Archive for May, 2011

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In which I like it

May 31, 2011

A friend of mine suggested that I talk about some things I like. So, here goes:

I like emeralds. Shimmering like deep pools of water, I find them irresistible. I have two good, very clear emeralds, about a third of a carat each (i.e., not that big) that I had made into a ring with a big sapphire and a tiny diamond. I love this ring and wear it every day. I love gems in general, their clarity and rich color, I always have.

My great-grandfather, who died before I was born, was in the jewelry trade in Europe, and his daughter, my grandmother, was the beneficiary of much of this bounty. As a child, I would play in her jewelry boxes, and received as a present a purple velvet bag of cut-crystal gem samples in all colors and sizes. I played with that bag of crystal gems for years; it disappeared after a house fire when I was twelve. I miss that bag of fake gems.

I love big, wild cats. I wish I had magical powers so that I could commune with them and I don’t know, romp through the jungle or the savannah as their equal. And I would never once covet their luxurious pelts or touch their fur with an eye toward piecing together a really stunning coat.

I love my dreams. So many dreams I have incorporate elaborate amusement parks with great, implausible rides. In real life, I rarely go to amusement parks — maybe because they’re in my dreams so often, maybe because I am terrified of roller coasters. But my dream roller coasters are always really fun, as are the Slide of Incredible Height and the Spin-n-Shop. And everything is beautiful and candy-colored.

I also dream about Jonathan Richman pretty frequently. Sometimes he comes to see me perform, sometimes he is performing and turns to sing directly to me. Once, we wrote a song together, which, sadly, I neglected to transcribe. But, yay! Free dream concerts!

The last thing I’ll mention that I love is love. I am a true Libra, with Libra rising and Venus in Libra. Love is so much fun! And it’s also horrible, which is fun in its own special way. I miss being in love, and have convinced myself that I will never have another boyfriend, based on not having met anyone in the six months I’ve been largely confined to my apartment. Cupid! Why do you torment me so??

Oh! And I also love you.

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In which I tear out my hair

May 30, 2011

No fooling, and no exaggerating, either: my hair is coming out like a farmboy from Idaho who’s just moved to San Francisco, and wasn’t that just the deftest simile ever [holding for applause].

Seriously, though: after three days of mostly sleeping and not showering, I had what amounted to a chihuahua-sized mat of hair on the back of my head. I dragged my lazy ass to the shower, washed the mat as best I could, then spent fifteen minutes and a boatload of No More Tangles combing through the mess. Luckily, I started out with a lot of hair, because when the chihuahua mat was disentangled, I was left with a pile of hair twice the size of my cat’s head. I had to think for a minute about what I could use to describe the hairball. Most of you don’t know my cat, so the description is meaningless. It was, say, bigger than a sea urchin, a regular-sized sea urchin. I don’t know: it was a lot of hair.

If I run my hand through my hair, I end up with a good-sized chunk that I then throw out the window. You’re welcome, birds.

I’m in a weird place. I still have lots of hair, but it is definitely coming out. And I have thought about the prospect of being bald (weird, possibly unpleasant) and the concept of wearing a wig (weird, possibly entertaining), but I had not thought about the in-between stage, the patchy stage. If that’s what it’s called. My friend Linda, who years ago had lost her hair, described to me how she lost everything but a ring of hair, in what she called the “Bozo look.” I think we can all agree that that is one fantastic look, and why bother with a wig? Just dye it red and go traumatize some kids. Anyway, I’m happy to report that her hair grew back.

I’m currently enjoying some peace and quiet. My mom and her husband went out to the gardening shop, and my cat Kong is here on the bed with me, his furry little half-hairball-sized head nestled on his paws. The City Hall carillon is playing a medley of patriotic tunes. I recognize “God Bless America,” and it sounds so pretty, sounding out over the rooftops.

It’s reminding me that yes, Virginia, there are more important things in life, in the world, than thinning hair, and that I have no reason to focus on that one particular aspect of my physique. Or my self, in general. So I lose some hair? It’s not like I ever brush it, anyway. Way worse things could happen, like I could be strapped down and forced to listen to The Best of Robert Klein for hours on end.

I hope you’re having a good Memorial Day, and that you take a moment to remember someone who took a risk or gave his or her life so that I could have the freedom to complain about my hair loss on this glorious medium of the Internet. I personally am choosing to remember my great, great uncle Maurice, pronounced “Morris,” who would not be with us today, owing to extreme age, but who died before his time due to an unfortunate encounter with mustard gas in the Great War. Or World War II. I think it was the first one, though. I don’t know.

Anyhow: God bless America, my home sweet home!

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In which I sit, stay, good girl

May 29, 2011

Today was a sleeping day. I got a few hours alone when my mom and her husband went to church this morning, but then they came back, and my mom’s been napping in my room.

