My release is soon. According to my doctors, I could get out as soon as this week. Here’s what has to happen:

1. My counts have to be good. So far, so good.

2. I have to be able to eat 1,000 calories per day. Right now, I’m still struggling with broth and pudding. Today, perhaps I try some mashed potatoes. Tomorrow, if it’s rainy, I plan up on curling up with Game of Thrones and a Cranky Monkey smoothie.

3. I have to get rid of my IV medication. This is good, because I’m not on very much medication at all, considering. I’m no longer receiving morphine, but I still have the pain pump, so the morphine’s under my control. The anti-nausea drugs, Acyclovir, vitamins and other goodies I’ll eventually have to take by mouth, much more doable now that my throat is feeling better.

4. I have to drink a liter of water a day. Pre-transplant, this wasn’t a problem, so let’s see if I can get there again, with my sore esophagus.

Fingers crossed. I can’t simply chug some water and eat a bunch of food and check myself out. Hopefully, I feel well enough in the upcoming days to meet my goals and get out of here! After 26 days, I’m ready!

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m developing a reputation on this floor as a cat lady with an impressive urine output.

Does this not earn me bragging rights? Keep in mind I haven’t been interacting with people much lately.

The doctor this morning asked me what was new in the cat world and seemed impressed or disturbed by the Easter card displayed with a cat dressed as a rabbit. Someone just now dropped by a cat calendar for the doctors to see tomorrow on their rounds, and a cat puzzle and book arrived in the mail.

Once again, I was complimented on how much I’m peeing, so I don’t need any diuretics to flush out the Cytoxan, which can damage the bladder and the kidneys if it sits too long in your system. Apparently, I may have set some sort of pee record. Something else to put on my resume and those job applications, when they ask you an interesting fact about yourself in 140 characters or less: Current record holder of urine output on the bone marrow transplant floor.

Despite my increasingly feral nature brought on my isolation, visitors and the digital picture frame my boyfriend filled up for me reminded me of the outside world and all the things I plan to do.

The thing is: I’m afraid to make plans. I don’t want to jinx myself. My PET scan after the transplant will probably be in August, and so I’m not making specific plans quite yet. One of my friends recently declared she’s determined to have a blast this summer, so we just have to figure out what that entails. But here are some things I have to look forward to.

New Couch
A new couch arrived in my apartment last week. So far, it’s met the cats’ approval.

photo (11)








My boyfriend’s parents are visiting next week, though they’ll have to see me here, in my hospital room. But I’m talking beyond hospital drop-bys. The new couch is a sleeper couch, so once I’m allowed to be around people on a more regular basis, I expect to have some visitors. One of my friends might come out in August for a concert and a beach trip.









From what I remember—and I could be wrong—I’m not allowed to travel for three months, no air travel for six months, no international travel for a year, and no third-world countries for two years. I’m not going to make any definite travel plans, but there’s talk of Montreal by train in the fall, and Ohio in October. When I’m cleared for international travel again, I want to see my friends in Dublin, Copenhagen and Prague, with some side trips, but I’m getting way ahead of myself.









This is something else I have to check on, but I think I’ll be allowed to garden, so long as I’m not working with manure. If I can’t spend as much time working in the community garden, maybe I’ll actually read and relax. It’s something I always say I’ll do, but the sight of an errant weed or plants growing in between the brick pathways makes me deviate from my intended downtime.











Since I’m supposed to avoid crowds for the first three months of my recovery period, I’m probably going to miss some shows I’d planned on going to this summer—including Devo, Morrissey and Nick Cave. But this fall, I have tickets to see Front 242 and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Simple Minds

Pro: I think I found T-shirts to wear during my hospital stay. Con: My head looks like an old crone’s chin.

I’ll start, I suppose, with my bad news. Instead of the smooth Telly Savalas or the majestic Yul Brenner, my head is closer to Gollum’s from Lord of the Rings. My dome does not resemble a shiny apple, nor a smooth peach. It’s a kiwi gone bad, an old forgotten coconut.

My hair is almost all gone from the first round of ICE chemo, but a few stubborn hairs remain. And it’s not pretty. I expect these stragglers to fall out after this second round of ICE chemo. If not, I’ll take a razor to them.

On the bright side, the online education session about my autologous stem cell transplant put my mind at ease. A lot. And one of my fashion questions was answered; I’m pretty sure Henley T-shirts are the best option for me during my hospital stay.

