Archive for September, 2011


In which I give up, or want to

September 30, 2011

The CAT scan was an interesting experience, or the review thereof, anyway. My liver looks blotchy and terrible. Those are the tumors. The blotches, I mean.

The doctor was very kind and straightforward, but the upshot is this: I can have chemicals injected directly into my liver, which can help “prolong life,” i.e., not cure anything, but the chemicals can cause all kinds of problems, up to and including liver failure. Oh, and it’s painful, this treatment. AND there’s no guarantee it’ll work.

So, I have a choice: make myself sick or wait it out without the chemicals. I don’t want to make that choice.

I want to talk to the Captain, but his last message to me, which I received in the hospital, which he knew, said that he had “moved on” and that he hoped I would do something “positive” with my life. Oh, and never contact him again. And I don’t give a flying fuck what anyone has to say about him not being able to give me what I need or blah blah blah. I don’t care, I want to talk to him!

I don’t want to be strong or positive or whatever the fuck I’m supposed to be. I’m scared and nothing has worked, and who is going to take care of my cat? This may be a selfish mindset but right now I don’t give a shit about anyone whining about a bad haircut or the wrong item Amazon sent them, or any other fucking thing in the world. I don’t want to be consoled, I don’t want to be jollied out of this, I don’t want to be prayed for. I assume that by now, god knows that I have fucking cancer. How many prayers does it take, exactly, for him to do something about it? A million? Thirty? Seven thousand? The best part of this is the fact that despair is a sin. Way to kick someone when they’re down.

I don’t want to be moralized at or sympathized with or consoled. I want to be left alone. And I want to talk to Patrick. He told me “stop driving yourself crazy telling yourself you need me. You don’t.”

But I do.


In which things get ugly

September 30, 2011

If you are in a good mood, or feeling love toward humanity, skip this entry.

I am waiting for a CAT scan, and in preparation, drinking some white glop through a straw, from a styrofoam cup. I cried the whole way here, partly due to Valium hangover, and now I am listening via headphones to “No One Sleeps While I’m Awake” to drown out the unbearably chipper bitches holding a conversation from one side of the room to another. Subject: Things Were So Much Safer When We Were Children. This is a thought that comforts many adults confronted for the first time with the responsibility of their own child. I just had to turn up the headphones after hearing the phrase, “I mean, my daughter is my treasure!” I’m sure she is, but oh, I just do not give a rat’s ass. Similarly, I don’t care about your sleep number bed, the pillow you had to return for store credit, or anything else you have to say. “You” in this case being the woman seated next to me, conversing in a loud voice with the woman at the opposite end of the room, whose topic of choice is the La Leche League.

Am I in a foul mood today? Why, yes, I am. And fuck being Zen about things. Fuck being positive. I want to go home, take a bunch of Ativan and sleep for three days. This is the downside to cancer, as if there is an upside. It is ugly, and disturbing, and repellent. My veneer of politeness and strength has worn thin, and I am liable to snap at strangers and friends alike, which is why the Ativan sleeping plan is a good one, in theory, anyway.

I guess we shall see what the CAT scan says, and then what the doctor says afterwards. Because, really, I’m tired of the idea that I must remain positive and faithful throughout this fucking disease. As if cancer bestows some holiness to be worn as a veil, as if I must always strive to be strong not for the strength itself, but so that I might act as an example to others. I am not feeling particularly holy today. I am not feeling like I can dig down inside myself and find strength. This disease has not miraculously bestowed upon me grace, nor a fabulous New York restaurateur boyfriend who drops everything in order to fly to my side in a show of devotion.

In short, I am feeling very human, very angry, very weak, immune to platitudes. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.


In which there’s a band playing on the radio

September 29, 2011

In what has to be the least romantic exit of all time, I just had to leave a store — a 99 cent store — because their sound system was getting to me and I didn’t want to cry next to the glitter skull display. The store is all decked out for Halloween, and features a lot of glittery items.

The song that set me off was one I haven’t heard in a long time — it seems to be a persistent theme in my life at the moment. As it happens, it’s a song about hearing what used to be “our song” on the radio, after a breakup. Meta! See for yourself, and then picture me crying next to bags of Tootsie Pops and plastic vampire bats.

Good times!

Maybe it’s because I just got out of chemo, maybe I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, maybe it’s because I’m on the verge of another birthday and not really looking forward to it — I don’t know, but I have a major case of the weepies. Do not want! But cannot seem to avoid.

I know you can’t really die from a broken heart, but right now, it feels like it’s possible. Oh, the melodrama. But honestly, I have not felt this outright sad in a long time, and I don’t like it at all. I take a lot of Valium and Xanax to avoid the sadness, but I think I’m just prolonging the process. How long is this feeling going to last?

Tomorrow is the meeting with the liver specialist. I really hope for good news.

