Spring – early summer 2003 for Mimi & Ian
After finally recuperating from his condition and surgery Ian got a job at a new Starbucks. He worked with a lively crew that bonded over all the crazy things that happen when you open a new store with a… well… unusual manager.
Every Wednesday Ian would unwind at trivia by playing with an old established team called Wendell, named after one of its ‘founding fathers.’ His friend since 7th grade and housemate Frank and Frank’s wife Kodiak would play on another team. A friendly bit o’ rivalry. After trivia, which doesn’t really have time or a volume condusive to chatting, folks would go to one of the neighboring watering holes to drink and talk. The Depot was next door and Bob’s Keg & Cork was across the street.
Near the end of June or so I joined Frank and Kodiak’s team to try to enter into the real world again. I had spent the previous three years either in the hospital or almost completely housebound. To be in public was a strange and exciting experience. I met Ian very very briefly one night… I don’t even think he gave me a second glance or said more than ‘nice to meet you.’ Perhaps if I had decorated that cane with a bit more flair I would have managed a few more words from him.
After going to trivia a few times and getting myself a little more established with the crowd I was able to sit next to Ian and have a chat or two when we all migrated to the surrounding pubs. He seemed like a nice guy. I was attracted to the fact that he always wore leather straps and chains on his right wrist. He was a musician. We had the same kind of sense of humor. But I still wasn’t sure if there was a sparkle or anything that might mean there was some sort of interest on his part. Granted, I wasn’t feeling very attractive and didn’t even feel like I owned the body I was in. Why would someone be attracted to that?
Funny thing is that Ian would have to take a number if he was interested. I had been flirting with people through a dating site and there were several takers. One boy was a former American that had been in France since he was 14. We eventually talked on the phone, quite a bit, and became good friends. Some friends of mine were going to France, in his area, and had dinner with him based on my connection! That is such a strange experience to feel that a person isn’t quite real and then to see pictures and hear stories of a dinner that he had with my friends!
I also had an ex-boyfriend that had reentered the scene. We ran into a rocky patch when we were dating before I was diagnosed. He came to visit to make amends. It helped to heal some of the resentment that still lingered in me when it came to that time of my life. There was a spark that I thought might be rekindled into a new and improved romance.
And yet, the more I got to know Ian the more distracted I became from my other options. We would run off to a local store after trivia sometimes and get gobs of bulk candy and gossip. Sometimes we went for drives. Sometimes we watched movies.
It started when Ian asked me to go to a movie with him. We were hanging out at Bob’s and Frank was sitting between us. Ian asked and Frank included himself in the invitation. It was kinda cute how he didn’t quite understand that Ian was finally making some sort of move. I think it eventually dawned on him and he bowed out saying that he forgot he had to do something that day…
We went and saw “The Order” with Heath Ledger and afterward became caught up in a crowded street full of show-off cars, roaring engines and tricked out hydraulics. It was surreal! Turns out that’s a regular event where people show up to the main street in town – earlier for classic cars, later for tricked cars – to parade up and down the street. We were completely caught up in it!
Our first ‘real’ date was to a new, not yet publicized, little French restaurant called “Carousel.” I dressed in a black shirt dress and crazy platform oxfords. Might as well make a statement, right! The place was pretty romantic and the food was quite good. Apparently I managed to make a good impression on Ian because he went to work the next day and told his friend, Des, that he was in love. In love! (I get a little teary eyed when she tells me the story of how he seemed over the moon.)
Spring 2003 for Mimi
After recouping from my spell detoxifying in the hospital I decided to tackle the next step in becoming, or trying to become, healthy: chemo. The chemo that my specialist in Portland wanted to do was different than anything I’d heard of before. Rather than taking a pill I would have a catheter inserted into my femoral artery and threaded up to my liver to directly administer chemo. Because I had to be on blood thinners due to my artificial heart valves the trick was to get a clot to form between the catheter and the liver so that the chemo would go into my liver and not all about my liver. And you might ask how long this took… it was five days, every four weeks for four months.
The catch of the deal: I wasn’t allowed to move (couldn’t move the leg that was being used for treatment, couldn’t sit up more than 30 degrees, could not get out of bed) for the five day treatment lest it compromise the catheter. Yeah. Good times.
Each time made me feel sicker at first and stronger right before the next treatment. I thought it must be working… I wanted to believe that all the effort, discomfort and pain meant dying tumors. Unfortunately, it did not.
At the last session the catheter was removed and pressure was applied to the incision. Everything seemed as it had the other three times. But that evening when I was getting changed for bed I noticed that my bandage needed to be replaced. Let me just say that the femoral artery has an incredible amount of pressure that allows it to carry blood to your feet and force it back up. As I found out in the ER at my local hospital my artery had been torn from the removal of the catheter.
Observation overnight made the staff comfortable that I could go home… until I saw bleeding again. I won’t go into details about the process that followed or the pain and meds. I did eventually go into surgery and have it repaired.
I left the hospital when I could finally use my leg and feel the floor beneath my foot. A heavy duty cane became my new right hand man and I hated it. I should have put scarves on it and made it look like Steven Tyler’s mic!
I reconnected with an old friend who’s father worked in the hospital and had heard I was there. She invited me to come to trivia night at a local pub with her fiance, Frank. That’s where I met Ian.
Fall 2002 and winter 2003 for Ian
Ian had returned to Yakima the fall of 2002 (originally he had visited years before) because his friend from 7th grade, Frank, was planning on getting married, had just bought a house and wanted Ian to participate in the wedding and help get the new homestead set up.
Unfortunately, Ian ran into a dangerous appendix situation around the beginning of the year but because his insurance didn’t kick in until the very 1st day of the new year he had to wait. That could have been a really dangerous decision… So while everyone else was counting down and toasting the new year Ian was getting a ride to the ER.
As it turned out it wasn’t a ‘simple’ appendectomy. The end of Ian’s intestine had managed to twist around and up inside his abdomen. He was in incredible pain and it took him months to recover.
When he did recover he managed to get a job at a new Starbuck’s in town which offered flexible hours and a fun group of folks to network and work with.
January 2003 for Mimi
In January of 2003 I was still trying to recover from a triple heart valve replacement that had happened the previous October and was doing a pretty lousy job. I suppose it wasn’t my fault that I weighed next to nothing (turns out it was 113 lbs.) and couldn’t keep a thing down. It was decided that I be tucked away in the nearest hospital to get a little weight put on and to get back into the swing of things.
It’s funny to think that Ian and I were in the hospital at the same time. (Stay tuned for his story.) I had gone in at the beginning of the month and stayed until the 19th. Just enough time to become friends with the nurses and staff.
I was put on an IV and left to sleep. I don’t even remember the first few days because I was completely exhausted and realized that my only job was to heal and eat. And eventually I was able to eat without tossing my cookies. My days consisted of sleeping, eating, bathing, visiting with friends and, oh, sleeping and eating some more. I would often request midnight snacks of cheese and crackers and anything else they could find.
After having my body sorted out and ridded of all the medications that were making me sick I was put on new medications that were supposed to keep my appetite up and help me sleep. Instead they made me paranoid and fearing for my life… but at least they tried. Right?
I was just a shadow of my normal self. A sliver of a person with lips that were constantly red. Good to know that the new heart parts were working. One of the nurses had lots of nicknames for the fact that I looked like I was wearing lipstick.
Here you’ll be able to read about Ian and Mimi and how we spent 2003 until we met each other and what’s happended to us since. (Psssst… it has a happy ending!)