Archive for March, 2011

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In which we are truly sorry and we humbly repent

March 31, 2011

Again, I lost a post before it was quite ready to be published. There is no sense recreating it — a Demerol-and-morphine-fueled blather about the nature of pain, guilt, and wild spotted cats. Yeah, I’m not sure how I tied those things together, either.

The Demerol and morphine are necessary because over the last couple of days, I’ve developed a searing pain in the location of my tumor (the ASS, for anyone not following along). I dragged myself to the doctor, or drove — let’s not get dramatic — where I was prescribed strong drugs and signed up for a CT scan to see what the problem could be. (Possibilities: a fissure; an abscess; a tiny wild spotted cat wielding a tiny red-hot poker in retribution for generations of senseless animal abuse by the fur industry.)

Last night, in pain and unable to sleep, my mind dug up fragments of the Episcopalian prayer of confession, half-remembered from childhood. I clung to these fragments and repeated them over and over, as if God might only be waiting for my confession, to take away the pain. As if the pain was not just a setback in my recovery, but a form of punishment for some unidentified crime. Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. I cannot argue with that statement, nor those that follow: We have not loved you with our whole heart. True. I am not even sure how that might even be effected. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Also true, especially as concerns the bitches from the hair salon next door, who occasionally try to get me thrown out of the building on trumped-up charges, and no fooling.

Honestly, though, can God really operate that way? Someone told me, shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, that my contracting it was “karma” for an unkind statement I’d made to her. She was quite smug about it, as I recall. I wonder what the karmic punishment is for being smug about karmic punishment. Probably nothing. I don’t actually believe in karma. It’s just a word that asshole baristas scrawl on the tip jar, hoping to guilt people out of a handful of change. If there was such a thing as karma, I’m betting that there would be a special punishment for those who would invoke it to ensure monetary gain.

I believe in karma about as much as I believe in unconditional love. Wait, I’m rethinking that. I think there is unconditional love. In my mind, it is available from Aslan, the talking Jesus lion from the Narnia books. My fondest wish, and I say this without sarcasm, is that when I die, Aslan the talking Jesus lion will greet me in a wide, beautiful field of flowers, and let me curl up against his fur and sleep until I feel whole. We will have long conversations, and I will be comforted by his compassion and his wisdom, and even when we discuss my flaws and sins, he will not judge me, but instead talk me through my bad decisions, and forgive me when I confess.

Clearly, I am not a religious person, at least not in any conventional sense. At the same time, I feel certain enough that there is a God that I don’t want to cause offense with my Aslan fantasy. I do not mean it in a frivolous way. I just have no real male role model for someone who would offer unconditional love, so I have trouble imagining God as a man. Or a woman, now that I think of it. I am stuck on my imaginary talking lion model. I would have no trouble loving such a creature with my whole heart. I would hope that, if God is as wise and compassionate as He is supposed to be, that He might look at my little Aslan fantasy and rather than take offense, understand that it is the only way I can perceive Him right now. That He would regard me as one might a child with unsophisticated beliefs, and forgive me, because I’m doing the best I can.

There’s no way to really know something like that.

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In which everything is not enough and nothing is too much to bear

March 30, 2011

Twice, now, I’ve accidentally erased my new post. No great loss, just a report on today’s condition (crappy).

I’ve been having a lot of pain today, a perfect little storm of the physical and the emotional. At the height of the storm, someone reminded me, via quoting the lyrics, of Townes van Zandt’s beautiful ballad “To Live’s to Fly,” and I will just encourage you to seek it out and appreciate its loveliness.

Here is a sample:

Everything is not enough
And nothing is too much to bear.
Where you’ve been is good and gone
All you keep’s the getting there.

The Cowboy Junkies covered the song, but Townes’ version comforts me more, his rough grey voice reminding us to live in the moment, because this moment is all we have.

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In which I’m on the brink

March 29, 2011

Tomorrow morning — Tuesday morning, that is — I’m scheduled to have a scan done. The purpose of the scan is to determine whether or not there are any cancerous cells left in my system.

As nothing is likely to change between now and 11:30 tomorrow morning, when the scan is scheduled, worrying is pointless. Either there are cancerous cells or there aren’t. I’m hoping there aren’t.

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In which I got the fever

March 24, 2011

I had the fever, anyway, or a fever. I think it’s gone, now, due to the healing effects of six episodes of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena that I watched on Netflix. Have you seen that show? Damn, there is a lot of flying blood! (I am your 87-year-old Aunt Hazel. “Never seen the likes o’ that! What will they come up with next?”)

