Tuesday, March 31, 2009


When we weren't dressing my poor Sis in ridiculous costumes...we rode bikes. We had swing sets and see-saws and monkey bars. Playing was our job; if we weren't in school, we played. In the summer, my uncle put up a net for badminton (above). Their back yard was much larger than ours, and wide open. We played games like tag and "Mother, May I?" and "Rock School." (Don't you worry, Bro 1, Rock School's gonna get its own post one day.) We belonged to the YMCA and swam whenever we could get someone to drive us there and back.

In the winter, we went sledding and tobogganing. We made snowmen and snow forts. We went ice skating. I don't know if they still do this, but my hometown used to ice over all the tennis courts in public parks, so nearly every neighborhood had a free ice rink. Both my dad and Uncle Bennie were very athletic. They bowled, and played softball, handball, basketball. They often took us swimming or skating; other than that, what and how to play was up to us. There was no parental involvement.

I was not athletic, particularly, but I was active. We all were. Television, at least in the early years, was severely restricted, and the television was never on if the sun was shining. I know one of the hazards of aging is idealizing your youth, but I have to tell you: I feel sorry for kids today. I wonder if there would be an obesity epidemic without tv, computers, and video games. So many modern conveniences have made our lives easier... but not better.


I had a bad moment at the infusatorium. I said something stupid to another patient. Not mean or hurtful, just thoughtless. Still, it was troubling enough that I tried to catch her again to apologize, but there wasn't an opportunity. Fast forward to a fairly uneventful day, other than the fact that I had to start using insulin again.

It just so happens that I had two Netflix movies in a row with a death/funeral motif; purely coincidence. I have not watched movies like "Bucket List" because I thought it would just seem to grim, hit a little too close. But these both sounded funny... and they were!

Last night I watched "Ghost Town," with Ricky Gervais and Tea Leoni. Gervais is a rude, self-centered dentist who dies briefly while under anesthesia. (Of course, I fell in love with his character when he refused to answer questions on the hospital admission form!) When he awakes, he finds that he can see ghosts, who badger him for help with unresolved issues. It was a little predictable, with messages of redemption and compassion, but still charming and entertaining.

Tonight's movie, "Death at a Funeral," was a real howler. Netflix's blurb:

The funeral for the patriarch of a wealthy but eccentric British clan is turned topsy-turvy when a stranger appears claiming to be the dead man's gay lover... The dysfunctional family grows wackier as the deceased's sons decide they can't let the rest of the guests get wind of this revelation. But can they get the cat back into the bag?
didn't do it justice. Hilarious subplots included a bottle of LSD mistaken for valium, and a cantankerous, wheelchair-bound uncle who must be helped to the toilet. It is pure British farce, with feuding relatives, blackmail, accidents, hurt feelings, and secrets. Everyone tries to act normal, dignified, and remember that they're at a funeral, which makes it all funnier. The pacing builds to a funny, gratifying conclusion. Life's messy, and so is death.

Interestingly, about half the Netflix reviewers seemed to despise it. But I really enjoyed and was very consoled by this silly movie. It reminded me that there's a lot more tolerance and forgiveness out there than I usually imagine.

So, I've decided that instead of being the crazy lady who said something stupid, and then stalked and hounded and haunted, drowned in apologies and begged forgiveness... I'mgoing to let it go, and just be the crazy lady who said something stupid. I hope she's already completely forgotten me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Never Say Never

This arrived in email yesterday.

Here's some useless but interesting trivia:
At five minutes and six seconds after 4 a.m. on July 8th of this year, the time and date will be 04:05:06 07/08/09. This will never happen again.
Well, that's not quite true -- I imagine it will happen again in 3009, won't it? And next year, just after 5 am on August 9th, it will be 5:06:07 08/09/10. I'm not much for numerology; I think there may be interesting coincidences, but I don't ascribe any "meaning" to them.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Royal Bucket List

I stumbled on a site called Plinky which offers questions and prompts for bloggers. Some are deep and thought provoking, some are just silly. An interesting recent prompt asked for a five-item "Bucket List."

A lot of people want to achieve some spectacular sporting feat: bungee jumping, slam-dunking a basketball, etc. They want to pet dolphins and see pandas and go on safaris. They want to meet famous people: the Dalai Lama, Michael Jordan, President Obama, etc. I was pleased to see so many people list visiting/living in Europe. I would just like to say: get off your ass and GO, already! I only went once, with Sis, and I wish I'd traveled a lot more. It opens your mind and your heart, and gives you a profound appreciation for things you'd previously taken for granted. Unfortunately, due to health and stamina issues, I don't know if I'm going to be able to do any more international travel. That is one of my very few regrets.

I also don't think I will be learning to play the piano, adopting a child, traveling in outer space, or finding true love, ergo getting me some grandchildren. (I was never desperate to have children, but I've always wanted grandchildren.)

My current Bucket List looks very different than it might have a couple years ago.

  • Become Queen of the USA. I could straighten all this out if you'd just let me abolish Congress.
  • Have a book published by a real publisher. Maybe my unfinished novel (finished, of course), or the children's book series that has been bouncing in my brain for a couple of decades
  • Sell the Villa and settle in to a smaller, peaceful, QUIET little bungalow, preferably in the same 'hood.
  • Own a really fun car, rather than a sensible one. My first choice would be a turqoise and white Nash Metropolitan convertible.
  • Figure out a way to embezzle a few million from a Wall Street crook, and play Robin Hood.
  • Learn how to ride a motorcycle. Yes, a circus-sized, teeny-tiny motorcycle.
  • Be awarded an Honorary Degree, preferably a PhD, just because I'm so damned adorable.
  • Fill my heart with gratitude and forgiveness until there was no room for anything else.
  • Oh, what the heck: Rent the villa next to George Clooney and borrow a cup of hot sex now and then.
I know it's more than five items. Do you think that I have ever, once, followed instructions or done as I was told?

Big Fun... er, Bic Fun!

As far as writing goes, this pen is serviceable. Its lines are clean, its shape is simple and comfortable in the hand. In all respects it is a fine pen. As a weapon, however, it is seriously lacking. When confronted with a sword, the sword was, once again, the clear winner.
Oh, those Brits are high-larious. Read the rest: Customer Reviews - Bic Ballpoint Pen

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I don't care if it's a moth or a butterfly. Heck, I don't even care if it's an endangered species. If it ever landed on me, one of us would be dead in five seconds.

Health Care Overhaul: Divided We Fail

Over the last 16 months, I have experienced our health care/health insurance system from the inside. It's not pretty. There is so much wrong with health care in America, I doubt our present system can be repaired. I'm not the only one. I've found an organization that seems to have not just a handle on the problem, but some ideas and solutions for the future. The mission of Divided We Fail:

We believe that the opportunity to have access to health care and long-term financial security is a basic need that all Americans share. We believe it is the foundation for future generations.

We believe all Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care.

I watched a news show last night about the unscrupulous and often illegal tactics used by collection agencies to harass and intimidate people. Almost all the people they featured had ended up in financial ruin because of a health problem in the family. I don't believe the current economic crisis can be used as an excuse to procrastinate on this issue; just the opposite, in fact. We have what is basically an employer-funded health care system, and we are seeing first-hand the devastation when thousands and thousands of people lose the jobs that provided their access to health care.

