Archive for April, 2011

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In which I’m feeling groovy

April 30, 2011

The warm night means I have the window open for the breeze to come in, taunting the cat with the forbidden scent of outdoors. He really wants to go out: today, he stood with his nose against the front door, meowing, and when that failed to move me to action, sprawled on his back and reached one arm out the mail slot, up to the shoulder.

The night air is also taunting me a little bit. I can hear a band that I would probably describe as “groovy,” with a horn section and flashy drums. The music is probably coming from the top of the Watermark, our little town’s “fancy” nightclub. It’s nice that I can hear the music and secretly groove along without the hassle of elbowing my way through waves of Drakkar Noir to get a St. Germaine-and-soda for ten bucks or so.

I miss going out. I miss socializing, although today I did go with my friend Becky to get pedicures. We were very comfortable there in the big massage chairs, and stayed probably 45 minutes longer than was strictly necessary, laughing and talking. The proprietor didn’t disturb us; no one was waiting for the chairs, but when we finally got up to leave, he commented, a little warily, “You had fun here, no?” Yes! We had fun.

Here is something fun to do, next time you get a pedicure: pretend the big puffy chair you’re sitting in is actually a bumper car, and imagine the chaos you could inflict on an unsuspecting salon. Maybe you had to be there, but the idea was making us laugh really hard. Maybe a little too hard, hence the wariness in the proprietor’s tone as he bade us farewell. Probably, as we walked away, he made the “drinky-drinky” motion to the mask-wearing manicurist touching up a patron’s acrylic tips, and they all had a little laugh about it. That doesn’t bother me.

I do want to be clear: it doesn’t not bother me in a Red Hat Society “we’re just ZANY, that’s just the way we are!” kind of way. I’m not quite at that level. (Yet…)

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In which I have questions

April 30, 2011

At lunch today, I mentioned to the Cyclone that I’d missed seeing the Royal wedding. I’d been invited to a viewing party, complete with tiaras and a modestly sized wedding cake, but had to beg off owing to illness.

“The what?” he asked. I repeated myself, and got a blank look in response. I explained who had gotten married. The Cyclone sat back in his seat and rolled his eyes. “Who gives a fuck about them?” he asked, and then caught himself and apologized. I didn’t really require an apology. And why would he give a fuck, really? It was a fair question.

Anyway, I had other things on my mind. I had blood drawn twice today, in preparation for my next round of chemo, which starts Monday. “I guess we’re kind of starting over with you,” said the girl who draws the blood at my doctor’s office, warning me that I’d feel “a little pinch” as she slid the needle into my vein. The warning was unnecessary, offered as a courtesy, or a reflex, maybe. She’s a sweet-faced brunette named Rochelle, and whenever I come in, we trade pictures of our pets. She has a Yorkie named Spartacus.

I went home and for some reason — likely, morbid curiosity masquerading as information-gathering — Googled side-effects of the chemo drug I’ll be getting. It’s called Cisplatin, and I learned that it’s one of the “most emetigenic” drugs one can have, meaning nausea-inducing.

My aunt called to find out what I’d learned when I called a doctor she’d recommended. I hadn’t actually learned anything, because I hadn’t called. I’m in a kind of haze lately, where I find it difficult to make necessary phone calls, ask important questions. I find it hard to even formulate the questions. I feel like I don’t have enough information to speak intelligently to my doctors. And when I look for information, I find things that scare me. I don’t know what questions I’m supposed to ask.

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In which I am in stitches

April 28, 2011

thats a stupid title. I don’t know why I ever started this whole “in which…” convention, but start it, I did, and I’ve never been one to abandon a stupid idea halfway through its execution, so here we are.

I have a stitch in my side that impedes breathing. It’s a side effect of the biopsy I had a week ago, and although I have a Fentanyl patch to wear, all it seems to do is make the days blend together in a long stream of semi-comprehensible images, not unlike someone else’s home movies. They seem vaguely familiar, but uninteresting. Much like this very post!

At the moment, I’m sitting in a brightly lit Carrows with a slightly drunk Cyclone. “Faded,” he would call it, not drunk. We’re here because he is hungry and because all the good restaurants in this little town are long closed for the night. The Cyclone is explaining to me the difference between angels and archangels, and I am thinking about the many times I lay on the table in the radiology lab in LA, summoning angels to guide the rays, trying any mental tricks to keep my mind off the grating intermittent buzz of the machine hovering over me.

