Monday, May 21, 2018

How To Get Lymph Drainage Paid For in Germany

You're a cancer patient. You've had surgery. Your leg swells up, or your arm, or you find numb inflated areas where they removed the lymph nodes in your armpit. You realize the condition could worsen, become permanent. You start phoning around for an appointment and find nothing but waiting lists.

Pause to define lymph drainage, which your doctor has mentioned, but not defined: it's not something involving blood, tubes, puncturing, pumping out fluid. Which is what I imagined, and hence did not want. But lymph drainage is only a very gentle form massage to get the fluid making your leg swell up go away, or disperse through the body.

If you want this kind of help, you have to use either the word "oncology" or the word "cancer," so that you're not waiting around weeks while the condition gets worse. If you can't get an appointment two days from now, you haven't said the magic words: "I am a cancer patient." Bother your gynecologist for a prescription first--if she says no, head for the Hausarzt, that is, the internist, the one you go to for flu and shots. If you can't get it from that doctor, grab your oncologist by the lapels and beg. Once you've got a prescription, find the best place in town. Try to get at least ten 60-minute sessions.

And don't be surprised. I went for lymph drainage on my leg, which continues to look like Frankenstein's forehead. Until recently, I couldn't bend my knee, but I started stretching and bending a great deal on the day my Russian radiologist told me things would never get any better--I was stuck with this crummy leg for life. 

"Well, you could put a pillow under it when you sleep," said she, shaking her head over the notion that lymph drainage would do much. There's nothing like Russian gloom to galvanize an American. Instinctively, I rebelled against her pessimism with my outrageous optimism. 

"Oh, yeah?" I thought. "I'll show you!" 

In my first lymph drainage session, the therapist started massaging an area right under my collarbone. I wondered what the Sam Hill he was doing. I was about to say something, when my foot started tingling, as if something were moving around. The feeling was like the one I have when I hold my legs in the air to get the fluid to drain from my ankles to my legs. So the guy knew what he was doing. He worked on the leg, too, of course. 

I have nine more sessions, and this treatment is expensive. So I'll ask the gynecologist for more--I'm not shy. Then I'll ask the internist. Then the oncologist. In other words, I'll be persistent. This is cancer. Just when you want everyone hovering around you asking what you need, you'll have to be running around demanding exactly that. But take heart--keeping active that way is probably good for you.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Pumpkin's Theory of Harry and Meghan: Ten Clues

She's great, he's gorgeous, they're in love--I take all this for granted. But  from the sour Germaine Greer to Meghan's wicked-half sister, screeched off the screen by Piers Morgan, everyone's got a theory. Before turning into pumpkin, way past this midnight hour, I thought I'd observe rather than predict, but spoiler alert: my predictions lead up to happily ever after:

(1) Meghan's a tall, dark outsider 

(2) Like Dodi Al Fayad

(3) She's nicer

(4) Refreshingly like Diana, Meghan's exactly the age at which Harry last knew his mother.

(5) But saner

(6) Diana wanted to escape with Dodi

(7) Meghan offers escape, too--from dullness, stuffiness, dreary royalness

(8) Harry is delighted to have this woman who offers a host of familiar traits that remain among the last he associated with his late mother.

(9) Meghan is maternal and

(10) Her prince has come

Friday, May 11, 2018

On Being Spammed: Does that Escort Service in Bangalore Know They're Cozying Up To Cancer?