Even better news, my old standby Uniqlo, where I buy almost all my clothes, has a new spring line of Henleys, so I’m going to buy some tomorrow. People sometimes ask me why I love Uniqlo so much, and it’s simple: It has the clothes I expected to wear when I thought of the present day as the future.

I was promised this future—now—in the ‘70s. The prediction then was that we were going to wear lots of white and monochromatic unitards and tunics. What about the fashion of Logan’s Run? Where are the magic amulets that I saw from other worlds in Wonder Woman, as I made myself dizzy spinning around in the living room, perfecting the change from Diana Prince to superhero and wearing bulletproof star bracelets made of paper? (Seriously, I’d wear those bracelets, bulletproof or not.) I’d even take Erin Gray’s shiny Buck Rogers suits from the 25th century all these years early.

I think of the ‘70s as a dark time for most fashion, but future ‘70s fashion—the era of tunics and unitards and shiny clothing of the 2000s and beyond—was going to be awesome.

You can only imagine how unspeakably disappointed I am.

I waited for this century only to be offered worse versions of what I wore in junior high and high school.

I am most disappointed in American Apparel. I had high hopes when I first heard about the American-made clothes and array of basics, before I realized the sizing is weird and, as Jezebel pointed out, everything makes you look like fat hooker. And why do the ads all look like young Dov Charney/Terry Richardson/Joe Francis-types took them in dorm rooms?

Things have changed a little. This week, after years away, I managed to buy an American Apparel sweatshirt in my size that fit. But I also took note of some of the “new” fashions on display, and a lot of them were straight from my junior high days. We’re not even talking the mall items you HAD to have, otherwise you would surely be expelled from society forever: The oversized ESPRIT bag, the Benetton sweatshirt, the big Express shirt with French writing on it, a long Limited sweater paired with colorful leggings.

We’re talking DEB offerings. Basics. A loose-sitting floral-print dress. A velvet tunic. Cropped sweaters. Acid-washed jeans and light denims that are begging to be French-cuffed. (I have been told that most people called it pegging, but we referred to them as French cuffs in my school.) They do have shiny skirts and clothes. But it’s not right somehow.

So I turn to Uniqlo, which feels like it’s from the future, with their mannequins in basics, long escalators and robot-voice announcements. A friend who lived in Japan doesn’t understand my fascination; she thinks they’re the Old Navy of Japan. But they promise me clothing technology, if not from the future, then from Japan, which is pretty close in my mind. They have clothes that magically stay warm and clothes that stay cool! This is what I need and what I deserve in this present-future. Otherwise I may as well go around draped in animal skins.

The thought of racks of fairly plain basics appeals to me, not only from my lady-of-the-future perspective, but also from my present wardrobe as someone in her mid-30s. At American Apparel, as I took in some of the crazier fashions from my youth and the youth of today, I realized why you pay attention less to trends as you get older, even as you keep an eye to fashion. Trends often look pretty ridiculous. And they often (but not always) expire after the first time around.

I think of my wardrobe as pretty basic and tame, especially after my last year of cancer. But then I just sent a sequin peacock dress from New Year’s Eve to the dry cleaners.

For a very brief insight into my psyche, life story and wardrobe: My mom and I dressed alike until I was in fourth grade or so. She made all our clothes, and all of them were identical mother-daughter outfits. (We were pretty darn adorable when I was little.) I eventually picked out some of my own stuff from fifth to seventh grades, during my personally most awkward phase, then transferred at the height of everyone’s most awkward of phases to public junior high in eighth grade and no longer had a uniform.

After a metal phase late freshman and sophomore years, “alternative” hit. (I’m talking about clothing here. Metal is still awesome.) So I had the Docs and the overalls and my grandpa’s flannel shirts and the band T-shirts, but I was goth-tinged. And so I’ve gone from a teen who wore black a lot to a New Yorker who wears black a lot, and I feel like I’ve really come to my fashion home.

All of this means that my fashion choices are at odds—a mix of blending in and hiding and standing out. Hence the neutrals and black and my usual uniform of black shirt and jeans, with a closet full of well worn craziness, from the Union Jack dress to the shiny pants to the sequined peacock dress.

I keep remnants of these past trends and phases in my closet, though I winnow things down as time passes. I never part with everything. It’s hard for me to part with anything, frankly, and I have a crowded closet to prove it. I delightedly broke out my Doc Martens when they came back this fall. Is it time to revive my ESPRIT bag? Because I still have it.

When I began Thursday in the arms of a surprised nurse, I knew I wasn’t going to go home that morning, as I’d hoped. The nurse who had last come to take my blood pressure told me it was very low and she reminded me to call for help if I felt dizzy.