I’m thinking about angels now, and hoping that perhaps they’ll show up next week, when I start the dreaded chemo. I’ve been offered a lot of prayers this week, offers to pray for me, I mean, rather than to me. I always say yes. I say yes to pretty much every suggestion that comes my way, as regards cancer treatment. Mushroom extract? Yes. Vitamins C, E, D, B12, B16, and Milk Thistle? Sure. Vegan diet, no alcohol? You got it. My mom calls daily with new suggestions: Vitamin C I.Vs, wheatgrass shots and tiny pearl-like balls of arnica, to dissolve under my tongue.

My friends and acquaintances call and write with offers of support, and I sense their eagerness to help, their hesitancy to intrude. “Just come over,” I want to say to them, “Come over and tell me stories, or make me laugh, or watch the Martha Stewart show and tease my cat with his favorite ribbon.” I don’t really speak that way, but it’s how I think. I want people all around me, the vibrancy of life and laughter. I want my angels.

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In which I dream of summer

April 27, 2011

i slept so soundly last night, under my Dominick Dunne comforter that is exactly the right weight to promote sleep without crushing or smothering. I call it my Dominick Dunne comforter because it’s custom-made of the same Brunschwig & Fils chintz that covers a pair of chairs in Mr. Dunne’s study as shown on his program, “Power, Privilege and Justice.” I got mine at a thrift store for eleven dollars. Yes, I washed it well.

I awoke to a bright blue sky showing through curtains the cat had irritatingly pushed aside in an effort to wake me up. The morning was still, and I was reminded of the summer days spent at my grandparents’ beach house in Rhode Island.

The anticipation of arrival was so intense, as we pulled the car off the highway and onto the seemingly endless network of streets lined with little houses and overgrown with clover and nettle. The salt tang of the sea grew stronger with every mile, mixed with the aroma of fresh-cut grass, until finally, finally, our car would turn into my grandparents’ driveway — a path made of crushed white shells bleeding into the surrounding grass, and we were there. My grandmother would greet us, the scent of Charlie and cigarette smoke forming a welcoming aura. My grandfather, less effusive, would hang in the background, helping with our bags.

I don’t recall another homecoming that was as sweet. To have two whole weeks by the sea without parents, accompanied by a host of cousins. We swam every day in that green-gray ocean, heads bobbing in the waves, unguarded and unafraid. The sun turned us brown. We argued over idiotic matters and formed and reformed alliances. The days were long and lit with the sun of a thousand lifetimes ago.

I want to go down to that sea again and feel the sun on my shoulders, feel the beautiful freedom from care that comes with a summer vacation.

As a post-script, I will mention that as I finished writing, the carillon at City Hall is chiming out that song from The Fantasticks, the one that goes, “Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow…” I don’t know the rest of the words except the ending, that invites you to Follow, follow, follow, follow… The notes are like a pathway on the morning breeze.

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In which the facade crumbles

April 26, 2011

All these months of telling people I’ll be fine, that the radiation is working, that I appreciate their support, but that there’s nothing to worry about: all these things are dust. There is something to worry about.

I was apparently in such shock when my doctor told me the news, that I didn’t fully absorb what the numbers she quoted me meant. A three-in-ten chance is, of course, 30%. That’s the best estimate for the results of the chemotherapy, whose job it is to shrink the tumor.

Estimates given online for survival of stage IV liver cancer are beyond bleak. Six months to a year, seems to be the common theme. That number is incomprehensible to me.

Six months is one more summer.

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In which I have a wish

April 26, 2011

i really wish I could talk to the Captain right now.

He was my partner for ten years, and I’m having a hard time getting through this without even his voice on the phone.

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In which I keep a stiff upper lip

April 26, 2011

it was obvious the second the doctor walked in that she had bad news. I chose to ignore my instincts and hope for the all-clear signal. No such luck.

What it boils down to is this: the biopsy results were not benign, and in fact are stage 4 cancer. There is, I’m told, a three-to-four-in-ten chance that chemotherapy will shrink the tumors. I’ve seen better odds. I detected tears in my doctor’s eyes. I myself stayed stoic. It seemed the best option.

The chemotherapy starts next week. Whatever they’re putting me on is, I’ve been informed, more nauseating than the one I had previously.

I am not looking forward to this part of the journey.

I have a feeling I’m going to go home and cry.