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.