There are signs posted in each hospital room that glow in the dark with the image of a stick person taking a tumble and the message, “Call! Don’t Fall!” When I don’t have my glasses on, it just looks like a faintly glowing cube, but it should be ingrained in my head. In my last room, the bottom of the sign was cut off by a lampshade, and I would imagine it was a misspelled invitation to go back to “Calli” and catch a wave.

It might have been this whimsical thinking that got me in trouble. When I got up to go to the restroom Thursday morning, I didn’t feel dizzy. Going to the bathroom in the hospital is so much of a production, with the urine hat and output measurement. I think I managed to scrawl 500 cc on the piece of tape I where I was recording, but when I got to the sink, I was dizzy and started to see spots. I broke out into a cold sweat.

Luckily for me, when I opened the door, a nurse was standing right there. “Help,” I mumbled. “Help me. Help, help, help.” Then she was holding me upright and calling for backup.

I’m not sure that I could have made it the four feet to the bed without the nurse. Maybe. But as soon as I saw her, I knew I wouldn’t make it back, not without her help. And I knew I wouldn’t go home in the morning. They did some sort of test with things taped to me—I kept finding those 3M stickers all over me yesterday, like I was a dorm room wall. My near-fall was due to my low blood pressure and my lack of calling to avoid falling.

Of course, if the doctors wanted to raise my blood pressure, my boyfriend pointed out, they could have sent me down at rush hour to hail a cab to Brooklyn. “After you banged on the hoods of a few cabs, you’d probably be OK,” he told me yesterday, as we stood at the crosswalk and I threatened to make citizens’ arrests of the drivers halfway in the intersection.

In the end, the doctors decided to give me my very first blood transfusion, because my hemoglobin was low. So my transformation to Nosferatu progressed, as I impatiently waited for my blood to arrive. (I finally found out what kind I am: A+. The nerd in me loves that. A-plus!)

If the past day and a half had been a blur of sleep—I keep forgetting that an entire day happened—then the last few hours waiting for blood so I could leave made up for it. Time went from slipping by, hours at a time, undetected, to ticking down minute by minute. I longed to turn into a bat, fly out the window, drain a victim of my necessary blood and then wing my way home.

The blood transfusion itself was actually without much fanfare—they just hang a bag and there you are. I got my blood through my brand-new leukapherisis catheter, so that means no more IVs. Just in time, because I’m pretty sure I’m fresh out of veins. My right arm, with its painful clots, was out of the running this time, and they got one into my left for the beginning of the chemo.

For the procedure, they put in a neck IV and used lidocaine to numb me up first. As much as I worried about it, the catheter placement was actually pretty easy. I was wheeled down on Wednesday, sooner than I thought, and kept in a waiting room for a short time. Someone asked me if there was anything I was nervous about. “Mostly if I’ll say anything weird,” I admitted. She assured me I would probably sleep.

When I was wheeled to the procedure room, someone called being put out a “four-martini breakfast.” This alarmed me. I never have four martinis. I never go beyond two. I live by the Dorothy Parker quote. (“I like a martini, two at the very most. After three, I’m under the table. After four, I’m under my host.”)

I figured out this martini thing even before I heard the wise words of Ms. Parker, the first time I had three martinis. Why was it so easy to tell everyone what I really thought? Even when martinis were $3 each at happy hour within walking distance of my apartment in the Midwest in the late ’90s, I spent $8 (including tip) and called it a night. Or, more likely, I opted for a less potent cocktail after one cheap martini.

Not long after my pronouncement of a two-martini limit, I broke my rule, because someone bought me a third. That was a terrible mistake. I spent the night blithely telling people what I really thought. It’s really a mixed blessing that I remember what I said. Thought it felt briefly liberating, that kind of stuff should be bottled up, never to be loosened by a bottle of gin or vodka.

So you can imagine my reservations when  a member of catheter team announced, “OK, here comes five martinis!” Five? I think I would pass out. In fact, I hope that’s what happened. I don’t remember saying anything, not even my usual farewell to the doctors and nurses or alerting someone that I feel funny. I woke up later, bewildered that anything had even happened. (So if you have the equivalent of five martinis, there’s your urban legend: You’ll wake up in the hospital with a tube sticking out of your chest. It happened to me.)

