Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trump Lived Up to His Name, Didn't He?

He's always trumping something up. Like this: in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. No, you can't, as many late-term abortion providers have already tweeted, but that's hardly the point. The real point is you could see Caligula in Trump's eyes as he said this. You really could see him ripping a baby out of the womb. Sadistically. Taking yet more revenge on women. Think this is a media conspiracy, Donald? Oh, nobody reads me. I wish they would. You moderators, you: why on earth didn't you call him out on the carpet when he pointed at Madame Clinton and said, "She's a nasty woman." This is much more than petulant bad behavior; it's degrading to the United States, and the world is appalled that such talk is allowed. Why didn't Chris Wallace say, "Mr. Trump, this kind of language is not allowed. You must apologize." Any kindergarten or grade school teacher would have done this--but all moderators have simply allowed this bullying, uncouth behavior. I'm disgusted. And Caligula goes on. Trump is already Caligula, but imagine Caligula in the oval office. Brrrrrr:

Monday, October 17, 2016

How To Moderate The Next Clinton-Trump "Debate": Ten Tips

(1) If you haven't Googled "How to Handle a Malicious Narcissist," that's the least you should do. Consulting a few professionals would be better.

(2) Never say "yes," when the Republican candidate asks in that sneering tone, "Well, can I respond?" JUST SAY "NO!"

(3) Understand that you are not moderating a debate. You are making it possible for Madame Clinton to get a word in edgewise before the Republican candidate growls, "You'll go to jail!" or "She needs a drug test!" or "String 'er up!" 

(4) It is your bounden duty to put an abrupt and definite halt to such remarks: "Stop that, Donnie! We don't talk like that, Donnie! Behave yourself!" would--yes, really--be appropriate. If you feel a need for decorum, and I think you should not, then say, "Mr. Trump! That language is inappropriate! You have two minutes to re-phrase." 

(5) Before the debate even begins, lecture the candidates on expected behaviors, making clear that any and all inappropriate remarks or threats will be censured. Each candidate is expected to speak to the issues.

(6) Understand that you really don't need to know the issues yourself. You don't need to bone up on the latest ghastly Donaldism or Wikileaks. This election has never been about "the facts." It's always been about personalities. 

(7) Consider the mistakes of moderators in the last two debates. Flummoxed by the Republican candidate's bad behavior, they ignored it, behaving as though his menacing motions and words were something to be ignored. They aren't. Step into the fray and call him on his shit.

(8) When you don't do this, Hillary Clinton is left in the position of the mom who's supposed to mop up after the huge mess, with no Dad backing her up. That's really not fair. Moderators so far have allowed her to be bullied. You then create a situation in which Trump is allowed to be predator and she is forced to be prey.

(9) When a candidate refuses to play by the rules of polite society, then you cannot stick to these rules yourself. You must be active. 

(10) If you remain passive, and if the Republican candidate wins, then there will be a catastrophe followed by a post-war period and a need for a de-Trumpification process. Even if Madame Clinton wins--and please, let's hope she does--the media needs to plan, with good government, a de-Trumpification process that will neutralize the hatred stirred up by Trump and which he will otherwise work to keep alive.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Wikileaks, Shmikileaks--Why You Should Love Hillary Clinton (and Why Doesn't Assange Go After Trump?)

The cynical Julian Assange--I like the man less and less--has been quoted as saying the choice between Clinton and Trump is one between gonorrhea and cholera. Oh, come on. That's an attitude that comes of being stuck in the Ecuadorean embassy for too long. Clinton is presidential: she knows how to be president, and we know Trump doesn't know how to do that. He knows how to be Hitler. He knows how to be Duterte. He knows how to be Jack the Ripper. He knows these things. But he doesn't know dignity, he doesn't know love, he doesn't know honor. Clinton does. Let's revisit Fran Lebowitz's observations from last May:

You've got to admit, Madame Lebowitz has a way of being bitingly correct. Even more bitingly correct right now. 
The BBC interviewed the residents of Youngstown, Ohio, many of whom have lost their way of life, their steel mills, their jobs, and who think that some change, as represented by Trump, is good change. They believe the Republican candidate to be anti-establishment; they believe him to be looking out for them. I ask them to observe the threats, the accusations, the denials of the man. I ask them to ask themselves whether they truly discount the words of so many women who describe being fondled, kissed, groped, and assaulted by Trump, and whether they can honestly nod and wink at his gleeful boasts and say "boys will be boys." Can you who are voting for this man truly believe he will not treat you all as he treated these women?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hillary Clinton Could Have Laughed All Night . . .