A little while ago, my mom’s husband came in with my dinner — a single pancake made of rice flour. It was good, even without butter, and I enjoyed it and thanked him for it.

“You have to have a treat every once in a while,” he said, and added, “There’s your treat for the week!”

As my week, my upcoming week, includes two types of chemotherapy and a host of anti-nausea drugs, the prospect of having the memory of one rice-flour pancake carry me through seemed unlikely. That is to say, I was underwhelmed, even moreso when he claimed that the pancake was so big, it was really like having two pancakes.

I also find the notion of a “treat” grating, like I am a pet to be appeased. I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way, I’m just tired and grouchy and sick of being sick.

I got a call on Friday from my coworker, Tony. He is a coworker in that we work in the same building, but our jobs do not overlap. Sometimes, he comes up to visit my boss, and we exchange pleasantries. That is the extent of our relationship. So I was a little surprised when he called Friday morning, exclaiming that God had told him to come down and pray for me. Like, right that instant. Ok, I said, Come on down!

The news that my most evangelical coworker was on his way with a member of his prayer team galvanized my mother into action. We cleaned my apartment in thirty minutes flat, our only argument coming when she insisted that I throw out my tarot cards, partly to avoid causing offense to Tony, who, although she had never met him, is obviously holier than I am, and partly to “free up spiritual space” so that the Lord could bless my entire apartment, including the 4 x 6″ space taken up by my evil tarot cards.

“It’s witchcraft!” my overwrought mother screamed at me, and I screamed back that it was not. “Well, they may say that it’s white witchcraft, but it is not of the Lord!” she then asked if her sister “got me into this,” which raised my temper even higher. She and her sister can’t stand each other, although each claims it’s really the other who doesn’t like her.

To shut up my mother, I threw out my deck of tarot cards and a book that was sitting nearby, about interpretation. Happy? No, of course not.

So, Tony and his friend showed up, and my mom and her husband eagerly joined the prayer circle, talking over Tony’s explanation in an effort to show how holy they were. Tony’s prayer friend prayed over my stepdad’s knee, willing the titanium replacement kneecap to change back to bone. (whatever) there was a lot of Joy and speaking in tongues going on. My mother was totally overjoyed and asked them to anoint every room in my apartment with oil. Which is fine. I’m not about to turn down a blessing.

What really got to me was that when Tony was leaving, he stopped and told me, “You know, it can be hard dealing with parents. Just remember that whenever you feel offended, there’s a door there. Look through the door to find the revelation.” The look of total vindication on my mother’s face was priceless. “Oh, yes,” she said, “Cos there’s definitely that dynamic..,” and she pointed to me and then to herself. Smug is not the word to describe her expression. Her brand-new best friend Tony had essentially given her carte blanche to say anything she wants to me and expect me to take it! I guess that is her treat for the week. Confirmation that she actually is right about everything.

Hallelujah.

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In which what will be, will be

May 26, 2011

The carillon at City Hall is playing “Que sera sera,” and I’m lying here with my cat, who’s comfortable on his fuzzy white blanket and “making bread” with his paws. I love his dedication to absolute personal comfort at all times, and vow to incorporate his policy into my own life.

Que sera sera: that is the actual policy I’ve been dealing with of late. More of a concept than a policy, I guess. Along with all my visualization and meditation, I have a steady stream of que sera sera flowing through my mind. My intention is to heal and thrive, but in reality, I have no control over the situation. It’s hard to let go of the illusion of control (obvious thought), but so tempting to hang on.

Along those lines, I just asked my mother if I could have some mashed potatoes. There are some in the fridge. I bought them myself. They take two minutes in the microwave. This was her response, as she busied herself at the sink: “I really need to buy some potatoes so you can have them without dairy.” instead, I got a saucer of kidney beans. I just want to cry.

That’s another thing: with her here all the time, and it pretty much is literally all the time, there’s no place to just sit and have a good, solitary cry. The cathartic, fling yourself on the bed and sob kind, which is what I feel like doing right now. Yes, woe is me. I need to make a list of things I’m grateful for.

1. My cat, who doth spraggle and waggle in a delightful way.
2. The glorious, glorious roses sent to me by my lovely and loving friend Catie. They’re all the shades of a vivid sunset, and my spraggle-waggle cat likes to chew on them.
3. My good friend Becky, who has stashed a supply of Greek yogurt in her work fridge for me, which I will eat as soon as I feel well enough to walk over there.
4. All my friends, who send me hilarious cards and texts and keep my spirits up.
5. Murder, She Wrote.
6. The Cyclone, who was so excited about his new job that he put on one of his work-issued t-shirts and wore it all day yesterday. He actually cited it as reason for avoiding a brewing fight down at the beach: “I wouldn’t mind getting blood on my other t-shirt, but not on this one!”
7. I have the full use of my limbs and mostly my mental capacity.
8. The dream I had last night, which combined the sinking of the Titanic with an amazing designer clothing sale, and discounts on wonderful, luxurious perfumes. I went home with bags and bags of new fashions, because that is the shallow kind of dreamer I am.
9. The fact that my best friend since high school came out for a weekend visit and that our bond is as tight as ever.
10. For my mom, because I know that she’s doing what she’s doing out of love and desperation.

