Friday, January 29, 2010

After Years

by Ted Kooser

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.
This reminded me of something I posted last year. I wonder, if you've spent a decade or two (or more) with a partner, do you forget what this feels like? Or do you remember, and appreciate the flood of gratitude at having found someone?

Ted Kooser is one of the nation’s most highly regarded poets and served as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 - 2006. During his second term he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems, Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).

Why Borange?

From whence cometh the blog name?

When I was a 'tween and Sis was 5-6 years old, I told her -- with the usual pomposity and condescension reserved only for her -- that nothing rhymes with "orange." Without even looking up from our little arts & crafts table, she said, "Borange." Ha! With the usual indignation reserved only for her, I said, "Borange isn't a real word!" And she replied, "You didn't say it had to be a real word," leaving me sputtering in a stew of pomposity and indignation.

I don't know why I remember this 100 years later, but it stuck with me. I wish she'd disagreed with me more often. I wish I'd told her that I loved it when she disagreed with me.

Unfortunately, some schmuck named Bob created a blog called "Borange"... eight freakin' years ago. He's never posted anything to it, but apparently Google will let you leave up a blog forever, even an empty one, and hog the blog name forever. So the "real" name of my blog is LaCootina, a pseudo-Spanish diminutive of The Coot, which Joyce started calling me 10-20 years ago. The subtitle is "Because I said So," because -- of course -- that blog name was already taken, too. The most recent statistics I could find (after 17 seconds of grueling, in-depth research) indicated...
"Blog search engine Technorati says it's now tracking over 70 million blogs, with 120,000 new blogs created every day. Gartner predicts that sometime in the first half of 2007, the number of bloggers will peak at 100 million."
Figuring the web grows exponentially, there are probably 3-500 million blogs by now. I bet 7 million of them are empty blogs, hogged by Bob the Schmuck.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Good Friday

Went for a Zometa fix yesterday, and the labs showed I'm finally making a little hemoglobin and white blood cells; no transfusion required. (Red cells and platelets are still lagging.) One stick for labs, one stick for Zometa. One very quick and painless shot of Aranes (Arasep?). I guess it's all in the wrist. Hallelujah.

A dear friend recovered from a long relationship with a true Bad Boy. She found herself a Real Man a while ago, and last weekend, they eloped in Vegas. Hooray for true love... and common sense.

Another friend has committed to a trip to Europe next year - her first. She also committed to getting healthy and dropping some pounds so she'll be in peak condition to enjoy the trip. Hooray for courage, adventure, and taking care of yourself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Shaun & Chéri

I've had a slew of bad-to-mediocre movies from Netflix lately; the notable exception was 8 episodes of Shaun the Sheep: Back in the Ba-a-ath. It's another claymation masterpiece I've seen occasionally on the Disney channel. The DVD was laugh out loud funny. If you're a fan of Wallace & Grommett or Rex the Runt, don't miss Shaun.

It's not often I recommend a bad movie, but here's a real stinker for you: Chéri, starring Michelle "Duck Lips" Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates. Based on a tale by the infamous Colette, this is the story of an old ho (Bates), her son Chéri, and a not-quite-as-old ho (Quacky). In her early retirement, Quacky* takes in Chéri and they live together for five or six years, but when he agrees to an arranged marriage -- to the daughter of yet another wealthy old ho -- Quacky decides maybe she really did love Chéri after all.

There's lots of tedious posing and brooding, but most troubling to me was Rupert Friend, the actor who portrayed Chéri. He wasn't just "not my type," I found him repulsive. Maybe it's a Continental thing, but I do not get the attraction for these wormy-white, sunken chested, dirty-haired, uber-effeminate types. I guess I am waaay out of touch with what's sexy nowadays. Gimme a beefy Gregory Peck or Cary Grant any day. Anyways, his sulky, androgynous, wooden character made it impossible for me to believe this was a love story or anything close to it. It doesn't seem possible that this film reunited the writer, director and actress who collaborated in Dangerous Liaisons, another rich period piece but one that was filled with passion and drama.