But she didn't. Oh, how I wish Hillary Clinton had pulled out a wand, waved it, and quipped "Riddikulus!" when those hoptoads and vipers slimed out of his mouth. He was pouting so hard they could barely make their way past his big ole rat teeth, but they remain as determined as he and they sat, panting and stinking, at his feet, grinning out at the audience.

The worst, Madame Clinton, returns to laughter--if only you'd known to laugh. You got Puritan and rapped the bad boy on the wrist, and the bad boy flipped you with a jiu jitsu move. 

I was glad you at least smiled. But then you wagged a finger instead of a wand--preacher instead of good witch--and told us to check facts.

Oh, the facts are so irrelevant. Personality is all. Show us your confidence by chuckling. Crack a joke or five. But don't lecture. To do so is to take him seriously.

I voted for you by absentee ballot on September 30 and I hope to goodness my ballot got there.  I hope all the Americans abroad sent in their ballots already, and hope the ballots got to the Board of Elections.

Final thoughts:


Never said I was perfect,
America, popped
Tic Tacs, grabbed girls
By the pussy, squeezed ‘em onna tits,
Kissed ‘em they love it!
They love me! Hey,
In the land of the freebies . . .
I’m so hot they can’t resist,
In the home of the brash . . .
I just can’t help it, ooh,
So sexy, ya know?
I’m a genius, I built
That city upon a hill
They’re lookin’ at us, kid, they are,
I’m a star, I got a better personality
Oh, say they can see
I moved on her like a bitch
I can do it—I’m rich:
Got a right to life, liberty, pursuit:
Says so right here.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Obviously, Marital Vows Mean Nothing To Him . . . "

Says The New York Times about the Republican presidential candidate. That's hardly the point. NOTHING means anything to him. Nothing at all. He enjoys power and women, but they mean nothing beyond continuing the game. He likes thrills, but even they mean nothing to him. Our lives mean less to him.

Transmitting this message to people in danger of voting for him means everything to me.

Friday, September 30, 2016

I Voted For Madame Clinton Today: Everywoman's Wish

Everyvote I will go with thee
and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go
by thy side.
It's September 30, and I've inked in the ovals for a straight Democratic ticket. I've re-folded the paper and placed it in the brown envelope requiring my signature--I've signed the envelope--I've placed that envelope in the mailing envelope, added a Priority Mail stamp and every magical thought I can summon: pagan prayers, vaguely Christian prayers, desperate desires: Please, little vote, make your way to New York and be counted! Who knows what accidents await your travel, what nefarious deeds.  I took my envelope to our local post office, handed it to a sweet old postal worker who looked as though he would, if he were an American citizen, vote for Hillary.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Roy Cohn and Donald Trump

For those of you too young to remember Roy Cohn, understand that he was notorious enough to have become, after his death, a major character in a long-running Broadway play, Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Why? He was the sleaziest, and one of the most powerful, lawyers who ever lived, advising, among others, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. After forging a man's signature on a will--the man was comatose and in a hospital bed at the time--Cohn was finally disbarred. And P.S., Cohn died of AIDS, one reason Kushner included him in a play about the havoc wreaked on American society by this incurable monster of an illness. (Everything you might want to know about Cohn, including his friendly support of Joseph McCarthy, his verve in sending Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair, and his fulfilled wish to die owing millions to the IRS, is right here:

My point is, Roy Cohn was a very big pal of the Republican candidate--among other gangsters, including Mafia bosses and the Roman Catholic archdiocese of New York. Yes.

I have my own Roy Cohn story. Back when Cohn was a child, a woman my family knew well--a Juilliard pianist--got a job teaching the young Roy to play the piano. The money was good, and each week this teacher met with the kid, attempting to teach, and couldn't even get him to sit down at the piano. The entire time she was there, he ignored her, talking to his friends on the phone about legal cases, or reading legal articles. He was, she reported, a very nasty little boy. Finally she went to his mother, hating to relinquish a job that paid so well, but feeling dishonest about keeping it. She explained, "Mrs. Cohn, I've tried to teach your son piano, but he's really not learning anything. I don't feel right taking your money."
Mrs. Cohn begged her to stay: "For that hour that you're here, I know where Roy is," she said. 
Cohn is the man who helped Trump in a dark moment--when Trump was enmeshed in lawsuits, Cohn's advice remained, "Give 'em hell." And Trump's been giving everyone hell ever since.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Trumpacalypse, or Why Ivanka Might Just Vote for Hillary.