Que sera, sera.

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In which there are opinions

May 25, 2011

I met with my oncologist today. It was unsettling, looking for certainty in her responses, certainty that I will be ok, and not finding it.

It’s ridiculous to expect certainty in this case. There are too many unknowns, and I’m still in the middle of treatment. But it would be so nice if there could be certainty, if my doctor could look at her computer, assess my statistics, and nod reassuringly, say that I’ll be fine.

The good news: my white blood cell count is good, has been good pretty much the whole time. My blood pressure is good, my vital signs in general are good.

After that, it’s up in the air. Next week, I start chemo again, a slightly different mix this time, to lessen the side effects.

Today, my mother took me to a place called the Healing Room. Located in a modest building in a modest neighborhood, it’s staffed by volunteers from a nearby church, and their services are free. Upon entering, I was greeted by warm, sincere people who invited me to sit on a comfortable floral-patterned sofa, and listen to music in what they called the “soaking room,” to soak in the spirituality, I guess.

I filled out a little form with a little bit of information about myself and what I wished prayer for (cancer, my mother driving me crazy, etc.) and then I soaked in the soaking room while kindly volunteers collected my form, anointed my forehead with oil, said quiet prayers over me. It is not an experience I am accustomed to, but it was peaceful and there was quiet music playing, and above a cross mounted on the wall, a large oil painting of a pair of lion’s eyes gazing out into the room. I looked at the painting and thought about my concept of God as the talking lion Aslan, and thought that the Healing Room might not be such a bad place to spend an afternoon.

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In which I think there is still hope

May 24, 2011

Where to start?

I’m trying to be patient with my mother, but I feel like she’s choking the life out of me. I just learned that she told someone yesterday that there was “no hope” for me. Although she has probably felt that about me in one way or another for my whole life, this time she was talking about my chances of recovery.

I was surprised to hear that she had expressed that particular thought. It didn’t make me feel very confident. Apparently, she clarified her statement to “no medical hope,” but that just made me feel worse. Because for there to be nothing medicine can do for me, that means she believes that my recovery is up to her, and her control of my diet.

She gave me a slight lecture tonight about how I need to totally give up dairy. She read it in a book that quitting eating dairy products will, I don’t know, cure cancer, I guess. I think if that were true, the first thing my doctors would have told me is to stop eating dairy products. Boom! Cancer cured.

The thing is, I barely eat any dairy products as it is. I seriously doubt I am making a difference in my cancer treatment because I ate a hard-boiled egg.

I resent that my mother is telling people behind my back that there’s no hope, and implying that she has the cure for cancer, but that I’m just too willful to accept it. In her version of things, I’m killing myself out of stubbornness.

I don’t know what to think anymore. I’m scared that I’m going to die, soon. I’m scared that my mother’s frantic grasping for control of the situation will ruin whatever time I have left. I’m afraid of what will happen to my cat — who will take care of him? I know that no one stays on this planet forever, but I really am not ready to leave yet. I’m afraid that if I show any weakness in front of my mother, it will give her more reason to force her bizarre diet on me. (Really: her idea of lunch is a saucer of walnuts that have been soaked in water.) Shes insisting I stay on this diet, but she’s not actually making me any of the food listed in the recipe section. She hates to cook, and that is a real detriment to caring for someone.

I have friends who bring food, but dealing with the passive aggression that comes when I eat, say, a Greek yogurt instead of a soy yogurt is oppressive. The implication that I am killing myself on purpose is too much to take.

I’m just hoping the chemo works. I’m hoping my liver heals and is perfect and gives me no troubles for another fifty years. It was hard to hear that my mother had said that there was no hope. I am very much holding onto hope. It’s what I have right now. That, and a couple more rounds of chemo. Then, we shall see.

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In which I remember, I remember when I lost my mind

May 23, 2011

I’m trying to focus on external things: the cool breeze, the graceful habit of the old pine tree nearby, the feel of the sun on my arms.

Today, I met with a doctor to get a second opinion on my condition, and essentially, what I heard was: “If this chemo doesn’t work, I got nothin’.” it was hard to ask a lot of salient questions after that, but I managed a couple.

I want a second, second opinion. I am not done with this life yet.