For weeks now, ladies and gentleman, a single post of my almost-unread blog has been spammed by  an outfit that calls itself "Rakhisen Bangalore Escorts" and whose website, picturing a languid beauty in reflector shades sunning herself in a place seemingly more Caribbean than Bangalorean, urges me to call "right away." No matter how many times I hit the permanent delete key, their ads pop up again and again, like weeds, or, well, unwanted cancer calls, the kind that turn into big fat cancer tumors when you have the kind of wonky genes sported by yours truly, as proved by my FoundationOne test. Now, FoundationOne could spam me all they like, if they want to, but I'd just like to point out they're too classy to do so. Eventually their tests will save lives, but I would enjoy letting the many Escort Services In Bangalore who dump their ads on a blog post concerning a clinical trial for cancer that they're associating cancer with their escort service. That's entirely appropriate, clinically speaking (but maybe not from a business point of view?)
I'm sure my readers remain aware that they can get the HPV virus from sexual contact, also that sexual contact is generally speaking what escort services offer, and I'm sure you all know that this particular virus can cause uterine cancer and girls, believe me, you don't want to deal with uterine cancer. I'm dealing with breast cancer metastasized to the bone right now, and when I go in for my monthly Fulvestrant shots, I never know whether I'm going to get the short, slim nurse with the tattoos who knows now to give the shot painlessly or the last idiot I had, whose method resulted in my nearly blacking out--thanks to the idiot's technique, I think I know what it must feel like to be beaten, because these shots are given in the gluteus maxiumus, the last place you'd want an injection if you had a choice in the matter. Which I don't. Another thing about so-called escort services: they tend, oh, in my opinion, to exploit young, often underage girls who have no way to make a living other than to hang on the arm of and be sexually abused by the sort of man who needs an escort service because he has no idea how to fall in love. I've now deleted ads for escorts in Bangalore about ten times from the very same post. I wonder how persistently they will continue to spam me, now that I've made it clear that every single ad they lob to my blog--and on a post about the cancer drug Palbociclib, no less--associates their product with an incurable and exceedingly unpleasant disease. Will this be curtains for those Bangalore escort ads? Gee, I really hope so. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Easy, Spicy Hummus

If you love garlic and Middle-Eastern flavors, this one's for you:

Assemble the following: 

800 grams (for Americans, that is about 5 cups, but net equivalents are contradictory) of canned or bottled chick peas. If you want to go really pioneer, soak dry chick peas overnight with about two teaspoons of baking soda--then you'd have to drain and cook them--yes, you can do all this, but why bother?)

Tahini or Sesame paste (about six tablespoons--or more!)

Six or eight cloves of garlic

A big, preferably organic, lemon

A teaspoon (or more) of cumin

Olive oil--about a third of a cup

Salt and pepper, to taste.

Parsley OR paprika, to taste (optional)

Pour the chick peas into a sieve. Rinse them in cool water, let them drain, and dump them into your food processor. If you don't have a food processor handy, one of those electric wands will do--my old food processor died as I was trying to make this).

Peel and add the garlic and the cumin. Squeeze the lemon juice through a sieve into the mix. Add olive oil and shake in pepper and salt. Process. When you are done, add as garnish either chopped fresh parsley or paprika.

You can dip crudités into this hummus, eat it with a spoon, or spread it, as I did, on a slightly warmed lavash, adding lots of small chopped tomatoes, then roll up the lavash and eat it. Tortillas would work too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fabulously Easy Pork Shoulder

The kids were sick of chicken; they didn't go for my curry either. It was time to try something new, and though we'd had many a pork roast, they were sick of that, too. I tried Jamie Oliver's recipe but it was too complicated for me; I whizzed through a number of others, and have now experienced the truth of the single most frequently appearing insight: the longer you bake it at a low temperature, the better it is.

Assemble the following ingredients:

Big hunk of pork (three and a half American pounds, or 1.718 kilos)
Honey
Mustard
Garlic
Olive oil (a good one!)
Balsamic vinegar
Dry red wine 
Onions (preferably red ones)
Apples
Potatoes and, if you're feeling ambitious,
Carrots
Sweet potatoes

Step one: Mix up the honey, mustard, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar in proportions that please you--I go heavy on the honey and mustard, easy on the balsamic vinegar. With your garlic press, crush about eight cloves and add to the mix. Stir or beat well with a whisk. The mix should smell good; taste it to make sure.

Step two: Coat the hunk of pork (should have a bone in it somewhere--adds flavor) with the mix, put it in a zip lock bag, and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Step three: Pre-heat the oven to 220º C (428ºF).  Take your favorite huge pot with a lid--we just decided we were grown-ups and deserved a set of Le Creuset and are painstakingly, one piece at a time, acquiring it: so I used the classic orange (which the company now calls "iconic flame") dutch oven. 

A word, quite a long one before we get to Step Four: a thing that made me fall in love with Le Creuset, apart from its wonderful quality and color, is that one of my favorite writers, Alexandra Fuller, describes how her completely insane snob of a mother (not Fuller's way of describing her, just mine) carried her own set of Le Creuset everywhere the family went during the Rhodesian bush war. A few years ago, Fuller penned, going into uncharacteristically romantic details, a  depiction of her mom (but she'd say "Mum") :  "suddenly I found myself in unexpected tears thinking about what those pots represented: Cooking pots on the top of a tiny bundle of other belongings seems to be the universal image of women fleeing war across Europe in the 1930s and 1940s; women leaving the Dustbowl of Oklahoma during the Depression; women escaping post-election violence in Zimbabwe in 2008; women displaced by the current violence in Congo and Sudan. Pots are like the external expression of a woman’s womb, the way in which she can continue to nurture and protect her family, even when the land beneath her feet has been torn from her and all real hope has been lost."

