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!