A Guide for the Habitual Hospital Patient

After the very first surgery when my leg was sliced and diced, I came-to prematurely from my drug induced state, and I knew, this was not going to be my first and only time in this hospital. I wasn’t sure how soon or how many more times, but I knew within three seconds — in the most pain I have ever endured in my life — I knew this wasn’t over. I would not get out of having cancer this easy.

This same sentiment had occurred with my father, almost 30 years prior. In a morphine state after one of his brutal surgeries acting as a guinea pig at NIH, he saw the hallucination of neon words fall from the ceiling onto him YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. On his flight from Michigan back to NIH for further treatment, his plane lost two engines. The passengers panicked, and the woman seated next to him began to scream that they would all crash and die. My father sat calm and unmoved, he told her he had terminal cancer, and he wasn’t getting out of it this easy. She was stunned, but the plane made an emergency landing safely.

For seven years, I’ve been in bed enough against my will, that I have had a lifetime’s worth of vegging out to Netflix and scrolling social media feeds. But if you need advice on what to expect if you’ve never had to stay in a hospital, I can give you the lowdown on that. Welcome to Hell, I’ll be your tour guide!

In one surgery I tried to get off the table; in another I tried to pull the breathing tube out — which I vividly remember choking while the team of doctors kept slapping my hand away. In the recovery room after another surgery, I needed water desperately and tried to scream for help. I realized the room had emptied out because Oprah was on the floor and everyone wanted to see her; maybe they thought she’d give them a free car. Due to the fact I kept waking during surgery, I was then at times given too much anesthesia, which would result in my expelling black bile for up to ten hours. Around the sixth surgery, the portions were finally just right, and I was Goldilocks.

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If you think you will sleep in a hospital, I can guarantee that you will not. You will wake up every half hour if not more so. If you think you will even get two chapters into a book without being interrupted, you are also wrong. Vitals, tests, prescriptions, lung exercises, drainage tubes, and blood clot boots that I like to pretend are leg massagers, are just some of the things that await you. You’ll be woken by the gossip of nurses, the cleaning staff, and even hear screams in the distance from other patients having a rough go of it. You will be woken for meals you don’t want, and by counselors who ask an array of questions that you still can’t understand in a drug induced haze that never quite controls the pain.

One thing you will get very comfortable with after you’ve been a habitual patient is nudity. It’s hard to be bashful when dozens of people have had their fingers in every hole and crack in your body. The hospital gown that DvF designed for Cleveland Clinic patients is the least intuitive design that would confuse an origami artist let alone a medical professional. I had mooned my caretakers on multiple occasions and at one point limped along a hallway with my entire backside showing. This must have been a sad sight wearing my bright yellow hospital issue socks with slip grips that were two sizes too big. By the way, if you’ve ever considered yourself a fashionably dressed person, prepare yourself for those socks.

Nothing makes you feel worse than not being able to use the restroom on your own. It is a special act of humiliation no matter how many times you’ve been through it. The alternative of course, is a bed pan, but if you’ve been stitched up, this is hardly a painless act and you will opt for moving at a sloth pace to use a real toilet. After a few misfires – one of which ended with me peeing all over the floor – I learned to ease myself into hovering, which was a huge victory. The day you can use the toilet at will is the best day ever for one’s self-esteem.

When staying in a hospital overnight, be sure to have a plan of attack for when the food — and most importantly — the coffee, arrives at your bedside. If you think any of this is edible or that this coffee won’t destroy your insides, you are sorely mistaken. I learned to have a network of family and friends bring me Starbucks, milkshakes from a reputable source, and takeout from somewhere with a real chef. How are you to begin recovery if you are given a package of Dole fruit cocktail shipped in from China? I had learned to pack a small assortment of cosmetics, lip creams, and hand moisturizers. My nurses often wondered how it was I looked like a decent human after 3 days in a hospital bed on drugs. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s dry shampoo!

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It took 3 hospital stays lasting 5 days each to finally get my cocktail right; a constant flow of Oxycodone, Valium and morphine. One nurse dubbed me the Morphine Rhino as my tolerance was ridiculous. In a morphine state I’d watch Bravo TV shows where everything was a fashion crisis. On one episode of The Rachel Zoe Project, the world was literally going to end because it would be raining during the Golden Globes red carpet event, and Camera Diaz might need a man in a tux to hold an umbrella. You would have thought this was worse than genocide, and I started laughing uncontrollably, “Your problems are HUGE!”