That's all very lovely, but has nothing to do with why her mother saved those pots. If I know her mother, the woman saved those pots for exactly the reasons I, a not-so-secret social climber, would save mine: because they are so damn beautiful, so breathtakingly classy, a sign that, as her mother would say, "we have breeding."

Now, I don't have a damn bit of breeding and I'm not sure her mother did either, at least not in the sense of being up there by having any relatives born above the rank of "Laird." Hey, she did better than me. We're peasants to the marrow, although one of my really horrible ancestors was a U.S. president who grabbed the Northern half of Mexico, adding it on to Texas and California. 

Step 4: Remove the pork from the fridge. Keeping it in its zip lock bag, let it cool its heels on your counter until it seems at room temperature.

Step 5: Rub some extra-virgin, incredibly expensive, super-classy olive oil into the bottom of your Le Creuset Dutch oven. Slice five or six big red or white onions, core and slice the same number of apples. If you've had time to boil a few carrots for ten minutes, add them. Pour in a cup of dry red wine. Undo the zip lock bag and dump the pork, marinade and all, on top of the apple-onion-carrot mix. Put in oven UNCOVERED for about forty minutes. 

Step 6: While the pork is in the oven, boil some potatoes--any kind; I used plain white potatoes the first time around but think sweet potatoes would be good--for about ten minutes, until you can poke a fork in, but they should be firm. Drain them and slice them, add to pot.

Step 7: Cover the pork. Turn the heat down to 170º C (338ºF). Go away and do anything you like for five hours. 

The truth is, I intended to return after three and a half hours, but an event at my child's school went on and on and on. Finally we left early, because I was afraid the pork would be all dried out and burned up, the house along with it. 

But guess what? The pork was perfect. Perfect "pulled pork." Yum. Serve with a mixed salad and a dry red wine.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Once and Future Trump (with apologies to Yertle the Turtle)



In the far-away mansion of Mar-a-lago
America’s President’s counting his dough
A nicely huge mansion, baroque and outré
Where Trumpety Dumpety gets his own way.
He tweets up a storm; our boy’s busy indeed
He yawns and he wonders who next to mislead.
He goes with the flow and he hires and he fires
When he can squeeze time from fulfilling desires
With prostitutes, pee, kinky sexual positions
He’s managing mergers and yes, acquisitions
Glad-hands North Korea while tickling Putin
Though Stormy’s tough lawyer’s gone all highfalutin’
“Why won’t they just see that the girl’s just a ho?”
The world is against me! Hey, go with my flow!”
That is what the Trump said when he fell on his head
But Fox News wouldn’t say that he actually bled.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Stormy Daniels, Lies, and Pee Tapes . . . oh, and taxes. P.S. Comey

It's a measure of humanity that we don't want to know what we don't want to know. Trump's base is solid even though or maybe because he did it with Stormy Daniels--he's just a man, after all, and the Lord will forgive him. She's a tempter, like Eve, and the Lord will punish her. And those tapes of him with Russian prostitutes peeing on the bed the Obamas had slept in? That's just a nasty story. Shhh. Don't say such things around children. His taxes? What taxes? He's just like us, only he has more money. He makes it okay not to pay your taxes. That Michael Wolff, he's a scandal-monger, and we don't like them. Same for that James Comey. Don't need their books--it's all gossip.

And in the opposite corner, people like me who read both, who would rather have books that at least record, for posterity, the fall of American civilization. Who listen to Madeleine Albright. Who can't believe any of this is happening as it unfolds before us, the forest fire that is the Trump presidency, as Comey put it.  I consider the Declaration of Independence, the founding belief that "all men are created equal." Back in 1776, "all men" did not include women or anyone whose skin wasn't white. "All men" meant men with money and power; "all men" meant men with land. Jefferson owned about 200 slaves. Over time, the original meaning changed, and it's clear from Jefferson's letters that he wanted an aristocracy of "talent and virtue" not one of "birth and wealth." But in today's American oligarchy, "all men are created equal" if they are men, like Donald Trump, and rich, like Donald Trump, and willing to support him, so he increases their wealth. Perhaps, as a young student remarked, "all men are created evil." Maybe we should listen to Dee Dee Myers, an American political analyst who, after distinguished service as the White House Press Secretary during the first two years of the Clinton administration, wrote Why Women Should Rule The World (2009). Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Dee Dee Myers, Oprah, women of Hollywood, women in business, anybody but Ivanka: save us. At any rate, restore democracy.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Designed by a German Radiologist: My Comb-Over

So symmetrical! So rectangular!