So the catheter in my chest, and my old IV is gone. I also have Steri-Strips where the IV was and something there. A tube I think? Five martinis. Did I dance too? I wonder if the team saw me as a fast-forwarded version of myself drinking five martinis. Was I happy, then suddenly tipsy before deciding to tell everyone the operating room the truth? Did I then decide to dance or do karaoke before becoming surly, announcing I was going to lead a revolution and then passing out?

I slept all day Wednesday. Sometimes, I would wake up and think, Oh, my phone is in my hand, I should put it on the table. This happened about four or five times before I stayed awake long enough to do it. I am, essentially, being poisoned, and sleep isn’t so unusual…or so bad. I will take it over any other side effects.

I also lost my mind. Briefly. Being in the hospital is tough. I’ve tried to be cheerful through all of this, to look at the bright side, to remember this is just temporary. But everyone has a breaking point, and it’s a straw that breaks the camel’s back. Something insignificant.

After I was moved to a new room, my chemo pump/constant companion started beeping. Sometimes it’s like being moored to the Looney Toons Road Runner and you understand why Wile E. Coyote had so many anvils.

I try to do everything I can to avoid pressing the nurse call button. I’m among the more able-bodied (during my recent stays, at least) and there’s no point taking up people’s time with stuff I can do myself—especially when I have so little I have to do. (This last time, I saved all my urine for 12 hours in a container, so I finally have something to fill on those job applications that ask you for a fun fact about yourself in 140 characters or less.)

I empty my own urine hat and record everything on my door. This also saves me the small humiliation of calling someone on a sketchy intercom to say, “My urine hat is full!”—or worse, if they don’t hear, “I PEED IN MY HAT!” Plus, I’m a little afraid of the intercom people.

Part of is it that you never see them. And the other part is that you sometimes can’t hear them—or worse, they can’t hear you. So, after pressing your button, you wait. Sometimes, you just hear a click and say something uncertain, “My machine is beeping?” Sometimes, someone says, “Hello, how can I help you?” and you tell them your machine is beeping and he or she says a nurse will be alerted. That’s the best case, and thankfully, that’s usually what happens.

Sometimes, though, no one hears you. “Hello? HELLO?” you hear clearly. But they can’t hear you until you raise your voice. Then you feel like a jerk.

Also, I’m not as quick to shout when something’s wrong. (Unless I see a cockroach—then I will drop everything I’m doing and scream at the top of my lungs.) I’m more of a mutterer-and-repeater, as my early morning near-fall shows. That was also my reaction when one of my extra tubes (I’m not sure what it was, it was to keep my other machine from beeping) came undone while I was trying to untangle my machine’s electric cord and blood started coming out. I’m not good in those situations. When I see blood, I’m kind of like that kid from The Shining. As blood pooled from the tube into my hand, I thought, It’s going the wrong way. Again, a nurse was close by so my, “Um, help, help, help can you help me?” was answered promptly.

So obviously I’m not a great communicator. But once you press the button, where do you speak? I sometimes speak into what looks like an intercom, or a shout to the air.

Once I pressed my button, someone said they’d let someone know about the beeping. Then I waited for 20 minutes. I made sure it was 20 minutes, because I was scared to press again. Sometimes, during my second stay, I’d get mixed up like it was a walkie-talkie and press again as if I were signing out. They were not amused, and I was embarrassed.

When people are pressing the button because they’re thirsty or have to use the restroom, they’re often pretty weak. My first roommate would have to call two or three times. Sometimes, they hear her, I think, but other times, I could hear her and they wouldn’t understand and no one would come. She had a bit of an accent, but I’m not sure why so many of her calls went unanswered. Sometimes, I called for her.

So I developed an early fear of the intercom. And when I called again, 20 minutes later, they couldn’t hear me. “Yes? Hello?” “MY MACHINE IS BEEPING.”

Someone shut off the machine, but something inside me had loosened. I started to cry and I couldn’t stop.

In kindergarten, I almost got my finger stuck in the paper towel dispenser. Almost. It barely scraped my finger, but I started to cry and couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t stop. The teachers had to call my mom and grandparents, who threatened not to take me to Sea World later as we’d planned. I finally pulled it together after that.

I couldn’t tell anyone why I was crying though. Was it the horror of the gaping maw of the paper towel dispenser? The sadness of the world on my 4-year-old shoulders? A future premonition of Blackfish? I remember this, but I still can’t say why I was so sad that day.

When the nurse practitioner came in on Tuesday, I was still blubbering. I felt like that crying kindergartner. I was four again as I tried to explain to her and to the social worker and to a nurse why I couldn’t stop crying. They asked if I felt forgotten, slighted?