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When your cocktail is figured out, you can finally be comfortable enough to concentrate on your other problems. For me, it almost always came down to one: The Roommate!

I had a succession of roommates who irked me enough that I wanted to smother them with a pillow but killing a patient in a hospital probably wouldn’t go over very well, and besides, I am usually marked as a fall risk.

Sometimes you luck out and have a solo room. I was once installed in what I called “The Donatella Versace Suite” a room so large that I could have thrown a party ala Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However, this is an exception not the rule. When I hear the that Saudi royalty will reserve entire floors at Cleveland Clinic I think, man — they are really onto something. I wonder if that’s what the Kardashians do?

There was the roomie who had a parade of family members in our tiny space at all hours. A snaking line of teenagers slouched over texting, cousins and in-laws, most who clearly didn’t want to be there but felt a deep Protestant duty while wondering where the nearest McDonald’s was. There was the roomie who ignored every warning and instruction, then fell in the night rendering her new knee replacement useless — and earning herself another replacement. There was the roomie who wouldn’t stop talking about her ailments to me through a curtain; how many times her hips, knees, and ankles had been done and she had no intention of going on that diabetic diet. A salad?! What were they crazy?! My roommates wouldn’t stop asking for food, even straight from surgery screaming for chocolate cake, tapioca pudding, and salted crackers. It was sun up to sun down –- I mean, Jesus did these people ever stop eating?

My favorite roomie of my tour of hospital stays was the nurse. As you can probably imagine, nurses make the worst patients. She had decided she hated the entire hospital staff, and me. She blamed my regular vitals as the reason she couldn’t sleep. Everyone was wrong, and everyone was out to ruin her life. To say she was combative with medical professionals would be an understatement. When I dropped a pencil and her sweet mother picked it up off the floor for me, you would think her mother had committed treason! Though I was sleep deprived, I delighted in her misery as I showed off my good coffee, French hand cream, and agile ability to scoot to the toilet all by myself.

Your hell might be better or worse during your hospital stay, but at least now you can be prepared. I wish I could tell you that doing it often makes it easier.

 

 

 

Process of Procrastination

I’ve been procrasta-working lately and in the midst of it got hip to the app Splice via Kasumi. I went to film school at a time when to many students caused the Avid to crash, Final Cut Pro had only really just come out, and all of my films were on 3/4 tapes if not on actual film reels. It still blows my mind I can do editing on my phone with ease. I decided to play around and made this little time-lapse of a work on paper.

Of course, I didn’t get to finish it because what you can’t see if my cat booping my elbow the entire time! I had to stop at scratch his butt.

It is my first painting of 2018

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BoxHeart Gallery Anniversary Exhibition

From January 23rd through February 23rd, BoxHeart presents Almost 17 and #werestillhere in Pittsburgh. This large group exhibition features artwork by 60 artists that have exhibited with us over the past 16 years as well as 17 new artists with exhibitions approaching in 2018 and 2019!

I’ve been exhibiting with BoxHeart for a number of years and will be having a solo show with them in 2019. Here is some current work of mine they are exhibiting.

Jan 23rd – Feb 23rd
4523 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
Opening Reception: Saturday, Jan. 27th, 6pm -9pm
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If you are in the Pittsburgh area please do drop by. They are the best art gallery in the city and are amazing to work it!

An Art Exhibit Celebrating 7 Years Cancer-Free!

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I’m pleased to say my show “Forma and Flora” at The Gathering Place his now on view at their Beachwood, Ohio facility through the winter.

There will be a public reception on Thursday, January 11th from 5-7pm and is on view until the end of March. 

The Arnold & Sydell Miller Family Campus
23300 Commerce Park
Beachwood, Ohio 44122

You can also view a little spotlight here. I’ll be showing this new painting above, “Preacher” 16×16″ oil on panel.

I had opened this show in the fall at The Gathering Place newly built Westlake location, and the feedback has been great. I always get nervous especially when it is in a public space meant for healing — both the physical and mental. If you or someone you know resides in NE Ohio I highly recommend the programming for both adults and children.

As of this past September I am now 7 years out from my initial cancer removal surgery. I am still under the thumb of the US healthcare system due to subsequent procedures and surgeries that were related to my cancer, but my liposarcoma has not returned in any of the places it should have. It’s also almost 8 years since I began the series that changed my whole art game.