And I am staying out of any retail establishment with a sound system. I’m tired of being blindsided by the soundtrack of my former life. I guess I could look at it as a sign that I should be dealing with my sadness instead of pretending to ignore it and move on, but I feel all this pressure to move on, to ignore it, to get on with my life, to not cry over people who don’t love me. Mostly, I can do it, or seem to. Yes, I know the Captain was not good for me. That knowledge doesn’t help.

The books I read on cancer always have some magical element of romance to them: “And then I married my oncologist!” or whatever, as if the experience of cancer served only to guide the patient to her One True Love. Please. And fuck you, cancer romancer.

There is no romance to this experience, that I have found. This is the dangerous point where I start to believe that there is something fundamentally flawed about me, and remember all the times the Captain told me I was crazy, and wonder if he’s right. I certainly feel crazy enough. You try crying next to some syrup-filled wax skeletons in a shoddy 99 cent store, and see how sane you feel. Let me know how that goes.

As it happens, as I was leaving the store, this Lucinda Williams song came on, which echoed my feelings pretty neatly. I found this video, a live performance of the song, showing her blowing the changes and then recovering. It speaks to me, and made me smile.

Shouldn’t I have this? Shouldn’t I have this? Shouldn’t I have all of this?


In which I’m not in the mood

September 29, 2011

The chair I’m in is admittedly comfortable, and I’ve got a good true crime book in my lap, but otherwise, the experience of sitting through chemo is beginning to pall. Not that it was ever a picnic, but I used to just sleep through it, then go home and sleep more. And yes — it is just as fascinating as it sounds.

Hold on, I have to say hi to someone:
Hi, Chavis!

Ok. Back to your regularly scheduled complaining.

As it turned out, yesterday’s crying jag lasted all of eight minutes. I got a text from my dearest friend Sue B, reminding me that it was time for her weekly radio show. I stream it on the interwebs, but she had invited me to call in and shoot the breeze with her and her co-host. There’s pretty much no way for me to turn down an invitation like that, so I called. I encourage you all to have this experience. I’ll post a link to the right.

I called in using my real name, but next time, I think I’ll effect a highly fake accent, and rail against something absurd, like the fact that raccoons are on a mission to get into the container of bird seed I keep outside, or what type of foil I’ve had success with in fashioning a hat. I don’t get out much anymore, so I make my own fun.

I was actually out last night, with three lovely ladies, including Hambox (link at right) and her friend Molly. It was happy hour, and we were happy.

Feeling like I was on a roll, I texted my non-date from a couple of weeks ago, and issued a pal-sy invitation to meet me at the Sewer. And… Shot down! He couldn’t join me, but invited me to come see his band on Saturday. Yawn. My band kicks his band’s ass. Anyway, he’s just not that into me, so I give up. It was my second “no thanks” of the day, date-wise, so apparently, I need to align myself with a better class of men.

I guess I will just sit here in this puffy, chamois-colored chair, and wait for the medicine to drip into my system. Tomorrow, I go get a CAT scan and meet with a new doctor. I feel optimistic about my prospects, but in the meantime, I’m just going to sit in this chair and read some true crime.


In which I am glad for sad songs

September 28, 2011

At lunch today, I was listening to my companion talk about some item or other that had belonged to a long-dead relative — Roy’s deer rifle, or Lon’s binoculars, or something, and mused idly about how she enjoyed revisiting the past, the distant past.

I am not so fond of history, family history anyway. There are some stories I find fascinating, like The Time Uncle Bud Drank The Arsenic, but unless there’s a dramatic conclusion, I’m happy to let the past lie quietly.

Of course, to prove me wrong, the gods of ironic soundtrack production conspired at that moment to play an old song on the sound system. I hadn’t heard or thought of the song in a long time, and it is one that I associate with the Captain, and nothing else. He used to put it on mix CDs and play it a lot.

I came home and thought about what my therapist had said — that a lot of my anxiety is caused by trying to curtail my sadness, and that if I’d just allow myself to be sad, I’d get through this aftermath of the breakup a lot faster. It’s already been a year; I can’t really go much slower.

So, here I am at home, on the verge of a good old-fashioned crying jag, thinking about the words of this song — I know you lost your faith in me but I still believe / Can I make you understand, can I make you see / That I’m desperate for your love and it’s breakin’ me / It’s breakin’ me. Overblown, but isn’t that what sad songs are for? To overblow the emotion and allow the listener a catharsis — Oh, yes, Jonny Lang, I SO HEAR YOU! IT’S BREAKIN’ ME, TOO! (He can’t hear me, he’s on the TEE-vee.)

It’s been a year since I was diagnosed with cancer, a little more than a year since the Captain and I broke up. Suffice it to say that this has not been my favorite year, but it has brought a lot of good along with the bad. In the end, it all balances out, or that is the myth we tell ourselves in order to get by.