Anyone who saw Madame Clinton's opponent huffing and puffing and threatening to blow everyone's house down--at one point he actually said, "I'm not being braggadocious!"--knows he's not fit for the presidency. Or business. But we'll stick to the immediate danger. If Ivanka's anything like her Dad, she sizes people up. She has an opportunity. She'll be all alone in that voting booth. There's no need to tell Dad which lever she pulled. I bet she can vote by mail, or maybe that's only folks like me, who live outside the USA. I just got my absentee ballot today, and cannot wait to fill in the oval next to Hillary Clinton's name and send back my ballot. 
No matter where you stand--and I write for those who haven't liked Clinton in the past and might be voting for Trump--if you saw her today speaking about her mother, about children, about struggle, about poverty, you know that she has a heart--that she really cares, that she wants to help people succeed in their lives, that she values kindness and knows how to unite people in a common effort. Her goals are modest, and therefore much more achievable: she wants to make America good again. The idea of making America "great" is a false one--the Republican candidate's definition of "great" is never trotted out without a"better than," "bigger than," "stronger than"--we never hear it without a threat to get rid of some cardboard cutout who in his imagination is undermining some mythic "real" America. He's good at naming those who cannot defend themselves because they need help: refugees, poor people, people of color. 
Ivanka, the man who grabs your body in that revoltingly un-fatherly, inappropriate way is not the man you really want to run our country--is it? You don't have to say a word. Feel free to lie to "dad"--he's never really been a dad, has he? If you actually like, even love him, ask yourself what his reign of terror would do to the world, not just America. When you're alone in that voting booth, focus on the candidate who offers love and who offers a realistic plan--not the "braggadocious" businessman spouting hatred. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ivanka and Implications of Incest

Go through the videos of the Republican candidate hugging his wife, then daughter, onstage, Look at the way he grabs his wife's upper arms just to show her who's boss, the way he slips his hand to Ivanka's lower hip and bottom. None of his gestures show affection or even regard--they show control, possessiveness, desire. Ivanka pulls away, as if embarrassed. 
Go back ten years: Ivanka sitting in a micro-mini next to him on "The View," a talk show, during a 2006 taping. Star Jones, the host, wonders what Trump would think of Ivanka modeling for Playboy. Ivanka smiles as he answers that she has a nice figure and "if she weren't my daughter I'd date her." Joy Behar cracks, "What are you, Woody Allen?" and Trump smirks, "That's good."
It's not good. Allen married a woman who'd been a daughter to him, and molested his other daughter, then seven.
It's not good that a man who could win the U.S. presidency treats his daughter as a tasty piece of meat, his wife as a doll to be kept in a cage. It's not good that he has no heart, to put it mildly. I think of the daughters of dictators--Stalin's daughter is a good place to start in learning that dictators treat their families not much better than their subjects: Stalin sent her Jewish boyfriend to the Gulag.
Remember that, and vote for Madame Clinton.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Stuffed Peppers and Eggplants: a Cancer-Fighting Recipe in Ten Easy Steps

Why is this a cancer-fighting recipe? Because it's not candy or junk food, because it has no alcohol (which gets to your liver when you're doing chemo, and some say it raises estrogen levels), because it has vegetables (those are great, even when you don't have cancer) and because I Say So. I have, like most cancer ladies, read enough (coffee is bad! Oh, maybe not!) to decide on what I think is healthy, within reason. I read enough of The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen to know the editor would approve of my version of Stuffed Peppers and Eggplants. When a woman who assured me she was a "certified cancer coach" insisted that milk caused cancer and sent me a link detailing the reasons why, I Googled around enough to want to ask her "Certified by whom? A psychiatrist?" So here's my healthy recipe:

(1) Make some whole-grain rice ("Natur" rice in German) or brown rice in your rice cooker. For a family of five, one cup dry rice, a little salt, two cups of water.

(2) Pre-heat your oven to 190-200º Celsius. (About 350ºF).

(3) While the rice is making, wash about six big peppers and two or three medium-sized eggplants. Slice eggplants in half. With a knife, cut rectangles and scoop them out. Place on a large plastic cutting board; the eggplant slices should be bite-size or smaller, the eggplant nicely hollowed out (think of a longboat made by Robinson Crusoe--doesn't he hollow out a tree to make a canoe?) Salt that eggplant. Set aside.

(4) Pour into a large frying pan, about two tablespoons of olive oil and heat on medium heat. Wash and dice two zucchini and stir them into the olive oil. Dice an onion--I like the red ones--and add that. Or scallions. A few little tomatoes, diced. Stir and sauté. Set aside.