Yes, I was upset. I finally explained that I tried so hard to not be a pain and I just felt like I was, having to call and having to yell. I felt like a burden.

That, of course, goes deeper. I don’t like feeling like a burden on anyone, but it’s hard to not feel that way when you’re not 100 percent. Tuesday felt like the reaction to everything sad that had happened to me since I heard I had cancer a year ago.

The social worker helpfully started in on several theories to help me. “Being in the hospital can be hard…” she said, as I blubbered and nodded in agreement.

It’s hard. I’m going in for 26 days, and I can’t imagine it. I’ve been in a total of eight days or so—and feeling relatively well.

You’re not in control in the hospital. Sure, you can wheel yourself to the bathroom when you don’t feel like falling over and you can choose what you want to order when you’re allowed to eat or not throwing up or sleepy. But you also have to keep track of your urine and you have to call people for things like helping you to stop beeping.

Even in the best hospital environments, when everyone is trying to help you, you’re still alone with your thoughts just enough to drive you insane. Even if it’s for a minute. Or, in my case, an hour or so.

The hospital is hard—and surprisingly dry, somehow devoid of all moisture, despite my waterworks. After only three days there, my face is peeling, my lips are chapped and the inside of my nose will bleed spontaneously. My scalp is dry and flaking. I have to drink at least two liters of water daily, but I’m always thirsty anyway. No wonder they give you so many fluids while you’re there; it feels as if you might evaporate.  I feel like most of my houseplants must have felt before the cat finished them off. I am a husk.

The hospital smells weird, because it’s so devoid of smells. When I came home, the normal cooking smells coming from my apartment hall were almost too much. In the hospital, there’s the orange cleaning smell and food sometimes and then kind of this funk. It’s different from dorm room funk, but it’s a human funk. To me, it smells a little like popcorn, or like popcorn in its saddest form. I awoke from a three-hour nap Friday enveloped in the funk at home, and I can’t find its source.

For most of Friday, I would wake up for a few minutes and see the cat looking at me across the bed. We would blink at each other slowly, like two sun-drowsy alligators, and then go back to sleep. I napped with the covers pulled up to my chin so the cat wouldn’t bother my new plastic attachments. She loves eating plastic. I hope to give her enough credit that she won’t try to steal my new equipment from my chest cavity. She seems to walk gingerly around me these days. (It’s far more likely the other, clumsy cat will accidentally pull out my line.)

For emergencies, I have clips, in case my line gets compromised and I start losing my blood. It’s hard not to think everything’s out to kill me. I keep my clip close at hand, but mostly it’s the area at the root of my spine—the center of squeamishness—that suffers.

In the meantime, I am feeling good and energetic. I’m happy to be home and am hoping to avoid a hospital stay before my next scheduled one in April.

I got my blood drawn this afternoon and 15 minutes later, my room phone rang. It was the doctor. My blood count reached the magic number of 500 and I would be released! After the general consensus had been a Sunday discharge, this was an unexpected bit of good news.

As nice as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is, I was packed and ready to go in 20 minutes. After this morning’s breakfast Nutella and banana crepes and my jambalaya lunch, I was looking forward to tonight’s stir-fry shrimp, but I’ll be back at the hospital in a week. I also didn’t have time to check out the recreation center again and I was going to avail myself of the free board games tomorrow.

Also, I discovered there’s a pool table. How do you navigate a pool table with an IV in your arm?  I also discovered that there’s an afternoon tea service. If the hospital had a happy hour and I could get a beer to go with my pool game, I might have found it harder to leave.

But I was tired of wheeling around an IV stand and I’d gotten away without peeing in a hat until today. I did figure out how to take a hot shower. I don’t know what it is about dials, but I constantly misinterpret them. I’m terrible at math, don’t know my left from my right and I can’t figure out dials. I think there’s some kind of diagnosis for that, other than being dimwitted. (I repeatedly burned things in the oven our landlord brought up to replace our broken one until I realized I had been misreading the dial. I had been turning things up to 400 or 500 degrees.) So in this unfamiliar shower, I had the dial pointed toward lukewarm instead of hot.

Today I found myself packed and waiting for my IV removal, two days before expected.  I didn’t even have to change my pants, as I was wearing my brand-new dignity pants, suitable for public viewing. I threw on my boots and sweatshirt and was ready to go.

