September 6, 2017

On Esoteric Internal Organs and Earth-Bending

Man, life sometimes does not quibble about screwing you up and then leaving you to sort out the pieces. Some people get hurricanes, some people get forest fires. I get my insides suddenly deciding that they are utterly done with my shenanigans and shutting down.

Way back in May, I got on a scale and was pretty mad at the number it blared at me, somewhere between “Maybe lay off the hamburgers” and “Help! You’re squishing me to death!”. I’ve never been that heavy before; it made me feel sick both physically and mentally. Made a snap decision to go on a diet just by counting calories. Two months later, I was about 12 lbs lighter and happy and going to Comic-Con. Comic-Con equals a vacation to me, and vacations, as a rule, are not a diet-controlled environment. Why this is relevant will become clear in a second.

So many burgers and fancy desserts were happily ingested, and I returned to work the next week determined to jump back on my low-calorie bandwagon to continue the happy downward trend. The day of my last post, I had an attack of excruciating pain in my upper abdomen that felt like every part of my insides was cramping simultaneously. I simply gutted it out (literally, as my body tried really hard to vomit when I am sadly incapable of such), alternating between a corner of the sofa and my bathroom floor, hoping it would pass. When it did end after an hour or two, I called it good and went to bed. The next day, I started feeling more and more sick at work, and went straight from work to the ER as another attack hit. The pain was so bad it radiated through my jaw, head, and arm. There was general panic about a heart attack (it was not a heart attack). Then they thought I had an obstructed bowel (it wasn’t that either).

Here’s a fun fact about your gall bladder and liver: They don’t like sudden radical change. When you go months with very little fat and suddenly pile it on, it’ll adjust. It will be a little cranky about it, but it’ll shift into high bile production. If you then shift BACK to almost no fat, your gall bladder will go directly into “what in the BALLS” mode and just freak out trying to hold all that extra bile you suddenly don’t need.

It might not be that dramatic for most people, but I have about 20 years of experience with the fact that my digestive system is a portal to a dimension-hopping elder god that makes periodic visits to fill me full of hot pokers and sadness. I’ve had three different surgeries to address three separate issues in my abdomen; I am a cornucopia of interesting belly scars.

So once they confirmed the liver numbers were going “DANGER! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!” and scanned me three different ways they confirmed that yes, gall bladder was a pulsating sack of hatred, broken glass, and spite. They shot me full of anti-nausea meds and scheduled the surgery to have the little bastard removed. I had to wait a month for the surgery because socialized healthcare is affordable but not timely, during which time I ate almost nothing and had a painfully intimate relationship with anti-nausea medications.

On a scale of ouchiness, gall bladder removal actually isn’t that serious a surgery. The stomach surgery I had three years ago was much more heinous; I got a button I could push whenever the hurt got to be too much – that button saw a lot of use over the five days I was in hospital. This surgery sent me home from the hospital that day and I immediately tossed the oxycodone in favor of ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

I was feeling good, slept a bunch and decided to return to work five days later. I did a half day, being pretty tired and overall just bleh, but it didn’t seem that serious. Went home, took a three hour nap, and woke feeling much better. Got up and went downstairs to see about something dinnerish. Aaaaaaaand immediately had another attack. A full hour of excruciating pain, the works. I didn’t even have the organ this was supposed to be stemming from anymore. Whaaaaat the what, right? Just…how?

That was last week. Since then, I’ve had all the scans. Like, shot full of radio isotopes and held under a giant camera for hours sort of scenario. They can’t find what’s wrong. I’m still on the bland foods and liquids only diet. I’ve lost 30 lbs.  I had another attack over the weekend. This thing is not going down easily or quietly.

In spite of that, the surgery site itself seems to be healing well…although I have to say my belly button looks like the aftermath of a a lost fight with a angry knitting club. I’ve reached an impasse with treatment where we’re kind of in wait and see mode. So what do we do when we’re stuck waiting?  WE READ ALL THE THINGS.

Allow me to pimp one of my favorite authors: N. K. Jemisin and her fabulous series The Broken Earth. The last book in the trilogy just came out, which makes me happy because I hate waiting for new books in a series, so you won’t have to!

Start with the Hugo award winning The Fifth Season, a book about the end of the world. To be clear, the world ends in chapter one, and there is a whole lotta death right out of the gate, but only one death is really important to the narrative. This is a story about prejudice, family, love, survival, and what happens when we don’t buckle to what the world expects of us. Also, geothermal magic, which is metal as hell. Our protagonist Essun is a middle-aged woman, which is something you don’t often see, but her story, and her quest to rescue her daughter, are the driving force behind everything. The world ending? Just the beginning.

Jump to the also Hugo winner (double trouble!) The Obelisk Gate, where the earth-warping magic gets more bitchin’ yet hinky, and the weirdness of the world starts coming into a sharp scientific focus. Nassun, the daughter of our protagonist starts to come into her own here while surrounded by enemies and monsters, and Essun continues all the ass-kicking awesomeness that we enjoyed in The Fifth Season. The depth of her history with the destroyer of the world and the scale of the problem to overcome becomes shockingly large, and so too the sacrifices needed to maaaaaaybe solve it…a little…or destroy things worse.

I just finished the last book, The Stone Sky, this week. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this: we go back to move forward, and all the threads are woven into a satisfying whole come the last page. Solid, solid read. Worth the time, worth the sadness. And yes, you will be sad, yet fulfilled.

Once you’ve wallowed sufficiently in the glow of a series well-finished, look back at some of her older stuff. The Killing Moon and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms are both bizarrely awesome worlds and characters. I love her mental left turns and deeply-rooted cultures. She populates every story with a rich background of traditions and history. Nothing is ever one-dimensional or trite, it all carries depth and meaning.

Having finished all of that greatness, I’m now in a lull. What should I read next? I’ve got time to burn while I wait to see if my pancreas explodes or something.