(5) When the salted eggplant boats and pieces are starting to turn brown  and ooze (about twenty minutes) place them in a colander and rinse them thoroughly with cool water. Place the boats upside down on paper towels, add the little pieces of eggplants to the frying pan and sauté them a bit more. 

(6) Slice the tops off the peppers. Pull out or cut out the section with the seeds and discard (we give these to our guinea pigs, who squeal their appreciation. Nothing's wasted at our house.)

(7) In a large bowl put everything from the frying pan, two well-beaten eggs, and the rice. Mix thoroughly. Grate a large chunk of Parmesan cheese (6-8 oz) into this mixture and stir well. Set aside.

(8) Add a little more olive oil to the pan. Sauté the eggplant halves, peppers, tops of peppers. Turn frequently--do all sides: the peppers shouldn't burn, but should look cooked. Same with eggplant. Turn heat off. Have large pan ready. Oil it slightly--olive oil.

(9) Take each pepper or eggplant half--carefully--they'll be hot, and fill it with the stuffing. Settle in baking dish. You may have to lean the stuffed peppers against other stuffed peppers to make them stand up. Place the pepper tops on the stuffed peppers--doesn't have to be the one from that pepper.

(10) Bake for about 40 minutes (sometimes you'll need longer). Enjoy!

If you don't have cancer, drink a glass of red wine with this. If you do, try red grape juice, because in my opinion the person who invented non-alcoholic wine should be forced to drink it every day. You, sweetie, do not have to torture yourself. Enjoy your food!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mein Furor Versus Cool Clinton

Okay, I didn't coin that phrase--Daily Kos did--and it fits the Republican candidate like a glove. His rages and sneers are all part of his shamelessness, and shamelessness seems to be a quality that people envy and wish to emulate. How lovely to be free of shame. Guilt, too. Free from those feelings that torture you, but keep our culture in line. From John Winthrop (the Puritan preacher who warned his flock that their new colonies would be a "city upon a hill" watched by the entire world--so be good!) to Freud, guilt and shame have played big hands in American life. We go for ideals and our punishments are medieval compared to those in enlightened Europe. 
And that, I guess, is why so many Americans love a guy who radiates shamelessness. He lies, he cheats, he's caught at both constantly, but he never shows a nanosecond of shame, because he doesn't feel it. He's a player and he loves any move of the game, and Jimmy Fallon got to rumple his hair, but did Mein Furor show embarrassment? No, and you'll never get him to do so. If he were caught red handed by Wikileaks, his fraudulent taxes all over the news, he'd be screaming that somebody faked it. He'd be blaming everything on Madame Clinton. He has no conscience. That's why he is envied.
Cool Clinton has nothing but conscience. She makes us feel ours. Ethical to the bone, she fights, righteous indignation sticking out all over her. She's funny, too--loved that "I get allergic" line, referring to Mein Furor. But CNN jumps on her for lying about her health, while no authority bothers to jail a man who's been cheating on his taxes since his first forays into business, if not before. Tax records! Health records! Birth certificates! Wham!  A German commentator noted that Germans would never ask for Frau Merkel's health records. Those are her business--entirely private, and privacy is big here. But Americans, he pointed out, are voting for tribes, not parties, and the healthiest body wins. We're back to the stone ages already, the pre-democracy ages. AND I SAY UNTO YOU: Don't let Mein Furor become Mein Führer. Vote for Clinton!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hillary's Pneumonia and Why You Should Vote For Her