President Obama spoke about the importance of health care reform in his address to the Joint Session of Congress on February 24th:
...we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance.

...I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.
He's got a lot on his plate, but I'm ready to hold Obama's feet to the fire on this.

Go, read, sign up, and spread the word. Dividedwefail.org.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hello, DieSuckah? Sorry, not dead yet!

I haven't received a single "EOB" (Explanation of Benefits) statement from DieSuckah Health Insurance Co. And since we set the dial at zero on January 1, I've got to spend some dough to meet the deductible and start having my medical expenses covered at 100%. Now, the easy thing would be if my surgery bill would just get processed: two hours in the OR totaled more than $14,000!

But, according to Die Suckah, nothing has been processed and/or applied toward my deductible, and I've spent over $1,000 out-of-pocket just on prescriptions! I tried several phone calls, always stymied by, "I need to look into this and get back to you," or "I'll talk to my supervisor and get back to you." And they never call back... and they never give me a direct number to call them back.

Today was Ultimatum Day... we will figure out what is going on and resolve it, OR ELSE. Or else what? I'm not sure... but we'd start with (the threat of) a phone call to my lawyer. Lucky me: I found someone who, after the usual mistakes, excuses, etc., actually found the hitch in the system, and fixed it. Or so he claims. I'm hopeful that he's telling the truth, that all my claims will be processed immediately, that I have met my deductible, and can even re-apply to get reimbursed for some of the prescriptions.

But here's the thing: (Can't leave well enough alone, can I? Can't just be thankful that it's resolved and let it go?) Why does it take months of phone calls and jumping up and down and hystrionics and threats... just to get them to do their jobs? Which I pay them to do! Why do I have to spend my precious energy doing battle with them? Why do I have to be the squeaky wheel, over and over again? How often do they get away with just ignoring claims?

Again, I wonder if they have back-room actuarials furiously calculating their best strategy for outlasting me. Oh, my. If they had any idea how, in my case, that strategy will have the exact opposite effect...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Things I Found #3: It Takes a Village

Ha! Another essay from the writing class. I have no idea what the assignment was, but decided to share one of my deep, profound insights (aka Crackpot Theories). My immediate neighborhood, "BR Village," was its own little town before the city engulfed it. It still has a grocery, drugstore, post office, drycleaners, etc., so I can actually walk to many shops and services - a very rare situation! But times change, and more than half of the storefronts are now bars, nightclubs and restaurants. That was great when I moved in here 20 years ago; less so now.

I live in BR Village, a neighborhood that proves the adage, It Takes A Village To Raise a Village Idiot. Here in this tidy, Midwestern meat-and-potatoes town, what passes for counterculture flocks to BR Village, not because it is a bastion of tolerance or a mecca for free thinkers, but because it has a lot of bars.

I was strolling with my pooch, Miss Molly, through the commercial district not long ago. It was during one of our large sporting events, a sport that requires the "athlete" to sit in a car and drive around and around, many, many times. Driving in circles is so exciting that people come from all over the world to watch it. And so it happened that BR Village had a rather international flavor that night.

As I passed a group of drunk, raucous Australians, I thought to myself... hmm... is there any other kind of Aussie? They're loud, brash, boisterous and energetic, even in their 30s, 40s, and beyond. They can be obnoxious, but I think we sort of envy them ... they're kind of like the world's teenagers.

It occurred to me that perhaps we are not so much a global village as we are a global family.

Maybe France is the sexy aunt who smokes and shows too much cleavage and is also a little bit scary. Spain might be the sexy bachelor uncle who we want to flirt with... but not be trapped with alone. England might be the grandmother we don't see as often, who smells kind of funny but is also familiar and comforting, and tells great stories. Italy is grandma's sister, a no-nonsense old girl who's still beautiful, and whose cooking makes us moan.

Mexico must be our doe-eyed toddler. She's sweet, naive, entertaining... but we don't expect much of her. Canada is the nerdy cousin who we always end up hanging out with because we're close in age.

I think Brazil might be the cousin who goes to church three times a week but works as a stripper on weekends.

And who are we, the USA, in this global family? It's painful to admit, but we are clearly the world's adolescents, the pubes. We are also loud and obnoxious, and incredibly selfish and spoiled. And we think we know Everything with a Capital E, so we don't even have the sense to be self-conscious about how horrid we are. We are the family's spoiled brats. The rest of our family just grits its teeth and hopes we'll grow out of it.

But what about Asia, Africa, Antarctica, and the rest of South America? Well, I haven't had time to work out all the roles yet, but I think I'm on to something here.

Either that, or my Village just found another idiot.

Au Revoir, Littermama

The latest on the plastic surgery- and attention-addicted freak show I call Littermama:

By now, everyone has heard her horrifying hysterics in a call to 911 -- "I'm going to kill myself! I'm going to kill myself!" -- when one of her then-6 kids was on a walk around the block ...with a nanny. Does this give us all a clue as to how stable and well-prepared she is to handle fourteen children?

We heard she fired her publicist. I have a problem with the fact that she even HAD a publicist, before she had arranged for a HOME for the half-dozen kids she'd already birthed much less the next half-dozen-plus-two. Before she had arranged for nursing, feeding, care-giving help, before she had arranged for food, transportation, all of life's basic necessities, she was having her nails done, shopping for video games, and hiring and firing publicists. Before the ink was dry on their contract, a second publicist quit, stating unequivocally that Suleman is "nuts." Yeah, talk about a keen grasp of the obvious.

Littermama initially declined FREE nanny care for the babies by Angels in Waiting, reportedly because AIW absolutely refused to allow cameras in the nursery or be part of any reality tv show. Dr. Phil shamed Littermama into accepting help, reminding her that if she really has the children's best interests at heart, she has no business refusing skilled, professional help that is offered without cost. But it's clear that she felt this was foisted on her.

Unfortunately for Littermama, AIW takes their job seriously and consider themselves professionals. Their absolute first priority is the health and safety of the children in their care. And almost immediately, they saw hazards and filed three legitimate complaints with CPS (Children's Protective Services); one nurse believes Ms. Suleman only notices the babies "when there are cameras present." The list of people she has alienated is growing daily, at a time when her need for help (not her psychotic need for attention) is painfully evident.

It's a train wreck waiting to happen and I don't want to be in the front row. So I'm done posting about Littermama, with this as my final sign-off: If she is, indeed, receiving death threats...STOP IT. That's not helping anyone, and it's not going to wrest her collagen-inflated lips from the public teat. I think the best thing we could all do is ignore her completely. Let Social Services take over and do their jobs: monitoring the welfare of her flock, 24/7. (I was going to send you over to a blog called Suleman Without Pity, but I see that author has just reached the same decision.)

BUT (here's my big BUT!)... if I hear that anyone has made a book deal, or a TV deal, with Littermama (aka Octocrazy, Octoliar, and my personal favorite, Octopussy), I will be leading the parade to boycott that publisher/network. Because there's a chance that publicity is what she was after all along, and if she gets it, if we allow it and encourage it...we are condoning the same behavior from copycat nutjobs, and I just can't be a part of that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Needlepoint & Amaryllis

When I was 18, Uncle Lee gave me a car. He'd begun his auction habit, and had bought himself a Cadillac, so he gave me his 1966 Olds F-85. It had, I believe, a 429 V-8 and although it was rear-wheel drive, it was heavy enough to get through a South Bend winter! It was on its last tires, however, and after just a couple of months, everything started to go wrong with it. A window wouldn't roll up, the radiator developed a leak, and worst of all, the horn honked every time I hit a bump in the road. South Bend has a lot of bumpy roads and railroad tracks. It was terrible driving a car that honked at will, and suffering dirty looks from drivers around me. "What!? What's your problem, lady?" Still... it 's the only car anyone ever gave me.