As I lay there in my bed last night, shivering and watching blood fly, I noticed that the weight of the numerous comforters piled atop me was hurting my feet. I remembered seeing, at my grandparents’ house, in a Lillian Vernon catalog, a product meant to alleviate the feet-crushed-by-blankets syndrome. You could purchase a pair of roughly C-shaped brackets designed to fit between mattress and box spring, which would bear the weight of the blankets and keep you from writing long blog posts about the problem. “What a great idea,” I thought, in my fevered state, at 4:30 in the morning.

And then I realized what a total motherfucking drag it is that I had just coveted something I’d seen in a Lillian Vernon catalog, targeted to senior citizens. True, there were extenuating circumstances, but this is how it starts, isn’t it? One moment you’re giving in to reading glasses in order to see the menu at your favorite restaurant, and the next, you’re paging through a cheaply printed catalogue in which half the merchandise is represented via poorly executed watercolor drawings, thinking, “If I don’t order them suction-cup-backed rubber daisies, someone’s gonna take a tumble in the shower! My liability don’t cover that.”

And I’m not totally sure why, in this example, aging necessitates poor grammar, but there are many things we just aren’t meant to know.

On an unrelated note, here are some words and phrases that I tend to overuse:

Litany
Melancholy
As regards

Ok, so, two words and a phrase. I just want to point out that despite encroaching senility, I am not wholly unself-aware.

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In which I consider the percentages

March 23, 2011

After a few weeks of improvement, health-wise, I was smacked with a week of feeling low. And because it is tiresome to listen to another’s litany of complaints, I will leave it at that, except for this: for the first time, I thought about the possibility that the treatment didn’t work, and that this disease might actually do me in. That thought is unproductive and not based on anything that my doctors have told me, you understand–I have no new, dire prognosis. I mention it only because in the six months since my diagnosis, I don’t think I once ever seriously considered that this cancer–which flourished unchecked for, as near as I can tell, 18 months before diagnosis–had the power to kill me.

The survival rate published on the American Cancer Society site is 54%. When I initially read that number, I thought it didn’t sound too bad. More than half the patients survive, and I have (relative) youth on my side, despite what certain whippersnappers might opine about my being “old as fuck.” I have, fortunately, access to good health care and nutrition. I’ve followed the doctor’s orders as far as sleep and activity. There is no real reason I shouldn’t count myself in that 54%.

I suppose it’s a delayed reality check, or anxiety, and I’m sure it will pass, but today, for the first time, I looked at myself in the mirror and understood that despite my general optimism, despite my medical team, despite the prayers and the herbs, there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t be part of that other 46%.

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In which I am lazy

March 20, 2011

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old cat is snoring. Well, anyway, it’s raining and also pouring. I’m lying in bed in my least flattering pajamas, hungry and unwilling to go outside and get anything. Because of course there is no food in the house.

I just really was not paying attention in junior high Home Ec. I failed to grasp the meaning of the name: Home Economics. To me, it was just a deadly hour in the weird kitchen lab at the school–rows of sinks and stoves, stirring corn niblets beside other students who presumably had mothers who cooked them things recognizable as breakfast or dinner. My mother’s idea of packing a lunch was to slice two chunks of cheddar cheese, smear them with whole-grain mustard, and stick them together to form a kind of sandwich. She called them “cheese-mustards,” as if giving them a name would lead to their legitimacy.

Our pantry at home was filled with cellophane bags of brewers’ yeast, bottles of vitamins and oils, odd grains of other nations, and raisins. Maybe a can of condensed milk or an expired packet of strawberry Junket. I still don’t grasp how to stock a pantry or a refrigerator with any real efficiency. And largely, I don’t care, except for nights like tonight, when it would be great to shuffle into the kitchen and find delicious food overflowing the shelves. I’m drawing a blank on what that might even be.

Maybe I’ll throw on a mink coat and some Uggs and make my way to the local Von’s. It’s high time I got serious with my Crazy Cat Lady plan. Pile 40 or 50 cans of Purina in my cart, and sure–there might be a few raised eyebrows, but I will have the satisfaction of having joined a defined group. It is time I embrace my true identity.

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In which I shout out

March 19, 2011

Let’s hear it for Ativan!

Hip hip… Hooray!