I had pneumonia for the usual reason women get it--overwork. I had three young children who had to be picked up every day from kindergarten and elementary school. I worked and graded exams and did laundry and made meals. I had a persistent cough. One afternoon, I'd dragged myself over to the kindergarten and was on the way home with my two youngest kids, who had wanted to stop in the playground along the way. I stood, swaying on my feet, watching my daughter on the swing. I didn't want to sit down, because I thought I wouldn't have the energy to get up. 
"Wow, that's some cough," said a voice behind me, one of the dads. "Do you smoke a lot?"
I had coughed? "No, just asthma," I said. I had what I thought was asthma-with-a-bit-of-bronchitis. A doctor had prescribed rest and antibiotics. A male doctor, of course. I laughed at the first remedy, but took the second religiously. So I had to get better, right? All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep.
I kept going until finally, like Madame Clinton, I landed in the hospital for ten days. She's a lot stronger than I am--almost ten years to the day older--and wild horses won't keep that woman in the hospital. She is too busy fighting for you and me and for democracy itself. She's fighting for basic decency. 
Why do I keep reading about people who "just don't trust" Hillary? Why the continued crap about the emails, the tedious wikileak about the earpiece? Why am I hearing, "Oh, I just won't vote--he's a monster and she's too much of a socialist/liar/inconsistent/younameit?"
I never thought I'd say this: because she's a woman. Strong women are, even by The New York Times, denigrated--"the bitch we need" is how Clinton was described. Shame on you, New York Times, for confusing strong and forceful with bitchy. 
On CNN's State of the Race, Kate Bolduan led the charge about Why Hillary Should Have Been More Transparent. Aw, come on!! If Hillary were a guy, would people have freaked? What's really going on, why people are angry, especially the guys, is because Mommies Are Not Supposed to Get Sick! How well I know. When I was sick in the hospital with pneumonia, my husband brought my then really little ones to visit. My six-year-old turned his head away, wriggling with rage. He was in no mood for mommy (what the heck was she doing, leaving him for these doctors?) to read him a book. My four-year-old daughter gloomily wondered about the "doctor you live with now." 
Angela Merkel is Germany's Mutti and, Madame Clinton, take it as a compliment that American voters see you as Mom, too. At the moment, bad mommy, for getting sick. Let's work that into a great American theme: The Underdog Returns And Triumphs. You are Hillary, let's hear you roar until Trumpy turns tail and runs! You go, girl! 
Remember that Donald Trump is worse than Frank Underwood. Donald Trump is real. He doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything but Donald Trump--maybe not even Donald Trump. It's easy to imagine him destroying everything and everyone within sight, then heaving an orgasmic last breath as he jumps off a cliff. Hillary Clinton loves life. Despite pneumonia, acquired while on an heroic mission to raise funds, she keeps going like the determined, courageous, strong woman she is, and I hope Americans will recognize the depth of her commitment, the elemental force of her experience, and vote for her--overwhelmingly. She will recover from pneumonia, but America would never recover from Donald Trump.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

8 Tips for Capturing Escaped Guinea Pigs

(1) Take all of their little wooden houses and place them near the bushes under which you suspect your little escape artists have sequestered themselves. 
(2) Place a carrot, an apple, any favorite food, just inside the door of each house.
(3) Don't hope too hard, unless it's raining. If it is, they'll run straight for a house.
(4) Today is unrelentingly sunny. Lurking by the woodpile, we watched our faster piggie dash out from behind some brambles, grab the carrot, and race back into her hiding place. Several times.
(5) Put your laptop on top of one of their houses. Play some "Happy Guinea Pig" sounds on You-Tube. Your pigs will at least peek out so you'll know they're alive.
(6) Crackle the plastic bag of favorite dry food (this causes one pig to peek out from the shrubbery, revealing her sidekick (Still alive! Not consumed by a cat!)
(7) Call the wonderful, eccentric neighbor, your local Boo Radley. He appears instantly, and in a businesslike fashion climbs down behind the thorny bushes and grabs a guinea pig, which he hands you. Her friend is a little faster, but between Boo reaching for her and you blocking her way, he manages to capture her, too.
(8) Remember: it takes a village to capture a guinea pig!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don't Plan While on Paclitaxel (OR: It's Sleeping Zombie Day)

I brought a stack of student essays to read and grade as the nurse adjusted the IV line and set up the Paclitaxel drip. And that other little plastic package, the anti-allergenic. Surely the third time would be easier than the second time, the second time having been less easy than the first. I'd even been back to take a ballet class in between chemo treatments. Toward the end of a treatment I feel almost normal, just in time for the upcoming dose to render me Sleeping Zombie.
But my eyelids got heavier and out I conked, as if someone had just clocked me. I didn't see stars and nothing hurt, but I drifted into oblivion. So much so that when the nurse came in and I was vaguely staring around, not quite there, I jumped when she asked a question. 
As soon as I got home I was determined to do laundry. I got it in the machine, put in the laundry soap, closed the door--and forgot, as I was to discover only several hours later, than I hadn't started the machine. 
Upstairs I went to lie down on the couch for "just a minute." When my teenager asked if I minded whether he did his clarinet practice I said "Okay," or "go ahead," and apparently went right back to sleep.
"You slept through my clarinet practice, Mom," he said. "Wow. I was really loud, too."
Here I am, five hours later, still a little on the groggy side. Queen of the Zombies. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why You'd Rather Have Dr. Asperger's Syndrome than Dr. Perfect Bedside Manner