We thought Uncle Lee (at right in the family photo) was a cool, swingin' bachelor guy because he lived in an apartment with a pool, and had Playboy magazines. But really, he was a handsome, spoiled Peter Pan, who'd perfected the art of getting women to do everything for him (starting with his mother), without offering much of anything in return. When he began dating a young widow, my grandmother (Uncle Lee's sister-in-law, back row in black), pulled her aside and said, "He'll never marry you." The young lady, we'll call her Sally, heeded Grandma Sophie's advice: she moved away, and married a nice guy. Fifty years later, widowed for a second time, Sally returned and immediately took up with Uncle Lee again. She still believed he was the love of her life, and he was still content to have a beautiful woman doting on him.

Uncle Lee was in his mid 80s when I moved back here, and I thought he was a study in contrasts. On one hand, family meant everything to him and he adored his two nieces (my mother and aunt) and their children: seven great-nieces and nephews. On the other hand, he was as much of a lone wolf as ever, and even when presented with a second chance to marry Sally, he chose to stay alone. On the one hand, he was still the swingin' bachelor guy, a man's man; on the other hand, he had no insecurities about his love of beauty in all forms. He loved to grow an Amaryllis or two every year, and to give them as gifts. And, in his 70s, he'd taken up needlepointing, and stitched with an amazing zeal. He stitched a score of Marc Chagall's windows, donating a dozen to his synagogue and the rest to family. He sewed dozens and dozens of beautiful pictures, and all of us will treasure them for years and years. For a guy who never had children (yeah, yeah, "that he knew of!"), it's really a nice legacy.

Uncle Lee lived to 92 and Sally was by his side up to the end. I had the unhappy task of helping with the Last Clean-Up and seeing first-hand the results of his failing eyesight, and his many years of auction-hunting.

Every year, I grow an Amaryllis or two in his honor. I wasn't going to bother last year, but Mom bought me a bulb and, well, all you have to do is stick the thing in a pot and water it now and then. Sure enough, after a few weeks, you get a 3' tall green ...phallic symbol. And a week or so later, it bursts into a bloom! Four flowers, actually. This bi-colored beauty was nine inches across. Sis commented, "That thing is so top-heavy, I can't believe it doesn't tip over!" And the day after I took these pictures, that's exactly what it did.

Now that I think of it, I suppose being beautiful, fleeting and unreliable is also an apt metaphor for Uncle Lee.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rakin' Angels

It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday, and although they might have been hung over and/or had better things to do, NINETEEN friends showed up to help decrapify the Villa! I tried several times to tell them they were done, and send them home; they wouldn't leave! They cleaned the flower beds, raked the #@!! Sweetgum balls and Redbud seed pods from the whole yard, edged and swept the sidewalk, and cleaned the gutters. As a result, the Villa has never looked better. THANKS to Chris, Pat, Susan, Kerry & Mary Ann, Jill & Randy, Gary & Kelly, Bill & Judy, Nick & Mary Ann, Susie, Cathy C & Jason, and Sis, TJ and KC.

(Filed under friends who continue to surprise me: Cathy C took up sewing this year and you'd think she'd been doing it all her life. She started by making gorgeous, reversible, reusable wine totes. Sunday she brought her first quilt project to show me: an amazing, beautiful, complex geometric pattern that sure doesn't look like a first effort.)

Puppy pals Harp, Daisy, and Gracie also came for moral support. Daisy and Gracie protested briefly but eventually settled in to work on some homemade Frosty Paws.

Thanks, everyone! I can't believe what you were able to accomplish in less than two hours.

Same time next month? (...kidding! kidding!)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dear Hoodies

You might think your "little" act of kindness
is like a pebble in a pond
but let me tell you,
by the time it reaches my heart,
it's a tsunami.

Passing the Teeny Tiny Baton

"Oh, mah word!" Here I am, about half-potted, at my 30th birthday party. Back when my big-ass hair was bigger than my ass. (Sigh) I was wearing this groovy little slinky halter top that I loved. It had a cartoonish print of Carmen Miranda in tropical colors. I was so proud because even though I was officially OLD, I could still wear this top that I'd bought as a teeny-tiny teen.

I just gave this top to my teeny-tiny neighbor, Megan, along with quite a few other vintage treasures, size nothing. (I think Megan's even smaller than I was.) I gave her what was my favorite shirt for a couple of decades: the top half of a pair of children's Chinese pajamas. And a cotton camisole. A couple of antique silk blouses that I'd altered drastically to fit. I also gave her some 80s jeans that I didn't even know I'd kept. Wow - some serious flashbacks there!

I'm trying to do a drastic pare-and-purge in anticipation of listing my house. Yes, the economy, the housing market, and certainly my health are near their worst... but I've decided that I've got to at least try to get out of here and be less miserable. The piggies next door have been up to their old tricks and I've given up hoping that they -- or their landlord -- will ever show some consideration to their neighbors. It's time to concede defeat and get out.

So I've hired Megan to help me with the sort-and-purge. If I should I actually manage to orchestrate the sale of the Villa and the purchase of another home, I will hire her to oversee the packing and moving. She strikes me as smart, honest, and hard-working; 98 lbs. of solid muscle and energy. My little quasi-hippie friend is delighted to have my groovy vintage garb, and I'm delighted to pass them on to someone who can actually wear them, and who appreciates them. Or, who has done a credible job of convincing me that she appreciates them; she may just be humoring me to keep the gig, but I don't think so. I know first-hand the thrill of being a very unusual size and finding really cool clothes that actually fit.

There is, I guess, a chance that I won't or can't sell, in which case I'll stay here at the Villa, but I feel I have to give it a shot.

I'm suddenly noticing that in almost all the pictures from that era, I'm wearing my treasured rayon shorts. I actually had two pair, in peach and gray, and apparently I wore them all the time, for the better part of a decade. Did everyone else notice? Does anyone need further proof of my complete lack of fashion sense?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Big C Update

Welcome to Blubberland. Thursday I had a quiet little weepfest at the infusatorium. I cried because it took so long to get the drugs. (They don't mix the cocktail until you are checked in, blood work taken and results returned from the lab.) I cried because I was in a private room instead of "out there" in the barcalounger room, and it was creepy because everybody who walked by had to peer into the room and get a big eyeful. I cried because it took two sticks to get the vein. I knew this would happen eventually, I just thought I'd have a few more months first. I cried because the endocrinologist across the hall wouldn't just hand me some insulin samples; he wants to see me, and go over the chemo/dex plan and discuss the blood sugar issue. (Perfectly valid, of course.) I cried because I tried to bribe his nurse with my daffodil pin, which she happily took...but still wouldn't give me the insulin sample. I cried because the tv wasn't working, and I'd accidentally picked up a magazine I'd already read, and I'd forgotten my library book. Mostly, though, I just cried BECAUSE I WAS A BIG STUPID CRYBABY!