So why on earth am I recommending this stinkbomb? Because despite all of the above, the movie is gorgeous. It is set at the apex of La Belle Époque, the gilded age. I'm actually swooning as I remember the clothes, the jewelry, the hats (such hats!), the furniture, the cars, and more. The gap between the haves and have-nots was becoming a huge chasm during this period, but oh, to be a have! It is a sumptuous visual feast... I recommend watching it with the sound off.

*Quacky's character was named Len, or Leah, or Lee, or Laird, depending on who's speaking.
"Okay, Aunt Crankypants, are there any actresses you do like??"  You betcha! Diane Lane, Sandra Bullock, Susan Sarandon, Tea Leoni, Audrey Tatou, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, just to name a few.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big C Update

I knew even before I went for labs yesterday morning that I'd be sent downtown for a transfusion. Not because of increasing fatigue or a half dozen other symptoms, but because the BABONG BABONG BABONG headaches were back. Tylenol doesn't touch it, and if I drop something on the floor, I just leave it there.

Sure enough, I got the word to head downtown. I stopped at the Villa to let Molly out and to inhale some lunch -- remember: avoid hospital food at all costs! -- and was at the Transfusatorium by 1pm. Except they still didn't have my "Type & Cross" (which was drawn at 10am) and once that's done, it takes at least an hour to get blood... I was looking at a 2-3 hour wait before I even started the transfusion. I decided that my aggravation threshhold had been reached for the day and insisted on coming back the next day (today). So the trip wouldn't be a total waste, I let them draw a second sample for a Type & Cross in case the first one vaporized, and I got a double dose of Aracept - one in each arm. I think this stuff is supposed to help me grow red blood cells. But for some reason, the shots feel like they are given through a rusty, barbed harpoon that's been dipped in vinegar. Because of the size of the dose, I had to get one shot in each arm. Lots of gasping and deep breathing.

I knew I was taxed to my limit so I asked one of my wonderful hoodies, Bill, to drop me off and pick me up and he graciously obliged. Today, I went in at 9:30am and was done at 12:30pm, which was much, much better than the 7-8 hour ordeal I would have endured the day before. I expect to be feeling much better in 24 hours or so, but I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this: the horrible chemo, the transfusions, the nausea, the excruciating shots. When I see Dr. A, I hope I have some very impressive numbers to persuade me to keep going.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Coq au Vin avec Les Hoodies

I finally saw Julie & Julia last week and fell in love, like most people who saw it. Most of my hoodies are already Francophiles and I think it's safe to say that most are now also Juliaphiles. The acting was first rate, the scenes of Paris in the 50s were enchanting, and the food... oh, my goodness, the food really did verge on "food porn." I also thought the bonus features on the DVD were as enjoyable as the movie. There were funny and fascinating interviews with the actors, the author, the director.

Hoodies Kerry & Mary Ann also saw the movie last week, and were inspired to host a French dinner. With Supernurse G's permission, I was able to join them. I've been in near-isolation for at least a couple of months. I've missed my pals, and probably several outstanding meals, too. Before I could graciously extricate myself, I was caught in a round of hugs. I just decided just enjoy the hugs, hoping there won't be consequences. Mary Ann's Coq au Vin got several rounds of applause, and my presence was noted and toasted, which embarrassed me but filled me with warm fuzzies. That has got to be good for my immune system, right?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter 1.02

Well, hush my mouth and call me Frosty! We've gotten about 4" of snow so far, and it sure looks like we could get another 2" or so. As far as the weather hysterics: yeah, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

While trolling for weather news, I see gas is predicted to hit $3/gallon within days and $4/gallon by summer. Anyone else hear this? I thought we were beyond the price gouging...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winter 1.01

Brrr! The winter winds are a'blowin' here, and probably where you are, too. Monday was even more of an adventure than I'd expected. It was my first time driving in almost two months. Sis has been toting me to & from appointments, but she went back to work this week, so I thought I'd give it a try before imposing on my second tier of volunteers.