Once upon a time I had a mammogram--and was reassured, as I always had been, until now. Dr. Perfect Bedside Manner never rushed me. She had my results in her hand and was smiling as I walked in. She shook my hand, offered me a seat, explained why I was just fine--"I have nothing but good news for you!"--and, after exchanging a pleasantry or two about my very good gynecologist, who recommended me, let me go. But then two months later I found a lump--technically a swollen lymph node--and the circus of my treatment--tests, tests, test, chemotherapy, baldness, old ladyhoodness, and other distressing symptoms, began.
To my gynecologist's surprise, Dr. Perfect Bedside Manner was not assigned to my case. The hospital has a team, and normally Dr. PBM is on it, and I guess they must have thought--no one offered an explanation--maybe they thought I would sue--that I would not be comfortable with a doctor who had failed me. It's a common failure, misreading a mammogram, but how would they know that I knew that? In any case, I was assigned Dr. Asperger's Syndrome, who walks like a Hollywood Frankenstein and has the bedside manner of a snail. His expression--that of someone who hasn't had enough sleep and needs a bathroom--never seems to change. 
Since the whole idea of chemotherapy, to shrink the lump before surgery, seemed not to be working--because I could feel the round, hard, lump after four rounds of epirubicin and cyclophosphamide--I made an appointment with him. If side effects were all I was getting out of chemo, I wanted out.  
Dr. Asperger's Syndrome, with none of the personal charm of Dr. Perfect Bedside manner, has other qualities. What he lacks in ordinary everyday politeness he makes up for in competence. He is the doctor who knows how to identify that single snowflake, the one he seeks, in a blizzard. 
Not long before my appointment I was waiting to speak to a receptionist when he happened to come down the hall. I'd met him twice before, so smiled and waved. He moved robotically down the hall, not seeming to see me. 
I was waiting in the same place the day I had my appointment. He strode down the hall toward the receptionist. This time I got a vague, startled nod as he continued walking. The receptionist guided us down the hall to an office and unlocked it; he left and let her take me in and question me about my insurance. By this time I was bald and wearing my wig. He'd met me before I lost my hair, so I wondered if perhaps he did not recognize me in my new blond haystack. About which he said nothing. He returned and asked something--perhaps "How are you" in such a flat affect that I felt nervous. I flipped off my wig, said, "Well, now we have the same haircut," and he didn't laugh, although actually we do sport the same military buzz cut. Equally gray, too. He stared intently at my offending scalp for a moment, as if calculating. After the interview, I imagined he was thinking, "She is not completely bald, therefore . . . ." or "Her stubbles seem exactly a quarter of a millimeter long, which indicates . . . ." He turned, scribbled something on a clipboard, and set up the ultrasound. I lay on the table as he slimed me with gel and started moving the arm of the ultrasound around my breast. I had questions and started asking them, but when I glanced at him, I desisted. He was leaning into the screen with an intensity that made me want to stop breathing. I thought the sound of my respiration would break his concentration. His eyes were wide and bugged out. "Speaking up now, " I told myself, "Would be like asking a man in the throes of a very good orgasm whether he'd remembered to pick up his shirts at the dry cleaner." 
Only when Dr. Asperger's Syndrome had completed his exam and tossed me a towel with which to wipe off the goo did I express my concern that the lump seemed bigger. The one at the edge of my breast.
"No, no! We'll take that one out later. The other one's smaller." He smiled in a cheery fashion and walked out. I thought of Lurch, the Addams family butler.
But I'm much happier with Dr. Asperger's Syndrome than Dr. Sweet Bedside Manner, who missed the diagnosis and left me unaware and untreated for two long months. 


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Wigless Cancer Mom Answers the Door

Wigs, as a rule, aren't comfortable. But ever since I lost the little cotton skullcap that goes under mine, the thing's surprisingly more comfortable--my sharp gray hair stubbles function like velcro. Still, I don't wear my wig at home. If I know the Amazon delivery guy is ringing the doorbell, I quickly don one of my Smurf caps. If it's just one of my children, I don't. They've gotten used to the sight of Mom-with-military-buzz. 
Somehow, I thought one of my kids had forgotten his or her key when I answered the door one evening around six. There stood one of my older son's friends, his eyebrows suddenly up, eyes popping, mouth in a classic "O." No doubt about it. The kid was in shock. So I was, actually, having made feeble plans to keep breast cancer a secret.
"Oh," I said. Then, overly brightly, "Hello!" In came the kid. As I directed him to my son, I explained, "This is my chemotherapy head, but don't tell anyone."
"It's--ahhh, okay!" gasped the kid.
"Normally, I wear a wig."
"It's--really--okay!" he added.
Today we're visiting friends in Bavaria, and I woke up in the middle of the night to use the facilities. Unexpectedly, the girlfriend of our host's son was emerging from the bathroom just as I entered.
"Oh, hello! It's just me," I said with manic cheer.
She smiled. Girls understand better, without having things explained.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Six Paclitaxel Tips for Breast Cancer Gals