After radiation, I felt no side effects beyond a little fatigue. The back of my head felt a little sensitive, but it was only after we spent a day at a thermal bath that I noticed, while washing my hair, that great clumps of it seemed to be coming out. But I looked in the mirror and everything seemed normal--there was just this extra fringe of hair at the bottom. So I went to the hairdresser and I guess she thought I could see the back of my head . . . "No, can't cut it with a V-shape at the back, because you'll have the same problem . . ." What problem? The one I had back when I was bald as a peeled egg during chemo? Yes, that problem. 
In the photo, I'm lifting up my hair. I was sitting, reading, and I lifted up my hair the way you do when you're thinking, and my daughter, who was standing behind me, gasped, and said there was a bald spot. Well, of course! I just hadn't seen it. Fortunately, neither had anybody. Only my hairdresser knew for sure . . . I look at this bald patch and think: draw some eyes and a big nose and you've got a strange version of Kilroy Was Here. Look at the precision. Only a German radiologist could get those 90-degree angles. 
My hair: the one thing I have in common with Donald Trump. As in this video:

But MY comb-over is much better designed, in fact, a feat of German engineering. Designed to cover the skull, is mine. You'd just never know . . . unless you looked. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Perfect Cancer-Undermining Vegan Meal, or Really Fancy Vegetables Taste Good

Everything on this plate fights cancer, in the sense of reducing inflammation, plus offers other health benefits, like cutting the chances of thrombosis, and filling you with healthful vitamins. I can't promise any cures, but the meal does take the edge off those post-treatment doldrums, and the glass of red wine to the right of the plate sure helps, too.

So colorful, too!
This meal relies heavily on the culinary notions of Rebecca Katz, of The Cancer Fighting Kitchen fame. I love her recipes--especially her Magic Mineral Broth, a delicious substance that really does make you feel better after chemo, and which is the basis for many of her recipes. Here she is making it:



I like her recipes so much I want more . . . of almost every flavor-enhancing ingredient, that is. Notice that smallish piece of kombu she uses in the video? When I make Magic Mineral Broth, I put in about three times that amount. While crunching down on a piece of kombu as a snack. Stuff tastes great. A salty little cracker that smells like the sea. 
In the photo above, I've relied on Ms. Katz's recipe for Purple Peruvian Smashed Potatoes, also known as Vitelottes, the French variety. You need a fourth of a cup of the Magic Mineral Broth for these, and her recipe calls for finely chopped chives, but since I didn't have chives I sautéed some diced shallots in extra-virgin olive oil and added those instead. I used the chopped parsley she recommended, only more (see how much green is in that purple?) I used her Basic Broccoli recipe for the green stuff to the left of the Peruvian potatoes, except that her recipe calls for just a tablespoon of finely chopped garlic, so I used about four. Ditto for the tomatoes, the basil, the lemon juice. I did follow her instructions exactly the first time I made the recipe, but my daughter and I agreed that we liked even more flavor. I also blanched the broccoli for sixty seconds, instead of the thirty she suggests. 
At the top of the plate are some Pappadums, which I fried in vegetable oil, and which added a delicious crunchy texture that complemented the other ingredients. So, if you're into big flavor and mostly Vegan, the Katz cookbooks are the way to go.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