To round out the morning, I cried after I left Trader Joe's because even though they rang the bell three times, no one opened another register and I just left my three items there and went to Krogers instead. Then I cried after I left Krogers because what I really wanted was at Trader Joe's. I cried because I already have Big Fat Moonie Steroid Face. I cried because my sweet friend Chris called to invite me to an impromptu First Day of Spring celebration, and also to see if I needed anything from the store.

And then I realized... this was my fourth Dex dose (steroids) in 11 days, and I had clearly reached my limit. My Dex is twice what it was last year: 8mg twice a week instead of once a week. Luckily, my chemo vacation started the next day. I guess these docs know their stuff: they bring you right to the very brink of your tolerance and just when you know you can't take another second...you get your vacation. And now I get to see if I can go the whole ten days without crying. Starting....right...now!

What I would say to cancer...

Christie sent a link to this amazing video: "What I Would Say to Cancer." Take a minute to read the Fat Cyclist's thoughts and readers' comments, too. (By the way, it's clear that most people do not have any qualms about using all the war/fight/battle metaphors.)

What would I say to cancer? I think it would be very different than a year ago. As I've said, I may be the only person to weep with relief at the diagnosis of cancer. It was proof that I wasn't crazy and there was something wrong. I wasn't happy to hear the diagnosis, I was just relieved to have the mystery solved.

Today...I might say something like...

Look, Cancer, I know it's your biological imperative to invade "x" number of people every year. I hate that you took my mother's best friend, her only sister. I hate that you can steal a kid's childhood, or the best years a parent can share. I hate that you can turn a senior's golden years from quiet peace and dignity into an intrusive physical and emotional attack. I wish you hadn't signed me up, but frankly, I'd rather take the hit than pass it on to a kid, or a young parent. And I've already figured out that no one gets out of this game alive. I might just have a shorter playing season than most.

You are the selfish, cruel, farty roommate who just won't take the hint and move out. Still, you brought a lot of surprises and blessings with you. I can't say I'm glad to have the experience, just that every step of the way, there have been more silver linings than dark clouds, something that came as a total shock to me. I have been given the gifts of clarity and perspective, the blessings of gratitude and humility, and respect for the kind of courage that is not yet part of my personal repertoire. (In ways I am still discovering, you have made me a better person, but I would have been perfectly content to go on being a mediocre person.)

So I'd like us to find a way to tolerate each other, because the fighting just depletes me too much, and after more than a year on the frontlines, I just haven't got a lot of fight left in me. Can I live with you, like diabetes, or a virus? Can we just coexist without constantly assaulting each other? That would be my ideal situation: to feel that cancer is a part of my life, instead of the sum of my life.

You're just a pathetic mass of mutant cells, Cancer, and even if you do take my life, I know that's just one part of my existence. I will live on in the hearts and minds of those I love, and those who love me. In their acts of kindness and generosity. In their thoughtful, prayerful, grateful moments. Even in the artful things I've created, to share my love of beauty and comfort. You can deprive my spirit of my body, but not the other way around. Your spirit is a fleeting nuisance, Cancer, but my spirit is rich and pure and eternal.

So, pththththth!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Boop Ur Noes!

You may or may not have seen the "I can has cheezburger" site, which has funny cat pics with usually funny, badly misspelled captions. I'm not quite sure why the atrocious spelling is supposed to be so hilarious, but apparently it just is. Yesterday I stumbled upon its canine companion site, www.ihasahotdog.com. Yep, dogs are funnier. Or, should I say "Yo! Dogz be da laff bomm!"
Somehow this one snuck through with correct spelling, but I had to include it because it's so funny... and so true. Not me, of course. I am a French Poodle -- you've seen the pictures.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Alley Cat Love Song

by Dana Gioia

Come into the garden, Fred,
For the neighborhood tabby is gone.
Come into the garden, Fred.
I have nothing but my flea collar on,
And the scent of catnip has gone to my head.
I'll wait by the screen door till dawn.

The fireflies court in the sweetgum tree.
The nightjar calls from the pine,
And she seems to say in her rhapsody,
"Oh, mustard-brown Fred, be mine!"
The full moon lights my whiskers afire,
And the fur goes erect on my spine.

I hear the frogs in the muddy lake
Croaking from shore to shore.
They've one swift season to soothe their ache.
In autumn they sing no more.
So ignore me now, and you'll hear my meow
As I scratch all night at the door.

from Interrogations at Noon, 2001, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, MN
Copyright 2001 by Dana Gioia. All rights reserved.


For my kitty friends. This, like all poems, is better read aloud. More about Dana Gioia here.

And it's not even steroid day!

You know, when the headlines make me feel like the poster girl for mental health, it's going to be a bad day.

Cuckoo Crazy #1: A day late and $700 billion short, congresspigs are finally catching Outrage Fever from their constituents. We're bailing out insurance giant AIG, because supposedly allowing it to go under would cause even greater upheaval. (So much for a free market economy.) AIG execs were getting $165 million in bonuses while the company was taking billions from the government pushed public anger over the edge. Catch the fever: Off With Their Heads!

Cuckoo Crazy #2: Scientology Spokesman Confirms Xenu Story. After years of dismissing the story as false, Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis has confirmed that the story of mankind's origins involving an alien overlord named Xenu (known to senior Scientologists as part of "Operating Thetan Level III", or "OT III" for short) is indeed authentic Scientology teaching:

Hubbard instructed his followers not to mention OT III to any non-Scientologist and Scientologists who themselves have not reached the level, ostensibly because Hubbard wrote that people are liable to fall victim to pneumonia and die if exposed to the Xenu story before they have completed the preparatory steps in Scientology. Scientologists pay up to $350,000 to reach OT III. Those that reach OT III are required to have a safe in their home and to transport the OT III materials in a locked briefcase.
It's pretty clear to most of us that L. Ron Hubbard was an interesting crazy person, who occasionally had valid, interesting little ideas in between large, crazy ramblings. And it's just sad to me, that seemingly sane people have elevated Scientology to a religion when it should have been nothing more than an amusing historical footnote. It might be a philosophy, but it's certainly not a religion.

Crazy but Audacious: Tibetan Messengers outfox "Great Firewall" of China
One reader at a time, they are trying to explain how China violates its own policies in denying rights to Tibetans. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet 50 years ago yesterday, when it was invaded by China and has lived as a leader in exile ever since.

Crazy Freak Accident: A simple tumble during a ski lesson may have turned into a serious brain injury for one of my favorite actresses, Natasha Richardson. What a sad, horrible accident. Her family is at her side, hoping for good news soon. My thoughts are with them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green with Joy

I've suspected all along that I was going to be a tough case. It was a disappointment, but not really a surprise, when Dr A started talking about more chemo as early as last December.

I know how long I felt bad (2 years) before I presented any symptoms other than fatigue. Then I was misdiagnosed for six months. And although the results can be somewhat inaccurate, my bone marrow biopsy at diagnosis showed 80% cancerous cells. I've never heard of another BMB that high. I also know how I feel: the bone pain, the muscle cramps, the fatigue. Initially, the back surgery produced some significant pain relief, but it did not eliminate my back pain. I've seen the actual MRI and PET scans; I've read the reports. While I try to stay positive and hopeful every day, in my heart, I've known that I would not have a quick or easy road to remission.

