is the last thing I want to do for fun.

4. Less Facebook. I seem to say this one quite a bit and it almost never works out. My goal was to post less and use it only as a resource for news and other things of interest I follow. Even then it’s a rabbit hole. It’s still a possibility – I can keep to myself rather well, unlike others who feel the urge to post every. single. thing that they do, no matter how mundane or stupid.

5. Learn Spanish. Yet another thing I have tried to accomplish in the past but like reading, bores me to tears. I end up putting the tablet down and having nightmares about the Duolingo owl pecking my eyes out. Granted my comprehension of Spanish is limited to reading and listening and I’m pretty good at both. But speaking? Ay, dios mío.

6. Creativity: writing, drawing, etc. I’ve actually taken action on this one and bought myself a new sketch pad and ink pens. Whether it continues is anybody’s guess.

Again, I had planned on doing all of these things before that fucking letter arrived. Having to go through this bullshit has not been fun for either my wallet, my family or my mental health, and all I’ve been wanting to do at night is put on my earbuds, listen to white noise and fall asleep. Despite the fact that this case is obviously does not involve me directly, I hate having to deal with it and just want it to all go away hopefully without having to spend any more money on my attorney.

I mean, how would you feel? This isn’t a parking ticket; this is some serious shit. I’m pissed, annoyed, and defeated. And while I know it will be worked out in the end, I won’t be truly happy or satisfied until it is.

But until that happens, I just want to find a hole to hide in and not be bothered.

(Note that I really am annoyed with all this. Therefore, language here might be on the blue side until matters are finally worked out but until then, buckle up. Sorry about that.)

Part IV: In Vain

The fourth part of an ongoing series

A few notes before I start this post. I know it’s been a few months since I wrote anything so my apologies for that but things are finally starting to wind down for us and getting back to normal. I just haven’t had the drive to write lately and honestly, have been tired in the evening – the time I normally blog.

Second, this post will deal with the topic of religion and the role its played in my life, so the language may be a little too much to handle for some. But understand where I’m coming from and what we were going through. Thanks.

Going back to work after hearing word of the official diagnosis was tough, but I had to do it.

As I walked to my desk, a coworker asked how Ann was doing. I just looked at her and shook my head, then continued to my desk where I grabbed a tissue and wiped away tears that had started to form. The coworker stood there for a second then slowly walked away as if she regretted asking.

But sadness was just one of the emotions I was feeling at the time. I was also extremely upset and angry about how life was taking a really strange twist for us. Regardless of what I was feeling, I had to get myself back into work mode and take care of business.

Gina, whom I sit next to, showed up at her normal time and asked how everything was going. The two of us are close – she’s the person in the last story of this blog post and I find it easy to talk to her about almost anything. Although I had been giving her updates via text/Messenger, I still felt the need to talk to her about everything that was going on so we went outside and sat on the patio to chat.

And it was a good, therapeutic talk. She told me that her mom had the same procedure done years ago with the cancer was completely removed and after all her follow-up tests, she is still cancer-free. It then turned into a big, fat philosophical discussion that lead to personal beliefs which we share.

Basically, we’re spiritualists. We believe that doing good and being good do not require the shackles of religion and that any act of kindness can’t automatically be attributed to God or whatever. Goodness is ingrained in people. We do good things. No bible required.

Even so, I was having a difficult time with this.

“You know, sometimes it’s okay to believe in something bigger, whatever that might be. If that’s what helps pull you through then I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” she said.

I hadn’t prayed in years. I left the Catholic church as an adult when I realized their teachings no longer aligned with the person I was becoming, so I wasn’t sure that her way of thinking would be right for me.

In any case, I thanked her for the time and gave her a big hug to show her my appreciation, then we went back to our desks and started working.

After the long day at the office was done and the kid was in bed for the night, I sat at my desk with a candle burning and got lost in some old pictures. I don’t know why I did this.

All of my photos are organized in folders by date and, if necessary, the event or place we visited. I have thousands of images saved on an external hard drive and DVD backup and could be here all night looking at them.

I guess that might have been my intention – and my mistake.

I kept opening folders. My eyes started to well up as I recalled all of the little things he did when he was an infant, his giggle, everything. And then I got to this picture from 2005 and it was all over.

02-18-05 kodak 020

I don’t know what it was about it; it could have been the first picture I came across with Ann and Anthony together. I stared at it for a minute and started to really cry.

My wife, the one I’m supposed to grow old with, the one I promised to give my life to, the mother to my only child, was lying in the living room asleep on the couch – and had cancer growing inside of her.

The world suddenly got smaller as I thought about Dad and how young he was when he had passed away and how unfair it was to everyone in my family. I thought about his funeral and the seven short years we had together. What kind of cruel creator would subject people to this kind of nonsense?

Crying turned to loud sobbing as I stared at that picture for even longer, my mind racing a mile a minute.

“I don’t know what I’d do without her. Why her? What the hell has she done?”

Thoughts turned into words as I looked to the sky and spoke up.