The only hitch was the car service I called to come pick me up. Since my boyfriend was working, I wasn’t being released to anyone and the nurse had to witness me getting into a cab or car. When I called right before 5 pm, the operator said 15 minutes, so the nurse escorted me to downstairs. At 5:18, I called to check. At 5:25 I had to call back after being on hold and forgotten about. “Two minutes,” snapped the person who answered the phone. Seven minutes later, I called to check again and was told the car was outside. After walking through the rain and asking several cars if they were for me, I had to call back because he’s hung up on me. By this time, I couldn’t get through. At 5:38, I called and was told to wait five more minutes.  At 5:41, I called to cancel. At least I gave them the courtesy of an update. The front desk called me a car service that arrived in three minutes.

By this time, I was in tears, upset and having to have someone else waste her time, even though she so kindly waited with me and eventually ended up comforting me.

It’s always the little things that push you over the edge. Or push me over the edge, at least. Being back in the hospital was disappointing, but I had been OK up until the point where I couldn’t leave because of a car service. That was my breaking point. The car service just acted like they were doing me a favor. They had obviously lied about when they would arrive and even being there and then didn’t seem to understand why I was upset that they were almost an hour late. Once I even got into a car, finally, from another service, I couldn’t stop the tears. It wasn’t about the car anymore. The dam had broken and I just let things flow out. Quietly. Maybe a dam isn’t the right analogy. It was more like a slow leak.

I had been so angry, I worried my blood boiled and threw off my counts again.

But all is well, once again. As I type this, a cat is weighing down my right arm with her paw over my hand. I have a week at home, and all is right with the world.

Well, that cat nap inspiration must have worked, because I slept all day yesterday. After a somewhat miserable hour or so the night before, with violent hiccups and nausea, I fell into a deep sleep that would have lasted until about now unless I hadn’t been woken up to eat, for tests and to go home this morning.

It’s an appropriate day return home from my first round of augmented ICE, on a day when the typical misery of a horrible snowy winter day is augmented with icy rain. Since my treatment had started late on Monday, they wanted to keep me through the morning. I got the impression the C part of the regimen — the last medication — is the harshest, so they want to keep an eye on your fluids and nausea. I slept right through everything, so the doctors seemed pleased.

My view yesterday, as a comparison.

My view yesterday, as a comparison.

Yesterday evening, the nurse woke me up around 6 to make sure I slept through the night. I managed to eat my dinner, type a few things and then talk to my boyfriend before drifting off to sleep again. (I am bummed that I slept through eating my breakfast burrito yesterday, but did get to enjoy a dinner of stir-fried vegetables last night. And if you ever find yourself at MSKCC on a day when the wonton soup is a special, order it for the tender shrimp-filled wontons and fresh cabbage and ginger.)

This morning, I woke up before 8 and tried to get as ready as I could. I must have looked impatient as I felt, as I slurped down my breakfast and asked, “Can I go?” Or had my IV tubes unhooked and asked, “Can I go?” I looked like a desperate movie character about to rip out her own IVs and scale down the wall by the time they removed those and said that yes, I could go.

Bedheaded and ready to head home.

Bedheaded and ready to head home.

Now I’m at home with my little NYC family, our two-cat, two-person republic. TMI alert, but I am extremely happy about being able to shower and not having to pee in a hat. I haven’t been this excited to get back to my own bathroom since spending a few months in Mexico using a latrine and taking lukewarm showers. There’s nothing like a hitch in your toiletry schedule to really mess you up.

Years ago, a friend had free tickets to see Urinetown, a musical based on the premise that the residents of the entire town had to pay to pee. Afterwards, my friend, who is prone to body-shaking moments of pure merriment when he thinks something is particularly funny, turned to us. Laughing, red-faced and gasping for air, he asked, “Did we just spend the last few hours watching people singing about not being able to pee?”

Yet, as I regarded my urine hat this week, I found myself thinking about that musical and how I longed for less complicated days.

And on a completely different note of gratitude: Thank you all again for your kind words and notes. If I haven’t answered in the past few days, it’s because I’ve been asleep but I have been cognizant of your thoughts. Being in the hospital can be lonely, but I never felt alone. I would only have to look at my fleece cat blanket — which was a big hit and very warm compared to the thinner hospital blankets — and my cat totem to know that I wasn’t alone. Or I would think of my friend across the Atlantic who shaved her head in solidarity — and looks amazing! Or read some poetry from a friend-of-a-friend in remission from cancer. Or I could read a nice Facebook note or text, even though I couldn’t write much back.

Thank you for helping me remember that even though I have a long road to recovery ahead — one that won’t be pleasant — I’m still one of the luckiest people in the world.