I was explaining to someone why I'm having more chemo. I told her about several MM pals who achieved CR (Complete Response or Complete Remission) after just one course of chemo, or after a successful stem cell transplant. She said, "Gosh, I think I'd be so jealous! Aren't you jealous?"

Well, actually...yes. YES! OF COURSE, I'M JEALOUS!

I'm jealous and joyful. The fact that I'm envious of their success does not diminish my complete, utter joy and delight in their good results. Turns out cancer is a team sport. I've got one hell of a team, and I want nothing but the best for every single one of my teammates. When I hear good news about any of them, I feel that it's my good news, too. Margaret, John, Rita, Pam, Mike, Dave, and all the rest (and their awesome caregivers) who are in my thoughts and prayers daily: your good health is probably the best medicine in the world for me right now! Thanks for being on my team.

Now, about those uniforms...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Insurance Companies Determine the Price?

My visit to the infusatorium was borderline uneventful, but my 15-second IV "push" takes about two hours from start to finish. Today I spent much of the time thinking about our broken health care system. First...if I were able to work, would I be able to keep a job when I need to take off at least four hours a week for treatment, not including travel time? And if not, would I have to schedule my chemo for evening hours, and go through this after working an 8-hour day?

The other thing I thought about, as I always do, was the financial aspect of treatment. An uninsured patient might go for an MRI and get charged, oh, let's say $1,500. An insured patient has the same MRI, but the insurance company says, "Sorry, we only pay $800 for MRIs." And the medical facility accepts that as payment in full. Why? Why does anyone find this acceptable? (Okay, this wasn't a good example, because uninsured people don't get $1,500 MRIs; instead, they DIE.)

Let's consider a different example. My car gets dinged in a parking lot. I take it to a body shop, and they say, "That'll be $1,500 for a new bumper." They don't adjust the bill because my car is insured! They charge every customer the same amount, whether or not the damage is covered by insurance.

Why aren't health care services compensated the same way? It's such a bad system, and the greedy insurance companies have been gorging themselves for so long. I know getting the economy stabilized is Job One, but I hope President Baracky hasn't forgotten that he was elected by people who expect Job Two to be a complete, top-to-bottom overhaul of health care. We are way past "fixing" the current system. It's time to throw it out and start over.

The Value of Local Spending

"Druggist Danny Cottrell didn't wait to see how federal stimulus efforts will help his hometown of Brewton, Ala. His own plan uses $16,000 worth of $2 bills to demonstrate the value of spending locally."

Cottrell gave his 24 employees cash, and told them to divide it between charitable organizations and local businesses. Click "Listen Now" to hear the whole story here on NPR: A Pharmacist's Prescription for Economic Aid

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Long Hair... Rully Long Hair

Aack! This is my high school senior portrait, taken during my junior year. Portrait of The Coot as a Young Vixen, with very long and not very pretty hair, and the factory original nose.

Shortly after the picture was taken, I got most of The Hair cut off and it was a vast improvement. I continued to sport the Jimmy Durante schnozz for quite a while, finally succumbing to one! two! three! surgeries* before seeing an aesthetic improvement. I now have the cute little model that should have been my genetic destiny.

I hated high school. Every minute of every day. I conned them into letting me go half-days for two years, and squeaked by with just enough credits to graduate. Even so, my skipping exploits are legendary and I doubt a diploma was ever awarded to anyone who attended fewer classes. Giving me the damned diploma was far, far preferable to having to deal with me for another year.

I didn't even go back for my senior yearbook; eventually my mom went and picked it up. I have never been back to a reunion...and I don't think I have ever run into a single classmate.

*Nosebob #1 did nothing for me cosmetically and completely screwed up my sinuses. Bob #2 was supposed to repair the damaged sinuses but it reduced only my wallet. Bob #3 repaired some of the damage but most importantly, sculpted that big ol' honker down to something in scale with the rest of my face. Moral of the story: If you're going to consider plastic surgery, GO TO THE BEST the first time, and save yourself subsequent surgeries.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Things I Found #2: Rules for Hoosiers

At the bottom of a stack 'o crap, here is a folder with essays I wrote for one of those infamous adult ed writing classes. Our first assignment was to write about ourselves. I completely ignored the teacher's instructions – something I would continue to do throughout the class – and submitted this instead. Luckily, he liked it anyways.

Rules for Hoosiers Appearing on
National Television

There are, apparently, a rigidly enforced set of rules for Hoosiers Appearing on National Television. Whether your house is under nine feet of water, or you just grew the world's largest rutabaga, or whether your brother killed your sister because her ex-husband is now his stepmother, these rules must be followed. If they exist elsewhere in written form, I haven't been able to find them, so after much research and observation, I offer them here:

  1. Hair (Male) Totally or almost totally bald needs no further enhancement. However, hair must be styled either in the classic Mullet, or simply parted in the middle and plastered to the head with any grooming agent. Facial hair is acceptable only as a five-day five o'clock shadow, a Fu Manchu, or sideburns a la Elvis, The Later Years. (Female) There are also three acceptable hair styles for women. One is the classic Barbie Bubble (also known as Helmet Head), heavily lacquered if possible. Again, longer hair may be parted in the middle and plastered to the head. The third option is any version of Surprise Bangs, Rooster Bangs, or Extra Crispy Bangs.
  2. Clothing (Male) By far the preferred apparel is no shirt, regardless of the physique or the weather, and stained, dirty sweat pants, worn well below the naval. If a shirt must be worn, it must be a t-shirt, preferably stained, dirty, and/or with an obscene message printed on it. The shirt must not meet the waistband of the sweat pants. (Female) Virtually any clothing not made of natural fibers is acceptable. The stretchier, the better. Stretch pants with tube tops or tank tops are ideal. Synthetic fibers that look like natural fibers are not acceptable.
  3. Facial Expressions – Remember the three "S's" - the scowl, the sulk, and the sneer. You must never, ever smile on camera – unless you are missing one or more front teeth.
  4. Speaking on Camera (Grammar) The most important thing to remember when speaking on camera to a national audience is ... There Is No Such Thing As Too Many Negatives. For example: "She din't never get no jobs nowheres round there." "We ain't not got no rain like this, never." (Conjugation) Don't bother! Just add the letters "ed" or even just a "d" to any present tense verb. For example, "I knowed she go'ed inside, cause I seed her."
I am a native Hoosier, I've lived here most of my life, yet I don't actually know these people or anyone like them. I have to assume this is a clever plot by some marketing geniuses to make Indiana appear terribly unappealing. Perhaps we are at great risk of getting inundated with tax-weary Californians, or breeze-seeking Arizonians, or caffeine refugees from Oregon.

I didn't never knowed we was so smart!

Vanity, Yes. Fair? Not So Much... (Part Deux)

Creepy Hair: These girls spend hundreds (thousands?) on their eyewear... and look as though they spend their evenings picking through each other's coiffs for dead bugs. Seriously creepy, crunchy hair. Tame by comparison is the vixen at right, whom I have included just because of these weird mid-forehead bangs. Sis and I have a politically incorrect term for this; for now, I'll just call them Short Bus Bangs. Didn't like them on Audrey Hepburn, didn't like them on Uma Thurman, just don't like 'em.