I could take an Ativan or two and get on with my day, but instead, I think I’m going to light this new candle I just got, scented like fresh-cut grass, and lie here with my cat, and be sad. I know I will get through this, but right now it does feel like my heart is losing the battle. It’s breakin’ me. For the next hour or so, anyway.

I’m a busy, modern woman. I have to schedule my breakdowns.


In which I plan ahead

September 27, 2011

My mother had a local funeral home send me a “personal planning guide,” and asked me to complete it so she would know my wishes, my funerary wishes, in the event that I croak suddenly. The envelope arrived a while ago, but I haven’t opened it until today.

The cover of the guide shows a misty, golden photograph of an old man and a younger man, each holding one hand of a young boy. The trio is heading through a field of tall grass, toward a bright light, above the words Reassurance Acceptance Responsibility, and has a space for you to write in your name and “reasons for planning ahead.”

Inside, there are spaces to fill in information about your professional history, military record, and community affiliations. Subsequent pages have space to designate pallbearers, flower requests, and choice of music. My first instinct is, of course, to ignore the whole thing. My next instinct, and what I’ll probably end up doing, is to fill in the blanks with subtly ridiculous requests, and then write in a heartfelt appeal that my survivors adhere exactly to my wishes, with maybe a slight suggestion that if my instructions are not followed to the letter, I will come back from the dead with a whole lot of my dead friends and make fun of them when they’re having sex or sad. Or both.

Here, I might as well start filling this out now. What scripture verses do I want read? Oh… Let’s say… Isaiah 2:17. I just made that up, but let’s see what it is (thank you, Google Bible!) OK, that one says The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. let them wonder what I meant by that! I think I’ll also throw in Kings 38:5. Oh! And that one doesn’t exist. Too bad, so sad.

Moving on to the musical portion of our evening, I’ll turn to my iPod, hit Shuffle, and see what the opening tune will be. What say you, Pinky Pod? Oh, and Pinky Pod says that the opening song will be “Little Ghost,” by the White Stripes. Clever, Pinky Pod! That’s a keeper. Now, what about the communion hymn? “The Theme from Ghost World,” and I swear to you that I am not making this up, that is really the song that popped up. We’ll go for the trifecta, here. O, magic Pinky Pod, what song will be played as the recessional on the day of my sad, yet dynamic, funeral? [drumroll, please…] “Love Removal Machine,” by the Cult. Ok, different. But I like it, and it will sound killer with a harp and full choral arrangement.

There! That wasn’t so hard, after all.


In which there is hope, maybe

September 26, 2011

Today’s check-in with the oncologist went well. I think. The upshot of it is that I will be going for a CAT scan, then meeting with a radiologist in LA to determine the next steps.

“Is it a good sign that the centers of the tumors are necrotic?” I asked, and my doctor brightened. “It is a good sign!” she affirmed, and also mentioned the possibility of tumors exhausting their own blood supply. I’m out of my depth in discussing the matter in detail, but what I heard was “good sign.” I have to continue with the chemo, but I’m hanging onto that good sign.

In other news, when I returned from Bakersfield on Friday, there was a package waiting for me, which contained a beautiful glass necklace featuring a violet fox running full-tilt. I put it on immediately, of course. The package came from Etsy, but didn’t reveal the sender’s name. Luckily, today the sender revealed herself to be Maven! She’s listed over on the right, and I encourage you to read her witty updates. I should have known immediately that she had sent the fox pendant — she is my most Etsy-savvy friend, and from time to time, publishes an assortment of her favorite finds on Etsy, that are always stylish and lovely, as is she.

I had a visit over the weekend from my friend Kate, who lives in Toronto, and whom I haven’t seen in much too long. We explored Santa Barbara and Goleta, and went thrifting, and she took me to some delicious meals, but mostly, we talked, and it was really nice. I wish she didn’t live so far away, but she seems very happy in Toronto, and I cannot argue with happiness. Here is an interesting fact about Kate: she used to edit romance novels as a job.

Tomorrow is my day that I allow myself ten minutes of “cancer research,” i.e., looking shit up on the web. I didn’t do it last week, and never missed it. It doesn’t really do me any good, even though I stick to reputable sites like the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins, and avoid forums wherein someone tells his personal miraculous cure story involving vitamin K, a dental floss tourniquet, and a plaster bust of Edward R. Murrow. I might give myself the day off. I have no appointments scheduled, but some freelance work is calling me, and it might also be a good day to get out the watercolors and see if there’s a spark of creativity floating around still. I’m pretty sure there is. (Wouldn’t it be nice if I exercised that here, in these pages? Not gonna happen.)

Well, I just got a text from my mom, asking what she should “click” to watch a DVD on her computer. The idea of guiding her by text message fills me with dread, so I’m going to call her now and hope for the best.