If you've already endured four cycles of epirubicin ("The red devil"--it turns your pee red, or rather neon-popsicle orange) and its sidekick, the equally devilish cyclophosphamide, you may feel teary and sleepless upon arriving for your first of twelve weekly doses of Paclitaxel (aka Taxol in the USA). But my experience has relieved me. Paclitaxel's no picnic, but does not cause the completely flattening effects of the first cycle of chemo. I felt sleepy, because of the stuff they add to prevent an allergic reaction, but had no other side effects besides a slightly flushed face. I'm not back to my usual energy levels, but can imagine returning to ballet and tap classes now.

Six tips for Paclitaxel:

(1)You won't feel that bad during the treatment, but toward the end you'll start to feel drowsy. A friend who had been through the whole 12 weeks of Paclitaxel called that phase of treatment "The sleepy time." Some women go comatose. Why? Apart from the obvious, that chemo wears you out? They give you an anti-allergenic whose side effect is . . .you guessed it . . .fatigue.

(2) Which is why every site dealing with Paclitaxel advises you "not to operate heavy machinery." I never do. Even when I don't have cancer.

(3) The facial flush and forgetfulness will still be there. But you're used to those by now, right?

(4) Seems like the worst side effects--the extreme fatigue, the body or bone aches, come a few days after the treatment. Just when you were feeling fine after the epi-and-cylo. But you still don't feel quite as bad.

(5) Some websites tell you not to drink coffee. But my doctor says coffee is okay. Since coffee would be much harder for me to give up than red wine, I'm drinking my morning coffee. With sugar, too. 

(6) Ice packs on your hands and feet help prevent neuropathy (numbness in the hands and feet). Bring along thick socks to wear on your feet. The nurses usually provide the cold packs. When your fingers start to burn with the cold, take them out for a few moments. If you can tolerate at least 20 minutes (I did 40, with a break in between) you may avoid the numbness.

P.S. Except around the brain, of course . . . .

Friday, August 12, 2016

Six Tips For Breast Cancer Chemo Patients

(1)  You get blood drawn so frequently—in my case weekly—that you’ll forget to press hard on the spot the needle went in. You’ll want to just run out of there, and the nurse will forget to remind you to press that spot. Press it. Otherwise you get purple and green bruises all down your arm.
(2)  Find a diet you like and follow it—I’m going for a version of the low-glycemic diet, detailed elsewhere on this blog as the “Mom Belly Diet.” Basically, you don’t eat carbs in the evening—no rice, no pasta, no bread, no potatoes, no pizza crust—so that you lose, or at least don’t gain. Why? Because women with breast cancer don’t waste away, even when they’re dying—they puff up. It’s the steroids but it’s also overeating. So find and follow some sensible diet you like. You might even invest in an anti-cancer cookbook. I just ordered this one, Rebecca Katz’s The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery.
(3)  Remember the latest on anti-cancer foods—the three “Cs”: coffee, cabbage, and cumin. They’re all supposed to be hostile to cancer. So enjoy them.
(4)  You’ll also find websites telling you differently. Ask your doctors if the inconsistencies drive you nuts, and remember that you’ll get different answers from different doctors.
(5)  Think about, but don’t go nuts over, sugar. There’s a theory that going off the stuff starves cancer cells. My doctors think your body is going to have some sugar in it no matter what you eat. I usually restrict sugar to breakfast, when I have a tablespoon of it in my coffee or my oatmeal, or I have jam on my cornbread or muffin. Both of which have a bit of sugar in them.
(6)  Chemotherapy does not go on forever. Four down, twelve to go, I tell myself. After next time, Five down, eleven to go.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Re-routing the Republican Candidate