I've been a Ralph Lauren fan for a long time. He was sort of the voice of sanity in a Calvin-Klein-Gone-Mad kinda world. But it looks like he's done a half-gainer off the deep end here. The gorgeous blond in quasi-safari gear? With a torn sleeve? Pushing a broken-down motorcycle? Okay, believe it or not, I'm still with you. But the gold lamé MC Hammer pants with the crotch at the knee? Nope, you lost me there, Ralphie.

Now I'm really confused. First, I confess I'm not a shoe freak, and I'm especially not a high heel shoe freak. But piercing one's thigh? And "Oops, I forgot to get dressed!"...? Still, I'd call it high art, or a fashion statement, or something sort of valid even if I completely don't get it.

Not so with the Michael Kors statement at right. "Sailing? You betcha! Let me just get my polka dot strapless number and my 5" lucite hooker heels!" It's just nutty. I think you've broken the needle on everyone's gaydar with this one, Mikey.

I have to admit, however, that some of the fashion ads are compelling, even if I don't understand them. And lord knows, those poor fashionistas don't want to go broke trying to design for the likes of me.

150 Years? Maybe for a START...

Bernard Madoff pled guilty Thursday to 11 criminal counts including money laundering, perjury and securities, mail and wire fraud and will do so without a plea deal, knowing it carries a potential prison term of 150 years. So poor Bernie may be going to jail for 150 years? Not enough, I say.

Courtroom mea culpas to the contrary, Bernie still doesn't get it (from a NY Daily News editorial):

Just when you thought Bernard Madoff could not behave more odiously, the Ponzi con man who has ruined countless lives outdoes himself. He pleads that his wife should be allowed to keep $69 million worth of assets.

...here Bernie and the missus come to claim that $17 million in cash, $45 million in bonds and the $7 million apartment are the legitimate property of Lady Madoff, not the fruits of the fabulous fraud.
His fraud is believed to total $65 billion. Billion-with-a-B. I'm for stripping him and his wife and anyone else implicated of every single asset. EVERYTHING. We're selling your grandma's China, we're selling your shoes, we're selling your dog. We're selling every house and apartment - even the ones that "belong" to your wife, even the ones in Florida.

And if anyone should ever hire him again for anything (the man was once chairman of the Nasdac exchange!), we will take every cent he makes, above minimum wage. Then, let's bring back The Stocks. Let's throw rotten vegetables at him in the public square. Let him wrap himself in rags. Let him eat dog food. At night, let him sleep in a homeless shelter, or a cardboard box, if he prefers. Let him know that he is the most reviled man in America, hated more than Benedict Arnold, more than Rude LyingBlabberbutt.

And let every other rat bastard on Wall Street think about Madoff's punishment whenever they consider some brilliant scheme to defraud investors. Let them weigh a good job with a good salary against retribution, public humiliation, and abject poverty for the rest of their lives.

Punishment is supposed to be a deterrent! A sentence of 150 years doesn't come close to fitting the crime.

Just a Little Treat
19 All-Time Best Recipes selected by editors and test kitchen staff of Cooking Light magazine. I can vouch for the roasted asparagus and the baked potato soup. I love CL magazine because the food usually does not taste "light!"

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Big C Update

Just a quickie post before I head out for my second hit of chemo juice. The first one was Monday; I get it in an IV "push" and also get my lovely Dex by IV as well.

So far, so good. I know that may change; there may be a cumulative effect of the chemo drug and/or the Dex. But from here, it seems likely to be a repeat of last spring: the Dex will turn out to be more troublesome than the chemo. Dex is a steroid; it is given with the other drug to mitigate some of the side effects, and also help a little with your energy level through chemo. In my case, it will probably bring on diabetes again. I am on the same dosage as before, but now I'll be getting it twice a week instead of once. Will I be twice as crazy? {shudder} Twice as diabetic? I'll have to wait and see.

I've started another afghan project to keep out of trouble and give me something to do in the evenings besides stuff my face, which will get rounder with every Dex dose. Here is an afghan I made a couple months ago for Gracie's peeps (looks better with their living room color scheme). They have done so much for Molly and me, I could give them both my kidneys and I'd still be ahead. Then I made a second afghan for Bro 2, who supported me all last year. I'd made one for him in the 20+ years ago, and decided he should get an upgrade from that 80s mauve. Now I'm making one for Supergirl #1, in beautiful peacock colors.

Go See...

Unusual, creative designs:

Other miscellaneous fun (maybe a little girly?) designy stuff
Lab Partners Blog - whimsical, charming illustrations 'n more
GoodShapeDesign - birds and tulips to covet
CreatureComforts - cool stuff, maddeningly huge page


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vanity, Yes. Fair? Not So Much...

A friend subscribed me to Vanity Fair a few years ago, and I got it but I didn't "get it." A strange contrast of hard-hitting political exposés, celebrity fawning, and supposedly high fashion. I still don't understand how they all fit together. It's like a meal of lentil stew, steak tartare, and HoHos.

But at the Cancerama last week, I was thumbing through a copy of VF and decided it should come home with me so I could finish an article. I get the political stuff, I sort of get the celebrity stuff, but I still don't get fashion. I'm lucky if my socks match; I just don't have much personal style, but I have a great admiration for those
who do. The people whose style I admire, though, don't follow trends but set them. Still, from a sociological view, it's interesting to note what the designers are trying to shove down the throats of the wealthy-and-insecure.

According to the ads in Vanity Fair, I deduced that this season, anorexia is still hot, hot, hot. Lucky girls: you haven't starved yourselves for nothing! The other two big trends, which seem to be hand-in-glove, are Necklaces Bigger than Your Thigh, and Enough Eyeliner to Sink the Titanic.

The picture of the couple was from a Burberry ad; this and another page feature these excruciatingly mincy wincy adrogenous girly boys I find painfully unsexy. Who exactly is their target market? And the Girl in the Glasses -- yes, it was actually an ad for eyewear, but they must have worked all day to make this beautiful woman seem so unappealing. From the strange hairnet to the liver-colored lips, it's just painful to look at.

There was actually a series of ads (Dillard's) featuring really gorgeous fashions -- fashions an actual human might wear -- modeled by an attractive woman in the mandatory "limbs akimbo" poses. But what troubled me was not just her "Fresh From My Lobotomy" Stepford Wife expression, it was that her mouth was always in a strange "eu" sort of shape.

Oh, there was so much more: Madonna as a $5 hooker in an ad for Louis Vuitton; a Rockand Republic ad in which the model has her hand down her pants; the scowling Guess jeans girl wearing four pounds of lipstick and snarling like she's going to Bite! Off! His! Head!

At the other end, Banana Republic had a beautiful girl, singer/songwriter Ayo, modeling cute clothes and smiling a gorgeous smile. DKNY for men, now Donna knows a pretty man when she sees one, and is letting us imagine that he's hetero. I'm saving some goodies for later: foot bondage, Hammer pants and rat hair.


Watching RL lead the GOP... off a cliff

I think I'm a fairly articulate person. And, minor cranky fits aside, I've learned to become detached and have some perspective on the few things that really irk me. But I don't approach the subject, I don't even consider discussing the vile, loathsome, hateful, hypocritical evil that goes by "Rush Limbaugh." (Oh, I cannot even speak the name. I shall call him Rude Lyingblabberbutt, or RL.) I am incapable of mustering the language...or reigning my wrath. Suffice to say that I think being a fan should be recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a diagnosable mental disorder.