All was fine but I noticed the "low air pressure" light was on -- again. I've had my brand new tires in twice already for slow leaks. When I got to the clinic, sure enough, one tire was way, way low. After my labs, I decided I'd better get some air before I even tried to drive to Cheapo Tires. It was about 7º and snowing. Short version: I went to one, two, three, four stations before I found a working air hose. By then, I was close to home again so I stopped to grab lunch and make an appointment at Cheapo Tires. Turns out it was the old screw-in-the-tire and it was a pretty quick fix, all still under warranty. I decided to push my limits and make a quick stop at the grocery, also my first in several months.

Well, I got it all done, I'm proud to say, but Tuesday I was practically in a coma and today was only slightly better. But the good news (!) is per the results of Monday's tests, I did not need another transfusion. (Oy, the things I celebrate these days.)

I think I've had four, or maybe five, transfusions already. The last time,* I was already so weak, I couldn't even walk; sis had to tote me around the hospital in a wheelchair. The printer at the blood bank jammed and no one noticed for an hour, so it took even longer to get my blood & platelates. I was there from 10am until 5:30pm. While I concede that I feel better -- lots better -- 24-48 hours after a transfusion, I still dread them. Up to seven hours trapped in a giant lounger that makes me feel like Edith Ann. (Anyone remember?)

Winter marches on. The weather hysterics are predicting 4-6" of snow here. Since I even put Hondo Banal in his spiffy remodeled garage tonight, odds are we'll probably just get a dusting. Stay warm!
*The poor guy next to me was having his first-ever chemo experience. His wife & Horrible Daughter were there, ostensibly for support, but only my IV prevented me from vaulting out of the chair and dope-slapping HD several times. After about two hours, she actually harrumphed loudly and said, "Gimme some cash. I'm so bored, I'm going to lose my mind if I have to stay here one more minute!" Yes, her father's chemo was a terrible imposition on her. Did I mention she was about 25-30 years old?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

2009 wins for Suckiest Year Ever and there are no close contenders. I began the year still recovering from the Stem Cell Transplant, but back pain from a severe compression fracture and other deterioration issues led me to seek relief through surgery. In the weeks after the surgery, I was elated at my pain relief... and then learned that it was mostly due to the anesthesia still wearing off. When it was all over, there was still significant improvement, but nothing near what I'd hoped for. A month or so later, I received the news that I did not achieve remission; more chemo would be needed. After five or six months of Velcade, plus steroids (plus diabetes/insulin/insanity), Doc A awarded me a "treatment holiday" that turned out to be all too brief. Less than two months later, I was told the cancer has not slowed much and yet more chemo was needed.

Doc A put me on a Clinical Trial for a relatively new drug. At the time, I was eager to comply because this drug did not require steroids to be taken with it. However, I was handed off to Nurse R and it's a gross understatement to say we had no rapport. The clinical trial involved two grueling 12-hour days in the hospital as well as weekly labs and lengthy, tedious, idiotic questionnaires. After two months of this, plus feeling nauseous pretty much every single minute of every single day, my lab results were mixed, at best. The opportunity was presented to quit the clinical trial and I gleefully accepted.

If I'd known what was next, I wouldn't have been quite so gleeful. Cytoxan, so far, is worse than all the others rolled together and then some. Thus far, I've needed four transfusions of blood and platelets, plus uber-ouchy shots, just to keep me alive for more torture. Each transfusion is a marathon: When results from weekly labs are returned, I am sentenced to 4-6 hours in a barcalounger designed for someone twice my size.

My family and a few friends are still on the front lines with me, but this sure has been a tedious, atypical experience. Initially, I think we all expected that I'd get my chemo, grow my hair out and ride the remissionmobile for a decade or more, like all those breast cancer superstars. So the pals who are still in touch are just that much more dear to me. And I hate to second-guess my medical team by I wonder why we've been jacking around with slingshots for 2+ years if I needed the cannon all along. What if we'd started with this Cytoxan monster? You can "what if?" yourself right into a straightjacket in no time, so I try to stay away from that little detour.

Speaking of detours, my train of thought jumped the track there. My point was that I know without any doubt at all that 2010 cannot possibly be the Suckiest Year Ever, and that is cause for celebration. I hope we all have lots and lots of other reasons to celebrate, too.
P.S. Just for giggles, here's Dave Barry's 2009 Year in Review.