An Interview with BOTUS: Marlon Bundo Tells All


Critical Mom: Mr. Bundo, it's an honor to meet you! Congratulations on your marriage!
Marlon: (gently patting silk bow tie) Why, thank you.
Critical Mom: Your Wesley seems so considerate and cute!
Marlon: (with a tranquil sigh) So handsome! Makes wonderful blueberry-mesclun-bell-pepper salad, too!
Critical Mom: Lovely, just lovely. How's the romance between POTUS and FLOTUS by the way?
Marlon: (small gasp) Please! I thought we were only going to speak of happy things! I mean, I just got married! We're going on a honeymoon!
Critical Mom: Oooh, lovely, nowhere near Watership Down, I trust?
Marlon: Please! 
Critical Mom: (getting carried away) I mean, The White House might as well be Efrafa, with General Woundwort running around . . . 
Marlon: (with a nervous chuckle) Now, now, you know well, Ms. Critical Mom, that the secret service won't allow me to divulge Wesley's and my destination. We like privacy, you know. Rabbit holes and all? I mean (Bundo reddens slightly) I mean . . . we're bunnies and all . . .
Critical Mom: I understand perfectly! I see our conversation has brought a blush to the cheek of a young person. Tell me, is Mr. Pence a kind man, at heart? Do you think he'll ever understand?
Marlon: Well, he did say he enjoyed Hamilton. That's something. Er, it's just that well, I'm kind of an inexperienced bunny. A virgin.
Critical Mom. Yes, indeedy. Mike Pence likes virgins! There's some common ground! Well, thank you so much for your time!
Marlon: Thank you!
Critical Mom: And here's a great big basket of carrots and dandelions from me. Have a wonderful time!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Billionaires of the World Unite: Stormy Daniels Needs Your Support

If I were Warren Buffett, I'd be buying Stormy Daniels and her lawyer dinner at a restaurant so lovely and exclusive that she'd never run into "Mr. President" there. I'd discreetly hand her an envelope with at least twenty million in it around dessert time, and with promises of more cash to come. I'd also provide her with funding for bodyguards, spa cures, and vegan shakes. I'd enlist all the other nice billionaires I know--how about Ingvar Kamprad and Karl Albrecht? Haven't all those megabuck dudes noticed that a certain crooked businessman who runs the U.S. like a gigantic personal business while never paying taxes or admitting that he never pays taxes is giving other rich folks a bad name? If you don't want to save Stormy for her own sake, save her for yours! She's fun, and her lawyer's a hero.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Getting the FoundationOne Test In Germany: Fifteen Tips

As you probably know, if you're a cancer patient, neither genetic nor genomic testing is likely to be covered by your German insurance company, unless (1) you have two or three relatives with the same kind of cancer or (2) your insurance company is really nice. Nevertheless, Germany being devoted to bureaucracy, you may find yourself in a situation like mine. So here are some tips:

(1) Tell your gynecologist or your oncologist that you would like FoundationOne genomic testing. 

(2) Watch your oncologist sweat. "I'm not allowed to order the test," said my oncologist, "Because of #$%^&*UIO and WERTYHJ@#$%TY," (In other words, I couldn't follow her explanation.)

(3) Go to your gynecologist or your general practitioner (Hausartz) and say you'd like her to order the test.  Watch her sweat. In my case, I went to my gynecologist first, because I'd written to the  FoundationOne company, who advised me that either my oncologist or my gynecologist could write the test order.

(4) Listen to lengthy explanation from worried, guilty gynecologist that the test is "off-label," therefore very expensive, and maybe the insurance company will not approve, and maybe I'll have to pay for the test myself.

(5) Start a GoFundMe (or the crowdfunding company of your choice, but GoFundMe was great) to raise money for the test.

(6) Write to your insurance company and cc the mail to your gynecologist and your oncologist. Send every diagnosis you ever got to the insurance company, while feeling as though you were promising to hand over your firstborn child.

(7) Call your oncologist to let her know your insurance company might be paying, but meanwhile you'd really like this test. Listen to her get irritated about how she's answered lots of emails from you.

(8) Explain to time-pressed, overworked gynecologist that she really has to read this email your insurance company just wrote.

(9) Get (if you're lucky) a definite approval from your insurance company and dance merrily to your gynecologist in hopes of getting her to write the order for the test. Watch her writhe in her chair and explain that sometimes insurance companies tell doctors "You prescribed too many off-label tests! Pay up!" In other words, she's afraid of being stuck with the 5000 euros, or the 3000-something euros. Five years after the fact. Which is also five years after the time you're floating in heaven or frying in hell.

(10) Offer to pay. Your GoFundMe cash just came through.

(11) Listen to her say "No," you don't pay . . . 

(12) Talk to the oncologist again. She still can't write the order for the test.

(13) Go see the oncologist, who's willing to send in the tissue sample. 

(14) Listen to her when she mentions that you could just try your general practitioner: "All you need is that Stempel." (the official bureaucratic stamp).

(15) Go to Hausartz about another, unrelated form you need filled out. After that form is taken care of, slide the FoundationOne form across the table. Have her sign it while she's so busy she doesn't know what she's signing.