“SHE HAS NEVER HURT ANYONE IN HER LIFE AND DOES NOT DESERVE THIS. What, taking my dad at a young age wasn’t enough for you? Now you see it fit to give my own wife cancer? With all the evil in the world, this is your plan for her? She’s a mother, goddamnit! Can’t you see that? I mean, FUCK. Can you be more cruel?”

Everything was piling up on me. My heart was pounding and I had reached my breaking point. Finally I got up out of my chair and with both hands, flipped off the heavens and raised my voice.

“FUCK YOU, GOD! JUST…FUCK YOU! YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE! AND FUCK YOUR PLAN.”

I sat back down and laid my head on the desk, crying uncontrollably. I had no regrets over what I had just said because I meant every single word.

And what little faith I had in God or a god was officially gone.

Part III: Confirmation

The third part of an ongoing series

A few days after being released from the hospital, it was time to visit the doctors who had been providing Ann’s care during her stay. First on the list was Dr. F, the oncologist.

At this point we weren’t quite sure why we were scheduled to see him. From all indications, and according to both doctors, the mass was not cancerous. Regardless, we kept the appointment.

This was the first time either of us had been to an oncologist. Fortunately, at least up until this point in our lives, the two of us have remained relatively healthy and free from any serious illnesses. With that in mind, let me tell you about an oncology office.

They are quite simply the most depressing places on earth. As we sat in the lobby waiting to be called, we could see beds beyond the reception area with IV bags hanging from shiny chrome stands next to them. Patients walking by with the stand receiving their chemotherapy with needles and tubes in different parts of their body. Relatives/spouses/children of patients walking out of the office in tears. Overhearing stories of what sort of therapy someone had to go through, then watching them slowly hobble out the door struggling to live whatever may be left of their lives.

It’s not an easy thing to see.

When Ann was called, we were directed to a room and waited for Dr. F. to arrive. Our room had a SpaceX poster autographed by Elon Musk. I stared at that longer than Dr. F.’s certifications that were hanging all over the walls.

Dr. F. finally arrived and greeted us. He brought along a laptop which had the results of all of the testing she had done at the hospital. He explained everything in detail but mentioned something specifically the needed attention.

“During the scan, we noticed these lesions on the left side near the hip,” he said as he turned the laptop to show us. “What we need to do is to determine exactly what those lesions are, which will require a biopsy.”

Ann’s bottom lip began to quiver as she held back tears. It wasn’t long before they started running down her cheek. Dr. F. handed her some tissue as he assured her that in most cases he had seen, the results are normally negative.

“We have to be sure it’s nothing. But based on what you feel and the location of the mass, I’m not convinced it’s anything to worry about.” In his professional opinion, the lesions were simply the result of arthritis.

We left Dr. F.’s office and walked back to the car. Ann couldn’t hold back anymore. She took a deep breath and looked at me. She had pretty much tuned out everything after the talk of the biopsy.

“So is it cancer?”

“From what he thinks, the lesions aren’t. But the mass on the kidney might be, which is why you need the biopsy to make sure the lesions aren’t.”

A few days later, we had a visit with Dr. P. Like Dr. F., his laptop was his window to Ann’s case and he went over his thoughts and how we were going to take care of it.

“The mass on the kidney is 5 cm. We could work to remove just the cancer itself but there’s no guarantee that it won’t return, so if you have no objections to it, I’d recommend removing the entire kidney which would ultimately remove the cancer as well.”

This was the first time we heard either doctor mention “cancer” during our conversations. Ann and I looked at each other and we both cried. Dr. P. immediately consoled us.

“Ann, I’m going to do everything I can to take care of this. The good thing is that kidney cancer is something that has a high survival rate once the kidney and cancer are removed.”

He then went over the procedure he would most likely be doing in order to remove it, complications, recovery time, etc. Any way you look at it, it was not a good day.

You always hear of other people getting some kind of cancer and you never think it will happen to you or someone you love. However, when it does, I can’t even begin to describe the emotions you go through.

Fear. Anger. Denial. Solitude. It will really mess with your mind.

When we got home, we all sat and talked about it. Despite the gloom and doom of the diagnosis of cancer, in the back of my mind I knew everything was going to be fine. It’s the only way to keep a sense of normalcy in your life after you get such shocking news.

But something happened to confirm this.

After the family talked things over, we got together and had a big family hug. We needed each other more than ever at this point. As we cried and talked about how we were going to be strong throughout all of this, I raised my head up to temporarily leave the discussion.

I sensed something strong in the room – a presence. It spoke to me and I smiled.

Ann looked up at me and asked what was going on. Still smiling, I answered.

“You’re going to be alright,” I said as I started to cry. “I just felt Uncle Lou tell me this. I saw him. He just stood there laughing, waved his hand and said ‘Bah, she’s going to be fine.’”

All you need to know about Uncle Lou can be read here. He was a great man and I miss him terribly.

Later that night, Ann asked why Uncle Lou would be the one to give me this news.

As I wrote in another blog post about him, “…he’ll just show up at your door unannounced. That’s not unusual until you consider that he lives in northern California, exact location unknown, and we’re in southern California.”