I still look over my shoulder, but not quite as often. I even learned how to go down a flight of stairs for the first time in 7 years! I’ve done a lot of genetic counseling and DNA testing, appeared in a few medical journal due to my anomalies, but no explanation or markers have been found. Maybe one day another test subject will be found, or it will be called “Proffer syndrome” after my dad and myself. I don’t consider “cancer-free” to mean that it isn’t still inside me (I was told it is) but that I am far out enough now to not go into a complete PTSD meltdown the second I find something a little off or don’t feel well. That maybe it will always be in me but won’t wake up again from the dormant slumber and create new tumors; new creatures finding their way through me again. Maybe someday a cure will be found.

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OAC Biennial Juried Exhibition, 2017

I made a quick trip to Columbus for the Ohio Arts Council Biennial Juried Exhibition at Riffe Galleries. It’s really quite amazing and you should check it out if you happen to be in the area.

Selected from more than 300 applications, the exhibition features contemporary works of art including installation, sculpture, drawing, painting, photography, and video by 59 artists living and working in Ohio. Here is me with my painting “Astronomer”

I also got a pretty fancy package from the Ohio Senate that recognized me for exemplary attainment.

I guess this means I’m a real Ohio artist, now? Although hey, I’ll always be a California artist, too.

GURLS: For the ‘Basic’ in Everyone!

GURLS Volumes 1 and 2 are available now! Each one is 70 pages. And yes, the snarky captions are included in the books, for those of you that have been following along with this series. My best advice is to read the snarky captions in Bobby Brown’s voice (you’ll see what I mean when you get a book in your hand).

My show in Cologne, Germany just came down but original drawings can be purchased thru both FB69 Galerie locations and from me directly.

There are also prints and products, such as this “get well” card via my Society6 Shop.

The books are extremely limited and honestly, I probably won’t be doing them again. Not unless a proper comics publisher wants to do an anthology. I’m participating in my first ComicCon by doing GenghisCon is my old studio building Sunday, November 26th in Cleveland. There may or may not be some Pumpkin Spice lattes and a selfie stick!

Across both books, there is only one drawing that depicts something that actually happened. The rest are just things I imagine someone is saying somewhere, right now. Some of the better quotes I’ve actually heard would need context and a preface — I was too lazy to bother with that. So don’t feel personally microaggressed by these drawings. It’s called being “basic” for a reason!

New Painting: Libertine Axon

“Libertine Axon” 16×16 inches, oil on panel. (Sold) Click to view in full.

This is on view at The Gathering Place at both their locations starting Friday and going through the winter.

Forma and Flora exhibition at The Gathering Place

This show takes place at the newly built Sandy Borrelli Center at 25425 Center Ridge Road in Westlake, Ohio.

Opening reception: Friday, October 27th from 5pm to 7pm and on view through December 30th.

I’m so happy and honored to be showing at an amazing resource for those dealing with cancer, as well as the facility being named after Sandy! She’s an amazing woman. Please do check out The Gathering Place and both their locations. Not only do they provide group services, but there’s a wig shop, and programming for children (including kitten camp!)

Anyway, more about the showy-poo….

​Arabella Proffer’s biomorphic paintings revolve around a fascination with the history of medicine, microbiology, and surreal organisms. Her work is many times of landscapes combined with abstract representations of organic processes, alien botany, and the cellular basis of the unnatural. Each painting is started from a place of abstraction; becoming filled with strange hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols; a nature that is a genetically modified in oil paint.

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“My work changed drastically one day in 2010 when I found myself creating surreal organic environments. Although I started from a place of abstraction, they became filled with strange hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols that appeared like organisms from another planet. It was only later that I found out I had cancer crawling through my leg at an alarming rate. When my doctor showed me the scans of the tumor it looked almost identical to what I had been painting – tentacles and all. In succession over the last seven years I had painted other images that closely resembled what was going on in my own body; cysts, growths, and other organ entanglements all later revealed well after the paintings were done. A fascination with the macro universe and micro universe had come about, and made me wonder if I was at times painting in-tune with what my own biology was doing. This was a major departure for me after 12 years of exhibiting as portrait artist.”

Arabella attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA before receiving her BFA from California Institute of the Arts where she studied under artists such as Derek Boshier, Jim Shaw, and Raymond Pettibon. Arabella participates in solo and group exhibitions throughout North America as well as parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. She was awarded an Ohio Arts Council grant in 2016 and has been a teaching artist at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Plain Dealer, GOOD Magazine, Hi-Fructose, Juxtapoz, The Harvard Gazette, SF Weekly, Cincinnati Magazine, Snob, Scene, Modain, Hektoen International Medical Journal, and more. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and bred in Southern California, lives on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.