P.S. The tissue sample is now in the mail! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Fulvestrant Follies

If radiation is the kinky tanning salon--and believe me, it is, with your head buckled to the table and then having to take your pants down so they can blast the other tumor in your leg, and then technicians edging your leg into place but you're not allowed to move it yourself--then Fulvestrant injections are the sadist's dream. You might as well be asked to bend over in a Victorian spanking fantasy. 

Actually, I just had to lie on a gurney and the nurse was perfectly nice, but the experience took me back to the tetanus shot I had to have ("Oh, you mean, it's not going to be in my arm?") after I cracked my forehead open on the faucet while wrestling my lice-ridden three-year-old into a shampoo. 

You have to take your pants down with the Fulvestrant, and you have to lie there while the nurse injects the shot right into your buttock. I was told it was going to be my hip. "Hip" is a euphemism. Then you roll over and she does the other buttock. I have to admit the experience was not excruciating, but it was absolutely no fun and right up there with the Most Unpleasant Things I Have Ever Done, including becoming infected with campylobacteria in Peru, trying, with very limited Spanish, to explain my predicament to a pharmacist, who figured out, from the way I was writhing at her counter, was the matter was, having vomiting and diarrhea and fever from said bacteria all the way home on two flights--while tending to the needs of three energetic children. 

Fulvestrant comes but once every two weeks--and then once a month--thank goodness. I walked home (or, rather, poled my way home on crutches, my leg still in its postoperative state) and feel okay, and rather hungry. On the advice of my 78-year-old friend who's had Stage 4 ovarian cancer for five years, I'm going back to my glass or two of red wine every night.  I noticed it really settled my stomach after radiation, and besides--a glass of wine does wonders for the soul.  One sip of the ruby-red liquid and I'm distracted from the memory of that needle--although I'll never forget it. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Storm on, Stormy! Get him!

It's International Women's Day, and about time the witty, gracious Stormy Daniels took down our so-called president. The man who's disgraced the office and the title ought to be felled by a lovely porn star: it's positively Dantesque. Back in Dante's inferno, the sinners are arranged in ten circles, ranging from the ones at the top, the "not so bad," the adulterous lovers, to the truly evil, those who betrayed their benefactors. In the first circle, those illicit lovers are bandied about in a whirlwind, just as they let themselves be guided by the winds of passion in life--but they get blown away from, rather than toward, their former lovers. That punishment is known as "Contrapasso," literally translated as "suffer the opposite," and the idea is for the punishment to fit the crime. The false prophets--magicians, astrologers, for instance, the ones whom Dante perceives as having tried to see the future by forbidden means, now have their heads on backwards--they will literally never look forward, certainly not as far as the future, again.
Now where to put "David Dennison" aka Donald Trump, who appears to have failed to have signed his own legal document?
He'd be getting off way too easy if he were placed among the adulterers. He's certainly a false prophet. He's a betrayer of his benefactors--the American people, and, especially, on International Women's Day, of his wife, Melania, and his young son, Barron, who will always live with the knowledge that his father couldn't even stay faithful for a few months. Not for a nanosecond, I suppose.
Now, "David Dennison" has arranged things so that Stormy Daniels will have to pay a million bucks if she describes his junk or their encounters.
Where are the millionaires, not to mention the billionaires? They ought to be ponying up the dough to help our savior, Stormy! Why doesn't someone run a GoFundMe to pay any legal bills this woman encounters and help her live a life of ease? Come on, people--support Stormy! She's the American people's best friend. She can bring down The Donald. I can just see him up to the neck in the lowest, deeply frozen circle, Cocytus, still a talking head, able to complain that things are just not fair, Mommy.
Thank you, Stormy! You're a national treasure.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Critical Mom's Cozy Winter Chicken

A chicken dinner in Winter should offer plenty of vitamins, prevent colds, and taste hearty and filling--it should stick to your ribs. I suggest an organic or corn-fed chicken, and I'd go with the recommendation of a New York Times recipe: salt and pepper the bird, put it in a dish, and leave it in the fridge overnight or at least for a few hours. The skin with get crispier this way when you bake the bird. I rinse and pat dry before the salt-and-pepper phase and believe the bird is improved by this, but find I am in a minority.