Now, my friends, is the time for quiet persuasion. I am not the person to do this. I get hysterical and my voice squeaks when I mention the name of the Republican presidential candidate, and do not think I can be a particularly good influence in person. I did call my sanest cousin in the great state of North Carolina, much in danger of falling to the enemy, and she reassured me that she hated the guy--but then admitted: "I know folks who are voting for him." Their reasons? Can one talk about reasons when one is talking about teenagers who give birth to cocaine-addicted babies, bearded mountain men whose closest relationships are formed with wild turkeys, semi-literate roofers, folks who are generally down and out, whose next paycheck is not always secure, whose diet promotes high blood pressure and is washed down with too much corn whiskey? Folks who are ready to listen to anyone who says, "You're good. Get rid of _________________ (fill in the blank with the ethnicity or religion of your choice) and your life will be good." Call it populism, call it demagoguery, but those who think have to learn to speak in just the clear, simple style of the Republican presidential candidate--but to send messages of love and inclusiveness instead of the ones that he is sending. Churches, I call on you. Pastors, I call on you. Preach love now, preach hope now, preach "you can be good" now, before we all go down in flames. And let's re-route that toupée-flipping candidate back to the business world, where one hopes he will do less harm. Networks, news media: stop mentioning his name. He knows all news is publicity. Please. Just stop mentioning his name. Refer to him as "the candidate" if you must talk about him at all. The less you cover him, the better. Except in one area: whenever he can be made to look ridiculous--not outrageous or racist or narcissistic or impulsive or inarticulate, though he is all of the above--but really laughably ridiculous, and this is more than removing that awful toupée--then showcase this. Showcase what would make anyone, including his fans, laugh. Remember your Harry Potter: "Riddikulus!" and a wave of the wand, and the fear-indusing boggart vanishes. Think of the Republican candidate as someone to be laughed at. CNN, BBC, if you must say anything about him, and I'd rather you did not, you should be laughing at him.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Olympic Glories: Revisiting Chariots of Fire

Piles of garbage in the Rio bay, on the Rio shore, and in the athletes' veins--I wanted to get away from the real Olympics for a bit, find some more pleasant version of same, and the great escape that came to mind was Chariots of Fire, the 1981 Academy-award winning drama about the 1924 Olympics, about brotherhood, about teamwork: gorgeous young men running down the beach in a pack, the Scottish athlete missionary, Erik Liddell, burr-ing: "When I run, I feel His pleasure." (Make that "rohnn." Mayke that "play-zoor.") Liddell's disapproving missionary sister saying, "You're running so much you've no time (ti-yum!) to stand still!" She thinks running removes him from God. He knows God "made me fast!"
Oh, do I hear the beginnings of my Scots Presbyterian ancestors, that ragtag crew escaping the Highlands, probably slightly ahead of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and hoofing it from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas. The clan of Scots highlanders that became mercenary soldiers for King William of Orange, sometime around the Glorious Revolution.
Until the 1580s, when Mary, Queen of Scots got beheaded, my family crouched in caves, ripping apart stolen sheep with their bare hands, lifting out the guts to make haggis--which got bolted down with homemade mead--and hiding the remains before the Laird of the manor caught them. The Laird often caught them anyway, stringing up the men before disemboweling them and then publicly exercising his right to prima nocta, secunda nocte,  tertia nocte, and all the other noctes he wanted, with our clans' women. Meanwhile, my ancestors spent their days trying to get wheat to grow out of rocks, slaughtering opposing clans and swimming upstream ahead of the salmon. They passed their Sundays at the local kirk, listening to sermons on how slowly and completely we would all burn in hell. When the chance to fight religious wars for King William of Orange arose, these hardy Scotsmen girded their loins, packed an extra sporran and ghillies, fought like the wild highlanders they were, and when the wars were all over, sat damply on their kilts in steerage on their way to the colonies. The few offspring that, generations later, achieved prominence, demonstrated talent for warlike deals with Hessians during the American revolution.
Nostalgic for this idealistic, though uncomfortable past, I watch the film's English lord graciously ceding his right to run to the principled Liddell, who won't run on a Sunday. The Jewish athlete getting dissed for being a Jew, running a race he's lost previously to Liddell, and shaking hands with him. 
Respect! Honor! No Doping, apart from beer! A simpler life and training, during which athletes appeared to be doing those funny 1950s Royal Canadian Air Force drills that in real life knock your knees out. But these men all got along so well, driven by honor and ideals and love.
"See, kids," I said, as Liddell preached to a crowd of working-class Scots drenched in torrential rains after booking it around a hilly, gray landscape, "That's where your ancestors came from! Those Scots Presbyterians!"
They'd only heard about the Bavarian Catholics, so were impressed. Wood and stone churches with plain wooden benches, stark wooden crosses. A far cry from those gorgeous Baroque cupids that adorn the cathedral in Bavaria. 
We all ate popcorn, basked in the spirit of the Olympics, and felt refreshed--ready to turn to the real thing in the morning.