I wasn't surprised to hear that RL said he hopes President Obama fails, because I'm not surprised by any stupid, cruel, inane, hateful thing he says.

I wasn't surprised to see him villified by Huffpo's Bob Cesca: "...the GOP has been inextricably grasped within the meaty, sweaty mitts of that familiar planetoid of addiction, racism and self-indulgence known as Rush Limbaugh. ...Limbaugh has indeed broken the Republicans and I'm pretty sure they know it. Yet they're powerless to do anything about it." J. Wilkes weighed in: " Limbaugh speaks with impunity. When he makes a gaffe that Media Matters or some other media watchdog group latches onto, Republicans rush to his defense. ...And when, god forbid, a Republican criticizes Limbaugh, they run back and immediately apologize."

Deepak Chopra commented:

The Limbaugh effect fueled the anti-morality of the Bush years. Under ordinary morality, the wretched plight of illegal immigrants, for example, must be considered along with the fact that they are breaking the law. Being poor, illiterate, and desperate, their human condition makes them more sympathetic than ruthless lawbreakers would be. But under anti-morality, if you hate immigrants because they are foreigners who don't look American enough, the argument is over. Your anger strips away tolerance, sympathy, and regard for "the other." Hence the almost imperial bearing of Limbaugh, the bland certainty that because he never stops being angry, he never stops being right.

The same goes for a wide range of "others" who mightily tick off Limbaugh's listeners: Muslims, feminists, people of color, gays, and environmentalists. There's no need to understand them or try and accommodate their views. Just put them through the wringer of Limbaugh's perpetual judgment and, poof, there's no problem anymore. Of course, the whole scheme is delusional. Problems aren't solved by remaining perpetually ticked off. Accords can't be reached when you demonize the other side.
Yet, with a heart as big as the universe, Chopra believes that tolerating even RL's bile is something Americans should take pride in. I'm not so sure.

Frank Schaeffer has plenty to say in an Open Letter to Republican Traitors (from a former Republican):

With people like Limbaugh as the loudmouth image of the Republican Party -- you need no enemies. But something far more serious has happened than an image problem: the Republican Party has become the party of obstruction at just the time when all Americans should be pulling together for the good of our country...

For the party that created our crises of misbegotten war, mismanaged economy, the lack of regulation of our banking industry, handing our country to rich crooks... to obstruct the one person who is trying to repair the damage is obscene.

The fact that RL even has an audience, after calling an adolescent teen "the White House dog," after ridiculing Michael J. Fox's tremors, after being exposed for the lying, venomous, serially-divorced junkie that he is really troubles me. Chopra's take is my best hope, that it is proof of America's tolerance. But still, I think RL needs to be spanked and put on the naughty chair for a couple centuries. (Okay, skip the spanking. Something tells me he'd really like it.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sometimes I blogsurf: after checking out a blog, I visit one or two of their links. If I find something interesting, I follow one or two of the link's links. I often lose track of exactly how I arrived somewhere, as is the case with this image.

I found it at in an archived page at The Quaker Agitator, in a post aptly titled, "Hang Up and Drive." (The link to the original source just leads to an expired page.)

God Says Yes To Me

by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

from The Palm of your Hand, 1995, Tilbury House Publishers
Copyright 1995 by Kaylin Haught. All rights reserved.

And with that, Ms. Haught suddenly leapfrogs almost to the top of my favorite poets list! How could I not love a goddess who calls me sweetcakes, and sanctions melodrama?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I crack me up, #7,493

Got my copy of the surgery notes and read through it as best I could. If you've ever read surgical notes, or even MRI/CT scan reports, you know that the object of the game is to use as little English as possible, and to make the report as difficult to understand as possible. Still, I gleaned most of the vital information, and was just a little bit pleased to see that even when unconscious, I am capable of being, "incredibly difficult." But I was surprised when I came to this bit:

...using the same technique with AP and lateral fluoroscopy, cannulated down into and through the left T7 pedicle and into the vertebral body...We did attempt to take a biopsy but it was not fruitful.
What? The attempt to take a biopsy was not fruitful? Oh, my gosh! And then I cracked up because...so what?

(Given my circumstance, I should probably use a term other than "cracking up.")

Facebook-Challenged (Oh, the shame!)

I was the second-to-last human to get a cell phone. I use it for outgoing calls only. And rarely. My phone is 3-4 years old, and it doesn't have a camera, or internet. But I've been computing for 25 years, and I've been on the internet for 15+ years, so I'm not a complete computer idjut.

But don't be fooled by the fact that I managed to create this blog (with Kelly's help) and add to it with links and pictures. I am definitely a blog neophyte, and a link/social site virgin. I don't twitter. I don't technorati. I don't Digg. I don't RSS, although I think Kelly helped my blog to do this, or be this, or whateverrr. I don't LinkIn or LinkedIn. I don't FeedBlitz or FeedBurn. (Actually, I think I Feedburned, or Fedburn, but I didn't understand how or why.) I don't SlashDot. I don't Deli.cio.us. I don't MySpace.

And now for the shameful part: I don't Facebook.

I've tried. And yes, I know several dogs who do, and I've tried and tried. And I've given up. Until someone walks in the door, and stands over my shoulder, and walks me through, step by step, I have absolutely sworn off of even trying. Because I have been perilously close to hurling this antique laptop right through the window, and I can't afford another computer right now.

P.S. Has Google bought Facebook yet? I'm very wary of all things Google, although this blog is hosted through a Google-owned service. It's the 800lb gorilla of the computer world, and it really hasn't reassured me that my information is safe and/or private. Why is it still saving every search I've ever done?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Big C Update

I've toyed with the idea of quitting the support group; although they are all good-hearted people, I just wasn't getting much out of it. And as the only unmarried MM patient, I sometimes left the meetings feeling worse - lonelier, more isolated. But I'd decided to give it one more shot before I gave up, and wow, what a good decision that turned out to be. Monday evening was an excellent meeting: a good speaker, a relevant topic -- understanding our monthly blood test results -- followed by some truly meaningful discussions. It was the first time people really opened up about personal issues; it was touching to hear their concerns, and even more moving to hear and see the group's response. I won't be any more specific, but I'm really hopeful that this meeting is the beginning of a new "tone," and not just an anomaly. (Also hopeful that it wasn't just because the guy who usually monopolizes every meeting happened to be absent.)

So I was in a better frame of mind on Wednesday to hear Dr. A's plan for more chemo. Mom and my true-blue pal Chris came with. (Dad was also here, but didn't feel well that day.) So...here's the plan. New drug, two IVs a week for two weeks (NO port, of course!), followed by 10 days off. That is considered one cycle (24 days), and I will have a minimum of 4 cycles. I'm steeling myself for the possibility of more, just in case. I will also be getting Dex again; it mitigates some of the side effects of the other drug, but comes with its own basket of crap. In my case, "'Roid Rage" and diabetes.