When you're ready to make dinner: boil red potatoes, or a mix or red potatoes and sweet potatoes, until you can easily poke a fork into them. They shouldn't be falling apart. Line your baking dish with these; add a little olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper. Set the bird right on top and stuff with a handful of fresh flat-leaf (or regular) parsley, a few cloves of garlic, and a lemon sliced in half--squeeze a little of the juice on top of the chicken. Bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes (depending on the size of the chicken) at 200º C, about 400º F. Enjoy!

A pleasant side dish: toss brussel sprouts in olive oil and maple syrup, add garlic salt and cumin. Bake for about 45 minutes (or less) at 200º.  Put in this dish after the chicken's been incubating for a good fifteen minutes. Happy Eating!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Radiation Revisited, Or the Woman in the Iron Mask

OK, it's really a plastic mask but oh, how form fitting. As I was cooling my heels on some CT-scanning-type contraption, the technician advised me my face would be feeling hot, and then cold. A slab of blue plastic melted, lava-like, over my features and quickly cooled to comfortable temperatures. Eye holes, a nose hole, a mouth hole, but imagine Darth Vader in baby-blue, with illegible graffiti and tic tac toe games decorating his cheeks and forehead, for the technicians busily drew black and green lines--that dizzying, permanent-marker smell dominated the air for a few moments, and then I was done. 

For my first radiation, yesterday, I donned the mask--or rather, it was slipped over my face. I'd already asked if I could keep it when I was done--it's a real conversation piece, goes with my wig and styrofoam wig head from my chemo days. 

"That's snug," I said. "Gee, that's tight," I thought. That was before they buckled the mask to the table and taped it down, such that my chin retracted into my neck. I could still breath, but believe me, my eyes were bugging.
Darth Vader or Silence of the Lambs?


"Are you lying comfortably?" asked the anxiously sweet technician with the long gray hair and the gold granny glasses.

I burst out laughing, only I couldn't burst. A strangled sound emerged from my mouth hole. Then I pretended to breathe like Darth Vader and they got nervous. 

"I'm Darth Vader!" I announced. They smiled, urged me not to move--another line that got me laughing--and left the rooms so I could be irradiated.

Donald Trump's Motto: Conceal and Carry


What else but "conceal and carry"could anyone expect from someone who boasted he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still get elected? What else does Trump do besides conceal? His taxes, his motives, his greed. His worst traits stick out all over him and he trumpets them, so to speak, on Twitter, but he's still gotten away--and continues to get away--with sweeping most of his crimes under the rug. 

Watching CNN this morning, my stomach lurched at the sight of Trump's response to a weeping high school student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a boy whose best friend had died in the shooting. The solution, Trump asserted, was to let "trained" teachers conceal and carry a weapon. More guns. So the teacher could shoot the shooter.

The National Rifle Association--which according to Fortune.com contributed, in the 2016 election, $11,438,118 to support Donald Trump—and another $19,756,346 to oppose Hillary Clinton, commands Trump's sick loyalty. When will the world listen--when will people who should know better, like Laura Ingraham, stop defending him?

The over $31 million spent on one presidential race by the NRA should be refunded personally by Trump, and invested in a real solution--like banning guns and reclaiming those already purchased. We need a solution like that of Australia's gun recall. Australia hasn't had a mass shooting since 1996. But Australia is not afflicted by a President Donald Trump.

The "National Rifle Association"--it's so outdated. The organization was founded in 1871, and the weapon then touted was the breach-loading rifle. This kind of rifle reduced the amount of time it took to re-load the bullets, but could not compete with the assault-style weapons that fly off the shelves of Walmart today. What the Founders would have thought of a vengeful or crazy teenager buying an assault-style weapon and mowing down his classmates--and a "president" who wants even more guns in schools--I can't imagine. They'd be weeping, as I am.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Diagnostics and Delusion