So for him to just show up the way he always did was nothing out of the ordinary. But being we rarely saw him, he hardly had the chance to get to know Ann and she was puzzled as to why I saw him and more importantly, why he would say she’d be fine.

Uncle Lou died on March 1, 2013. That’s just over 5 years ago.

Ann’s birthdate is March 1. The cancerous mass on her kidney is 5 cm.

It could have been anyone, but I’m not disappointed or surprised it was Uncle Lou. I can still see him and hear him saying those exact words.

Everything was going to be alright and there was no real reason to question it. Despite this, the next few days would be some of the worst I would ever experience when trying to deal with Ann’s diagnosis.

Part II: Hospital Stay

Part II of an ongoing series

With Ann staying the night in the hospital, I had to make some calls and send emails. First, I had to call her parents then send an email to the boss and my coworkers letting them know I would be absent at least for the day.

The latter was easy. The former, not so much.

Ann’s mom doesn’t speak to you in most cases. She questions you, and I was ready for a barrage of questions upon calling her. And that’s exactly what I got.

“Oh, so she’s staying? Well, why didn’t you take her to the ER in the first place? How long will she be there? Do they know what it is? Why do the have to keep her?”

The list can go on but I did my best to answer them all. Everything was still too fresh and I didn’t have all of the info to properly respond during my interro…conversation with her.

Ann lay in the triage waiting to be put in the queue for two different types of imaging: an ultrasound and CT scan. Apparently the ER is a rockin’ place for such things on a Thursday morning.

It would be hours before she was wheeled away for the ultrasound and I went along with her.

She was taken into a dark room and then went into the restroom where she donned her aforementioned hospital gown. The technician described what they were going to be doing and she was okay with it; nothing she hadn’t already experienced during her pregnancy.

I was watching the technician intently as she was doing the ultrasound and it looked all too familiar: zooming in on blobby imagery and taking measurements. In the case of pregnancy, that means they are measuring the size of the fetus but when you know it’s not there’s obviously some cause for concern. Right then I figured something wasn’t right.

Ann was then wheeled down another hallway into a room for her CT scan, one of many she would have over the duration of her hospital stay.

And hospitals are freaky places. Cold, freaky places that simply are not home sweet home. This was my takeaway as we followed nurse after nurse after technician down what seemed like endless hallways that all lead somewhere – really Twilight Zone-ish.

As I followed her and the technician down another hallway, we were greeted by a group of police officers who were standing at the doorway of a room. I’m not sure of the circumstances but they were all looking in the room at who I believe was a suspect of some kind. A female officer smiled and waved at Ann as we passed.

I wasn’t allowed in the room as the CT scan was performed which is understandable. I sat outside the room where my wife’s body was being bombarded with radiation, each flash of the “X-RAY IN PROGRESS” sign above the doorway letting me know when it was happening. After the scan, she was taken back to the triage where we waited for the results.

The day dragged on and Ann and I talked about what was happening. She told me she was scared and rightfully so. I held her hand and bowed my head thinking about just what in the world may have been going on. Finally, a doctor came by with some news.

“Looking at the ultrasound, there appears to be some kind of abnormality around the uterus. It’s hard to determine exactly what it might be at this stage but one possibility is an ectopic pregnancy.”

That news alone was a heart-wrenching. With an ectopic pregnancy, there’s no chance of survival for the fetus and it’s likely that the mother could suffer from internal bleeding which could kill her. It’s just a reminder of how many things can go wrong during a pregnancy, and how a pregnancy that produces a healthy baby truly is a miracle – women are indeed stronger than men.

As painful as it was to hear that news, we knew that a pregnancy was out of the question. We’re not exactly spring chickens anymore.

When the results of the CT scan came back, the abnormality shifted from the uterus to the adrenal gland and it now had a size: 5 cm. Now the course of action was to keep Ann at the hospital for blood work and a daily urine sample in order to check the hormone levels in her system. If the abnormality was on the adrenal gland, the hormone levels would be low.

I stayed with Ann as long as I could until she told me to go have dinner and get some sleep. We left Anthony at home and sent him updates as I found things out.

Her first night in the hospital was strange. The bed at home felt so empty. I felt so alone. After 25 years, this just didn’t feel right.

Her hormone levels remained acceptable her entire stay. The second day, she was visited by a urologist (Dr. P) and oncologist (Dr. F). Dr. P had a little more detail on things. I arrived in time to hear him speak.

“Looking further, it appears that the mass is on the outside of the kidney and not the adrenal gland as we had originally thought,” he said. At this point, the abnormality was just referred to as a mass but Ann was worried after a visit from Dr. F.

That’s because an oncologist studies cancer. He was called because the scan showed not only an abnormality but also what appeared to be lesions in her hip bone, so he needed to let her know there’s a possibility of something else going on inside her body.

As if, already scared, she needed something else to worry about.

“I will look at it and if it’s nothing to worry about, you won’t see me again,” Dr F. said as Ann lightly sobbed.

After Ann was released from her three-day hospital stay, we would be seeing both doctors within a week.

That nothing was something after all.