Oh, the other good news, not that it matters much to me, is that I probably won't lose my hair. Since it's taken 6+ months to grow 1/2 inch of hair, that's probably good. But I'm thinking about keeping it this short. It is really cool and comfortable. Costs no money, takes no time. And -- I'm just a little embarrassed to admit -- I like the shock factor of the microbuzz. And -- although there's a chance they're lying -- everyone keeps telling me it looks great.

It's very frustrating because my back feels better than it has in more than a year; I finally, finally have some relief. I still have some back issues, other damaged vertebrae, some tumors, etc., but...I can walk without blinding pain! I can sleep through the night! I can get in and out of the car without teeth-gnashing! And there's a chance that the new drug will make me feel sick and barfy. I just hate the thought of letting even this limited relief be snatched away from me. But my Doc feels very strongly that this will be the final push to get me to CR (Complete Response or Complete Remission), so I feel I have to give it a shot. It would be foolish to come this far and not take the last step.

Prescription to cure wealth?

I knew my persistent sniffles would once again require an antibiotic, so I made a plea: let's not use a cannon if a slingshot will work. I was campaigning for E-mycin or one of the narrow spectrum, older, less expensive drugs instead of the monster Z-Pack that always results in yeast infections, ear infections, etc.

Instead, they called in an Rx for Blahblah. I'm guessing it's still a new drug because it cost $13 freakin' dollars EACH. One hundred thirty dollars for TEN pills!

For some reason, my surgery has not been through the insurance system yet, so I still haven't met my deductible and everything is out-of-pocket. I would have just refused, called the doc back and asked for something else. But Genius Girl waited until Friday night to pick it up, and I'm supposed to start chemo on Monday, so I bit the bullet and got the $130 Rx. I wonder about poor people and/or the uninsured who might need Blahblah: do they just die? Is it a sort of financial Darwinism?

Well, the good thing about really expensive lessons is that I tend to remember them.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Today, I am a Kvetch

I've managed to blot out most of my Bat Mitzvah experience. It was the absolute apex of my dorkhood. I had nowhere to go but up from here.

And consistent with my childhood theme of Perpetual Victim, I was outraged that the whole affair was a fraction of Bro 1's Gala Hullabaloo. His Bar Mitzvah was doubled up with Cuz 1's Bat Mitzvah; they were both first-borns, and it was a 3-day weekend- long Polish wedding of a Bar Mitzvah. I'm pretty sure everyone from god to Liz Taylor attended. Certainly cousins, aunts and uncles from every remote corner of the universe were there. There were matchbooks.

My Bat Mitzvah was way, way, way scaled down. Aside from my grandparents, one Milwaukee aunt & uncle attended. Period. No matchbooks.

It was hardly worth the fit I threw to get this silly dress. I vaguely remember a screaming scene in a "nice" dress shop. You NEVER this! and you ALWAYS that! and I just badgered my poor mom into buying this stupid thing which probably cost as much as the whole rest of the affair. I think it was because I could finally move out of the girls' department and wear a women's petite. (It still hangs in Mom & Dad's basement, and looks more like a Barbie dress. Tiny.)

I led the services and read a portion of the Torah that I had memorized. I think I spouted some version of the classic Link in the Golden Chain* speech. But it wasn't a rite of passage into womanhood, or assuming responsibilities as an adult, it wasn't even a part of my development as a member of the Jewish community. There was no frame of reference back then, certainly not for superfluous girl people. It was just stress, and a dress, and more than my usual moral outrage.

My BM loot was also a fraction of Bro 1's. And my parents gave me my first piece of luggage. They would continue to give me luggage on every birthday for the next 4 years.

Subtle, very subtle.
*The rabbi gave each kid a sort of outline for their speech. "Be sure to thank your parents, and your teachers, and say how proud you are to become a link in the golden chain of Judaism." Just about every kid used that phrase verbatim; once the speech started, we'd wait for it...wait for it... and inevitably s/he would become... a Link in the Golden Chain!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Three Good Things

I try and make a "three good things" list whenever I'm facing something particularly sucky. It's like Three Deep Cleansing Breaths for my brain. And it occurred to me, reading Steph's comment about baking, that there are at least three good things about the economic crisis.

  1. Families will redefine their priorities.
  2. As a result, families will probably be spending more time together.
  3. Chances are they will learn to do things like bake, and sew and garden and build birdhouses.

I actually heard this described on the news as "insourcing" -- doing things for yourself you previously paid people to do for you. That can only be good, right? It sounds Pollyanna-ish in the face of this devastation to say that anything good will come of it, but I believe that a shift in values can only be an improvement for this country. And learning to take care of ourselves, from sewing a button on to growing and cooking food, doesn't just provide financial benefits. It's good for the ego, too.

And by the way, hats off to the few moms and dads out there who do still bake from scratch.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Rainy Day Bakery

Before kids' lives were scheduled with classes and playgroups and sports activities, we had Mom (the geniune stay-at-home variety) and each other. Before we knew about blood sugar and cholesterol, we baked. We loved to bake! What a mighty mess we made, and what a good sport Mom was, getting stuck with all the cleaning.

I remember only one baking "incident." At the tail end of a long, complicated recipe, I begged Mom to let me add the eggs. Just as I was considering my egg-cracking strategy, Mom turned on the old KitchenAid mixer. It startled me and I tossed the whole egg into the mixing bowl and watched the beater come around and crrrrunch it into the batter. Mom's also very forgiving.

With that one exception, they're all happy memories. Quiet times with Mom selecting a recipe, gathering ingredients, measuring and mixing. Without even realizing it, we were practicing reading and math. It kept us busy, and generally cooperating, for a couple of hours. Oh, there were the inevitable arguments -- I get to lick the bowl! You got to lick the bowl last time! -- but what a payoff: cakes, cookies, pies, rolls.

I think about this at the grocery, when I pass those tubes of slice -n- bake cookies. That's not baking. And are they designed to help mothers avoid spending time with their kids? What a gyp.

I remember baking as mostly a rainy-day activity. The rule back then was, if it wasn't actually snowing or raining, children belonged outside, sucking fresh air and absorbing sunshine, every possible minute. Or maybe that was just Mom's rule, a sort of self-preservation strategy. After all, she was outnumbered four to one.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Compassion Fatigue

It has been 15 months since an excruciating compression fracture finally resulted in a correct diagnosis. I had other symptoms for at least 6 months before that. My doctor guesses I had MM for about 2 years before the symptoms drove me to seek medical help. Anyways, I get the diagnosis, and several people assure me this is one of the less horrible cancers. So I think I'm going to be like those breast cancer girls, the rock stars of the cancer world: I'm going to get my radiation and chemo, and be all better.

"Nawt!" I've been through radiation, chemo, a stem cell transplant and spinal surgery. And in a couple days, I have to have a conversation with Dr. A about another round of chemo, with a different, stronger drug.

My point is... I've been sick for a long time, and over the past 15 months, almost everyone has slowly faded out. I don't blame them a bit, and nothing, nothing will diminish my gratitude for all the help and support they gave me for as long as they did. I will forever be thankful for every kind word and deed and thoughtful gesture. Their cumulative kindnesses kept me buoyed through the darkest days.

I'm just that much more humbled and appreciative of my family and the few pals who are still right on the front lines with me. I can count you on one hand, but I doubt I'd be here now without each and every one of you. I don't know why you have managed to resist "compassion fatigue." Every call, every errand, every offer means the world to me. You are absolutely remarkable.