I'm dreaming of the whole illness evaporating like a common cold, though I know perfectly well it won't. Meanwhile, the only thing between me and those big, bad, mean metastases is a slim, modest, 20-mg daily dose of Tamoxifen. 
That's sending a boy to do a man's job. More like sending a 98-lb. pipsqueak to do a the job of a team of superheroes aided by the marine corps. But I take the slim white pill in the way that some slip that tab of acid onto their tongues, devil may care--a thing I never did and don't regret never having done--and some take the priest's wafer, swallow, and feel cleansed. Belief is a thing I could use, though in the religion department I'm lacking it. 
I believe in living. I dream of long walks, dancing the shim-sham shimmy again, and thirty-two changements at the end of ballet class. These are all things of the past, but vivid in memory, and I do enjoy my memories. I  suppose I enjoy these things even more as memories, since the actual doing of them used to cause considerable effort. 
Meanwhile, back at the gene pool: are my genes turning traitor? Was I born with genes determined to betray me just when things were getting good? Lately, we've been watching Lucifer and enjoying the series immensely. My sympathies are often with the fallen morningstar; God seems rather mean, as he does in Milton's Paradise Lost, the Old Testament, and much of Renaissance painting.
Even Blake gives him a brooding, crabby expression and calls him "Old Nobodaddy" but that may be whistling in the dark, an increasingly familiar feeling to me. At the end of the last Harry Potter book, Harry has a long conversation with Dumbledore in a place that looks like King's Cross, then wonders if the scene was "real" or just inside his head--of course it's Dumbledore  who questions that distinction.  I like all versions of real--really here, especially, for a long time: that would be my favorite.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Surgically Yours: Frankenstein & Me

Look at that face. But even more, look at that forehead. The face approximates the mood of my leg, the forehead scars the look. I am Frankensteinian. I wonder whether I'll ever be able to go through airport metal detectors, I should live so long. A huge rod now sits in the center of what's left of my femur, extending, like the lonely monster's hopes, into my hip. But I can walk with crutches, and was just within yelling distance of a delivery man who, by the time I hobbled down the stairs, had just flipped his "be back later" note through the letterbox and vanished. It was nice of him to return. 
I feel likely to become an assemblage of parts in my quest for survival. Parts of me, the cancerous parts, will be discarded, and the empty holes filled with whatever surgeons use. I cannot seem to gather myself into a sensible state of mind. A shower takes all my concentration, and I used the laundry basket as a walker until I could lay my hands on my crutches. Once I'd changed the bandage on my Franky-leg, it seemed time for a nap again. What's a nice girl like me doing with Stage 4 breast cancer? The tablespoon of sugar I need in my supersized cup of extremely strong morning café-au-lait? The coffee itself? I like it strong enough to walk on, and I always grind a lot of beans for a little bit of water. Once in a while, at least once a week, I eat a chocolate bar. The extra estrogen naturally swimming through my system, and which helped me produce three lovely children at an age when many women are grandmothers? The glass or two of red wine, nightly, that I used to enjoy? I drink much less than the doctors on Gray's Anatomy. I exercised much more, too, ate my turmeric, avocado, garlic, and ginger. Avoided the grapefruit and tangerines. The longing to know "what I could do"--to derail the disease--not using lipstick or hairdye? Avoiding alcohol, sugar, and other small pleasures?--is positively Frankenstinian. Life in the uncertainty zone is monstrous. Some flip of the genes seems the culprit, and elusive as the monster, whose maker chased his unwanted creation across the ice for long distances, and fruitlessly.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Madame Alzheimer's: My New Hospital Roommate

She's really sweet, although my first impression, when they rolled her in, was one of surliness. I smiled and introduced myself; she merely stared. Turned out she was just confused. I found out just how confused when I went down the hall with my husband for a few minutes and returned to find her flipping through my papers, which had been moved from my wheelchair to her bed. She was sure she had her own medical records in her hands. My very patient, not-easily-riled husband had to negotiate with her, even gently pull my papers from her surprisingly strong grip.
She cannot remember that she has a broken hip until she's already sitting on the edge of her bed, setting her feet on the floor, declaring that she has to go to the toilet. Guess who gets to ring for the nurse?
Several times last night I woke to the sound of her groaning as she got her feet on the ground--and rang, urging her to stay in bed. Then the nurses charged in, hauling her legs back in and cleaning her up. Adult sized pampers came into play; I requested that the nurse open the window. Tonight, I heard sounds that may have involved intestinal activities I'd rather not know about but the nurse will come eventually. 
German hospitals, given the choice of allowing an elderly woman to fall, breaking the other hip, and tying her to the bed, since the nurse can't check up on her often enough, seem to think it mean-spirited to restrict her in any way.
"It's dangerous!" I say. I even say it in German. 
I think I rang for them one time too many. They know they can count on me to do so. My neighbor, who was seventeen in 1945, is sleeping now--or what passes as sleeping. They slipped her a mickie or two, and she gulps and gasps like one with a bad combination of sleep apnea and seriously overgrown adenoids. And now it's time for me to turn in. Hospitals have never been known as places where you actually rest. But I rather feel like I'm working a bit too much for the nurses at the moment.